Pahoran has been accused of being a traitor and other horrible things by Moroni in the letter we studied last time. Now, we read Pahoran’s response.
It’s easy to imagine him responding much differently, maybe starting out by saying, “Hey, you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.” Or “How dare you accuse me of treason and judge my spirituality, you moron!”
Those are very natural, justifiable responses he could have written.
But, Pahoran is the bigger man on this occasion and his spirituality and humility, even though he is in a place of leadership, shines forth in his words back to Moroni, his accuser.
His response is mostly empathetic, not defensive.
Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul.”Alma 61:2
Think about how much better the world if we all chose to act like Pahoran, instead of letting others act upon us by goading us into reactionary actions, words, or accusations.
He then tells him that many people do joy in his suffering though, and they have risen up in great numbers to overthrow him from office and withhold provisions and freemen from helping those in other parts of the land. He tells Moroni that he has fled to Gideon and has sent a proclamation out and is gathering freemen under his banner daily to avenge their wrongs. There are enough men under Pahoran’s command that “those who have risen up in rebellion against us are set at defiance, yea, insomuch that they do fear us and durst not come out against us to battle.” (7) But he doesn’t have enough men to go help Moroni. He is barely keeping his own head above water.
The leader of the king-men has set himself up as a king and written to the Lamanites that he will keep the land of Zarahemla for them, so the Lamanites can conquer the rest of the land. In exchange for this treason, the Lamanites will allow him to be king over the subjected Nephites.
Pahoran is not a jerk. He is a level-headed, patient, righteous man. His letter reveals the state of his heart.
And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart. I, Pahoran, do not seek for power save only to retain my judgment-seat that I may preserve the rights and the liberty of my people. My soul standeth fast in that liberty in the which God hath made us free.”Alma 61:9
He chose to see the good in Moroni, giving him the benefit of the doubt instead of choosing to be offended by the inflammatory letter he received from him.
One of the greatest indicators of our own spiritual maturity is revealed in how we respond to the weaknesses, the inexperience, and the potentially offensive actions of others. A thing, an event, or an expression may be offensive, but you and I can choose not to be offended—and to say with Pahoran, “it mattereth not.”And Nothing Shall Offend Them, David A. Bednar, 2006
Pahoran reaffirms that he is still Moroni’s brother in the cause, and he is tossing aside the harsh accusations that had been hurled against him.
Therefore, my beloved brother, Moroni, let us resist evil, and whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words, yea, such as rebellions and dissensions, let us resist them with our swords, that we may retain our freedom, that we may rejoice in the great privilege of our church and in the cause of our Redeemer and our God.”Alma 61:14
It’s interesting to note that words and swords are very similar. God speaks in scripture about His word being a two-edged sword. We must use words carefully. They are as powerful as a sword in either doing good or wickedness. They can cut through falsehoods and lies, but they can also cut down self-esteems and trust, if not wielded carefully and with the Spirit.
Moroni’s letter could have ostracized Pahoran or made an enemy of him. Instead, it inspired him to action. Pahoran asks Moroni to come to him speedily that they might retake the government and overthrow those dissenters of freedom. He’d been conflicted about whether or not to go up against his own brethren, but Moroni’s letter helped him know the answer. He once again tells Moroni to strengthen Teancum and Lehi in the Lord; “tell them to fear not, for God will deliver them, yea, and also all those who stand fast in the liberty wherewith God hath made them free.” (21)
To summarize Pahoran’s response to Moroni’s angry letter, I have made key points of Christlike response that we can practice in our own lives.
- He begins with empathy. “I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul.” (2) He acknowledges Moroni’s plight, his suffering. He doesn’t let himself be offended, as would be natural or justified. He tells Moroni that there are those who do joy in his tribulation though. Rebels have fought against him and the freemen in the capital city.
- He assigns Moroni (his accuser & judger) the benefit of righteous desires. “And now, in your epistle you have censored me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart. (9) How many contentions could be stopped before they begin with this kind of response? When people censor or judge, we can candidly tell them what they have done, but follow it up with, “but it mattereth not.” In the eternal scheme of things, it doesn’t matter what others say or do. What matters is how we react.
- He didn’t react with animosity. “I am not angry.” He chooses to let go of hurt feelings and inflammatory emotions that lead to contention. He rejoices in the greatness of Moroni’s heart. He chooses to attach good to his accusations, knowing Moroni isn’t seeking power.
- He states where he stands without pride or self-righteous justification. “I, Pahoran, do not seek for power, save only to retain my judgment seat that I may preserve the rights and the liberty of my people. My soul standeth fast in that liberty in the which God hath made us free.” (9) A proclamation of allegiance to assure Moroni they’re on the same side.
- He seeks a common goal. “Therefore, my beloved brother, Moroni, let us resist evil, and whatsoever we cannot resist without words, yea, such as rebellions and dissensions, let us resist them with our swords, that we may retain our freedom, that we may rejoice in the great privilege of our church and in the cause of our Redeemer and our God.” (14) Seeking common ground helps bring the Savior’s Spirit into relationships.
- He asks Moroni for help, to end this iniquity among their own people that’s causing such suffering. He thanks Moroni for his letter and tells him he was worried about what to do, hating the thought of killing his own people. But Moroni answered that worry by saying “Except they repent the Lord hath commanded you that ye should go against them.” (20)
When all the world around us is venting hate and spewing spite, let us work harder to respond with a Christlike response: empathy, love, nonjudgmental, calm reason, seeking common ground, and humility.
These things will bring us peace, even if the world is in commotion.