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Friday, October 02, 2009

Ammon's Treason

Yesterday, on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, I had the privilege of hosting an official from the Chinese Embassy on a visit to Wisconsin to receive a major award at a dinner celebration attended by 250 people from industry, education, and government. Before that, we had a spectacular luncheon with some local Chinese friends that I arranged to honor my guest. How delighted I was to find that he knew and even had worked for the hero of one of my favorite books, The Man on Mao's Right by Ji Chaozhu. At the luncheon, I used my terrible Mandarin to make a toast: "Zhong-Mei youyi wansui!" ("Long Live the Friendship Between China and America" - I'm not even sure that this is the correct or best way to say it, but they understood). It was a sincere toast.

Like Ji Chaozhu, the father of my Chinese guest from the Embassy had participated in the Korean War. My father did, too. It's possible that our two fathers were shooting at each other in that terrible no-win war. There are still international tensions between our two nations in various parts of the globe. Later I reflected on how some of my conservative peers (I am pretty conservative) might react to my interest in China and to such a toast. There are some complex issues here, but I'd like to cite the example of Ammon, the son of King Mosiah in the Book of Mormon, who took it upon himself to go into Lamanite territory and spend 14 years there. He went not as a spy or Rambo-like commando to disrupt the economy or military supply chains of that enemy nation, but he went as a friend and servant, even a servant to a king. Could this not be considered as treason in the sense that he was supporting and helping a historical enemy? Perhaps, if one wishes to be critical. But what divine wisdom (not greedy profiteering) was in his selfless service! His love for an "enemy people" would change thousands of lives and greatly bless his own people as well in the end.

Long Live Nephite-Lamanite Friendship! This toast comes a bit late, unfortunately, so I'l stick with "Zhong-Mei youyi wansui!"

The story of Ammon and the sons of Mosiah may have parallels that can help guide us in thinking about nations where there is tension in the relationship or where we worry about the current lack of religious toleration or religious freedom. There may be great miracles that yet can be unfolded through small means and selfless service, and great prices to be paid by those ready to give all for what matters most.

When change comes, it will come swiftly, and catch many of us unprepared for the needs and opportunities ahead. As always, this is the best time to prepare. There is also so much to learn from China - don't make the mistake of thinking that it's all about us going there to bring new wisdom, though I believe we have something wonderful to offer them, just as we have something wonderful to offer the United States, Britain, Brazil, etc. There is much we need to learn from their modern and ancient wisdom. Great opportunities lie ahead for those who are wise and prepare.

18 comments:

Morgan Deane said...

I agree so much with your post!!!!! In the past year or so I have taken graduate classes, started studying Chinese, and am looking for a PhD program in Chinese history. Yet I read some conservative commentators that seem to view everything from China with suspicion. Granted, we should be mindful of our own defenses and policy interests, but there is alot of room for positive growth and relations with China.

I should also add that in addition to Ammon we have the example of WWII era saints where members of an occupied country sent food to the suffering members of Germany. If the members in the United States took a little more time to fellowship with the members in China I think we could see a very positive change in American perceptions of China.

Thanks for the post Jeff!

Terry Foraker said...

I've often wondered whether the example of Ammon was given to us to help us in dealing with terrorists and the like. No doubt many would dismiss that attitude as hopelessly naive and impractical, but I still wonder.

Dan said...

Terry,

The first way to take the lesson of Ammon to heart is to stop calling them "terrorists." That label is no worse than calling them cockroaches, or any other inhuman word. The key to Ammon's success is that he did not look down on those who he wished to serve. He treated them as equals, or even better than he. He did not regard them as evil, just ignorant. Remember, according to the account, the king felt bad because he knew he had killed other servants (who were otherwise innocent). He had truly done bad things. But that didn't matter to Ammon. He wasn't there to bring the king to justice.

How should we apply the Ammon tale toward those we label terrorists? It's probably not going to be possible, but you're going to have to go over there and simply be nice to them and serve them by helping them around their caves, cleaning up the spiders and other bugs. Maybe do their laundry and dishes. Then if their hearts are truly open, when prompted, teach them. Otherwise, spend your time in their service for at least 14 years.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, you gotta love that Chinese wisdom that brought Communism to the Chinese people! That is really something to celebrate!

And the best part of the People's Republic of China? The one-child policy that has sent how many hundred's of thousands, maybe millions, of babies to be slaughtered through abortion or drowned in the rice patties... boy there's something to celebrate!

I'm all for the Gospel going to the people. Thst's wonderful. It's not them, it's their Government... but to CELEBRATE the Red Communist takeover that has led to such human rights violations?! It took me to almost the end of the post to get my chin off the desk.

Mormanity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mormanity said...

Anonymous @ 10:01, that judgmental attitude is one that I find troublesome. The October 1 event was scheduled by the International Paper Hall of Fame for their annual induction ceremony long before anyone knew that they would be recongizing a Chinese inventor. The celebration was not about China or Communism, but about the contributions of six people from around the world, including the ancient invention of paper by Cai Lun. The fact that the October 1 visit by a Chinese official to receive the award occurred on National Day was a pure coincidence. But it made the visit of the official more significant because he was giving up a holiday to spend time with us, and I was happy to thank him for his kindness in arranging an luncheon banquet with some Chinese friends before the main event. That luncheon was about friendship, not celebrating Communism.

So are you shocked that I would be kind to a Chinese official who was here on their National Day?

There are many things about many natins - perhaps all nations - that can trouble us. But be careful about the condemnations. Others can just as easily condemn those who celebrate the 4th of July for honoring the oppression of Native Americans. Would you, for instance, object to celebrating the 4th of July because America has one of the world's biggest abortion industries? In fact, it is a nation which not only performs massive numbers of abortion here, but uses tax dollars to spread abortion in other nations. So must you shun America and criticize those who participate in its holidays because of the failures of its government in various social issues?

One can show appropriate respect and kindness toward those of other nations with other systems without endorsing current practices or historical events that one disagrees with.

Alex Valencic said...

I think we can learn a lot about military techniques through the Book of Mormon. I remember sharing this idea with an army recruiter one day while on my mission. I honestly don't remember if my companion and I actually gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon or just a pass-along card for one, but he certainly seemed intrigued when we told him that large portions of the book focused on military campaigns!

I wonder what would happen if we started to spend more time building positive relationships with our enemies. Of course, it should probably be noted that Ammon seemed to have a great deal of good fortune when he met King Lamoni. If he'd met the king's father, I think he would have been killed on the spot. So there's something to be learned there, too, of seeking to serve those that are nominally enemies but not absolutely determined to shoot first and ask questions later.

MarkS said...

Jeff, thanks for a thought provoking entry. It adds a new element to a longstanding discussion about the benefits and troubles of dealing with an avowed enemy.

Of course, the Book of Mormon offers us another cautionary example in Zeniff, who also saw good in the enemy and sought to work with them. Ended up only putting his people in jeopardy, and didn't appear to make one iota of positive change in the Lamanites.

Seems the only difference here was who was being led by the Lord, who in His wisdom knew when the time was right, and who to send his servants to.

titch said...

I don't think anyone reading the story of Ammon could think that he went there to support the Lamanite Government and his leaders knew, and approved after prayer, exactly what he was doing. He went in as a Spiritual assassin (is there such a thing?) to break the hold which Satan had over a people. He was hardly a traitor and I can’t see how anyone could think he was.

Anonymous said...

Also need to take note that his brothers probably tried similar methods and only ended up getting thrown in prison only to be delivered later thanks to the good fortune of Ammon.

Anonymous said...

Mormanity said "So are you shocked that I would be kind to a Chinese official who was here on their National Day?"

I said no such thing. I'm shocked that you would say that Communist China was 'founded.' And now further shocked that you would compare the 'founding' of the USA which was by the inspiration of God for the purpose of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While communist China was brought about by an evil dictator.

America certainly NOW has problems like rampant abortion, but I think you know that the founding fathers would never approve such a thing.

Our problem is that we are now headed toward communism and if the people don't wake up and stop it. Moroni fought for freedom, religion and family and we may need to fight all over again for the same. As a people we seem to be content to just allow it to happen. That communism and socialism no longer invoke disgust is very disturbing.

I can't picture Ammon 'celebrating' the 'founding' of the Lamanite culture. As others have pointed out, Ammmon's situation was unique and hardly 'traitorous.'

Morgan = Our perception of China is based on the perverse policies of its communist leaders. When dealing with corrupt governments, even our own, we should be suspicious.

Morgan Deane said...

I can understand your displeasure with the communist regime. I share your distaste but also realize there are many paths in getting people and countries to change, and there is a difference between the people and their government. In the spirit of the thread I discussed a few basic actions that may improve our relations and/or perceptions of the Chinese people and country. None of these things give a pass to wickedness, but they do thoughtfully apply Jeff's point and the lesson from Ammon.

I also question the character of somebody who will not put a face or name by their words as they spew unwanted and semi paranoid rantings on an otherwise thoughtful and positive thread.

titch said...

I guess Ammon isn't in the White House at the moment. This is an article about the Dalai Lama being snubbed this week to appease the Chinese:

Obama cancels meeting with Dalai Lama

We do need more people like Ammon who would speak to anyone and everyone because he knew his proper relationship to them.

Cheers,

Titch

Melissa said...

Politics aside, I love how you reiterrated the teaching of loving your enemy in a current sense. This reminds me of the current council (from conference) about loving God. How can I love God, but hate one of His chicldren? I will still judge responsiblly, for the safety of me and my family. But on a personal basis, the thought of serving my enemy is.... refreshing and motivating.

Darion Alexander said...

Anon, hold on there for a second but some of the Founding Fathers fought in wars that killed Native Americans and helped to oppress them. Are you saying that God wanted to oppress them and have them enslaved and killed? Did they teach them the Gospel? No, they were called savages and even the Constitution that avowed "that all men are created equal", notice that many of them had slaves and considered the African's to also be savages and not equal to them. So I would be very careful before you start spouting off this type of comment without studying your history first.

Ben said...

http://www.byutvint.org/schedule/Program.aspx?id=1065
If you follow the link you will see what the BYU young ambassadors have been doing in China. If i remember correctly they have been doing this since the mid 80's. So it could be that the church has been sending in young strippling warriors in who can sing and dance their way into the hearts of people. When China does eventually change government, which history tells us that when people get economic freedom, which China's people are starting to get, political freedom follows not to long after, we will not be a stranger to its people.

Ben said...

http://newsnet.byu.edu/story.cfm/55267
this a better link

Anonymous said...

I do not understand how the Mormon church wanted to go to war with Iraq, but supports COMMUNIST CHINA. A country that forces woman to abort their unborn babies, something so terrible it is unimaginable. A country that puts you in jail for speaking your mind. a country that is responsible for 2/3 fo bootleg items. A country that puts people in workcamps for christian beliefs.

How do mormons support this country and these horrific policies?