Sunday, April 5, 2009

Nehemiah vs. Lehonti

While watching the Priesthood Session of General Conference yesterday, I noticed a contrast between the story President Uchtdorf was relating and a story in the book of Mormon.

Nehemiah served the king, Artaxerxes, and the king asked him, "Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick?" (Nehemiah 2:2). Nehemiah responded, "why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?" (Nehemiah 2:3). Nehemiah wanted to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, and the king actually gave him authority to go and do it.

When Nehemiah first revealed his plan, "Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian... laughed us to scorn, and despised us" (Nehemiah 2:19). Nehemiah, being brave and strong said, "The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build" (Nehemiah 2:20).

As the Jews began construction on the walls around Jerusalem, they carried their tools in one hand, and " with the other hand held a weapon" (Nehemiah 4:17). Despite the constant oppostion he faced, Nehemiah responded with faith saying "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?"(Nehemiah 6:3).

As President Uchtdorf related that story, the story of Lehonti came to my mind. Moroni had just whipped the Lamanites (see Alma 44) and they were afraid to fight the Nephites again (see Alma 47:2). One group was especially afraid to fight the Nephites and they sought refuge on top of a mount. They and their leader, Lehonti, were "fixed in their mids with a determined resolution that they would not be subjected to go against the Nephites" (Alma 47:6).

The Nephite dissenter, Amalikiah, is sent to force Lehonti's group to join the battle against the Nephites, or to slay them (see Alma 47:3). Amalikiah sent secret messages to Lehonti on the mount to come down to talk three different times. But Lehonti would not come down (Alma 47:12). Finally, Amalikiah offered to meet Lehonti near his camp, and used treachery to put Lehonti at the head of all the armies. Lehonti was then "poison[ed] by degrees" (Alma 47:18).

Lehonti was safe as long as he stayed at the top of the mount, but as soon as he compromised with evil a little bit and met Amalikiah just a little way down the mountain, he was doomed. The contrast with Nehemiah could not be more stark. Nehemiah knew he was doing a great work and never came down. Lehonti was tricked into coming down by an appeal to his pride.

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