A military veteran’s view of the Book of Mormon

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Welcome to the official website of author Douglas J. Bell, and the Defenders of Faith: The Book of Mormon from a Soldier’s Perspective.

Defenders_of_Faith_the_Book_of_Mormon_from_a_soldiers_perspective_Douglas_J_BellThe leaders of the Book of Mormon were not only great prophets, they were also warriors, patriots, and defenders of liberty. Strengthen your testimony and love of these inspiring men with the unique perspective of a latter-day soldier.

Defenders of Faith is available now! Find out more…

WHAT CAN WE DO? ARE THERE ACTIONS WE CAN TAKE?

There are many actions we can take to heed the warnings of Moroni.  I have narrowed the list into a workable number that will be easier to digest.  There are six steps that each of us can easily do to show that we are aware of the awful circumstance of which Moroni spoke.

  • Follow the Prophet and keep the commandments.
  • Live by a righteous personal moral code – truth and right are more important than money, power, or politics.
  • Become well educated regarding our freedom and the secret combinations that would like to destroy it.
  • Elect leaders who will follow the admonition of Moroni and stand up against the satanic nature of secrecy.
  • Speak out against wickedness and give direction to your community, state, and national leaders.
  • Teach our children to be vigilant and follow the principles stated above.

In summary, if we heed the warnings of Moroni, we will be actively engaged in the affairs of our community and nation. As in the Book of Mormon, we must find and support leaders who clearly understand the danger of secret societies and nations which desire to undermine freedom. Moreover, it is imperative that we keep our covenants to the Savior.  We should turn to Christ and follow His example. God will in turn bless us with prosperity and give our leaders the inspiration necessary to protect us from these dangerous and wicked people. .

It is time for us to examine the behavior of the secret combinations inside and outside our borders.  The adage that “knowledge is power” has never been truer.  I believe that Moroni spoke with so much power because he did not want us to be ignorant and passive.  As Moroni warned, we should “awake to a sense of [our] awful situation.”  We have been slowly losing our freedoms to those who operate in secret for many years. To reverse this trend we must demand truth and honor from our leaders and our courts. Just like the Nephites, the Lord will bless us with prosperity if we turn to Him for help and keep His commandments.  However, if we do not heed the warning of Moroni and allow secrecy and iniquity to thrive, the Lord will withdraw his support for our beloved Promised Land.

KNOWING MORONI’S WARNING – CAN WE FIND SECRET COMBINATIONS?

A short time ago I wrote about Moroni’s reflections on the secret combinations in the Book of Mormon and how these secret bands of wicked men ultimately destroyed two great nations.  He spoke directly to us and warned us to not let these wicked societies get a foothold in our modern nations. His warning follows.

Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain—and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be.

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 it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies…  (The Book of Mormon; Ether 8:22-26) [Emphasis added]

Is this warning well placed?  Are there problems within our nations today?  ABSOLUTELY!   Secret combinations are unmistakably thriving in the Promised Land – the Americas. There are many examples.  In this brief essay I will only present some that are most evident.

SECRECT COMBINATIONS IN DRUG TRAFFICKING

It is clear that a number of Central and South American nations are beset with corruption. This exploitation of governments is fueled by murderous drug cartels that are set up to gain wealth from illegal drugs. It is virtually impossible to control these criminals because of bribes, threats and deceptive lies.  The most deplorable conduct of these cartels is murder. Local leaders and police that confront them are often murdered. In addition, the families and loved ones of the leaders become the target of the criminals and are often murdered to create fear and bring compliance to their wicked ways. To add to the disorder, the children of influential people are being kidnapped for ransom. This chaotic state is created by criminals who are undoubtedly using the methods of secret combinations as described by Moroni.

A grave consequence brought about by these drug lords is that the lives of American children are polluted by the addictions caused by the use of illegal drugs. The cure for these addictions is very difficult and often hopeless. The cartels are so powerful below the southern border of the United States that they have threatened to assassinate police officials in the United States who are thwarting their drug traffic. Do we need to heed the warning of Moroni about these secret combinations? Absolutely!

SECRECY AMONG OUR AMERICAN LEADERS

 Are these secret combinations thriving in the United States?   An examination of the behavior of some of government officials might shed some light.  Moroni warned us their secrecy would be designed to take away our liberty. Within our government it seems that power has been generated by creating a huge bureaucracy that controls the people. These unelected bureaucrats have enormous power because behind closed doors they can create rules and regulations that take sovereignty and freedom from the people. The United States Congress and Senate often conduct their business in secrecy away from the eyes of the citizens.  Huge pieces of legislation containing thousands of pages of regulation are created in back rooms and voted on before they can be read and analyzed by the general population. Policy and laws are created in privacy without the voice of opposition parties.

It is painful to point out that just like the Nephites of old we are losing our rule of law. Nephite judges became corrupted by the secret bands named after a wicked leader called Gadianton. Today, the principal law of the land, the Constitution of the United States, is often ignored by our legislators. These unconstitutional laws take away our property, our freedom. The prosperity and wealth of the people is taken by taxes and distributed like bribes to obtain power.

These transfers of tax money build a system of handouts which are called “entitlements.” These programs often encourage reliance on government and fail to learn self-reliance.  Moreover, these programs frequently take away the opportunity for individual charity and family support.  Instead of a failsafe program to help the helpless, the systems become a mainstay of our culture and take away community and family service opportunities.  Active Christians are lulled into neglecting their responsibility to help those in need because they think the government will do it.

The way of the Lord is to allow people to mature and grow through sharing their wealth voluntarily. Every person should have equal opportunity to grow and prosper. The core values of the people should be such that they work hard to create wealth which they can share by employing people and providing excellent products and services.  A truly Christian society will share blessings of God with each other.

 SECRECT COMBINATIONS THAT ATTACK TO CAUSE TERROR

 At present there are organizations outside the Americas which desire to destroy the freedom of all lands. There is a threat to the nations of the world by Muslim extremists who also function much like the secret combinations described in the Book of Mormon – they desire to take away freedom through fear and force.

The most iconic example of these secret operatives who have no respect for life is the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City in September of 2001. They infiltrated the country and went underground while plotting the murder of thousands of Americans. Their goal was to create terror and fear while also destroying the financial systems of the free world. The recent bombing of the Boston Marathon is another example of their desire to create terror among innocent people.

It is important for us to follow the warnings of Moroni and investigate and learn to understand these organizations which reject Christianity and seek international power. The Muslim people are not to blame. Most are family people who want to have decent work and raise their families. However, there are elements of the Muslim community that foster hate and seek to establish fear and terror in the world by murdering innocent people and creating chaos. Their ultimate goal is to gain power and wealth – just like the Gadiantons.

 SECRET COMBINATIONS THAT WE INVITE INTO OUR HOMES

Another example of a secret society that is slowly but effectively changing our American culture is the television and movie industry.  Our families are bombarded with stories and scenes that justify and condone wickedness.  Isaiah is quoted in the Book of Mormon and in the Bible  -  in the last days we will be bombarded with so much wickedness that that which is good and right will be called evil and vice versa.

Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20 and 2 Nephi 15:20)

             It doesn’t take very much thought to recognize that the entertainment industry is trying to tell us how to think.  It is easy to see that television teaches our children:  that violence is okay; that immorality is commonplace and acceptable; that abhorrent language is now part of the norm; that television programs set the dress standards for our youth; and that believing in Christ is not popular and is even intolerant of others.  All of this is done in secret and is placed deceptively in front of us with the purpose changing our culture by of influencing our youth.

These are just a few examples of organizations or groups who act in secrecy.  Their intentions are clear:  they want to destroy our liberty, corrupt our society, or terrorize our people.  As Moroni warned, we must become aware of our situation.  Recognizing secret activities around us is only the first step.  Next week, I will post some actions that we can take individually to protect ourselves and our families.

 

THE DANGER OF SECRET TERROR GROUPS: A WARNING FROM THE BOOK OF MORMON

The Book of Mormon contains a spiritual history of a group of ancient inhabitants of the Americas.  In the book are the stories of two great nations which came to an end because of wickedness and the power of secret combinations that created terror and corruption. Consequently, ancient prophets gave a warning to the peoples of the Americas – North and South America.  The warning is very specific and we would be foolish to not pay attention.

The prophet who gave the warning lived 1600 years ago and was named Moroni.  He saw his own nation destroyed by corruption and war and wrote the history of another nation which met the same fate. Indeed, he was well qualified to make a comment on the wickedness and problems of secret bands of satanic terrorists.   He gave us a commentary regarding these secret terrorists and recorded the following statement.

And it came to pass that they (the covert creators of terror)  formed a secret combination, even as they of old; which combination is most abominable and wicked above all, in the sight of God;

For the Lord worketh not in secret combinations, neither doth he will that man should shed blood, but in all things hath forbidden it, from the beginning of man. And now I, Moroni, do not write the manner of their oaths and combinations, for it hath been made known unto me that they are had among all people…

And they have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking (the Jaredites), and also the destruction of the people of Nephi. And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed… (The Book of Mormon; Ether 8:18-22) [Emphasis and inserts added]

 

After this brief introduction to secret combinations, Moroni wrote a serious warning to the people of the latter-days who will read his words.  He had literally seen our day in vision so his counsel should be taken with extreme concern.

 

Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain—and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be.

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 it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies…  (The Book of Mormon; Ether 8:22-26) [Emphasis added]

 

Moroni was very specific about the problems brought about by these secret combinations. The following list is my simplified analysis of his counsel to us.

  • These secret combinations are abominable in the sight of God.
  • They have existed from the beginning of time and are directed by Satan.
  • The Lord has forbidden these secret societies.
  • Their tactics include the shedding of blood to create fear and terror.
  • The purpose of these deceitful groups is to get power and gain wealth.
  • Their methods will destroy the liberty of the people through corruption.
  • Nations that allow these combinations to exist will become weak and be destroyed.
  • The ultimate motive for these secret organizations is to overthrow the freedom of all nations.

 

This deadly serious message of Moroni is aimed directly at the readers of the Book of Mormon — the people of the latter days.   Again he said: Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you..”   Moroni’s advice to us is to repent and stand up against these wicked groups which desire to take our liberty. His final statement is an unmistakable warning: the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation…”

Knowing that we have been warned is only the beginning of our problem as readers and believers of the Book of Mormon.  The greater question is what do we learn from our situation and what can we do?  Answers to this question are what will be covered in my next post. God bless you!

Defenders of Faith brings the military leaders of the Book of Mormon to life in such a way that we have never known before! It unveils the relationship between God and these extraordinary men in a new and glorious light. Our family did not want to put this book down, and wished it would not end! We came away from this book glowing with excitement for the knowledge that we have that Christ is our redeemer and we are on His side. Our family is pumped to also be Defenders of Faith!

The Wilcox Family of Orem

THE BOOK OF MORMON: A SOLDIER’S SOURCE OF COMFORT

 

THE BOOK OF MORMON: A SOLDIER’S SOURCE OF COMFORT

My training as a soldier in the United States Army has given me a unique perspective on the Book of Mormon. I have read and enjoyed it many times and taught courses on the Book of Mormon at Brigham Young University. However, the influence of this book on me was magnified many times over when I served as a soldier in Iraq with the 142nd Military Intelligence Battalion during 2003.Defenders_of_Faith_the_Book_of_Mormon_from_a_soldiers_perspective_Douglas_J_Bell_cover While I was stationed in Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom, I had an opportunity to study the Book of Mormon while serving in a war zone. The prophet-warriors came alive as never before. Their actions took on a new meaning because I saw them as faithful military commanders and not just warriors. The wonder and significance of the “war chapters” seemed to leap off the pages. The dangers of living in a war zone gave new and cherished meaning to life every day. In general, people don’t understand the life of a soldier and his confrontation with possible death and the faith that springs from this conflict. People would often say to me when they discovered that I had been to Iraq: “How dreadful, terrible, or awful.” They seemed shocked when I would say, “On the contrary, my opportunity to serve was an honor and a great adventure.” It is this same sense of adventure that motivated me to write a book – Defenders of Faith: The Book of Mormon from a Soldier’s Perspective.

 

MY DAYS IN KUWAIT: MURMURING AND THEN AWAKENING

In 2003, my military unit was flown into Kuwait and sent to live in tents in the desert. During this experience, I had a spiritual awakening that is explained through the Book of Mormon. Our unit, almost to a man, was not happy. The cause of our displeasure was much more than just being away from home. Our mission had been changed and the uncertainty of where we would go and what we would do created dreadful anxiety. We had been trained to set up a prisoner of war detention facility in Northern Iraq and carry out screenings and interrogations. That mission had been scrapped and our training appeared to have been a waste of time. It was so hot in Kuwait that we couldn’t sleep until after eleven o’clock at night. During the day the wind would stir up dust and leave a fine film over all of our gear in the tent. The dust had the consistency of flour and would stick to everything, especially our perspiring bodies. I attended meetings with good people who had changed their normally first-class demeanor to a bearing of distasteful irritability. Most of us had become angry, bad-tempered and quite dysfunctional. As I was reading the Book of Mormon, it dawned on me that I had become just like the wayward sons of the Prophet Lehi — Laman and Lemuel: (1) I wanted the comforts of home, (2) I hated the desert and intense heat, (3) I didn’t understand where I was destined to go and (4) I resented the people who brought me there. It became clear to me that I was murmuring and I had become very good at it. My behavior was almost identical to Laman and Lemuel, the sons of Lehi who didn’t want to leave their home in Jerusalem. They were in the deserts near the Red Sea and rebelled against their father (See murmurings in 1Ne 3:5-6; 7:6-7,16; 15:7-8; 16:20,36-37; 17:17,45-49; 18:9-11).

This recognition was an awakening for me and I decided to make a serious change in behavior. The first step I took was to stop focusing on my own discomfort and begin inviting people into my life. I began with the chow line which was several hundred yards long. The wait for each meal gave me time to talk to other soldiers. I would ask the following questions. “Where are you from?” “What is your MOS (military job)?” “Do you have children?” “Do you a have a life outside the army?” Their responses were marvelous and insightful. My journal is full of stories about the people I met: mechanics, infantrymen, tank commanders, pilots, and surgeons just to name a few. They were high-quality people and it was clear that they were sacrificing much more than me. My attitude made an almost immediate change towards hope and appreciation for the others who were suffering through that dreadful experience with me.

 

A WALK UPON SACRED GROUND

My attitude about my situation was greatly influenced by an interesting incident that again brought the Book of Mormon close to my heart. I noticed some small white rocks that were mixed in with the sand and dust which made up the desert floor – I began to collect a few. The rocks were just smaller than golf balls and were worn smooth from centuries of wind and grinding dust. One night in the tent, I took one of these rocks from my pocket and put my flashlight under it. The rock absorbed the light and glowed! I was stunned. My mind was immediately directed to a Book of Mormon story about the experience of the brother of Jared. He was the leader of a small group that God separated and led away from the land of the Tigris and Euphrates valley at the time of the Tower of Babel. The brother of Jared needed light for the ships he had built to cross the ocean and his solution was to ask the Lord to touch some stones – knowing that they would glow from His touch and bring continuous light for his ships. The Lord was pleased with the solution and touched the stones which glowed and provide light for the Jaredite voyage. When my stones glowed easily, I suddenly recognized the obvious fact that I was geographically near the site where Jared and his small band had traveled over four thousand years earlier. I was camped on hallowed ground that had been blessed by the footsteps of prophets (See Ether 2:18-24, 3:1, 4-6).

From that time forward I was energized by the idea that I was traveling in a region that was blessed by God. When in Kuwait, I was near the place where the Jaredites had gone to escape from the tower of Babel. When I eventually went to Iraq, I was in the land of Abraham, Daniel, Ezekiel, Esther, Jonah and many others. My interest in Old Testament scriptural accounts intensified. The book of Daniel was most inspirational to me. He told of ancient Babylon and the captive Jews. Knowing that I was near the birthplace of Abraham–the founding Patriarch of Israel–added depth and understanding to every trip I took.

 

MY DAYS IN IRAQ: A GREAT ADVENTURE

I spent nine months during the year 2003 in Iraq. During this time I was stationed in an unstable and dangerous war zone. My reading of the war chapters in the Book of Mormon spoke to me as never before. It was almost as if these great prophet warriors joined me along with my fellow soldiers. They helped me understand the need for soldiers to love the Lord, their country and their families. Moreover, I came to understand the wonder of being there when a nation is liberated. The people had been dreadfully oppressed for decades by the wicked dictator Saddam Hussein. The war was devastating to the people of Iraq but the opportunity to be free from tyranny brought impressive energy to their lives. The work I did with the Iraqi people became the adventure of a lifetime.

Traveling in Iraq was dangerous because of improvised explosive devises, commonly called “IED’s.” These were explosive charges that would be placed on the roadside and exploded by remote control devices (usually cell phones) as US military convoys or vehicles drove by. In spite of the danger, it was very satisfying to travel through the cities and take the opportunity to meet with interesting people. I met with impressive Iraqi Generals, University Presidents, scientists, and many other influential Iraqi citizens. They loved and appreciated their newfound freedom and helped us at the peril of their own lives because there were still loyalists to Saddam Hussein who would attack them or their families if they helped the United States Army.

One of the former Iraqi generals became a close friend. It was a friendship that was illustrated by a hug as a greeting before we would begin our discussions. He was an honorable man and always greeted us with respect. At the end of meetings, we would often spend time talking about family, economic conditions, or the government. After one very productive meeting I asked him if he was a descendent of Abraham. His countenance brightened as he said, “Yes, I am.” I said, “A descendent of Ishmael – right?” He replied with even greater interest. “Yes, indeed.” In a way, I think his interest and excitement was sparked because I knew his ancestry. I then stated, “I am also a descendant of Abraham.” At this point, the translator became very concerned because he thought I had told him I was a Jew. I quickly stated, “I am a descendent of Ephraim.” My great Iraqi friend rose up and said, “We are cousins.” Friendship and freedom are so wonderful! Only a few months earlier we were possible battlefield enemies and now we were friends and soldiers with deep admiration for each other.

This same respect for a former enemy was illustrated by Captain Moroni, perhaps the greatest of all Book of Mormon generals. Readers of the Book of Mormon may wonder how Captain Moroni could be so bold as to allow his defeated battlefield enemies to return home after swearing an oath. After my experience, Moroni’s actions become especially understandable. Moroni was a battle hardened veteran who had learned to respect the valor of his enemy. Moroni always showed mercy to his enemy when his army had a distinct advantage. He avoided slaughter and allowed his arch enemy relief and freedom if the enemy soldiers would put down their weapons and take an oath never to return. Just as Captain Moroni, the Americans were able to set our former enemies free and they worked with us to end the war and to establish freedom and peace in their newly liberated nation.

 

THE WAR ZONE: A TIME TO SEEK THE LORD

The large base where we were stationed in Iraq had several hundred LDS soldiers from Utah, so forming a group for church meetings was rather easy. We met three times a week for church – once on Friday (the Muslim holy day) and twice on Sunday. It seemed to me that no matter what talk or testimony was given, the message moved to a central theme: “The Lord is in charge of our lives and the welfare of our families.” We knew that the Lord loved us. Moreover, we knew that he would care for our families no matter what happened to us. It was an experience which dramatically increased my faith and changed my life. I doubt that I will ever forget the role the Lord played in my life while in the Iraqi war zone. Moreover, I sincerely believe that the Lord is ready to reach out and touch each of our lives when we seek Him.