The last two weeks, I have struggled with the stories in the Book of Mormon, especially those found in the Book of Alma. Those stories are full of violence, deceit, cunning plans, political infightings, murders, intrigues for power’s sake, and hatred on the one side, and justifications of violence and war often mixed with affirmations that people of faith, followers of Christ, must also be able to exercise their freedom of worship, religion and wield their swords in protection of their families, country, and lands, even unto bloodshed, on the other side. God would justify this – because it is done with good intent.
I remember then that we often ascribe the worst of intentions to our enemies, and often portray ourselves in the best of light, be it in war or in petty conflicts we have between ourselves and others. Captain Moroni is here portrayed in the best of light, in the context of difficult wars and traitorous violence. He represents in these chapters the heroic figure of someone who, in spite of the difficult conditions he might have lived under, sought to do the right thing.
Trying to understand the message of peace and nonviolence in these chapters of wars and killings is difficult, because when it comes to scripture, as in real life, we often seek absolute certainty and the moral high ground in our positioning against the Other. We pass judgement on what seems out of place, different, or just not up to standard. When do we take the time to truly listen to what the other side has to say? When are we willing to struggle with questions that might cause unease in our own positioning, as much as we enjoy asking questions that might find faults with the other’s position?
So this week’s reflection text comes from Alma chapters 27-29 in Community of Christ’s version of the Book of Mormon. It’s an exchange of letters between Captain Moroni and Governor Pahoran. Captain Moroni ends his letter to Pahoran in the following way: “I seek not for power, but to pull it down. I seek not for honor of the world, but for the glory of my God and the freedom and welfare of my country.”
I might disagree with Captain Moroni’s use of violence and also with the claim made in the Alma chapters that this violence is justified by God. And this in what has become a book of holy scripture for many. On the other hand, it helps me appreciate the struggle people of faith go through when attempting to heed the words of Christ and justify their actions in the midst of war, violence and fear. What position should I take, always leaning towards an absolute or are there nuances that I find difficult to accept that I ought to consider?