The Point of Liberty
A lone figure jogged quickly over trails, through the jungle and to the city of Zarahemla. The city gate was opened and the man was allowed in without slowing. He hurried to the city's central building. He took a quick drink from the wooden ladle that sat, beckoning to visitors, in the fresh water supply that was stored just inside the main entrance, in a cement basin built into the wall. The water cooled his hot thirst after the long run and gave him just a moment to catch his breath. He then hurried down the stone passageway into the room where Moroni, Helaman, and Teancum sat in discussion. They looked up to see Lehi entering enthusiastically.
"Captain Moroni! Helaman! It worked! I never thought I'd call warfare beautiful, but this was the most beautiful battle I've even seen. Not a man was killed on our side. A few of their arrows made it over the wall and found a mark on a leg or two, but not a soul was lost!" Lehi's enthusiasm was contagious. He then added with sincerity, "I'm sorry to say, the Lamanites weren't so lucky. I take no pride in saying we sent a goodly number of them to their final reward."
"They never even drew their swords at Ammonihah!" Teancum told his fellow patriot. "My men and I were at the ready, but they took one look at the city and tucked their tails between their legs."
"Captain, it was just as you predicted!" Lehi exclaimed with admiration.
"Yes, unfortunately, it was. Teancum reported he saw Ammoron and Ishmael among them. Amalickiah is definitely behind all this," Moroni responded.
"I never saw Amalickiah. It looked to me that the former judge, Ishmael, was leading them." Lehi paused then added in a somber tone, "But, we won't have to worry about him again."
"How so?" asked Helaman.
"One of my archers has a very keen hand. He fell quickly. I believe without too much pain," Lehi explained. His meaning was easily understood by all in the room.
"He was one of the finest judges in his day," Moroni lamented. "It saddens me to see how once a person so enlightened can be turned so deeply into evil. I believe a person who turns from truth becomes more fierce and godless than those who never knew it."
Moroni paused, allowing a silence to fill the room. He was moved by the thought of those Nephites who had gone astray.
"Amalickiah must be stopped, and for good," he finally uttered.
"But, we did stop him," Teancum said with youthful determination.
"No, we've only hurt his pride," Moroni corrected. "I'm afraid he's going to be more angry than ever. And an angry man with an army at his disposal is never a healthy combination. We'll need to fortify our cities, and our people, even more than ever before. He's seen our cities and will doubtless come up with clever ways to pick away at any perceived weaknesses. Teancum and Lehi, I want you to oversee the increased fortifications."
"Yes, sir," Lehi committed.
"With pleasure!" Teancum declared with unflagging enthusiasm.
"We'll want to especially watch our border towns. If we can pull enough people from our inner cities perhaps we can build some new ones to fill in some of the larger gaps that would be difficult to watch otherwise," Moroni perceived.
He paused again and sighed. He stood with both hands on the table, bracing himself as he leaned forward looking over the maps. Something significant was weighing on his mind. The others waited to hear his words.
He looked up slowly and finally spoke, "A nation is only as strong as its people's hearts. When people's hearts turn to evil, they become ripe for destruction. We need to fortify our people as much, and perhaps more so, than our city walls. Helaman, it's time to double our efforts at making sure this people know who their God truly is and what He expects of them."
"I will be honored to do whatever you feel is needed. What do you have in mind?" Helaman queried.
"I'm concerned." Moroni paused again. As he began to speak, his voice was filled with emotion. "This is a good people. God is on their side. You are all good men. God will prosper your efforts. But, I worry. I worry because we are about to make this people strong and safe in the ways of warfare. Teancum and Lehi, if you succeed - and I believe you will - we will make this people the strongest and most secure generation to ever set foot in this land."
"And that bothers me," Moroni added to the surprise of his men.
"Bothers you? Why in name of liberty would that bother you?" Lehi asked.
"Because, Lehi, when a people feel secure, especially if they feel it is because of their own doing - because of their walls, and forts, and arrows - because of their own might - they begin to feel that they have brought this security on by themselves. They begin to forget where the wisdom and inspiration came from that made them great. They begin to forget God. And when a nation forgets God, they damage themselves more than any outside foe ever could. I fear this people's own prosperity much more than I'll ever fear Amalickiah and his men," Moroni explained.
The men stood for a moment as they were, looking at Moroni and allowing his words to sink in. Helaman was the first to stir after the momentary pause. "Understood. We'll get right on this," he stated.
"Yes," Lehi committed. Turning to the others he added, "We know our duties, now let's get to them."
The men all turned and left. Helaman lingered last of all and momentarily put his hand on Moroni's shoulder as a show of support and respect. Moroni continued to stand looking at the maps, still leaning on the table before him.
~~~ - ~~~
Lehi and Teancum took their mission to heart. They divided the land of the Nephites between them and marched from city to city beefing up their defenses. In each case, they educated local leaders in the new arts of fortifications. Word of the successes at the cities of Ammonihah and Noah preceded both Lehi and Teancum. The Nephites were eager to learn from them.
Dozens of families accustomed to living in rural areas or farms flocked together. Moroni's trusted duo joined forces to direct them in creating new cities. They ensured that these new cities were fully fortified, particularly the ones closest to the Nephite-Lamanite border.
~~~ - ~~~
Helaman did his part as well. He doubled his efforts to meet with his congregations. He sought out the honest and true in each city and from among their most valiant, he ordained leaders to the priesthood to lead and teach the congregations in his absence. He carried with him the sacred records of their people.
He read from them the account of Nephi, their revered forefather. The recounting of his faith and devotion to God and his untiring dedication to his people, inspired them to remember their God. Moroni frequently joined in the prayer services. The people farmed and worked in a prosperous, contented manner. They began to experience a level of peace and prosperity that they had not known for many, many years.
~~~ - ~~~
Helaman, as the spiritual leader of this grand society, presided in the war room. He deferred strategic planning to Moroni, however, offering opinions and insights as needed. Moroni's current discussion with Teancum, Lehi, and Helaman had been progressing for quite some time. Teancum rose and pointed to an animal skin map on the table.
"… And as soon as my men finish the city wall here the entire southern defense will be completed. We won't have a vulnerable city at any point along the Lamanite's border," Teancum said with pride.
"I don't think the Lamanites could smuggle a troop of army ants across our southern border without us first seeing and stopping it," Lehi added with an uncharacteristic touch of humor.
"Excellent progress, gentlemen. We have too many insects up here as it is." Moroni nodded allowing an appreciation for a little dip in the seriousness of their discussion.
"The new city by the sea is almost complete, too," Teancum eagerly pointed out.
"Yes, we believe you'll especially like it," Lehi added. He looked Moroni in the eye for only a moment, before he turned away, hiding a smirk.
"Oh, how so?" Moroni innocently requested.
Teancum and Lehi tried in vain to keep from smiling.
"The people of this new city asked if they could name it after someone great," Teancum managed to state.
"That's our tradition," Moroni responded. He looked at his two officers and saw their odd behavior. "What's so unusual?" he asked.
"They asked if they could call it the City of Moroni," Lehi finally revealed.
For a brief moment in time, two highly unusual and infrequent conditions occurred at the same time. This assault on Moroni's modesty caused him to blush, and it left him momentarily speechless. Grasping out for a strain of dignity, he only managed to stumble out a few awkward words and sounds in response, "Oh. I see. Well, um, yes."
Seizing the moment, Teancum could not resist adding, "We knew you'd approve -"
"So we gave them our blessing," Lehi offered the crowning touch.
"Wonderful. You've done just … wonderfully. I don't know how to thank you," Moroni responded with embarrassed sarcasm masking an inevitable bit of gratitude at the honor.
Wanting to change the topic, Moroni turned to Helaman. Teancum and Lehi continued to grin. Moroni managed to ignore them.
"What do you have to report?" he asked the only other somber face in the room.
"I wish I could give an equally glowing report for our internal defenses," Helaman stated.
"I'm hearing rumors of power-hungry -"
Helaman was interrupted when a young woman in her early twenties burst into the room followed by an apologetic, indignant soldier who had just failed his duty to keep their meeting private. The guard caught and held her by her wrists as she struggled to free herself. She was dirty and her clothes were ragged. There were traces of dried blood under her nose. One eye and her upper lip were swollen.
"Captain Moroni! I have to -" the girl demanded.
"Captain! My apologies, sir, I'll remove her -" the guard interrupted. He began to pull her toward the exit.
"No, Captain, sir! I must -" she struggled to free herself and stay in the room.
"Quiet girl! Captain, I'll -" he continued to pull at her. He was on the verge of simply picking her up with the intention of bodily removing her.
"No, stop," Moroni interrupted. "Let her speak. She appears in earnest. I want to see what's so urgent that has possessed this girl to get the better of my best guards."
The girl manifested a heartfelt smirk at the guard who still held her tightly. The powerful guard looked over to Moroni quickly with embarrassment in his eyes. Moroni ignored his guard and looked at the young woman.
"What is it?" he calmly asked the girl.
Moroni motioned and nodded to the guard to release her. She broke away defiantly, gave the guard another glaring look, and then stepped toward Moroni.
"I have news from the land of Morianton," she declared.
"Morianton?! That's where the unrest is that I was just beginning to tell you about, Moroni!" Helaman interjected.
"Yes, I know a little about this. Apparently, they aren't content with their own city and are interested in 'inheriting' the land of their neighbors. What can you tell me?" Moroni pursued.
"I am Sephara, the maid servant of Morianton. Morianton wanted more than he could have. First, it was his own city. Next, it was the neighboring cities. Then he wanted me. When I refused, he beat me. I was able to escape and have been on the run for three days, trying to bring you news," Sephara explained.
"Yes, I can gather that from your appearance. What news do you bear?" Moroni asked.
"Morianton assembled an army of men to attack their neighbors, who have fled and left their city empty. Morianton feared they would join your army and that you would come down and attack him. Rather than that, he has fled northward. He plans to gather support and attack you from the north while you blindly look southward, watching for the Lamanites," she continued.
"They'd catch us wholly unaware!" Lehi exclaimed.
"Exactly," Sephara confirmed, gaining a degree of satisfaction that her words were laying credence to her having forced her way into their presence.
"If the Lamanites weren't bad enough, we're killing ourselves from within," Teancum observed.
"Teancum, can you gather your men and cut Morianton off?" Moroni asked.
"It will be a dubious honor, captain. Consider them captured," Teancum said.
Teancum stepped toward the map table and motioned for the young woman to join him there. He pointed generally at the map.
"Do you know where Morianton planned to go?" he asked.
"Yes, unfortunately for him, I know more than he would want. Let's see -" she looked at the map, trying to decipher its locations.
Teancum pointed out some general reference points. "We're here in Zarahemla. The city of Morianton is here. Gid is there, and Manti is there."
"He was heading to the land of Desolation, because he knew few people ever travel through there." She continued to look for it as she talked.
Teancum pointed to it dragging his finger from the city of Morianton to the land of Desolation as he spoke. "The land of Desolation? Then the terrain is on our side. He's got a series of densely overgrown hills and small mountains between him and his goal. We're a straight shot through nearly level ground. We can easily catch him and head him off - probably here -"
Teancum confidently pointed to a spot on the map. He straightened up and turned to Moroni.
"We'll leave in the morning. I should catch up with him in about two days' time," he said with resolve.
"Good. Let's take care of this quickly, before the Lamanites get word of it and try to take us while we're distracted," Moroni cautioned.
"Yes, sir," Teancum stated.
As Teancum left, he motioned for the young woman to go with him. As they retreated into the hall, he spoke to her with partial sarcasm. "Come with me, I'll take you to meet our 'committee for wayward waifs.' They'll help you get cleaned up and find a new place to stay. Meanwhile, you can tell me more about Morianton, to help me beat him at his own game. You've become quite a valuable little asset -"
"Very funny. I just want Morianton to get what's coming to him," she said bitterly.
"That's what I'm here for," Teancum declared.
Teancum missed the final stage of planning, back in the war room.
"This is exactly what I feared," Moroni lamented once the door had again been secured.
"You can't reach everyone, Moroni. We're doing our best," Helaman pointed out.
"Yes, but that's small comfort when former friends turn to foes," Moroni countered.
"I'll pass on the word to all of the cities' watch guards to be on the alert until Morianton is taken care of," Lehi offered.
"Meanwhile, Helaman, we need to again increase the efforts to clear these peoples' heads so they can see straight. Liberty isn't about power and conquest, it's about the right to raise a decent family without fearing one day your child will return home on a stretcher with an arrow in his heart. Freedom from fear. That's liberty," Moroni proclaimed.
©1999, 2003 by Douglas V. Nufer
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