One of the greatest examples of sophistry and deceptive flattery ever written comes from a leader of the Gadianton robbers, and the response of the righteous Nephites to that fraud is a lesson strikingly applicable to our day.
In short, that response was spiritual and physical preparation that protected the Nephites from ruinous invasion. In fact - in what could well be called the moral of this account - "it was impossible for the robbers to lay siege sufficiently long to have any effect upon the Nephites." (See 3 Ne. 4:18.)But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
The Nephites, led by their God-fearing governor Lachoneus, found themselves at odds with the Gadianton robbers, a group so vile that they took upon themselves secret oaths and covenants given them by Satan that allowed them to "murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness." (See Hel. 6:24,26.)
Typical of the duplicity common among these robbers, their leader, Giddianhi wrote Lachoneus - ostensibly to offer some sort of reconciliation to their differences:
"Lachoneus, most noble and chief governor of the land, behold, I write this epistle unto you, and do give unto you exceedingly great praise because of your firmness, and also the firmness of your people, in maintaining that which ye suppose to be your right and liberty;
"And it seemeth a pity unto me, most noble Lachoneus, that ye should be so foolish and vain as to suppose that ye can stand against so many brave men who are at my command. . . .
"Therefore I have written this epistle, . . . desiring that ye would yield up unto this my people, your cities, your lands, and your possessions, rather than that they should visit you with the sword and that destruction should come upon you.
" . . . Unite with us and become acquainted with our secret works, and become our brethren that ye may be like unto us - not our slaves, but our brethren and partners of all our substance.
"And behold, I swear unto you, if ye will do this, with an oath, ye shall not be destroyed; . . ."
Though veiled in kind-sounding words, Giddianhi's epistle was, pure and simple, a lie.
And Lachoneus was inspired to know that.
His response was quick - and wise.
He called for the Nephites to gather themselves and build fortresses, to make weapons of war, to obtain provisions and appoint captains - physical preparations necessary for victory in battle. But more importantly, he exhorted his people to be humble, pray, repent, appoint captains who had the spirit of prophecy and revelation, listen to their inspired leaders, and fear God - spiritual preparations without which the physical preparations would have ultimately done little good. (See 3 Nephi, chapters 3 and 4.)
What then, one is compelled to wonder, is the application of these passages in today's confused, ambiguous and sometimes evil world?
Has any force "declared war" on those who love and fear God?
Do we face influences - perhaps well-intentioned but misled, or openly opposed to the will of God - that rely on half-truths, flattery, sophistry or outright lies to lead us away from our Heavenly Father and His Son, our Savior?
If war has been declared, where will the battle be fought?
And are we physically - and spiritually - prepared for such a fight?
Enemies of righteousness, of course, are legion. Attempting to list every evil or even less-than-good influence in our lives is impossible. While Lachoneus' enemy was pretty clearly defined, ours is schooled and highly trained in the art of not exposing who he really is.
Our protection, however, is much the same today as it was for the Nephites. The list of those protections is certainly comparable, and probably greater, than the list of evils we face. Thus listing all would be similarly impossible. But, as explained by Lachoneus, those protections center on faith in God, keeping His commandments and relying on the boundless and eternal love He unceasingly offers.
If we are constantly vigilant in doing the will of the Father, we, too, will find that it is impossible for our enemies to lay siege sufficiently long to have any effect on us. (See 3 Ne. 4:18.)