One of the things that I love about the scriptures is that it doesn’t seem to matter what is going on in my life, the scriptures give me direction, comfort, and strength. Even those verses that people often gloss over, or think are just historical rather than spiritual, can have a great impact on me.
The infamous “war chapters” of the Book of Mormon are often spoken of with boredom. They are just so long. Then there are times in which we look at them with a sense of awe and a standard by which we can measure the cause of liberty. The stories of these freedom fighters are inspirational to be sure! But this time I read them with a very different spirit. I didn’t think so much about how the politics therein mirror what we are going through today, or how I wished we had more leaders like Moroni, Helaman, Lehi, Teancum, and Pahoran. And I didn’t think about the youths who took up their father’s swords in defense of their adopted nation or how the men and women in these pages are the stuff that heroes are made of. But this time through, I thought more about the internal war within the confines of my own heart. Or, as President Ezra Taft Benson said, “Some of the greatest battles we will face will be fought within the silent chambers of our own souls.”
I have recently found that the stories in the scriptures not only serve as a warning and instruction for us, but also a symbolic representation of the struggles that I find myself faced with on a day to day basis. In Alma, the Laminates are attempting to invade the Nephite nation and either destroy them or subject them to tyranny and subjugation. The Nephites, as part of their defense, made preparations that the bloodthirsty Laminates had never before seen. Namely, armor. Though the Laminates fought “like dragons”, their loin cloths couldn’t protect them. “While on the other hand, there was now and then a man fell among the Nephites, by their swords and the loss of blood, they being shielded from the more vital parts of the body, or the more vital parts of the body being shielded from the strokes of the Lamanites, by their breastplates, and their armshields, and their head-plates; and thus the Nephites did carry on the work of death among the Laminates.”
Oftentimes this is used as another illustration for the Armor of God, but I saw something different this time. I thought, not just of the armor itself, but what it was protecting. The shields, breastplates, and the head-plates protected the “more vital” and vulnerable parts of the body. Their minds, their hearts, and a portable shield that could move to protect attacks coming from any direction. As I was reading I couldn’t help but wonder about the more vulnerable parts of my own self. What parts of my spirit are in need of more overt protection? What temptations am I more subject and vulnerable to? Breaking the Word of Wisdom has never been a temptation, but pride, self-loathing, judgement, vanity, laziness? My spirit is almost defenseless against those particular vices.
In Alma 24, we read about the conversion of the Ammonites and their commitment to peace. They had once led the same bloodthirsty and war torn lives as the Laminates that Moroni fought, but “…through the blood of the Son of our great God, which shall be shed for the atonement of our sins…” their swords were made bright and clean. So committed were they to this new life of righteousness that they buried their swords deep in the earth. They were committed to peace, but they were not pacifists. Alma 24: 15 gives us some incredible insight into their hearts:
Oh, how merciful is our God! And now behold, since it has been as much as we could do to get our stains taken away from us, and our swords are made bright, let us hide them away that they may be kept bright, as a testimony to our God at the last day, or at the day that we shall be brought to stand before him to be judged, that we have not stained our swords in the blood of our brethren since he imparted his word unto us and has made us clean thereby.
None of the Nephites under Moroni’s command delighted in bloodshed. They fought to protect their God, their religion, and freedom, and their peace, their wives, and their children (Alma 46:12). But the Ammonites knew that their history was such that they couldn’t even take up their swords in defense, lest they should lose their souls to that devil which controlled their past lives. They helped support the Nephite army that they relied on for protection, but their covenant to completely foresake their bloodthirsty past, kept those swords buried deep in the ground.
Again I see a prototype of my own spirit. What is my sword? What is it that, while perhaps justifiable for others, is so dangerous to my own personal salvation, that I not only need to forsake it, but bury it and everything like unto it so deep that when it seems I have no choice but to take it up again, I won’t even be tempted?
There is a war going on within each of us. Fortunately for us, the Lord has sent us the scriptures, modern day prophets, and personal revelation to help us win it with His help.