Monday, July 16, 2012

Anti-Nephi-Lehis as Peacemakers?

In a Gospel Doctrine class the other Sunday our instructor led a great discussion about the choice by the Anti-Nephi-Lehis to bury their weapons of rebellion. We discussed what our modern-day weapons of rebellion might be, and we discussed the value of the Anti-Nephi-Lehis’ act of burying their weapons. It was a really good lesson, and I left with lots to think about.

Including this: Our instructor suggested that one of the qualities of the Anti-Nephi-Lehis was that they were peacemakers. I took exception to that idea in the class (and I still do). Another class member jumped in to focus on the individual peace that must have led the Anti-Nephi-Lehis to their choice to bury their weapons as token of their covenant with God. Not wanting to derail the lesson, I let it go.

But what ran through my mind was this (despite my own anti-war pre-disposition): by burying their weapons of rebellion, they also buried their weapons of self-defense, as they then almost immediately (in the account, anyway) demonstrated. The Lamanites soon fell upon them and slaughtered over 1,000 as the Anti-Nephi-Lehis bowed on the ground and called upon God. Whatever else they did, they did not create peace.

I thought how today we might not encourage such devoted behavior, opting instead for a more pragmatic approach, sort of a hate-the-sin-and-retain-your-weapon compromise. But the Anti-Nephi-Lehis were more committed than that. They were ready to give their lives as a token of the covenant they had made to repent of who they had been.

The real cost of that covenant became more clear in subsequent chapters as the Nephites welcomed them into the Land of Jershon, renamed them the people of Ammon, and then sent armies to defend them. What follows next is an account of a huge and bitter battle between the Nephites and Lamanites (more non-peace). Perhaps the battle would have come without the people of Ammon, but the Nephite armies did defend them. And losses on both sides were huge.

Two lessons for me:

1. What is the token of my covenants with God? How much am I really willing to bury the weapons of my rebellion? And what cost am I willing to incur?

2. Am I willing to support others who bury the weapons of their rebellion? At what cost am I willing to protect my brothers and sisters in the gospel who are choosing to honor the covenants that they have made?

For me the second lesson brings new meaning to the Savior’s injunction that I should not judge. It is not my place to determine whether another person has overestimated what he must do to honor a covenant. Indeed, it is my place to love and support him or her as part of my faith community (and perhaps to learn faith from him or her, as well).


  1. Good post; I agree with your position that just burying weapons doesn't facilitate peace with your enemies, rather it simply gives them the opportunity to mow you down. However, the martyrdom of those who kept their covenant did have a profound effect on their enemies. Not sure if that would happen in today's world of terrorists and suicide bombers. Thanks for the food for thought.

  2. Very interesting perspective.

    I had this lesson yesterday, and was left pondering the idea that the Lord honours and allows us to make our own personal covenants with Him.

    I'll give you a trivial example from my life: when I was in my late teens, I discovered the tv show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and became totally hooked. I would rent videos (ack, this was a while ago) from the library and stay up all night watching all the episodes in a row. I was obsessed with the show and this obsession crowded out other more worthy (or normal) pursuits.

    Eventually I came to my senses but the addiction/craving/habit was entrenched and I needed heavenly help to overcome it. The way I did this was to promise the Lord that I would NEVER watch an episode again, not even a clip.

    I don't expect anyone else to join me in this promise-slash-covenant. It was specific to my personal weakness, and I relied on the scriptural promise that the Lord will make our weaknesses a strength.

    When I think about the Anti-Lehi-Nephites, I think of that scriptural promise as well. Before their conversion, the A-L-N were a warlike people, idolatrous and wicked. They very likely enjoyed being warlike, in their wicked state, and knew that wielding weapons in a battle could very well open the floodgates to those evil feelings once more.

    Instead of risking their hard-won repentance by keeping their weapons (and weakness) in a readily accessible location, they chose to flee from THEIR sins and do all they could to never be tempted again.

    I find this behaviour admirable. Not everyone is tempted by the same things, or to the same degree. They knew their limits, and stayed well within the bounds of what they could tolerate.

    It is likely that the Nephites felt the same, considering the considerable lengths they went to in order to support the A-N-L in their private covenants.

    Also, thinking forward to the 2,000 stripling warriors, the sons of these original covenant makers and keepers, and clearly their attitude towards the gospel was one of steadfastness and faith. If I remember correctly, Nephite society was pretty degenerate by the time these young men were old enough to go into battle, and yet they were firm in the faith because of their parents.

    The more I think about it, the more I am completely in awe of the Anti-Lehi-Nephites and their example really makes me want to emulate them.

    Sorry for the novel, I got carried away!!

  3. Rozy Lass, you're right -- in today's world, I suspect the outcomes would be different. But, as you correctly suggest, that's not the whole point here.

    Raisin, I think you're spot on. Just as we do not know the pain others carry deep inside, nor do we know what trials or weakness they may bear. I think many among us make private covenants with the Lord and are blessed for honoring them.

    To be sure, the Anti Nephi Lehis provide a remarkable example, one that can be applied even if we're not called upon to bury weapons of war.

  4. Ah, I read all these posts on my phone, but it's too hard to comment, so then by the time I get to my computer there are already great comments taking away all my thoughts ;)

    I agree with everything everyone has said. I loved the two lessons that you pointed out.

    My favorite part about this story is actually later in the story about the stripling warriors. In that story we always focus on what the young men learned from their mothers. But what about what they learned from their fathers?

    Alma 53:17 says "And they entered into a covenant to fight for the liberty of the Nephites."

    The ALN's sons learned about covenant making from their father's. It's interesting, though, that their father's covenant was to never shed blood again - innocent or guilty, while their sons' covenant was to "fight for the liberty of the Nephites"

    While the sons of the ALN's seemed like they were making the opposite covenant that their father's made, they were really just making the covenant that was needed of them, just as their fathers were making the necessary covenant for their lives.

    One was a covenant NOT to fight, while the other was a covenant TO fight. Which covenant was more righteous? Neither - as with your Lesson #2 - "It is not my place to determine whether another person has overestimated what he must do to honor a covenant."

    I would go even further to say that it is not necessary, or even appropriate, for us to look at the covenants others have made and try to make those covenants. Rather, we should look inward, and through prayer and revelation make the covenants that we should make. (obviously there are covenants that the Lord requires everyone to make, so I'm not talking about those)

    Covenant making outside the covenants the Lord requires of everyone is a personal matter, and, as you said, should be like burying the weapons of our rebellion.

    I really am working on writing short comments...

  5. Becca, I love that. We humans have a tendency to compare ourselves with others, and it seems like we always compare our weaknesses to another person's strength - and no one benefits.

    Look to the Lord, and He will direct our paths.

  6. I like the conversation about covenants. And looking to ourselves and the Lord, not to others, to judge ourselves.


  7. Thanks for this! I love the focus on covenant keeping! I will also ponder whether my covenants have specific tokens or whether I am willing to help others in covenant keeping.

    I think we really do let it slide that these young men learned covenant keeping from their fathers. Think what kind of society we could have if our youth learned more about keeping covenants!