Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why were wives and children at the bottom of Captain Moroni's Title of Liberty?

We’ve looked at the priority list on Captain Moroni’s Title of Liberty—God, religion, freedom, peace, wives, children—and I must confess that I’ve been wondering why wives and children were put at the bottom. (On the bright side, they made it on there, right?) So I’ve been doing some thinking about it and I’ve come up with a few scriptures that illustrate what can happen when family priorities usurp the others.
27 Now it came to pass that those judges had many friends and kindreds; and the remainder, yea, even almost all the lawyers and the high priests, did gather themselves together, and unite with the kindreds of those judges who were to be tried according to the law.
28 And they did enter into a covenant one with another, yea, even into that covenant which was given by them of old, which covenant was given and administered by the devil, to combine against all righteousness.
29 Therefore they did combine against the people of the Lord, and enter into a covenant to destroy them, and to deliver those who were guilty of murder from the grasp of justice, which was about to be administered according to the law.
30 And they did set at defiance the law and the rights of their country; and they did covenant one with another to destroy the governor, and to establish a king over the land, that the land should no more be at liberty but should be subject unto kings. (3 Nephi 6:27-30)
Here we see families of malefactors combining together in a wicked covenant—Satan tries to get people to make the wrong sort of covenants—to save family malefactors from legitimate punishment. And they tried to overthrow the country’s liberty as well.

This shows me that not only were the judges wicked, but their influence had corrupted their families. Families can’t be held as more important than the freedom and peace that comes from administering justice. (Of course receiving justice is not a very peaceful or serene process, but tends to involve a lot of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.)

Here’s another example.
24 And in one place they were heard to cry, saying: O that we had repented before this great and terrible day, and then would our brethren have been spared, and they would not have been burned in that great city Zarahemla.
25 And in another place they were heard to cry and mourn, saying: O that we had repented before this great and terrible day, and had not killed and stoned the prophets, and cast them out; then would our mothers and our fair daughters, and our children have been spared, and not have been buried up in that great city Moronihah. And thus were the howlings of the people great and terrible. (3 Nephi 8:24-25)
Perhaps this was a case where the mothers, fair daughters, and children had killed the prophets and those left alive felt burdened by guilt for allowing it to happen and not stopping them and so felt that they too were responsible for it. Perhaps they had been afraid to take a stand. Maybe they didn’t want to anger their mothers, fair daughters, and children.

Mormon saw out-of-wack family priorities in his day too.
23 And it came to pass that I did speak unto my people, and did urge them with great energy, that they would stand boldly before the Lamanites and fight for their wives, and their children, and their houses, and their homes.
24 And my words did arouse them somewhat to vigor, insomuch that they did not flee from before the Lamanites, but did stand with boldness against them. (Mormon 2:23-24)
I bet that Mormon was trying to do like Captain Moroni, but it seems he could no longer motivate the Nephites to fight for God, religion, freedom, peace. He could only motivate them to fight for their families.

It worked for a little while, but the Nephites, unrestrained by any higher considerations, took it too far and began to seek to avenge lost family members.
14 And when they had sworn by all that had been forbidden them by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that they would go up unto their enemies to battle, and avenge themselves of the blood of their brethren, behold the voice of the Lord came unto me, saying:
15 Vengeance is mine, and I will repay; and because this people repented not after I had delivered them, behold, they shall be cut off from the face of the earth. (Mormon 3:14-15)
Further, we have the words of Christ on the matter.
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37)
There you have it. Putting family before Christ makes us unworthy of Him. (Ouch!)

Now, just because we know this doesn’t make it easy when a situation comes up. There are countless variations of difficult choices between husbands and wives, fathers and children, and mothers and children that can really test one’s mettle. We all get to learn by experience in this life-laboratory.

Sometimes it seems like a balancing act—balancing love with discipline. I’m not a mom myself, but I got a dose of it as an oldest child taking care of my siblings, and I get a little bit of a taste of mothering when I have my bear den meetings.

Here’s what seems to happen. Johnny makes some rude comment to Sam, and Sam punches Johnny. (not their real names) I am not prepared for this. I have to say something, but I don’t have it on the tip of my tongue. I don’t want to overreact. I start with a general statement.

Me: (firmly, glaring) Hey, none of that.

That glare is a patented Walker glare that I learned from my Dad. Most of the time it works, but sometimes it doesn’t.

Sam: But he started it!
Johnny: (laughs)

This is where it gets tricky really fast, and I have to handle it with a combination of single-action “That doesn’t make it right” and dual-action “That was inappropriate” and “What do you say to each other?” (going for apologies and forgiveness).

I remember one time I was trying to elicit apologies and statements of forgiveness from two brothers who had gotten in a tiff. They absolutely were not having any of it. Nine-year-old and ten-year-old. They were so totally focused on what the other had done that they couldn’t see what they themselves had done. Sounds pretty normal, huh?

Well, it occurred to me that maybe their parents hadn’t taken the time to teach them to apologize and forgive each other. (This is understandable; when kids are fighting, the focus is getting them to stop, so once the fighting has been stopped, it seems like all is well, and working towards healing the relationship adds an extra step which takes extra effort.) But my mom put that extra effort in. She was a stickler for getting me and my siblings to apologize to each other and ask forgiveness, and then getting us to give forgiveness.

Mom: You need to say you’re sorry.

Me: I’m sorry, Cameron, for [teasing you/breaking your toy/annoying you/ losing your stuff/getting into your room without permission/whatever].

Mom: Cameron, you need to say you’re sorry too. What do you say?

Cameron: I’m sorry for [punching you/annoying you/calling you ‘stupid’/getting into your room without permission/whatever].

Mom: Now, Michaela, you need to tell Cameron that you forgive him.

Me: I forgive you, Cameron.

Mom: Now, Cameron, you need to tell Michaela that you forgive her.

Cameron: I forgive you, Michaela.

I’m totally not kidding. My Mom rehearsed us through our parts in the process of settling our fights. She did this so much that by the time we were older, it was second nature to apologize and ask forgiveness, and to express forgiveness. She kept doing this when we were teens with more serious issues and I feel that it helped smooth things over better to go through that form of rehearsal. It may have sounded hokey and fake to an outside observer to see teens going through this, but we were used to it and I think it helped us. She also began to add the extra step of talking to us separately and praying with us when negative behavior patterns began to build grudges between siblings.

How do you parents discipline with love? What are your strategies? What works?


Chas Hathaway said...

I also wonder if the title of liberty thing has something to do with Hebrew writing style. If this is an example of chiasmus or something, it might change things. I have noticed that Hebrew rarely puts things in the order of priority.

Mount up with wings as eagles, run and not be weary, walk and not faint.

We would see this as backwards, but it's Hebrew - priority is not being measured consecutively.

But I could be totally off on that.

I really like your discussion. Sometimes we let our family's feelings take priority over our relationship with God. That is indeed a problem.

Great entry! Thanks!

- Chas

Michaela Stephens said...

I think you definitely have a point about that scripture of Isaiah's. I don't know that Captain Moroni's title of liberty could be considered an example of a chiasmus because usually the greatest emphasis is put what is in the middle, which everything surrounds..

But I'm actually really glad that you brought up that Isaiah scripture because it reminds me a lot of President Uchdorf's message in last month's Ensign about creating spiritual lift in our lives through prayer. That could help us in our families.