I recently taught the war chapters (Alma 43-63) in Gospel Doctrine in my ward, and as I prepared, I thought how these chapters parallel our day. We live in a time when it is difficult to discern between truth and error. There are forces at work attempting to eradicate a belief in God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, the sanctity of the family, as well as proper moral conduct. The Saints of God are at war. Instead of examining whether or not specific wars are justified or not, we likened the war chapters to our fight against the adversary and his messages.
Alma 43:29 and 47 are interesting verses. In these verses, we read that Captain Moroni “knew the intention of the Lamanites” and that he, “perceiv(ed) their intent”. How great would it be if we could have this ability!
We read of a similar circumstance in Matthew in the New Testament. The wise men learn that they are not to reveal the location of the Christ child to Herod. Later, Herod reveals his true intent when he kills all the children that were in Bethlehem (Matt 2:16). This is an issue that relates to all of us, whether old or young. Teenagers all relate with a time when they were deceived. Some deceptions have long lasting consequences!
Much of the material in Alma 43-63 deal with the idea that we do live in a “fog of war”. There are king men that vie for our support in these chapters, issues dealing with keeping of covenants (think of the people of Ammon – they could have made a case for rejecting their covenants in their circumstances, but stayed true), questions of fidelity, what to do with those guilty of treason, etc. I asked this question in class, “In our world today, it is difficult to know what is really right. There are those that would erode our resolve to be and choose good. How are we to know which way is right when we live in the fog of war? The answers the members of my ward shared were excellent. Here is a sampling:
1. Will the idea presented lead you to do good?
2. Do the ideas/beliefs set forth persuade you to believe in Jesus Christ?
3. Does the message square with the Standard Works?
4. Is the message endorsed by the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency?
5. Are the ideas presented “anti-family?” If it is anti-family, then it is anti-Christ. Sister Julie Beck, General Relief Society President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stated:
“Anti-Christ is anti-family. Any doctrine or principal they hear from the world that is anti-family is also anti-Christ. It’s that clear. They need to know. If it’s anti-family, it’s anti-Christ. And anti-Christ is anti-family. (An address to Seminary and Institute Teachers, 4 August 2009)
I thought these suggestions helped clarify what we as Latter-day Saints should support. In a world filled with mixed messages, with good being called evil and evil good, it can be so confusing to know who is right and who is wrong. If only we could be more like Moroni, having the ability to discern the intent of those around us!
I really liked this message from Andy Andrews. In his book entitled, “How do you kill 11 million people?” he asks how it is that leaders are able to perpetuate horrible acts against their own people (insert Herod, Zerahemna, Amalickiah here). I found his message to be thought provoking and share a small excerpt for his book here:
Only a clear understanding of the answer to this question and the awareness of an involved populace can prevent history from continuing to repeat itself as it already has, time and again. To be absolutely clear, the method a government employs in order to do the actual killing is not in question. We already know the variety of tools used to accomplish mass murder.
Neither do we need to consider the mind-set of those deranged enough to conceive and carry out a slaughter of innocents. History has provided ample documentation of the damage done to societies by megalomaniacal psychopaths or sociopaths. What we need to understand is how eleven million people allow themselves to be killed.
Obviously, that is an oversimplification, but think with me here… if a single terrorist begins to shoot automatic weapons in a movie theater containing three hundred people, the lone gunman couldn’t possibly kill all three hundred. Why? Because when the shooting started, most of the crowd would run. Or hide. Or fight…
So why, for month after month and year after year, did millions of intelligent human beings – guarded by a relatively few Nazi soldiers – willingly load their families into tens of thousands of cattle cars to be transported by rail to one of the many death camps scattered across Europe? How can a condemned group of people headed for a gas chamber be compelled to act in a docile manner? The answer is breathtakingly simple. And it is a method still being used by some elected leaders to achieve various goals today. How do you kill eleven million people? Lie to them.
According to testimony provided under oath by witnesses to the Nuremburg Trials (including specific declarations made in court on January 3, 1946, by former SS officers), the act of transporting the Jews to death camps posed a particular challenge for the man who had been named operational manager of the Nazi genocide. Adolf Eichmann, known as “The Master,” was directed by written order in December 1941 to implement the Final Solution.
Eichmann went about the task as if he were the president of a multinational corporation. He set ambitious goals, recruited enthusiastic staff, and monitored the progress. He charted what worked and what didn’t and changed policy accordingly. Eichmann measured achievement in quotas filled. Success was rewarded. Failure was punished.
An intricate web of lies, to be delivered in stages, was designed to ensure the cooperation of the condemned (but unknowing) Jews. First, as barbed-wire fences were erected, encircling entire neighborhoods, Eichmann or his representatives met with Jewish leaders to assure them that the physical restrictions being placed upon their community (in what later became known as ghettos) were only temporary necessities of war. As long as they cooperated, he told them, no harm would come to those inside the fence.
Second, bribes were taken from the Jews in the promise of better living conditions. The bribes convinced the Jews that the situation was indeed temporary and that no further harm would befall them. After all, they reasoned, why would the Nazis accept bribes if they only intend to kill us and take everything anyway? These first two stages of deception were conducted to prevent uprisings or even escape.
Finally, Eichmann would appear before a gathering of the entire ghetto. Accompanied by an entourage of no more than thirty local men and officers of his own- many unarmed- he addressed the crowd in a strong, clear voice. According to sworn statements, these were very likely his exact words:
“Jews: At last, it can be reported to you that the Russians are advancing on our eastern front. I apologize for the hasty way we brought you into our protection. Unfortunately, there was little time to explain. You have nothing to worry about. We want only the best for you. You will leave here shortly and be sent to very fine places indeed. You will work there, your wives will stay at home, and your children will go to school. You will have wonderful lives. We will all be terribly crowded on the trains, but the journey is short. Men? Please keep your families together and board the railcars in an orderly manner. Quickly now, my friends, we must hurry!”
The Jewish husbands and fathers were relieved by the explanation and comforted by the fact that they weren’t more armed soldiers. They helped their families into the railcars. The containers, designed to transport eight cows, were packed with a minimum of one hundred human beings and quickly padlocked.
At that moment they were lost. The trains rarely stopped until well inside the gates of Auschwitz. Or Belzec. Or Sobidor. Or Treblinka…
A list drawn up by the German Ministry in 1967 names more than 1,100 concentration camps and subcamps accessible by rail. The Jewish Virtual Library says, “It is estimated that the Nazis established 15,000 camps in the occupied countries.”
And that is how you kill eleven million people. Lie to them. (How Do You Kill 11 Million People? Andy Andrews, p. 19-29)