“Who is the enemy? There is no conflict in the Book of Mormon between the righteous and the wicked…it’s always when peoples are equally wicked that they collide.” – Hugh Nibley
One of the most important overarching questions that is on my mind and probably many others is, “what is the tipping point that the blessings we’ve enjoyed are turned to curses?” Basically how wicked does a nation need to be for judgments to be poured out upon the people? This question is one of the fundamental questions throughout scripture but I’m not going to pretend to know the answer to that. But that doesn’t mean we can’t identify things that move us toward (or beyond) the tipping point. In light of recent disturbing events I’ve been looking to scripture for these kinds of answers and I believe we can identify two more things that parallel the Nephites and what brought on their destruction. Two things that are very alarming.
The first issue is the morality of our military. I’ve spoken out about un just wars, wars of aggression that are clearly condemned in scripture but now lets look at the morality of the military itself, the soldiers. Before major battles during the revolutionary war, George Washington repeatedly called for days of fasting and prayer among the troops even counseling them to repent and ask for God’s forgiveness that we might gain his providential protection. General Washington understood that above all else, we needed God on our side to avoid destruction and it was that ability that tapped into the providential protection that achieved victory against all odds. It wasn’t simply the morality of the leaders but it also hinged on the morality of the soldiers themselves.
Now I believe that the majority of our soldiers are good moral people who deserve our deepest gratitude for their service. What concerns me isn’t them, it’s the minority that threatens to topple the whole complex. I refer to recent reports about the shocking widespread epidemic of sexual assaults. Here’s how wikipedia opens on the subject:
“There is an ongoing problem with sexual assault in the U.S. military which has received extensive media coverage in the past several years. A 2012 Pentagon survey found that approximately 26,000 women and men were sexually assaulted. Of those, only 3,374 cases were reported.”
That number 26,000 should put every American on their heels. That demonstrates to me a culture of immorality within and probably without the military that is very alarming. How does this affect the rest of Americans? Again, the scriptures have warned us of this very thing as we read in the book of Moroni. The situation at this time was the final last battle between the Lamanites and Nephites. This was the tipping point when the entire Nephite civilization was destroyed because they had turned away from God. This is what was going on in one part of their military:
“9 And notwithstanding this great abomination of the Lamanites, it doth not exceed that of our people in Moriantum. For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue—“
Mormon is detailing the things that caused great and terrible destructions to befall his people and one of those causes is rape perpetuated by the soldiers in Moriantum. We know the end of this story, the entire annihilation of the Nephite armed forces and the destruction of their entire civilization. So their downfall must be taken seriously and the causes, each one, must be recognized if we are to avoid the same fate.
The other event that I believe also plays a role in affecting the tipping point is the recent senate report detailing the torture program the CIA has been running at Guantonomo Bay and elsewhere in the “global war on terror.”
This report is so disturbing; it’s taken me several days of processing before I can even discuss it without being nauseated. I’m not going to go into details of the torture but simply state that in-humane treatment, and extreme methods of coercion and torture we’re used on individuals to obtain information. This was done without due process of law or even the a charge of a crime and the senate report found that many dozens of these torture victims we’re wrongly incarcerated and some we’re even tortured unto death. What makes this even more disturbing is that many people in our government and on television are defending these acts stating that the means justify the ends. And by supporting those politicians that take this position we are supporting the torture itself and are creating a culture for these evil practices to continue and grow.
If we continue reading in Moroni 9, Mormon describes where this path of desensitization leads:
“10 And after they had done this thing, they did murder them in a most cruel manner, torturing their bodies even unto death; and after they have done this, they devour their flesh like unto wild beasts, because of the hardness of their hearts; and they do it for a token of bravery.
11 O my beloved son, how can a people like this, that are without civilization—
12 (And only a few years have passed away, and they were a civil and a delightsome people)
13 But O my son, how can a people like this, whose delight is in so much abomination—
14 How can we expect that God will stay his hand in judgment against us?
I fear that if we condone torture than it will continue until we are “without civilization.” We must be a people of laws, just laws and live in accordance with those laws or we are no better than the enemies we despise, gratifying our own pride, murdering to get gain and blaspheming the name of God in the process.
Whether it’s the Nephites, the Jeradites or the children of Israel, the same principals apply. Serve God or be swept off the land. In the case of the Nephites, only a few years passed between the time when they we’re a civil and delightsome people before becoming a cruel wicked people. That’s the chilling part, “only a few years have passed away…” We live on the same land as the Nephites and Mormon’s fear was written that we might know what hangs over our heads:
“13…how can a people like this, whose delight is in so much abomination—
14 How can we expect that God will stay his hand in judgment against us?” – Mormon