Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Moroni I -- Zerahemna

Zerahemnah's Attacks
In the eighteenth year of the reign of the judges, the Lamanites, under the influence of wicked Zoramites, marched on the peaceful People of Ammon. Moroni interposed his army between the more numerous invaders and the People of Ammon.

"And it came to pass that he met the Lamanites in the borders of Jershon, and his people were armed with swords, and with cimeters, and all manner of weapons of war." Alma 43:18.

The Lamanite army, led by the wicked Zerahemnah, included Amalekites and Zoramites. They formed a host numerically superior to the Nephite army. However, Moroni's movement was not simply an effort to protect the Ammonites by sacrificing his own
army. Moroni knew of the great numbers of the Lamanite Army; his own army required something with which to overcome those numbers. Moroni countered the Lamanites' numeric superiority by better
equipping his army.

"And when the armies of the Lamanites saw that the people of Nephi, or that Moroni, had prepared his people with breastplates and with armshields, yea, and also shields to defend their heads, and also they were dressed with thick clothing--
"Now the army of Zerahemnah was not prepared with any
such thing; they had only their swords and their cimeters, their bows and their arrows, their stones and their slings; and they were naked, save it were a skin which was girded about their loins; yea, all were naked, save it were the Zoramites and the Amalekites;
"But they were not armed with breastplates nor
shields--therefore, they were exceedingly afraid of the armies of the Nephites because of their armor,
notwithstanding their number being so much greater than the Nephites."
Alma 43:19-21.

Zerahemnah's army had marched to attack at what should have been the most militarily vulnerable point in the Nephite lands. The People of Ammon had previously bowed down before attacking armies and suffered themselves to be slain without offering any
resistance. (Alma 24). One wonders at the motive of Zerahemnah and his naked army in chosing to attack a people who had buried their weapons of war and made a sacred covenant against the shedding of blood. It is unlikely that the piece of ground
inhabited by the People of Ammon was of any greater value or more productive than the other Nephite lands. Pure hatred and the desire to inflict damage in retribution for imagined wrongs must have possessed the hearts of Zerahemnah and his followers. However, as with most bullies, Zerahemnah's desire for a serious
confrontation with a battle ready foe was as meager as his army's clothing. Moroni's preparations so demoralized and surprised the Lamanites that they fled, apparently without even offering battle. Moroni had parried the first thrust of Zerahemnah's
campaign by the most practical move--appearing ready, willing, and able to defeat the attack, in spite of, and prepared for, the very strength of the attack.

The preparation with armor and shields also suggests that Moroni's appointment to the chief captaincy preceeded by some time the campaign by Zerahemnah. Although armor and shields may not require months or years to complete, some time is necessary to properly outfit an army with such equipment. Moroni obviously used his power and authority as chief captain to make preparations before an attack occurred. Shields and other protective devices which can be worn or carried would be a natural first step in preparation for a coming conflict.
Fortifications and places of refuge would be an additional and more time consuming measures of protection. Zarahemnah's attack came before Moroni could implement such additional measures.

New converts to the church, or others without significant active time in the church and time used in sincere implementation of gospel principles, may also face attacks upon their faith before they have a firm foundation of experience and fellowship
within the gospel. Many of these attacks, like Zerahemah's march against the People of Ammon, may be motivated by a desire to bully or destroy. If these new converts have properly received the gospel with a growing testimony of the Savior and their own
divine heritage, the Book of Mormon, and modern revelation, all manifest to them by the abiding witness of the Holy Ghost, they have their shield of faith which will see them through such attacks.

After the demoralized Lamanites fled from Moroni, they disappeared into the wilderness in an effort to mask the direction of their march. They hoped to skirt Moroni's forces and attack the less protected area of Manti. Again, Zerahemnah sought an easy target for his warriors who had thought to
massacre an unresisting and covenant honoring people. Moroni, like all competent generals, possessed a keen desire for reconnaisance and information as to the enemy's location. He used
two methods to gain information about the Lamanite movements. He sent spies to monitor their camp, and, more importantly, he sent men to inquire of the prophet Alma. Alma, prophet, high priest of the church, former chief judge and captain, had himself led the Nephite armies to victory in bloody conflict with the Amlicites only a few years earlier. Moroni's messengers sought Alma and petitioned him to obtain the Lord's guidance for the Nephite forces. The Lord revealed that the Lamanites were
marching on Manti.

Having already learned that Moroni enjoyed the spirit of the Lord, we should not suppose that Moroni could not or did not inquire before the Lord himself with regard to the actions of the
Lamanite host. Moroni may have submitted the question to the Lord in the privacy of a tent, a secluded stand of trees, or merely in the inner chambers of his heart and mind as the turmoil
of the time may have allowed and may have thereby received instruction to send men to Alma. Or, like Nephi of old who, when his bow was broken and the bows of his brethren had lost their spring, went to his father Lehi for direction on where to hunt,
Moroni may have sent men to Alma in order to establish and cement in the minds of his troops Alma's importance as Prophet of the Lord. Making inquiry through Alma would assure his army, and his
people, that the Lord was their captain and their strength. Moroni began the defense of the nation in a manner which left no doubts in the minds of the people concerning his methods, motives and faith.

As a man of faith, Moroni took part of his army to Manti according to the prophet's instruction. As a pragmatic general, Moroni left a small portion of his army to defend in Jershon lest a part of the Lamanites attempt to return there. Moroni then
employed a technique to which he would have recourse in the future; he rallied the inhabitants to the defense of their lands and liberty.

"And he caused that all the people in that quarter of the land should gather themselves together to battle against the Lamanites, to defend their country, their rights and their liberties; therefore they were prepared against the time of the coming of the Lamanites." Alma 43:26.

Moroni again sent out spies to monitor the Lamanites. The guidance of the Lord through the prophet Alma and Moroni's own intelligence efforts gave Moroni knowledge of the path of the Lamanite advance. With this information, Moroni prepared a trap for the Lamanite army. Moroni divided his own army. He placed a portion under the command of Lehi on the east side of the valley, hidden behind the hill Riplah. Moroni placed the rest of the army in groups concealed along the west side of the valley to the west of the river Sidon and towards the borders of the land of Manti. Moroni waited with his forces in position as the Lamanites approached.

The division of forces necessary for the success of the trap also presented a danger to the Nephite armies. The Lamanite army remained numerically superior to the Nephite army. The division of his army and the separation of the two resulting bodies on opposite sides of the river created the risk that the more numerous Lamanite host would discover one force and destroy it before the other force could cross the river to provide assistance. Nevertheless, Moroni operated under the guidance of
the Lord and he had prepared his men with armor and weapons.

Moroni's use of the various portions of his army in
preparing an ambush provides an example for our own families and quorums. We can delegate various responsibilities to each member according to his abilities to aid the family in working together
to meet a common goal.

Unaware of the disposition of the Nephite forces, the
Lamanites moved into the valley, passing the hill Riplah on the north. As the Lamanites entered the valley and began to cross the river, Lehi led his force from behind the hill. These troops
formed a semi-circle about the Lamanites, pinning them against the river. The Lamanites turned and began fighting Lehi's men. Immediately, the Lamanites must have suffered from the
demoralizing effects of (1) a surprise attack, (2) the weakness of their position against the river and the disorganization in terms of battle-preparedness associated with attempting to make a crossing, and (3) an attack by the very armored foes from whom
they had earlier fled in an attempt to avoid battle.

As the attacking Nephites closed in and the din of battle grew with all of the blood and horror concomitant with combat by hand-held thrusting and striking weapons, a few Nephites fell but numerous Lamanites perished as the Nephite swords struck their
naked bodies. The destruction proved so terrible for the Lamanites that they were driven back into the waters of the river Sidon. Lehi held his men at the water's edge, maintaining the superior position along the bank. The Lamanites, unable to
overcome both the weakness of their position in the river and the armor and might of Lehi's men, attempted to leave the river by the opposite shore.

As the Lamanites emerged on the west bank, Moroni brought forth his forces from concealment on that side of the valley. The Lamanites attempted to flee toward Manti and more of Moroni's concealed troops came forth to prevent their escape. Moroni's
forces kept the Lamanites pinned against the river on the west bank just as Lehi's men had done on the east bank. In their desperate state, the Lamanites fought ferociously with courage and strength never before seen from the Lamanites. Zerahemnah
and the Amalekite and Zoramite leaders incited the Lamanites so that they did "fight like dragons." Like savage beasts, wounded and cornered, the Lamanite army drew upon the very last essence
of all that the human mind and body alone can furnish when the desire for self-preservation erupts with volcanic force, spewing adrenalin to the mortal frame. So fiercely did the Lamanites fight that they killed many Nephites, piercing the protective
armor by the sheer ferocity of their attack.

Although many Nephites fell, they were inspired by a better cause. They fought not for power or domination, but for their liberty, families, and religion. Moroni reminded the Nephites of
these things as they began to give way before the Lamanites'new-found strength. The Nephites rallied under the encouragement, even to crying out as one unto the Lord for their liberty and freedom. The Nephites then stood firm before the Lamanites. The Lamanites, drained of strength and courage by the
Nephite resistance, fell back into the river. Even though the Lamanites outnumbered the Nephites, Moroni had gained the tactical advantage with surprise and by surrounding the Lamanites
and forcing them into the river. The Lamanites began to succumb to fear and demoralization at their predicament.

The terror of the Lamanites became apparent to Moroni. He ordered his men to cease the attack. The fighting stopped. Moroni called Zerahemnah forward to speak. One can imagine the scene of a multitude of armed men, smeared with blood and sweat,
each struggling to regain his breath and energy. Moroni, large and towering by his natural stature and his stout armor, his weapons and shield dripping with the emblems of battle, standing above Zerahemnah near the river's edge on a bank soaked, colored, and slickened with blood and the frenzied passage of many feet. Zerahemnah might have come forward, exhausted but held erect by his own pride, wearing a headdress or cloak of leadership and a
loose animal skin stained with river muck and gore, glaring at the man who had beaten and defeated him.

Moroni expressed his distaste for bloodshed and professed a desire for peace. He pointed out the hopelessness of the Lamanite position and attributed the Nephite success to the Lord.

"But now, ye behold that the Lord is with us; and ye behold that he has delivered you into our hands. And now I would that ye should understand that this is done unto us because of our religion and our faith in Christ.
"Now ye see that ye cannot destroy this faith. Now ye see that this is the true faith of God; yea, ye see that God will support, and keep, and preserve us, so long as we are faithful unto him, and unto our faith, and our religion; and never will the Lord suffer that we shall be destroyed except we should fall into transgression and deny our faith."
Alma 43:3-4.

Moroni concluded with a command to Zerahemnah to surrender:

"And now, Zerahemnah, I command you, in the name of that all-powerful God, who has strengthened our arms that we have gained power over you, by our faith, by our religion, and by our rites of worship, and by our church, and by the sacred support which we owe to our wives and our children, by that liberty which binds us to our lands and our country;
yea and also by the maintenance of the sacred word of God, to which we owe all our happiness; and by all that is most dear unto us--
"Yea, and this is not all; I command you by all the
desires which you have for life, that ye deliver up your weapons of war unto us, and we will seek not your blood, but we will spare your lives, if ye will go your way and come not again to war against us.
"And now, if ye do not this, behold, ye are in our
hands, and I will command my men that they shall fall upon you, and inflict the wounds of death in your bodies, that ye may become extinct; and then we will see who shall have power over this people; yea, we will see who shall be brought into bondage."
Alma 44:5-7.

Certainly, there could be no doubt as to the sincerity, conviction and unshakable firmness of Moroni's command. How could Zerahemnah do anything other than offer up his sword under Moroni's command, a command of immense impact and massive
dimensions--in the name of the all-powerful God, faith, religion, rites of worship, the church, the duty of support to wives and children, the liberty which binds to land and country, the maintenance of the sacred word of God, by all most dear, and
Zerahemnah's own desire for life--when faced with the alternative of the infliction of such wounds as to render them extinct?

Zerahemnah surrendered his sword but refused to make a covenant which he did not intend to keep. He refused to believe that the Lord was responsible for the Nephite success. Zerahemnah instead attributed the victory to the armor and shields of the Nephites. Zerahemnah, in that respect, is not
unlike many in the world today. Because a visible, feasible, apparently mundane cause or excuse is readily available to which a result may be attributed, those learned in the ways of the
world would therefore deny the hand of God. In the case of Zerahemnah and Moroni, Moroni had prepared his people with arms and armor and such preparation was probably made under inspiration from the Lord. But not only had Moroni prepared with arms and armor, he had sought the Lord's direction through the
Prophet Alma and had thereby received divine guidance. Additionally, Moroni, had used strategy and spies and those actions may also have been inspired. Finally, Moroni's troops had only overcome the Lamanites' final ferocious onslaught after calling upon the Lord. Zerahemnah may have been unaware of any divine influence in the previous Nephite actions, but he could not escape the fact that "in the selfsame hour that [the
Nephites] cried unto the Lord for their freedom, the Lamanites began to flee before them."

After hearing Zerahemnah's refusal, Moroni, unshakable in his command, returned the bloody sword saying:

"Behold, we will end the conflict. Now I cannot recall the words which I have spoken, therefore as the Lord liveth,ye shall not depart except ye depart with an oath that ye will not return against us to war. Now as ye are in our hands we will spill your blood upon the ground, or ye shall submit to the conditions which I have proposed."
Alma 44:10-11.

Zerahemnah, doubtless frustrated at his undeniable defeat at the hands of this armored leader who drew strength from the Almighty God, grew furious at this insistence on an oath. He rushed forward, raising his sword to strike Moroni. As Zerahemnah raised his weapon, one of the Nephite soldiers stepped
forward and struck at Zerahemnah. The force of the blow split asunder Zerahemnah's blade and sliced off a part of Zerahemnah's scalp which fell to the ground. The soldier was moved to lift the scalp upon the point of his sword. He then raised his voice in warning to the wounded, dying and exhausted Lamanites, saying that they would likewise fall to the earth unless they surrendered their weapons and covenanted to keep the peace. Many of the Lamanites were overcome with fear and threw down their swords. These covenanted as Moroni had demanded and were allowed to depart.

The wicked Zerahemnah still refused to submit. Drawing upon their own anger and hate, many Lamanites stood with him in his stubbornness. Zerahemnah became even further enraged by the loss
of those who had surrendered. In his anger, Zerahemnah spurred his remaining forces to fight even more fiercely against the Nephites. Moroni had also grown angry. He could no longer tolerate Zerahemnah's obstinacy. Moroni commanded his people to slay Zerahemnah and his followers. The Nephites fell upon the Lamanites and began to hew them down as the soldier had prophesied. Exhaustion and hopelessness had diluted the Lamanites' anger; they could do little to prevent the Nephite swords from biting into their naked flesh. Finally, seeing that
all was about to be lost, perhaps sensing the imminent release under a nephite blade of his own wicked spirit from this mortal probation, Zerahemah cried out that he would consent to Moroni's
conditions. Moroni ordered his men to cease the killing. All of the remaining Lamanites, including Zerahemnah, were allowed to depart after surrendering their weapons and covenanting to keep
the peace.

Unfortunately, we may find similarities between Zerahemnah and ourselves or between Zerahemnah and our society. We may set upon a goal or course which is contrary to the principles of the Lord. When it becomes clear that the goal is not proper, just as
Zerahemnah attempted to outflank Moroni's army, we may also seek to circumvent the Lord's rules or ignore the fact that our design is wrong. Such attempts to circumvent the Lord's principles may
lead us into even more difficult situations, like the ambush in which Zerahemnah found himself. Even then, after terrible losses, we may persist as Zerahemnah did and refuse to submit to the Lord's will, or offer a begrudged and conditional withdrawal
without truly giving up the unrighteous design. Like Zerahemnah, we sometimes stubbornly continue to exert ourselves in forlorn attempts to make the Lord see things our way. We seek to amend divine law to suit our personal desires. In our misery, in a
manner too similar to Zerahemnah's dilatory capitulation, we may at last come to see that which was apparent from the beginning of our course: We must turn to Christ and submit our will
unconditionally to his in order to achieve that which is truly of eternal worth. We would be much better served in following Moroni's example and emulating the characterists which he exhibited during the conflict.

Moroni's Character Elements
The conflict with Zerahemah illustrates many aspects of Moroni's character:

Moroni planned ahead. He first prepared his men by
providing armor, helmets, shields and thick clothing to protect them. He knew of the numeric strength of the Lamanites and he countered that strength with armor. We should also assume that Moroni's love of his people and a desire to preserve and protect
his men contributed to his decision to provide them with defensive armor.

Moroni combined faith and works. When the Lamanites moved away, he sent men to inquire of the Lord as to the course of their march and attack. In preparing the ambush for Zerahemnah, Moroni displayed both preparation and initiative. He knew from his spies and the word of the Lord to Alma that the Lamanites'
march would take them across the river Sidon at the hill Riplah. At that location, rather than merely waiting for the enemy to arrive and placing the burden upon the Lord to provide a victory
without effort on his part, Moroni adopted a strategy which would give a high probability of success in that particular situation.

Moroni delegated responsibility. Lehi led the men from behind the hill Riplah. Another leader must have commanded the body of troops which prevented the Lamanites from fleeing toward Manti. Each leader knew his duty and acted accordingly so that
Moroni could employ the ambush. If he had not delegated responsibility to those called to assist him, no such division of his forces could have occurred. Delegation expanded Moroni's potential and multiplied his talents.

Moroni inspired his men. Moroni reminded his men of the reasons for which they fought. He directed their minds to the Lord, their families, their freedom, and their religion. Moroni used his own faith to augment their faith and bring victory to
his army. He attributed the victory to the Lord and reminded both his own troops and the enemy of the source of the Nephites' strength.

Moroni manifested mercy as he called for a halt to the fighting to prevent a slaughter of the Lamanites.

Finally, Moroni exhibited determination or firmness. His command to Zerahemnah left no doubt about his intent or the degree of compliance that would be accepted. When Zerahemnah desired to agree only to a part of the conditions, Moroni held
firmly to his original decree. Moroni refused to take the course of least resistant. While an agreement upon Zerahemnah's terms might have ended the conflict sooner and at the cost of fewer
lives, the righteous end of preventing future loss when Zerahemnah might again return to war outweighed the benefit of a quick end to the immediate battle. Moroni knew that the Lord had delivered the Lamanites into his hands and that he did have the
power to require such compliance with his command.

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