My favourite chapter in all scripture has to be Moroni 7. And my least favourite has always been Moroni 9. This week's Come Follow Me readings contain both and here I am, writing about Moroni 9. It's because I've learned something really important here this week. Something that last week's promptings about mighty prayer opened my heart to learn, and that I need to remember.
Moroni 9 is a painful read now, as it was when Mormon wrote it. At the time, he feared that the horrifying glimpse he was giving into the depraved depths to which his people had fallen might weigh down his faithful son "unto death." Yet, for some reason, the information needed to be shared. By way of prelude, though, he wrote the following, "And now, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God" (9:6).
What kind of labor could Mormon and Moroni do among a people who turned a deaf ear to the gospel when preached with the voice of invitation, but responded to pointed correction with rage? They had lost their fear of death and their ability to feel affection. They'd become obsessed with revenge and bloodlust. What labor could mere mortals do for people who were hardened to the point that it seemed the Spirit had ceased striving with them (9:4-5)?
Mormon provides the answer in his earlier letter, recorded in Moroni 8:28. "Pray for them, my son, that repentance may come unto them." He couldn't recommend them to God (9:21) or pray for them to be forgiven because their sins were of the sort that caused the blood of innocents to cry unto the Lord for judgment (9:15). But he could and needed to pray for them to have opportunities and experiences that could lead them to repent.
What I learn from the traumatizing details recorded in the rest of the chapter is this: a disciple of Jesus Christ does not give up on another's potential for repentance. Even if they are doing unthinkable things. Even if their destruction is prophesied (2 Nephi 26:9-10; 3 Nephi 27:32) and unfolding before our eyes. And not only do we not get to decide that another is past reclaiming, but we also have a responsibility to continue praying mightily in their behalf.
We don't give up because, "if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation." Even if our mighty prayers don't seem to have any impact at all on those we pray for, they impact us... because malice is toxic and contagious and that's our vaccination against it.
So, how does one pray mightily for someone who poses a threat to us or others, and for whom it's hard to feel hope?
Last week, I learned that a large part of praying mightily is getting my heart in the right place. I need to get free of rancour and every vestige of disdain that I'm tempted to feel. I need to want the person I'm praying for to repent so that they can be blessed.
This week, I learned that I can't feel that way about an adversary if I'm rehearsing their offences toward me to my friends.
That doesn't mean that it's never okay to share an interpersonal conflict with a third party. Sometimes, I need an outside perspective to help me figure out how to respond to the situation faithfully. And sometimes, I need to share a personal story to help somebody else find their way forward. But sharing because I'm feeling indignant, offended or outraged, because I want someone else to witness the offence and to justify my superior feelings toward my adversary, that's destructive and it does damage to my relationship with God. If I listen, the Spirit lets me know the difference. And if I'm willing to sacrifice my need for vindication, the Lord can grant me the charity that will make me capable of mighty prayer.
Will it make a difference?
Without question, yes. It will make a difference in whom I become. And I deeply believe that it can eventually make a difference in the life of the one for whom I pray. Maybe not now. Maybe not even while they walk upon the Earth. But, if the mighty prayers of Lehi, Nephi and Enos have effect thousands of years hence in the bringing forth of the Book of Mormon, then it seems entirely probable that mighty prayer might have efficacy even beyond the veil of death.
I believe that Mormon's and Moroni's prayers were effective that way, and that if I can learn to love like they did, mine can be too. That's what I'm reaching after with the following poem.
Warrior of Mercy: Mormon's Prayer
Forgive them Lord. No, for that I cannot pray Or Justice would be turned upon its head. I've loved them Lord. Not long ago, their deeds Were goodly; now they're rank and foul instead. Each time I seek Thy word for some direction I'm assailed by prophecies of coming doom. I seek to practice faith, unleash Thy power. I kneel and all I feel for them is gloom. My war-torn soul recoils from connection With bloodied hand, with sick and savage mind. But then, I see a glimmer of some goodness And Hope leaps up, yet even Hope's not blind To so much squandered Grace, such stubborn evil. Can I deny the writing on the wall? Am I just to stand an idle witness? Do nothing as I watch my people fall?
No. Here to be a warrior of Thy mercy, I took this burden on before my birth. I volunteered for duty that was grueling. I came to make a difference on this Earth. I will not ever yield to the Devourer. He can't have me. He can't have these that fall. Countless tortuous wounds have tied me to them. That makes them mine, and I give Thee my all. There is no pit so deep Thy light can't pierce it, No willing soul that Thou canst not make well. If Justice does indeed demand damnation Then, let my memory follow them to Hell, And when they see their lusts in glaring scarlet And when they see their deeds in smothered black, And face forever choking down self-loathing, Then let that memory gently call them back. Remind them of the good they saw reflected In what I glimpsed and chose to hope they'd do. It wasn't that I failed to see their darkness But potential underneath was also true.
Lord, teach me now to serve as faithful witness Of Thee, Thy constant love, redeeming grace. Help me find that distance from their madness That lets me carry Hope upon my face That it may have some power then to reach them And lead them to the pathway out of Hell. Then, if they turn t'ward love that suffered for them, They turn to Thee, and Thou wilt make them well.