Freedom is a topic that we all have a pressing need to study and master. The human spirit innately craves Liberty and personal accountability, yet few times in history have people been able to attain and then maintain their rights. The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, which you can read about in my previous article, is a volume of inspired scripture that speaks first and foremost of the divine mission of Jesus Christ and calls upon all people to worship Him. An important secondary mission of The Book of Mormon, however, is to teach us the correct principles of Liberty, expose Satan’s Freedom-destroying schemes, and show what is required for a people to maintain their God-given rights under a free government.
Because it helps us identify the Devil’s tyrannical tactics and teaches us true principles of self-government, The Book of Mormon is the ultimate handbook of Freedom. While there is not much by way of exposition about the principles of Liberty, we see them in action in the lives and experiences of the Nephite nation. For the first five-hundred years of their history, the Nephites lived under a system of kings. The final king, a God-fearing man named Mosiah, decided to abolish the monarchical system and encouraged the Nephite people to take upon themselves responsibilities, rights, and privileges of self-government.
While contemplating the future of his people, Mosiah made a proclamation wherein he explained the dangers posed by monarchy. The foremost problem he identified was factionalism. Those vying for the position of king could easily divide the nation and cause senseless civil war. What’s more, a wicked king would be unstoppable by any means other than bloodshed. With this context in mind, we read a few lines from Mosiah’s proclamation:
“And now let us be wise and look forward to these things, and do that which will make for the peace of this people.
“. . . let us appoint judges, to judge this people according to our laws; and we will newly arrange the affairs of this people, for we will appoint wise men to be judges, that will judge this people according to the commandments of God.
“Now it is better that a man should be judged of God than of man, for the judgments of God are always just, but the judgments of man are not always just. . . .
“Now I say unto you, that because all men are not just it is not expedient that ye should have a king or kings to rule over you.
“For behold, how much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction! . . . .
“And behold, now I say unto you, ye cannot dethrone an iniquitous king save it be through much contention, and the shedding of much blood.
“For behold, he has his friends in iniquity, and he keepeth his guards about him; and he teareath up the laws of those who have reigned in righteousness before him; and he trampleth under his feet the commandments of God;
“And he enacteth laws, and sendeth them forth among his people, yea, laws after the manner of his own wickedness; and whosoever doth not obey his laws he causeth to be destroyed; and whosoever doth rebel against him he will send his armies against them to war, and if he can he will destroy them; and thus an unrighteous king doth pervert the ways of all righteousness.
“And now behold I say unto you, it is not expedient that such abominations should come upon you.
“Therefore, choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord.
“Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law – to do y our business by the voice of the people.
“And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon them. . . .
“And I command you to do these things in the fear of the Lord; and I command you to do these things, and that ye have no king; that if these people commit sins and inquities they shall be answered upon their own heads. . . .
“. . . I desire that this land be a land of liberty, and every man may enjoy his rights and privileges alike” (Mosiah 29:10-12, 16-17, 21-27, 30, 32).
The Nephite kingdom being conferred on Mosiah by his father, King Benjamin
It should be noted before I proceed with my commentary that Mosiah was not merely a king, but also an inspired Christian prophet. The Holy Spirit therefore moved upon him to formulate a new government that was pleasing to the Lord and compatible with His Gospel.
Mosiah was emphatic that men could not be trusted with the power of kingship. He knew that an unstable or immoral king could cause havoc throughout the land. He was worried that a king would amend the good laws that had been handed down for generations, instituting in their place corrupt laws that would permit sin, punish righteousness, and trample individual Liberty.
Instead of monarchy, Mosiah desired that the Nephite people take upon themselves the responsibility for administering the government. He believed that the people should “do [their] business by the voice of the people.” Note that he did not advocate for pure democracy. Rather, he suggested a system of rule of law with judges selected by the people who would enforce the law. It was, thus, a representative government very similar to that set up in the United States under the Constitution. Just as Mosiah said the law had been given to the Nephites’ forefathers by God, so, too, do I witness that the U.S. Constitution was inspired by Almighty God.
In a portion of Mosiah’s declaration that I did not cited, he made it clear that judges who did not judge “according to the law” could be taken and judged by other judged and removed from their posts (Mosiah 29:28-29). He also verified that the judges were accountable “to the voice of the people” (Mosiah 29:29). The similarities to the system set forth in the U.S. Constitution are too vivid to ignore.
Just as Mosiah said not to place trust in men but instead to make men accountable to the law, the great Thomas Jefferson advised: “In questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution” (Thomas Jefferson, Kentucky Resolutions, draft, 1798).
Thomas Paine was obviously in tune with the same patriotic spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17). In 1776, he explained:
“[I]n America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the Crown at the conclusion of the ceremony be demolished, and scattered among the people whose right it is.
“A government of our own is our natural right” (Thomas Paine, Common Sense).
Just as the American Founding Fathers established a government based on the rule of law, individual Liberty, and accountability, so, too, did the Nephites set up a free government in ancient America. When Mosiah presented his plan to the Nephite people, they were thrilled with the prospect of governing themselves. The scripture recounts:
“And now it came to pass, after king Mosiah had sent these things forth among the people they were convinced of the truth of his words.
“Therefore they relinquished their desires for a king, and became exceedingly anxious that every man should have an equal chance throughout all the land; yea, and every man expressed a willingness to answer for his own sins.
“Therefore, it came to pass that they assembled themselves together in bodies throughout the land, to cast in their voices concerning who should be their judges, to judge them according to the law which had been given; and they were exceedingly rejoiced because of the liberty which had been granted unto them” (Mosiah 29:37-39).
The Nephites became enamored with the idea of governing themselves and placing this huge responsibility on their own shoulders. They embraced the idea of rule of law and self-governance. The laws that Mosiah gave “were acknowledged by the people; therefore they were obliged to abide by the laws” (Alma 1:1). This is similar to the concept espoused by George Washington when he said:
“The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government” (George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796).
The people supported Mosiah’s plan, accepted the laws he proposed, and thus bound themselves to obey the established system of self-rule. As noted, the people were generally ecstatic to have the chance to determine their own futures. Mosiah made it plain that maintaining such a system would require great exertion. Self-government is indeed the most demanding form of government. It requires individuals to be informed, to make decisions, to be accountable, and to live in accordance with moral principles.
In 1938, Elder Albert Bowen, a modern apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke of self-government. He said:
“Self-government involves self-control, self-discipline, and acceptance of the most unremitting obedience to correct principles. . . .
“No other form of government requires so high a degree of individual morality” (Elder Albert E. Bowen, Improvement Era, 1938, 41).
The Founding Fathers of the United States were emphatic in their warnings that only a virtuous people is capable of Freedom. It takes no virtue or excellence to be ruled and enslaved, but it takes a high degree of greatness, personal discipline, and exertion to be free. Because our Founding Fathers’ Freedom philosophy dovetails so nicely with the principles preached by Mosiah and other Book of Mormon figures to be cited later, I present a brief smattering of their thoughts on the connection between morality and Liberty.
My ancestor, Caleb Strong, is one of those forgotten Founding Fathers. He was an intimate associate of John Adams and helped him write the constitution for Massachusetts. He filled many positions during the War for Independence. He attended the Constitutional Convention and was the man who successfully proposed that all money bills originate in the House of Representatives. He served as the first senator from Massachusetts and, later, as governor of that state for eleven years. Mr. Strong made this observation:
“Almost every nation, at some period of their existence, have enjoyed the privileges of a free State; but how few have preserved them! – they have been lost by the inconstancy of the citizens, or forfeited by their vices. . . .
“. . . Government is necessary, to preserve the public peace, the persons and property of individuals; but our social happiness must chiefly depend upon other causes; upon simplicity and purity of manners; upon the education that we give our children; upon a steady adherence to the customs and institutions of our ancestors; upon the general diffusion of knowledge, and the prevalence of piety and benevolent affections among the people.
“Our forms of government, are, doubtless, like all other institutions, imperfect; but they will secure the blessings of freedom to the citizens, and preserve their tranquility, as long as they are virtuous; and no constitution, that has been, or can be formed, will secure those blessings to a depraved and vicious people” (Caleb Strong, speech to the Massachusetts Legislature, January 17, 1806).
John Adams similarly believed:
“The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our people in a greater measure than they have it now, they may change their rulers and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty. They will only exchange tyrants and tyrannies” (John Adams to Zabdiel Adams, June 21, 1776).
In a more famous quotation, John Adams, then the president, wrote:
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other” (John Adams to the Massachusetts Militia, October 11, 1798).
John Witherspoon, the fiery Revolutionary era minister, gave us this gem:
“Nothing is more certain than that a general profligacy and corruption of manners make a people ripe for destruction. A good form of government may hold the rotten materials together for some time, but beyond a certain pitch, even the best constitution will be ineffectual, and slavery must ensue. On the other hand, when the manners of a nation are pure, when true religion and internal principles maintain their vigor, the attempts of the most powerful enemies to oppress them are commonly baffled and disappointed” (John Witherspoon, “The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Man,” May 17, 1776).
Benjamin Franklin also subscribed to this philosophy, writing:
“[O]nly a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters” (Benjamin Franklin to Abbes Chalut and Arnoux, April 17, 1787).
In his Farewell Address, which ought to be required reading in every part of our Republic, President George Washington took up the subject of morality and religion in a free country and proclaimed:
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
“It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?” (George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796).
Finally, George Washington stated simply but unequivocally: “Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society” (George Washington to the Protestant Clergy of Philadelphia, March 3, 1797).
The Founding Fathers believed that the American People could only maintain their hard-won Freedom if they were virtuous and lived in accordance with the laws of God. Anciently, Mosiah believed the same thing and established his system of judges and laws in such a manner that required the Nephite people to be righteous in order for them to work. The Nephites consented to this state of affairs and gladly took upon themselves the burden and blessing of self-government. This history contextualizes the most iconic struggles for Liberty related in The Book of Mormon.
The first struggle came only five years after the system of judges had gone into effect. A man name Amlici, who is described as “being a very cunning man, yea, a wise man as to the wisdom of the world” sought to be king (Alma 2:1). Amlici was an anti-Christian zealot who belonged to a sect called the order of Nehors which attempted to impose itself upon the rest of society. We read in the record that Christians and all who loved their Liberty were alarmed at Amlici’s desire to become a king. They knew that “according to their law” all such matters “must be established by the voice of the people” and that “if it were possible that Amlici should gain the voice of the people, he, being a wicked man, would deprive them of their rights and privileges of the church; for it was his intent to destroy the church of God” (Alma 2:3-4).
As time went on, Amlici successfully courted a large number of people “and they began to endeavor to establish Amlici to be a king over the people” (Alma 2:2). Whether they joined him because they were not accustomed to their newfound Freedom, or because they found self-government too demanding, or whether they were also opposed to the Church of Jesus Christ and wanted the strong arm of government to suppress it, Amlici’s followers became so numerous that they forced a vote to decide whether or not their government would be abolished.
We read what happened next:
“And it came to pass that the people assembled themselves together throughout all the land, every man according to his mind, whether it were for or against Amlici, in separate bodies, having much dispute and wonderful contentions one with another.
“And thus they did assemble themselves together to cast in their voices concerning the matter; and they were laid before the judges.
“And it came to pass that the voice of the people came against Amlici, that he was not made king over the people.
“Now this did cause much joy in the hearts of those who were against him; but Amlici did stir up those who were in his favor to anger against those who were not in his favor.
“And it came to pass that they gathered themselves together, and did consecrate Amlici to be their king.
“Now when Amlici was made king over them he commanded them that they should take up arms against their brethren; and this he did that he might subject them to him” (Alma 2:5-10).
Amlici’s rebellion fulfilled Mosiah’s earlier warnings to a T. Recall that Mosiah warned that “ye cannot dethrone an iniquitous king save it be through much contention, and the shedding of much blood.” The Nephites were compelled to fight a sanguinary civil war all because one very wicked man sought for power over his countrymen and sought to dictate how they should live worship.
Amlici’s forces, being outnumbered by those who desired Freedom, were quickly defeated. However, Amlici ran to the Nephites’ rivals, the Lamanites, for assistance. The Lamanites routinely watched and waited for opportunities to subjugate the Nephites. A civil war was the perfect opportunity to strike. They joined forces with Amlici and the remainder of his men and waged war against the Nephites.
The Book of Mormon recounts that the ensuing battle was fierce but that “the Nephites being strengthened by the hand of the Lord, having prayed mightily to him that he would deliver them out of the hands of their enemies, therefore the Lord did hear their cries, and did strengthen them, and the Lamanites and the Amlicites did fall before them” (Alma 2:28).
After the brief but devastating war, the Nephites went back to the work of self-government. Their peace did not last long, however, because there are always those who seek for power over others.
Eighteen years after the “reign of judges” began, we learn of a great warrior named Captain Moroni. Moroni appeared on the scene at a time when the fledgling Nephite republic was again beginning to fracture. A segment of society, led by those of high birth who thought themselves above their fellows, wanted to revert back to the rule of kings. This faction was referred to as “king-men.” The opposing faction took upon themselves the name “freemen” and was determined to maintain their system of self-government at all costs.
This war of ideas came at a precarious time. It came as the aforementioned Lamanites, were again mobilizing for war. The Lamanites were encouraged, as before, by Nephite dissenters. In particular, a group calling themselves Zoramites “began to mix with the Lamanites and to stir them up also to anger” so much so that they “began to make preparations for war” (Alma 35:10-11). The anger stemmed from a difference in religion, the Zoramites and Lamanites denying the Christian Gospel preached by Nephite prophets, but was ultimately aimed at subjugating the independent Nephites once and for all.
At age twenty-five, Captain Moroni was appointed as head of the Nephite army. Moroni, a brilliant tactician and a man inspired by Almighty God, won the initial battles against the Lamanite-Zoramite armies and the latter retreated to regroup and devise a new strategy. During this tense period of war preparations, and as Captain Moroni was occupied fortifying the land in anticipation of the coming onslaught, the seditious king-men seized their chance.
The king-men were led by a singularly devious man named Amalickiah. Amalickiah, as Amlici before him, hated the Gospel of Jesus Christ and wanted to destroy the Church of Christ. He also lusted for power and wanted to eviscerate the Nephites’ Freedom. The Book of Mormon speaks of him and his followers in this way:
“And it came to pass that as many as would not hearken to the words of Helaman [the prophet] and his brethren were gathered together against their brethren.
“And now behold, they were exceedingly wroth, insomuch that they were determined to slay them.
“Now the leader of those who were wroth against their brethren was a large and a strong man; and his name was Amalickiah.
“And Amalickiah was desirous to be a king; and those people who were wroth were also desirous that he should be their king; and they were the greater part of them the lower judges of the land, and they were desirous for power.
“And they had been led by the flatteries of Amalickiah, that if they would support him and establish him to be their king that he would make them rulers over the people. . . .
“Yea, we see that Amalickiah, because he was a man of cunning device and a man of many flattering words, that he led away the hearts of many people to do wickedly; yea, and to seek to destroy the church of God, and to destroy the foundation of liberty which God had granted unto them, or which blessing God had sent upon the face of the land for the righteous’ sake” (Alma 46:1-5, 10).
Amalickiah and his elitist, anti-Christian hordes rose up to challenge the Nephites. They openly sought to destroy the government, impose a monarchy over the land, and sweep away the Christians. Captain Moroni, a Christian and a fierce Freedom Fighter, would have none of it. The sacred record tells us:
“And now it came to pass that when Moroni, who was the chief commander of the armies of the Nephites, had heard of these dissensions, he was angry with Amalickiah.
“And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it – In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children – and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.
“And he fastened on his headplate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily to his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land. . . .
“And he said: Surely God shall not suffer that we, who are despised because we take upon us the name of Christ, shall be trodden down and destroyed, until we bring it upon us by our own transgressions.
“And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing . . . and crying with a loud voice, saying:
“Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.
“And it came to pass that when Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together with their armor girded about their loins, rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God” (Alma 46:11-13, 18-21).
Moroni ordered that his Title of Liberty be published throughout all the land. With the stirring slogan “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children,” Captain Moroni rallied the Nephites against Amalickiah. He inspired them to stand up and be counted. He roused them to rise in defense of their Faith, Families, and Freedom.
When Captain Moroni had rallied the people to his standard, he marched against Amalickiah to put an end to his machinations. When they saw Moroni coming, many of Amalickiah’s people became “doubtful concerning the justice of the cause in which they had undertaken” (Alma 46:29). Amalickiah, fearing capture, took a small group of followers, including his brother Ammoron, and fled to the Lamanites. Moroni sent his men to apprehend Amalickiah because “he knew that he would stir up the Lamanites to anger against them and cause them to come to battle against them; and this he knew that Amalickiah would do that he might obtain his purposes” (Alma 46:30).
Unfortunately, Amalickiah escaped. Most of his followers, however, were captured. We read:
“And it came to pass that whomsoever of the Amalickiahites that would not enter into a covenant to support the cause of freedom, that they might maintain a free government, he caused to be put to death; and there were but few who denied the covenant of freedom.
“And it came to pass also, that he caused the title of liberty to be hoisted upon every tower which was in all the land, which was possessed by the Nephites; and thus Moroni planted the standard of liberty among the Nephites” (Alma 46:35-36).
The immediate threat of civil war was eliminated. However, as Moroni predicted, and in a fascinating story of trickery and treachery that I will not recount here, Amalickiah gained control over the Lamanite army, had his men murder the Lamanite king, and installed himself as monarch. His first command as king, unsurprisingly, was to launch a war of subjugation against the Nephites.
The Book of Mormon gives us this interesting passage about the interim period before the war began in earnest and about the type of man and leader Captain Moroni was:
“Now it came to pass that while Amalickiah had thus been obtaining power by fraud and deceit, Moroni, on the other hand, had been preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God. . . .
“And thus he was preparing to support their liberty, their lands, their wives, and their children, and their peace, and that they might live unto the Lord their God, and that they might maintain that which was called by their enemies the cause of Christians.
“And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of perfect understanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery;
“Yea, a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people.
“Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ, and he had sworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood.
“Now the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even tot he shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea, and they were also taught never to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives.
“And this was their faith, that by so doing God would prosper them in the land. . . .
“Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men” (Alma 48:7, 10-15, 17).
Captain Moroni exemplified what it means to be a patriot. He was the ultimate freeman. He has an honored place in the Freedom Fighter Hall of Fame. His Herculean struggle for his people earned him eternal glory. And he was the epitome of the “Christian soldier” marching “with the cross of Jesus” (Hymn No. 246, “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
We have an analog to Captain Moroni in our own history. General George Washington was such a man of similar stature. He was also a strong and mighty individual, a man with a brilliant mind, a patriot who worked for the welfare of his country, and a deeply devout Christian. Just as Moroni bowed himself to the earth and supplicated the Lord for assistance, General Washington relied upon the Lord during the Revolution. At the outset of that struggle, he wrote:
“No Man has a more perfect Reliance on the all-wise, and powerful dispensations of the Supreme Being than I have nor thinks his aid more necessary” (George Washington to William Gordon, May 13, 1776).
The righteous portion of the Nephites were well-grounded in just principles. They knew that conquest was wrong. They knew that the Lord only supports taking the sword in self-defense and to fulfill His divine purposes. Similarly, early Americans abhorred aggressive war and only shouldered their muskets when the British monarchists came to disarm and enslave them. Thomas Jefferson observed:
“If there be one principle more deeply rooted than any other in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest” (Thomas Jefferson to William Short, July 28, 1791).
The Americans’ War for Independence was a defensive action against modern-day king-men. Our People, like the Nephites, fought a war for their very survival. We had General Washington and the Nephites had Captain Moroni. And as the Nephites rent their coats as a token that they would serve God and thereby receive His protection, so, too, did modern Americans declare their “firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.” When you recognize the parallels between ancient and recent history, and recognize that we are today passing through a similar period of division centering on religion and Liberty, The Book of Mormon becomes all the more relevant and useful.
We return to Captain Moroni’s story. Eventually, King Amalickiah’s Lamanite forces invaded Nephite territory. Moroni had cleverly fortified every city throughout the land (the ruins of those impressive forts can be found throughout the heartland of America) and the initial thrusts were repulsed. Amalickiah “was exceedingly wroth, and he did curse God, and also Moroni, swearing with an oath that he would drink his blood” (Alma 49:27). Amalickiah restrategized and, approximately five years later, personally led a new invasion.
This invasion happened as yet another group of Nephites attempted to break away and the society was rife with division. The Book of Mormon gives a commentary about those who caused the new contentions:
“Therefore, those who were desirous that the law should be altered were angry with [the newly-elected chief judge Pahoran], and desired that he should no longer be chief judge over the land; therefore there arose a warm dispute concerning the matter. . . .
“And it came to pass that those who were desirous that Pahoran should be dethroned from the judgment-seat were called king-men, for they were desirous that the law should be altered in a manner to overthrow the free government and to establish a king over the land.
“And those who were desirous that Pahoran should remain chief judge over the land took upon them the name of freemen; and thus was the division among them, for the freemen had sworn or covenanted to maintain their rights and the privileges of their religion by a free government.
“And it came to pass that this matter of their contention was settled by the voice of the people. And it came to pass that the voice of the people came in favor of the freemen, and Pahoran retained the judgment-seat, which caused much rejoicing among the brethren of Pahoran and also many of the people of liberty, who also put the king-men to silence, that they durst not oppose but were obliged to maintain the cause of freedom.
“Now those who were in favor of kings were those of high birth, and they sought to be kinds; and they were supported by those who sought power and authority over the people” (Alma 51:4-8).
This division and infighting happened at the exact time that Amalickiah attacked. So bitter were the king-men that they had been thwarted yet again by the freemen that when they knew the Lamanites had invaded “they refused to take up arms, for they were so wroth with the chief judge, and also with the people of liberty, that they would not take up arms to defend their country” (Alma 51:13).
We read that when Captain Moroni was apprised of the king-men’s sedition, he was “exceedingly wroth because of the stubbornness of those people whom he had labored with so much diligence to preserve; yea, he was exceedingly wroth; his soul was filled with anger against them” (Alma 51:14). Moroni was forced to withdraw his troops from their defensive positions to deal with the king-men problem first. The record states that “he sent a petition, with the voice of the people, unto the governor of the land” requesting power “to compel those dissenters to defend their country or to put them to death” (Alma 51:15).
The Book of Mormon attests that Moroni was so concerned because such sedition “had been hitherto a cause of all their destruction” (Alma 51:16). The Captain’s petition was granted and he “commanded that his army should go against those king-men, to pull down their pride and their nobility and level them with the earth, or they should take up arms and support the cause of liberty” (Alma 51:17).
The same king-men who refused to lift their weapons to defend their country nevertheless drew the sword to fight against their countrymen. Moroni’s disciplined men were victorious, however, and the king-men were killed, imprisoned, or “compelled to hoist the title of liberty upon their towers, and in their cities, and to take up arms in defence of their country” (Alma 51:20). Though he did not entirely wipe out the monarchical ideology, Moroni successfully destroyed the king-men as an organization. “[T]hey were brought down to humble themselves like unto their brethren, and to fight valiantly for their freedom from bondage” (Alma 51:21).
During the chaos, Amalickiah was able to capture a number of Nephite cities. He would have continued cutting his way through the land, but a commander named Teancum was dispatched to stop him, which he successfully did because his men were “great warriors; for every man of Teancum did exceed the Lamanites in their strength and in their skill of war” (Alma 51:31). Being repulsed after a hard day of fighting, Amalickiah camped for the night. Teancum, however, wanted to end the war as quickly as possible. He crept into the Lamanite camp, found Amalickiah as he slept, and “put a javelin to his heart,” thus ending Amalickiah’s evil reign (Alma 51:33-36).
The war did not end as Teancum had hoped, however. Amalickiah’s brother Ammoron ascended to the throne and intensified the conflagration, besieging all parts of the land. The war raged for years with both victories and setbacks for the Nephites. I leave you to read about the specific battles and strategy in the book of Alma in The Book of Mormon. I jump to the concluding episode of the war.
Though the king-men were no longer called by that name, enough people maintained the elitist philosophy to be a major impediment to the war effort. Near the end of the war, Moroni and other commanders stopped receiving sufficient supplies of men and food. Moroni began to suspect that a faction existed within the government which sought their defeat. “Moroni was angry with the government, because of their indifference concerning the freedom of their country” (Alma 59:13). He wrote a bristling epistle that everyone should read in full. I draw a few noteworthy excerpts from its contents – lines which equally apply to those traitors who infest our own government today.
Speaking to the “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,” Moroni chided:
“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 –
“Yea, even they who have looked up to you for protection, yeah, have placed you in a situation that ye might have succored them. . . .
“. . . 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.
“. . . 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. . . .
“. . . 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 tot he 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. . . .
“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.
“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. . . .
“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.
“And now, except ye do repent of that which ye have done, and begin to be up and doing . . . behold it will be expedient that we content no more with the Lamanites until we have first cleansed our inward vessel, yea, even the great head of our government.
“And except ye grant mine epistle, and come out and show unto me a true spirit of freedom. . . .
“. . . 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.
“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.
“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. . . .
“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” (Alma 60:1, 7-10, 16-18, 23-25, 27-29, 36).
Captain Moroni was a man of such integrity, sincerity, and passion that he would move Heaven and earth to fulfill his covenants, defend his country, and secure his people’s Freedom. He knew that there is a price to be paid for Liberty and that everyone must pay it. He further understood that a divided nation is easily conquered, but a united one is difficult to destroy. He chided the government for its neglect and singled out those whose desire was power as traitors to their country. As patriots in all ages have done, he put his own neck on the line in denouncing tyrants and advocating Freedom. He was willing to challenge even his own government when that government was wrong. Such was the integrity of Captain Moroni.
In response to Moroni’s epistle, the chief judge Pahoran responded that he stood firmly with the freemen but that a faction had “risen up in rebellion against me, and also those of my people who are freemen” (Alma 61:3). It was this group of power-hungry autocrats who took over the capital, drove the legitimate government out, and stopped the supply of provisions to Moroni’s armies. They went so far as to appoint a king and entered into an alliance with the Lamanites. Part of Pahoran’s letter to Moroni reads:
“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. . . .
“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 privilege of our church, and in the cause of our Redeemer and our God” (Alma 61:9, 14).
Upon receiving news of the insurrection and Pahoran’s continued faithfulness, Captain Moroni took a part of his army and marched to Pahoran. Together, they put down the rebellion in the capital and then turned their sights toward the Lamanite invaders. With the cancer of rebellion finally in remission and the Nephites unified under Captain Moroni’s banner, the Nephites swept the Lamanites before them. They drove the Lamanites, led by King Ammoron, to the edge of their land and prepared for a final fight.
At this juncture, Teancum again appears in the story. Recall that Teancum had previously snuck into the Lamanite camp and killed Amalickiah. As the Lamanites camped, Teancum attempted a repeat of his earlier feat. This time, however, Ammoron was able to alert his guards before dying. The Lamanite guards chased Teancum and killed him, ending the life of one of the greatest Nephite Freedom Fighters.
We are told that when Moroni and the other commanders learned of his death, “they were exceedingly sorrowful” (Alma 62:37). The Book of Mormon pays great tribute to this warrior. Teancum’s memorial is one that I have always striven for. On my tombstone, I hope it is said of me what was written and said of Teancum:
“[B]ehold, he had been a man who had fought valiantly for his country, yea, a true friend to liberty” (Alma 62:37).
The day following Teancum’s tragic death, Captain Moroni’s armies drove the Lamanites out of their land, ending that phase of senseless war. Once the fortifications had been built up again, Moroni resigned his post and retired to his home, much the same way George Washington resigned his generalship after the War for Independence and took his rest at Mount Vernon.
The times of war and struggle recorded in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ give us clear examples of what Freedom is, what it takes to maintain, and what type of threats we should be on guard against. In the first place, we learn that a free government is one in which the “voice of the people” is prominent. However, unlike a pure democracy where the mob rules, a truly free government is based on the rule of law. Nephite law was originally revealed from God and accorded with the commandments. The government was not a theocracy, but the laws were just and inspired.
Similarly, the U.S. Constitution is an inspired document that promotes the power of the People tempered by just laws. It is part of my religion that the Lord established the Constitution. In modern times, our Lord has referred to “the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:77).
In a parallel to Mosiah’s wish that the Nephites practice self-government so that every the people’s sins may “be answered upon their own heads,” the Lord further stated that He established the U.S. Constitution so that every person may act “according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:78).
The Savior continued by saying that “it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.
“And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:79-80).
Elsewhere, the Lord has revealed:
“And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting the principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me” (Doctrine and Covenants 98:5).
Finally, the Lord has said, regarding government, that “whatsoever is more or less” than the holy principles of the Constitution “cometh of evil” (Doctrine and Covenants 98:5-7).
The Nephite example captures these principles and shows them in action. The Nephite people lived under an inspired system of self-rule that involved just laws which protected individual Liberty. The society consented to follow these laws and maintain their collective privileges and individual rights. They understood that the individual is accountable to God for his behavior and must shoulder the responsibility of exercising his moral agency correctly.
We also see that judges, comparable to elected representatives today, were appointed not to dictate, but to enforce the law. They were strictly accountable to the voting public and could be removed from their posts if they failed to uphold the law. Even this removal process was not a knee-jerk thing, but a procedure codified in the law similar the way modern impeachments are heavily regulated and should never be based on majority ire.
As Nephite history shows, when a small group of people try to exercise their power to overrule the accepted law in order force their point of view or lifestyle on the majority, contention and warfare often result. We also see that when people become detached from the Gospel of Jesus Christ and consumed with anger toward that which is good, even the results of a popular election can’t stop their agitation. People in this situation are prone to violence – even civil war. Nothing but the firmness of freemen can stop king-men, insurrectionists, and revolutionaries from destroying the Liberty of a nation. At times, good men who love Liberty and who cherish peace must fight to maintain them and to defend their families.
The salient points to understand from the history of Nephite government, then, are these: That ordered Liberty is the ideal; that Liberty and law go hand in hand; that political power springs from the People; that government representatives are accountable to the public; that the People are accountable to God for their actions in relation to government; and that self-rule is vastly superior to monarchy.
Furthermore, in the example of the power-hungry king-men, we see that lust for control leads to bitterness, treason, contention, and bloodshed. We see that evil yet persuasive men like Amlici and Amalickiah have the power to upend society, overthrow governments, and destroy Liberty unless the People are vigilant and humble themselves before God, relying upon His deliverance. We also learn that tyrants motivated by a lust for power are inherently weaker than people motivated by their love of God, Freedom, and country.
And in the story of Captain Moroni and the freemen, we see the qualities a free people must possess. First, we note that the greatest Freedom Fighters and patriots are those who bow the knee to the King of kings, Jesus Christ. Next, we learn that unity is key to any endeavor. A unified society can do great things, but a divided nation is bound to fail. Third, we see that a real leader, a man like Moroni, is one that is full of passion and sincerity, a person who drives on toward his goal regardless of opposition, and a selfless servant who willingly gives his time, talents, and everything he possesses to noble causes, such as the cause of Freedom.
In our day of rampant confusion where personal Liberty is on the wane and the forces of Satanic communism are on the rise, which I discuss at length in my upcoming article “The Book of Mormon Speaks of Conspiracy,” the lessons contained in the pages of The Book of Mormon are absolutely priceless. We can gain badly needed wisdom from Mosiah, courage from the freemen, and inspiration from Captain Moroni, Teancum, and Pahoran. We can be motivated by knowing that another free people who lived on this American continent went through the same struggles we’re passing through today and that they prevailed with the Lord’s help. The Book of Mormon lets us know that we are not alone in our quest for Liberty, that Freedom is worth fighting for, and that every sacrifice for our Faith, Families, and Freedom is not only worth it, but is needed and remembered.
Finally, The Book of Mormon informs those of us who inhabit the same land that the Nephites inhabited, this Promised Land of America, this shining city on a hill, the future Zion of God, that we are under special obligations. If we meet our obligations faithfully, we have special promises extended to us. An ancient prophet, speaking to you and me, told us that America is a covenant land – a special land blessed above all others. He spoke of this land as “the land of promise, which was choice above all other lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people.” He then explained:
“And he had sworn in his wrath . . . that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them.
“And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.
“For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the fulness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off.
“And this cometh unto you, O ye Gentiles, that ye may know the decrees of God—that ye may repent, and not continue in your iniquities until the fulness come, that ye may not bring down the fulness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land have hitherto done.
“Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written” (Ether 2:7-12).
From this passage, we learn that America is a Promised Land – a covenant land. The covenant is that those who live in America will serve Jesus Christ or they will be destroyed. If they serve the Lord, He has promised that we will “be free from bondage, and captivity, and from all other nations under heaven.” Almighty God has decreed that America shall be inhabited by a righteous, Christian people and no other.
The prophet Nephi, the namesake of the Nephite nation, saw a vision of the discovery and founding of America by a Christian people that carried the Bible with them. He saw that they would fight and win a war for their Independence. He prophesied that they would gain the land for their inheritance because they would humble themselves before their Maker. And, because of their humility, the Lord would prosper and protect them, saving them from all hostile nations. Nephi wrote:
“And I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles, and they did prosper and obtain the land for their inheritance; and I beheld that they were white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain.
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.
“And I beheld that their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them.
“And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle.
“And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone forth out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations.
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that they did prosper in the land; and I beheld a book, and it was carried forth among them.
“And the angel said unto me: Knowest thou the meaning of the book?
“And I said unto him: I know not.
“And he said: . . . The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord which he hath made unto the house of Israel . . . wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles” (1 Nephi 13:14-19).
The Lord has presided over the history of America from the beginning. It was He who brought the Nephites here and it was He who brought our own forefathers to this land. It was the Lord who protected and delivered the Americans out of Europe’s iron grip. His miraculous power was on display to such a high degree during the War for Independence that George Washington was compelled to write:
“The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations” (George Washington to Thomas Nelson, August 20, 1778).
America is the Lord’s base of operations. It is His land. He protects it. And He requires that those who are privileged to live here worship Him. When we do, His power is poured out in our behalf.
Another Nephite prophet named Jacob similarly prophesied about this special land. His prophecies deal specifically with our day. He foretold:
“But behold, this land, said God, shall be a land of thine inheritance, and the Gentiles shall be blessed upon the land.
“And this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles.
“And I will fortify this land against all other nations.
“And he that fighteth against Zion shall perish, saith God.
“For he that raiseth up a king against me shall perish, for I, the Lord, the king of heaven, will be their king, and I will be a light unto them forever, that hear my words” (2 Nephi 10:10-14).
As before, we see that America is a covenant land where the people are expected to serve Jesus Christ, the rightful King of America. If they do, they will be blessed and protected against all other nations. Anyone who attempts to establish a king over this land and thereby abolish the system of Freedom and self-rule established by the Lord via the Constitution “shall perish.” We have a great need as Americans to internalize these promises and humble ourselves before the Redeemer.
The Bible contains similar promises of a general nature. In the Old Testament, we read:
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Isaiah also told the House of Israel that if they repent and become obedient to God’s laws, they will “eat the good of the land” (Isaiah 1:19). Also, if they repent and “put away the evil” from among them, the Lord “will restore [their] judges as at first, and [their] counsellors as at the beginning” (Isaiah 1:16, 26). These promises are only made to the penitent, however, just as the promises in The Book of Mormon are extended only to the righteous.
Lastly, the Bible tells us that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). And so it is.
The Book of Mormon is immeasurably valuable for many reasons, not least of which is that it speaks of Freedom. It shows us what Freedom is and how to maintain it. It gives us examples of correct principles in action. It shows the innate power possessed by the People and the frailty of tyrants. It inspires us to rely upon the Lord and go forward in His power to defend our Faith, Families, and Freedom. Because of its poignant examples, such as the story of Captain Moroni and the Nephite freemen, The Book of Mormon is the ultimate handbook of Freedom.
This sacred volume of scripture also is important to Americans because it speaks specifically to them. It informs them of the covenant they are under by virtue of living in this land. It tells them that they must repent and worship the Lord Jesus Christ. It states rather clearly that the Lord is the King of America and that His law is our legitimate law.
Dear reader, The Book of Mormon is the word of the Lord equal to the Bible. These two divine witnesses belong together. They confirm each other. They both fervently testify of Jesus Christ. Together, they abolish false doctrines, dispel myths, and confirm the truth. And as one they prove that only a righteous and virtuous people, a people that trusts in the Lord, and people that humbles itself, is capable of the Freedom and blessing of self-government.
Let us raise our own Title of Liberty in our own lives and wherever we have influence. Let us rise in defense of our Faith, Families, and Freedom. Let us exalt God, our Freedom, and the Constitution. Men, be men. Step forward to safeguard your wives and children, your families, and your homes. We are under unrelenting attack we need all hands on deck. Do your duty, stand firm, submit to the Lord’s laws, uphold the Constitution He established, and then trust that the Lord will fulfill His promises to defend our land against tyrants.
May the Lord bless you, my fellow patriot. May all who come to the Lord in sincerity be electrified and given the power to stand firm through tribulation. May the Lord bless all those who faithfully share the thrilling stories found in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. May Almighty God prosper people like Darin Southam who are attempting to inspire freemen everywhere through the remarkable history of Captain Moroni. And may we live so that it may be one day said of us that we were true friends to Liberty. I close with my testimony, which I have from the Holy Ghost and cannot deny, that The Book of Mormon is true and that it speaks of Freedom.
February 27, 2020