Love Hurts

It’s Sunday the 22nd as I write this and that means what I write today will be more religious in nature.  I know, I haven’t written much about yoga or my sadhana lately.  There are many reasons for that, the most exciting being that I have started writing four, yes 4!, books.  I started writing about using yoga to navigate modern life.  Then I started writing an autobiography and a fantasy novel.  Just to clarify, they are not the same book.  🙂  Finally, I felt a need to write about some of my experiences with the Book of Mormon and personal revelation. I will finish that book in the next few weeks.  In short, my writing time, when it has happened, has been very focused.

There is a group of people within the pages of the Book of Mormon that are rarely talked about and never embraced.  These people called themselves the Anti-Nephi-Lehies or Ammonites.  They were once a ferocious and blood-thirsty people.  They and their people, the Lamanites, hated the people of God, the Nephites.  They wanted nothing more than to destroy the Nephites.  A Nephite missionary went to live among them, serving their king and teaching the people for 14 years.  During that time, many of them gave up their murderous past and pledged to keep God’s commandments at any cost.

As part of their pledge, they buried their weapons and covenanted that they would never kill again for any reason.

[T]hese are they that laid down the weapons of their rebellion, yea, all their weapons of war; and they were all Lamanites.  Alma 23:13

They didn’t want to be known as Lamanites any longer and that was when they took the name Anti-Nephi-Lehies.  Their fellow Lamanites hated the Anti-Nephi-Lehies.  These other Lamanites gathered together to destroy the Anti-Nephi-Lehies.  Ammon, the chief Nephite missionary, discovered the Lamanites’ plan to destroy the Anti-Nephi-Lehies.  He convinced the king to hold a council and prepare to defend themselves.  What the king said to his people wasn’t quite what Ammon and his fellow missionaries had planned.

Now there was not one soul among all the people who had been converted unto the Lord that would take up arms against their brethren; nay, they would not even make any preparations for war; yea, and also their king commanded them that they should not.  Now, these are the words which he said unto the people concerning the matter:

I thank my God, my beloved people, that our great God has in goodness sent these our brethren, the Nephites, unto us to preach unto us, and to convince us of the traditions of our wicked fathers.  And behold, I thank my great God that he has given us a portion of his Spirit to soften our hearts, that we have opened a correspondence with these brethren, the Nephites.  And behold, I also thank my God, that by opening this correspondence we have been convinced of our sins, and of the many murders which we have committed.  And I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these things, and also that he hath forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed, and taken away the guilt from our hearts, through the merits of his Son.

And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all that we could do (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain—Now, my best beloved brethren, since God hath taken away our stains, and our swords have become bright, then let us stain our swords no more with the blood of our brethren.  Behold, I say unto you, Nay, let us retain our swords that they be not stained with the blood of our brethren; for perhaps, if we should stain our swords again they can no more be washed bright through the blood of the Son of our great God, which shall be shed for the atonement of our sins.  And the great God has had mercy on us, and made these things known unto us that we might not perish; yea, and he has made these things known unto us beforehand, because he loveth our souls as well as he loveth our children; therefore, in his mercy he doth visit us by his angels, that the plan of salvation might be made known unto us as well as unto future generations.  Oh, how merciful is our God!

And now behold, since it has been as much as we could do to get our stains taken away from us, and our swords are made bright, let us hide them away that they may be kept bright, as a testimony to our God at the last day, or at the day that we shall be brought to stand before him to be judged, that we have not stained our swords in the blood of our brethren since he imparted his word unto us and has made us clean thereby.  And now, my brethren, if our brethren seek to destroy us, behold, we will hide away our swords, yea, even we will bury them deep in the earth, that they may be kept bright, as a testimony that we have never used them, at the last day; and if our brethren destroy us, behold, we shall go to our God and shall be saved.

And now it came to pass that when the king had made an end of these sayings, and all the people were assembled together, they took their swords, and all the weapons which were used for the shedding of man’s blood, and they did bury them up deep in the earth.  And this they did, it being in their view a testimony to God, and also to men, that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood; and this they did, vouching and covenanting with God, that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would give up their own lives; and rather than take away from a brother they would give unto him; and rather than spend their days in idleness they would labor abundantly with their hands.  Alma 24:6-18

Now, the Anti-Nephi-Lehies had a plan for when their brothers, the Lamanites, attacked.  When they saw the Lamanites coming, they ran out to meet them.  There, they prostrated themselves on the ground and began to pray.  The Lamanites attacked without mercy.  They killed 1,005 of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies without any resistance.  Here is what the record says happened next:

Now when the Lamanites saw that their brethren would not flee from the sword, neither would they turn aside to the right hand or to the left, but that they would lie down and perish, and praised God even in the very act of perishing under the sword—Now when the Lamanites saw this they did forbear from slaying them; and there were many whose hearts had swollen in them for those of their brethren who had fallen under the sword, for they repented of the things which they had done.  And it came to pass that they threw down their weapons of war, and they would not take them again, for they were stung for the murders which they had committed; and they came down even as their brethren, relying upon the mercies of those whose arms were lifted to slay them.  And it came to pass that the people of God were joined that day by more than the number who had been slain; and those who had been slain were righteous people, therefore we have no reason to doubt but what they were saved.  Alma 24:23-26

As I wrote earlier, this is rarely discussed.  It shows up in Sunday school lessons once every four years.  The sons of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies became known as valiant warriors.  They were known as the Sons of Helaman who remembered the faith of their mothers.  The faith of their mothers is also rightly praised.  The courage of those 1,005 who died and the many others who prostrated on the battlefield but were not killed is rarely, if ever, mentioned.  Why?

It is because these people make us feel uncomfortable.  They love God more than life.  They consider the lives of their enemies as important as their own.  They consider the hardship their deaths would cause their families and friends less important than keeping their covenant with God.  When I expressed these sentiments for myself (years and years ago), I was berated for not loving my family or my country enough to defend them.

Why aren’t we asked to make sure a commitment?  We are.

And whoso layeth down his life in my cause, for my name’s sake, shall find it again, even life eternal.  Therefore, be not afraid of your enemies, for I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy.  For if ye will not abide in my covenant ye are not worthy of me.  Therefore, renounce war and proclaim peace, and seek diligently to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to the children; And again, the hearts of the Jews unto the prophets, and the prophets unto the Jews; lest I come and smite the whole earth with a curse, and all flesh be consumed before me.  Doctrine & Covenants 98:13-17 emphasis mine

God knows, however, that we are too weak to live by such a covenant; so, he also gave us a lesser obligation which allows us to defend our families after we have made multiple attempts at peace.

Now, I speak unto you concerning your families—if men will smite you, or your families, once, and ye bear it patiently and revile not against them, neither seek revenge, ye shall be rewarded; But if ye bear it not patiently, it shall be accounted unto you as being meted out as a just measure unto you.  And again, if your enemy shall smite you the second time, and you revile not against your enemy, and bear it patiently, your reward shall be an hundred-fold.  And again, if he shall smite you the third time, and ye bear it patiently, your reward shall be doubled unto you four-fold; And these three testimonies shall stand against your enemy if he repent not, and shall not be blotted out.

And now, verily I say unto you, if that enemy shall escape my vengeance, that he be not brought into judgment before me, then ye shall see to it that ye warn him in my name, that he come no more upon you, neither upon your family, even your children’s children unto the third and fourth generation.  And then, if he shall come upon you or your children, or your children’s children unto the third and fourth generation, I have delivered thine enemy into thine hands; And then if thou wilt spare him, thou shalt be rewarded for thy righteousness; and also thy children and thy children’s children unto the third and fourth generation.  Nevertheless, thine enemy is in thine hands; and if thou rewardest him according to his works thou art justified; if he has sought thy life, and thy life is endangered by him, thine enemy is in thine hands and thou art justified.

Behold, this is the law I gave unto my servant Nephi, and thy fathers, Joseph, and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, and all mine ancient prophets and apostles.  And again, this is the law that I gave unto mine ancients, that they should not go out unto battle against any nation, kindred, tongue, or people, save I, the Lord, commanded them.  And if any nation, tongue, or people should proclaim war against them, they should first lift a standard of peace unto that people, nation, or tongue; And if that people did not accept the offering of peace, neither the second nor the third time, they should bring these testimonies before the Lord; Then I, the Lord, would give unto them a commandment, and justify them in going out to battle against that nation, tongue, or people.  And I, the Lord, would fight their battles, and their children’s battles, and their children’s children’s, until they had avenged themselves on all their enemies, to the third and fourth generation.  Behold, this is an ensample unto all people, saith the Lord your God, for justification before me.  Doctrine & Covenants 98:23-38

Why do I feel a need to write about this?  We live in a time of great turmoil.  What is the single most powerful thing we can do in the face of this turmoil?  Be like the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, be children of peace at any cost.  This is the path for only the very bravest and applies equally to Mormon and non-Mormon.  If you can, be brave.  If we are not the bravest, then offer peace before defending against the enemy but never become the aggressor.

How do we gain the courage to be children of peace at any cost?  Love.

Be loving.

Be kind.

Practice Peace.