Amalickiah, who escaped Moroni’s army last chapter, joins the Lamanites. He stirs them up to come up again against the Nephites to battle, and the king agrees. But, the Lamanite soldiers just got their butts kicked the last time they did that, so they are “exceedingly afraid; yea, they feared to displease the king, and they also feared to go to battle against the Nephites lest they should lose their lives. And it came to pass that they would not, or the more part of them would not, obey the commandments of the king.” (2)
This, obviously, makes their king wroth. He puts Amalickiah in charge of the part of the army who is obedient and commands him to go “compel them to arms.” (3) And this exactly what Amalickiah hoped for.
Now behold, this was the desire of Amalickiah; for he being a very subtle man to do evil therefore he laid the plan in his heart to dethrone the king of the Lamanites.”Alma 47-:4
Lesson learned—don’t ever trust a dissenter. They have betrayed their own people, so they’ll betray anyone. They have no honor.
The Lamanites who didn’t want to fight hole up in a place called Onidah, “the place of arms.” (5) This must have been their armory, where all the fortifications were. And it is the strategic high ground.
Amalickiah has no desire to obey the king and compel these people to fight. He wants to win them over, before he compels them to fight on his terms. He sends a secret embassy at night to ask Lehonti, the rebel leader, to “come down to the foot of the mount” (10) so he can speak with him.
The devil always seeks to get us to come down from the high ground in small degrees, so he might destroy us.
Today, we are baited to leave the high ground in all sorts of situations, as Elder Hales talks about in his talk—Christian Courage.
By arguments and accusations, some people bait us to leave the high ground. The high ground is where the light is. It’s where we see the first light of morning and the last light in the evening. It is the safe ground. It is true and where knowledge is. Sometimes others want us to come down off the high ground and join them in a theological [or political] scrum in the mud. These few contentious individuals are set on picking religious [political] fights, online or in person. We are always better staying on the higher ground of mutual respect and love.
In doing so, we follow the example of the prophet Nehemiah, who built a wall around Jerusalem. Nehemiah’s enemies entreated him to meet them on the plain, where “they thought to do [him] mischief.” Unlike Lehonti, however, Nehemiah wisely refused their offer with this message: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:2-3) We too have a great work to do, which will not be accomplished is we allow ourselves to stop and argue and be distracted. Instead we should muster Christian courage and move on. As we read in Psalms, “Fret not thyself because of evildoers.” (Psalm 37:1)Robert D. Hales (2008) Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship
Lehonti refuses to come down to meet Amalickiah. Amalickiah sends forth a second and third invitation to meet him, but Lehonti stands his ground. The high ground where he is safe.
When Amalickiah realizes Lehonti won’t budge, he goes up, nearly to Lehonti’s camp, and sends a final message to come down a little, and even bring his guards for safety.
Lehonti relents to come down a little to meet with Amalickiah, who flatters him and asks him to surround his army in the night, so it looks like Lehonti’s army has triumphed. This is a great victory Amalickiah appears to be handing him. All he asks is to make him second in command to Lehonti.
The devil uses these same tactics with us, trying to get us to come down just a little. He flatters our ego to think we are smarter than others. When we step down from the high ground in any arena in life, we lose our safety and are in Satan’s power.
Lehonti’s army surrounds the other army in the night. The men wake up and plead with Amalickiah to surrender so they aren’t destroyed. I imagine him smirking and feeling smug as he agrees. Everything is working out according to his plans.
But he’s not finished yet. Evil never is content. It always wants more until everyone is in bondage and miserable.
Now, Amalickiah has one of his servants poison Lehonti “by degrees…that he died.” (18) This makes him leader of the whole army. His deviously evil plan has worked out according to his plan so far.
Amalickiah marches back to the king, having the whole Lamanite army behind him. From a distance, the king sees this and assumes he has done as he commanded.
But behold, as the king came out to meet him Amalickiah caused that his servants should go forth to meet the king. And they went and bowed themselves before the king, as if to reverence him because of his greatness.
And it came to pass that the king put forth his hand to raise them, as was the custom with the Lamanites, as a token of peace, which custom they had taken from the Nephites.
And it came to pass that when he had raised the first from the ground, behold he stabbed the king to the heart; and he fell to the earth.”Alma 47:22-24
The king’s servants flee, and A’s servants blame them for the death of the king, saying they were the ones who stabbed him to the heart. Amalickiah pretends to be angry and says, “Whosoever loved the king, let him go forth, and pursue his servants that they be slain.” (27)
Thus he takes care of the servants, who are the only witnesses to his great evil. No one will believe them now—nor will they stop to listen to them if they find them. They will immediately kill the only witnesses who can tell what truly happened.
Amalickiah is one of the greatest evil masterminds in the Book of Mormon.
And thus Amalickiah, by his fraud, gained the hearts of the people.”Alma 47:30
Do we give our hearts to fraudulent men today, thinking they are great because they tell us they are or because they have deceived us into buying into the false narrative they orchestrate? I believe there are devious men and organization in the world today, who are just as subtle to do evil and take away freedoms as Amalickiah was in his day.
That’s why we need to seek the Spirit to be our constant companion, so we can see through deceptions and don’t step down from the high ground to meet evil on their terms.
Amalickiah takes control of the city and goes to stand before the queen. She pleads with him to spare their people, and asks him to come unto her with witnesses of what happened. He brings the exact same servant who actually killed the king. So perfectly evil. They use the king’s servants fleeing as proof that they are guilty, when actually it was A’s own cunning and bold use of his army against them that sent them scurrying over to the Nephites.
He gains her favor and takes her to wife and becomes ruler of the Lamanites.
Mormon inserts his insight at the end, saying it is interesting to note that the Nephite dissenter had been taught truth, “…yea, having been instructed in the same knowledge of the Lord, nevertheless, it is strange to relate, not long after their dissensions they became more hardened and impenitent, and more wild, wicked and ferocious than the Lamanites—drinking in with the traditions of the Lamanites; giving way to indolence, and all manner of lasciviousness; yea, entirely forgetting the Lord their God.” (36)
I believe that loss of light comes from stepping down from the high ground. The high ground holds light and safety. When we leave it, we lose that light of the Spirit and are left to wallow in darkness. And our spiral downward, if we do not choose to repent, is dangerously fast.
Elder Hales, in the same talk cited above, gave suggestions of how to stay on the high ground in today’s world, including:
- Pray for Christian courage and love
- Follow the Savior’s example of meekness
- Do not retaliate. The Savior’s love “is the only power that can subdue the adversary and answer our accusers without accusing them in return.”
- See opportunity in the midst of opposition.
- Seek the Spirit’s tailored assistance to help us know how to respond to others in each different circumstance.
- Let “our conversations with others always be marked by the fruits of the Spirit—“love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
- Don’t “confuse boldness with Satan’s counterfeit: overbearance. True disciples speak with quiet confidence, not boastful pride.”
- Seek for “others’ welfare, not personal vindication.”
- Be guileless. “…look for our own fault first…[and] listen to the answer given by the Spirit, [so] we can, if needed, make corrections, apologize, seek forgiveness, and do better. Without guile, true disciples avoid being unduly judgmental of others’ views.”
To end, I’ll leave this statement by Elder Hales about how we should respond to our accusers and persecutors today:
…I reply, we LOVE them. Whatever their race, creed, religion, or political persuasion, if we follow Christ and show forth His courage, we must love them. We do not feel we are better than they are. Rather we desire with our love to show them a better way—the way of Jesus Christ.Robert D. Hales (2008) Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship