Leadership is hard to define. There are many quotes and explanations floating around which can give conflicting messages. To compound the complexity of leadership, there are many different types. A person can be elected to a position, appointed to one, pay for one, and even steal one. Leaders can also be people who have no physical authority to command. I am not going to spend time going through the different types of leadership. Instead I am going to contrast two different styles of leadership that are highlighted in the War Chapters of the Book of Mormon. First we will look at the way Amalickiah led and how his style can affect us. Then, I will examine Moroni and how he led as the Saviour did.
Amalickiah- Lies and Deceit
Amalickiah, who was to become king of the Lamanites, was born a Nephite. He was a man of great ambition and wanted to lead the people according to his own desires. He was angry at the teachings of Helaman (son of Alma the prophet) and other members of the church. What he wanted was to be the king of the Nephites and destroy the power of the church. He spent a lot of time speaking to the people and many of the lower level judges promising them power if they supported his bid to become king. His flattering worked on these people and Amalickiah gained a large following who were disaffected with the government and the church.
This dissention from the church was a crisis moment. Many people who had just witnessed the miracle of the defeat of Zerahemnah the year previous were now choosing to believe that there was no such thing as miracles and a Heavenly Father who loved them and cared for their welfare. Mormon, the compiler of the Nephite records into the Book of Mormon, said this: “Thus we see how quick the children of men do forget the Lord their God, yea, how quick to do iniquity, and to be led away by the evil one. Yea, and we also see the great wickedness one very wicked man can cause to take place among the children of men.” Mormon continues to describe Amalickiah as a man of “cunning device” and “flattering words” who would lead the people away from God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amalickiah sought to destroy the liberty (or agency) of the people- a precious gift from our Heavenly Father.
Even though Amalickiah had convinced many people to join his group, they did not form a majority of people in the land of the Nephites. Once members of the group saw this, many began to doubt the cause of Amalickiah and stopped following him. So, he decided to flee to the Lamanites. Moroni was able to capture many of the followers but Amalickiah and those closest to him escaped. (see Alma 46:29-33)
Amalickiah knew that if he could not win over the Nephites peacefully, he had no hope of winning over the Lamanites with an appeal to popular opinion. He chose to put his skills of flattery and deceit to use and cheat his way to the throne of the Lamanites. Having arrived among the Lamanites, Amalickiah began to “stir up the Lamanites to anger against the people of Nephi” with the help of his followers. He eventually gained the support of the king and convinced him to mobilize the armies to attack the Nephites. Since it was his plan, Amalickiah was appointed the commander of the armies.
There were many who remembered the defeat at the hands of Moroni and refused the order of the king. They chose to gather on a hill called Antipas where they could defend themselves. They were determined to not go to war against the Nephites. The leader these mutineers chose was a man named Lehonti.
Soon after the mutineers camped on and fortified the hill, Amalickiah and his army arrived and set up camp at the base of the hill. Amalickiah had the stronger army but he chose to use deceit to gain the confidence of Lehonti and his people. What he did was quite sly and underhanded. He sent a message to Lehonti containing an invitation to meet in Amalickiah’s camp three times and was refused each time. After these refusals, he went up to the edge of Lehonti’s camp and invited Lehonti out to speak. Lehonti decided that there was little danger in going out to meet because he would not be too far from his camp, and Amalickiah was in a vulnerable place.
What Lehonti heard must have surprised him. Amalickiah wanted to surrender his army to Lehonti- he said that he did not really want to fight the Nephites either. So the plan was for Lehonti and his army to creep off the mountain during the night and surround the other army so they would fear and beg to surrender. There was one catch- Amalickiah wanted to be named second in command of the new, combined army to show his men that they had nothing to fear. Lehonti agreed because he felt like he had won an easy victory over his enemy and forced him to surrender.
The plan went off without a hitch. The army surrendered, incorporated with Lehonti’s army, and Amalickiah became the second in command. This is where the true plan of Amalickiah kicked in. He ordered that poison should be given to Lehonti so that he would die. In the Lamanite army, if the first in command died, his second would take over as overall commander. Now, the orders to poison Lehonti show the elaborate plans Amalickiah had become. The order was to slowly poison Lehonti so that there would be no suspicion of murder laid against Amalickiah. “And it came to pass that Amalickiah caused that one of his servants should administer poison by degrees to Lehonti, that he died.”
Now that he controlled the army of the Lamanites, he moved against the king. When he returned to the capital city, the king came out to congratulate him. Some of the servants of Amalickiah went and met the king and as he put his hand out to them, they stabbed him to death. When the servants of the king saw this, they fled back to the city. Amalickiah used the dead king to rally his men to follow him on the pretext of arresting the king’s servants for committing the murder. In order to make his hold on the people permanent, he married the widowed queen and was crowned king.
Mormon, in his commentary on Amalickiah said this:
… and thus by his fraud, and by the assistance of his cunning servants, he obtained the kingdom; yea, he was acknowledged king throughout all the land, among all the people of the Lamanites, who were composed of the Lamanites […] and all the dissenters of the Nephites… (Alma 47: 35)
Amalickiah sought for power over people and gained it through deception lies and murder. His use of these tactics are similar to how Satan works against us in our lives.
First, Amalickiah tried to flatter and promise his way into power. Satan does this when he tries to convince us that we are justified in “committing a little sin”- that we have been extra good so we deserve a break from all that goodness. This is a very subtle way Satan has to gain power over us. It is hard to be good sometimes and this temptation can certainly feel like it would be nice to take a short break before getting back to being good. We are reminded in the scriptures “that by small and simple things, great things are brought to pass.” This is true for things good and also things evil. It is simple to take a break but hard to end the break- we must be careful not to be distracted by flattering and promises that it is okay to take a break from living a Christ-like life.
When the flatterings and promises failed to win over the Nephites, Amalickiah turned to the enemy of the Nephites. He sought a way to physically control them by gaining control of the armies of the Lamanites. He used his skills of enticement to stoke the fears and anger of the Lamanites so they would attack the people of Nephi. We see this often in our lives today. Satan and his minions stir up people and organizations to attack the church and us for our beliefs. We are barraged on every side about our peculiar beliefs and are told that we are not up with the times. We are persecuted for our beliefs regarding gender, marriage, health, the role men and women have in life and society, and even for going to church at all. Satan has stoked the fires of fear and anger so that those who believe in Jesus Christ and His Atonement are set apart from the rest of society. If our testimonies are not continually strengthened, we can become like those who tasted the fruit of the Tree of Life, were ashamed, and then left for the Great and Spacious Building (see 1 Nephi 8:24-28).
Once Amalickiah had control of the army, he had the Lamanite king murdered and convinced the people that he did not do it. He also convinced the people that he would avenge the king by becoming king and leading the people against the Nephites. When Satan has bound us with “flaxen cord[s]” he works hard to convince us that we are lost forever and that nothing can bring us back to the presence of our Heavenly Father. His desire is for us to abandon all that we have known and work to convince others to join us. As the saying goes- misery loves company. We must not allow ourselves to fall to this depth. There is always a way out. The Atonement of Jesus Christ has given us the tool we need to return from sin and transgression. That tool is repentance. There is no place we can go where the Love of God and the Atonement cannot reach us and cleanse us.
Captain Moroni- Leading in the Saviour’s Way
Now it is time to move away from leadership by lies and deceit and look at Moroni and his example of leading as the Saviour did. We have previously looked at how Moroni prepared the people and the land to receive the invasion of the Lamanites. We have also looked at how he used revelation to counteract advances by the Lamanites. This time we will turn to his leadership style and how it correlates to how Jesus leads us.
When Moroni called the people together to stand against the Lamanites, he did not promise rewards of land and wealth. Instead, he called upon the people to covenant that they would fight to defend their families, their people, their rights, and their religion (Alma 46:20). Their reward for fulfilling this covenant would be peace in the land and the safety of their families and livelihoods. Jesus, called upon us to take up His yoke and have our burdens lightened. He also said that if we took up our cross and followed Him, that we would be blessed with “treasures in heaven.” Finally, the Saviour said: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” We are promised that if we covenant to work and labour in the Kingdom of God, helping our brothers and sisters come closer to Christ, we will be given peace and rest from the cares of the world. Moroni understood this principle and promised the people peace if they worked to defend their brothers and sisters from the onslaught of evil and designing men.
Moroni sought to lead by example. He made sure that he followed the commandments and lived according to the teachings of the prophets. Mormon wrote that Moroni was “a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon the people.” He knew that God would preserve the people if they kept the commandments that they had been given by the Lord through the prophets. His testimony was firm and strong to the point that he was unshakable. Mormon continues:
… I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.
This unwavering testimony that Moroni had, was passed to his men through the covenant he made with them. They knew that they would be fighting to preserve their belief in Jesus Christ. If they defended their right to belief, they would be able to continue their efforts to live according to the commandments.
Jesus also led by example. He showed us how to serve those around us. He healed the sick, raised the dead, forgave sins, taught doctrine, and makes covenants with us. Alma, the prophet during Moroni’s day, taught that the Saviour would come to “suffer the pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind” that he would “take upon him the pains and sicknesses of his people.” Alma said that the Saviour would do this so “his bowels [would] be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” Alma’s father, also called Alma, encouraged us to do the same when he taught the people seventy years before the war. He asked the people if they were “willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; […] willing to mourn with those that mourn, yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places […] even unto death…” Jesus did all these things. He comforted the hopeless, mourned with the bereaved, and stood as a witness of God and proclaimed the fulness of the Gospel. Jesus lived to defend the truth and bring people peace. For examples of the Lord's earthly service, read about His visit to the Nephites in 3 Nephi chapters 11-28, and the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Bible.
Moroni wanted to avoid bloodshed as much as possible. He did not want to be the cause of “sending so many of [his] brethren out of this world into an eternal world, unprepared to meet their God.” To avoid this, he and his subordinates worked to defeat the Lamanite armies by stratagem.
One account of using stratagem to defeat the Lamanites is found in Alma chapter 58. Helaman, one of the generals under Moroni, wrote a letter recounting the battle for the city of Manti. During the course of the war, some cities had fallen to the Lamanites; among which was the city of Manti. The city was one of the fortified cities described in the first article of this series. It was strong, and the Lamanites had a large garrison holding it. The Nephites, led by Helaman, did not have enough men to storm the city and take it by force. They prayed for guidance and were promised that they would be successful.
When Helaman’s army camped close by, the Lamanites sent out spies to find out how many were in the Nephite camp. When they discovered that the army facing them was small, they began to get ready to leave the city and attack the Nephites. Helaman saw this as an opportunity and split his army into three pieces. The two smaller pieces would hide in the forest, wait for the Lamanites to attack and chase Helaman off and then march into the open city.
The plan worked to perfection. When the Lamanites chased Helaman, they emptied the city thinking it would be a quick victory. Eventually, they realized that Helaman was leading them towards the land of Zarahemla and the strongest armies of the Nephites. The Lamanite army began to fear for their lives and retreated to Manti. When they arrived, they saw that the city had been retaken by Helaman’s army.
During this battle, few were killed. Jesus also wants to have as many people saved and given eternal life as possible. He wants all of us to accept the gospel and live according to the commandments so that we can all return to live with Him and Heavenly Father. There will always be another chance to repent and return to Him. We have been promised that everyone will have the chance to hear the gospel and decide whether to follow the commandments we are given. Even those who have died without hearing about the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, will have the opportunity to learn in the Spirit World. Our Saviour does not use deception to trick us into believing. What He does is reach out to us every day and offer His hands to pull us into His embrace. This is done in many forms. it can be in the form of visits from friends, or in the words of scripture we read. It is all done by personal revelation. He has shown us how we can all return to God. President Russell M. Nelson calls it the Covenant Path.
First, we show our desire to follow the Saviour by being baptised and joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This follows the example of the Saviour when He was baptised. Next, as we learn and grow in our ability to keep covenants and follow the commandments, we go to the temple to receive our endowment. The endowment involves making more covenants with God and promising to continue following the commandments. After this, we work to endure to the end- or repent when we falter in keeping our covenants. As we continue to repent, we are given the opportunity to renew our covenants by partaking of the Sacrament each week. Following the Covenant Path and encouraging others to come with us is a life-long journey, but it is worth it. The blessing of being able to be with our families in the presence of our Heavenly Father is the pearl of greatest price we can obtain.
Over the course of the war, Moroni and the other Nephite commanders captured many Lamanites. In ancient days, there were two common ways to deal with prisoners of war. One was to kill them and permanently deny strength to the enemy. The other was to sell them into slavery and prevent them from ever going home to their families. Just as the Saviour is merciful, Moroni was as well. He had the Lamanite captives work to build defenses in the land but was not harsh in their treatment. He treated them as human beings. He also communicated with King Ammoron, brother of Amalickiah who had been killed during the war, to have a prisoner exchange (see Alma 54-55). Moroni was willing to send home all of his prisoners and let them live in peace.
These actions reflect how Jesus treats us. We all sin. It is a fact. It is impossible for us to be perfect in our mortal lives. We have been taught that “no unclean thing can enter the kingdom of God,” meaning that when we sin, we cannot return to our Heavenly Father. The good news is that we do not have to despair. God prepared for the fact that we would sin. He provided Jesus Christ, our Saviour, to Atone for our sins and take upon Himself the punishment. In return for this great gift, we are to repent of our sins and reach out to Christ for mercy. When we forsake our sins, repair what damage our choices have caused and commit to keeping our covenants, we will be forgiven by Jesus. Our Saviour knows that we will make mistakes, but continues to reach out to us “as a hen gathereth her chickens.” When we seek mercy we are given mercy.
It is my hope that we all seek to lead like Moroni, who followed the example of Jesus Christ. When we seek to lift up the down trodden, preach the gospel, show mercy, and follow the Covenant Path, we will be blessed with all that the Father has. Learning to lead like the Saviour teaches us more about Him and how He continues to serve us.