Ether 14:2 and Moroni 1:4
These last chapters of The Book of Mormon are so sad. Entire civilizations are destroyed in the short space of a few years. The root cause of their destruction is loss of faith in Christ and failure to keep the commandments of God. One of the key failures: love thy neighbor. I am taking this lesson to heart as I have seen in my own life the destructive potential of turning my neighbor into my enemy.
This lesson really hit home as I remembered times in my life when I felt angry at people. Angry at my peers in school, angry at the young man in college who I knew I was perfect for but he didn’t return my feelings, and more. That anger inspired terrible thoughts and bitter feelings; nothing good came of it. The Jaredites as well as the Nephites and Lamanites took this to the extreme. “[T]hey have lost their love, one towards another; and they thirst after blood and revenge continually” (Moroni 9:5). These groups did terrible things to each other in the run-up to their destruction.
In contrast to the anger and wickedness that turns people into enemies, God inspires us to love each other, to be friends, to help each other, to lift each other’s burdens, to work together towards salvation. Moroni is a shining example of this kind of charity. In Moroni 1 he introduces his final writings by saying that the Lamanites are actively hunting down Nephites and believers. They put to death anyone who will not deny Christ so Moroni wanders “withersoever I can for the safety of mine own life” (Moroni 1:3). Despite this extreme hardship, Moroni decides to write “a few more things, that perhaps they may be of worth unto my brethren, the Lamanites, in some future day” (Moroni 1:4, emphasis added). The Lamanites literally want to kill Moroni and he is still concerned for the welfare of their souls and souls of their descendants.
This is what the Gospel of Jesus Christ points us toward: friendship, love, desire for the salvation of others. God wants us to love others––even our deadliest enemy––enough to labor for their salvation. Satan would turn us all to enemies. God wants us to share, be friends, serve one another, and experience joy together.
When I was a child, friendship became a sore point for me. I had trouble making and keeping friends. It seemed every friend I made at school eventually decided they would rather be friends with someone else. I did not have the worst or most lonely childhood, but I did often reflect on the nature of friendship and wondered if I would ever have enduring friendships outside of my family.
Friendship came to mind as I read Mosiah 21:30-32, in which the writer records a change of attitude toward Alma and his people. Alma and his followers had fled into the wilderness to escape King Noah and his goons. It is safe to say that Alma and his people had made themselves social outcasts by embracing the Gospel and entering the waters of baptism (the rest of their society was still wicked). It is also safe to say that Noah’s people were not friends with Alma’s people and they didn’t really care what happened to Alma’s group.
The change in attitude recorded in Mosiah 21 is striking. First we read that the envoys from King Mosiah feel sorrow for the loss of Alma and his people, “[y]ea they did mourn for their departure” (v. 31). Ammon’s group had never even met Alma! But because “they themselves had entered into a covenant with God” they “would have gladly joined with [Alma’s group].” Both Ammon’s group and Alma’s group had made covenants with God and it seems to me that Ammon’s group felt an immediate kinship with them. As I read verse 31, I felt that Limhi’s people were implicitly included in the kinship hinted at because “king Limhi had also entered into a covenant with God, and also many of his people” (v. 32).
I no longer worry so much about friendship, partly because I have discovered wonderful people to become friends with. But also because I have learned the power of covenant friendships. When I have lived and travel abroad I feel an immediate and close attachment to people I meet in whom I sense a deep commitment to God. Shared belief creates a foundation on which we build our friendship. My covenants lead me to try to see people as God sees them. I focus on service and Christ-like love. The shared experience of our faith knits our hearts together.