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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Unsung Heroes of the Book of Mormon

I have probably read the Book of Mormon cover to cover almost 20 times through now.  Something I have repeatedly noticed more with each time through is the value of those who are mentioned minimally but yet are powerful examples or types of Christ.  So to those who we don't talk about much, who never asked for attention but deserve it, this one's for you!  Lets get started!

Pahoran.  How else do I start this than by saying Pahoran demonstrated more patience than possibly any other person (except maybe Nephi son of Lehi) in the Book of Mormon aside from the Savior.  If you look in Alma chapter 60, Captain Moroni spends the entire chapter verbally thrashing Pahoran about things for which he was innocent.  He spews out several accusations that were unwarranted and flat out mean.  Now, take a look at what Pahoran says in the next chapter "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." WHOA!  It would have been so easy for Pahoran to say something even as non-aggressive as "I would really appreciate it if you would not jump to conclusions.  I am sad about your situation" and doesn't even do that!  We are told by the prophet Moroni that "charity is not easily provoked" and Pahoran exemplifies that fabulously!

Zoram.  Zoram had been living around, serving and working for Laban, a wicked, lazy, covetous man of high social status in Jerusalem.  When Nephi, a complete stranger to Zoram, comes to him disguised in his masters clothes, he doesn't seem to suspect anything.  What a surprise it must have been to him when he discovers that Nephi is not Laban.  He is suddenly struck with fear and tries to run, realizing for sure that Nephi has probably killed Laban and likely feels an urge to sound the alarm.  But what is even more surprising, and reflects Zoram's true character as well, is when Nephi tackles him and says, in summary "Look, you've been in bondage to Laban for too long.  Come with us and be free."

Remember, he doesn't have the slightest clue who Nephi is, has no idea where he will end up and is suddenly faced with a decision to either trust a complete stranger and leave his home and any family without a word, never to return, or to go back to his comfort zone where he has, as far as he knows, a much higher chance of survival.  He still chooses the former and goes with them having faith in only what Nephi has told him on the spot!  Talk about a pivotal moment of choice between faith and what is comfortable.  Because of Zoram's faith based choice to go with them, the civilization at the center of the history of the Book of Mormon was not pursued or destroyed and today we have that many more beautiful stories of the power of the Lord and His ability to heal and save us.

Lamoni's wife. This lady, by Ammon's own admission, showed more faith than any Nephite during her time.  Similar to Zoram, she had been living and comfortable with wicked traditions of Lamanites her whole life.  Then Ammon comes along and, through kindness and service, convinces Lamoni to listen to the gospel and He is converted and becomes what appears to his people as dead, but is in more of a catatonic state, though Ammon knows better.  So when this woman, who is so unfamiliar with what Ammon has been teaching their people, hears a promise from a Nephite, someone they have been taught to hate, that her husband will rise the next day, it really is a miraculous decision of faith that she believes him.  I think that is a fantastic example, by the way, of what having the Spirit with us can do to persuade even those who hate us.

No wonder Ammon said "Blessed art thou because of thy exceeding faith; I say unto thee, woman, there has not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites."  He is saying that about a queen whose people had been a blood thirsty, violent, indolent society!  To me, this is a HUGE example of faith in the Lord's servants and is a great example for us to follow!  She ends up, with her husband, facilitating the transformation of their people into a virtuous, Christ-like people who end up being more pure in heart than most of the entire Nephite civilization when all is said and done with that part of the Book of Mormon.  Clearly, this woman is awesome!

Abish.  She is one of the best examples of quiet but amazingly strong faith in the Savior I know of in the scriptures.  Her situation is slightly similar to Zoram and Lamoni's wife, but with a significant difference.  Though she spent most of her life living among the debased traditions of the Lamanites, Mormon mentions that her father had been converted to the Lord years before Ammon ever got there.  She had been living in a society where EVERYONE else - seriously, EVERYONE else (as far as we know), around her was indulging in destructive traditions and yet she stayed faithful to the Lord, confidently and quietly, waiting patiently for the Lord to work His miracles among her people.  This serves as a classic reason why the Book of Mormon was written for our day.  There are still millions of people, unable to openly, safely practice Christianity because of those who are being used as the devil's puppets to try and stop or slow the Lord's work.  Obviously they will not win in the end and Christ will overcome all, but Abish is a great example to those who are going through the same situation.  She was at least important enough for Mormon to mention her by name.

Zeezrom.  There is a reason repentance is emphasized so much in the Book of Mormon and I have a feeling that Mormon told the story of Zeezrom in order to emphasize the cleansing and transforming effect the Spirit of God can have on anyone, even apostates from Ammonihah.  Zeezrom was a citizen of the said city and was a prominent lawyer in the area, expert in the craft of language and manipulation.  The miracle of his story is the transformation that took place.  He tried hard to manipulate the words of Alma and Amulek but, of course, they had the Lord with them and he was confounded.  Zeezrom was caught in his flagrant dishonesty and manipulation and was convinced of the power of God, but, so he thought, possibly too late.  He tried to amend the mistake he made but the crowd rejected him and he fled, seeking to repent of his sins, but by that time the people were dead set against Alma and Amulek and put them in prison.

Zeezrom was so tormented by his fear that they were going to kill them because of his mistake that he had become quite ill and was close to death when he heard, later on, that they were not dead and were in Sidom, where he he fled.  They had been delivered by the power of God.  Naturally, upon hearing of this he sends for them and they heal him.  Similar to Alma the younger, after his repentance, he turns to the work of the Lord and many chapters later, assists in future efforts to reclaim the apostate Zoramites in Antionum.  It has been said that every verse, every last word of the Book of Mormon is there for a reason, to teach us something.  Obviously, Mormon saw Zeezrom's story as important enough to include.

Zeniff.  After Nephi (the first one) separated his people from the Lamanites originally, they were told by the Lord to go even further and they ended up finding the people of Zarahemla and the last of the Mulekites.  Well, one of Zeniff's friends wanted to go back in inherit the land of Nephi where they had first gone after separating from the Lamanites and there was a huge fight about how to go about it and they came back to Zarahemla.  Zeniff, by his own admission, was overzealous to reinherit that land.  But when the group he was with fought, once again wanting to attack and just try to take them over, Zeniff says "but when I saw that which was good among them I was desirous that they should not be destroyed" and makes a treaty instead.  He was able to see the good in a people who hated his and make every attempt possible at peaceful negotiation.  What a great example of "love your enemies."

Gideon.  Oh man I love this guy!  He is awesome. When the Lamanites had attacked and taken over the land of Nephi where wicked king Noah (son of Zeniff) had reigned, Gideon was a major contributor to helping piece things back together and making peace with the Lamanites as well as delivering them (Nephites) from bondage later.  After they returned to Zarahemla he was martyred by Nehor for standing for the truth.  In doing so he sealed his testimony with his blood, making him, in my eyes, a great type of Christ.

Zenos and Zenock.  These two prophets are mentioned in a few places.  There may not be specific experiences or stories included about them, but the fact that one or the other (or both) are quoted by Nephi son of Lehi, Jacob, Alma the Younger, Nephi son of Helaman and Mormon in their testimonies of the Savior, some of them multiple times, tells me that they were fantastic Christ-like examples.  Why else would multiple other prophets use their testimonies to emphasize their own?

Aminadab.  He's only mentioned once, but, once again, the fact that he's mentioned by name by Mormon means, to me, that we need to pay attention to him.  When Nephi and Lehi (sons of Helaman) went to preach repentance to Lamanites in the land of Nephi, they were put in prison.  After many days they went to kill Nephi and Lehi while they were in prison and were shocked to find out that they were "encircled about as if by fire" and given divine protection.  The prison shook at their words and everyone fell, paralyzed by fear and darkness surrounded them as Nephi and Lehi began speaking with angels.  Of all these wicked Lamanites, one, who was actually an apostate Nephite, Aminabab, noticed the light around Nephi and his brother through the darkness and called everyone's attention to it.

All of the sudden everyone is super eager to figure out what is going on and how to get out of this terrible darkness (in all ways imaginable).  This is where Aminadab shines.  He remembers what he was taught in his youth, realizes what must be done and all of the sudden goes into missionary mode.  He says "You must repent, and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom; and when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you."  Bam!  What a huge change!  Because of Aminadab's invitation, they did exactly as he said and "the cloud of darkness was dispersed from overshadowing them, behold, they saw that they were encircled about, yea every soul, by a pillar of fire."  Many more miracles followed.

Jesus Christ.

Whoa!  Hold the phone!  Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, an unsung hero?!  How dare I say that?!

Ok maybe I'll amend that to undersung hero.  Jack R. Christianson was right when he said "most of the world doesn't care about coming to Christ".  Even many Christian's today, though they have good intentions, don't truly understand the role of our Redeemer in our lives and I, of course, am still on my way to understanding as completely as I want to.  I should say undersung hero because He still does not get the recognition and respect He deserves from mankind as a whole.  Nearly every Christian value or standard is being torn down, fought against, hated, misunderstood, unknown or feared by most of the world's population.  Christ and his followers have been the subject of more unjust ridicule and mockery than any other being who ever lived on this planet at the hands of those who disagree with or misunderstand Him and His gospel.

Yet He loves every last one of us with an infinite love that can never be dimmed, snuffed out or diminished in even the most minute conceivable way.  He is the Alpha, the Omega, the Light and the Life of the world, the Only Begotten Son of God, our Elder Brother and our Friend.  No one deserves more praise, honor and veneration than He does and yet no one else has ever been treated the exact opposite as much as He has.

As for me and my family, He is and will always be the most central figure and the most influential person for us for this life and all throughout the eternities.  He is always welcome and He needs to be more welcome, more loved, more obeyed, more sought than anyone else by everyone who ever has, does or will live in all of God's family.

I know He loves me I love Him and look forward to the day when He comes again, and this time it won't be in the lowly circumstances of His birth.

It will be as the most hailed, honored and loved being on earth, the way it should be.