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Acts of Captain Moroni: Rise of the Title of Liberty
The Book of Mormon is a record of modern-day scriptures about an ancient American culture thriving upon either the North or South American continents (or both) from 600 b.c. to about 420 a.d. Unfortunately, there is no conclusive proof where the events in the book played out; however, the truths and lessons revealed through the recorded events in this book provide illumination to modern problems—the intent for which it was written. This article covers the challenges faced by a nation, more particularly the commanding officer of the military of this nation and how he dealt with the political intrigue that threatened the liberty of his people.
Power for Your Freedom
Liberty and freedom are on the minds of many Americans as changes course through society. Groups with differing causes rally for freedom and opportunities long denied them due to ignorance and bigotry. Freedoms are sought now that were not considered rights but privileges. Religious norms no longer permeate society as secularism continues to erode the influence of God on many nations—the erosion of the influence of God not the influence of religion.
Captain Moroni, the chief captain of the armies of a nation called Nephites in the ancient Americas, was on the verge of a troubling political issue that would dynamically change the government of his nation permanently. A man by the name of Amalickiah achieved a celebrity among the Nephites that elevated him to a status where he determined to be king (read about it here). The Nephite government had changed to a somewhat democratic form of government at the time this commotion with starting a new kingdom began, and the people caused no small stir about the matter, namely Captain Moroni.
Moroni made a covenant to maintain the freedom of his people to express religious belief and freedom to live as individuals with rights to govern their families. Governed by a king, the rights of the people to determine went to the king. The king would determine who had rights and power instead of the laws established by the last King Mosiah who believed that all men should be free to govern themselves—making all men equal before God and the law. Amalickiah wanted a return to the old ways, and to lead the people according to his desires. Promising power to those who followed him, he caused a political contention that began a more successful counter-movement similar to the American revolutionary war—similar in perspective.
The Resolutionary War
Unlike the American, French, Haitian or any other nation seeking freedom from a powerful sovereign, the Nephites were not looking to overthrow a government. It sought to KEEP the government. In colonial America, the freedom fighters wanted to self-govern with representation at the imperial legislature. It took a revolution to create what the colonies wanted and a new government. The Nephites wanted to keep their ability to self-govern with individual rights intact; therefore, the resolution to maintain their liberties became their freedom cry.
During that time in ancient American history, a republic or democracy was not normal. Most, if not all governments consisted of a king or similar that ruled his subjects according to his dictates. Because the location of the Nephites and Lamanites is in dispute, it is difficult to compare them to other ancient American groups, like the Maya who are their contemporaries if not their society.
The Nephites, under the leadership of Captain Moroni, came together resolutely under the Title of Liberty Moroni formed upon hearing of Amalickiah’s political aspiration to be king of the Nephites. Mormon records dramatically how Moroni, upon hearing of the political theatrics of Amalickiah after the Nephites repulsed the Lamanites, who also wanted to rule in a king-like manner over them, just a year and some months prior, took his cloak or coat and tore it to produce a flag of liberty of sorts.
Upon it he wrote, “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.” That was only the beginning of his campaign for freedom. The title of liberty became the war cry of every Nephite citizen.
The Title of Liberty
What does The Title of Liberty mean?
The title of liberty means freedom. Nephites did not have the same political system that citizens of the United States have; nevertheless, the governments had many parallel functions. There was no constitution established by wise men. There was a list of laws established by wise kings, however. The Nephites’ liberty was established by God, something that is no longer popular to suggest in the United States. The Constitution is the god of America now, and it is not considered an all-powerful god, which is a topic for another article. Americans focus more on their freedom of speech and to assemble—personal expression.
Nephites did the same in degrees; however, much of what Mormon records about Captain Moroni’s time suggest the Nephites focused on their right to believe in their unique Christian theology. Maintaining their freedom to worship as they desired and govern themselves according to their established laws and traditions required constant battle with external forces and infrequent internal segments, which segments caused the most damage to the Nephite society.
United We Stand. Divided We Fall.
Internal strife always has a more destructive effect on any society than does external pressures. During civil unrest, like the kind Amalickiah caused among the Nephites, each side of the equation has an intimate understanding of the inner workings of society. Battling foreigners, any nation has an automatic patriotic understanding, shared history, culture, and identity. The enemy is very clear. When civil division arises, all those identifying factors still exist creating confusion and strife that can lead to centuries of war, hence the Nephite-Lamanite affair in the Book of Mormon.
Lehi’s death around 590 b.c. led to the first civil war that brought about the two warring nations of Nephites and Lamanites. From that rift, many subcultures formed that supported Nephite culture or warred against it—leading the Nephites to associate all anti-Nephite groups with the Lamanites.
Amalickiah, along with a number of lower judges wanted to have power and authority not assigned to their caste. Within Nephite society, though there existed democratic influences, the leadership positions passed to the next leader through heredity. When the position of Chief Judge arose, the candidates for the vacant position generally were the sons of sitting or former officials. The only time elections took place occurred when more than one son vied for office; otherwise, the eldest capable son inherited the office.
In Nephite society, the people were free to choose from the list provided them when elections occurred unlike in US politics where any person could seek the office of president within established parameters. Nephite freedom focused on the right to worship and participate in government when it was warranted. Consequently, just like US citizens, Nephites wanted the right to enjoy their rights and peace with their property and family.
Moroni did not seek celebrity. This captain’s chief concern for his nation was to keep it FREE of those who sought celebrity. Moroni was horrified that some people wanted to change the political system from democracy to a subjugating monarchy.
In his memory existed the lesson learned from the wicked King Noah who caused the people to reject the Christian religion and kill the prophet who confronted him. Out of that tragedy, the Church of Christ formed under the direction of Alma the Elder (former high priest of King Noah) constituting a separation of church and state for the first time among the Nephites. Under the leadership of its third High Priest, the Church of Jesus Christ thrived. A king would destroy the church’s autonomy—possibly.
Moroni understood that the people could not afford to descend into internal turmoil with the constant threat of Lamanite invasion due to the frequent dissent of Nephite-disillusionment. The Nephites constructed the vehicle to destroy themselves! If former Nephites did not dissent to the Lamanites and incite them to war against the Nephites, that nation might have continued to exist in some form when Columbus discovered the Americas for Europe. Greed, the promise of power, and pride helped a noble nation destroy itself from within.
Moroni would not let that happen on his watch, however.
Let Freedom Ring
In his famed speech in Washington, D. C., Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, intimated that until freedom reigns in every village or hamlet of the United States and for every race that there is no true freedom. Dr. King called it his dream.
Moroni also had that dream two thousand years prior. Unless all Nephites desired liberty, freedom was tenuous for them. Dr. King’s freedom dream added freedom to those denied by race. Moroni’s desire was to keep freedom against classism. Amalickiah and his followers wanted to gather up the freedom of the people and dispense it to those whom they desired.
Amalickiah did have a point. Power would always be in the possession of a few families due to inheritance. Unfortunately, Amalickiah only wanted to change who held the power and what type of power held so that he could have it all. To stop this, the Title of Liberty Moroni started stumped out Amalickiah’s design. Unfortunately, it also led to one of the most bitter battles of Nephite history.
Moroni, in his anger, went in supplication to God with the understanding that He would not allow the Christians cause, which was freedom, to cease unless the believers themselves brought that end due to disobedience. Therefore, he petitioned the Lord to keep the Nephites free and dedicated himself further to the cause of freedom. Satisfied that he enlisted the aid of heaven, he went throughout his nation campaigning for freedom opposite Amalickiah’s campaign for a monarchy.
Moroni petitioned the people as recorded in Alma 46:20, “Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.”
The people responded overwhelmingly in favor of this idea to the consternation of Amalickiah, who fled the land in response and joined the Lamanites. Those Amalickiah left behind and who could not flee either accepted the Title of Liberty and entered into a covenant to maintain that type of government or suffered capital punishment. In other words, it became a capital offense to desire any type of government other than one that offered freedom of religion and a democratic process. Each citizen took an oath to maintain freedom.
Capt. Moroni and The Title of Liberty
Unlike in the US, Nephites did not have the right to speak against free government. Moroni effectively and lawfully made it illegal to try to change the structure of Nephite Government with the Title of Liberty, which became a recognized label throughout Nephite culture following.
Any time God has representation on the earth where He institutes His laws in a nation, that nation will be a free nation to religion. The freedom to choose is a right God desires for all people in every land. Until all people are free to worship and exercise dominion over their individual lives, as Dr. King and Moroni believe, freedom is tenuous for humanity.
This helped me understand more about freedom among the Nephites.
© 2016 Rodric Johnson