One Nation Under God (Alma 51)
During the period of time covered by the Book of Alma, the Nephite nation is intended to be "one nation under God." The system of government is one designed by Mosiah, a seer of God. It replaced the former system where kings ruled over the land. In Alma 51, the new system of government — only about 25 years old at this point — faces a severe challenge as the nation becomes severely divided, making it difficult to continue as one nation under God. This article presents an overview of this episode. See if you can spot any parallels to another nation that is intended to be one nation under God.
Change in Leadership of the Government
At the end of Alma 50, the previous leader's term expires — actually, he dies — and a man named Pahoran is "appointed chief judge and governor over the people, with an oath and sacred ordinance to judge righteously…and to grant unto them their sacred privileges to worship the Lord their God, yea, to support and maintain the cause of God all his days" (Alma 50:39).
A Portion of the People Want Change
Alma 51 begins by saying "there were a part of the people who desired that a few particular points of the law should be altered" (verse 2). Are these proposed changes contrary to the precepts of God? It doesn't say, but based on what happens later, it's not unreasonable to assume that they are. At the very least, it seems likely that the proposed changes will primarily benefit the people supporting them.
The Government Leader Refuses to Alter the System
Choosing to keep things unchanged, "Pahoran would not alter nor suffer the law to be altered, therefore, he did not hearken to those who had sent in…their petitions concerning the altering of the law" (verse 3). Was he respectful of their feelings in turning them down? It doesn't say. Did the people feel he was mean or even insulting in rejecting these attempted changes? Who knows? However, as long as he was fulfilling his oath to "support and maintain the cause of God" — maintaining the concept of "One Nation Under God" — he was doing the job he was appointed to do.
The People Who Want Change Try to Remove the Leader From Office
Incensed by Pahoran's refusal to accept their proposed changes, "those who were desirous that the law should be altered were angry with him, and desired that he should no longer be chief judge over the land" (verse 4). Backed by wealthy, powerful people of "high birth" (verse 8), they manage to force a national election on a referendum to eliminate the entire governmental system and go back to a system of kings. Much to their chagrin, they lose the election "and Pahoran retained the judgment-seat" (verse 7).
Divisiveness Ensues: Not 'One Nation Under God'
Right at this time, the Lamanites launch an attack against the Nephite nation. However, those Nephites who had opposed Pahoran "were so wroth with the chief judge, and also with [his supporters], that they would not take up arms to defend their country" (verse 13). In fact, when they "heard that the Lamanites were coming down to battle against them, they were (actually) glad in their hearts" (verse 13), preferring tragedy to come to the country rather than being willing to follow this leader and be part of one nation under God.
Destruction Comes: 'One Nation Under God' Is Restored
When Moroni, the leader of the Nephite army, learns of this rebellion, "he [is] exceeding wroth because of the stubbornness of those people…his soul [is] filled with anger against them" (verse 14). There is no mention of tolerance, inclusion, or compromise in his reaction — if these people are not willing to support one nation under God, they are the enemy.
Lest anyone try to criticize Moroni for his reaction, let's remember that the scriptures say that if all men had been like Moroni, "the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men" (Alma 48:17). Moroni is an agent of God for this period of time.
This agent of God, with the approval of the government and a majority of the people, leads the army against these Nephite dissenters, killing 4,000 of them and imprisoning others. The remainder of them are "brought down to humble themselves like unto their brethren, and to fight valiantly for their freedom" (verse 21) against the Lamanites. One nation under God is restored.
'One Nation Under God' Today
The United States of America is intended to be "One Nation Under God" — American history and the Book of Mormon both support this concept. Yet, our recent history has many parallels to the story related above, and we currently find ourselves in the "divisiveness phase". According to prophecy, destruction will be next — not necessarily in the manner described above, but it will come from God with the purpose of destroying and/or humbling the wicked and ushering in a period of peace on this land, which will then be one nation under God as He wants it to be.
In the meantime, let's do our best to support the "One Nation Under God" concept through supporting godly causes and leaders and opposing those who work against the precepts of God. Let's also make sure we are personally prepared to be counted among the people of God should the destruction come in our lifetime such that we need not fear and we will be part of the kingdom of Zion on this land — a time of peace when we will truly be one nation under God.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.