Liberty which binds us
Yet another post about the battle of Captain Moroni v. Zerahemnah and friends. I can't seem to get out of these two chapters. I'm beginning to think I should have called this blog "Power in Alma 44." Anyways, here's the verse that caught my attention:
And now, Zerahemnah, I command you, in the name of that all-powerful God, who has strengthened our arms that we have gained power over you, by our faith, by our religion, and by our rites of worship, and by our church, and by the sacred support which we owe to our wives and our children, by that liberty which binds us to our lands and our country; yea, and also by the maintenance of the sacred word of God, to which we owe all our happiness; and by all that is most dear unto us
Good and bad binding
"Liberty which binds us." Binds. Binding. Bound. Bondage. Liberty and bondage: two seemingly opposite terms joined together. It reminds me of when Mormon wrote that the members of the church "did wax stronger and stronger in their humility" (Helaman 3:35. Just as we usually associate humility with meekness instead of strength, we usually associate liberty with freedom and flexibility instead of being tied or bound. How does liberty "bind us?"
I think there are two meanings of the word bind in the Scriptures. The first, the more common meaning, is all about restricting or restraining our ability to do something. Like Nephi bound by his brothers (twice). Or Abinadi before King Noah. or Alma and Amulek in Ammonihah shackled up and abused. In this sense, being bound is usually a bad thing.
The other meaning is more positive. Like when Doctrine and Covenants tells us how we can "bind" the Lord:
I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say.
Or when a hymn tells us how we can bind ourselves to Him:
Loud may the sound
Of hope ring till all doubt departs,
And we are bound
To him by loving ties.
And in the Temples of God, husbands and wives have the opportunity to be bound or "sealed" to each other. This latter meaning of the word "bind" is a beautiful, covenantal meaning. A two-way binding of commitment and devotion.
This land comes with a covenant
In relation to the "liberty which binds us," it seems Moroni was communicating to Zerahemnah that the Nephites were keeping their covenants regarding the land of promise.
They were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God; for the Lord had said unto them.. ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies.
Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed. Therefore for this cause were the Nephites contending with the Lamanites, to defend themselves, and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion.
In return, the Lord promised many blessings in the land of promise:
We have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands… Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord…
And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them… unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever…
they shall prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves. And if it so be that they shall keep his commandments they shall be blessed upon the face of this land, and there shall be none to molest them, nor to take away the land of their inheritance; and they shall dwell safely forever.
On the other hand, violations of the terms of the covenant would (and eventually did) bring upon them the judgments of God:
They shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes… But behold, when the time cometh that they shall dwindle in unbelief… having been brought by his infinite goodness into this precious land of promise— behold, I say, if the day shall come that they will reject the Holy One of Israel, the true Messiah, their Redeemer and their God, behold, the judgments of him that is just shall rest upon them…
Yea, he will bring other nations unto them, and he will give unto them power, and he will take away from them the lands of their possessions, and he will cause them to be scattered and smitten…
Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; but inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.
Of course, this covenant is just as applicable to the Nephites hundreds of years BC as it is to us today. We live in the same land and operate under the same terms. We must defend ourselves and obey God or we can yet face the same fate as the Nephites.