Sunday, July 20, 2014

3 Nephi 3:6-8 -- On Compromise and Genocide

"Therefore I write unto you, desiring that ye would yield up unto this my people, your cities, your lands, and your possessions, rather than that they should visit you with the sword and that destruction should come upon you.
Or in other words, yield yourselves up unto us, and unite with us and become acquainted with our secret works, and become our brethren that ye may be like unto us—not our slaves, but our brethren and partners of all our substance.
And behold, I swear unto you, if ye will do this, with an oath, ye shall not be destroyed; but if ye will not do this, I swear unto you with an oath, that on the morrow month I will command that my armies shall come down against you, and they shall not stay their hand and shall spare not, but shall slay you, and shall let fall the sword upon you even until ye shall become extinct."
3 Nephi 3:6-8

This is part of a letter from the leader of the Gadianton Robbers to Lachoneus, who was the leader of the Nephites at the time.  What is interesting to me here is that he basically asks Lachoneus to turn over everything, and give up the country to them.  The robbers have a lot of people on their side, and they are big enough and organized enough to make the threat... but right there in the middle, between demanding everything that they have, and threatening them with extinction, he tells them that if they just give up and become like them that they won't have to be slaves.  They can be brothers.
Now, obviously, if the leader of a pack of murderers offers to be your brother, you might want to run in the other direction... and Lachoneus, wisely, doesn't fall for it.  The idea though, here, is one that I think can be confusing because it is a parody of God's way and mimics the unity of an ideal society.  Join with us, become part of our family.  Isn't that also what God asks us to do?  The difference is, I think, that God isn't holding a gun to our heads.  Although the "threat" of hell might be seen as similar, if we ignore the whole we-choose-our-own-consequences part... it's still a lot farther off and gives people room to make other choices, unlike the real threat of genocide here.  ... The robber's offer confuses us in some ways because it is part of the plot of a lot of horror or hostage negotiation movies.  Do what I say, work for my goals, or I will kill people.  And in those movies we think ... wow, they don't have a choice.  It is better to do the things that the bad people ask for than risk your family, or the lives of hostages, or even just your own life.  Maybe we feel the same way.  If someone threatens our family, it's better to go along with it.  ... But I think, here in this chapter, and generally in our lives, God shows us that it *isn't* better.
Lachoneus was scared, and rightfully so.  The Gadianton Robbers had the motivation and the power to destroy the people... all of them.  But instead of negotiating with them, he went to the people.  He told them to gather up everything they cared about and move... all gather in one place.  They built huge fortifications, they did everything they could physically, and Lachoneus also told them "As the Lord liveth, except ye repent of all your iniquities, and cry unto the Lord, ye will in nowise be delivered out of the hands of those Gadianton robbers."  He knew their *only* hope of survival (without becoming murderers themselves) was in God, and instead of suggesting moral compromise, they went to God.  They all repented.  They were understandably motivated.  ... And in the end, God delivered them.  It wasn't easy, for sure.  It was really, really hard, and they were incredibly worried and frightened.  But it was *right.*
Today, let's not buy into the horror movie view of the world.  Let's not ever believe that we have no choice but to do bad things.  We always have a choice.  When we are faced with that kind of a decision, let's always choose God.  He can deliver us, "but if not" (Daniel 3:18)... even if he chooses not to in that moment... standing up for what we believe is still the right answer.

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