Alma Chapter 60
This chapter consists of a letter Moroni wrote to Pahoran in the city of Zarahemla. Hugh Nibley, an obvious admirer of Moroni, never-the-less has referred to this letter as "ill-advised" (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, volume 8, 353-54) and has been somewhat critical of Moroni's writing this condemning and accusatory letter before he had obtained enough of the facts. Brother Nibley writes:
Heavy-hearted ("exceedingly sorrowful") for the loss of Nephihah, Moroni wrote another letter to Pahoran, "the chief judge and the governor over the land (verse 1)," in which he appears as a very tired commander indeed, following up a serious military blunder with an equally deplorable political one. The letter seethes with the resentment of the man at the front for the easy-living ways of the "VIP's" back at the capital-the old misunderstandings between the "office" and the "field." He starts out by reminding the governor of his duty to supply the armies in the field, and reminds him that both he and Helaman have suffered from short supplies from the beginning. He admits his ignorance of the situation and asks for information, and yet he cannot resist passing judgment with a peevish and quite unjustified charge of negligence: "We desire to know the cause of this . . . neglect; yea . . . of your thoughtless state (verse 6)." He goes on to charge deliberate mismanagement: "Ye have withheld your provisions (verse 9)," and incompetence: "for ye ought to have stirred yourselves more diligently. . . . Ye have neglected them insomuch that the blood of thousands shall come upon your heads for vengeance (verse 10)."
This is getting serious, but there is worse to come. Swept on by the momentum of his pent-up emotions, the frustrated commander, who has just seen his favorite project for ending the war go to pot, piles one accusation on another. The government officials, he claims, in their comfortable offices, "sit upon [their] thrones in a state of thoughtless stupor (verse 7)" (a wonderful expression), and have trusted in the goodness of God to justify their neglect, and blandly attributed the calamities overtaking the soldiers in the field not to their own high and mighty indifference but, of all things, to the wickedness of the poor soldiers themselves and other suffering victims of the war. The politicians are responsible for the disasters and setbacks of the war, for "the wickedness . . . first commenced at our head (verse 15)," back in the days when the king-men threw the nation into turmoil at the beginning of the war: It was "the desire of power and authority which those king-men had over us" that opened the door to the murderous Lamanites; nay, they "are [still] seeking for power and authority, yea, even those king-men." Moroni even goes so far as to hint that Pahoran himself is one of those power-seekers, and worse still, "we know not but what ye are also traitors to your country (verse 18)." . . . Moroni may only have suspicions, but what he suspects is the very worst. He becomes scathingly sarcastic as he describes the fat government officials complacently sitting in idleness, surrounded by hordes of lazy slackers like themselves, "tens of thousands, who do also sit in idleness, while there are thousands around about . . . who are falling by the sword (verse 22)." The picture may seem overdrawn to us, and yet it probably was not, for that is actually the way things are in wartime.
Moroni's next step was to charge the head of the state with immoral behavior and call upon him to repent. But now comes the height of his indiscretion, for after lecturing the governor like a "Dutch uncle," Moroni promises him a good spanking, and ends up threatening open rebellion: "And except ye grant mine epistle, and come out and show unto me a true spirit of freedom . . . I will come unto you. . . . I will stir up insurrections among you, even until those who have desires to usurp power and authority shall become extinct (verse 27)." This is not as bad as it sounds, for he is not attacking those in authority but those who have usurped it, namely that power-seeking faction he knows so well. Still, the same Moroni who had begun his letter with a profession of ignorance and a request for information can now bring the flat accusation and fling a challenge at the governor: "I do not fear your power nor your authority, but it is my God whom I fear, . . . and it is because of your iniquity that we have suffered so much loss (verse 28)." Carried along in the spirit of his eloquence, he shifts from vague references to troublemakers to placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of the people to whom he is writing: "and, except ye do minister unto our relief, behold, I come unto you, even in the land of Zarahemla, and smite you with the sword (verse 30)."
It seems strange that this man who had deplored more than anything else the contentions and dissensions among the Nephites as the principal cause of their misfortunes in war, should now propose to add to the turmoil by stirring up insurrection. But Moroni was bursting with pent-up emotions and the accumulated memories of reverses that could have been avoided and operations that could have ended the war had the necessary support been forthcoming from home. He knows, as Helaman suspects, that someone in high places is working against him, and for his noble and idealistic nature the thought that anyone should make capital of the miseries of others was simply maddening-yet he had seen that sort of thing going on in the capital all his life. "The Lord will not suffer that ye shall live and wax strong in your iniquities (verse 31)," he writes to Pahoran. He does not blame the Lamanites-they are only doing what they think is right, "it is the tradition of their fathers that has caused their hatred (verse 32);" the real enemy is as ever the private citizen or public official seeking to promote himself: "Your iniquity is for the cause of your love of glory and the vain things of the world (verse 32)." Finally Moroni goes all out: the Lord has commanded him, he says, to go up in battle against the governors if they do not repent (verses 34-35)! He closes with what might be called Moroni's watchword: "I seek not for power, but to pull it down" (verse 36).
It was, to say the least, not the most tactful letter in the world, but Moroni's patience was worn out. Also, it turned out, he was right-on every point but one. And that point was an important one: he had accused the wrong man. Aside from that, he had the situation correctly sized up-his long experience with the king-men had not been for nothing (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, volume 7, 323-25).
1 And it came to pass that he wrote again to the governor of the land, who was Pahoran, and these are the words which he wrote, saying: Behold, I direct mine epistle to Pahoran, in the city of Zarahemla, who is the chief judge and the governor over the land, and also to all those who have been chosen by this people to govern and manage the affairs of this war.
2 For behold, I have somewhat to say unto them by the way of condemnation; for behold, ye yourselves know that ye have been appointed to gather together men, and arm them with swords, and with cimeters, and all manner of weapons of war of every kind, and send forth against the Lamanites, in whatsoever parts they should come into our land.
3 And now behold, I say unto you that myself, and also my men, and also Helaman and his men, have suffered exceedingly great sufferings; yea, even hunger, thirst, and fatigue, and all manner of afflictions of every kind.
4 But behold, were this all we had suffered we would not murmur nor complain.
5 But behold, great has been the slaughter among our people; yea, thousands have fallen by the sword, while it might have otherwise been if ye had rendered unto our armies sufficient strength and succor for them. Yea, great has been your neglect towards us.
6 And now behold, we desire to know the cause of this exceedingly great neglect; yea, we desire to know the cause of your thoughtless state.
7 Can you think to sit upon your thrones in a state of thoughtless stupor, while your enemies are spreading the work of death around you? Yea, while they are murdering thousands of your brethren-
verse 7 "sit upon your thrones" Thrones? Pahoran was not a king, rather he was a governor of a republic. Would he have had a throne? The Nephite leader still sat on a "judgment seat," and undoubtedly still had a throne of sorts to sit on while officiating in his office. It seems most likely that, in his anger and frustration, Moroni was using a slang expression with much negative implication. Had Moroni been a man of coarser expression we can just imagine what word he might have use in place of "thrones."
"in a state of thoughtless stupor" Moroni is cutting in his criticism. Stupor is a state of intellectual insensibility; suspension of sensibility; moral stupidity; heedlessness; or inattention.
8 Yea, even they who have looked up to you for protection, yea, have placed you in a situation that ye might have succored them, yea, ye might have sent armies unto them, to have strengthened them, and have saved thousands of them from falling by the sword.
9 But behold, this is not all-ye have withheld your provisions from them, insomuch that many have fought and bled out their lives because of their great desires which they had for the welfare of this people; yea, and this they have done when they were about to perish with hunger, because of your exceedingly great neglect towards them.
10 And now, my beloved brethren-for ye ought to be beloved; yea, and ye ought to have stirred yourselves more diligently for the welfare and the freedom of this people; but behold, ye have neglected them insomuch that the blood of thousands shall come upon your heads for vengeance; yea, for known unto God were all their cries, and all their sufferings-
11 Behold, could ye suppose that ye could sit upon your thrones, and because of the exceeding goodness of God ye could do nothing and he would deliver you? Behold, if ye have supposed this ye have supposed in vain.
12 Do ye suppose that, because so many of your brethren have been killed it is because of their wickedness? I say unto you, if ye have supposed this ye have supposed in vain; for I say unto you, there are many who have fallen by the sword; and behold it is to your condemnation;
verse 12 "if ye have supposed this ye have supposed in vain" Captain Moroni has asked an interesting question: "Do ye suppose that, because so many of your brethren have been killed it is because of their wickedness?" Moroni is trying to pin the responsibility for the deaths of many righteous Nephites on Pahoran and his government who he mistakenly thinks has been shirking his duties. But we may take another lesson from Moroni's question. The vicissitudes of mortality do not necessarily happen to the wicked. The nature of this mortal existence is that there occur to all people, regardless of their spiritual qualifications or lack thereof, what we might call "mortal accidents," hardships that are not deserved. It is the nature of this mortal experience. See Adversity and Suffering in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 3, chapter 1.
13 For the Lord suffereth the righteous to be slain that his justice and judgment may come upon the wicked; therefore ye need not suppose that the righteous are lost because they are slain; but behold, they do enter into the rest of the Lord their God.
verse 13 "the rest of the Lord their God" For a discussion of the concept of the rest of the Lord, see the commentary for 2 Nephi 21:10.
14 And now behold, I say unto you, I fear exceedingly that the judgments of God will come upon this people, because of their exceeding slothfulness, yea, even the slothfulness of our government, and their exceedingly great neglect towards their brethren, yea, towards those who have been slain.
15 For were it not for the wickedness which first commenced at our head, we could have withstood our enemies that they could have gained no power over us.
16 Yea, had it not been for the war which broke out among ourselves; yea, were it not for these king-men, who caused so much bloodshed among ourselves; yea, at the time we were contending among ourselves, if we had united our strength as we hitherto have done; yea, had it not been for the desire of power and authority which those king-men had over us; had they been true to the cause of our freedom, and united with us, and gone forth against our enemies, instead of taking up their swords against us, which was the cause of so much bloodshed among ourselves; yea, if we had gone forth against them in the strength of the Lord, we should have dispersed our enemies, for it would have been done, according to the fulfilling of his word.
17 But behold, now the Lamanites are coming upon us, taking possession of our lands, and they are murdering our people with the sword, yea, our women and our children, and also carrying them away captive, causing them that they should suffer all manner of afflictions, and this because of the great wickedness of those who are seeking for power and authority, yea, even those king-men.
18 But why should I say much concerning this matter? For we know not but what ye yourselves are seeking for authority. We know not but what ye are also traitors to your country.
19 Or is it that ye have neglected us because ye are in the heart of our country and ye are surrounded by security, that ye do not cause food to be sent unto us, and also men to strengthen our armies?
20 Have ye forgotten the commandments of the Lord your God? Yea, have ye forgotten the captivity of our fathers? Have ye forgotten the many times we have been delivered out of the hands of our enemies?
21 Or do ye suppose that the Lord will still deliver us, while we sit upon our thrones and do not make use of the means which the Lord has provided for us?
22 Yea, will ye sit in idleness while ye are surrounded with thousands of those, yea, and tens of thousands, who do also sit in idleness, while there are thousands round about in the borders of the land who are falling by the sword, yea, wounded and bleeding?
23 Do ye suppose that God will look upon you as guiltless while ye sit still and behold these things? Behold I say unto you, Nay. Now I would that ye should remember that God has said that the inward vessel shall be cleansed first, and then shall the outer vessel be cleansed also.
verse 23 "God has said that the inward vessel shall be cleansed first, and then shall the outer vessel be cleaned" Here, Moroni attributes a statement to God which we do not find in our present-day scripture. This particular verse of scripture formed the basis of an important address by a latter-day prophet. In a solemn assembly at general conference April 6, 1986, Ezra Taft Benson was sustained by members of the Church as the prophet, seer, and revelator, and president of the church. In his opening address at that conference, President Benson told of the urgent need for church members to "cleanse the inner vessel" (note that he changed the adjective "inward" found in Alma 60:23 to "inner"). By this he meant that each of us ought to make specific changes in our personal lives. He said, "We will be lengthening our stride in the future. To do so, we must first cleanse the inner vessel by awaking and arising, being morally clean, using the Book of Mormon, and conquering pride." In commencing that cleansing, he declared, "The Book of Mormon has not been, nor is it yet, the center of our personal study, family teaching, preaching, and missionary work. Of this we must repent" ("Cleansing the Inner Vessel," Ensign, May 1986:4-7). During Christ's mortal ministry, he metaphorically accused the scribes and Pharisees of cleansing the outer vessel (to maintain a righteous public appearance) but leaving their inner vessel (their heart and mind) corrupt and wicked (Matthew 23:25-28). If the inward or inner vessel is cleansed through repentance, then the outer vessel is automatically cleaned. If one is truly righteous, he need not worry about appearances.
24 And now, except ye do repent of that which ye have done, and begin to be up and doing, and send forth food and men unto us, and also unto Helaman, that he may support those parts of our country which he has regained, and that we may also recover the remainder of our possessions in these parts, behold it will be expedient that we contend no more with the Lamanites until we have first cleansed our inward vessel, yea, even the great head of our government.
25 And except ye grant mine epistle, and come out and show unto me a true spirit of freedom, and strive to strengthen and fortify our armies, and grant unto them food for their support, behold I will leave a part of my freemen to maintain this part of our land, and I will leave the strength and the blessings of God upon them, that none other power can operate against them-
26 And this because of their exceeding faith, and their patience in their tribulations-
27 And I will come unto you, and if there be any among you that has a desire for freedom, yea, if there be even a spark of freedom remaining, behold I will stir up insurrections among you, even until those who have desires to usurp power and authority shall become extinct.
verse 27 "I will stir up insurrections among you" An insurrection is a rising against civil or political authority; the open and active opposition by a group to the execution of law in a city or state.
28 Yea, behold I do not fear your power nor your authority, but it is my God whom I fear; and it is according to his commandments that I do take my sword to defend the cause of my country, and it is because of your iniquity that we have suffered so much loss.
29 Behold it is time, yea, the time is now at hand, that except ye do bestir yourselves in the defence of your country and your little ones, the sword of justice doth hang over you; yea, and it shall fall upon you and visit you even to your utter destruction.
verse 29 "bestir yourselves" Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines bestir as, "to put into brisk or vigorous action; to move with life and vigor."
Today, we spell the word defense with an "s" rather than a "c" as is used here. Obviously, in the early nineteenth century, "defence" was a proper spelling. It is found in some eleven verses in the present edition of the Book of Mormon. They word "defense" (with an "s") is not found in the Book of Mormon. Defence is used today in Great Britain.
30 Behold, I wait for assistance from you; and, except ye do administer unto our relief, behold, I come unto you, even in the land of Zarahemla, and smite you with the sword, insomuch that ye can have no more power to impede the progress of this people in the cause of our freedom.
31 For behold, the Lord will not suffer that ye shall live and wax strong in your iniquities to destroy his righteous people.
32 Behold, can you suppose that the Lord will spare you and come out in judgment against the Lamanites, when it is the tradition of their fathers that has caused their hatred, yea, and it has been redoubled by those who have dissented from us, while your iniquity is for the cause of your love of glory and the vain things of the world?
verse 32 "traditions of their fathers" See the commentary for Enos 1:14 and Mosiah 10:12-17. Moroni says that the Nephites cannot blame the Lamanites, as they are only defending the traditions of their fathers. Rather the blame rests upon Pahoran and the Nephites in government.
33 Ye know that ye do transgress the laws of God, and ye do know that ye do trample them under your feet. Behold, the Lord saith unto me: If those whom ye have appointed your governors do not repent of their sins and iniquities, ye shall go up to battle against them.
34 And now behold, I, Moroni, am constrained, according to the covenant which I have made to keep the commandments of my God; therefore I would that ye should adhere to the word of God, and send speedily unto me of your provisions and of your men, and also to Helaman.
35 And behold, if ye will not do this I come unto you speedily; for behold, God will not suffer that we should perish with hunger; therefore he will give unto us of your food, even if it must be by the sword. Now see that ye fulfil the word of God.
36 Behold, I am Moroni, your chief captain. I seek not for power, but to pull it down. I seek not for honor of the world, but for the glory of my God, and the freedom and welfare of my country. And thus I close mine epistle.
verse 36 "I seek not for power, but to pull it down. I seek not for honor of the world, but for the glory of my God, and the freedom and welfare of my country" If there is a concise statement or slogan that embodies the essence of the prophet Moroni, then this is it!