For this week, I had a completely different plan. Cobalt blue bottles, the Virgin Mary, and a new middle-grades novel with African and African-American themes. Not finished maybe, but that’s what Monday mornings are for sometimes. Then I read the ten verses below and saw today’s theme: lies.
The most important element for the definition of a lie is intent. People say things that are factually inaccurate all the time, but to do so with the purpose of deception ups the ante. When I worked all those decades for Children’s Protective Services, I saw how much people abhor being lied to. Obviously, people lied to me all the time; it was part of the job. Most interesting, and most concerning, were the parents angered by their children not telling the truth. The reasons were generally to do with self-protection, and to me at least, didn’t seem serious, but some parents reacted more violently to the principle of lying than was appropriate, in my mind at least, because the intent was mitigated by the desire not to get beaten for whatever offense had occurred.
In the passage below, we have a master liar. Not a child. Not a teenager. He is a murderer, a thief, a leader of murderers and thieves. He challenges a ruler to give over his country and promises not to harm anyone if he does but threatens destruction if he doesn’t. What struck me on this reading was the subtlety of the wording. For all Harry Potter fans, it was like hearing Parseltongue. If you remember, the language of serpents usually indicates the presence of a Dark Wizard, so there is deep concern that Harry knows it. The liar below uses several techniques, strategies, whatever you want to call them, to try to inflict his will. It all sounded so familiar and so modern.
The year is 16 A.D. when Giddianhi sends a letter to Lachoneus, flattering him for being firm in trying to protect the liberty and property of his people. Quickly, he tells him that it is pointless to stand against the force that Giddianhi commands because they are ready and able to destroy Lachoneus and his people because of the wrongs they have wreaked upon his band. He promises not to destroy them if they surrender and learn the secrets of his order. None of this is true, of course. Lachoneus knows that and refuses to yield. Victory is his because he waits for Giddianhi to come to their newly fortified strongholds. That’s the short take, anyway.
Perhaps you’ll have the same experience I did when reading the actual words of the liar, whose skills are far beyond mine. Perhaps you’ll see applications all around just now. Or perhaps you’ll wait on the blue bottles, the mother of God, and a kid’s book. Excuse my diversion. Someone shared this quotation from J.R.R. Tolkien today: “It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succor of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they have is not ours to rule.” It seemed to fit.
1 And now it came to pass that in the sixteenth year from the coming of Christ, Lachoneus, the governor of the land, received an epistle from the leader and the governor of this band of robbers; and these were the words which were written, saying:
2 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; yea, ye do stand well, as if ye were supported by the hand of a god, in the defence of your liberty, and your property, and your country, or that which ye do call so.
3 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, who do now at this time stand in their arms, and do await with great anxiety for the word—Go down upon the Nephites and destroy them.
4 And I, knowing of their unconquerable spirit, having proved them in the field of battle, and knowing of their everlasting hatred towards you because of the many wrongs which ye have done unto them, therefore if they should come down against you they would visit you with utter destruction.
5 Therefore I have written this epistle, sealing it with mine own hand, feeling for your welfare, because of your firmness in that which ye believe to be right, and your noble spirit in the field of battle.
6 Therefore I write unto you, 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.
7 Or in other words, yield yourselves up unto us, and 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.
8 And behold, I swear unto you, if ye will do this, with an oath, ye shall not be destroyed; but if ye will not do this, I swear unto you with an oath, that on the morrow month I will command that my armies shall come down against you, and they shall not stay their hand and shall spare not, but shall slay you, and shall let fall the sword upon you even until ye shall become extinct.
9 And behold, I am Giddianhi; and I am the governor of this the secret society of Gadianton; which society and the works thereof I know to be good; and they are of ancient date and they have been handed down unto us.
10 And I write this epistle unto you, Lachoneus, and I hope that ye will deliver up your lands and your possessions, without the shedding of blood, that this my people may recover their rights and government, who have dissented away from you because of your wickedness in retaining from them their rights of government, and except ye do this, I will avenge their wrongs. I am Giddianhi.