CLICK HERE to read Alma 48.
Amalickiah always wanted his own power, but his anger has been focused on the Nephites who had (barely) not surrendered their power to him. Having gained the power of the Lamanites, his primary mission is to get them to attack the Nephites (verse 1). Now having a taste of so much power, he wants more, not just to destroy the Nephites but to make that his kingdom as well (verse 2). So he “hardened the hearts of the Lamanites and blinded their minds, and stirred them up to anger” so that they would be willing to go to war (verse 3).
This is how the enemy attacks us, trying to unite us in a cause we think we can justify, hardening us against humanity, blinding us against understanding our own choices and consequences, and stirring up our anger so much that we choose war – whether it is contention against our friends, division against our leaders, or attacking a whole people like Amalickiah wants to do (verse 4).
He went first to the Zoramites, who had been the first believers to break their covenants and run away, and made them captains of his armies since they best knew the Nephites (verse 5). Then the began to march towards the Nephites (verse 6).
“Now it came to pass that while Amalickiah had thus been obtaining power by fraud and deceit, Moroni, on the other hand, had been preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God” (verse 7). He had fortified their cities and borders (verses 8-9), but he had also fortified their hearts and spirits. He knew this was the only way to truly defend “their liberty, their lands, their wives, and their children, and their peace”, and their freedom to worship (verse 10). Moroni was “a strong and mighty man”, but he was also a man “of a perfect understanding” (verse 11). He “did not delight in bloodshed”, but only defended his people’s liberty and freedom to protect them from bondage and slavery (verse 11). His “heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings bestowed upon the people”, and he know those privileges carried with them the responsibility to live up to and protect those blessings – which meant working hard, even fighting for, “the welfare and safety of his people” (verse 12). Because of this perfect understanding of his faith in Christ, he had covenanted “to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood” (verse 13).
This was the Nephite understanding of war, only to defend themselves against their enemies, but never to give offense or raise their swords otherwise (verse 14).
And this was their faith, that by so doing, God would prosper them in the land, or in other words, if they were faithful in keeping the commandments of God that he would prosper them in the land; yea, warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger; and also that God would make it known unto them whither they should go to defend themselves against their enemies, and by so doing, the Lord would deliver them; and this was the faith of Moroni, and his heart did glory in it; not in the shedding of blood but in doing good, in preserving his people, yea, in keeping the commandments of God, yea, and resisting iniquity (verses 15-16).
This is the very meaning of when we are asked to pray (which includes listening) that we are not led into temptation. We are in the same battle, even if it is for our own lives, and the lives of our own families, and we fight the same way. The Lord does warn us, by promptings of the Spirit, where danger is and what to do about. The Spirit tells us where our defenses are weak, where we are vulnerable, when we have stepped into a trap. It is heeding that Spirit, going where we are sent – which is to do what we should do, that helps us fight the battle and win the war. This is how we become righteous, how He transforms us into the people of holiness.
Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and every 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 (verse 17).
This is what it means to establish Zion, to be covenant people, to be righteous, to become the people of holiness.
This is the example Moroni set for us, just as those who had taught him: Ammon and the sons of Mosiah, and Alma and his sons, “for they were all men of God” (verse 18). Likewise, Helaman and the leaders of the church were needed to “preach the word of God” and “baptize unto repentance” the people who would listen (verse 19). The Nephites understood that even though this was a practical, temporal, real life battle between people, that it was really a spiritual war. The more prepared the Nephites became, the more peace they had – even though they were being attacked from the outside, there was no contention or war amongst themselves because “the people did humble themselves… insomuch that they were highly favored of the Lord” (verse 20). This is becoming the people of holiness, establishing Zion, being righteous.
Even when attacked from the outside, as the Nephites were “compelled reluctantly to contend” with the Lamanites (verse 21). This went on for years, even though they had peace amongst their own people and so were very reluctant to war with another people (verse 22). “They were sorry to take up arms against the Lamanites, because they did not delight in the shedding of blood; yea, and this was not all – they were sorry to be the means of sending so many of their brethren out of this world into an eternal world, unprepared to meet their God” (verse 23). But they were called to defend their own freedom to worship and live, and understood the “barbarous cruelty” was because of the choices of those who had left the church (verse 24). So they focused on their own covenants and covenant-keeping, clinging to the promise of the Lord, which was “if they should keep his commandments they should prosper in the land” (verse 25).