Shaker of Hell: Captain Moroni
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. Alma 48:17
Setting the Cultural Stage
One man changed his nation due to his conviction to freedom from oppression and freedom to worship God. He did not allow ANY person to stand in his way to keep his people free--even if it meant spilling their blood. Captain Moroni is an influential character in the Book of Mormon drama and a pivotal spiritual leader in the Nephite nation. Mormon included Captain Moroni's military/spiritual history in the Book of Mormon narrative to answer questions of loyalty, duty, freedom and honor. He also used his experiences to answer the question of what to do with those who do not have loyalty, duty to freedom and honor.
The Nephite and Lamanite nations had for centuries opposed each other by the time Moroni appeared. Bad blood festered between the founders of the major ethnic groups as Laman and his followers accused Nephi and his followers of stealing from them the rights of leadership and several sacred objects.
God informed Laman through an angel that Nephi was meant to be the ruler of all the people, the legitimate leader of their people. Laman, however, accused Nephi of using sorcery or magic to trick him into following him. Nephi being the youngest of the group of brothers, Laman expected to rule the family and taught his followers to hate Nephi and his followers from the time Nephi stole away in the night with the records and sacred objects.
The bitterness and hatred the Nephites and Lamanites held for each other were multiplied as people abandoned both sides to flee to the other. The Lamanites held a 50-year-old grudge against the Nephites when a small group of Nephite dissenters, the priest of King Noah, abducted women from the Lamanites and forced them into marriage. That caused a war.
Then those very priests of Noah joined the Lamanites to fight against their former countrymen. This group of priests and their descendants incited hatred for the Nephites among the Lamanites. As more people deserted the Nephites in disillusioned fashion for one reason or another, the stage was set for mass aggression when a community of Nephites called the Zoramites joined the Lamanites starting another long war.
The Zoramites had developed their own religious traditions that excluded the poor of their community. The high priest of the Church of Christ over the people of Nephi, Alma, went to this group of people to reclaim them to the faith. After he finished teaching with his missionary companion, Amulek, the people rejected their words and cast them and those who agreed with them out of the territory.
A group of people called Ammonites in the neighboring city of Jershon offered sanctuary to the refugees to the consternation of the Zoramites. After threats and intimidation to the people of Jershon for harboring the refugees failed, the Zoramites defected to the Lamanites in protest.
Moroni's military headquarters moved to Jershon in the beginning of this new war and the people of Jershon, the Ammonites, relocated so that the Nephite military could use the city as a barracks to defend against the Lamanites and Zoramites. This is where Moroni appears in the record according to the Book of Alma, chapter 43 until he dies as recorded in Alma chapter 62.
Character of Moroni
Captain Moroni took the position of Chief Captain of the Nephi military at the age of 25. Nothing is recorded in the record about his life before he ascended to his position. Nothing is told about his personal life regarding a family. What Mormon does reveal about this captain is that Moroni was the epitome of manhood.
Of him, Mormon wrote, "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," Alma 48:17.
Apparently, Moroni was such a fastidious person when it came to living righteous principles that Mormon compared him to Jesus Christ in estimation.
If any person was, is, or would follow the behavior and spirit of Captain Moroni the powers of hell would be shaken! What did Moroni do to warrant that epitaph?
Satan would NEVER have power over the hearts of humanity if they all were like Captain Moroni! What makes him such a shadow of Christ?
On his first command, Moroni had the task of readying his warriors for a confrontation with the Lamanites and Nephite dissenters, Zoramites. Hypothetically, it would be like the United States fighting Russia and Alaska defects to fight the US with Russia to provide some perspective.
Not only did Moroni have to fight people that he probably associated with at one time, but also the leader of the Army that he fought was a former Nephite! In fact, all of the leaders of the Lamanite military were former Nephites. These dissenters' hatred for the Nephites preserved the Lamanites' white-hot hateful feelings. Lamanites were already culturally flammable, but the accelerant was disaffected Nephites; otherwise, the nation of Lamanites (or nations) would not have been so inclined to maintain aggression towards the Nephites without them.
Moroni changed the art of war among these people. He armed his people with weapons and protective armor. Captain Moroni was an innovator.
The Nephites armed themselves with shields, breastplates, helmets and thick clothing for battle. This was uncommon among the children of Lehi. The Lamanites were virtually naked save for a loincloth and the Nephite dissenters had no armor.
The Nephites were outnumbered by the Lamanites, a possible conglomeration of many groups of people besides the descendants of Laman, who were numerous. The dissenters from the Nephites were almost as numerous as the standing army of Nephites as mentioned in the record. Moroni, therefore, hd the task to think of ways to keep his warriors safe. Each death of a Nephite warrior meant a precarious situation to the Nephites. It appears as though there was a 2:1 ratio of Lamanites (including all dissenters) to Nephites.
To Defeat the Lamanites, Moroni used intelligence (spies) and strategy. He made sure to keep informed of their movements and numbers to determine how effectively to use the smaller army of the Nephites against the Lamanites.
Mormon indicated that Moroni knew the intention of the Lamanites, which was to destroy their them or to subjugate them that they might establish a kingdom over all the land; And ...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 43:29-30.
God had made a promise to the Nephite nation, and for that matter, every nation that subsisted upon the Americas (North and South presumably) 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," Alma 43:46. Armed with that knowledge Moroni prepared his nation to defend against the more numerous Lamanite army.
Moroni was Spiritually Astute
Moroni was a Christian. As odd as it may seem to the uninitiated, Christianity was the religion that the Nephites practiced; however, it was a version based on the Law of Moses.
Moroni lived within a culture that understood that the Law of Moses was not the end of Jehovah's commandments. They understood the full law as it pertained to Jesus Christ.
Generally, Nephites knew that all the sacrifices they were obligated to perform were in similitude of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which was in their future.
After Moroni became the captain of all the armies, and before he went to battle the first time he sought the guidance of a prophet of God.
As mentioned before, Captain Moroni was an innovator. Not only did he armed his people with shields, breastplates, helmets and thick clothing for battle, an uncommon act, he also armed his people with the Lord's advice.
Mormon informs that "Moroni, ...knowing of the prophecies of Alma, sent certain men unto him, desiring him that he should inquire of the Lord whither the armies of the Nephites should go to defend themselves against the Lamanites" Alma 43:23.
Now, the Lamanites had invaded the sovereign territory of the Nephites but were frightened by the tactical gear with which the Nephites adorned themselves and decided to flee back to their own lands. Captain Moroni did not act without the word of the Lord.
Knowing the hatred the Lamanites harbored toward his people, Moroni wanted to know if God would allow them to retaliated against them for invading their lands--where to find them.
God told Alma that those dissenters and Lamanites would attack the less secure parts of the land and to head them off, which they did. A severe battle ensued and Moroni prevailed.
Moroni told these people that he defeated them because he was a Christian. Said the Captain to Zerahemnah, "ye behold that the Lord is with us; and ye behold that he has delivered you into our hands. And now I would that ye should understand that this is done unto us because of our religion and our faith in Christ. And now ye see that ye cannot destroy this our faith," Alma 44:3-4. Speaking to the leader of the Lamanite army Zerahemnah, Captain Moroni exclaimed to his defeated enemies that the reason he prevailed over them was due to his religion!
Moroni quickly gave the credit to God that his army won, witnessing to those people that God would protect any people who would put their trust in Him and keep His commandments. Imagine the incredulous looks of critics of the modern era to hear such a thing!
The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ mentions two men named Moroni. Chief Captain Moroni, the subject of this article and Moroni the son of Mormon. The latter is who kept the record from which The Book of Mormon was translated safe until Joseph Smith, Jr. could obtain them and return them to him following the translation.
Captain Moroni was Full of Compassion and Passion!
God allows his people to defend themselves as long as they do not commit the first or second offense as Moroni learned, which empowered him to wage a just war, a defensive war. Seeing the decimation his army inflicted on the Lamanites bear skins, Moroni, full of compassion stopped the bloodshed and entreated the Lamanites to stop the unjust war they waged upon the Nephites.
It was not in his character to seek the destruction of any person. Moroni only sought to maintain the freedom of his people, which came at high costs.
Moroni's passion climaxed in his speech to Zerahemnah when he informed them that God had delivered them into the Nephites power and that they should make an oath to never attack the Nephites again. Zerahemnah declined to make that oath! With is very life in the hands of his enemy, Zerahemnah refused to make an oath of peace.
Further, he said of the Nephite victory "take our weapons of war, and suffer that we may depart into the wilderness; otherwise, we will retain our swords, and we will perish or conquer" Alma 44:8. He did not believe it was because of their religion that they won, being that he was a former Nephite himself. He told the Captain that it was the gear that saved them.
"We are not of your faith," Zerahemnah declared. "We do not believe that it is God that has delivered us into your hands; but we believe that it is your cunning that has preserved you from our swords" Alma 44:9.
"Here are our weapons of war," Zerahemnah surrendered. "We will deliver them up unto you, but we will not suffer ourselves to take an oath unto you, which we know that we shall break," Alma 44:8.
Moroni was astonished I would assume. He returned all the weapons to the Lamanites and informed them, "We will end the conflict," Alma 44:10.
I imagine that Zerahemnah was livid at this point. Oaths were obviously important to him since he would rather die than commit himself to an idea to which he knew he would not adhere.
"Now," continued Captain Moroni, "I cannot recall the words which I have spoken, therefore as the Lord liveth, ye shall not depart except ye depart with an oath that ye will not return again against us to war," Alma 44:11. More conversation occurred but suffice it to say that the Nephites massacred them until they sued for peace.
Captain Moroni is a Man of Honor
Zerahemnah ate every word he uttered against Moroni when he sued vehemently for the work of death to cease! His words were not recorded in the record we have today, but I am sure they were pathetic--and not in a disgusting way but a shameful display due to his arrogance.
This man knew that Moroni meant business following that battle. Zerahemnah had underestimated the Nephites' ability and tenacity. Once Zerahemnah and the remaining members of his army made the covenant of peace Moroni allowed them to departed in peace as promised. It took a lost scalp and a few more deaths to get the oath to end this great war. This group of Lamanites left with every intention to honor the oath they had taken, but being wicked by choice, these people later proved that they did not venerate the oath just as Zerahemnah feared would happen.
Following the oath of peace, there was stability in the land for several years, which Moroni and his people took to prepare spiritually, mentally, and militarily. Moroni was a man of faith and action. Another article discusses Moroni's political views and his call to action when war begins again.
Do you believe that a military man should be a man of faith like Captain Moroni was?
This video is an adaption of Captain Moroni's story in a modern context.
© 2016 Rodric Johnson