Excerpts from: “Moroni’s War on Addiction: A Scripture Hero’s Strategy to Win Today’s Battle for Souls“, Article #2: “Amalickiah’s Offer

This is article two of a five-part series. Read the first article here.

As I was reading Chapter 46, the prelude to the war chapters, I found a key that unlocked the wartime episode. As it unfolded, I became increasingly convinced that Mormon wasn’t marketing, he was teaching. Having seen our day, he invested a substantial amount of his literary capital to teach us how to battle an enemy that would reign with blood and horror in our time. He knew that Satan would invade not with armies but with addictions.

In verse 3 we first meet Amalickiah, who is described as “a large and a strong man.” He is a man who wants only one thing: to be king. His goal is absolute power. He wants to subject everyone to himself. Amalickiah, I realized, is Satan. To accomplish his goal, he makes the Nephites an offer that sounded eerily familiar.

Amalickiah manipulates many of the most influential Nephites to support his bid for kingship by promising them power under him. He says, in essence, “I’ll make a deal with you. You all have lusts and desires that you want gratified. You want power—a feeling of freedom. You want fun. I can give you all that. All you have to do is let me rule over you. I’ll give you a little bit of power so long as you surrender your agency to me. Let me be your king and I’ll give you what you want right now.”

I began to see that this is how Satan puts everyone into bondage. This is how every addiction and sin begin to control us. He zeroes in on our weaknesses: our rebellion, laziness, insecurity, anxiety, jealousy, loneliness—you name it. And he offers immediate gratification of that weakness. All we have to do is agree to be his slave. We make an implicit pact that in exchange for some pleasure or relief we’ll give up some of our agency. We’ll make him our king. And by the time the pleasure inevitably diminishes we already have too little remaining agency to escape on our own power. He has consolidated his position, reinforced his authority, and made overthrowing him virtually impossible. As Mosiah taught, once a tyrant becomes king, he cannot be dethroned without “the shedding of much blood.”[1]

The first key to unlocking these chapters is understanding that Amalickiah is Satan. And his offer is to swap pleasure for bondage.

I had no idea where the study would take me but urged on by the Spirit, I began to employ this key. I devoured the narrative with a quiet confidence that if I read with faith He would give liberally. As I did, these seventeen chapters unfolded naturally.

I began to see clearly how we succumb to addictions. I could see the tremendous effort required to regain freedom. I found insight into principles for regaining liberty from bondage. I read much that seemed perfectly designed for addicts attempting to get their lives back.

But then I read things that made me suspect these chapters were not written primarily for the addict. I concluded they were written for the helper. I discovered that the protagonist in the complex drama is not my son, but me. It is not the individual addict but the person trying to deliver someone from ambivalence about their own bondage.

What Mormon gave us is a character who loves the Nephites (the metaphorical addicts) and is trying to save them from themselves. He gave us Moroni.

Are you Qualified?

Moroni has always been a hero to me. But now I began to see why Mormon gave him not only seventeen chapters but also his own son as a namesake. Captain Moroni is every parent, friend, or loved one who has tried to help someone get out of the bondage they sold themselves into. He is the righteous but imperfect savior figure. Mormon admires him deeply. Mormon wants us to pay very close attention to Moroni because “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.”[2]

I always thought this last statement meant that if I were more like Moroni, the Devil would leave me alone. But now I discovered a second meaning—that if I were more like Moroni, the Devil would have no power over the hearts of those I love. Moroni does not spend time showing us how he got himself free of bondage—he teaches us how he helped others do it. He shows us how to participate in the redemption of our own children and loved ones.

But even while Mormon extols Moroni’s virtues, he gives those of us who handle life’s unexpected demands badly at times a reminder that you needn’t be perfect to be a savior in the Savior’s service. He lets us know Moroni was powerful, but imperfect. In the midst of massive abridging, Mormon leaves plenty in the story to show us Moroni has some really bad days. For example, in a fit of anger he disingenuously breaks his agreement with Amalickiah.[3] In another angry moment he rips into poor Pahoran (“Can you think to sit upon your thrones in a state of thoughtless stupor?”[4] In fact, he goes beyond berating and even threatens to kill him[5]!

Now, let me be clear—my imperfections far exceed Moroni’s. And yet I thought I heard a reassuring voice from the dust from Mormon-the-editor when I read his intentional inclusion of Moroni’s mistakes. It’s hard to adequately describe the endowment of hope I received when I realized that I could qualify to be my son’s Moroni. I didn’t have to be perfect. I could lose my temper once or twice. I could even make a wrong decision now and again. Apparently, Moroni’s “perfect understanding”[6] did not preclude mistakes.

According to Mormon, in order to be a “Moroni,” we need to be strong. I don’t think Mormon was referring to biceps when he described Moroni in this way. Mormon was impressed with his faith, resilience, tenacity, and even his mercy and tenderness with faltering kin. Now, I’ve had many, many weak days. But I have grown strong through the many years of struggle. Remaining emotionally vulnerable in the lives of errant children is an exalting experience. It is a Gethsemane.

A loved one who learns to hold boundaries and allow an addict to experience their chosen misery develops faith in God’s Plan of Salvation. A parent who chooses to remain open to a self-destructive loved one rather than ‘letting this cup pass from them’ is participating in the Atonement in every best sense of the word. And like Gethsemane did for Christ, this voluntary agony endows us with the strength we need to become a savior for them. I’ve gained some of that strength as I’ve willingly stayed in Gethsemane for my son. I am stronger today than I was years ago, and I know that this strength is helping me fight more effectively for his freedom.

Another of Moroni’s heroic virtues is an eternal commitment to the “liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery.”[7] I can qualify for this one as well. I am eternally committed to my son’s liberty and freedom. I will labor as long as needed to help him find deliverance from bondage and slavery. My son is sealed to me. I will not breach that sealing.

Moroni was unconditionally committed to fighting for his brethren. So am I. Moroni had a perfect understanding of the Gospel principles involved with delivering others from bondage. Thanks to Mormon’s inspired editing, so can I. Moroni led a twelve-year effort to deliver the Nephites out of the bondage they created. I accepted that my work with Seth would take years as well. And depending upon how far down the path of self-destruction he went, perhaps even into the next life.

According to Mormon’s job description, I can be my son’s Moroni.

Moroni is all of us who want to be saviors on Mount Zion—who hope to aid in the deliverance of those we love from the awful grip of sin. These precious warfare chapters give each of us a “perfect understanding” of how it’s done.

With that said, I invite you to join me in careful study of these chapters. See what the Spirit has to teach you through them. My goal in this book is not primarily to draw attention to what I’ve learned, but rather it’s to demonstrate the depth of wisdom and personal revelation available to you in these chapters. My guess is that you will find wisdom in them through your own study that is more relevant to your current struggles than you’ll gain by reading what the Spirit taught me. But I’ll share the understanding I’ve gained in hopes of enticing you to a more personalized experience. At the end of each section, I’ll invite you to take notes about what the Spirit teaches you—and what you feel prompted to do about it.

Along the way, Seth will share his experience as well. Our hope is that his journal will ground Moroni’s principles in modern reality. As you’ll see, sound principles don’t necessarily lead to either easy answers or overnight salvation. But they do lead troubled saviors to greater confidence in responding wisely and patiently to the unpredictable choices of those they love.

Moroni's War on Addiction

Footnotes

[1].  Mosiah 29:21

[2]. Alma 48:17

[3]. In Alma 54:20 Moroni agrees to exchange prisoners with no other stipulations. After receiving Ammoron’s hypocritical and shockingly deceitful response Moroni is furious and reneges on the deal—adding the stipulation that Ammoron must surrender before Moroni will exchange prisoners while acting as though this had been part of the deal all along.

[4]. Alma 60:7

[5].  Alma 60:30, 35

[6]. Alma 48:11

[7]. Alma 48:11