A Dictionary of the Book of Mormon/Aaron

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AARON. One of the sons of the Nephite King, Mosiah II, generally supposed to have been the eldest, as it is said that the sovereignty of the people rightly belonged to him on the death of his father, but he refused this great honor on purpose to fulfil a mission to the Lamanites, upon which he and his brothers had set their hearts. Aaron was born in the land of Zarahemla, probably not earlier than B. C. 125, as his father would then have been about thirty years old. During his youth he was wayward and uncontrollable, and joined with those who persecuted the people of God. In fact he and his brothers and the younger Alma were leaders among those who harassed the church. The conduct of the young princes in this regard cannot be ascribed to the corrupting influence of lives of pomp and luxury spent at their father's court, for that was a model of simplicity and frugality, and the king himself labored with his hands to lighten the burdens of the people. But it may more justly be attributed to the want of thought, to the self-conceit and stubbornness so frequently shown in the lives of the young, until maturer years and wider experience teach them humility and reverence. From this evil course of life Aaron and his associates were rescued by the direct interposition of Heaven. He was in the traveling company that was stopped on the way by the angel of the Lord, who, in tones of thunder, which caused the solid earth to tremble, reproved its members for their sins and commanded them to molest the saints no more. From this moment Aaron was a changed man, he gave to God and heaven his undivided life. Where he had done evil he sought to make amends and where he had incited to turbulency he became a peacemaker. Shortly afterwards he and his brothers commenced to labor as missionaries among the Nephites. They next determined to lay their lives on the altar of sacrifice and go up to the land of Nephi, into the midst of the Lamanites, and bear to them the message of God's condescension and love. From this seeming rash resolve most of their friends sought to dissuade the young princes. They pictured to them the perils of the venture, the hopelessness of the task. But it availed not. The Spirit of the Lord was burning within them, they were oppressed with the thought of the value of human souls that were perishing for lack of knowledge. The good king himself had scarcely the fervor of his sons, he hesitated to give his consent, for he doubted, as from past experience he had good cause to doubt, that they would be able to reclaim from their savage ways the benighted children of Laban. However, he inquired of the Lord. The answer was full of assurances of success, and of Divine protection for his sons. Thus strengthened he sent them forth with his blessing. But as he was growing old the question of who should succeed him on the Nephite throne filled his mind. He sent among the people to inquire who would be their choice. The people answered Aaron. But Aaron would not accept the crown, his mind was on other objects fully bent. So, lest he should ever change his mind and demand the kingly authority as his right, his father decided, with the consent of the people, to change the form of the government of the nation from a monarchy to a republic; which change was made by unanimous consent. When the young men left Zarahemla (B. C. 91) they departed into the wilderness that divided the possessions of the Nephites from the Lamanites, and amidst its discouragements they almost lost heart, but were animated to renewed endeavor by Divine manifestations. When they reached the borders of the Lamanites the missionaries separated. Aaron journeyed towards a land called Jerusalem, in which was built a great city of the same name, peopled largely and controlled by Nephite apostates of the order of Nehor. Aaron entered into their synagogues and preached; he proclaimed the word wherever he had opportunity. But they would not accept it. Finding his efforts in their behalf useless, after a time he left them and went over to a village called Ani-Anti. There he found some of his brethren zealously ministering, but the people hardened their hearts against the gospel message. So they all departed and journeyed to the land of Middoni. Here again they preached to many, though but few believed. The hardened unbelievers treated the brethren with much cruelty, so that some of them fled, while the rest, among whom was Aaron, were taken and cast into prison where they were abused with great inhumanity; their lives were preserved by the power of God alone. In prison they remained until they were delivered by Ammon, Aaron's brother, and king Lamoni. The latter had influence enough with Antiomno, the king of Middoni, to secure the release of the brethren. Some time after their release, Aaron left the land of Middoni and was led by the Spirit to the land of Lehi-Nephi, where was the abode of the chief king over the Lamanites. Aaron and his brethren repaired to the palace, bowed before the king, told him who they were and offered to be his servants. To this he would not consent. He had already learned something of the gospel from Ammon, and now desired to hear more. At his request, Aaron explained to him many things relating to the nature of God and the plan of salvation, for, though he recognized the power and might of the Great Spirit, he was altogether ignorant of things concerning the Deity.

These truths were gratefully received by the king, who besought Aaron to teach him how he might obtain the eternal life of which he spoke. Aaron instructed him to bow down before the Lord in prayer, and then, in faith, ask for the blessings he desired. The aged king did so. He prostrated himself on the ground and cried mightily to the Lord, promising to give away all his sins if he could know Him and be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. So great was his emotion, that when he had finished his prayer he was struck as if he were dead. When the king thus fell his servants ran and told the queen what had happened. She at once came into the room where he lay, and seeing Aaron and his brethren standing by she became very angry, as she supposed that they were the cause of the evil that had, in her estimation, befallen her husband. She, without hesitation, ordered the king's servants to take the brethren and slay them; but they dared not, for they feared the power which was in Aaron. The queen was also afraid, but she seemed to think that the best way to get rid of the trouble was to destroy those who brought it. As the king's servants refused to obey her command, she ordered them to go out into the streets and call upon the people to come in and kill Aaron and his companions. When Aaron saw the temper of the queen, he feared lest the multitude, in the hardness of their hearts, would raise a great commotion, and cause the hindering of the work of God, which had so auspiciously commenced. Therefore he put forth his hand and raised the monarch from the earth, and at the same time commanded him to stand. The king at once received his strength and stood upon his feet, at the sight of which the queen and her servants wondered greatly and were filled with fear.

Then the king began to explain to them what he had learned with regard to God and the gospel, and he spoke with such great power that his whole household was converted. The multitude also that had gathered at the call of the queen were pacified by his words, and when he saw that their hearts were softened he caused that Aaron and his brethren should teach them the word of God. After the king was converted he sent a proclamation throughout the land forbidding any and all from persecuting Aaron and his fellow-missionaries, giving them liberty to preach anywhere they desired. Our readers may be sure that this privilege was not neglected. Nor was the result of their labors trifling, hut glorious in the saving of many thousand souls; for unto the Lord were converted the people of the Lamanites who dwelt in the lands of Ishmael, Middoni, Shilom and Shemlon, and the cities of Nephi, Lemuel and Shimnilon; and they became a righteous, peaceful, God-serving people, and from faithful obedience to His laws they never fell away. But the various bodies of Nephite apostates who dwelt among the Lamanites universally rejected the gospel message, with the exception of one single Amalekite. The renegade Amalekites, Amulonites and others were not willing to be ruled by a Christian monarch. They had rejected Christianity altogether, and would not have it as the ruling power, either in Nephi or Zarahemla. With the old sophistries and falsehoods they raised a mutiny in the hearts of their associate Lamanites and urged them on to rebellion against the rightful king and his believing subjects. But the converted Lamanites made no preparations to resist them; they felt that in times past, with unholy hands, they had spilled blood as water on the land; blood that they could never atone for, but they would do it no more. Passive non-resistance for the future should be their policy, but the blood of a fellow-being they would never again shed, no matter how great the peril, how intense the aggravation. As a witness of the completeness of this resolution, they took their weapons of war and buried them deep in the earth with an oath and covenant that they would never dig them up again. Their integrity was soon put to the test, for the unconverted Lamanites, incited and led by the Nephite apostates, fell upon them, and, with sword and spear, massacred one thousand and five of their innocent unresisting fellows. No opposition was ofiered, no vain strugglings occurred, the victims calmly but resolutely bowed before the assassins’ steel, and rejoiced in the opportunity of showing their devotion to God, even unto death. The sacrifice of so many of their unresisting brethren brought a deep change of feeling in many of the rude Lamanites; they refused to be any longer the murderers of their kindred, they strove to emulate so noble an example and more were added, that day, to the church, than those whose spirits had ascended to the Great White Throne, and whose blood smoked up to heaven as a testimony against traitors and apostates.

The intriguing apostate bodies who hated the Nephites with a fiercer hatred than the Lamanites had done, not being able to incite the people to fresh atrocities against their Christian brethren,managed to get up a Nephite invasion. Its results were most disastrous to them, and while smarting under the shame of ignominious defeat, incited by the Amalekites, they again fell upon the unoffending people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi, as the Christian Lamanites were then called, and again stained their hands with the blood of unresisting innocence. It is probable that they would ultimately have destroyed the whole of this persecuted people, had not the latter, under the guidance of the heaven-inspired sons of Mosiah, left their homes and possessions, and undertaken an exodus northward. They threw themselves upon the generosity of the Nephites, who joyfully received them, and set apart the land of Jershon for their inheritance. After the return of the sons of Mosiah to the land of Zarahemla we have little account of Aaron, except incidental references to his virtues, nor do we know anything of his death . He was alive in the year B. C. 75, for in that year he accompanied Alma to the land of Antionum, on his mission to the Zoramites, and there labored with faithfulness and zeal. When that mission was ended he appears to have accompanied the rest of the missionaries to the land of Jershon, after which we hear no more of him or of his labors.