Over the past ten years I have been working on a novel inspired by two verses in the Book of Ether contained in the Book of Mormon. My curiosity has caused me to wonder how two separate nations can be brought to their knees to the point of near extinction. I believe the real reason lies in a power that begins very small in the heart of each individual. Unchecked, these motivations provide an immense amount of fuel for a lifetime of decisions. Lately I have put my ideas on the shelf to take care of other responsibilities, but I still find the study intriguing.
The most prominent theme in the Book of Mormon is clearly the witness that Jesus Christ lives and that he visited the people in the Western Hemisphere after His resurrection. Other important themes are the importance of covenants made with God, the pride cycle that we each tend to go through in various degrees, and the power of secret combinations. While it is not a primary focus, secret combinations, and how to deal with them, is an overarching theme of the writings in Helaman, Third Nephi, Mormon, and Ether.
I look at the motives to establish Zion and secret combinations as being direct opposites. The purpose of Zion is to build up the ideal society. The objective of secret combinations is to destroy all societies, as was demonstrated with the Nephites and the Jaredites.
Personally, I see no need to fear. We live in the only dispensation that will not fail and fall into apostasy. However, we have been warned of what is coming and how we need to prepare. We have been given what we need to understand the pertinent parts of secret combinations for our benefit.
Moroni tells us in Ether 8:24, “Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up.”
In Mormon 8:34-35, Moroni also says, “Behold, the Lord hath shown unto me great and marvelous things concerning that which must shortly come, at that day when these things shall come forth among you. Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.”
These two statements tell us that the Lord has shown Moroni our day, and what to expect when they happen. The intriguing part to me is that Moroni states that we would awake to our awful situation, which means that if we are not watching carefully, the situation will catch us by surprise. He also says “when,” not “if.”
Moroni then tells us why he included this information in his record. Continuing in Ether 8:26 we read, “Wherefore, I, Moroni, am commanded to write these things that evil may be done away, and that the time may come that Satan may have no power upon the hearts of the children of men, but that they may be persuaded to do good continually, that they may come unto the fountain of all righteousness and be saved.”
As I have pondered this topic and the related accounts in the Book of Mormon, I have come to understand that the desire of an individual is very powerful – it has tremendous effects on both the individual and society at large. Desire unchecked is the seed of secret combinations. Even if we are not engaged in secret combinations, we may support them through indifference.
In Helaman 6:31-32, Mormon tells us the predicament the ancient Nephites faced before the Savior’s first advent. “And now behold, he had got great hold upon the hearts of the Nephites; yea, insomuch that they had become exceedingly wicked; yea, the more part of them had turned out of the way of righteousness, and did trample under their feet the commandments of God, and did turn unto their own ways, and did build up unto themselves idols of their gold and their silver. And it came to pass that all these iniquities did come unto them in the space of not many years….”
Mormon goes on to describe how the Nephites, who became focused on their wealth more than God, began to dwindle in unbelief while the Lamanites began to grow in the knowledge of God. Because of this, the Spirit of the Lord began to withdraw because of the hardness of their hearts – a hardness which I believe was a very gradual process. This is implied by the use of the word “began” three times in reference to the Nephites, the Lamanites, and the Holy Spirit. Consequently, the Nephites supported the secret combinations which were around them. A lack of effort to resist these combinations allowed them to benefit materially from the works of others.
My interest in this topic is not to explore the darker side of the said combinations, but rather to understand the concerns that caused Moroni to write so much on the matter. My hope is that understanding the opposition may help me make deliberate choices for good, and prepare for the establishment of the Zion foreseen by ancient prophets.
In an effort to clarify the thoughts driving my story, I wrote a concept summary in poetic form. Poetry helps me cut to the essence of an idea. I share it here as a quick look at the power of desire unchecked.
A subtle flame conceived in the heart –
Invisible, but proud in the street.
Without restraint, it becomes a master,
Fooling the author to believe the opposite.
Desire forgets the poor and feeds ambition.
It quickens senses and stirs the heart,
Yet lulls reason to sleep.
Desire dominates will.
With mastery, it spreads with whispers,
Filling homes, closets, and thoughts.
Preying upon some and enlisting others,
It despises those who offer nothing.
Merchants, officers, and politic-makers
Garb their master in power obtained.
Distinguished by rank and chance for learning
They walk in their sleep, indifferent to the sun.
Seduced by gain and deceived by flattery,
The once innocent trade ethics for advantage,
Until bound fast, occasionally remembering
The wakeful freedom of control.
The hot wind murmurs. The silent heart plots.
Walls listen intently in the shade,
Yet few trouble to douse the flame.
Secret and dark, it stays hidden.
Desire combines with faithful servants
To alter law and destroy the measure
By which it may be fatally judged,
Dismissing those less useful.
Each servant followed by another,
The master wastes, then replaces,
Fueling a fiery system of destruction,
Fanning without restraint.
Vain things are offered and believed.
Nothing matters but the secret.
Not people, not law, nor the sacred –
Nothing, but the opposition.
Awake! Awake, from vanity and death!
Look to the source and not the shadow.
See the power that binds you captive.
We are the enemy, and the enemy is combined.