Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lessons from Coriantumr’s protection


You know how sometimes you take something for granted in the scriptures and then all of a sudden you see it with new eyes and it astounds you?  One of the things that I recently was struck by in the book of Ether is that Coriantumr survived so many years of battle when his enemies seemed to keep dying.  Coriantumr seems to be unkillable, although he gets really close to death in several instances. 

Now, I know you are probably thinking, “Duh!  Ether prophesied that every living soul would be destroyed except Coriantumr if he didn’t repent!”  Well, just humor me for a while on this, ‘kay?

I started looking for all the times Coriantumr could have been killed, but wasn’t:
1.     Shared brought him into captivity instead of killing him (Ether 13:23)
2.     Shared wounded Coriantumr in the thigh before Coriantumr killed him. (Ether 13:30-31)
3.     When Gilead broke through the siege on his men and killed part of Coriantumr’s army, it seems it wasn’t the part where Coriantumr was camped. (Ether 14:5)
4.     Lib wounded Coriantumr in the arm, but didn’t kill him, and Coriantumr’s army pushed Lib’s army back. (Ether 14:12)
5.     Shiz gave Coriantumr many deep wounds, which caused Coriantumr to faint with the loss of blood and be carried away as though he were dead, but he didn’t kill him. (Ether 14:30)
6.     There was another battle in which Coriantumr was wounded again and fainted with the loss of blood (Ether 15:9), but Coriantumr’s army pushed back Shiz’s army.
7.     When it gets right down to Shiz versus Coriantumr, the only reason Coriantumr could kill Shiz was that Shiz had fainted with the loss of blood. (Ether 15:29-30)

He has more arch-enemies than anyone has any right to have—Shared, Gilead, Lib, and Shiz.  And more people wanted him dead even before the prophecy was given.

Coriantumr’s seeming invulnerability does not come from righteousness, but rather it is directly because the Lord spares his life.  And we know it is the Lord sparing his life because of the prophecy that Ether made to Coriantumr as recorded in Ether 13:20-21.

20 And in the second year the word of the Lord came to Ether, that he should go and prophesy unto Coriantumr that, if he would repent, and all his household, the Lord would give unto him his kingdom and spare the people—
 21 Otherwise they should be destroyed, and all his household save it were himself. And he should only live to see the fulfilling of the prophecies which had been spoken concerning another people receiving the land for their inheritance; and Coriantumr should receive a burial by them; and every soul should be destroyed save it were Coriantumr.

Now, here’s the interesting question--why was this promise given to Coriantumr if he was wicked?  Having one’s life spared is a blessing we usually think of as reserved for the righteous.  Why was he privileged to escape and the others perish? 

After thinking about it some, I realized that it had to do with how difficult it was for him and his people to believe in things they could not see.  “And it came to pass that Ether did prophesy great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe, because they saw them not.” (Ether 12:5)

It’s as if the Lord finally said, “FINE!  You don’t believe you must repent or the people will be destroyed?  You don’t believe that your great society can be displaced by another people?  If you do not repent, Coriantumr, I will keep you alive to see the people destroyed.  You can’t believe without seeing?  Okay, you are going to see it.”

I think this is why such emphasis is put on faith and believing in the few chapters leading up to the Jaredite demise.  We are given many positive examples of the marvelous acts done by faith and then come the end battles of the Jaredites so we see the consequences of disbelief.  The Lord wants us to hold onto faith, repent, and avoid that ugly end.

The prophecy that Coriantumr would live until the Jaredites were destroyed was something that would perfectly appeal to a society of fighters.  It was something that could be tested again and again and no doubt word got around about it.  It would also ensure Coriantumr would never have any peace.  He was like the gunfighter of the Old West with the fastest draw who is has to watch his back all the time because every other aspiring gunfighter is eager to test themselves against him.  For instance, Coriantumr’s last arch-enemy had two goals—one was to avenge his brother Lib whom Coriantumr killed in battle, and the other was to disprove the word of the Lord from Ether that Coriantumr would not be slain by the sword (see Ether 14:24).

It is notable that Coriantumr didn’t have to see all his people killed before he came to himself.  Unfortunately, two million people had to die before he started to see that so far all the prophecies were being fulfilled.  But even though he tried to end the killing, by then it was too late.  The wars had taken on their own momentum and he couldn’t stop it.  There’s an important lesson here that there is a window of time provided for repentance, and if we don’t repent while we can, we may pass the point of no return when the consequences pull us down further into the abyss in spite of ourselves.  That is truly sobering.

It is interesting that when Coriantumr offered the kingdom to Shiz to spare the people that Shiz insisted on no deal unless Coriantumr would let Shiz personally lop off his head.  From the perspective of the gospel, it is the ultimate test of a ruler—are they selfless enough to give themselves up to save their people?  If Coriantumr had accepted Shiz’s terms, he would have become a type of Christ.  There is no telling what would have happened then.  Perhaps his life would have been miraculously saved.  Or maybe he would have died after all and the Jaredite civilization would have survived longer.  Or maybe Shiz would still have destroyed the people anyway.  Again, no way of knowing. 

Coriantumr’s situation was quite tragic in that when he had finally decided he wanted to repent, his efforts to seek peace for his people put him in a double bind—if he took Shiz’s terms it seemed he would lose his life and if he rejected them, his people would continue to be killed according to prophecy.   This would have been a difficult choice for a righteous king, but for a person as spiritually unprepared as Coriantumr, who probably had lived a life as far from sacrifice as you can get, the choice would be virtually impossible.   Looking at it from the perspective of calculated risk, it is not surprising that he chose to reject Shiz’s terms, preferring to continue fighting rather than sacrifice his life on the promise of mercy from a hitherto rarely merciful Shiz, a man who had destroyed many cities and killed women and children without compunction.

***

Here’s another part of Ether’s prophecy to Coriantumr that intrigued me—the part that promised him the kingdom if he and his household repented.  It might seem like the promise was meaningless since Coriantumr already had the kingdom and he remained in command of significant numbers of people to the end of the war.  However, if we look closer, we can see certain events that indicate that Coriantumr lost the kingdom fairly early on and never regained it even though he persisted in acting as though he had full possession of it. 

Coriantumr lost the kingdom to Shared within three years of the time Ether was kicked out.  Yes, Coriantumr’s sons got him the kingdom back, but by then Coriantumr had lost the power to enforce peace among the people, as it says that “he did not go to battle again for the space of two years, in which time all the people upon the face of the land were shedding blood, and there was none to restrain them” (Ether 13:31).  This also suggests that he had lost monarchical power to execute justice. 

The next indication we see is of the brother of Shared (named Gilead) outmaneuvering Coriantumr and placing himself on Coriantumr’s throne.  Yet, this is a hollow victory and as time goes on, the constant chasing back and forth and around of armies makes the holding of a throne (or any kind of stable capital location) impossible and even meaningless. 

Next, Coriantumr loses friendly territory as Shiz overthrows and burns many cities, and with the murder of the women and children that keep the home front together, he loses the productive capacity to support his army’s perpetual campaigning.  And finally, he loses control and loyalty of people; many of them file off to join his enemy Shiz, since it seems that Coriantumr can’t protect them from Shiz’s depredations.  By the time Coriantumr starts to repent of the evil he’d done, for all practical purposes he is no longer a king but a warlord-general.  Yet he parleys with Shiz offering the kingdom, as if he had anything besides people to give.  By all means, appearances of monarchy must be kept up.

Coriantumr’s loss of the kingdom has an important lesson—the Lord is in charge, and power is held at His sufferance and can be taken away when the Lord pleases.

All in all, we should in no way count Coriantumr fortunate or blessed to have his life spared through the Jaredite destruction.  It was a curse to him instead of a blessing.  From him we learn it is much better to believe the Lord’s warnings and repent than to be stubborn just because we don’t see the bad consequences coming yet.  We also learn that there is a window of time given for repentance beyond which the consequences drag us down further.

What lessons do you derive from Coriantumr’s life?