Thursday, August 16, 2012

How to rally your troops

Alma 43 is the chapter in which the Nephites defeat the Zoramite-Lamanite army led by Zarahemnah.

One of the interesting things about Alma 43 is that it contains at least three separate reiterations of the causes the Nephites were fighting for and causes the Lamanites were fighting for.  The cause is mentioned:
1.     as the people form up their armies,
2.     when Moroni places his armies to catch the Lamanites, and
3.     in battle when the Nephites are about to give away. 

Moroni makes sure the Nephite army has a good cause to fight for, while the Lamanite-Zoramite army had to be stirred up to anger and hate and had to have their hatred preserved.

It is hard to tell if each iteration of the cause was written in the record that Mormon was abridging or whether it was only there once and Mormon made a point of repeating the Nephite cause at important points.   (It is easy to understand why Mormon would be happy to transmit repetitions or emphasize repeatedly the Nephites’ just cause after having lived through battles in his day that were motivated by unjust causes.)  Regardless, it is instructive to notice where these repetitions come.

Mormon tells the Nephite cause at the point when the Nephites begin to amass their troops on the border of Jershon and Antionum in response to build-up of Lamanite troops in that area.  When armies and groups are mobilized somewhere, it is important that they know why their movement is important.

9 And now the design of the Nephites was to support their lands, and their houses, and their wives, and their children, that they might preserve them from the hands of their enemies; and also that they might preserve their rights and their privileges, yea, and also their liberty, that they might worship God according to their desires.
 10 For they knew that if they should fall into the hands of the Lamanites, that whosoever should worship God in spirit and in truth, the true and the living God, the Lamanites would destroy.
 11 Yea, and they also knew the extreme hatred of the Lamanites towards their brethren, who were the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi, who were called the people of Ammon—and they would not take up arms, yea, they had entered into a covenant and they would not break it—therefore, if they should fall into the hands of the Lamanites they would be destroyed.
 12 And the Nephites would not suffer that they [the Anti-Nephi-Lehis] should be destroyed; therefore they gave them lands for their inheritance. (Alma 43:9-12, emphasis added)

Their mobilization was specifically to prevent the Anti-Nephi-Lehis from being destroyed, and from the larger perspective, it was to protect the Nephite nation from their enemies and preserve freedom of religion.

Mormon reiterates the Nephite cause as he tells the Nephites were about to use spying as a strategy to find out what their enemies were doing.  He figured that some of his readers might be leery of the Nephites using spies (with the lying that is implied in that strategy) to beat their enemies, so he reminds us of the Nephite cause.  Happily, if we are alert, we can see that the spying consists of placing men in the wilderness to watch for when the Lamanites come (v28), and sending men to watch the Lamanite camp to see where they go (v23).  There is no direct engagement with (lying to) the enemy.

23 But it came to pass, as soon as they had departed into the wilderness Moroni sent spies into the wilderness to watch their camp…
28 And Moroni placed spies round about, that he might know when the camp of the Lamanites should come.
 29 And now, as Moroni knew the intention of the Lamanites, that it was their intention to destroy their brethren, or to subject them and bring them into bondage that they might establish a kingdom unto themselves over all the land;
 30 And he also knowing that it was the only desire of the Nephites to preserve their lands, and their liberty, and their church, therefore he thought it no sin that he should defend them by stratagem; therefore, he found by his spies which course the Lamanites were to take. (Alma 43:23, 28-30)

All that watching of the Lamanite army (and watching for it to come) would get very boring if the Lamanites weren't doing anything (or it wasn't seen coming).  During the long periods of inactivity, the spies would need to remember the cause they were fighting for, so that they could remember the important contribution they made to the cause, even when it seemed like they weren't contributing at all.  A report of "Lamanites still in the same place" is just as much of a contribution to the Nephite cause as a report of invading Lamanites, since a "Lamanites unmoving" report would contribute some piece of mind. (If we apply this to ourselves, a visiting teaching or home teaching report of "families all well" contributes just as much to the cause of Zion as a report that one of our families needs help.)

Third, Mormon reiterates the Nephite cause when the Nephites are about to give way before the Lamanites to show why the Nephites ultimately did not give up and resumed their best efforts in the battle.

45 Nevertheless, the Nephites were inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for monarchy nor power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church.
 46 And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God; for the Lord had said unto them, and also unto their fathers, that: Inasmuch as ye are not guilty of the first offense, neither the second, ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies.
 47 And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed. Therefore for this cause were the Nephites contending with the Lamanites, to defend themselves, and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion.
 48 And it came to pass that when the men of Moroni saw the fierceness and the anger of the Lamanites, they were about to shrink and flee from them. And Moroni, perceiving their intent, sent forth and inspired their hearts with these thoughts—yea, the thoughts of their lands, their liberty, yea, their freedom from bondage. (Alma 43:45-48, emphasis added)

Assuming all these iterations of the Nephite cause were in the unabridged record of how Captain Moroni rallied his men, we see that he is determined to keep their cause in mind at every important point.  We also see that when the battle gets especially difficult and they are about to give up, he again reminds them of their cause and this gives them the courage to call on God for help.   Interestingly enough, when the Nephites have the Lamanites at their mercy, Captain Moroni stops the battle to talk to the Lamanites, and we see that he even tries to rally and inspire them too with words about justice and faith.  (Too bad they rebel.)

I think that this attention to inspire and rally with important causes also inspired concern in Moroni’s army for each other and their leader.  I notice that when Moroni was attacked, one of his soldiers instantly came to his defense.  But when Zerahemnah had his scalp cut off, not a single Lamanite lifted a finger on his behalf.  Zerahemna could command his men, but he hadn’t reached their hearts.  His leadership over them was rooted in stirring them up to anger and preserving their hatred of the enemy.  Moroni’s leadership was rooted in love, defense of country, liberty, religion, and family.  His army saw all this in the way that Moroni prepared them for battle, so they defended him just as he tried to defend them.

One of the things I learn from all this is how important it is to remember the causes we are fighting for.  This also shows me how wonderful people are who have that ability to rally us and inspire us to persevere in the best causes.  What are some causes we believe in?
·      Freedom of conscience, freedom to practice our religion
·      Common decency and morality to keep our families safe from blatant and ubiquitous temptations of the worst sorts
·      Justice and equal enforcement of the laws
·      The cause of Zion and building up the kingdom of God

Another thing this teaches me is how our important it is to us to be inspired when we’re in a tricky situation where we have to stay strong and fight for our standards.  When someone rallies us by reminding us of the cause we are fighting for at those moments, oh how wonderful it seems to us!  Renewed determination can help us find strength we never knew we had.

A final thing I get from this is how important it will become for us to be able to rally others.  Mothers and fathers rally their children.  Teachers rally their students.  Coaches rally their players.  Politicians rally their supporters.  CEOs and managers rally employees. 

We see that rallying others with true and unselfish principles will be more successful than trying to use fear or anger or hate or grievance.

Finally, we can rally ourselves by reminding ourselves what we are working and fighting for.  For example, every so often it gets really hard for me to continue blogging about the scriptures here.  I ask myself,  “Why do I keep doing this?  This is a ton of work!  I’m always worrying about whether what I have written is good enough!”  I have to remind myself that I’m not doing this for fame or fortune.  I’m doing it to share what I’ve learned so that others can come to understand what I understand and learn what I am learning.  I’m doing it to help others appreciate the scriptures more deeply.  I’m doing it in hopes of persuading to repentance.  I’m doing it to try to bring others to God.  Remembering that gives me strength to keep at it.

How do you rally your troops? 


Barbara said...

Thank you!

urinalsoftheworld said...

I hope you keep doing it. It's not easy to put up well-reasoned posts. To do it with the frequency that you do is something special. Thanks for your insights.