I was reading in the Book of Mormon recently (Alma 46) about Captain Moroni making the Title of Liberty and I noticed something interesting.
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. (Alma 46:12)God, religion, freedom, peace, wives, children.
I wondered if the order that he listed those things was significant and as I thought about it, I realized that it was a priority list.
It’s interesting that peace is placed before family. I wonder if this meant family peace or community peace or national peace. Let’s look at some scriptures about peace and maybe we can figure it out.
And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin… (Mosiah 4:14)Maybe peace is a higher priority than our families when we have to discipline them and settle fights and teach them things that will bring them peace later.
18 O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea:I don’t think this peace is the kind that is bought by being indulgent. Maybe it means seeking to make peace and upholding the right even if your family has been in the wrong and they are mad at you. I think the peace is the peace of mind that we did our best even when it was hard. I know my mom worked really hard to keep peace between all of us kids and I think she has been rewarded by seeing us eventually becoming good friends with each other. Maybe it’s the kind of thing that if we don’t work for it, our families will go astray from the church and be “cut off”, but which if we do work for it, we receive a special reward:
19 Thy seed also had been as the sand, and the offspring of thy bowels like the gravel thereof; his name should not have been cut off nor destroyed from before me. (Isaiah 48:18-19)
17 And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.I think it is significant that it says "quietness and assurance for ever" because there are surely parents who agonize over their children who have gone astray even after having been taught and nurtured in the gospel. Remembering the promise of eternal covenants can give some hope and assurance in mortality, and I think the biggest payoff will come on the other side of the veil when restored memories and a bright recollection of all the hard work will bring a sense of satisfaction that will never die.
18 And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places (Isaiah 32:17-18)
On the community level, I think the peace is obtained through the difficult labor or forgiveness and turning the other cheek even when our families have been hurt.
18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:18-21)
Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. (Psalms 119:165)On the national level, I suppose King Benjamin is a great example of establishing peace among his people with hard, hard work even though they didn’t like his message.
17 For behold, king Benjamin was a holy man, and he did reign over his people in righteousness; and there were many holy men in the land, and they did speak the word of God with power and with authority; and they did use much sharpness because of the stiffneckedness of the people—
18 Wherefore, with the help of these, king Benjamin, by laboring with all the might of his body and the faculty of his whole soul, and also the prophets, did once more establish peace in the land. (Words of Mormon 1:17-18)
13 And ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due. (Mosiah 4:13)
…for the public peace and tranquility all men should step forward and use their ability in bringing offenders against good laws to punishment. (D&C 134:8)Next in Captain Moroni’s list, I notice that freedom is placed before peace. If peace is a higher priority than freedom, eventually you lose freedoms. You have to sacrifice some peace from time to time to keep freedom.
11 We would not shed the blood of our brethren if they would not rise up in rebellion and take the sword against us.It seems to me like it would be really hard to tell the difference between when it would be appropriate to fight for freedom and when it would be appropriate to work for peace. I suppose that’s why the Lord gave Joseph Smith the revelation in D&C 98 about the law of retribution.
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. (Alma 61: 11-14)
Next in Captain Moroni’s list, I notice that religion is placed before freedom. Certainly freedom has to be governed by the moral and ethical structure of religion, otherwise you get an all-rights-no-responsibilities society that implodes on itself eventually. I like how James defines true religion.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)When living our religion consists of being kind and charitable to those in need and developing the self-control through Christ to resist temptation I would think that certain freedoms would actually increase. Lots of people think that freedom means you can do whatever you want, but there’s another kind of freedom—the freedom of being trusted, which I think is a higher form. That freedom doesn’t come unless we develop that inner control from true religion to the extent that people know they don’t have to be looking over our shoulders all the time. Joseph in Egypt was one of these people who was so trustworthy as Potiphar’s steward that eventually Potiphar didn’t know anything about what he owned because he knew he could leave it to Joseph and not have to worry about a thing. And even though Joseph could have accepted the advances of Potiphar’s wife, he refused because it would be sinful. He had that inner control from his religion.
Back to Captain Moroni’s list. Why is God placed before religion? Because if religion comes even before God Himself, religion is vain, hypocritical, and empty, since traditions of man tend to take over.
…Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.Good to remember.
7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:6-9)
Image: "Captain Moroni and the Title of Liberty", painting by Arnold Friberg, image from http://broadcast.lds.org/GospelArtBook/images/ArtBook__079_079__CaptainMoroniRaisesTheTitleOfLiberty____.jpg.