Alma 53:10-22; 57:19-27; 58:39-40 Two Thousand Striplings
A favorite Book of Mormon story is the account of the 2,000 young “people of Ammon” (Lamanite converts to the church of Christ) and their great distinction in battle and in life. “Stripling” means lad, adolescent, or youth. (The oath of their parents never to fight again happened between 90 b.c. and 77 b.c. [see Alma 24] and the story of their 2,000 sons begins in about 64 b.c. If they are all children born after Alma 24 and did not take the oath themselves [see Alma 53:14-16], thus in 64 b.c. when they join the Nephite army, it is possible that these 2,000 young men were between the ages of 13 and 26.)
Rather than adopt their parents’ covenant never to fight, these youth entered into a covenant “to fight for the liberty of the Nephites, yea, to protect the land unto the laying down of their lives” (53:17). Furthermore, they distinguished themselves by choosing a prophet to lead them: “They would that Helaman should be their leader” (53:19). Look for the additional terms that describe these young men in 53:19-21; 57:19-21, 26-27; 58:40. These are qualities that we hope to see in the youth of God’s church today, as they follow our true, living prophets.
Alma 54-55 Bold Moroni
In keeping with his bold approach, Moroni makes things very clear to Ammoron, the new Lamanite king, but it is actually for the good of Ammoron and the Lamanites. In 54:6-10 Moroni called upon Ammoron to repent and abandon his evil designs four separate times; and five times Moroni clearly stated what would happen if Ammoron refused his demands, including the sword of God’s almighty wrath (54:6); an awful hell awaiting him (54:7); the wrath of God (54:9); and death and utter destruction for Ammoron and his armies (54:9-10, 12).
Ammoron’s reply could also be characterized as bold, but his claims are false. Look for the outrageous lies Ammoron spoke in 54:16-18, 21-22, 24. (Note also that Ammoron was a Nephite, therefore his claim that the Lamanites should rule over the Nephites would disqualify himself.) Falsehoods, deception, and inconsistency usually accompany the claims of those who serve the devil.
Moroni saw through all this and could not be persuaded nor deceived “because he knew that Ammoron had a perfect knowledge of his fraud” (55:1). Under Moroni’s leadership, “the Nephites began again to be victorious, and to reclaim their rights and their privileges [and] the Nephites were not slow to remember the Lord their God in this their time of affliction” (55:28, 31). Let us follow men and women of God who are put in place as our leaders, and remember the Lord in times of affliction, and always.
Alma 56:30-56; 57:35-36; 58:3-13 Their Battles and Ours
In Alma 56:30-41 we see interesting strategy. Helaman and his 2,000 stripling warriors decoyed the Lamanites’ strongest army out of the city of Antiparah, with the hope of drawing them into vulnerability. But it meant that Helaman and his 2,000 were now on the run from the Lamanites and in great danger. However, not far behind the Lamanites was the Nephite leader Antipus and his army, chasing the Lamanites. It looked like this:
Nephites Led by Antipus → Strongest Army of the Lamanites → 2,000 Led by Helaman
Find the following:
— What happened next, and what two possible conclusions could Helaman draw? (56:41-43).
— What question did Helaman ask his young soldiers, and what was their answer? (56:44-46).
— What motivated the 2,000 striplings? (56:47-48; see also 57:21).
— What was the result? (56:49-56).
Consider for yourself:
— What is a great teaching/lesson/truth/ that you learned from your mother or other family member?
— Is there a circumstance in your life in which you feel a need to fight “as if with the strength of God” (56:56)?
— Do we see the Lord’s hand in our “victories” and “the goodness of God in preserving us”? (57:35-36; see also 58:33).
— Are we willing to patiently “wait” for the Lord to do His work in our lives? (see 58:3-4, 7).
— When you feel “grieved” and “filled with fear” (58:9), do your remember to “pour out” your soul to God? (58:10).
— Have there been times in your life when the Lord did “visit [you] with assurances,” “speak peace” to you, give you “great faith” and “hope”? (58:11).
— Do you know how to “take courage,” to be “fixed with a determination,” and to “go forth with all [your] might”? (58:12-13).
Alma 58-62 Moroni, Pahoran, and the Epistles
In these chapters we see one of the most dramatic, powerful, and instructive accounts in the Book of Mormon:
- In 58:34-37 Helaman wrote to Moroni and expressed concern about lack of military support, yet he was careful to note, “we do not know the cause” (58:34); “we do not desire to murmur” (58:35); and “it mattereth not—we trust God will deliver us” (58:37).
- In 59:1-13 Moroni sees some of the discouraging results, yet he also felt “exceedingly rejoiced” (59:1) over the successes that Helaman had accomplished. He then “immediately sent an epistle to Pahoran” to request help (59:3) and resolved to take his own actions as well (59:4).
- In 60:1-36 Moroni—feeling sorrow, doubt, and anger over what he thought was the government’s “indifference” (see 59:11, 13)—wrote a lengthy, scathing (albeit misdirected) epistle to Pahoron (Moroni’s “boss”), demanding greater action and support.
- Moroni wrote “by the way of condemnation” (60:2), accusing Pahoran and others of “exceedingly great neglect” (60:5-6, 9, 14); of being in a “thoughtless state” and a “stupor” (60:6-7), insisting that “ye ought to have stirred yourselves more diligently” and therefore “the blood of thousands shall come upon your heads for vengeance” (60:10). He continued by citing “exceeding slothfulness” (60:14), “wickedness … at our head” (60:15), “seeking for authority” and “traitors” (60:18); he accused them of having “forgotten the commandments of the Lord” (60:20, 33), sitting in “idleness” (60:22) and “iniquity” (60:28, 30, 32), and possessing a “love of glory and the vain things of the world” (60:32).
- Moroni called upon Pahoran to “be up and doing” (60:24, 29) and to “show unto me a true spirit of freedom” (60:25), or else “[I will] smite you with the sword” (60:30). He closed, “I seek not for power, but to pull it down. I seek not for honor of the world, but for the glory of my God, and the freedom and welfare of my country” (verse 36).
Before going any further, let’s consider several observations:
- Obviously the Lord had His reasons for not revealing to Moroni the true cause of the problems; thus Moroni went ahead and sent the epistle. The Lord doesn’t tell us everything.
- Even though Moroni did not have all the information (and likely realized it), the dire circumstances required swift action and perhaps he chose to write from a stance of “assuming the worst,” knowing he could count on Pahoran to adjust his message as needed.
- Moroni’s epistle contains many correct principles, which Pahoran was happy to receive and apply.
- Even though Mormon had great admiration for Captain Moroni (see Alma 48:11-13, 17) Mormon knew that Moroni was in a sense mistaken and “off-base,” yet he still saw value in including this episode on the plates, for our learning and profit.
- War is one of Satan’s greatest tools, and—among other horrendous features—it halts progress in the functions of government, of the economy, and of the church (see 62:42-48).
Pahoran would have been justified in feeling anger toward Moroni, but his great character moved him to consider the urgencies facing his country and church, and his reply is a remarkable example of how we should respond when falsely accused:
- “I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul” (61:2).
- “[Many] have risen up in rebellion [and] have driven me out” (61:3, 5).
- “I have sent a proclamation [and many] are flocking to us daily, to their arms, in the defence of their country and their freedom” (61:6)
- “You have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart” (61:9).
- “We should put our trust in [God], and he will deliver us” (61:13).
- “My beloved brother, Moroni, let us resist evil … that we may retain our freedom, that we may rejoice in the great privilege of our church, and in the cause of our Redeemer and our God” (61:14).
- Pahoran closed by asserting ten times to Moroni that their cause is God’s cause (see 61:9-21).
To summarize, this was Pahoran’s approach (and example for us):
- Feel and express sorrow for the situation (61:2).
- Humbly explain your side of the story (61:3-8).
- Do not allow anger to enter your heart (61:9).
- Offer a solution to the problem (61:15-18).
And Moroni’s reaction? “His heart did take courage, and was filled with exceedingly great joy” (62:1). He then followed Pahoran’s instructions, drove out the rebels, restored Pahoran to the judgment-seat, and led the way to the defeat of the Lamanites and peace in the land (see 62:3-40).
Alma 62:39-41 Hardened or Softened?
Verse 41 states twice: “because of the exceedingly great length of the war …” and the first time it is followed by “many had become hardened,” while the second time it is followed by “many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility” (see also verse 50). We choose how our experiences will affect us.
Alma 43-62 Lessons from the “War Chapters”
We may take the following lessons for our personal relationships and toward actual military intrigue and warfare, plus everything in between:
- We should enter war reluctantly.
- We should fight to defend righteous causes.
- We must seek to involve the Lord in all our battles.
- We must exercise mercy toward the conquered.