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Alma Chapter 61

This chapter is Pahoran's answer by letter to Moroni. Hugh Nibley offers his appraisal of Pahoran:

Fortunately the man thus wrongly accused was a governor worthy of his high office, as his wise, temperate, and constructive reply reveals. Instead of getting on his high horse, Pahoran reacted to Moroni's withering onslaught by telling him that he had a right to be upset, as he himself is (verse 2), and that instead of resenting such language addressed to himself he understands Moroni's intention perfectly and rejoices in his greatness of heart (verse 9). As a matter of fact, Moroni has made a pretty good estimate of the situation, for there were indeed plenty of important people in the capital who were only too pleased to see the great Moroni in trouble-"who do joy at your afflictions;" what is more, Moroni had correctly guessed who they were-the old power-seekers, who had actually been able to take over the government by clever propaganda, "for they have used great flattery, and they have led away the hearts of many people," and being in office had succeeded in intimidating the opposition, "and have daunted our freemen" (verses 2-4). They had forced the president, Pahoran, to leave town, but in doing so he had energetically rallied as many supporters as he could (verse 5), and was sure that the masses of the people, who had always followed Moroni, were still behind him, and that the ruling clique did not dare risk a test of strength in the field (verse 7) (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, volume 7, 326-27).

1 Behold, now it came to pass that soon after Moroni had sent his epistle unto the chief governor, he received an epistle from Pahoran, the chief governor. And these are the words which he received:

2 I, Pahoran, who am the chief governor of this land, do send these words unto Moroni, the chief captain over the army. Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul.

3 But behold, there are those who do joy in your afflictions, yea, insomuch that they have risen up in rebellion against me, and also those of my people who are freemen, yea, and those who have risen up are exceedingly numerous.

verse 3 Though Pahoran does not refer to them by name, those who rebelled against him are the king-men. For a review of the origins and identity of this troublesome group, see the commentary for Alma 1:2 and for Alma 51:5.

"those of my people who are freemen" This verse is a bit ambiguous and may initially be interpreted as implying that some of the freemen among the Nephites had also risen up in rebellion. A closer consideration, however, suggests that the king-men had risen up in rebellion against both Pahoran and his people, the freemen.

4 And it is those who have sought to take away the judgment-seat from me that have been the cause of this great iniquity; for they have used great flattery, and they have led away the hearts of many people, which will be the cause of sore affliction among us; they have withheld our provisions, and have daunted our freemen that they have not come unto you.

verse 4 "they have withheld our provisions" These king-men have seized sufficient power that they are in a position to withhold those supplies which had been intended for the forces of Moroni and Helaman.

"they . . . have daunted our freemen" To daunt means to intimidate or to make afraid. Apparently the freemen were so discouraged and disheartened that they would not come out into the field of battle to the aid of Moroni and Helaman.

5 And behold, they have driven me out before them, and I have fled to the land of Gideon, with as many men as it were possible that I could get.

6 And behold, I have sent a proclamation throughout this part of the land; and behold, they are flocking to us daily, to their arms, in the defense of their country and their freedom, and to avenge our wrongs.

7 And they have come unto us, insomuch that those who have risen up in rebellion against us are set at defiance, yea, insomuch that they do fear us and durst not come out against us to battle.

verse 7 "And they have come unto us, insomuch that those who have risen up in rebellion against us are set at defiance" Seeing so many freemen gathering to Gideon has caused the king-men to be "set at defiance"-that is, they have assumed a defensive and cautious posture rather than an openly aggressive one.

8 They have got possession of the land, or the city, of Zarahemla; they have appointed a king over them, and he hath written unto the king of the Lamanites, in the which he hath joined an alliance with him; in the which alliance he hath agreed to maintain the city of Zarahemla, which maintenance he supposeth will enable the Lamanites to conquer the remainder of the land, and he shall be placed king over this people when they shall be conquered under the Lamanites.

Hugh Nibley previews the coming verses:

Who the new government were becomes apparent when we learn that upon seizing the capital they had abolished democratic government and set up a monarchy, and, as might be expected, immediately entered into negotiations with the king of the Lamanites. It was the old royalist [or king-men] crowd that Moroni knew so well (verse 8). Pahoran, who was as much for popular government and as little interested in personal power as Moroni himself, proposed a plan for restoring the old government. But first of all as a civil officer he explored every possibility of avoiding violence. Like Moroni, he would, he says, gladly suffer the Lamanites if they would let him: "We should not shed the blood of the Lamanites if they would stay in their own land" (verse 10). This is no self-righteous accusing, since every battle in Moroni's time was fought on Nephite, not on Lamanite, soil. So far is Pahoran from patriotic heroics that he declares, "We would subject ourselves to the yoke of bondage, if it were requisite with the justice of God, or if he should command us" (verse 12), and he insists that one should take to the sword only when words have failed (verse 14). But "the spirit of God" is "the spirit of freedom" (verse 15), so what was he to do now? Even in this dire emergency he hesitates to use force, being "worried concerning what we should do, whether it should be just in us to go against our brethren" (verse 19). Like Moroni sparing the drunken guards, he is more concerned with doing what is just than anything else, and it is Moroni's letter, he says, that has made up his mind for him, since it declares that the Lord wants action (verse 20). So, full of fight and ginger, he and his supporters join up with a small task-force of Moroni's that had marched to meet them, and as soon as Moroni raised his Title of Liberty the people flocked in ecstatic thousands to the well-known banner. Moroni and Pahoran, now fast friends, made a triumphant progress through the land, culminating in a battle in which the army of King Pachus and his supporters was quickly beaten (Alma 62:3-8) (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, volume 7, 327-28).

9 And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart. I, Pahoran, do not seek for power, save only to retain my judgment-seat that I may preserve the rights and the liberty of my people. My soul standeth fast in that liberty in the which God hath made us free.

verse 9 This reply of Pahoran's is to be treasured as one of the fine examples of self-effacement, meekness, and humility in the scriptures. Moroni had attacked Pahoran rather vigorously in his letter, yet Pahoran's reply is written with a quiet and calm spirit without any attempt to retaliate against Moroni.

verses 10-21 In these verses Pahoran will outline for Moroni his plan for recapturing control of the Nephite government.

10 And now, behold, we will resist wickedness even unto bloodshed. We would not shed the blood of the Lamanites if they would stay in their own land.

verse 10 Pahoran's plan for recapturing control of the government is based on a generally defensive strategy rather than an aggressive and preemptive one. He makes it clear that he will "will resist wickedness even unto bloodshed" meaning that he regards bloodshed even in a military context as "wickedness" which should be avoided if at all possible.

11 We would not shed the blood of our brethren if they would not rise up in rebellion and take the sword against us.

12 We would subject ourselves to the yoke of bondage if it were requisite with the justice of God, or if he should command us so to do.

13 But behold he doth not command us that we shall subject ourselves to our enemies, but that we should put our trust in him, and he will deliver us.

14 Therefore, my beloved brother, Moroni, let us resist evil, and whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words, yea, such as rebellions and dissensions, let us resist them with our swords, that we may retain our freedom, that we may rejoice in the great privilege of our church, and in the cause of our Redeemer and our God.

verse 14 "let us resist evil, and whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words" Among the first principles of the righteous exercise of priesthood authority is the principle of persuasion (D&C 121:41-43). We should use words whenever possible to encourage a necessary change in another's behavior. These words should be offered in the spirit of long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned (D&C 121:41).

"Whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words . . . let us resist them with our swords, that we may retain our freedom" There will always be times when patient persuasion fails. Then we are obliged simply to turn away unless those who will not be persuaded are bent upon destroying our country and church or placing those of our country or church in bondage. When we are faced with those who would take away our freedom or those who would destroy our country and church, then we are justified in taking up the sword.

15 Therefore, come unto me speedily with a few of your men, and leave the remainder in the charge of Lehi and Teancum; give unto them power to conduct the war in that part of the land, according to the Spirit of God, which is also the Spirit of freedom which is in them.

verse 15 "according to the Spirit of God, which is also the Spirit of freedom" Commenting upon the relationship between the Spirit of God and the spirit of freedom, President Ezra Taft Benson taught: "The Founding Fathers knew that 'where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty'" (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 599).

16 Behold I have sent a few provisions unto them, that they may not perish until ye can come unto me.

17 Gather together whatsoever force ye can upon your march hither, and we will go speedily against those dissenters, in the strength of our God according to the faith which is in us.

18 And we will take possession of the city of Zarahemla, that we may obtain more food to send forth unto Lehi and Teancum; yea, we will go forth against them in the strength of the Lord, and we will put an end to this great iniquity.

19 And now, Moroni, I do joy in receiving your epistle, for I was somewhat worried concerning what we should do, whether it should be just in us to go against our brethren.

verse 19 Obviously Pahoran had exercised considerable patience and long-suffering in dealing with the rebellious king-men faction among the Nephites. Now, however, his limit has been exceeded, and he has chosen the strategy of military force.

20 But ye have said, except they repent the Lord hath commanded you that ye should go against them.

21 See that ye strengthen Lehi and Teancum in the Lord; tell them to fear not, for God will deliver them, yea, and also all those who stand fast in that liberty wherewith God hath made them free. And now I close mine epistle to my beloved brother, Moroni.

verse 21 The natural leadership abilities of Pahoran are apparent here as he wisely counsels his chief military commander Moroni.

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