Sunday, September 18, 2016

Alma 60: Captain Moroni’s letter to Pahoran may be less rash than we think


Captain Moroni’s letter to Pahoran is pretty well-known in the church for its blunt language and anger in which Captain Moroni demands to know why Pahoran hasn’t sent more troops or supplies to the Nephite army’s support. We’ve heard in general conference that Pahoran’s response is a model of self-restraint in the face of Captain Moroni’s accusations.

Recently I was reading through this letter again, and it struck me that Captain Moroni’s letter is also has certain marks of self-restraint as well.  Verse 6 shows us this—“we desire to know the cause of this exceedingly great neglect; yea, we desire to know the cause of your thoughtless state.”   Captain Moroni wants to know WHY this is happening, rather than rushing in with an army right off.

Also, he asks a number of questions starting with “do you suppose” or variants.

“could ye suppose that ye could sit upon your thrones, and because of the exceeding goodness of God ye could do nothing and he would deliver you?” (v11)

“Do ye suppose that, because so many of your brethren have been killed it is because of their wickedness?” (v12)

“we know not but what ye yourselves are seeking for authority.” (v18)

“We know not but what ye are also traitors to your country.” (v18)

“Or is it that ye have neglected us because ye are in the heart of our country and ye are surrounded by security, that ye do not cause food to be sent unto us, and also men to strengthen our armies?” (v19)

“Or do ye suppose that the Lord will still deliver us, while we sit upon our thrones and do not make use of the means which the Lord has provided for us?” (v21)

“Do ye suppose that God will look upon you as guiltless while ye sit still and behold these things?” (v23)

It looks like Captain Moroni is trying to think of all the reasons why Pahoran might withhold supplies and men. I have not quoted what comes afterward, but you can look yourself and see that he shows why these are not good reasons.  By doing this, he shows that he understands the inner obstacles that leaders face when they have to resolve on strenuous action to curb evil. Again, the fact that he asks for an explanation first before charging in with the army is evidence that he is not rash.

What this teaches me is that if I have to chastise someone as part of my responsibilities, it would be a very good thing if I spend some time thinking up a list of plausible good faith reasons why they might have done or omitted to do something. This helps me to understand them better and think up ways to help them overcome their internal hang-ups (because everyone has hang-ups someplace). Then, even if I am still wrong, as Captain Moroni was, at least they will know that I did the preliminary work of trying to understand and feel the difficulty of their situation.  People want to be understood.