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Moroni knew better than to think this war was over, and he didn’t stop fortifying all the cities against the Lamanites (verses 1-3). The fortifying he did was the sort that built up a hedge between the city walls and the land surrounding them. Strong walls (or strong boundaries) are not enough; we also need a “hedge” up around them – protection between us and the world – so that we are safe BEFORE we are vulnerable. Waiting until we are vulnerable and attacked is too late to try and be strong. Even with strong boundaries, and a “hedge” up around us (“set apart” and protected by commandments and covenants), we also need watch towers as lookout points so that we know what is going on out there (verses 4-5). We should not be so sheltered that we do not know where we are being attacked, that we are surprised by the attack, or not understanding the form of attack. We should be seeing clearly what is happening long before it gets to us; that is part of being prepared.
“Thus Moroni did prepare strongholds against the coming of their enemies, round about every city in all the land” (verse 6).
Re-read the verse again, replacing “Moroni” with “the Prophet”, and replacing “city” with “family”.
Thus the Prophet did prepare strongholds against the coming of their enemies, round about every family in all the land.
So the Nephites ran the Lamanites south (verse 7) out of their land, which ran east to west (verse 8). As they got the Lamanites out of the land, he caused the Nephites to take possession of their land (verse 9).
When we chase the enemy out, we then boldly claim our rights of inheritance.
We don’t leave it empty, waiting for the enemy to return. We don’t leave it raw and unprotected.
When their is a weakness we reclaim, we make that weakness strong.
When we repent and turn to the Lord, and He makes our weak places strong by turning our weaknesses into strengths, then we utilize those gifts to testify and minister to others as good stewards of the gifts we have been given. We use those gifts to make others strong, too (verse 10).
This is how Moroni cut off the Lamanites (verse 11), which did increase the armies of Moroni “because of the assurance of protection which his works did bring forth unto them” (verse 12). They believed Moroni because they saw evidence of what he could do. When we are real and sincere, people will know because the Spirit will confirm it to them. When we are serving the Lord and doing good things, there will be evidence in our trail, the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23). When we are truly loving and caring for other people, they will know it and feel it and there will be evidence of it.
And when we do these things, when we are obedient in these ways, the Lord does bless us.
Not to build us up for ourselves, but provides for us so that we have the resources to do even more service and caring and loving and providing for others.
So it was with the Nephites, who prospered and spread out in the land (verses 13-16). These were prosperous times (verse 17), even so much that “they became exceedingly rich” (verse 18).
“And thus we see how merciful and just are all the dealings of the Lord, to the fulfilling of all his words…” (verse 19).
This is the principle: if I keep His commandments, I prosper, which is primarily to have His presence, which does bless me and guide me so that I am provided for and protected both physically and spiritually. If I do not keep His commandments, I am cut off from the presence of the Lord, which cuts me off from that provision and protection (verse 20).
This is what the Nephites learned when “their murderings, and their plunderings, their idolatry, their whoredoms, and their abominations… brought upon them their wars and their destructions” (verse 21). On the other hand, those who kept the commandments may have suffered the trials of real life or worse, but they were “delivered at all times” while others dwindled in unbelief or put themselves in different kinds of bondage or were killed (verse 22).
Having learned this lesson, and enjoying the blessings of the Lord in response to their obedience, the people were happier than ever before (verse 23). This happiness brought them peace, not in an automatic event but as a result of the process of being kind and loving to each other (verse 25).
Peace, that is, until they let contention sneak back in (verse 25). The contention started as it always does, a small thing, a tiny argument, a minor disagreement. But then it grew, and people began to take sides, and the drama exploded. As often happens, one group of people was wrong in what they did, but refused to admit it or discuss it or address it appropriately, while another group of people caught them in their wrong-doing, felt invaded (in this case, literally, their land was encroached upon), and demanded they admit and fix the problem. Neither side let it go, and so the small contention grew into all-out-war (verses 26-27).
The people who had done wrong were led by Morianton. Since they would not admit their mistake, the other group of people had no choice but to go to their priesthood leader, to Moroni, to sort the issue out (verse 27). Instead of dealing with the issue directly, Morianton and his people fled the scene to avoid confrontation and to evade responsibility (verse 28). They were afraid of being in trouble, instead of being brave to accept the chastening and learn their lesson.
Morianton’s people tried to run away (verse 29), except with all the drama going on, Morianton messed up. He got too worked up, and got angry with one of his servant girls, and beat her up (verse 30). She ran away, straight to Moroni, and gave him the whole scoop of Morianton’s plans (verse 31).
Moroni did not want Morianton to spread his rebellion (verse 32), so he took his armies to catch Morianton and his people (verse 33). Moroni’s army caught up to Morianton’s army (verse 34), and conquered them (verse 35). Moroni again offered the people a covenant of peace instead of killing them all, just as he had offered other prisoners-of-war before (verse 36). The people accepted them, and Moroni sent everyone back to their own lands (verse 36).
The Nephites were now ruled by judges rather than kings, since all the sons of Alma and Mosiah had gone on missions and declined to have the kingdom passed down to them. However, the judges had declined to keep the sacred records of the people, so Alma had to pass the sacred records on to his own son, Helaman (verse 38). So they began to have a separation of church and state, with the governors judging the people based on laws – even promising to judge “righteously, and to keep the peace and the freedom of the people, and to grant unto them their sacred privileges to worship the Lord their God…” (verse 39), but the ministry and the sacred record keeping was done by the prophets, who passed the records on to the prophets after them.