Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Is Offence Something that Is Given, or a Choice that We Make?

             My Come, Follow Me studies for this week took me to the “war chapters” in Alma 53-63. These chapters tell of numerous battles and miraculous miracles involving the 2000 Stripling Warriors, any of which would be a good topic to discuss. However, my thoughts went to a correspondence between Captain Moroni, the leader of the armies, and Pahoran, the chief judge.

            The armies were winning great battles, but they were suffering from lack of food, supplies, and reinforcements. Captain Moroni wrote an epistle to Pahoran, and he did not mince words in condemning him and accusing him of sitting on his throne in the capital city, while the armies on the boundaries of the nation are suffering.

6 And now behold, we desire to know the cause of this exceedingly great neglect; yea, we desire to know the cause of your thoughtless state.

7 Can you think to sit upon your thrones in a state of thoughtless stupor, while your enemies are spreading the work of death around you? Yea, while they are murdering thousands of your brethren –

8 Yea, even they who have looked up to you for protection, yea, have placed you in a situation that ye might have succored them, yea, ye might have sent armies unto them, to have strengthened them, and have saved thousands of them from falling by the sword.

9 But behold, this is not all – ye have withheld your provisions from them, insomuch that many have fought and bled out their lives because of their great desires which they had for the welfare of this people; yea, and this they have done when they were about to perish with hunger, because of your exceedingly great neglect towards them.

10 And now, my beloved brethren – for ye ought to be beloved; yea, and ye ought to have stirred yourselves more diligently for the welfare and the freedom of this people; but behold, ye have neglected them insomuch that the blood of thousands shall come upon your heads for vengeance; yea, for known unto God were all their cries, and all their sufferings –

11 Behold, could ye suppose that ye could sit upon your thrones, and because of the exceeding goodness of God ye could do nothing and he would deliver you? Behold, if ye have supposed this ye have supposed in vain (Alma 60:6-11).

            This is only a portion of Captain Moroni’s epistle to Pahoran, and it does not decrease in angry tone. Captain Moroni closed by telling Pahoran to send provisions and men to him and to Helaman. Otherwise, Captain Moroni will take a part of the army to the capital city and cleanse the inward vessel first.

            Pahoran received the epistle from Captain Moroni and wrote to him. Unknown to Captain Moroni, the king men had rebelled against the government, withheld provisions, and discouraged the freemen from joining the army. In fact, they had driven Pahoran out of Zarahemla, and he was in the land of Gideon.

            The epistle from Captain Moroni was an answer to Pahoran’s prayers because he did not know how to handle the insurrection. “I do joy in receiving your epistle, for I was somewhat worried concerning what we should do, whether it should be just in us to go against our brethren” (Alma 61:19). When he read Captain Moroni’s threat to fight the government, Pahoran understood what he should do. He told Captain Moroni to leave the army with Lehi and Teancum (Alma 61:21) and come to him with a small group of men.

Captain Moroni did as he was instructed and gathered thousands more men as he traveled to the capital city. The combined forces of the captain and the chief judge were enough to restore Pahoran to the judgment-seat. The leaders of the king-men were cast into prison, tried, and “executed according to the law” for treason and rebellion. In addition, any of their followers who would not “take up arms in the defence of their country, but would fight against it, were put to death” (Alma 62:9). Peace was restored to Zarahemla, and the government could act for the good of the country once again.

The best part of this story is contained in Pahoran’s reply to Captain Moroni’s angry epistle. “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).

Pahoran was in some difficult circumstances of his own, and he could have gotten angry and taken offense with Captain Moroni’s epistle. He did not. When he was censured, Pahoran had two choices – to take offence or to not take offence. He chose to do the latter because he could see the greatness of Moroni’s heart, and he knew that he was a good man who was concerned about the security of his people. Because Pahoran did not take offense, he was able to unite with Moroni and to overcome the rebellious part of the people.

I suggest that our circumstances are much like those of the Nephites. We have people in our nation who are deliberately attempting to destroy our government, and we have people who are “offended” by statues, monuments, Old Glory, and even the words we say. We can be instrumental in the healing of our nation by the way that act rather than react to life. We would all do well to follow the counsel given by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

When we believe or say that we have been offended, we usually mean we feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed, or disrespected. And certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else….

You and I cannot control the intentions or behavior of other people. However, we do determine how we will act. Please remember that you and I are agents endowed with moral agency, and we can choose not to be offended (“And Nothing Shall Offend Them,” Ensign, Nov. 2006, 90-91).

            In the same address, Elder Bednar gave further counsel for choosing to not take offence. He said that we should look to the Savior: “The Savior is the greatest example of how we should respond to potentially offensive events or situations” [see 1 Nephi 19:9]. He added that we should be understanding of others’ weaknesses: “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.” He concluded that we should communicate directly with the person: “If a person says or does something that we consider offensive, our first obligation is to refuse to take offense and then communicate privately, honestly, and directly with that individual. Such an approach invites inspiration from the Holy Ghost and permits misperceptions to be clarified and true intent to be understood” (Ensign, Nov. 2006, 89-92).

            Pahoran was obviously spiritually mature because he chose to not take offence. He was also courageous in that he discussed the situation with Captain Moroni. He explained his circumstances and the reasons why he had not sent provisions and additional men. Then he did something that showed his greatness to me. Instead of taking offence, he complimented Captain Moroni by referring to his greatness of heart. He knew Moroni well enough to know that he did not go around offending people. He saw through the angry words to Moroni’s concern for his country – and he rejoiced because Captain Moroni was such a good man.

We can all take a lesson from Pahoran as we follow the counsel of Elder Bednar. We can look past the angry words and into the heart of the other person. What is going on in their life that caused such an outburst from them? Can we find some way to strengthen them instead of reacting in anger? Can we forget our self and look for ways to help a fellow human being? The answer lies within us: We can judge our own spiritual maturity by gauging our reaction to offensive situations in our lives.

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