Moroni and Pahoran would live the rest of their lives happy at home with their families. But they would sometimes remember the war and they would think to themselves, “That war was terrible, so terrible that no one will ever want to fight again. And for that alone, it will have been worth it. Our terrible memories, our injuries, and the people who died have all served a higher purpose. And that purpose is peace. And we will have peace, finally. After all these years.”
And Mornoi and Pahoran will die believing they have established peace. A peace that will last a long time if not forever. But they will be wrong. And they die young from their injuries. And the peace they established also dies young. Only ten years later the fighting begins again.
The Lamanites take over the Nephite capitol, Zarahemla. Brothers and sisters and family, fighting and fighting and fighting. And the fighting goes on for years. And that is terribly sad because it means the war that Moroni and Pahoran fought did not accomplish what they had hoped. And what so many people had fought and died for. Because in our deepest soul, we all want peace.
Peace, a definition
Peace is like a plant. We will call it a tree. From what you have read so far you might believe that peace is fragile. But it is not. It is strong like iron. But it does not rust. It is as powerful as a waterfall but it does not fall. It is like a river. But for peace to be strong and powerful it must also be particular. It does not grow like most plants. If you plant it in the soil, it will shrivel up and die. Peace can only grow and blossom if it is planted on a rock. And not just any rock. There is only one rock. And it is the most perfect rock you have ever seen. Because the rock is Jesus. Peace is a tree that grows from Jesus. And without Jesus, it shrivels. It dies.
And that’s why, even though everyone wants peace, we are not very good at keeping it around. And when the wars started again between the Nephites and the Lamanites, people lost hope. They said, “we will never have peace.” Even when there was peace, they slept with their swords under their beds because they knew the peace would not last long. And when the fighting started again, they nodded their heads and said “Yes, we knew this would happen.”
And this is despair.
And when you feel despair, it is very hard to care about other people. And the Nephites and the Lamanites could only care about themselves and their own families. And they formed secret alliances with friends and everyone did what they could do to survive in their world of despair. In a world where they had given up on peace.
But there was one man who had not given up. His name was Nephi. He was named after the Nephi from the beginning of this book. He was the leader of the Nephites and of the church. And he looked around and saw everybody fighting and preparing to fight, and he saw the despair behind it all. And he began to cry big hot tears. “God,” he said, “everybody is so so sad and so so tired. Please help me to have hope. People need hope. And I want to give it to them so we can end this war.”
And then he did the same thing that his great-great-grandpa Alma had done. He asked someone else to be the Nephite leader, he put on his best walking sandals, and he went out the door. And he walked straight into the middle of all the fighting, to the land of Zarahemla where the Lamanites had taken over the city.
But Nephi did not bring an army or a sword or even a pocket knife. He only brought himself and his little brother, Lehi. And they stood together. They were nervous. They were about to speak. And what would happen when they spoke? They could be ignored. They could be arrested. They could be killed. That all seemed a lot more likely than the battle-worn, despair-laden Lamanites sitting down and listening.
And for a moment the two Nephite brothers felt the despair too. And they began to doubt if peace was possible. Because for peace to be possible, they needed Jesus’ help. And maybe Jesus had given up on the Nephites and the Lamanites.
They thought of their history. Their names sake. They remembered their great grandparents, Lehi and Nephi and Mosiah and Alma. They could see their mistakes. Their failures to establish peace. The many many times the Nephites had been angry, and prideful, and mean. But God had still come to them, and blessed them, and helped them. Would he stop now? No. He would come again. They had to believe it. God had not given up on the family of Lehi.
And in that moment of hope, they felt God. God was coming into their memories. They were seeing their ancestors again, still imperfect, but great, bright, beaming souls, covered in white robes, walking with God. And the two brothers’ eyes were opened and they could see the bravery, the humility, and the kindness of their ancestors. And they knew that their ancestors were good and had tried to be good and that they themselves were good.
And when the two brothers began to speak to the Lamanites, it was not with their own voices. The words were their own. But in the words one could hear the ancestors echoing, filling the air, and in each echo there was a deeper sound. A sound simple and beautiful, like an exhale. And that sound filled Zarahemla.
They were there. The ancestors. The angels. And God.
And the Lamanites listened and could hear the ancestors, the angels, and maybe even God. And Nephi and Lehi’s eyes filled with tears because even though they had doubted, God had come. And the Lamanites were baptized and peace was restored to Zarahemla. And the two brothers continued to other cities.
And one of the cities tried to stop Nephi and Lehi from speaking. They put them in prison. And tried to kill them. But the brothers kept preaching peace. Because they knew now that God had not given up on the family of Lehi. And when the Lamanites tried to kill the two brothers, the prison filled with fire!
And the brothers were standing in the middle of the fire. But they weren’t burned or even hot. They were comfortable. And the Lamanites were scared. And they knew God was protecting the two brothers. But this did not bring the Lamanites hope. They only felt greater despair.
“We are cursed.” They said. “We are bad. And our ancestors were bad. God does not love us like he loves the Nephites.” And they dropped their swords and gave up and waited for the fire to consume their bodies. But the fire did not grow. It did not burn them. God was not in the fire. Instead, He came to them in a still small voice.
And He whispered in their ears and He told them a secret. A secret He tells all of His children. “I love you,” He said. “Turn to me, take my hand, and I will open your eyes even more.” And the Lamanites’ eyes were opened and they realized the fire was not a fire at all. And it was not just around the two Nephite brothers. All of the Lamanites too were surrounded by the same fire that was not a fire. And they knew God loved them too, just as He loved the Nephites. And they found hope that night. Hope enough to try once more for peace.
No one really knows what the fire was. But I believe it was the love of God that cloaks, fills, and surrounds all of His children. And if we are ever blessed like the Lamanites were that night, we would see the same fire covering the world, surrounding every bus driver, every mother, every father, every school teacher, every zoo keeper, every restaurant waiter, every student, every brother, every sister. Everyone.
Which is to say, the world is on fire. It burns brightly, softly, tenderly with the inextinguishable, inexhaustible love of God. We do not normally see the fire. But there are times of despair, when we think there is no hope for peace, that God blesses our eyes to see. And we see.
All artwork by Lauren Blair.
If you are enjoying our stories, the best thing you can do to support us is to follow our blog, and tell your friends about us. We post new content every week, keeping up with Come Follow Me. We’d love to have you along for the ride!
Also, check out our new store to get some of your favorite artwork from our stories into your own homes.