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Spreading lies attached to the character of men like Captain Moroni, George Washington and Joseph Smith not only weaken the influence of righteous heroes for good but also leave the world without strong examples of true manhood and faith to follow. Even when undertaken with the best intentions, attempts to “humanize” the heroes of the past can encourage rationalization in our personal lives and destroy shining examples of Christ-like attributes.

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Bradley K. Young

A recent article by Book of Mormon Central about the correspondence between Captain Moroni and Pahoran portrays Moroni as a man, “susceptible to anger, frustration, doubt, and misplaced outrage…” 1

It speaks of Moroni giving way to an, “emotional outburst” and commends the Book of Mormon for describing Captain Moroni in “an unflattering light.” The Book of Mormon Central article also describes Moroni as “impatient and jump[ing] to unfair conclusions”.

Is this really the picture that the Book of Mormon paints?

Moroni’s Character

Mormon’s statements about Moroni’s character are best summed up when he said,

“if all men had been, were, and ever would be like unto Moroni…the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever.” (Alma 48:17)

President Hunter speaking of this compliment said,

“I can’t imagine a finer tribute from one man to another.” 2

Mormon also records that Moroni was,

“a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect understanding…a man whose soul did joy in liberty and the freedom of his country…and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ…and had sworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion even to the loss of his blood.” (Alma 48:11)

Mormon’s obvious admiration for Captain Moroni may even have shown itself when Mormon named his own son Moroni.

captain moroni david lindlseyWhat Happened?

Moroni’s letter in Alma 60 is certainly strong and unapologetic. What prompted such a bold letter?

  1. Moroni learns that not only he and his men are starving and without support but also Helaman and his men. (Alma 58:7)
  2. Moroni, “immediately” sends a letter to Pahoran requesting aid for Helaman but receives no response. As we find out later, the reason for the lack of aid is rebellion and loss of the capital city. Pahoran chooses not to inform his chief captain, Moroni, about the problem. (Alma 59:3–4)
  3. Because of a lack of support, the city of Nephihah falls and thousands are killed. Moroni is, “exceedingly sorrowful” because of the loss of city—most especially because he knew it to be one, “easily maintained” and he had expected it to have proper support. (Alma 59:9)

Moroni has been left completely in the dark and knows only that for some reason the government is neglecting their responsibility. Doubtless concerned about how he can keep his oath to defend everything he holds dear, he goes to the Lord for revelation and receives an answer that,

“If those [who are] appointed…governors do not repent of their sins and iniquities, ye shall go up to battle against them.” (Alma 60:33)

Note that the Lord through revelation reprimands the governors of the land, including Pahoran.

Moroni then writes a warning to the entire government. He “desires to know the cause of this exceedingly great neglect” but more so wants them to, “repent…and be up and doing.” (Alma 60:24)

He caps off the letter by stating that the Lord has spoken and unless some changes are made, he [Moroni] will, “go up to battle against [them].” (Alma 60)

Thankfully, at this point, Pahoran realizes what needs to be done. He sends a response which Moroni receives, “soon after.” (Alma 61:1)

Pahoran speaks of the dilemma he has been dealing with, wondering “whether it was just in us to go against our brethren”, and makes clear his gratitude to Moroni for answering this question that has (doubtless) been haunting him. (Alma 61:19) He responds with great humility to Moroni’s boldness and invites Moroni to join forces with him to quell the insurrection. Yes, Pahoran is a great example of patience and humility when he is admonished by the Lord and demonstrates how we should respond when justly rebuked.

Pahoran’s lack of initiative contrasts strongly with Moroni’s active righteousness & capacity to seek, receive, & act on personal revelation.

Pahoran’s lack of initiative, however, contrasts strongly with Moroni’s active righteousness and capacity to seek, receive, and act on personal revelation. Perhaps this is the reason Mormon doesn’t list Pahoran as one of the men who were, “no less serviceable” to the country than Moroni. (Alma 48:18–19)

Relating Today

In an excellent article on this subject, Oralyn Maran makes the following point after noting that sometimes we today feel that Moroni was a little hard on Pahoran.  

“Interestingly, we have no such mixed feelings about Pahoran. We talk about the “Pahoran principle,” meaning we should not take offense but meet railing with gentleness. Much has been written on this, and it certainly is a good “take away” from the story. We see him as a victim of difficult circumstances beyond his control when the kingmen take control of the government away from him. And in spite of all this adversity, he is able to respond to Moroni’s accusations and threats with equanimity and graciousness. He seems to epitomize long-suffering and unconditional love. That certainly makes him seem great.” 3

We may be tempted to feel that Captain Moroni was overly harsh with this good man.

Many who feel this way may also wonder why Christ chose to cleanse the temple with a whip in-hand.

Said Jeffrey R Holland,

“Sadly enough, my young friends, it is a characteristic of our age that if people want any gods at all, they want them to be gods who do not demand much, comfortable gods, smooth gods who not only don’t rock the boat but don’t even row it, gods who pat us on the head, make us giggle, then tell us to run along and pick marigolds. Talk about man creating God in his own image!” 4

The fact is that in our world, we are encouraged to worship the God of Political Correctness who has become so large that he entirely eclipses the place of righteous indignation and/or a bold stand for truth. If our world wants a soft god, wouldn’t it make sense that we would also tend to criticize those from the scriptures who are examples of God’s pro-active righteousness and justice?

Perhaps Mormon included Moroni’s example to expose the weakness of the often superficial political correctness of our day.  

It is certainly worth noting that Mormon, who saw our day and wrote every page of the Book of Mormon for us, is clear that Captain Moroni is the one we should admire and, consequently, strive to emulate. It seems a little presumptuous of Book of Mormon Central to assume that they know more about Captain Moroni’s character than Mormon did. Hijacking Mormon’s lesson in order to portray the whole situation in a light shaded by current norms is unacceptable. We should be trying to learn the lessons Mormon was trying to teach and become, ourselves, those over whom, “the devil (will) never have power.” (Alma 48:17)

Notes:

  1. “Why Was Moroni’s Correspondence with Pahoran Significant?” Book of Mormon Central.
  2. Hunter, Howard W. “No Less Serviceable,” Ensign, Apr. 1992, 64–65.
  3. Moran, OraLyn. “Moroni and Pahnoran,” Religious Educator 15, no. 3 (2014): 103–115.
  4. Holland, Jeffery R. “The Cost—and Blessings—of Discipleship.” Conference, April 2014.
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22 Comments on "Moroni and Pahoran: A Modern Hijacking of a Book of Mormon Message"

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Helen
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I remember thinking Moroni was a bit “too much” when I first read this account years ago, but then I reread it and realized the severity of the situation. Moroni was a born leader, obviously not a gentle, quiet person who would stand idly watching evil take over his people. He was a strong, passionate, loving man of God who loved his brothers and sisters and wanted to protect them and keep them on the right path. It takes strong, passionate, loving people to take charge and be an amazing leader that motivates your people to stand and fight against… Read more »
Rachel
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Thank you for this article! We are in serious need of righteous examples in our day, and Captain Moroni is one of the finest examples we have.

Samuel Walker
Guest
It is interesting how Moroni’s boldness seems offensive to people today. Like Jeffery R. Holland’s quote:”…it is a characteristic of our age that if people want any gods at all, they want them to be gods who do not demand much, comfortable gods, smooth gods who not only don’t rock the boat but don’t even row it, gods who pat us on the head, make us giggle, then tell us to run along and pick marigolds.” Pahoran wasn’t listed among the righteous, being slow to act and to respond to Moroni’s letters. Moroni had good reason to be angry at… Read more »
Elsie
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Great article! I had no idea that people were attacking Captain Moroni in this way. Like with all great men, satan has tried (and does very well) to mar their good names. We see this with many of the great prophets, not to mention Jesus Christ, Himself. I think that this talk from a general conference address, says it better than I could. What a contrast to the attitude of some of our liberals! Someone asked me once how I felt about amnesty for the draft card burner and the deserter. I told him that I thought every one of… Read more »
Jack of Hearts
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This article commits the same eisegetical readings that it accuses Book of Mormon Central of doing. For example, the author writes that “Pahoran chooses not to inform his chief captain, Moroni, about the problem” and cites Alma 50:3–4, but those verses say nothing about Pahoran. We have no way of knowing why Pahoran chose to do this, if he even chose at all. I imagine being driven from the city during a coup made it difficult to sit down and write a letter, particularly if he didn’t know who he could trust or if the kingmen would intercept it. “Note… Read more »
Ace of Spades
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The article does not reference Alma 50:3–4, it references Alma 59:3–4, which does support the author’s conclusion. It tells how Moroni sends a letter to Pahoran. It does not mention a response from Pahoran and from Alma 59:9 we can obviously deduce that Moroni has not received any response because he is unaware of Pahoran’s problem. We also learn that enough time had elapsed that Moroni thought that Pahoran had already sent reinforcements to the city of Nephihah (after receiving Moroni’s epistle) so it would not fall. “We have no way of knowing why Pahoran chose to do this, if… Read more »
Jack of Hearts
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“The article does not reference Alma 50:3–4, it references Alma 59:3–4.” Ach, that was a typo on my part, sorry. But my comment stands. Moroni receives no response from Pahoran, but there’s no stated reason in the text. From Pahoran’s epistle we can safely surmise that it was because of the coup, but there’s no reason given. Did Moroni’s letter arrive? Was the runner killed? Was he intercepted? Did someone in Pahoran’s government ensure that that particular letter never made it to his desk? I mean, maybe Pahoran didn’t care and simply chose not to reply, but that’s only one… Read more »
Ace of Spades
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“I mean, maybe Pahoran didn’t care and simply chose not to reply, but that’s only one of many options and nothing in the text requires the interpretation that Pahoran chose not to respond.” You’ll note I did not conclude why Pahoran didn’t respond – thus you couldn’t quote any conclusion of mine. I did say that Pahoran was responsible to inform Moroni and Moroni didn’t get informed. “This isn’t before the coup though.” That is your own interpretation and is not supported by the text. “He’s been gathering his forces but fears to sin by attacking his own people, which… Read more »
bboy4liberty
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I feel to make the same comment that I made when reading Jack of Hearts’ comments on the recent Brigham Young article. I struggle to read comments that have no positive purpose. If they led to a discussion about principle or an attempt to teach, change, or uplift, that would be different. Instead, this seems to be yet another attack simply for the purpose of tearing down and encouraging arguments over the specific wording or the way that things are presented. The article may well have little wording flaws, an imperfect person wrote it. I feel that the arguments you… Read more »
Jack of Hearts
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“I struggle to read comments that have no positive purpose. If they led to a discussion about principle or an attempt to teach, change, or uplift, that would be different. Instead, this seems to be yet another attack simply for the purpose of tearing down and encouraging arguments over the specific wording or the way that things are presented. The article may well have little wording flaws, an imperfect person wrote it.” I have to ask, do you read my comments? I don’t see how you can come away from a discussion of how the claim of the article (either… Read more »
Samuel Walker
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Do you think Moroni would throw a temper tantrum, if in Alma 48: 17 it clearly states, “… 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.”? There are also other scriptures mentioning Moroni being, “firm in the faith of Christ”(Alma 48:13) and “not delight[ing] in bloodshed” (Alma 48:11). Do you think anyone can can have a problem with his temper and be unshakeable by the powers of hell… Read more »
Julie
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The first time I read the scripture account between Moroni and Pahoran in my youth, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Pahoran and his situation. But after spending the last 8 years teaching this story 3 times a year, one can’t help see the real account. Pahoran exhibits a great amount of apathy in the cause. Yes, he loves God and freedom but does nothing about it. We, ourselves can learn a tremendous lesson from this narrative. Apathy is a very deadly disease and if not careful each of us can be plagued with it, and cause thousands of… Read more »
Zander
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It seems that the Church also published an article in the Ensign about this exact topic, which supports some of these ideas from Book of Mormon Central. “Moroni uses some rather harsh words in his letter” “[Pahoran] replaces anger with kindness” https://www.lds.org/ensign/2003/02/slow-to-anger?lang=eng Even the LDS Book of Mormon Teacher Manual says, “Moroni falsely accuses Pahoran, who responds with love and respect” “In his anger, he wrote a letter to Pahoran” https://www.lds.org/manual/book-of-mormon-seminary-teacher-manual-2013/alma/lesson-105?lang=eng A BYU speech also mentioned these same points… “However, in his abridgment, Mormon made it clear that Moroni mistakenly assumed Pahoran was part of the problem” “this uncharacteristic error… Read more »
Anne Prufe
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“Sometimes from behind the pulpit, in our classrooms, in our Council meetings and in our church publications we hear, read or witness things that do not square with the truth. This is especially true where freedom is involved. Now do not let this serve as an excuse for your own wrong-doing. The Lord is letting the wheat and the tares mature before he fully purges the Church. He is also testing you to see if you will be misled. The devil is trying to deceive the very elect.” (Ezra Taft Benson, Our Immediate Responsibility, BYU Devotional, October 25, 1966.)

Anne Prufe
Guest
Here is a Church publication that disagrees with you and agrees with LDS Answers. https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/re-15-no-3-2014/moroni-and-pahoran-0 Another example is the subject of unconditional love. Here is one pro-unconditional love on LDS.org. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1971/10/love-unconditional And yet, here is another article by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve that is strongly against unconditional love, saying it is false doctrine. https://www.lds.org/ensign/2003/02/divine-love BYU and other Church members recently honored Harry Reid. Does this mean the Church is now pro-abortion, pro-socialism and pro-everything that Harry Reid stands for, though it is diametrically opposed to countless statements by Presidents of the Church? Your position contradicts the… Read more »
Anne Prufe
Guest
President Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teaching of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine. You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of… Read more »
Anne Prufe
Guest
President Harold B. Lee also taught: “It is not to be thought that every word spoken by the General Authorities is inspired, or that they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost in everything they read and write. Now you keep that in mind. I don’t care what his position is, if he writes something or speaks something that goes beyond anything that you can find in the standard church works, unless that one be the prophet, seer, and revelator—please note that one exception—you may immediately say, ‘Well, that is his own idea.’ And if he says something that contradicts… Read more »
Anne Prufe
Guest

Instead of just throwing links to articles around, if you will make logical arguments and support it by scripture and Presidents of the Church, you will make fewer errors in judgment. Tearing down Moroni and building up a wavering, indecisive and uninspired Pahoran seems a strange model for life. I think I’ll stick with the Lord’s version of Moroni, as is clearly taught in the Book of Mormon.

Zander
Guest
I found about 6 extra articles that support Book of Mormons position. I also found a quote from Elder David A. Bednar and Prophet Howard W. Hunter. “[Moroni] harshly accused him of thoughtlessness, slothfulness, and neglect. Pahoran might easily have resented Moroni and his message, but he chose not to take offense. Pahoran responded compassionately” David A Bednar “Pahoran—the latter of whom had the nobility of soul not to condemn when he was very unjustly accused” President Howard W. Hunter (Notice Hunter said it was unjust of Moroni) It’s amazing how we all interpret scriptures differently. Some people might think… Read more »
Bruce Woodruff
Guest
Zander, What then of the very words of scripture? This article has done a great job of actually going to the scriptures and finding the truth, not just repeating what has been said about the story (what BoM Central was doing). Ann has shared a ton of great quotes regarding what scripture is or isn’t – but here’s the poser. If Alma 60:33 says that Moroni was acting under the direction of personal revelation from God and some in the church today interpret it otherwise, who’s right? The scripture or the commentary? The most correct book on earth or a… Read more »
Cameron Smith
Guest

Our society is truly plagued with political correctness, and I also believe Mormon was teaching us why it is wrong to be politically correct. Moroni was acting under direction of the spirit, and his “strong toned” letter was just what Pahoran needed to move them towards regaining their liberty!!

Samuel Walker
Guest
In This article, many commenter’s have been trying to prove their point, that maybe Pahoran wasn’t so bad. The thing is, we don’t know what pahoran was like, and It probably doesn’t even matter. What we do know is that Moroni Is an excellent example of “God’s pro-active righteousness and justice”. He is the man we should be defending. We may learn a few valuable lessons from Pahoran, but we shouldn’t be using those as a weapon to hijack Moroni. This statement and quote explain perfectly, why book of Mormon central (and probably many others) would criticize Captain Moroni. “The… Read more »
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