The bane of my Book of Mormon-based existence has long been the war chapters in Alma. However, as a missionary I finally have an application in my life for these chapters.
Being a missionary is a lot like being in an army. We're men and women under authority who follow very specific orders to bring about the objectives and visions of our leaders. We each play a role in those visions and objectives, and the role we play depends entirely on the character of our leaders. I have more reason now to care about the wisdom expressed in the war chapters because they lay out so clearly the difference between good leadership and evil leadership—good leaders and evil leaders.
Alma 47 and 48 give a nearly side-by-side comparison for good and evil leadership. Chapter 47 focuses on Amalickiah, a wicked and deceptive man in the histories of the Lamanites. Chapter 48 focuses on Captain Moroni, one of the most righteous men in the entire Book of Mormon. Mormon as a historian doesn't just focus on the events in which these men had remarkable significance. He focuses on their qualities, which helps us as readers to avoid and apply their examples, respectively.
I want to comment on some of these differences and apply them to missionary work because I believe they apply so completely to members and missionaries alike today. Because Amalickiah was a tool in the hands of Satan, and Captain Moroni in the hands of Jesus Christ, we learn things about them respectively as leaders as well.
Mormon establishes the comparison he's making when he says, "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." (Alma 48: 7)
- Amaleckiah begins his deception by playing off of the division between his people and the Lamanites who don't want to fight the Nephites anymore. He specifically tries to gain favor with those who are disloyal and disobedient to the king. Captain Moroni gained favor with his people through loyalty to the gospel of Jesus Christ and being true to the Title of Liberty (Alma 47: 5 & Alma 48: 10, 12)
- Amalickiah was double-minded, giving the appearance of serving the king, while also trying to achieve his own agenda by going against the will of the king. Captain Moroni has one purpose which is apparent in everything He does--to truly help his people by bringing them closer to Christ (Alma 47: 8 & Alma 48: 13)
- Amalickiah works through secrecy and persistence--two of the elements of temptation. Captain Moroni relies on revelation from God to best care for his people (Alma 47: 10-12 & Alma 48: 15)
- Amalickiah was perfectly willing to sacrifice his men to his opponents to accomplish his own selfish objectives. Captain Moroni protected ALL of his people, giving special attention to those who were most vulnerable. (Alma 47: 13-15 & Alma 48: 8-9)
- Amalickiah murdered his commanding officer by means of deception (poison). Captain Moroni lived the laws of God regarding warfare and only used war to protect himself and his people. He did not delight in bloodshed at all. (Alma 47: 18 & Alma 48: 14, 16)
- Amalickiah betrayed and murdered the king of the Lamanites, then covered it up through conspiracy. Captain Moroni defeated such evil through personal righteousness and relying entirely on Jesus Christ to save him and his people. (Alma 47: 22-24, 27, 34 & Alma 48: 17)
- Amalickiah instigates war and causes others to sin and break their covenants. Captain Moroni encourages everyone to follow the Lord, to keep their covenants, and to pursue peace wherever possible. (Alma 48: 3 & 23-24)
- Amalickiah's only strength is in numbers. Captain Moroni's strength is the power and promise of Christ. (Alma 48: 4 & 18-19)
When I read this list I liken Amalickiah to Satan, and Captain Moroni to Christ. It helps me to understand how to be a better missionary, a better soldier in the cause of Christ. I understand better who I'm up against, and how to fight smarter against my enemies. I know to whom I should look for guidance, and the power He has to save me from destruction. I find this list to be entirely consistent with my experiences from both the Adversary and the Savior.
My favorite realization was what I saw when I likened Alma 48: 17 to Christ Himself:
"Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto [Christ], 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."
I know that by keeping the commandments of Jesus Christ, we find that power in our lives. Satan has no power to tempt us because we find no appeal in anything he offers, and the methods he encourages us to use are despicable in our sight. Some might be dissuaded from missionary service because they think there is a lack of freedom in our decision making. Some resist the call from prophets to live lives of discipline, honoring the commandments of Christ.
But if we do not serve Christ as He has instructed, who then do we serve?
I know that Christ lives and He loves us. I know He has the power to guide us and protect us, and I've received that protection from Him too many times to count. I know that as we live the gospel of Jesus Christ, we accomplish the purposes of our Father in Heaven. For Christ, there was nothing more important than the will of the Father. When we truly live our lives in the same way, we can liken Alma 48: 17 to ourselves, with our own name.
For me, there would be no greater reward.
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,