Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Importance of Suffering

I found a very interesting verse as I was reading some ancient Chinese theory. In The Six Secret Teaching of Tai Kung we read of "ten errors" that a general possesses. We read that "being benevolent but unable to inflict suffering" is a fatal error. (Ralph Sawyer trans. The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China, 62) This reminded me of Captain Moroni. He is often lauded for his ability to avoid bloodshed. But according to Tai Kung, his ability to inflict suffering contributed to his success, since "one who is benevolent but unable to inflict suffering can be worn down."

We read in Alma 61-63 that the King men had successfully worn down and taken control of the government. Moroni had different plans however. He speedily marched back to the capital, linked up with loyalist forces, defeated the rebels, and then executed the prisoners. He has been criticized and even called a war criminal for such actions. Yet his ability to inflict suffering won the war.

In a wider sense, we should be grateful that our Father in Heaven was willing to inflict suffering-so much suffering that Jesus prayed to have it removed. (Doc. &Cov. 19:18; 3 Nephi 11:11) And one of the main themes of the Book of Mormon is that the physical suffering can be replaced with spiritual salvation. Starting in the first chapter of the Book of Mormon we read that Jerusalem will be destroyed-but a Messiah will come to save the people. Physically they will meet disaster while being saved spiritually. At the city of Ammonihah the believers were burned, but accepted into the arms of a loving God. (Alma 14:10-13) And Moroni was the cause of sending so many souls to their God, where they still could have been saved spiritually.

I mentioned in one of my first posts, the Book of Mormon has a double helix of spiritual and secular messages. Moroni's ability to inflict suffering recalls the necessity of it in the mission of Jesus Christ. And the ability of his father to inflict it (through requiring the plan in the first place and then allowing it to happen) should be thanked. Moroni may seem like a harsh figure and the ability to inflict suffering is not normally praised among modern society, but his ability to inflict suffering secured the Nephites physical salvation as much as the Father and Son secured our spiritual salvation.


P.A Olavarria said...

Being good and nice are not the same things. Good men are often unkind.

Morgan Deane said...

Thanks for the comment P.A. I am a little confused at what you are getting at. I think the problem is that "good" and "nice" are general words with multiple meanings.

The point of my post was to point out that a figure presented with such admiration within the Book of Mormon did things that we would consider harsh, yet that was part of being an effective general and ties in to the main theme of the gospel- the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.

I should also add, that Machiavelli wrote in The Prince about how a "good"(moral) person does not neccesarily make someone a "good"(effective) ruler. Because a ruler sometimes must be mean, ruthless, or harsh in order to protect his kingdom and his people; a person that is too good, i.e., honest, kind, benevolent and peaceful may not do what is necessary to properly defend his people. Thus a good (effective) ruler sometimes acts in a way that some would consider bad (immoral). And a good (moral) person would be a bad (ineffective) ruler. (Do you see why using general terms can confuse?)

I'm sorry if I didn't get it, and I hope I didn't muddle the sitaution further by bringing up The Prince. Feel free to clarify and comment further, thanks.