What are the qualities of a disciple of Jesus Christ? Three examples from the Book of Mormon provide guidance.
The people of Ammon
During a brutal war between the Lamanite and Nephite nations, a group of Lamanites converted to Christianity and the Nephite cause. These people of Ammon known as Anti-Nephi-Lehies made a covenant with God "that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood" (Alma 24:18).
To keep this covenant, they buried their swords "deep in the earth" (Alma 24:17). When their heathen Lamanite brethren attacked the entire group in an onslaught of sword and death, these new Christians "prostrated themselves before" (Alma 24:21) their attackers.
The Lamanites killed 1,005 believers without any resistance, but were "stung for the murders which they had committed" (Alma 24:25). Pricked in their hearts, a greater number of the attackers were converted to Jesus "by more than the number who had been slain" (Alma 24:26).
The people of Ammon had sworn and kept an oath to God. Of their character the Book of Mormon records they "were perfectly honest and upright in all things" and "firm in the faith of Christ" (Alma 27:27).
The godly character of the people of Ammon flowed through to their children. In a later battle, 2,060 of their sons would fight valiantly to preserve the Nephite nation. Having been taught by their mothers, these stripling sons "were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted" (Alma 53:20).
A second example of the qualities of disciples of Jesus Christ is Captain Moroni. Called to lead the Nephite armies at the tender age of 25, Moroni fought to preserve Christianity and freedom for his people. Moroni’s character traits included gratitude, a perfect understanding, and an abhorrence for bloodshed, while his "soul did joy in the liberty and freedom of his country" (Alma 48:11).
So great was his character that if all men were "like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever" (Alma 48:17).
King Benjamin’s people
King Benjamin’s people provide a third example of the qualities of disciples of Jesus Christ. Because of the preaching of the word and their faith in the coming of the Savior, King Benjamin’s people experienced a "mighty change" in their hearts and had "no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually" (Mosiah 5:2).
While anyone loyal to a cause might claim discipleship, the disciples of Jesus Christ are distinguished by their love of God and fellow man, a grateful heart, perfect honesty, firmness in applying faith and placing God first in their lives.
Conversion to Jesus in word and deed develops godly character — even the character of Captain Moroni and the people of Ammon. Such character respects life and liberty while never compromising standards. Such steadfastness leads to a perfect understanding of things temporal and spiritual.
Like King Benjamin’s people, conversion to Jesus moves disciples in our day to shun the neon playground of the natural man for the focused light of selflessness and charity. This leads to a desire to "do good continually" (Mosiah 5:2). The charitable heart cannot be faked.
What can we learn?
From the three examples mentioned, we can draw closer to the Savior in everything we think and do.
In the face of peril, both temporal and spiritual, we can be faithful to our righteous covenants. When asked to compromise our standards, we need not succumb to self-pleasing as we please God first. We can be thankful for blessings and trials. When the swords of anger envelope us, we can bury them deep in the forgiving soil of charity.
These Book of Mormon disciples have bequeathed an enduring legacy to each of us. As we emulate the qualities of Jesus Christ, perhaps our children and grandchildren will say of our character that if all men and women were like us, "the devil never would have power over the hearts of the children of men" (Alma 48:17).
William Monahan is a 1980 graduate of BYU Law School. He practices law and teaches law and ethics. A former Phoenix stake president and current high councilor for the Queen Creek Arizona Chandler Heights Stake, he is active in Interfaith and is a U.S. Air Force veteran.