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.
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?
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.
Moroni’s letter in Alma 60 is certainly strong and unapologetic. What prompted such a bold letter?
- Moroni learns that not only he and his men are starving and without support but also Helaman and his men. (Alma 58:7)
- 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)
- 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)
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)
- “Why Was Moroni’s Correspondence with Pahoran Significant?” Book of Mormon Central.
- Hunter, Howard W. “No Less Serviceable,” Ensign, Apr. 1992, 64–65.
- Moran, OraLyn. “Moroni and Pahnoran,” Religious Educator 15, no. 3 (2014): 103–115.
- Holland, Jeffery R. “The Cost—and Blessings—of Discipleship.” Conference, April 2014.