I love the Lord Jesus Christ and his glorious gospel. I have a personal testimony that He truly is our Savior, Lord, and Master. And I desire with all my heart to share that knowledge with the world. Hence the reason I am so excited to have the opportunity to write and share monthly articles with LDS Blogs under the heading “Pure Testimony.” Like Alma of old, I believe in the power of the word of God and the bearing of a “pure testimony” to invite everyone to “come unto Christ and be perfected in him.”
The Book of Mormon – A Spiritual Feast and Source Power
What a marvelous blessing it is to have ready access to the word of God. I love reading the scriptures daily, particularly The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Nephi of old encouraged his people to “feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.”
Alma taught that the word of God “had [a] more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them.” What better place to feast upon God’s word and receive its mighty power in our lives, than the book that Joseph Smith taught will help us draw “nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than…any other book.”
You might ask why I love The Book of Mormon so much? I can’t begin to name all of the reasons in this article, but one of them is because of The Book of Mormon, as President Nelson reminded us in his recent General Conference address on the subject, “illuminates the teachings of the Master and exposes the tactics of the adversary.” So what? Why is that so vitally important? It is vitally important because our very lives, both physically and spiritually, depend on that knowledge.
The War in Heaven
We all know the story of the Grand Council in Heaven and how Satan, in all his arrogance, came before the Father stating, “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.” There was no love behind that statement, only pure selfishness. Satan was in it for himself and no one else. He coveted God’s honor, power and glory and desired to “exalt [his] throne above the stars of God.” He was willing to do anything it took to get it there, including using the rest of God’s children by turning them into choiceless automatons to do whatever he desired.
When rejected, a spiritually naked Satan used the only weapons he had available—hate, anger, and deceit. He used them to stir up and manipulate his likewise spiritually-naked followers to go to war against God and Christ. Satan and his minions were defeated and kicked out of Heaven.
It Rages On
So, did the War in Heaven end when Satan and his followers were kicked out? Not by a long shot. That was only the beginning, and the war continues to this day. Have Satan’s desires changed? No. Like God and Christ, Satan is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
We live in the day which Nephi stated that Satan would “rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.” That rage is on full display every day. One only has to turn to any news channel or website to see the evidence.
Satan has raged in the hearts of men since the time his “plan” was rejected. But never has he had greater access to our hearts to rage in them than he does today. Through the technology surrounding us, Satan, and those whom he has subjected, can reach us through more avenues of entry than ever before. They can reach us and our families wirelessly through the Internet, mobile devices, radio, television, and a plethora of other ways.
That being the case, never in the history of man has there been a greater need to understand the marvelous teachings of the Master and plant ourselves firmly on His rock, which is a sure foundation. By so doing we will come to know and understand Satan’s tactics, and when he “send[s] forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon [us], it shall have no power over [us] to drag [us] down to the gulf of misery and endless woe, because of the rock upon which [we] are built…whereon if men build they cannot fall.”
Thus, we can spiritually arm ourselves, and be numbered among those whom Nephi saw in a vision who were “armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory,” and like Michael, through Christ’s power, cast Satan out of our lives.
Alma 43 – A Lesson for Our Day
How then, can studying The Book of Mormon help us in our efforts to arm ourselves with righteousness? How can we and plant ourselves firmly on Christ’s rock so that we can thwart Satan’s efforts to destroy us?
One marvelous example is found in Alma chapter 43. In this chapter, we learn of Zerahemnah, the Lamanite leader, who serves as a living embodiment of Satan. Like Satan, Zerahemnah lusted for power, and, like Satan, he was willing to do anything to get it as long as his “design,” or goal, to rule not only over the Lamanites but also over the Nephites was met.
Like Satan, Zerahemnah, used hate and anger to stir up his followers that he “might usurp great power over them” and “bring them into subjection to the accomplishment of his designs…and also that he might gain power over the Nephites by bringing them into bondage.” Like Satan, Zerahemnah trusted in his own wisdom and rejected God, and brought his followers into battle spiritually naked, and unfortunately for the Lamanites, nearly physically naked as well.
Alma chapter 43 also introduces us to the mighty Nephite, Chief Captain Moroni. Just as Zerahemnah was a living embodiment of Satan, so too was Moroni a living embodiment of Christ. Like the Savior, Moroni did everything he did out of love for his people and his God. He was not fighting for himself, but rather he prepared himself physically and spiritually to fight for his family, his people, his land, his country, his religion and his God, and inspired his people to do the same. When the battle came, the Nephites were physically armed with full body armor and shields and spiritually armed with God’s power.
When the battle came, what was the outcome? The Lamanites outnumbered the Nephites by more than double so from a numbers perspective, they should have won, right? Yet by the end of the chapter, we read that it was the Nephites who had the Lamanites surrounded. The tables were turned and the Lamanites were the ones who were filled with terror. How did this happen? The answers are multiple.
First, as indicated above, they Nephites came to battle physically and spiritually prepared.
Second, when the Lamanites took off into the wilderness after being frightened at the sight of the Nephites in their full body armor, Moroni didn’t stress out wondering where they had gone. Instead, he immediately dispatched men to see Alma, to ask him to “inquire of the Lord whither the armies of the Nephites should go to defend themselves against the Lamanites.” He knew Alma was God’s prophet and that he could call upon God and receive the needed revelation.
Third, when Moroni’s men returned with Alma’s answer, he didn’t hesitate to follow the prophet’s counsel, but rather he took immediate action. By doing so, Moroni had his armies in place and ready to meet the Lamanites at the time of their coming.
The Ultimate Reason
Fourth, the Nephites were inspired by a better cause. Rather than fighting for the monarchy, motivated by a lust for power, the Nephites were fighting for their freedom, motivated by love for themselves and their families. That great love turned out to be the key ingredient to their efforts. In the heat of the battle, the Nephites had the Lamanites surrounded. But the Lamanites fought “like dragons” with “exceedingly great strength and courage.” The Nephites, in the face of the Lamanite onslaught, were frightened and about to flee.
As they were about to do so, however, Moroni perceived their fears and “sent forth and inspired their hearts with…the thoughts of their lands, their liberty, yea, their freedom from bondage.” The very moment they heard the stirring words of their inspired leader, the Nephites “turned upon the Lamanites, and they cried with one voice unto the Lord their God, for their liberty and their freedom from bondage… And in that selfsame hour that they cried unto the Lord for their freedom, the Lamanites began to flee before them.”
Within a short time, the Nephites had the Lamanites completely boxed in against a river with nowhere to flee. The Lamanites were struck with terror. Rather than destroy them, Moroni, when he “saw their terror, commanded his men that they should stop shedding their blood.”
So what can we learn from Alma chapter 43 and how can we apply it in our lives?
The battle you and I face today, from a spiritual perspective, is similar to the battle the Nephites faced physically. Satan’s tactics haven’t changed. He and his followers still come to battle with anger, hatred, and deceit. Which means they always come to battle spiritually naked, for the Holy Ghost will not dwell with anger and contention. We are greatly outnumbered. So were the Nephites. The only major difference between then and now is that, because of modern technology, our spiritual attack surface has increased dramatically.
Be that as it may, we, like the Nephites, are “inspired by a better cause” and we have all the spiritual tools and armor that we need to shrink Satan’s attack surface to an acceptable level and protect ourselves against spiritual risk. How?
First, like the Nephites, we can arm ourselves physically and spiritually. We can do so by learning and following the Lords law of physical and spiritual health—the Word of Wisdom as found in Doctrine and Covenants section 89. The Lord has promised that:
And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.
Second, like the Nephites, we can follow inspired leadership. We are blessed. We have Prophets, Apostles, General Authorities, auxiliary leaders, and wonderful stake and local leaders. These men and women are called of God. Like Captain Moroni, they lift, inspire, and spur us on to victory—especially in those times when we may be afraid and about to turn back.
Third, like the Nephites, we can put our trust in God and call upon Him anytime, anywhere. He knows us individually as well as in our families. He loves us and wants us to succeed. His great cause is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. In other words, we are His great cause. He will never give us any commandments or tasks, or ask us to pass through any challenges, without preparing a way for us to succeed. In His strength, we can do all things.
A Prophet’s Invitation
Our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, in his last general conference talk of April 17, 2017, gave us the following invitation and magnificent promise:
My dear associates in the work of the Lord, I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day. As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives.
May we have the humility, faith, courage, and determination to follow our dear prophet’s counsel and accept his imploring invitation. As we do so, we will know where and how to defend ourselves. We will be strengthened to stand as a firm witness of Christ whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Randall McNeely is a husband, father of five, and author. He is also a singer/songwriter and has written several patriotic songs, children’s songs, and multiple religious hymns. The best known is 'Oh Jesus, Savior of Mankind', which won a Special Recognition award in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints 2008 Music Submission contest. He and two of his daughters have also recorded and released the children’s song Everybody Speaks Smile! Randy has a firm testimony of Jesus Christ. He is the light and the life of the world. It is said and written of Him that "He went about doing good." In doing so, He weaved light into the hearts and souls of all with whom He came in contact, both in word and deed. Randy's desire is to have the same said of him. He wants to have the words and lyrics he writes uplift, inspire, and bless others. To read more articles by Randy visit his Pure Testimony website at www.puretestimony.org.