Different Wars

I recently read in my scriptures the story of the people of Ammon, who after becoming converted to the gospel, buried their weapons and made an oath to never shed any more blood.

Soon, the Lamanites attacked, and the people, true to their oath, take up no weapons, lay down, and are slaughtered. One thousand and five men, women, and children died. As I read this my heart broke. I wanted to cry to the people in the pages, “Pick up your weapons! It’s OK to fight. It’s OK to defend yourselves!”

I was bothered. Why did they make this oath, and why did the Lord make them keep it? Nephi beheaded the drunk Laban in the streets. Moroni hoisted the title of liberty and led his army against evil, fighting his own people when necessary. Helaman marched to battle with children. So many people are strengthened in their efforts to fight against evil. Why couldn’t the people of Ammon fight?The answer came quietly, but quickly. They’re fighting a different war.

It was then I realized something that I should have learned a long time ago. Two people in the same situation who utter the same prayer can receive two separate answers. And they can both be right.

We see the example in many places. Two women faced with the same evil in their marriage can say the same prayer. One may receive the answer to fight, fight bravely, and fight every day for the rest of her life. The other may receive the answer to lay down the weapons and walk away. And they can both be right.

Two men in the same situation with the same ambitious dream can say the same prayer. One man might choose to fight, to pack up his family, to make the necessary sacrifices to reach his goal. The other might choose to lay down his weapons, to lay down his dream, and wait for another time, maybe later in this life or in the next. And they can both be right.

I also noticed this scenario when watching a panel of people who faced the war of fertility. Their prayers, though similar, received very different answers. Some chose to lay down their weapons, receiving the answer that this was not the plan the Lord had for them at this time, that their prayers would be answered in different ways and at different times, and this was not a war for them to fight. Some received the answer to fight. They fought with medications and surgeries and treatments, and adoption, and many fought over and over again. And every single person was right.

I’ve experienced this in my personal life. My family received an answer to fight a war. We armed each of our children, and we marched to battle until a friend stopped me in the street. “Whoa!” she said. “What are you doing? Put down your weapons. Go home, and tuck your kids in bed. This isn’t right.”

It was a conversation that could have challenge my convictions, but instead I received the same quiet confirmation I had received while reading the scriptures months earlier. We’re fighting a different war.

While the answer for her family may have been to focus their energies elsewhere, the answer for my family was to fight. And we are both right.

Too often we see others making different choices, choices we deem irresponsible, selfish, wrong. Because for us, they would be. Too often we respond by saying, “I can’t believe he chose this, or that,” or, “She should do this instead.” But we can only judge others based on what we know – our lives, our stories, our strengths. These are all different than those of others. We don’t know what answers others receive, what wars they’re asked to fight, or what weapons they’re asked to bury.

I think if we rephrased our reactions to others’ choices, we would receive the answer they’re fighting a different war. And this simple answer would diffuse a lot of the world’s disagreements.

Ammon was not Nephi. Nor was he Moroni. I am not my neighbor. Nor am I my sister. And I’m very different from my friend. Though we may face the same trials and say the same prayers: How can I protect my family? How can I serve the Lord? How can I share the gospel? We’ll receive as varied answers as Ammon and Nephi. Our choices can be different, but we can both be right. Because the Lord knows us and loves us individually, He gives us individual answers to our prayers. And that means that the answers will vary from person to person, from family to family, and from father to son.

When we disagree with others, so often we want to take up arms. A disagreement is a battle, and we want to fight. But maybe the answer is to bury our weapons. Let friends make their choices and we’ll make ours. Maybe the most peaceful way to respond, especially to choices that don’t affect us or our families, is to simply say they’re fighting a different war. Maybe the most courageous thing to do is to say we can both be right.

Because in the end, we’re all fighting. We’re fighting a battle against evil, and we’re fighting with the Lord. He needs all types of warriors, in all types of places, developing all types of skills. As an all-knowing and all-powerful Commander, He places us where we need to be. So I’ll play my role. I’ll play it bravely, and I’ll play it well. I’ll trust you to play your role, and we’ll both cheer on our neighbor, whose role is different than each of ours, but equally important. And when the battle is over, we’ll all share the victory. Because in our own way, we’re all fighting the same war.

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