The concluding chapters of the book of Alma (Alma 60–61) include a series of letters written between Moroni and the chief judge Pahoran. The catalyst for this exchange was a Lamanite victory in taking the city of Nephihah: “And thus being exceedingly numerous, yea, and receiving strength from day to day, by the command of Ammoron they came forth against the people of Nephihah, and they did begin to slay them with an exceedingly great slaughter” (Alma 59:7).
Moroni writes an epistle to Pahoran. Photo by Jerry Thompson, © Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
The text of the Book of Mormon provides us a lengthy cast of characters. Through the course of the narrative we know quickly and clearly which of those ancient people were righteous and which were wicked. This helps us so that even as children we know we want to be like Nephi, Alma, and Mormon, and we feel warned to avoid the mistakes and wickedness of Laman, Korihor, and Amalickiah.
There is, however, one instance where we see two men, both presumably righteous, in conflict with each other: Captain Moroni and Chief Judge Pahoran (see Alma 61). This creates an internal conflict for us as well. Many have written thoughtfully and well on this topic, with the predominant interpretation being sympathetic to Pahoran. In the continued spirit of academic analysis, this article will offer another interpretation, one that will hopefully give a different insight into the actions and character of each man and be congruent with Mormon’s evident respect for Captain Moroni. Additionally, this article will show how certain cultural blinders may unknowingly influence us in our interpretation of why each man reacted as he did. There are great lessons to be learned from this new perspective.