And it came to pass that [King Noah] built a tower near the temple; yea, a very high tower, even so high that he could stand upon the top thereof and overlook the land of Shilom, and also the land of Shemlon, which was possessed by the Lamanites; and he could even look over all the land round about. (Mosiah 11:12)
This comes in the recital of the evils that King Noah did, so while it sounded somewhat harmless at first, I started to think about why it might have been added and whether it was disapproved of.
Perhaps one problem with this tower is that it upstaged the temple as the focus of the area. If you wanted to look toward the temple, the temple wasn’t the most beautiful thing to look at, as our temples often are. King Noah had made his tower bigger and better. (Abinadi probably considered it a major eyesore.)
And too, the purpose of the tower may have been foolish if it was built just so King Noah could stand on the top and look down on everybody! (How different from the temple, where people come to worship and look up to God.) If that was King Noah's only purpose for the tower, then the tower is certainly a contrast from King Benjamin’s tower, which was used to teach people from and remind people of their duty to God. King Noah’s tower may have been part of his efforts to forget the Lord and go his own way. (How often do we get spiritually get on our high towers just so we can look down on people?)
However, perhaps King Noah built this tower as a way to observe whether the Lamanites were preparing for war. We know that earlier in the Zeniffite record the Nephites were consistently taken by surprise by invading Lamanites, and perhaps the tower was designed as a means of observing Lamanite war preparations to give Nephites advance notice and time to prepare for defense. If so, it was a very good plan, and it worked...except King Noah was a very bad watchman for that tower. He only saw the Lamanites were invading because he was chased up onto his tower, and then it was still too late to do much about the invasion except run away. King Limhi did a much better job as a watchman on that tower; he was able to discover all the Lamanite preparations for war and prepare his people ahead of time (see Mosiah 20:7-8).
How does this help us today? It shows us that a tower doesn't do much good without a watchman that consistently watches. Our prophet is a watchman on the tower for us. We are also watchmen for those who are within our stewardships. We want to be watchmen like King Limhi, not King Noah. We want to be watchmen who watch consistently so that when the enemy is in range, we can take notice while they are yet afar off and prepare our defense rather than seeing the invaders in the borders with nothing we can do but run.
Is there an experience you can share of a time when being a good watchman saved you and yours?