“Use the Forts,” New Era, Aug. 2020, 24–26.
In the part of the Book of Mormon often called the “war chapters,” Captain Moroni stands out. He’s brave. He’s strong. He’s firm. He’s righteous. He loves the Lord. He loves his people. He loves freedom. He’s filled with passion and zeal for his righteous cause. And he’s also smart, cunning, and full of ingenuity. We can learn a lot from Captain Moroni.
One of the lessons we can learn has to do with how he prepared for war during peacetime. The Lamanites had attacked the Nephites before, and Moroni wanted to make sure his people would be as safe as possible when the Lamanites attacked again. So he prepared by “strengthening the armies of the Nephites, and erecting small forts, or places of resort; throwing up banks of earth round about to enclose his armies, and also building walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of their lands; yea, all round about the land” (Alma 48:8).
Earlier attacks had exposed vulnerabilities and weaknesses, so “in their weakest fortifications [Moroni] did place the greater number of men” (Alma 48:9). And the cities that had been weakest he gave some of their strongest fortifications (see Alma 49:1–15).
One lesson to learn from Moroni’s preparations applies to your spiritual life. It is simply this: Use the forts. That is, build up spiritual fortifications to thwart the attacks of “the enemy of [your] soul” (2 Nephi 4:28).
Some people don’t seem to think about strengthening their fortifications until the enemy has already launched his attack. Perhaps they think they’ll be able to hurry and erect a wall and put all their other defenses in place just in time.
But that’s not how the forts work. You need to prepare. That means doing the hard work before the moment of trial comes. Make a regular habit of praying, studying the scriptures, and partaking the sacrament. Think about how you will avoid temptation, and decide ahead of time how you will handle situations where you may be tempted.
Preparation is particularly important in those areas where you may have been weak in the past. If a temptation has been particularly hard for you to withstand, you may need to spend some extra effort building up your fortifications there. This may mean thicker walls to put some distance between yourself and the temptation.
For example, if you used to view pornography, set some strict limits on your media and technology use, and enlist the help of others to maintain those limits. Or if you used to swear and tell dirty jokes, stop spending time with people who swear and tell dirty jokes. Then, even if the temptation comes, you’re more prepared.
So how do you build up your defenses? You must learn the ways of the forts. How will you build your walls, secure your gate, and arm your city to make sure you can withstand any attack? You’ll need to learn the commandments, teachings, and promises your Heavenly Father has given you through the scriptures and modern prophets. You’ll need to learn to draw closer to Jesus Christ, have faith in Him, repent, and live His gospel.
Learning these things will take humility and teachability. You’ll need to listen to those who know best about these things. That means acknowledging that you don’t know it all. People with experience and wisdom, such as parents and leaders, can help you make your spiritual fortifications to the proper specifications through your study and effort. And pay special attention to the counsel of modern prophets and apostles. (For instance, see the counsel from Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the end of this article.)
Sometimes the enemy’s attacks are so fierce that you may sense a disturbance in the forts. You may notice one of your walls weakening—the temptation is stronger, your firm resolve is slipping. In such a case, you may need to make an extra effort, but it’s worth it. The Lord will bless you with strength if you do. So don’t give up.
Moroni knew that it was easier to maintain a fortified city than to try to retake one. That should be your focus as well. Though it’s certainly not impossible to reclaim ground you’ve given up in your spiritual battles, you’re better off keeping your defenses strong and not allowing the enemy to gain any advantage.
Just as with physical defenses, when you’re maintaining your spiritual defenses, it pays to be thorough. It doesn’t do a whole lot of good to have a fort whose walls don’t go all the way around the city. The enemy of your soul isn’t going to attack from just one direction. So don’t leave yourself vulnerable by completely ignoring some aspect of obedience or spiritual fortification. Just because you’re doing great at, say, never swearing again or never skipping church again doesn’t mean it’s now OK to totally skip scripture study or to start reacting unkindly to your siblings.
If you strive to be obedient and repent when you make mistakes and sin, if you keep praying, studying the scriptures, and focusing on your covenants, you’ll be happier—and you’ll maintain your spiritual defenses. Then the forts will be with you, always.