Verse 5 - I need to remind myself that within a context of charity, this is a vexing issue for these missionaries to see their brethren being threatened with war as a result of their conversion to Christ. Compelled by this deep sense of duty and love for their brethren, they gather together in a council that they might determine the will of the Lord in this matter. Councils as a tool are well documented elsewhere as to their effectiveness in group settings. Oh what good gets accomplished in councils when motivated by genuine concern and love!
I'm also impressed that this council happened as they had become aware of the Lamanites' preparations for war. It wasn't an afterthought as a result of a battle already fought. Though past experience and whatever counter-intelligence that they had access to as leaders, they saw beforehand the struggles that lay ahead of them, and so they counseled collectively on how to avoid such.
Gratitude is a predecessor here in the disposition of the king for their particular position regarding their response to the Lamanites' and their preparation for war. By this, I mean that repeatedly the king expresses his thanks to God for the series of events that had lead them up to this point of conversion among him and his people.
The king lists at least four points of gratitude for blessings received from "my great God":
- That God in his goodness had sent the Nephites to preach to them and convince them of their of the traditions of their "wicked fathers." (vs. 7)
- That God had softened their hearts through the spirit enough to begin corresponding with the Nephite missionaries. (vs. 8)
- By so doing, they had been convinced of their many sins and murders. (vs. 9)
- That God had granted unto them that they might repent, that they had received a forgiveness of these sins and murders, and that through the "merits of his Son" the guilt of all this had been taken from them. (vs. 10)
I am considering further how Lamoni explains to his people the process of their conversion and why this particular course of action is being reasonably justified among them.
The central argument for Lamoni's argument is their repentance and conversion which was brought to past through the convincing power of God that was wrought through the Nephite missionaries that came to them. (See vs. 7 - 12)
Lamoni says that "by opening this correspondence we have been convinced of our sins." (vs 9) This is similar wording to these passages that talk about the labors of Heleman:
Therefore, Helaman and his brethren went forth, and did declare the word of God with much power unto the convincing of many people of their wickedness, which did cause them to repent of their sins and to be baptized unto the Lord their God. (Alma 62:45)And then the council that was given to Hyrum Smith:
...First seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.(Doctrine and Covenants 11:21)
And hence the counsel that if found later in the Doctrine and Covenants 50:13-22 to preach the Gospel by the power the Spirit. Then shall the power of God be granted unto us unto the convincing of men.
The remainder of these verses are predicated upon one eternal truth: namely, that God forgives sin and pardons the demands of justice through the grace of Christ's Atonement for sins committed. It is this overpowering reality, this sense of profound gratitude for having personally experienced the forgiveness of " those [their] many sins and murders which [they had] committed" (see vs. 10), for which the decision to not take up arms is based.
So in light of this deep sense of forgiveness that they had experienced first hand, the king has a sizeable concern that if they were to go back to war that they might loose this blessing of forgiveness which they had received. But it is actually more than just a concern of falling out of favor.
Verses 13 and 14 explain the seriousness of the issue. It is that if they were to repeat those grievous sins for which they had already been forgiven through the blood of the Atonement of Christ, that they would have fallen into a worse state in the which they would not be able to obtain forgiveness again. The king goes on to explain that this is not just his opinion but rather "the great God has had mercy on us, and made these things known unto us that we might not perish;" (vs. 14) This truth had been revealed unto them.
This is clarified further in verse 15. The matter is an issue of accountability. Accountability for what? For truth received. The decision to not bare arms was a direct result of understanding their obligation to God for his blessings. It was:
"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."The result of the Lamanite's realization is a covenant that has at its core three mandates:
- "Rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would give up their own lives"
- "Rather than take away from a brother they would give unto him"
- "Rather than spend their days in idleness they would labor abundantly with their hands"
And thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin; and thus we see that they buried their weapons of peace, or they buried the weapons of war, for peace. (vs. 19)