|This article was first published in Mormanity.|
The Book of Mormon is becoming more relevant day by day during this time of dramatic tension and sweeping upheavals in our society. One important lesson from the Book of Mormon is that society is often threatened by the power-hungry, whether it be those already in power seeking for more power and wealth, or for those seeking to overthrow the existing order to seize power. Ordinary people often cannot relate to the mentality of a megalomaniac like Amalickiah who would be willing to destroy so much to gain his selfish goals, but world history is littered with the ruins of such unusual people, rare though they may be. An important contribution of the Book of Mormon for coping with their threat is comes through insights into how they work. Their key tool is manipulation of their followers and, when possible, the populace at large. Anger, hate, and fear are their key tools — in other words, it’s all about manipulation through emotions, and toxic ones at that. But there is often an ideology or even a “faith” that can support the emotions and justify the desired actions, just as the manipulations of King Noah, would-be-king Amlici, Amalickiah, and the Gadianton robbers were all propped up with an appealing worldview/faith that countered the Nephite faith and offered an allegedly more rational philosophical/religious framework that turned abhorrent pillaging, looting, and bloodshed into a virtue and a just cause.
Look how often the Book of Mormon shows us how the wicked use bold accusations and eloquent words to “stir” others to anger, often with the hidden or explicit agenda of gaining power for themselves. Laman used sweeping language to condemn Nephi as evil in his quest to be the leader of their small group. “And after this manner did my brother Laman stir up their hearts to anger” (1 Nephi 16:38). Nephi later writes that Satan “stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness” (2 Nephi 9:9), here apparently drawing upon language from the brass plates version of Genesis, perhaps closely related to our current Book of Moses, as I’ll discuss in a following post this week. Likewise in 2 Nephi 28:20, he tells us that Satan in our day “shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.”
Limhi reports that the Lamanite’s King Laman, seeking to gain the wealth of the small Nephite colony in the City of Nephi, “began to stir up his people that they should contend with my people; therefore there began to be wars and contentions in the land” (Mosiah 9:13). Peace was achieved with that king, but when he passed away, his son followed the same business model: “he began to stir his people up in rebellion against my people; therefore they began to prepare for war, and to come up to battle against my people” (Mosiah 10:6). The business of war is almost always rooted in stirring up the people to anger, as we should increasingly note today. Common people generally don’t want war, but those seeking power and wealth need it for their aims, and thus manipulating the people to anger against an enemy, real or imagined, is needed.
Ironically but not unexpectedly, the wicked are swift to accuse their opponents of the same things they do, and that includes charging those who oppose them with fearmongering and spreading hate or divisiveness. Thus, the vile King Noah seeks to maintain his tyrannical power by censoring and ultimately executing the prophet Abinadi. King Noah said, “I command you to bring Abinadi hither, that I may slay him, for he has said these things that he might stir up my people to anger one with another, and to raise contentions among my people; therefore I will slay him” (Mosiah 11:28). But when finally confronted with Abinadi and his impressive prophetic presence, King Noah was about to relent, but his priests, seeking to maintain their own power and topple this enemy prophet, manipulate King Noah with familiar tactics, appealing to the King’s ego: “the priests lifted up their voices against [Abinadi], and began to accuse him, saying: He has reviled the king. Therefore the king was stirred up in anger against him, and he delivered him up that he might be slain” (Mosiah 17:12).
But one of those wicked priests, Alma, was profoundly touched by Abinadi’s words. He spoke out in favor of the prophet, but had to flee for his own life. He repented and returned to the real Nephite faith and began teaching others. This movement drew the attention of the king, who saw it as a hreat to his power and used the muscle of the state to stamp out this unwanted message. His justification? “The king said that Alma was stirring up the people to rebellion against him; therefore he sent his army to destroy them” (Mosiah 18:33). Such religious persecution is widespread in the world today, though it is rarely given much attention in the mainstream media since it doesn’t seem to fit their ideology (IMHO).
In an interesting and relevant scene from around 90 B.C., a power-hungry elitist, Amlici, seeks to become king. His followers try to persuade the Nephites to abandon their new system of government and seeks to gain “the voice of the people” to reinstitute the throne. When the voice of the people (we often jump to the conclusion that this was a one-man-one-vote kind of election, when that’s not necessarily how it happened nor what the text requires) came back with a firm “no” to the proposal, “Amlici did stir up those who were in his favor to anger against those who were not in his favor” (Alma 2:8) and launched a civil war that killed thousands.
The Book of Mormon frequently reminds us that it is the elite in society who are some of the most dangerous people, not just because of such obvious threats as Amlici’s civil war or Amalickiah’s massive campaign of violence, but also because of the local disorder they cause as part of their business model. This is a profound and subtle point that we can see in operation in many ways today. In Ammonihah, corrupt administrative officials called “lawyers” were stirring up trouble that resulted in a steady flow of work and income for them: “Now, it was for the sole purpose to get gain, because they received their wages according to their employ, therefore, they did stir up the people to riotings, and all manner of disturbances and wickedness, that they might have more employ, that they might get money according to the suits which were brought before them; therefore they did stir up the people against Alma and Amulek” (Alma 11:20).
“Stirring up” to anger is how Satan moves the Lamanites to seek the destruction of their own converted brethren (Alma 27:12); it is how the leader of the Zoramites stirred up his people and the Lamanites to see to destroy the people of Ammon (Alma 35:8-10); it is how Zarahemnah gained influence over the Lamanites to manipulate them into war against the Nephites, “that he might usurp great power over [the Lamanites], and also that he might gain power over the Nephites by bringing them into bondage” (Alma 43:8); it was the basic tool of Amalickiah (Alma 46:30, 47:1, 48:3, 51:9), a tool of other power-hungry kings, tyrants, and enemies of the Nephites (Helaman 1:18, 4:3, 4), the key tool used to Satan to gain and maintain a grasp on the hearts of men (Helaman 16:22, 3 Nephi 6:15), and the mobilizing force on both sides of the horrific civil war that wiped out the essence of the Jaredite civilization (Ether 15:6).
When Christ ministered to the Nephites, one of the first things he taught them was the warning that contention and anger was a tool of Satan:
For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.
Such teachings had a profound and peaceful impact on human society for several generations, but they sound fell back to the natural ways of vengeance and violence as the Nephites and Lamanites battled it out again, and then the victorious Lamanites continued to war among themselves, all because “Satan stirreth them up continually” (Moroni 9:3).
Stirring up the hearts of men, whether it is to anger, to other forms of wickedness, or to yielding to the manipulations of maniacal power seekers continues to be a dominant tactic of the Adversary today. It may be easy to see that happening when we look back at history, but do we have the awareness to recognize when we are being manipulated? Do we trust what we are told? Are we easily stirred to anger? Are we easily led to violence and war, whether it is civil or against other nations? Are we easily manipulated to surrender to the machinations of those seeking to control us and expand their power? From a Book of Mormon perspective, it would seem reasonable to be skeptical and question the motives of those who influence our society in ways that might stir up hatred and violence, whether at home or abroad. It is wise to question the motives of those from any party who stir up raw emotions to promote war, bloodshed, their own expansion of power, or the surrender of liberties. Treating the Book of Mormon as relevant history can help us better cope with real challenges today, in my opinion.
2. The Horror of the Riots Sweeping America
Shocking violence is erupting in the name of opposing violence. Virtually everybody of every race seems to agree that what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis was an outrage. Black people are offended. So are whites. We want our police to be servants of the people, protectors, bringers of peace, not brutes, not militarized thugs, not killers. I sympathize with those who wish to peacefully protest. But some of the peaceful protests have been turned into violent riots.
I have spent a lot of time in Minneapolis for work and have family and friends there. It is a place that celebrates diversity, where citizens of many colors and immigrants from many nations do a great job of being friends and working together. So what’s leading to the massive destruction of that beautiful and once peace-loving city?
Local citizens, black or white, in Minneapolis and other cities don’t want to burn down the stores they shop in. They don’t want to destroy their neighborhoods. Even when outraged over a horrific killing, they don’t want to smash the windows and loots the shops of black owners (many of those facing the wrath or rioters are black) or white owners who had nothing to do with the crime. They naturally don’t want to kill or beat up random people to make a statement against violence.
I don’t think it’s the locals out of control here. There seems to be a coordinated effort to bring in hundreds of thugs, many if not mostly white, perhaps either stirred up to anger or just encouraged by some vile ideology or incentives to be violent. Some say it’s white supremicists, others say it’s Antifa, the radical leftists known for violent tactics. But I believe that the violence is definitely not an expression of the average local black people in Minneapolis or our other cities, though I fear this violence will only increase racial misunderstanding as some people make that assumption.
Who’s behind the coordinated violence? Yes, coordinated. One of the multiple clues that a coordinated, funded effort is at play would be the many pallets of bricks that are being brought in to major cities and deposited ahead of time in key urban areas for the convenience of the thugs will be come out in force at night. Amazing and pretty obvious. Who paid for these? Who brought them in? Who’s organizing the violence? This should be exposed ASAP.
These events go far beyond natural outrage over George Floyd. Violence is being deliberately fomented. Citizens of all colors should demand that the instigators be found and that concerned black communities not be smeared with blame for what Antifa or other radicals of any color or ideology have done. But the radicals need to be stopped.
Our law enforcement agencies, with all their vast domestic spying tools created ever since the Patriot Act was rushed through Congress in the name of stopping terrorism, should be able to figure out who purchased and delivered these bricks and who sent all the texts and emails that coordinated the arrival and even busing of thugs to unleash chaos and terrorism in our cities. Why are these powerful tools, enable with dramatic and questionable legislation in the name of coping with terrorism, apparently not being used to prevent or instantly stop domestic terrorism? I’m not saying I think government should be able to spy on its own people without a cause, but since that power has been taken, at least use it to protect us.
Meanwhile, voices that stir up hate and violence in response to an act of injustice need to be called out and questioned, not listened to. Those seeking to inflame may have ulterior motives. Ask questions, don’t succumb to hate or anger, but do stand boldly but peacefully against violence.
Kudos to those who were calling upon the officer to get off the neck of George Floyd. How sad that other police at the scene, now fired, apparently didn’t dare stop or question what was being done. May all police everywhere realize that their job is to protect people, not to just follow orders and go along with whatever someone in authority tells them. May we all have that attitude and be able to stand, when needed, against oppression and tyranny.