This is a story about a man named Pahoran. He was the President of the Nephites and he lived in a big white house where he ran the affairs of the entire Nephite kingdom. He was the one who put Moroni in charge of the army. He liked Moroni. And he trusted Moroni. But when Moroni came to him and told him that they needed to chase Amalickiah out, Pahoron did not know what to do. On one hand, Amalickiah’s ideas were dangerous. But on the other hand, kicking out Amalickiah would not necessarily get rid of his bad ideas. 

Because ideas are like gum. Someone you hardly know might spit it out on the ground, and you might step on it, and that gum will stick to your shoe for years to come. But, Pahoran chose to trust Moroni because Moroni was smart. And more importantly, because Moroni was good. And so Pahoran gave his permission to drive Amalickiah out of the land. 

And you know what happened after that? Amalickiah got the whole Lamanite army to attack the Nephites. Moroni told Pahoran to not worry. He would go with his army and protect all the land of the Nephites. And Pahoran trusted Moroni and sent food and money and weapons to support Moroni and his army. 

But while Moroni was gone, something terrible happened. It turned out that when Moroni had tried to kick out Amalickiah, it hadn’t worked so well. And not just because of the Lamanite army. But because Amalickiah’s ideas had stuck like gum to the shoes of a lot of other Nephites. It turns out that Amalickiah was not the only person who didn’t like the government and didn’t like the church. There were a whole bunch of people just like him. They called themselves the Kingsmen. And they came and chased Pahoran out just like Moroni had chased Amalickiah out. 

And Pahoran had to run run run with his family away from his beautiful white house and hide so that they would not be killed. And he was very sad because now he was hungry and dirty and tired. And his wife and his kids were all hungry and dirty and tired. But even worse than all that was that because he was no longer president, he couldn’t send food or money or anything to help Moroni with the war. Moroni was on his own and he didn’t even know it. And not being able to help a friend who really needs help is very hard.

Moroni was a strong soldier but he was also a young man. And even a strong soldier will get tired if they are asked to carry a backpack full of bricks. Because bricks are very heavy. If you do not have bricks, fill your backpack with books and see how heavy it can be. Bricks are even heavier than books. And there are things even heavier than bricks. Things like responsibility.  

Moroni was carrying around a backpack full of responsibility. He was responsible for keeping all of the Nephites safe. And he was responsible for all the soldiers. Soldiers have to be fed. They need a place to sleep and shower. They need to know where to go, who to fight, and how to fight. 

All the responsibility was making Moroni tired. But he stayed strong because of his friend Pahoran. Pahoran was sending all of the supplies they needed. Moroni was not in it alone. But then, suddenly all of the supplies stopped. There was no help from the government any more. Some soldiers were going hungry and others were thirsty, and certainly many people were going to die if they did not get help soon. This made Moroni angry. He thought that Pahoran had abandoned him. And now Mornoi was carrying all that heavy responsibility all by himself. And so Moroni accused Pahoran.

Accuse, a definition

An accuser is someone who can see badness and say, “here it is,” or “here he is,” or “here she is. Come and see for yourself.” This can be very hard because the world is a very complicated place. It can be hard to know what is good and what is bad and where that badness comes from. It’s like chasing shadows. The baddest badness is hidden in the darkest shadows. And if you’ve ever shined a light on a shadow, it doesn’t get easier to see. It just runs away. And so the very best accusers wear special sunglasses that block out all the sun. “Because,” they say, “The more you can see, the harder it is to blame someone.”

This was the case with Moroni. He did not know that Pahoran had been chased out of his home. And so it was easy to blame Pahoran when the supplies stopped coming. And so Moroni wrote Pahoran a letter. This is what he wrote:

“Mr. President,” Moroni wrote, “I am angry at you. Do you think that you could sit in your fancy house while we’re out here fighting and that everything will be okay? Everything is not okay! We need your help. We need food. We need supplies. We need money. And because you are not helping, we are going to come to Zarahemla and kick you out and put someone else in your place. And I’m going to do this because God wants me to do it. So look out, Pahoran. I’m coming for you.”

When Moroni finished the letter, he folded it up. Licked the envelope. Sealed it with a stamp and dropped it off at the post office. And there goes the mail carrier with all the mail, bringing Moroni’s angry letter to Pahoran. 

When Pahoran got the letter, he nodded his tired, dirty head and said, “Poor Moroni. I am so sad I could not help him more.” And this was amazing because did you just read all the angry things Moroni said? Why wasn’t Pahoran angry? Maybe he was. Maybe he wasn’t. But he had an advantage to Moroni. He had more information. He could see that the situation was complicated. And because he could see that the situation was complicated, he knew he would not be a very good accuser. He could not blame Moroni. And so he chose instead to be an advocate.   

Advocate, a definition

An advocate is someone with good eyes, which is to say, their eyes see goodness. If they wear sunglasses, they are lightly tinted and that’s all and they will likely carry a flashlight. An advocate is able to see good in other people. And they can see good clearly because it is set against the badness. The badness marks the goodness like shadows under their noses, in the ears, on the dark side of the face. But it is always hidden and hiding while the goodness is there in plain sight. It’s where the light is.

And so Pahoran wrote a letter to Mornoi. But it was very different. “My friend,” Pahoran wrote, “You were angry at me. And you accused me of things that were out of my control. But I understand. I am not angry. And I am happy that you have a great, powerful heart. That is important for someone carrying so much responsibility.” Pahoran explained that he had been chased out of his house. Then Pahoran said, “Maybe you were right when you said God wants you to come back here and get me. Because I need your help to take back the government.”

And that was remarkable. Do you see what he wrote? Do you see how Pahoran saw goodness where there was anger, truth where there were threats? Pahoran looked through the letter that Moroni sent him to see the heart that beat beneath it. He reframed the words to make them gentler, clearer, and right. 

It would have been easy for any of us to accuse Moroni for being angry, mean, and hurtful. Except for that he wasn’t. Because his words were transformed, elevated, redeemed by Pahoran the advocate. And in this, Pahoran was like Jesus who is the best advocate of all. Jesus does not just see goodness in us, and say, “here is goodness.” He does something more. He chases badness away, like what a light does to shadows. It transforms the world. It draws out our better selves with gentlest hands. 

This act of advocacy transformed the world of Moroni and Pahoran and all the Nephites. Together, they reclaimed Zarahemla, and then Nephihah, and then all the Nephite lands. And they fought like dragons. And they loved like brothers. And after the war, they walked home. They hung their swords up in their closet and put their sandals by the door. They hugged everyone in their family tight and kissed each of their children’s fingertips. And each kiss was a prayer for peace. And there was peace. 

All artwork by Lauren Blair.

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3 thoughts on “The man who had good eyes and gentlest hands (Alma 59-63)

  1. I love this one. So much good insight. I am trying to get caught up on reading these. I just read this one this morning (the morning of Election Day). These passages stood out to me:

    “And so the very best accusers wear special sunglasses that block out all the sun. “Because,” they say, “The more you can see, the harder it is to blame someone.”
    “He had more information. He could see that the situation was complicated. And because he could see that the situation was complicated, he knew he would not be a very good accuser.”

    I pray for all of us to be able to see each other and the goodness of each other….even in all our differences.

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