Friday, December 23, 2011

Mosiah 19: Covenants and promises are necessary for peace

Mosiah 19 is the chapter where all heck breaks loose on King Noah and his people. There is contention among the Nephites, Gideon tries to kill King Noah, the Lamanites invade, the Nephites run away, the women and children are left behind with whatever men will not leave, King Noah is killed by his own followers, the Lamanites are persuaded not to kill the Nephites, and the Nephites are put under Lamanite tribute.

I noticed that while the previous chapter (Mosiah 18) contains the covenants made with the Lord, in Mosiah 19, all those who didn’t come into a covenant with the Lord and who didn’t escape with Alma find themselves having to make all kinds of oaths to try to get peace back. There are four oaths in Mosiah 19, and some of them aren’t very good:

  1. Gideon swears in his wrath that he will slay King Noah (v4) (He breaks this oath.)
  2. The people who run off with King Noah and leave their families behind swear in their hearts that they will return to their families and seek revenge if they find them dead (v19). (They keep the first part, and happily are not required to keep the second part, since they find their families alive.)
  3. The Lamanites, having subjected the Nephites, make an oath to not kill them (v25). (They keep this oath until provoked by Nephite kidnapping of Lamanite women.)
  4. The Nephites, having been subjected, make an oath to pay tribute of half their possessions and to deliver King Noah over to the Lamanites (v26). (They keep the tribute part, but are unable to keep the second part, King Noah having already been executed.)

I suppose there might be a lesson here that entering into a covenant with God does the job of a whole mass of other promises. Without a covenant with God, people will still find themselves needing the stability of the expectations and duties that are brought by covenants, and they will need to make promises anyway. In this case, those promises weren’t very pleasant and some of them were just plain wrong-headed.

I think a covenant with God to serve Him is infinitely to be preferred.