I’d like to share one of those stories with you today. It comes from only a few verses of the Book of Mormon, and some of the verses are separated by hundreds of pages, but I’ve learned something really valuable from it and I hope you will too.
As Sunstone mentioned a couple weeks ago, the Book of Mormon begins with the story of a prophet, Lehi, who flees Jerusalem with his family and makes his way to the New World. Shortly after leaving Jerusalem, God tells Lehi to send his sons, Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi, back to Jerusalem to convince a local leader to give them one of his books, which contains a record of Lehi’s ancestors as well as the writings of earlier prophets.
After a couple failed attempts and a few adventures, Nephi ends up disguising himself as this leader and convinces the leader’s servant, Zoram, to turn the book over to him. Eventually Zoram figures out what is going on, panics, and starts to run off. Nephi, who describes himself as “large in stature,” pins Zoram down, explains to him what is going on, and offers him a chance to accompany the family on their journey. Although Nephi makes it clear that Zoram does not have a choice in the matter, he also makes it clear that Zoram will be treated as a free man and an equal among Lehi’s family. Despite an obviously rocky start to their relationship, Nephi and Zoram become close friends, brothers-in-law, and allies when Lehi’s family starts to split up.
Although other groups come to the New World, Lehi and his family are later remembered as the “founding fathers” of their civilization, and the people distinguish themselves based on from whom they are descended: Nephites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, and even Zoramites. In fact, the only other mention of Nephi’s friend in the entire Book of Mormon is by a man who is proud to be a descendant of Zoram. However, this man wants to tell Zoram’s story in a very different way.
The man’s name is Ammoron, and he is a political dissident who, after a failed coup at home, abandons his nation for that of its enemies. He and his brother come to power in that nation and begin waging a war against their home country, determined to seize power one way or another. At one point during the war, Ammoron is corresponding with one of the generals he is fighting against and signs his letter in a peculiar way (emphasis added):
I am Ammoron, and a descendant of Zoram, whom your fathers pressed and brought out of Jerusalem.
Ammoron paints Zoram’s history in such a way that implies that Nephi tied him up and led him like a slave out of Jerusalem. He asserts that Zoram had been wronged and that Ammoron, by extension, has also been wronged by Nephi and his descendants. Now, the Book of Mormon makes it clear that Nephi may have treated Zoram harshly the first time he met him, but it also makes it clear that Nephi and Zoram’s relationship is not defined by that first meeting, but by the powerful friendship that the two shared later in life.
The enemies of God enjoy doing what Ammoron has just done. They take the facts and twist them to their advantage. Sometimes they ignore certain facts, sometimes they create others. Sometimes they rearrange the facts, sometimes they take them out of context. The doctrines and principles of Christ’s gospel and the history of Christ’s church will be twisted and deformed by those who refuse to see its beauty. We, as disciples of Jesus Christ have a responsibility to clearly, boldy, and repeatedly testify of the truths of His gospel so that the world can distinguish between pure truth and perverted falsehoods.
What disturbs me most about Ammoron’s argument is that he doesn’t bother to justify his claim. He spends no more than one sentence making his case, relying on the false principle that saying makes it so. Has this ever happened to you? It certainly has happened to me. There are many people in this world that believe that by stating a falsehood in a certain way, they are putting its validity beyond question. This deepens our responsibility as witnesses of truth. The Book of Mormon also testifies that:
[B]y the power of the Holy Ghost [we] may know the truth of all things.
God Himself is willing to testify of the truth if we live and testify in such a way that will invite the Holy Ghost. We do not have to pretend that saying something makes it so. In fact, when we call upon the powers of heaven and bear pure testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, those who listen will know, whether they accept it or not, that God has said it, and thus, it is so.