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Moroni's War on Addiction


I'll never forget the sick, helpless feeling I had when it became undeniably clear my son was
using heroin.
We live in a nice Utah Valley neighborhood and are surrounded by families whose children serve
missions, go to college and marry in the temple. We expected all of our children would do the
same. My wife and I were married in the temple. We love our Savior. We built our family around
the Gospel and worked hard to repent of our own sins and live as well as we know how.
The problems began small. In middle school Paul was caught with marijuana in his locker and
suspended from school. At first it felt like a punch to the gut, but realizing we had both made
dumb mistakes in our lives we reconciled ourselves to our children's opportunity to choose their
own dumb mistakes. We committed ourselves to facing whatever twists and turns their lives
presented us—even if their sins were different than ours had been.
Then things got worse. Over the next few years deceit and theft became more frequent. When
Paul began to complain of headaches we took him to doctor after doctor. Even powerful migraine
prescriptions seemed to give him no relief from the symptoms he claimed to have. He began
sleeping longer and longer—which at first we attributed to his attempt to get relief from the
headaches. We didn't see any of the usual signs of addiction so we continued to take him at his
word about his problems and behavior.

Then one cool fall night as my wife and I were at a soccer game for one of our other children, one
of our daughters called in a panic. She had surprised Paul in his room in the act of using heroin.
He was strung out and incoherent. She had yelled at him. The scene was awful for her—he
screamed and pleaded with her not to tell us promising he would never use again. She didn't
want him to run away so she lied to him—agreeing to keep it a secret. Even years later, I can still
hear her sobbing, whispering voice in the phone telling me what she saw.

As I drove from the soccer field to our house my arms felt limp. My insides felt like molten lead
and my mind ran from one confused, helpless and panicked thought to another. How could this be
true? Why would he do this? Is his life ruined forever? How in the world will I deal with it all?

It has now been five years. In that time we've been through an exhausting marathon of emotions—ups and
downs, hopes and despairs. All told Paul has spent over a year in various recovery programs. He's
spent about four of the past 48 months in jail. He's gone through long periods with no family
contact. We've had warm and wonderful reunions—scarce moments of hope which set us up for
the crushing pain of disappointment. I remember holding him one day in his bedroom as he
sobbed in my arms after an interview with his stake president. After weeks of counseling with his
priesthood leaders this fine leader told him under the inspiration of the Spirit that he was forgiven.
He wept and wept and I knew in that moment what Nephi meant when he said of Laman and
Lemuel, “I had joy and great hopes of them, that they would walk in the paths of righteousness.”
Within two weeks he had relapsed and left home.
We've probably approached this challenge the way most parents do. We studied, prayed, and
counseled with everyone we could find. We devoured books, articles and web resources--we
studied like a life depended on it. Because it did.
In our pursuit of wisdom, I had a few advantages because of the work I do. I was able to talk to
renowned scholars on addiction recovery. I read some of the most respected books on the topic. I
visited with the founder of one of the most effective recovery programs in the world. And while I
learned a great deal about the psychology of recovery from these good people, I remained
convinced that the problem is fundamentally a spiritual one. I became more and more convinced
that chemical addictions are, in principle, no different from any habitual sin. So while studying the
work of scholars I began a careful study of the work of prophets. I scoured the scriptures to learn all
I could about spiritual principles for assisting others in the grip of awful sin.
Then about a year ago I struck gold. I was reading the Book of Mormon with this challenge in
mind. I enjoyed the familiar chapters of first Nephi. I hunkered down to digest the Isaiah chapters
in 2nd Nephi. And when I got to the engaging book of Alma I noticed how much I was looking
forward to the Captain Moroni chapters.
I've always wondered why Mormon--who had to condense 1000 years of history into 500 pages--
dedicated 17 precious chapters to a bunch of battles. Don't get me wrong—I've always enjoyed
those chapters. But I guess I never quite got their spiritual significance. So I secretly suspected they
might have been Mormon's marketing ploy to help sell the book to 12-year old boys. The rest of
the book of Alma made complete sense. Numerous chapters on missionary work—demonstrating
the power of the word in changing the world. Then poignant advice to Alma's sons. Then all of
these battles.
Then the revelation came.
Amalickiah's Offer
As I was reading Chapter 46 I found a key that unlocked the seventeen action-packed warfare
chapters. And as they unfolded, I became increasingly convinced that Mormon wasn't
marketing, he was teaching. Having seen our day, he invested a substantial amount of his literary
capital to teach us how to battle an enemy that would reign with blood and horror in our time. He
knew that Satan would invade not with armies but with addictions.
In verse 3 we first meet Amalickiah, who is described as “a large and strong man.” He is a man who
wants only one thing—to be king. His goal is absolute power. He wants to subject everyone to
himself. Amalickiah, I realized, is Satan. To accomplish his goal, he makes the Nephites an offer
that sounds eerily familiar.
He says, in essence, “I'll make a deal with you. You all have lusts and desires that you want
gratified. You want power, a feeling of freedom. You want fun. I can give you all that. All you have
to do is let me rule over you. I'll give you a little bit of power so long as you surrender your agency
to me. Let me be your king and I'll give you what you want right now.”
That's when it hit me. That's how he puts everyone into bondage. That's how every addiction begins
and how every sin begins to control us. He zeroes in on our weaknesses—our rebellion, laziness,
insecurity, jealousy, loneliness—you name it. And he offers immediate gratification of that
weakness. All we have to do is agree to be his slave. We make an implicit pact that in exchange for
some pleasure we'll give up some of our agency. We'll make him our king. And by
the time we find the pleasure inevitably diminished we already have too little remaining agency to
escape on our own power. He has consolidated his position, reinforced his authority, and made
overthrowing him virtually impossible. As Mosiah taught, once a tyrant becomes king, he cannot
be dethroned without “the shedding of much blood.”1
So the first key to unlocking these chapters is understanding that Amalickiah is Satan. His offer is
to swap pleasure for bondage.
I began to employ this key. As I did, these seventeen chapters unfolded naturally. I began to see
clearly how we succumb to addictions. I could see the tremendous effort required to regain
freedom. I found keen insight into principles for regaining liberty from bondage. I read so much
that seemed perfectly designed for addicts attempting to get their lives back.
But then I read things that made me suspect these chapters were not written primarily for the
addict. I concluded they were written for the helper. I felt blessed to discover that the protagonist in
the complex drama is me. It is not the individual addict but the person trying to deliver someone
from ambivalence about their own bondage. What Mormon gave us is a character who loves the
Nephites (the sometime addicts) and is trying to save them from themselves.
He gave us Moroni.
Now I know I'm not alone in saying Moroni has always been a hero to me. But now I began to see
why Mormon gave him not only seventeen chapters but his own son as a namesake. Captain
Moroni is every parent, friend or loved one who has tried to help someone get out of the bondage
they sold themselves into. He is the righteous but imperfect savior figure. Mormon admires him
deeply. Mormon wants us to pay very close attention to Moroni because: “if all men had been, and
were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken
forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.” 2
I always thought this last statement meant that if I were more like Moroni, the Devil would leave me
alone. But now I discovered a second meaning—that if I was more like Moroni, the Devil would
have no power over the hearts of those I love. Moroni does not spend time showing us how he
got himself free of bondage—he teaches us how he helped others do it. He shows us how to
participate in the redemption of our own children.
But even while Mormon extols Moroni's virtues, he reminds us that you needn't be perfect to be a
savior. He lets us know Moroni was powerful, but imperfect. In the midst of massive abridging,
Mormon leaves plenty in the story to show us Moroni has some really bad days. For example, in a
fit of anger he breaks his agreement with Amalickiah3 In another angry moment he rips into poor
Pahoran (“Can you think to sit upon your thrones in a state of thoughtless stupor?”4)

Mosiah 29:21
Alma 48:17
In Alma 54:20 Moroni agrees to exchange prisoners with no other stipulations. After receiving Ammoron's
hypocritical and shockingly deceitful response Moroni is furious and reneges on the deal—adding the stipulation
that Ammoron must surrender before Moroni will exchange prisoners.
Alma 60:7
There's even a hint that Moroni's decision to liberate prisoners of war from Gid led to
Ammoron's policy of executing women, children and low-value captives in the future.5
It's hard to adequately describe the endowment of hope I received when I realized that I could
qualify to be my son's Moroni. I didn't have to be perfect. I could lose my temper once or twice.
I could even make a wrong decision now and again. Apparently Moroni's “perfect
understanding”6 did not preclude mistakes.
To be a Moroni, we need to be strong. Now, I've had many, many weak days. But I know from
five years of torment with my son that remaining emotionally vulnerable in the lives of errant
children is an exalting experience. It is a Gethsemane. And like Gethsemane did for Christ, it
endows us with the strength we need to participate in their salvation. I've gained that strength as
I've willingly stayed in Gethsemane for my son. I am stronger today than I was five years ago and
I know that strength is helping me fight more effectively for his freedom.
To be a Moroni, our final qualification is an eternal commitment to the “liberty and the freedom of
his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery.”7 My son is sealed to me. I will not breach
that sealing. I am eternally committed.
Moroni was unconditionally committed to fighting for his brethren. So am I. Moroni had a
perfect understanding of the Gospel principles involved with delivering others from bondage.
Thanks to Mormon, so can I. Moroni lead a thirteen-year effort to deliver the often ambivalent
Nephites out of the bondage they created. I accept that my work with Paul may take years as
According to Mormon's job description, I can be my son's Moroni. Moroni is all of us who want
to be saviors on Mount Zion—who hope to aid in the deliverance of those we love from the awful
grip of addiction. And these precious warfare chapters in Alma give each of us a “perfect
understanding” of how it's done.
With that said, I invite you to join me in careful study of these chapters. See what the Spirit has to
teach you through them. My goal in this paper is not primarily to draw attention to what I've
learned; it's to demonstrate the depth of wisdom available in these chapters. My guess is that you
will find wisdom in them through your own study that is more relevant to your current struggles
than you'll gain by reading what the Spirit taught me. But I'll share the understanding I've
gained in hopes of enticing you to a more personalized experience.

Section 1—Principles for Parents

The first five principles are very personal in their application. They have less to do with what my
son needs to do to overcome his addiction than what I need to do to be his “Moroni.” The
subsequent' principles deal more directly with helping my son develop his own battle plan to get
back his life.

Alma 56:12 'reports that only chief captain prisoners were left alive after the successful liberation of Nephite
women, children and military prisoners from Gid.
Alma 48:11
Alma 48:11
1. Moroni's Promise: You may be weak and outnumbered—but
victory has nothing to do with the strength of the enemy.
I stumbled across a television program one night called Intervention. It follows addicts and their
families through the horrifying details of their lives. In the episode I watched a heroin-addicted
girl who ate cat food from a can while living in a garbage-strewn abandoned house. Her family
lived only a few miles away and would have gladly taken her in—but she didn't want to deal
with their constant haranguing about her heroin use. So here she sat in piles of filth, supporting
herself by prostitution. The camera (it's shocking what people will let you film) followed her out
onto a street where she met a regular “customer” who preyed on her for the $10 she needed for
her next shot of heroin.
As the show continued the family joined together and promised to cut off contact with her until
she chose to enter rehab. That's when I began to lean forward. Rather than bolt from the room
she stared at her united family in confusion. She was uncertain how to deal with this uniform
firmness. Finally she sobbed and relented. She agreed to enter a program. There was hope.
A van picked her up and drove her hundreds of miles to the rehab facility. I prayed she would see it
through. As I did I realized I wasn't just praying for them, I was praying for us. It was no
longer just her story, it was mine.
Within 24 hours she fled the program. I sat in front of the television crying and crying. Not just for
them, but for me. I felt hopeless. By this point I had been on this girl's roller coaster more than
once. I began to worry in the pit of my soul that the monster was too strong—or that my son was
too weak. I imagined looking 30 years from now into the aged face of my boy as a human wreck.
Perhaps he'd have an illegitimate child or two. He would have wasted his entire life. Or perhaps it
would end with a late night phone call about his fatal overdose. From my research I knew that
success rates for even the finest rehab programs were in the 5-10% range. By this time I knew countless
stories of relapse and very few successes. My deepest fear as I sobbed that night was that for my
precious son the day of salvation might be past. 8 I felt hope slipping away that any power was
capable of saving him from his past choices.

That hopelessness turned to faith when I began to understand Captain Moroni's promise.
You're likely familiar with the promise Prophet Moroni makes in the final verses of the Book of
Mormon. It's an unequivocal promise that by complying with certain principles you can be
assured of receiving a testimony of the Book of Mormon—”He will manifest the truth of it unto
For anyone who thinks they may never get free of addiction__or for anyone who worries there
may be no way out for their dear one—Captain Moroni makes an equally unequivocal promise.
He shows us how irrelevant the power of the enemy is when predicting success or failure in the
epic battles of our lives. Think heroin is strong? Do you worry that meth will never let go? Is a
toxic mix of pornography and masturbation too powerful? Do you fear that alcohol is embedded
in your very cell structure and will never be gone? Captain Moroni has a promise for you.

Helaman 13:38
Moroni 10:4
These chapters refer to a total of nineteen battles. In every one of them the Nephites should have
lost. And in fact, in a few they do. For example, in the Second Lamanite Invasion, the raging
hordes of invaders slaughter tens of thousands of Nephites and conquer most of the Eastern cities—
Moroni, Nephihah, Lehi, Morianton, Omner, Gid and Mulek. And yet, at other times the
overwhelming advantage of the Lamanites does not lead to Nephite loss.
The lesson here is that the predictor of success or failure has nothing to do with the strength of the
enemy. It has everything to do with the condition of the Nephites. Moroni repeatedly assures his
people that the overwhelming forces of the Lamanites were not the reason they were losing the
war: “had it not been for the war which broke out among ourselves... if we had united our strength
as we hitherto have done... if we had gone forth against them in the strength of the Lord, we
should have dispersed our enemies...”10
Moroni ultimately succeeds in helping the Nephites regain their freedom because his primary
attention is on the condition of the Nephites not the strength of the Lamanites.
And that's our challenge, too. We cannot protect our children from a bondage they yearn for. We
can't fight the Lamanites when the Nephites are desperate to surrender to them. When we
compel our, kids into rehab, push away their pushers, or in other ways fight their battles for them we
will always fail. But when we consider first how our actions affect the spiritual condition of our
loved ones, we are assured of eventual success.
Hear Moroni's promise. Against “an enemy which was innumerable”11:
First Lamanite Invasion ...the Nephites had all power over their enemies... there was not a
single soul of the Nephites which was slain.”12
The Battle of Gid... the Nephites had power over them; and in these circumstances they found
that it was not expedient that they should fight with the Nephites.”13
First Battle of Antiparah ...there had not one soul of them fallen to the earth.”14
Second Battle of Antiparah ...the [Lamanites] did leave the city... and thus the city of
Antiparah fell into our hands.”15
Siege of Cumeni... they yielded up the city unto our hands; and thus we had accomplished our
designs in obtaining the city Cumeni.”16
Battle of Manti And thus it came to pass, that by this stratagem we did take possession of the
city of Manti without the shedding of blood.17

Alma 60:16
Alma 58:8
Alma 49:23
Alma 55:23
Alma 56:56
Alma 57:4
Alma 57:12
Alma 58:28
Battle of Nephihah... Thus had Moroni and Pahoran obtained the possession of the city of
Nephihah without the loss of one soul...18
Seven times Moroni shows us that when we fight the right way, we win. So as we begin to
explore Moroni's principles for battling addiction, keep this promise in mind. Your primary
consideration is the effect your actions will have on the spiritual condition of your loved one. If
your actions serve to undermine their agency or increase their resistance to your well-intended
efforts, you will lose. But if you refuse to fight battles for an unwilling captive—if you follow
Moroni's principles for honoring their agency—victory is not just possible, it is inevitable.
I am a witness that the Book of Mormon is a book for our day. In a day when secret
combinations cover the earth, luring millions of Father's valiant sons and daughters into the
bondage of drugs, pornography, gambling, sex and other pernicious addictions, we have a
handbook on how to do battle in a way that always works.
These nineteen battles make us would-be Moronis an absolute promise. But be careful, because the
promise comes with conditions. You must learn Moroni's lessons to receive the same endowment
of power Moroni received. If you want the miracles, you'll have to apply the principles embedded
in Moroni's campaign. And trust me, applying these principles will feel like Gethsemane to you.
They will stretch you, humble you, tax you—they will bring you to your knees as you struggle to
be a savior for your child. But if you're willing to go through Moroni's Gethsemane, you are
promised a miracle in the Garden Tomb. Friday will be dark. But Sunday morning—and
deliverance—will come.
But long before your eventual victory, you will have hope. “Yea, and it came to pass that the
Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did
speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope
for our deliverance in him.”19

2. The best way to motivate the rebellious is to get out of God's

It was a cold and snowy December night in Utah. Paul had been staying at our house for 3 days. He
was staying with us because 3 days ago he had begged for help and promised the world to get it.
I told him—as we always did—that we would only help if we believed what we were doing would
truly help. We were unwilling to rob him of the consequences of his choices. I explained we did
not believe it was loving to keep someone from learning. But, I added—as we always did—that if
he was asking for help to turn his life around, there was nothing we would withhold.
He assured me that turning his life around was the goal. I explained it would require enormous
sacrifice and asked if he was willing to sacrifice anything if it would help him change his life. I
suspected his words exceeded his commitment—but I accepted his affirmative response and we
made a plan. I believed it was better to be vulnerably optimistic than protectively cynical.

Alma 62:26
Alma 58:11
So we made the deal. He agreed to a painful list of sacrifices—no contact with friends, relocation
out of the area, attendance at a 12-step program, no lying, no drug use, etc. We agreed that if he
violated these strict agreements—agreement designed to help him turn his life around—he would
have to leave home immediately.

He enthusiastically honored the agreements for a full 24 hours. Almost immediately he began
complaining about the constraints. He was fidgety, resentful, and finally dishonest. He arranged
for drugs to be dropped at our house then lied about it when confronted.

Now here we sat on Friday night. It was snowing lightly outside. Three days ago we made some
agreements. One of them was that if he violated the deal he would need to leave immediately. The
temperature was about 28 degrees outside. I sat in my room for a long time praying about whether
or not I should follow through with the agreed-upon consequence. How could I? He had nowhere to
go. He had nothing to eat. He had no money.

Parents in our situation often lament their lack of influence. We wonder how we can help our child
“want to change.” I learned from Moroni that this is the wrong question. The right question is,
“What am I doing that is keeping my child from wanting to change?” The most potent lesson
Moroni offers parents is that when we stand between our child and justice, we often stand
between our child and God.

Moroni faced ambivalent “addicts” throughout his 13-year campaign. Time and again after they
had covenanted to defend their freedom, they backslid. Large factions of the Nephites would
actively collude with the Lamanites in a way that would inevitably bring them back into
bondage. Like my son, within hours of making an agreement they hungered again for bondage.

So what does Moroni do when people make self-destructive choices?

Seven years into Moroni's campaign he was still agonizing over the weakness of his own people.
As hordes of Lamanite forces threatened to invade Nephite lands, Moroni had to decide what to do.
He had two options—he could face the Lamanites—and fight a battle the Nephites were divided
about fighting. Or he could face the Nephites. Facing the Nephites meant that disaster would come.
Lives could be lost. Cities could fall as Lamanites descended while Nephites were fighting each
other. Destruction was possible. But Moroni treated one principle as sacrosanct: No victory was
possible so long as the Nephites weren't sure they wanted to fight. He knew that to attempt to fight
the battle for the ambivalent Nephites would violate agency. Had he tried to beat back bondage
from an unwilling people, he would have robbed them of their right to choose their own demise.

So how did Moroni help his people to “want to change?” He trusted God. He trusted that if he
allowed the people to experience the consequences of their choices, they would learn in God's

Agency is not simply the power to choose. It is the power to create consequences. Agency is the
God-given power to become like God by making choices that create consequences. To the
degree we make choices that produce positive consequences, we become more like God. When we
make negative consequences, we become less like Him and more like the adversary. When God
evicted Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, He sent them into the world ‘to learn by their own
experience.’ In essence, He sent them forth to learn to exercise agency.
One of the primary ways we develop our agency is by experiencing the consequences of our
choices. When the consequences are painful, we learn. Over time we can become wiser and gain
greater agency by creating better consequences.
As I read Moroni’s campaign, I realized that Moroni wasted little time sermonizing with the
uncommitted. Instead, he allowed them to make their choices and then refused to stand between
them and God. He let them experience the full measure of justice for their choices—trusting that
many of them would learn to choose more wisely.
In Moroni's case, “justice” meant severe punishment. For some Nephites—it was the death
The Lamanites were closing in. A Nephite faction called the Kingmen welcomed them with open
arms. In doing so, they committed treason. In Nephite law—as in most any society--the
consequence for putting your nation at risk was death. Moroni “sent a petition... unto the governor
of the land, desiring that he should... give him power to compel those dissenters to defend their
country or to put them to death.20 The petition was granted. Was Moroni being merciless? Was he
overreacting? Was he using the law to try to change the Kingmen's beliefs and remove their
agency? These are all questions any Moroni faces when trying to help someone change who
doesn't want to change.
So what can we learn from Moroni?
Notice the language here. Moroni didn't care what the Kingmen believed. He cared what they
did. This was not about forcing others to change their political opinions; it was about punishing
them for treason. His goal was to hold them accountable to “defend their country.” Period. Had
Moroni not inflicted the legal consequences of treason on the Kingmen, he would have been
guilty of consenting to their crimes.
The difference between Moroni and many of us is that he trusted that exposure to the natural
consequences of justice would teach those who seemed unwilling to protect their freedom.
As I sat in my room agonizing over what to do with my boy, the question in my mind turned 180
degrees. Whereas I had been wondering what I should “do”—I realized that if I withheld from him
the natural consequence of his choice, I would be interrupting Father's attempt to teach him. Father
designed a world that teaches powerful and immediate lessons through natural and social laws.
When you are lazy you go hungry. If you overeat you get heavy and sick. If you lie you are
mistrusted and ostracized.
We need not do much to help people learn proper principles other than to stop interrupting God's
attempt to teach them.
I walked downstairs and through choking sobs told him he had to leave. I told him how much I
loved him. I told him that I believed at some future time he'd figure out how to have a happy life
and that when he did I would be there to help him get it. Then I helped him pack up his few
belongings: He had no luggage so we placed his things into two big black trash bags. He shuffled
wordlessly out to my car with me. I asked him where he wanted me to take him. He suggested a
Wal-Mart not far from our home. He exited my car in the parking lot and retrieved his bags from
the back seat. As I pulled out of the parking lot I could see him in the rear view mirror standing

Alma 51:15
next to his two trash bags with snow falling lightly between us. I drove a short distance, pulled to
the side of the road, and cried.
When our children are in bondage, we frequently face these choices. I do not know how every
parent should deal with every such choice. But I know that my tendency is the opposite of
Moroni's. On the face of it, you might think that Moroni's decision to enforce the consequences
of treason on the Kingmen is employing compulsion. And that a decision to withhold
information from police about a son's drug use is merciful.
I've come to suspect the opposite is frequently true. Moroni is the merciful one who has faith in
God's plan of teaching. And my tendency is to control. Any time I try to “get my child to
change” I employ some form of compulsion. If I fight at all costs to keep my child from going to
jail, I rob my child of his agency. He made a choice and I won't allow him to experience it. If my
rude child is shunned by peers and I lash out at them for their inhospitality, I steal the experience
from my child. If I pay off the debts of a sister who continues to spend foolishly, I keep her from
becoming motivated to learn restraint. If I replace a car for a child who carelessly wrecks it, I
weaken his agency and rob him of an invitation to greater responsibility. If as a Relief Society
president, I leave a sister in her stewardship who never completes her visiting teaching, I am
removing from her the natural consequences of failed stewardship.

Frequently, rather than impose consequences, we yell, cry, guilt-trip or nag. Nagging is a form of
control. It is a way of taking responsibility away from the other person. It puts the burden on the
nagger to monitor and motivate the other person. Moroni did not nag. He was not willing to attempt
to change the Nephites' beliefs by force. Rather, he treated treason as treason. Then he let people
decide whether treason produced the consequences they wanted.

When we remove natural consequences from those we love, we take control of a process that God
ordained. We are assuming our own design of the world is superior to His or that those we love
are too fragile to learn in His way.
Moroni had no such belief. When he found himself fighting harder than the Nephites for their own
freedom, he stopped his campaign against Lamanites and allowed them to face the full legal
measure of justice their actions invited. He did it in the first year of the war. As a result, Amalickiah was
expelled and a few Nephites executed. 21 He did it in year seven and 4000 Nephites were
executed. 22 In year 10 he faced it again. 23 The lesson for me in all of this is that it takes enormous
faith in God's ultimate wisdom to witness the misery of those you love as they progress through
their own painful learning process. It can take years. You may have to watch them repeatedly make
the same mistakes.

You Can Feel Joy While the War Still Rages

It would be a nice story if Moroni's painful decision led to an immediate change of heart. It did
not. If Moroni were to speak from the dust to every worried parent or loved one of an addict, he
would testify that the turning point in the campaign was not a clever strategic victory against the
Lamanites. It was the fourth bloody civil war that took place in the midst of the war with the

Alma 46:29, 35
Alma 51:19
Alma 53:8-9

Lamanites . You'll remember the testy exchange of epistles between Pahoran and Moroni. Moroni
begins to suspect Pahoran is guilty of—at the very best—gluttony, at the worst, treason. Instead he
discovers there is yet another faction of Nephites that yearns to subject themselves to a King. He begins to
“doubt, because of the wickedness of the people, whether they should not fall...”24 But on discovering that
Pahoran—and many others--are faithful, he takes courage.25 In fact, he is “filled with exceedingly great
joy.”26 When I think about what was going on at the time in the war, that phrase blows me away.
Surrounded by Lamanites, facing bloody divisions in his own people, outnumbered, outgunned and
physically spent—how could he possibly feel “exceedingly great joy?” And then it filled me with joy. I
realized that Moroni didn't need for the war to be over in order to feel hope and joy—he just needed
assurance that at least some part of the Nephites still wanted to fight.
As I sat on the side of the road I pleaded with God to watch over my boy. I begged Him to protect Him
from any misery more than he needed to bring him home. But most of all I pleaded with Father to bring
my boy home. To us. To Him.
And then a sweet, quiet feeling came over me with the impression, “Trust in me. There is still much good
in him.” I realized that hope lay not in Paul's current condition, but in his potential. He still loved his
family. He still prayed in his desperate times. He still had memories of innocent happiness. He was still
sealed to me and my wife. And while part of him might be disloyal to his people today, I could take
courage that the good in him would gain strength. The key for now was for me to fight the real battle—
not the battle against drugs, but the battle for Paul's will.
So Moroni left defensive troops to hold back the Lamanites, and fought a fourth civil war. He raised the
standard of liberty and demanded that people decide where they stood.27 As he invited the Nephites to
declare their loyalty, “they became exceedingly strong.”28 Thousands who had been sitting on the sideline
began to step forward and take up arms. The Kingmen were overthrown or executed for treason. It was this
final, awful confrontation that influenced the Nephites toward full resolution. They were no longer
ambivalent. They wanted freedom.
Moroni whispers to me from the dust that the hardest war I will fight will not be against drugs, but against
my own unwillingness to let justice teach my son. He assures me that the instant Paul's internal war is won,
the power of the Atonement combined with Gospel wisdom are more than sufficient to help him win the
war with drugs.
Within a year of this last internal war, the Nephites were free. The war turned immediately when the
Nephites were united within themselves. In a very short period of time, not only were the Nephites free, but
tens of thousands of Lamanites dropped their weapons and joined the Nephites.29

Alma 60:11
Alma 61:5-6
Alma 62:1
Alma 62:4-6
Alma 62:6
Alma 62:27, 29, 30
If you want to have your son back, sometimes you have to drop him off at Wal-Mart.

3. You can't rush deliverance.

One of the most immediately comforting lessons I learned from Moroni is that deliverance doesn't
have to happen today. In fact, my very panic that it had to happen today is what tempts me to
become controlling.

The righteous Ammonite converts felt some of the same temptation. When they saw the
enormous suffering the Nephites were enduring, the “were about to break the covenant which
they had made and take up their weapons of war...” 30 Every parent of an addicted child knows the
same feeling. It is pure agony to watch them suffer—even if their suffering is a direct result of
their own choices. And yet any attempt we make to rush their deliverance violates spiritual
principles that set the pace of the process.

While I watched my son get deeper and deeper into his addiction, I felt deep dread. After he left
home things got worse by degrees. He isolated himself from past friends who were leading positive
lives. He began not just using but selling drugs. He neglected his health and appearance. He started
becoming a person I didn't know. Finally, it appeared he may have permanent brain damage. He
hallucinated constantly—imagining voices and developing paranoid delusions.

With each step in his decline I became more and more fearful that he'd crossed a threshold that
made his bondage irreversible. Then I looked across the breadth of Moroni's campaign: 19
battles over 13 years. There were many, many dark days. When Moroni saw the indecisiveness of
those he loved, he “grieved and [was] also filled with fear, lest by any means the judgments of
God should come upon our land, to our overthrow and utter destruction.”31 So did I.

Moroni told me that deliverance may take years. But that doesn't mean it won't happen.
Since the pace of deliverance is set not by the strength of the addiction, but by the willingness of
the hostage—Moroni's job is to be patient. He must refuse to be tempted to try to rush things by
fighting the muscle of the Lamanites when the problem is the will of the Nephites.
I draw great comfort from Helaman's promise to the Ammonites when they wanted to intervene,
that, “God would strengthen us, insomuch that we should not suffer more because of the
fulfilling the oath...” 32 My oath is to trust God and not my own wit and will. My work in the
meantime is to never move any faster than my loved one is willing to move. And—as we saw
earlier--to let him experience the full consequences of any choices he makes in the meantime.

If we fight Moroni's way, victory can happen at any time. Because of the power of the
Atonement; it is never too late. I may have to give up some fond but temporal hopes. I may hope my
son graduates from High School. I want him to go college. I dearly wanted him to serve a mission.
But if I really love my son I must be willing to let go of my aspirations for his earthly life and worry
ultimately only for his eternal life. So long as he is saved in the kingdom of God, I

Alma 56:7
Alma 58:9
Alma 56:8
will be happy. In Helaman's words, I know that he will not suffer more because I failed to take up my
weapon and compel change.
In the meantime, Moroni is willing to lose precious cities like Nephihah and Lehi. At one point he even
watches his namesake city of Moroni overrun by the enemy. He refuses to divert his attention to battles
that he needs to be willing to lose in order to focus on the real war. The war for the Nephites' will.
Moroni's faith is that the instant the Nephites are willing, the battle will turn. For example, after 10 years
of the campaign “the Nephites were not slow to remember the Lord”33 and “the Nephites began again to
be victorious, and to reclaim their rights and their privileges.”34
In the past three months we've seen this same principle verified with Paul. Six months ago he was facing
homelessness yet again. He broke into our home and stole checks which he tried to pass at our bank. In
doing so he crossed a legal line for the first time from misdemeanors to felonies. Warrants were already
out for his arrest for violating previous parole. His cell phone had been damaged through some neglect
but he was still able to receive text messages. After careful deliberation, my wife and I texted him:
‘If you turn yourself into the police, we will ask that this be prosecuted as a
misdemeanor. If you do not, we don't think we will be helping you by hiding the crime you
committed. We love you.’
He called the police who found him passed out from alcohol consumption at a local park and booked
him into jail.
Two months ago he was released from his longest jail sentence yet. And when he got out, something was
different. There was a quietness and resolve in him that we've never seen before. There was distaste for the
life he had led. There was a greater clarity about the many false friendships he had.
He's been sober now for five months. But most importantly he seems less divided about what he wants.
Perhaps he is ready to truly fight for freedom.

4. You must show unwavering love while you inflict excruciating

It's hard to think good thoughts about people who cause you pain and suffering. Heck, it's hard to think
well of people who simply inconvenience you. I found myself muttering under my breath just
moments ago at the man driving in front of me who had the audacity to dawdle while the left turn light in
the intersection turned from green to yellow to red. I missed an entire light cycle costing me perhaps 2-3
minutes of my precious time! If you took the measure of my emotion in that moment and compared it to the
magnitude of his “offense,” you'd have an idea of how little pain it takes before I can feel animosity toward
my fellow man.

Alma 55:31
Alma 55:28
Now if it's possible for us to feel resentful toward someone who inconveniences us a little, you can
appreciate how hard it is to remain loving toward a child who presents you with years of pain, worry and
suffering. In our case, over the past five years it's hard to calculate how much time, treasure and torment
we've willingly offered on the smallest hope it would help free our son from his hell. And in the moments
when it looked like our sacrifices were not only unappreciated but resented, mountainous waves of
resentment and anger would wash over me.
But when it comes to unappreciated sacrifice, Moroni has a bit of an advantage over me. This guy endured
starvation, bloody warfare, and even terrible wounds.35 And for his trouble he was frequently hated, reviled
and threatened by those he was fighting for. As I read through Moroni's story with my son in mind, I
realized that had I been Moroni I would have lasted about six months. At the point where a large body of
Nephites was uninterested in freedom I would have issued an ultimatum to the tune of, “Look you losers,
when you get tired of bondage, let me know. I'll be north of the narrow neck somewhere. Email me.”
Moroni on the other hand retained his influence by retaining contact.
Moroni is about as strange a warrior as you'll find throughout all history. He was a brilliant strategist. He
was a phenomenally successful fighter. But when he hacked into an enemy with his sword he didn't feel
anger, he felt empathy.
“he was a man who... had sworn with an oath to defend his people... even to the loss of his
“he was a man... [who] did not delight in bloodshed...”37
“[Moroni and his warriors were]... sorry to take up arms against the Lamanites... did not delight in
the shedding of blood... sorry to be the means of sending so many of their brethren out of this
world into an eternal world, unprepared to meet their God.”38
“[The instant Moroni had an advantage over his “enemy”] ...he said unto them: If ye will bring
forth your weapons of war and deliver them up, behold we will forbear shedding your blood.”39
Five centuries later, Mormon considered him a mentor as he struggled to figure out how to be both prophet
and protector of the remaining Nephites. I imagine the immense soul challenge involved for Mormon in
raising a sword over his head to extinguish the life of someone who was connected to the slaughter of his
wife and children. Here were men who--while mustering the force required to crush bone and split sinew--
found a way to retain a tender remorse for the viscous work they knew they must do.
With Paul, when my mood was right I could show love. When he was acting up I could also show strict
resolve. But showing love and resolve simultaneously required a strength of soul that

Alma 52:35
Alma 48:13
Alma 48:11
Alma 48:23
Alma 52:37
taxed me to my limit. Moroni taught me that a campaign for freedom demands more of me than love or
resolve. It means showing resolve at times in a piercingly loving way.
Paul spent three months in a fine rehab program. We visited him twice a week and spent hours with him in
family therapy sessions. I did all of it willingly because I love my boy. Within days of getting out he
started making the irrational compromises that were so often part of his addiction. For example, I
remember the helpless panic I felt when we finished a 30-minute debate about whether or not he
should start smoking again. In his resentful, hungry logic he told me that other addicts had assured him that
you should only try to quit one thing at a time and that if he started smoking he would actually do better at
staying off illegal drugs. And since smoking wasn't illegal, he continued, I shouldn't be so worried
about it. He looked at me with a patronizing smile and concluded with, “I know you and Mom have
different beliefs than I do about tobacco, but I hope you'll respect my decision.”

In that moment I had an overwhelming urge to tell him to get lost forever. I wanted to turn around and
walk away and never see him again. I knew it would be painful to lose him, but accepting that loss would
be less painful than the torment of uncertainty he kept inflicting on my life. I had my sword over my head
and I just wanted to bring it down on him to end my pain.
That's how. I handled a previous battlefield moment with Paul. After another attempt at sobriety we had
similarly helped Paul get on his feet. He had found a job and received his first small paycheck. The night
after he cashed it he rang our doorbell at 3am. I opened it to find him with pupils dilated to the size of
dimes, staggering drunk holding a hookah pipe he had bought with the money left after purchasing volumes
of liquor. My body shook with rage as I told him to get off our property and slammed the door. I bolted the
door with my son still standing in a stupor on the porch. I turned my back to the door, leaned back against it
and wept in despair.
But this later time it was different. As we finished the smoking debate, I felt the same urge to cut him off.
But then I found Moroni's voice inside me. I found a way to be firm and just—to give Paul the unflinching
accountability he needed to grow—and at the same time to express unequivocal love. I wish I had found this
voice more often over the years.
“Paul,” I said, “our agreement was that we would help you so long as you showed a resolve to stick with
your agreements. You are not. I respect your right to make your own choices. Please respect mine as well.
I am confident from what you're saying that you will relapse soon. I will not be a part of that. Sometime
in the future when you are ready to sacrifice everything it will take to do this the right way, we will help.
I know you'll figure this out eventually. I love you. Good bye, son.”
It has been so difficult for me to develop the strength to “shed blood” when needed but to take no delight in
it. When I slammed the door on Paul I had a perverse desire to hurt him. I wanted not only to protect myself
from pain, but to dish it out to him, as well. Over the years I've tried to replace my voice with Moroni's.
One of the best examples of how to do so came from my oldest daughter, Tara. At one point when Paul
was asked to leave home Tara agreed to let him live with her rather than see him go live with other addicts.
She told him he could not use drugs in her apartment and would have to pay his own bills. Initially he
worked hard at his job and paid his bills. Life was tough because he had lost his car and now had to walk to
work in the winter weather. No one in our family had done more for Paul that Tara. As she's the oldest of
our children she was the first to drive. She
was always his confidant. She would drive him anywhere he asked without complaint at her own
inconvenience. Growing up, she was always the first to share her candy, her money, her kindness. She told
Paul he was welcome in her apartment but would be asked to leave if he was dishonest or brought drugs
into her apartment.
It wasn't long before his drug use impeded his ability to work. With rent due and the threat of eviction he
stole money from Tara to cover his bills. She was deeply hurt—least of all because of the loss of money,
but more because she expected some loyalty from him.
Six days before Christmas Tara confronted him. Just days earlier, Paul had started exercising. After months
of physical neglect he had spent himself doing pushups. I dropped him off at his apartment after talking to
him over lunch. Tara sat down with him and reviewed the evidence of his theft. He hung his head and
stared at the ground. She asked him if he could list all the things he had lost to his drug habit. He began to
cry. She told him he could no longer stay in her apartment. His shoulders sagged and he looked completely
desolate. She told him he had two days to decide where he would go.

She shook with emotion as she delivered this awful message. She felt so hurt, so violated, but so torn. She
loved her brother and didn't want him to suffer. And yet she knew that if she did not wield this sword
justly, she would not be doing her part to help him get free of his bondage. And yet in her pity, she didn't
shrink from the fight. Instead, she held her ground. She delivered her message. Then she moved next to
him on the couch, and began to massage his sore shoulders.

If Moroni were leading my campaign, he would counsel me often for fighting without love. His
approach to deliverance shows me that what my son needs is not watered down consequences in
the name of love. What he needs is a full dose of consequences delivered in unmistakable compassion.
Compassion does not mean I withhold consequences. It means I deliver them with the charity of a

The “savior's” role is to be there when they truly want deliverance, not to save them from their
own experience.

5. It takes a family to save a child

The darkest days I remember were in August 2008. Paul had just crossed a new line—passing out
from drunkenness while driving and totaling a car. For 48 hours we were terrified that he may
have injured others through his selfish and evil actions. We prayed desperately that this would not
be the case and reeled at the thought that his sins may now be the cause of disaster in others'
lives. 40 We had become steeled at some level to the horror of his self-destruction, but the thought of
his bringing harm to others felt like more than we could bear.

Then an image crystallized in my mind. It was a moment when Moroni realized that he would have
to mobilize all the Nephite resources in order to prevail against so powerful a foe. At a low point in
his; campaign he wrote a threatening epistle to Ammoron (Amalickiah's successor) promising, will come
against you with my armies; yea, even I will arm my women and my

We eventually discovered—to our great relief--that a pedestrian had been bruised but not badly hurt and that the other cars he hit
were parked.
children, and I will come against you.”41 I suspect Ammoron thought this threat was just silly. Send
heavily armed primary children against trained soldiers? Ammoron's answer, in essence, was, “Bring
them on.”
And Moroni did. And so did we.
I realized that for all the worry, praying and acting my wife and I had done, we had never declared total
war. The scriptures promise great spiritual power through unified prayer. Christ promised His disciples
that when even just a few gathered together in His name, He would be with them.42 Likewise, it was when
the Lehite survivors gathered together at the temple following the great destruction that Christ appeared.43
It was when the Lehite disciples prayed together that the Lord appeared to them to answer questions and
endow them with power.44 We also see this principle illustrated in the temple where the crowning symbol
of unity is beautiful unified prayer which precedes entry into Father's presence.
So we united our whole family in fasting and mighty prayer. Grandparents, aunts and uncles joined in their
respective homes. Our children gathered in ours. I testified to them that through this kind of unified faith we
could enable those on the other side of the veil to participate more powerfully in Paul's redemption. We
discussed how God respects our agency and can not intervene more actively that we invite Him to through
our active faith. To the degree we exercise our faith we open doors that allow angels access to our lives and
the lives of those we love.
I remember the optimistic and hopeful feeling we had as we gathered together to dedicate and later close our
fast. I then invited each child to share their feelings, testimony or expressions of commitment. I felt
impressed to testify that we would be limited in power to help Paul with his addictions if we weren't willing
to examine and sacrifice our own. Each of us has secret sins and habits with which we struggle that impede
the Spirit's presence in our lives. I challenged our family to decide what sins we were willing to sacrifice in
order to gain greater power to save our brother. Some in the family were shy about the discussion but all
expressed a willingness to rise to greater levels of faithfulness in order to wage this war.
With our women and children armed, we were ready to fight with an intensity we had never engaged before.
Miracles began happening almost immediately. One of them led to Paul's arrest and 18 month sentence. In
retrospect, this was exactly the blessing he needed. I learned that angels fight like Moroni—sometimes by
offering protections, other times by imposing pain—but always in ways that influence for good.
When Moroni armed “their women, and all those of their children, as many as were able to use a weapon of
war”45 entire families were delivered and reunited. The Lamanites, in the face of unified families,
“brought forth [their weapons] and cast them at the feet of the Nephites, pleading for mercy.”46

There is no greater power than the faith of a unified family.

Alma 54:12
Matthew 18:20
3 Nephi 11:1-8
3 Nephi 27:1
Alma 55:17
Alma 55:23
S ection —
2 Prin ciples for D evelopin g a B attle Plan
The previous five principles helped me change my own approach to helping my son. The next
five principles were as much for him as for me.
I learned a great deal from Moroni about how to advise my son once he decided he would fight for
his freedom. In truth, there were multiple false starts before he seemed to develop a full
resolve (Moroni's campaign didn't make sustained progress until year twelve). But even when he
was almost ready to fight for his life these strategies helped him learn to wage war.
But that didn't mean the previous eleven years were a waste. During those eleven years the
Nephites accomplished three things:
1. First, they developed an understanding of the spiritual nature of their struggle. Moroni spent
as much time “preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God” 47 as
he did preparing swords and shields. There is so much in the recovery literature that would
cause you to conclude the problem is fundamentally psychological or physiological. Moroni
would say the problem is first and foremost spiritual. And until a spiritual resolve
develops, there will be no victory. This is not to say you should not get all the
psychological and physiological intelligence you can gather as well. Moroni's armies
wielded swords as well as words. But over the course of the thirteen years through small
successes and repeated failures, the Nephites came to believe their weakness was not in
arms but in faith.

2. Second, during these thirteen years their ambivalence was slowly turning to commitment. Each
time some faction would emerge that yearned for bondage by demanding a king, Moroni would turn
attention inward rather than outward. He would confront and address Nephite motives strictly. He
refused to fight for the Nephites when they weren't sure they wanted to fight for themselves. After
twelve years the mixed motives had disappeared and deliverance came in short order.

1. And third, they developed skill in the principles of deliverance. They learned when to defend,
when to attack, when to be patient and when to be courageous. They learned they were powerless
without God and unbeatable with Him.
Paul's five year effort has provided him with all three of these benefits.
Below I share some of the Moroni principles that helped him develop skill and understanding to
take back his life.

1. Erect defenses that make sin impossible

On October 30, 2008 Paul was released from a three-month incarceration in Utah County Jail.
This was his longest sentence, yet. A frustrated judge had originally sentenced him to 18 months—hoping
to give him a clear sense of where he was headed next. While in jail he looked

Alma 48:7
more closely at his colleagues—much older men, many there for crimes related to drug or alcohol
abuse. As he got to know his colleagues he was disturbed by how few even entertained the possibility that
their future could be separated from drug abuse. In the back of his mind he had always thought his choices
were voluntary and that “someday” he'd get serious about life and give it all up. So he was sobered a bit by
witnessing how person after person in the jail equated their lives with their drugs. Most passed the time by
reminiscing about past parties and fantasize about getting loaded after their release. Something began to
settle into Paul a bit more deeply than in previous jail stays. He began to seek out those who seemed to
want to change and to connect with LDS resources at the jail.
As Paul got nearer his release date, he became anxious about both how he could survive and how he could
change his life once he got out. Survival was the first challenge because he had lost everything once again
before being picked up by police while passed out on the ground in the park. He had not paid rent for 3
months and his landlord had seized all of his meager possessions. He had thousands of dollars in
debts to various agencies—including the courts. And he had an unprocessed charge for a DUI that still hung
over his head. His life was a mess. On release his plan was to head to a homeless shelter until he could get a
job and apply for indigent aid to help him get on his feet. He understood clearly that we would not cushion
him from the misery he had created.
But we felt an impression that some of his protestations about wanting to change seemed stronger
than in times past. Of course we were concerned his expressions could be either shallow or disingenuous.
But we decided there was enough possibility that we had little to lose and much to gain for him through a
limited test.
I asked Paul to read Alma 49 with me. I asked him to start by focusing on the promise of these chapters—
but also on the peril. Amalickiah's Lamanites were coming against the Nephites with an overwhelmingly
powerful army. They had significantly upgraded their arms after studying previous battles with the
Nephites such that they were confident “they should easily overpower and subject their brethren to the
yoke of bondage, or slay and massacre them according to their pleasure.”48 I assured Paul that Satan felt the
same way about him. He knew Paul's weaknesses and had prepared a plan to easily drag him right back
into bondage. Paul nodded at this insight but said little more.
Then we read the result. Moroni was ready when the Lamanites attacked. He knew they had an absolute
numerical advantage over his people. And yet, when the Lamanites arrived, the Nephites “were prepared
for them, in a manner which never had been known among the children of Lehi.”49 In fact, rather than
rolling over them with indomitable force, Amalickiah's hosts, “were exceedingly astonished at their
manner of preparation for war.”50
In fact, they were so shocked that, “his chief captains durst not attack the Nephites...” because, “Moroni
had altered the management of affairs among the Nephites, insomuch that the Lamanites... could not come
upon them.”51

Alma 49:7
49 Alma 49:8
Alma 49:9
Alma 49:11
I asked Paul if he thought it was possible to create a similar plan. I asked him if he was willing to
sacrifice everything it would take to make a plan that made failure impossible. I assured him it
could be done. But, like the Nephites, he would have to “alter the management of affairs” of his life
in order to accomplish this. Moroni's plan involved a tremendous amount of work and preparation.
It involved the surrender of a great deal of freedom and comfort in the short term. But it also
promised complete safety. After the Lamanites inflicted their worst on the Nephites, we read that,
“the Nephites had all power over their enemies,” such that “there was not a single soul of the
Nephites which was slain.”52
I told Paul that this would have to be his plan. I could teach him how to assemble the plan. But he
would have to be in charge of it. He would have to want it. And if at any time it appeared it was
my plan and not his, I would immediately disengage and he would be on his own. I would not be
part of a half-measure strategy. But I would give every effort possible so long as his only goal was
victory. He agreed. So far so good.
Had he equivocated, I would have offered modest help to help him find a shelter or some social
services, but would have done nothing to support a half-hearted plan.
Moroni’s Three Defenses: earth, stone and men.
Next Paul and I backed up to study Moroni's preparations for the attack. Now that we knew the
results were worth the incredible investment of effort and temporary sacrifice of freedom, we
examined his strategy. It's packed pretty tightly into two verses. I pointed out three things Moroni
did to neutralize Amalickiah's [Satan's] huge advantage:

1. ... erecting small forts, or places of resort; throwing up banks of earth round about to
enclose his armies
2. ... building walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of
their lands; yea, all round about the land.
3. And in their weakest fortifications he did place the greater number of men... 53

I find three different resources suggested in Moroni's approach, all of which play different roles in
defending us when we're weaker than the enemy.

First, is a combination of forts and earth—both of which serve the same purpose. The purpose of
the banks of earth is to put distance between us and the enemy. The first thing Paul needed was a
plan to put as much physical distance as possible between himself and any sources of temptation.
It's a lot of work and a lot of bother to do this, but if you do it well enough the earth and forts will
be “so high that the Lamanites could not cast their stones and their arrows at them that they might
take effect.”54 Paul and I discussed all the ways Satan could find his way to him and how he would
build so much distance between himself and these sources that they could not take effect. For

Alma 49:23
Alma 48:8-9
Alma 49:4
• I will cut off contact with every friend from my past for 60 days—even those who were not
themselves temptations, but who are connected to those who are. I will associate only with family.

• I will have no cell phone—when I have any phone a call can come at any weak moment and start my
thoughts running the wrong way.
• I will shut down my MySpace account. Anyone can make contact with you anywhere on earth through
social networking and draw you back into the same peer group.
• I will list all the places I will stay in and all those I will not go near in order to keep myself distant
from temptation.

• I will sleep in a bedroom right next to Mom and Dad's room.

The second resource is walls of stone. Now, this may sound like a stretch to others, but in our case the
stone had profound symbolic meaning. Christ is the stone. He is the rock of our salvation.55 He is the
cornerstone of the Church.56 David refers to Him as a rock and fortress.57 Christ refers to Himself as “the
Rock of Heaven.”58 In Moroni's defensive plan the stone walls were the first line of defense. Christ is the
ultimate hope for our deliverance. Moroni surrounded the entire city and the borders of the land with stone
walls. And that's what Paul had to do as well. I asked him to think about all he needed to do to bring Christ
so intimately into his life that he would benefit from his full defense against the onslaught that would
inevitably come. He decided:
• To have a thorough interview with the bishop and work hard for his membership.
• To face up to every legal obligation he had incurred.
• To visit every week with the bishop.
• To develop a close relationship with his Elder's quorum presidency.
• To attend every Church meeting and activity.
• To attend Institute twice a week.
• To pray and study scripture every day.
• To work toward temple worthiness.
He concluded that if he did these things he would have the full protection of his omnipotent Savior.
The final resource is men. Moroni understood that no matter how much earth and stone he used, there
would be vulnerable areas in his cities—easier places for the enemy to approach. There were, for example,
entrances to the cities through which people could come and go during times of peace. These were access
points for Amalickiah's hosts as well. So Moroni placed his most

55 Deuteronomy 32:15
Ephesians 2:20
57 Psalms 18:2
Moses 7:53
powerful warriors in these places to protect the vulnerable. Paul did the same. He created a plan
involving his most faithful allies who would defend him to the death—people who, like Moroni,
“had sworn an oath to defend his people... even to the loss of his blood.59
He thought of ways to surround himself with those who had better aspirations. He made sure that
trusted people knew that he was trying to recover from addiction and encouraged them
to challenge him if he seemed to be rationalizing his way into problems. He got a job
that surrounded him with fine and positive people. He reported to me every night about his day
and any tempting thoughts or situations he faced. He positioned his priesthood leaders and return
missionary friends in his life in ways that increased their influence and distanced him from unrighteous
When he had completed his plan I asked him to examine it. As he reviewed the strategy I asked
him to consider, “If you put all this in place, will you be completely safe during this period of intense
Prior to this conversation he had seemed worried, anxious, and even gloomy about his prospects after so
much prior failure. But now, looking over his strategy, he was overcome with a different feeling.
He felt hope. He looked at all the elements of his plan and answered, “If I do this, I will win. We
will win.”

4. Work to exhaust temptation

Another element of Moroni's and Paul's plan is work. In the course of his campaign Moroni captured tens
of thousands of Lamanites prisoners of war. At times feeding and guarding these captives was a huge
burden. Moroni soon concluded he could not win the war if he wasted resources trying to control these

I find that the best way to learn from the scriptures is to keep the symbols clear and consistent. For
example, in my reading, I concluded that the Nephites represented my loved one who had given himself
to bondage. Amalickiah (and later Ammoron) represented Satan. Who, then, are the Lamanites? They are
the temptations—the forces Satan uses to impose his will on us. They could represent the drugs, the
impulses, the weaknesses, or the misguided friends that Satan deploys to manipulate us into surrendering
our agency to him.

One of Paul's big challenges once he tired of bondage was to develop a strategy to deal with the force of
these temptations. Moroni's strategy was to use work.

Immediately after Moroni captured an enormous Lamanite army in the Battle of Mulek, he put them to
work. He concluded the best way to keep them from plotting, colluding or getting into mischief was to
tire them out. The same is true of an addict. Idle hands truly are the Devil's playthings. Busy hands are
healthy hands. So “after the Lamanites had finished burying their dead and also the dead of the
Nephites... Moroni, caused that they should commence laboring in digging a ditch round about...
Bountiful.60 Why? Well, I'm sure Moroni wanted the ditch. But he

Alma 48:13
Alma 53:3
also understood, “it was easy to guard them while at their labor.”61 The best way to eliminate destructive
impulses is to redirect them—into work. Hard work.
Even after Many Lamanite prisoners defected to the Nephite side, Moroni knew that they would not truly
change their character until they changed their habits. One of the problems with addictions is that they
diminish one's capacity to do the hard work required to solve life's problems. So the most direct therapy
one can employ to build atrophied will power is work.
And that's the kind of therapy Moroni offered them. In the crucial early days of their conversion, “all the
prisoners of the Lamanites did join the people of Ammon, and did begin to labor exceedingly, tilling the
ground, raising all manner of grain, and flocks and herds of every kind; and thus were the Nephites relieved
from a great burden; yea, insomuch that they were relieved from all the prisoners of the Lamanites.”62 Hard
work turned tempters into helpers.
One of the most potent parts of Paul's most recent plan has been a positive work plan. He committed to
work from 8-5 every day. In the evenings he had a structured work schedule including vigorous physical
exercise five days a week, reading time, Institute attendance, and so on. It was important that the plan
involve things he enjoyed doing. But they needed to be productive things he enjoyed doing.
Again, Paul's goal was to create a plan that would keep him safe for 60 days. After that he would begin to
adjust it to gradually return by degrees to normalcy. But in the short term the solitary goal was safety. He
wanted to prove to himself that he was capable of maintaining sobriety for a longer period of time than he
had done for quite a while. And with that confidence in the spiritual and personal muscle he was
acquiring, he would then begin taking back “cities” he had lost. For now, the goal was not to regain all his
lost land, but rather to stop the losses.
The combination of earth, stone, men and work are a potent way of doing so.

5. Watch carefully for tender mercies

As I write this, Paul is lonely. He's about two months into his “defensive” strategy. He's adhered to it
willingly and patiently. And yet I know that many of the evenings are lonely. He has some new friends in his
ward—but no close friends. He has activities some nights but none where he feels like he's at the center of
the group. He is happy but laughs less than in his party days. He feels blessed but also a bit disconnected.
He's left one life behind but doesn't fully have another one yet.
The hardest part of giving up years of addiction is that you enter a life in which you feel both incompetent
and lonely. And these are two of the toughest feelings a person can deal with. They are tough not just
because they make you feel intensely insecure and uncomfortable, but also because emerging from them
doesn't involve waking up, it involves growing up. You don't develop deep new friendships over night.
Neither do you develop skill at managing life sober in an instant.

Alma 53:5
Alma 62:29
Even these challenges might sound surmountable except that no one is less equipped to deal
patiently with such extended growth processes than an addict. Addiction is Satan's perfect plan
for sapping a person's capacity for patience. It is an easy off ramp from the road to progress—
and taken too often causes the soul's muscle to atrophy through disuse.

So here's Paul, two months into a new life, sometimes feeling lonely, incompetent and ill
equipped to endure the process patiently until he is free from the consequences of five years of
choices. In short, he's at constant risk for falling back into familiar escapes.

Enter Moroni. No one has more authority to testify that deliverance is a process than Moroni.
Every time Moroni would muster up a bit of Nephite resolve to fight for freedom, some of them
would stare at the enormity of the war and lose their nerve. One of Moroni's toughest challenges
was recruiting—at his lowest point he laments that they aren't receiving the food, troops and armaments
they know are available. 63 The irony of a campaign to free an addict—or captive—is that they
need the most motivation at the times things are the least hopeful. They need to muster up more
food, troops and armaments at the time when they most despair of the campaign's futility.
Moroni had the most difficult time recruiting at the time that he most needed recruits.

So how do you maintain hope during the low times of a thirteen year war? You use tender
mercies not final deliverance as a measure of God's commitment to you.

If you look intentionally for the interim miracles in the war, you build the faith and character
necessary to enable the ultimate miracle—a complete change of heart. But be warned, God
knows better when you are ready for the ultimate miracle than you do. If getting what you want
to have is more important than becoming who He wants you to be, you will ultimately achieve
So patience is the key. And patience can be built by developing the skill of gratitude.

Gratitude is the best inoculation against despair and impatience. For example, here's Helaman
counting the dead at the end of one of the bloodiest campaigns of the war. He examines the
butchered body of his dear friend and fellow leader, Antipus. Almost all of his captains have
likewise fallen along with thousands of their troops. 64 Helaman is surveying the remains of his
brethren and, with great trepidation, asks for a body count of his teenage heroes—the Stripling
Warriors. He braces against the depressing news he knows he'll receive. Be it 100 or 1000 dead
—he can hardly bear any more loss. 65 On hearing the number, he must have asked for it to be
repeated more than once before he dared believe it: zero. Absolutely none of his “sons” had died.

So, Helaman tells us, that sitting in the midst of terrible carnage, he feels “great joy.” 66 His heart
swells with gratitude that “not one soul of them had fallen to the earth; yea, and they had fought as
if with the strength of God; yea, never were men known to have fought with such miraculous

Alma 60:2, 3, 5
Alma 56:51
Alma 56:55
Alma 56:56
strength; and with such mighty power did they fall upon the Lamanites, that they did frighten them; and
for this cause did the Lamanites deliver themselves up as prisoners of war.”67
Somehow, even in the midst of continual struggle, Helaman says it's possible to feel great joy. It's
possible because Helaman is intentionally watchful for interim miracles that build his faith and patience
for the ultimate miracle of deliverance.
Paul has done a good job watching for interim miracles, too. He counts his blessings. He looks for the
hand of the Lord in small blessings given along the way.
When the larger picture still looks dim, it takes active effort to look for the smaller miracles. But they are
always there. In the midst of our afflictions God always holds our hands, brings comfort, and offers hope.
We must always remember His goal is not to give us a certain quality of life; it is to prepare us for eternal
life. The measure of His love for us is not “how things are” but “who He helps us become.” He cannot
deliver us until He makes us into the kind of person who is fit for freedom. And freedom is a quality of
character not of circumstance.
Knowing this, He generously offers hope and encouragement along the way in the form of tender mercies.
But we have to want to see them in order to witness their abundance. If we demand that God show up in the
form of a blessing we crave right now, we'll miss His perfect affection along the way.
Helaman gives us another great example of watching for tender mercies. After some wonderful military
successes he has overextended his armies. They have recaptured some crucial cities but have far too few
resources to maintain them in the face of an aggressive enemy. The Nephites watch with mounting worry
as the Lamanites receive “great strength from day to day, and also many provisions.”68 In contrast,
Helaman and his men are starving.69 They wonder why Lamanites who are hundreds of miles from home
can be so well supplied when he and his men are famished in the middle of their own country. A small
ration arrives which leaves him resentful that, “this is all the assistance which we did receive, to defend
ourselves and our country from falling into the hands of our enemies, yea, to contend with an enemy which
was innumerable.70
At this point, Helaman could very easily give up. He could feel resentful that God, his leaders, his friends
and others aren't giving him what he deserves right now. But Helaman knows how to get through these
discouraging times. He turns to God for tender mercy.
“Therefore we did pour out our souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us out of the
hands of our enemies, yea, and also give us strength that we might retain our cities, and our lands, and our
possessions, for the support of our people.”71
And as He always does, God answered.

Alma 58:5
Alma 58:7
Alma 58:8
Alma 58:10
“Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver
us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did
cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him.”72

Notice, He doesn't send food. He doesn't send guns. He doesn't send troops. Although Helaman
would have loved any of these. Instead, he sends hope. For which Helaman is grateful. Gratitude for
tender mercies is the most potent inoculation against despair.

Helaman's intentional gratitude infused him and his men with hope. “And we did take courage
with our small force which we had received, and were fixed with a determination to conquer our
enemies, and to maintain our lands, and our possessions, and our wives, and our children, and the
cause of our liberty.”73

Paul isn't the only one who has been sustained by tender mercies. Father has lovingly encouraged my
wife and me over the years through talks, testimonies, and many small miracles. He's sent angels
from both sides of the veil to minister to Paul, protect him from harm and awaken him to his peril.
For example, the snowy night when I dropped Paul off at Wal-Mart, I remember pulling off to the
side of the road and praying. I pleaded with God to watch over my boy. I begged him to send
angels to protect him from any misery that would not serve him. I placed him in the care of the
Good Shepherd. And, like Helaman, I felt peace. I received a witness that God loved my boy and
that He would watch over him as only He knew how. I knew that angels would be deployed as
needed and that while the road could be painful and long, He would not give up. So I took
courage with my “small force” because I knew that with Him nothing was impossible.

I drove home and shared these feelings with my wife. Within an hour we received a phone call. A
couple from Texas was staying at a hotel near Wal-Mart and saw Paul in his pathetic condition.
They bought him a hamburger and talked with him to find out his situation. On learning his name
they called the police to see if he was in some kind of trouble. In addition, they looked up his last
name in the local phone book and attempted to track down his family. I knew it was the voice of
an angel when I heard the man say into the phone, “I just want you to know your boy is okay.
He's pretty scared and pretty cold. I guess he's on his way to jail, but at least he'll be safe. He's a
nice young man and we pray this will help him straighten out.”

When things are tough and we're not ready for deliverance, God always sends help.
When you lack courage, He may send 2000 teenage warriors.74
While your choices may bring you injury, he may keep your injuries from killing you. 75
When you're too weak to fight, sometimes He slows down the enemy.76
When you're lost and alone, sometimes He sends an angel from Texas.

Alma 58:11
Alma 58:12
Alma 56:15-17
Alma 57:25
Alma 56:18-19
6. React to relapse thoughts
Moroni has one central belief about bondage that carries through his entire campaign. It's a belief that
drives his entire battle strategy. It's a principle that he risked everything to pursue. Any modem commander
would think Moroni a fool for many of his most crucial decisions. But Moroni had perfect faith that if he
was true to this one idea, he and his people would ultimately be victorious. And they were.
Moroni repeatedly tells us that the source of all the Nephite problems was not in their foes but in their
heads: “For were it not for the wickedness which first commenced at our head, we could have withstood
our enemies that they could have gained no power over us.”77
Of course, when Moroni refers to the “head” he is referring to political leadership. But the addictive
analogy requires no translation. You can predict lost battles—both military and chemical—far in
advance by watching what happens in your head.
As we've seen, the hunger for bondage comes long before the bondage itself. Three times Moroni finds
elements of the Nephites who want to enslave themselves to a king. And we've seen how he responded
immediately to this distraction. But ultimate success depends not on us “Moronis” responding, but on the
addicts themselves learning 1) to spot danger signs far in advance; and 2) to react in ways that once again
banish these thoughts.
Not all of these “head” problems point the addict directly at relapse. In other words, Satan may not try to
get Paul by presenting him with heroin. Instead, he presents him with secondary temptations that weaken
his spirit in order to make them vulnerable again to their old demons.
Alma tells us about four kinds of secondary temptations. He testifies that Nephite bondage always
began with, “their quarrellings and their contentions, yea, their murderings, and their plunderings,
their idolatry, their whoredoms, and their abominations...” which resulted ultimately in “their wars and
their destructions.”78
Moroni's history shows that when Satan can't get you directly back into bondage, he'll work on you
indirectly through quarrels, anger, greed and lust. Once you succumb to these temptations you get
disconnected from the Spirit. And the instant you drift from the Spirit you'll find that your addictive
temptations will flare again and you'll be easy prey for the old offer of bondage.
For example, things were going along just fine in Nephite lands in the 21st year of the reign of the judges.
In fact, “there never was a happier time among the people of Nephi, since the days of Nephi, than in the
days of Moroni ...”79 Then a quarrel breaks out between the lands of Lehi and Morianton over some beach
front property.80 It sounds like the equivalent of my kids arguing over who gets to sit by the door in the car
and who has to sit on the dreaded hump in the middle. Just as happens in our back seat, the fight escalates
until “the people of Morianton took up arms

Alma 60:15
Alma 50:21
Alma 50:23
80 Alma 50:25
against their brethren, and they were determined by the sword to slay them.” 81 The people
of Morianton are so “stubborn” 82 and proud that rather than admit their error they abandon
their beautiful city and head for Desolation. Moroni knows that having an enemy on his
Northern frontier would mean death to the Nephites, so he attempts to intervene. By this
time Morianton and his people would rather fight to the death than admit they were wrong.
And that's exactly what they do—they go to war against Moroni's full army.83

A couple of weeks after his recent return, Paul went to war.

He had a little money in his pocket from his new job. He was feeling happier and
more confident. He believed the bad years were behind him. Then he got into a fight with his
younger brother. The pattern was painfully familiar. Timothy had been talking nonstop and
Paul was getting frustrated about not having a turn to make a comment. At first Paul was
patient. Then he fumed. And as the minutes wore on he wore down. Finally he erupted with a
sarcastic comment. Timothy exploded. My wife corrected Paul for his rudeness. He took
offense at her correcting him because we “always favor Timothy.” And with that, he started
making plans to head to Desolation.
Now, it was not his plan to go use drugs. But I'm confident if he had followed through with
his plan, his refusal to repent would have made him vulnerable to other temptations and he
would have been back into his addiction in short order.

His plan was simply to leave home. He rationalized that “I'm an adult, I should be living on
my own anyway” ignoring the fact that leaving meant he was abandoning his 60-day
defensive plan and heading outside of his protected area. In his stubbornness, he refused to
admit his wrong and yelled that “I can't help getting angry at Timothy when he acts like that.
When he does that I'm going to hit him! That's just how I react.” Yes, he was on his way to

But fortunately for Paul, he was attentive to this warning sign. He knew that his problems
began in his head and that quarrels were one of the methods Satan used to get him to put
himself in vulnerable circumstances. Moroni was convinced that the way Morianton was
dealing with his quarrel could have “consequences would lead to the overthrow of their
liberty.”84 And in fact, it did. Within months after the Morianton squabble the Lamanites
attacked deep into Nephite lands.

Paul responded differently. He noticed his anger and recognized it as a fast track to
vulnerability. He returned to his family and apologized. He opened a frank conversation that led to
a better accommodation between us, him and his brother. He returned from the road to
Desolation back to his home.

Satan is clever. Like Amalickiah he senses when our quarrels, anger, greed and lust make us
vulnerable to his attacks. He times his campaigns around our indulgence in these weaknesses.
Sometimes it's when we surrender to our pride in our quarrels with friends and loved ones.
Other times it's when we become angry and impatient at life's challenges. For some it's giving in to
Alma 50:26
Alma 50:35
Alma 50:35
Alma 50:32
greed by neglecting spiritual commitments. For others it's the lure of lust that separates us from the Spirit.
One way or another, you can count on Satan appealing to any weakness you have in order to get you to
head away from home toward Desolation so he can destroy your liberty.
Knowing this in advance, you'd be wise to identify the ways Satan will do this to you and learn to identify
your emotions for what they are when they happen. They are problems in the head. And all bondage begins

7. Increase your skill not just your will

Moroni was no dummy. He knew that simply inspiring troops was not enough. He followed President
Hinckley's maxim of praying, but then getting up and getting to work. Moroni understood that
prosecuting a war required enormous skill as well as will.
As you read through Moroni's war, you'll see that he was both a man of great ability and also a man who
invested heavily in increasing the war-fighting ability of his people. Some of Moroni's impressive abilities
• Uses visible symbols to remind, declare loyalty and build morale (Alma 46:19-20, 36; 51:20; 62:4-
• Holds group rallies to strengthen resolve (Alma 46:21-22; 62:4-6 Develops
hand-to-hand battle skill (Alma 48:8,14; 51:31)
• Builds clever defensive structures (Alma 48:8-10; 49:5, 8)
• Preaches skillfully to build faith and unity (Alma 48:7)
• Deploys key leaders skillfully (Alma 49:16-17, 20)
• Uses peace time to secure strategic perimeter with forces as well as settlements (Alma 50:1-10)
• Leverages previous success to recruit during peacetime (Alma 50:12)
• Builds political and popular support before taking on enemies (Alma 51:15)
• Creatively solves problems and develops tactics (Alma 52:21-39; 55:3-23)
• Deploys forces strategically (Alma 52:7-9)
Overcoming addiction is no different. Those in chemical bondage almost always lack the skills they'll need
to break free and live free from their addictions. A good strategy needs to include a plan to read, take
classes and receive mentoring that will give you the additional skills you need to deal with the hand-to-
hand combat of regaining your freedom.
For example, I attended a 12-step program one evening and met a man who had been free of a pernicious
pornography addiction for 8 years. He described a skill he had developed that made a big difference for
him. First, he had learned that when a powerful impulse to indulge in pornography or masturbation
overcame him it carried a hidden lie within it. The impulse always gave him the impression that it would
press on him until he succumbed. In other words, it seemed to whisper, “You can fight me but I'll
outlast you. I'll stay here until you satisfy me, so
you might as well give in now!” These words were never spoken, of course, but the feeling of the
impulse implied this discouraging threat with a force more powerful than words.

“What I learned,” he said, “is that this is a lie. I learned over time that if I can just distract myself
for 15 minutes, the impulse would either disappear or diminish to the point that I could handle it
easily. I just needed to have two or three easy ways of distracting myself for that amount of
time.” So that's what he learned to do. When it was possible, he would drop down and do a few
sets of pushups and situps. In other situations he would breathe deeply for a few minutes. He
would likewise recite a scripture that had deep meaning for him. “It was remarkable how quickly
my emotions could change. Whereas a few minutes earlier I felt this awful force that I was
convinced would clutch at me until I succumbed, just 5 minutes later I realized I could create
different emotions that completely replaced that deceptive threat.”

When I understand that war against addiction requires skill, I become much more patient and
careful in the repentance process. We know, for example, about the miraculous preservation of
the Stripling Warriors in the first battle of Antiparah. But a closer reading helps us realize that
Helaman also put the unskilled youths into the least risky role in the plan. 85 They were to simply
act as decoys. Helaman understood that he had to match risk with skill, and that “we were not
sufficiently strong to contend with them; yea, I would not suffer that my little sons should fall into their
hands.” 86 In the end, the young soldiers were thrown into the bloody fray, but Helaman did so
only when it was clear there was no alternative.

It is pure foolishness for an addict to assume that some powerful spiritual convictions are enough
to empower them to conquer years of habit. A wise plan puts defense first, then in deliberate and
measured ways exposes him to increased risk in a way that allows for retreat if problems occur.
When the stripling warriors emerged from the safety of Judea, they were to stay a measured
distance from the seasoned Lamanite soldiers. Was it risky? Yes. But it was an incremental risk.
The stripling warriors may not have been as good at fighting as the Lamanites, but they were as
good at running. So that was their role.” And it came to pass that we did flee before them, northward.
And thus we did lead away the most powerful army of the Lamanites.”87

If you follow Moroni's entire campaign, you can see that he was neither impatient nor proud
about his goals. For the first few years his goal was simply to stop the losses. 88 He tried to keep
the Lamanites from making any further progress by strengthening Nephites behind their
defenses. It's not until the 10 th year that Moroni holds a council of war and plans to help the
Nephites take back their lives. 89 He does so in measured, careful ways that don't put them at risk
of losing all they've protected.
A good war plan for recovery from addiction should do the same thing. It should allow for a
significant period of time where the sole goal is safety. You should hide behind your defenses and
build up your strength—period. And then you should begin to venture out in calculated ways to
try to regain your freedoms—but with a plan for retreat should problems occur.
Alma 56:30-39
Alma 56:39
Alma 56:36
Alma 51:28-Alma 52:14
Alma 52:19
And if problems occur, be sure you use them as a powerful source of skill building. Relapse is not the end;
of the world. Rather, it should be the beginning of learning. If you lose some of your men—as happened to
Moroni—you should stop and reassess your plan. You should increase your skill. You should measure your
risks more accurately—did you rush into freedom too quickly? You should examine your thoughts to
discover the patterns that predicted and created the relapse: Did you indulge in quarrels, greed, anger or lust
in ways that separated you from the Spirit? You should identify the very specific strengths you need to
work on that will make you a more skillful warrior in this long campaign.
Moroni faced “relapse” many times. But rather than give up, he got smarter. He studied the root cause of
the problems and adjusted his plan. Usually the root causes lay in things the Nephites were doing and as we
saw earlier, when that was the case, he confronted and addressed those internal problems. Because he was
willing to learn from every setback and deal aggressively with the real problems, eventually the
Nephites gained great power. After Moroni's fourth battle with recalcitrant Nephites, he began to see the
fruits of his labors. It's a beautiful and hopeful description for anyone who wonders if they can ever get free
from bondage to Satan. Listen to it carefully because it is full of promise for every one of us who struggles
with sin.
“And he did raise the standard of liberty in whatsoever place he did enter, and gained
whatsoever force he could in all his march towards the land of Gideon.
And it came to pass that thousands did flock unto his standard, and did take up their swords in
the defense of their freedom, that they might not come into bondage.
And thus, when Moroni had gathered together whatsoever men he could in all his march, he came
to the land of Gideon; and uniting his forces with those of Pahoran they became exceedingly strong,
even stronger than the men of Pachus, who was the king of those dissenters who had driven the
freemen out of the land of Zarahemla and had taken possession of the land.”90
If we fight in God's way, we will win. It will be difficult. But the very difficulty is designed to make of us
the kind of people suited for freedom. Recovery from addiction is a process of becoming not just arriving.
Make no mistake, blood will be spilled. Regaining your freedom is a cruel, brutal slog. Even the perfectly
faithful stripling warriors suffered great injuries in the Battle of Cumeni:”... there were two hundred...
who had fainted because of the loss of blood... neither was there one soul among them who had not received
many wounds.”91
But if we fight His way, the conclusion is also sure: “and to our great astonishment, and also the joy of our
whole army, there was not one soul of them who did perish...”92
Which leads me to my final testimony. I do not yet understand how the following statement is true. At this
point I simply know that it is. I know that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is a sealing power. And to faithful
parents this sealing makes unconditional promises. It does not violate the agency of our wandering ones, but
there is an inexorable, powerful and undeniable force that ensures that these children will be somehow,
someday back in the arms of their anxious, aching,

Alma 62:4-6
91 Alma 57:25
worried but worthy parents. I testify with Lorenzo Snow that, “in the next life we will have our wives, and
our sons and daughters. If we do not get them all at once, we will have them some time, for every knee
shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is the Christ. You that are mourning about your
children straying away will have your sons and your daughters...,” President Snow continues, “This is just
as sure as that the sun rose this morning over yonder mountains. Therefore, mourn not because all your
sons and daughters do not follow in the path that you have marked out to them... Inasmuch as we... stand
as saviors... we will save our posterity.”93

Moroni's campaign took thirteen years. Ours may take more. In fact, in some difficult circumstances, as
President Snow suggests, the campaign may extend into the next life. But the sealing power of Christ's
Atonement is the most potent force in the universe and will not be robbed. We must fight. Just as Moroni,
we are imperfect saviors. But if we stand as saviors on mount Zion, we will be joined by a Savior who
will ultimately give us victory and give us our children.
Let us take up the title of liberty “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace,
our wives, and our children.”94 Let us fight to become the kind of people who can lead our children to

Lorenzo Snow, The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, p.195

Alma 46:12
Appendix - The Battles
Of 19 battles, five are internal battles—in Moroni's mind, these internal battles are the central cause of all of
the problems. In 6 battles Nephites win without a single loss of life. Of 13 battles between Nephites and
Lamanites, in 10 the Nephites are victorious. In 3 they lose

What do we learn from the wins and losses? Certainly there were more battles than this—why these?

Alma chapters 45-46 – Amalickiah conspires to be king. Moroni leads a political battle then captains an attack
on Amalickiah in which he flees to the Lamanites. Treason is punished with death (46:35). Few deny the
covenant of freedom.

Alma chapter 49 – Lamanites attack w/o Amalickiah. Not a single soul lost (49:23). Nephites have all
power over their enemies.

Alma chapter 50 – Morianton dissents after conflict with city of Lehi over land rights. Teancum chases
them and kills Morianton. Peace restored. 50:35-36.

Alma chapter 51 –King-men try political change and fail (7). Then they rebel and are compelled through force
to support law (15-20). Many are slain in battle while the Lamanites converge on Nephite lands.

Alma chapter 51:22-37. Lamanites take many cities (51:26). They are stopped in their progress by
Teancum but not before they conquer many cities. Teancum assassinates Amalickiah.

Alma chapter 52--Many are slain on both sides. Moroni retakes Mulek through clever strategy.
Jacob, a Lamanite commander, is killed.

Alma chapter 53:8-9 – Loss of cities on the West due to dissension (not major detailed battle). The Nephites'
weak forces put them in danger. The Stripling Warriors volunteer and provide great hope.

Alma chapter 55--City and prisoners retaken with no bloodshed.

Alma chapter 56--Antipus and Helaman defeat much larger Lamanite army – no loss of Stripling warriors.
Antipus and many chief captains (56:51) and Nephite soldiers killed.

Alma chapter 57--The city is retaken with no bloodshed—Lamanites flee (57:4). (57:12) The city is retaken
with no bloodshed.

Alma chapter 57:17-36. Gid had been taking prisoners to Zarahemla. When they heard of battle they rose
up and overpowered Gid who then returned and saved the day just in time. No loss of Stripling
Warriors. But 200 of the Stripling Warriors are wounded.

Alma chapter 58—Helaman, Gid and Teomner take the city by superior knowledge of geography draw them
out and leave small forces to take city, then circle back. No loss of blood (58:28)

Alma chapter 59—Nephihah is lost because of conflict in the central government which keep
reinforcements from being sent.

Alma chapter 61—Pacus is appointed king of the Nephites by a Kingmen faction. He makes a pact with
Lamanites. Zarahemla lost and Pahoran government goes into exile.
Alma chapter 62:1-11—Kingmen insurrection is put down. Many rebels are killed and the legal
government is restored. The treason laws are strictly enforced.

Alma chapter 62:14-16 – Many Lamanite prisoners are taken, all covenant to become Ammonites (not a lot
of detail).

Alma chapter 62:18-26—Moroni breaches the wall and lets in armies by night. Not one soul lost (26).
Lamanite prisoners all join Ammonites (27-30).

Alma chapter 62:30-37—Lamanites flee Lehi and other cities then consolidate into one army. Teancum
assassinates Ammoron. Moroni attacks and Lamanites flee from land (39). The war ends.