Friday, August 24, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson #35 "Repent and Return Unto the Lord"

Helaman 13-16

It's time once again to play the...

CELESTIAL PYRAMID GAME (Version 2.0)

Some of you will remember the American TV show, "The $10,000 Pyramid."  To win $10,000, the contestant would have to guess the category of each box in the pyramid in order, while a partner slowly read to the person items in the category.  The Pyramid itself had a category which the player also had to guess after guessing each box's category.  And of course it all had to be done in a time limit.

This pyramid game won't earn anyone $10,000 but it has more important categories!  To prepare the game, make 10 numbered squares out of paper.  On the back of each square list the category.  The teacher reads the items in the category, and the class members guess the category.  (The entire class is on the same team.)  The teacher can give clues to the page number or verse number in the scriptures if needed.  When the class guesses the category of Box #1 (or comes close), the teacher turns the box or square over to reveal its category.  Commentary and discussion of the topic can take place, then the class moves on to guessing Box #2, and so on until they reach Box #9.  They then must look at all the categories and decide what the category of the entire "Celestial Pyramid" is, upon which Box #10 will be turned over and the class has won the game.





BOX #1: REASONS SAMUEL THE LAMANITE PROPHESIED (Helaman 14:11-13) (Look for the key word "that")
  • So they would know about the judgments of God
  • So that they would be aware of their sins
  • So that they would know how to repent
  • So that they would know that Christ was coming to redeem them
  • So that they would recognize the time when Christ would come
  • So that they would believe in Jesus Christ 
BOX #2: WHAT CHRIST'S ATONEMENT DOES (Helaman 14:15-18) ("Redeem" and "resurrect" seem to mean the same thing in this passage.)
  • It redeems mankind from the effects of the Fall
  • It resurrects all men
  • It brings all men back into the presence of the Lord
  • It allows for repentance
  • It allows the repentant to escape the second death (hell) which also means they will arise in the first resurrection to glory and eternal life.  (See also Rev. 20:6, 14; Jacob 3:11; Alma 12:32)
BOX #3:  PROPHECIES THE NEPHITES LIKED (Helaman 13:27)
  • "Do this, and there is no iniquity"
  • "Do that and ye shall not suffer"
  • "Walk after the pride of your own hearts"
  • "Walk after the pride of your own eyes"
  •  "Do whatsoever your heart desireth"
BOX #4: THINGS THAT WOULD HAPPEN TO THE NEPHITES IF THEY DID NOT REPENT (Helaman 13:8-10, 15:1, 17)
  • The Lord will take the scriptures and prophets away from them
  • The Holy Ghost will withdraw from them
  • The Lamanites will turn against them
  • Their houses will be left desolate
  • Their pregnant women will be left to perish
  • In 400 years they will suffer devastating war and disease 
  • They will be utterly destroyed
BOX #5 SIGNS OF CHRIST'S BIRTH WHICH WOULD APPEAR IN AMERICA (Helaman 14:3-7)
  • Great lights in the heaven 
  • A night that does not get dark
  • A new and unusual star
  • Many other amazing celestial events
  • People will fall to the earth with astonishment
BOX #6  REASONS GOD CURSED THE NEPHITES' RICHES (Helaman 13:21-23)
  • Because they did not reverence God
  • Because they did not thank God
  • Because they were proud
  • Because they boasted
  • Because they envied each other
  • Because they fought over material possessions
  • Because they persecuted the poor
  • Because they murdered to get gain
  • Because they had set their hearts upon their riches
BOX #7  HOW NEPHI COMPLETED SAMUEL'S MINISTRY TO THE NEPHITES (Helaman 16:4-5)  (Samuel, upon delivering his message, returned to his own country.)
  • Baptized new converts
  • Prophesied
  • Preached
  • Cried repentance
  • Showed signs and wonders
  • Worked miracles among the people
BOX #8  SIGNS OF CHRIST'S DEATH THAT WOULD APPEAR IN AMERICA (Helaman 14-20-29)
  • The sun, moon and stars will disappear for three days
  • There will be mighty thunderstorms
  • There will be huge earthquakes that will alter the face of the Americas
  • There will be tempests and tsunamis
  • Cities and highways will be completely destroyed
  • Graves will be opened and the dead will arise
  • Angels will appear to people
BOX #9  REASONS THE LAMANITES WOULD OUTLAST THE NEPHITES (Helaman 15:4-14) (Regarding verse 4, bear in mind that there is only one Hebrew word that expresses distaste, and it is translated as "hate."  The specific meaning can only be determined by the context in which it is used.  Here it seems to refer to "not blessed.")
  • Because the Nephite prophets preached the gospel to them and the majority of them believed it, beginning with the Anti-Nephi-Lehies
  • Because the ANL's reverenced God
  • Because the ANL's kept the commandments
  • Because the ANL's kept the Law of Moses
  • Because the ANL's strove with unwearied diligence to convert their brethren to the gospel
  • Because the ANL's were firm and steadfast in the faith once they are enlightened
  • Because the ANL's repentance was permanent
BOX #10:  THE MINISTRY OF SAMUEL THE LAMANITE (Helaman 12:2-5)

THE POWER OF A RIGHTEOUS MINORITY

It is interesting to note the powerful works wrought by minorities in this story.
  1. Samuel was in an ethnic as well as religious minority: a Christian and a Lamanite among the Nephites.  He saved many Nephites by his prophesying, although he didn't get to see it personally.  Instead he got shot at, a minority-aimed "hate crime."
  2. In his own land, there were a great many Lamanites who had previously (maybe 70 years before) been brought to the truth by alien minority members in their land:  Ammon and his companions, who were Nephites and Christians.  (More on this here and here.)  
  3. A minority of righteous Nephites unknowingly prevented the destruction of Zarahemla by fire from heaven.  (A meteor? A lightning storm? A volcano? We'll never know exactly what Zarahemla escaped.) 
  4. The Lamanites converted through the efforts of Ammon 70 years before, the "Anti-Nephi-Lehies," were specifically noted in this passage as the reason the Lamanites would not ever be destroyed, even if they apostacized again, and that they would eventually be brought back to a knowledge of the truth as an ethnic group.  This is an epoch example of a promise from the Lord that the righteousness of covenant-keeping parents will preserve their children and bring them back to the fold.  (See this link for similar latter-day promises.)  "Righteous minorities" within families can help to save the rest.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson #34 "How Could Ye Have Forgotten Your God?"

Helaman 6-12

(Draw a basic map on the board with Bountiful on the right, Zarahemla on the left, Desolation at the top, and Nephi at the bottom.  Review Nephi's and Lehi's missions from the previous lesson:  First they went to Bountiful and converted "tens of thousands" of Nephites; then to Zarahemla where they converted 8,000 Lamanites; then to Nephi, where they were imprisoned and sentenced to execution by the Lamanites but miraculously saved with fire, earthquake, darkness and the voice of God.  The miracle assisted in the conversion of the majority of the Lamanites in the land.  Then they and many of these Lamanites wwent north to Desolation to do missionary work among the Nephite emigrants there.)

Sometimes we get frustrated as we do repetitive jobs.  We finish the dishes, only to find six more in the sink.  We mow the lawn and it grows again.  We fix things around the house and they break again.  We exercise today and have to do it again tomorrow.  Gospel teaching is the king of all frustrating repetitive chores, as we can easily see in this section of the Book of Mormon.

They had peace and freedom and wealth and the gospel in all the land.  For a few minutes. 

"And in the commencement of the sixty and seventh year the people began to grow exceedingly wicked again.  For behold, the Lord had blessed them so long with the riches of the world that they had not been stirred up to anger, to wars, nor to bloodshes; therefore they began to set their hearts upon their riches; yea, they began to seek to get gain that they might be lifted up one above another; therefore they began to commit secret murders, and to rob and to plunder, that they might get gain." (Helaman 6:16-17) 

The Gadiantons were back.  Two chief judges in a row were murdered.  The Gadianton "mafia" infiltrated both the Nephite and the Lamanite societies.  The Lamanties (verse 37) hunted them down and either destroyed them or converted them to the gospel.  The Nephites (verse 21) figure, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."  (Helaman 6:35-36)

Nephi and Lehi had to witness the frustration and despair of witnessing the massive fruits of their labors going down the tube so quickly.  Nephi bemoaned (Helaman 7:7-9) that his life would have been better had he lived in the time of his and his brothers' namesakes because then he would have had joy in the righteousness of his brethren.  Doesn't this strike you as funny?  The original Nephi had the continual frustration of dealing with Laman and Lemuel.

VIDEO SEGMENT "THE PRIDE CYCLE"

This excellent video from the Book of Mormon Video Presentations (available online at the link above) does not include all the details of the story; they are too many.  So there is one particularly important thing we should note from the scriptures:  Right at what would be the end of the movie, as Nephi is proven right, the people started to debate what Nephi was.  And it wasn't whether he was a devil or a prophet; it was whether Nephi was a prophet or a god.  (Helaman 9:40-41).  A prophet or a god!  Those are both pretty high opinions!  Yet what did they do, even with those opinion?  (Helman 10:1)  They just walked away.

GUESSING GAME

These people had had the gospel in their lives.  They had been taught correct principles and had turned their backs upon them.  These are the people who are the most hardened, the most difficult to bring back to God.  Nephi had to prophesy dire things concerning them.  But amidst all of it, there is one repetitive phrase which offers hope.

(Put blanks on the board for the letters of the phrase "except they repent".  Have class members take turns guessing a letter until the entire phrase is revealed.)

Nephi was such an amazing servant of God, so in tune with the Spirit, that the Lord conferred upon him the sealing power (Helaman 10:7)  Nephi was told in the next few verses, that he could choose whatever means he wanted to smite the people for their wickedness:  break the temple in two, flatten mountains, whatever, but there was one requirement.  He had to include the phrase "except ye repent."  (Helaman 10:11)

APPLICATION TO US

In chapter 12 we can find the moral of the story clearly earmarked with the phrase "And thus we can behold" and similar phrases.  There are three parts to this moral. 

(Erase the board and write at the top of it "12:9-21"; at the bottom left of it "12:1-8"; and in the middle left of the board "12:21-26."  Ask the class to look over those passages and report what they perceive to be the messages.  Give them 1 minute for each passage.  Then write next to the references on the board something like the following.)
  • Helaman 12:2-3  "How low men are"
  • Helaman 12:9-21  "How great God is"
  • Helaman 12:21-26  (Draw an arrow from "men" to "God" to indicate the possibility of reconciliation initiated by men)
There is always the option of repentance, even for a people who willfully rebet.  God will not make us follow him, though; it is always our choice.  The arrow starts with us and we choose the direction  (Helaman 12:23, 25) 

We see these Nephites going through three complete cycles of great righteousness to great wickedness in a period of only 23 years and we ask, Why can't they see what they are doing?  Why do they keep going back to their old ways?  Why can't they enjoy happiness and peace when they find it instead of wandering off to find something else?

But then, we need to remember the reason why this story was recorded.  It was so that we could ask the more pertinent question, which is always, Am I like them? 
  • Do I forget God when things are going great?
  • Do I think I earned these material blessings myself?
  • Do I wish I had more stuff?
  • Is it hard for me to pay tithing?
  • Is my fast offering measly?
  • Does the prophet's counsel ever disagree with me?
  • Are my prayers better when I have afflictions than they are when I only have things to be grateful for?
  • Do I realize how happy I am when I am living close to the Lord?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson #33 "A Sure Foundation"


Helaman 1-5

THE IMPORTANCE OF NAMES

This section of scripture is about two great missionaries, the brothers Nephi and Lehi.   Who were they?  Here’s a little descendancy chart.  (See Book of Mormon Index entries for each individual for more information.)

ALMA THE ELDER,
believed the words of Abinadi
and started a church among
the people of King Noah,


ALMA THE YOUNGER,
visited by an angel while attempting
to destroy the church, repented,
and later became a prophet


HELAMAN I,
prophet and captain of the stripling warriors


HELAMAN II,
high priest and chief judge


NEPHI AND LEHI

These brothers obviously had the same names as the first prophets in the Book of Mormon.  Their father had given them these names for a purpose:

“Behold, my sons, I desire that ye should remember to keep the commandments of God; and I would that ye should declare unto the people these words.  Behold, I have given unto you the names of our first parents who came out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them,; and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works, ye may know how that it is said, and also written, that they were good.  Therefore, my sons, I would that ye should do that which is good, that it may be said of you, and also written, even as it has been said and written of them.” (Helaman 5:6-7)

Think about the importance of names.  Why are you named what you are named?  Why did you choose your children’s names?  Has anyone been named after you?  (That’s a responsibility, isn’t it?)  This passage of scripture convinced me, long before I was married or had children, to name my children for great people in the hopes that those names would have an influence upon them.  I know many, many other people feel the same way.

It would be harder to find someone greater to be named after than Nephi or Lehi, and yet everyone in every LDS Sunday School class everywhere has been named after someone greater.

“O remember, remember, my sons, the words which king Benjamin spake unto his people; yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world.” (Helaman 5:9)

Here are the words of King Benjamin he was quoting:


“And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.” (Mosiah 3:17)

MISSIONARY STORIES

Nephi and Lehi took strength from and lived up to the names they had, both their given names (Nephi and Lehi) and their real Christian name (Christ), the name they took upon themselves at baptism.  Because of this, they did a great work among two nations.  Here is a brief overview:
  • Realizing that the voice of the people was now at the point of choosing evil over good, Nephi got tired of being in government leadership carrying out wicked votes, so he retired and went on a senior mission with his brother as his companion.  His great-grandfather, Alma the Younger, had done almost exactly the same thing.
  • They began their mission in the Land of Bountiful, among the Nephites, and continued down to the Land of Zarahemla where the Lamanites now lived.  Not only did they aid in the conversions of 8,000 of the Lamanites, they also, amazingly, succeeded in reactivating the Nephite dissenters among them.
  • They then proceeded deeper south, into the original settlements of the Lamanites, the Land of Nephi.  Here their reception was not so great.  They were immediately cast into prison—coincidentally, the very same prison that Ammon was cast into by Limhi—to await their execution.
  •  After many days of starvation in prison, in which the brother-companions because very discouraged, 300 Lamanites came to take them to the chopping block, but as the Lamanites approached the cell, a wall of fire encircled Nephi and Lehi to protect them.  This miracle, of course, was very good for the missionaries’ morale—as the scripture says in a very understated way, “It caused their hearts to take courage.”
  • They explained to the Lamanites that this was the work of God.  God then punctuated their words with an earthquake and great darkness.  In the darkness a Voice from Heaven told the Lamanites to repent and spare the missionaries.  “It was not a voice of thunder, neither was it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but, behold, it was a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul.”  A second time the voice came, with the earthquake, and a third time.
  • The Lamanites were understandably very frightened and confused by this turn of events, however, there was among them a Nephite apostate by the name of Aminadab.  Having known God in the past, he recognized Him again, and explained to the Lamanites that the only way to get rid of the darkness was to pray to the Voice for forgiveness and remember the teachings of the scriptures.  Once they did so, the darkness dispersed, but that was not all:  the circle of fire around Nephi and Lehi expanded to include all of them in it.  More than this physical fire, however, they were blessed with a flame in their hearts, the Holy Spirit of God.
  • Now they heard the voice again, and this time it was a “pleasant voice,” still a whisper, which said, “peace, peace be unto you because of your faith [in Christ].”  They looked up toward the voice and beheld angels descending to minister unto them.
  • These 300 Lamanites became a great missionary force among their brethren, and the majority of the Lamanites converted to the church.  As they did so, they left behind their hatred and their weapons, and even gave back the Nephite lands they had conquered!  Missionary work had peacefully accomplished what military strategy could not.
Jesus Christ
by my friend Matthew Larson

THE SURE FOUNDATION, THE DIVINE CENTER

Nephi and Lehi were steadfast in good times and in bad because of their focus in life, as their father had taught them:

“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds; yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” (Helaman 5:12)

“Every person builds a house of faith.  We do so knowingly or unknowingly.  And every builder soon learns that a good building with bad foundations is worse than useless; it is dangerous.”  (Robert L. Millet, The Power of the Word, p. 181)

Recently a great Latter-day Saint named Stephen R. Covey died.  Brother Covey is most famous for his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Leadership but he wrote another book (a better one, in my opinion) called The Divine Center.  In this book, Brother Covey wrote of the many different “centers” (or foundations) we may have for our lives, and what the ending result may be for each.  Some people center their lives on their family, he wrote, some on their work, some on their enemies, some on pleasure.  All of these “centers” are fragile foundations.  Christ is the only firm foundation.  He is the only unchangeable.  Even being centered on the church is not good enough.  After all, the Pharisees were centered on the church.

“Many LDS marriages are in real jeopardy even though both parties are very active in the Church in the narrow sense…In these marriages husband and wife have even learned to use Church words and theological concepts to accuse and belittle and criticize and judge each other.”  (Covey, p. 53)

I imagine I was not the only young LDS mother who was guilty, Sunday after Sunday, of losing the Spirit while getting the family to church.  Sunday morning was stressful with a whole bunch of little kids trying, or trying not, to get dressed in their best clothes.  But this quote from Brother Covey is true of both the daily and the epic life stresses:

“The most powerful form of example from which children learn takes place in watching parents under conditions of stress and pressure.”  (Covey, p. 105)

Stressful situations show us our foundations, and their cracks.  Paying attention to what "stresses us out" and to what we are afraid of can reveal how we have become off "center."  Then we can decide how to counter those stresses with the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  For example, once I learned that whether we were on time, or whether the baby was wearing shoes, or whether the little white shirts were neatly ironed were just bonuses and not essentials, I could focus on whether each of the children felt loved, noticed, and respected, so that they could be receptive to the Spirit present at church.

So, if we are centered on Christ, will we feel happy and peaceful all the time?  No, but we can dare to be temporarily “unhappy”, to make it through less-than-ideal situations, to do things that are far out of our present comfort zone in order to follow Christ.  More words from Brother Covey:

“Interestingly, a person can allow himself to be vulnerable on the surface of his life if he still retains a deep God/Christ-centered invulnerability.  Then he can afford to be gentle and soft, to give and take, to give love without demanding anything in return—and that of course leaves him open to rebuffs and disappointments on occasion.  But when a person is deeply vulnerable, centered on something other than God and therefore not securely rooted, he can’t afford to be vulnerable on the surface, or he risks being simply wiped out.”  (Covey, p. 98)

Surely Nephi and Lehi were centered on Christ, and yet they had discouragements and trials.  Nephi was “weary” of being the chief judge because of the wickedness of the people.  When in prison, both brothers were discouraged and dejected.  They were just a few minutes away from their unjust deaths before the miracle came that caused them to “take courage.”  But it did come.  And their faith had held out long enough.

The devil, and the fallen nature of this earth life, will beat and batter us, send storms upon us, and wear us down.  But they will never have the power to drag us down to “endless wo” if our foundation is in Christ. We cannot fail, despite whatever frustrating, discouraging, heartbreaking things happen in our lives if we live up to our names as children of Christ.

HOW TO BUILD A SURE FOUNDATION

The following suggestions come from Robert L. Millett, The Power of the Word:

  1. Treasure up his word.  Elder Bruce R. McConkie warned that “they will be denied the sweet whisperings of the Spirit that might have been theirs unless they pay the price of studying, pondering, and praying about the scriptures.”  (Doctrines of the Restoration, p. 238).  There is no denying the importance of scripture study.
  2. Teach his doctrine.  “Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you” (D&C 88:78)  The blessing of grace is given to the teacher.  We each have the opportunity to teach the gospel, not only in our callings, but to our family and friends, and to those we home and visit teach.  We can also take advantage of fast and testimony meetings and learn that we strengthen our own testimonies when we bear them.
  3. Sustain his servants.  It is not possible to stay close to the Lord while criticizing Church leaders.  The Savior said that he who receives the Church leaders, receives Him.
  4. Trust in the Lord.  “There is power in Christ, power not only to create the worlds and divide the seas, but also to still the storms of the human heart, to heal the pain of scarred and beaten souls.”  (Millet, p. 183)

If we build upon the sure foundation of Christ, we can be as Nephi and Lehi and their Lamanite converts, surrounded and protected by fire—the fire of the Holy Spirit—and we can also be blessed by that Voice of peace:

“And behold, the Holy Spirit of God did come down from heaven and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words.  And it came to pass that there came a voice unto them, yea, a pleasant voice, as if it were a whisper, saying; Peace, peace be unto you, because of your faith in my Well Beloved, who was from the foundation of the world.” (Helaman 5:45-47)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson #32 "And They Did Obey Every Word With Exactness"

Alma 53-63

(For an alternate lesson plan, follow this link.)

A BASIC THEME:  FREEDOM AND COVENANTS

In the war chapters of Alma (43-62), the word "liberty" is used 33 times, and the word "freedom" is used 26 times--two similar terms, for a total of 59 times.  The word "covenant" is used 26 times, and the word "oath" is used 12 times--two similar terms, for a total of 38 times.  As we read through these war stories, we can find a couple of themes among all these repetitive words, and the first one is:

Freedom is vital.

This applies to the entire plan of salvation, to societies here on earth, and to individuals.  Freedom is the very essence of the plan of salvation.  Without it there would be no progress.  Without it there would be no point.  It is important enough to go to war over.  Jesus Christ led us in a war in heaven and the cause was liberty over slavery.  Most wars here on earth are fought over the same thing.  Over and over in the Book of Mormon account, we can see that the Nephites "did think more upon...liberty...than they did upon their lives (Alma 56:47).
Fighting alone will not bring freedom, however.  Freedom is bought with righteous living, with the keeping of covenants.  This is what confuses a lot of people in our day.  The more we discipline ourselves to keep the commandments, which some see as restrictive, the more free we will be.  The more we give in to passions or foolishness, the more restricted our lives actually become.  So the second principle we see is:

Keeping covenants brings freedom.

One of the finest examples of covenant keepers of all time is found in the people of Ammon.  15-20 years before the conflict we read about in this week’s assignment, a group of Lamanites joined the church due to the missionary efforts of Ammon and his brethren.  They included the high king of all the Lamanites and two of his sons who were lesser kings.  At the time of their conversion, the king led them all to make an oath that they would never fight again, even in self-defense.  The reason for this oath was that they had been such a blood-thirsty people, the king did not think they could be forgiven of any more killing, even for a righteous cause.  (See Alma 24:16-18.)

They kept their oath.  Twice the other Lamanites came upon them and slaughtered them, and they offered no resistence.  Once, their massacre resulted in the conversion of many of their persecutors, but after the second time, the Lord told Ammon to remove them from the land of the Lamanites, and take them to dwell with the Nephites where they could be protected without having to fight themselves.  This they did.

Wars continued.  These people of Ammon (also known as the Anti-Nephi-Lehies) sent their support to the Nephite armies in the way of food and provisions, but they kept their oath to never fight again themselves.  After 15-20 years of this, however, they began to wonder whether keeping their oath was a good idea.  (Alma 53:13)  When they had been Lamanites, they were always moved to fight by anger and hatred for the Nephites.  Now they were “moved with compassion” to take up arms in defense of the Nephites—opposite reasons for engaging in war.  Helaman and his brethren (in present-day terms, the General Authorities) convinced them that the keeping of their covenant was vital (Alma 53:14).

In the midst of this difficulty, someone thought of something:  The young men of Ammon had been babies when the oath was taken, and therefore had not participated.  They would now be in their teens or 20s, an age at which they could take up arms.

These young men entered into a covenant in their new role as soldiers.  (Alma 53:17)  This was the exact opposite covenant their parents had entered into!  Their parents’ oath was to give up their lives rather than to ever fight again.  The young men’s covenant was to fight “in all cases” for liberty, even unto death.  Both covenants were righteous covenants and were motivated by pure love.

Who did this battalion of new solders ask to be their commander?  Helaman!  Not a trained army officer, but a prophet of the church.  (See entry on Helaman in the Book of Mormon Index.)  He was only in his 30s by now.  There is no indication that he had previously been a leader in the armed forces, but their trust was in the Lord, not in the arm of flesh.  Helaman, therefore, left his ministry and became a military leader.

Stripling Warriors today, from lds.org

THE FAITH OF THE STRIPLING WARRIORS

These young men, “the stripling warriors” or the “sons of Helaman,” are most well-known for their faith that they would be spared, despite their youth and inexperience.  They may never have remembered seeing their fathers go off to war, or practice any fighting techniques.  The only training they would have had would have been what Helaman gave them.  (Alma 56:45-48)  Even though they valued liberty over life and were not afraid to die, they did not doubt they would be delivered.  Why?  Because their mothers had taught them so.

Now I have a question for you:  Why on earth would their mothers teach them this?  Many, many of the Nephite soldiers who were valiant and righteous men died in battle.  Look just a few verses previous and read that a “vast number” of Nephite men had been slain.  Were these warriors less righteous; were they lacking in faith?  It doesn’t sound like they were.  (Alma 56:11; 60:12-13)  Teancum, for example, was a righteous soldier who was killed after he single-handedly assassinated the Lamanite king, Ammoron, in an effort to end the war (which actually was the beginning of the end of the war.  Teancum had faith in God and lost his life in a righteous cause.  In fact, never in the entire Book of Mormon is there another army recorded that did not lose men to death, whether for a righteous or an evil cause.  If these people of Ammon had access to the records of the Nephites up to that time (which they did—Helaman kept the records), they would never have seen a scriptural precedent for a righteous army being totally spared of death.  So why did their mothers impress this promise upon them?

I think the answer can be found in Alma 27.  After the second massacre upon the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, when Ammon asked the Lord whether he should take them to live with the Nephites, the Lord gave them a promise (Alma 27:12) that he would preserve that generation.  The stripling warriors were that generation.  Now, after 15-20 years of actively living the gospel, their mothers knew the Lord.  They knew he was a God of Truth.  They knew he kept his promises.

Why the Lord gave them this promise while letting others perish is one of those questions we can’t answer.  Perhaps He felt the people of Ammon had sacrificed enough with the loss of so many of their loved ones in the massacres.  Perhaps He knew they would rather fight themselves than send their children off to war, and this promise gave them great comfort in that situation.

Helaman also promised them that the Lord would strengthen them because they kept their covenants.  (Alma 56:8)  Being completely unseasoned, and properly under-trained warriors, they would need this help.

THE LORD FULFILLED HIS PROMISES

The Army of Helaman fought in three recorded battles to retake Nephite cities from the Lamanites, and participated in another conflict without fighting.  In each case they were successful because they and their parents kept their (opposite) covenants and followed the commandments.

Pre-Battle
Before the Army of Helaman was formally given a commission, two opposite areas of the Nephite country were under attack, one near Bountiful and one near Zarahemla.  Moroni and Lehi were leading the defense on the Bountiful end.  Antipus was leading the defense on the Zarahemla end.  Antipus needed help the most, so that’s where the Army of Helaman headed.  The Lamanites had taken four cities there, and Antipus had only 6,000 soldiers with which to defend a fifth city, the city of Judea.  The Lamanites were about to come against the city until they saw the 2,000 warriors coming to join Antipus; then they chickened out.  And here is the first time we see the promise of preservation realized.  (Alma 56:19)

Battle of Antiparah
The next year, in the 27th year of the judges, they engaged in their first battle.  This is the battle we are most familiar with.  2,000 more Nephite soldiers had enlisted, giving Antipus a total number of 10,000.  The Lamanites had taken the city of Antiparah, as noted above.  The Nephites had made their cities into such excellent fortresses that they were very easy to defend, but it made it almost impossible to take one back after the Lamanites had conquered it.  So Antipus decided the only thing to do would be to draw the Lamanite army out of the city where they could fight them on even terms.  To do this, he set up Helaman and the 2,000 warriors as bait.  They were to march past the city, near enough for spies to detect, looking like easy prey.  The Lamanite army would then come out and attack them, but Antipus and the remaining 8,000 would catch them from behind and engage them in battle.

The plan worked except for one thing:  The Lamanites were a lot faster marchers than the Nephites expected.  The Army of Helaman had to really clip along to stay out of their reach, and the Army of Antipus couldn’t catch up from behind for two days.  Then, suddenly, Helaman realized that the Lamanites were no longer on his tail, and he had no spies back there to tell him what had happened.  He didn’t know whether the Lamanites were waiting to ambush them, or whether Antipus had caught up.  But he and his young men decided to go back and fight.  When they got there, Antipus had been killed, as well as most of the other leaders, and the soldiers were in confusion and fear.  The presence of the 2,000 with their leader Helaman buoyed them up, and they all took courage and won the fight.  In the end, the remaining Lamanites in Antiparah were frightened and deserted the city.  The objective was won, and the promises of the Lord were fulfilled.  (Alma 56:56 to “strength of God”)

The Battle of Cumeni
Their next recorded battle was a year or two later.  They were deployed to recover the city of Cumeni.  Once again, straightforward hand-to-hand combat was useless because of the fortifications of the city.  Antipus was gone and Helaman was now in charge of the whole group.  This time they placed the city under siege, and when the Lamanite supply train came, they attacked it.  They sent the prisoners from the supply train off to Zarahemla under guard.  Within a few days, the army within the city of Cumeni surrendered.  Now the Nephites had a huge number of prisoners which were very difficult to control with the forces they had.  So they sent them with a large guard off to Zarahemla as well.  The very next day, a fresh army of Lamanite soldiers arrived at Cumeni.  The number of Nephites left behind to guard the city were too few to manage the battle.  They sent a messenger to tell the guards of the prison train that they were under attack.  Unfortunately, the prisoners heard, took heart, and revolted.  Because they had no weapons, most of them were killed by the guards, but a few escaped.  The guards then returned to help Helaman with the battle.  They won, but it was a very sore battle in which 1,000 Nephite soldiers were killed.  Not one youth of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies died, but every single one was wounded.  (Alma 57:26).  Once again, why were they preserved?  (Alma 57:21)  It wasn’t just that they obeyed their military leader, Helaman; it was that they obeyed their prophet Helaman.

The Battle of Manti
Later in the year, they prepared to retake the city of Manti.  Due to the fall of the government, of which they were unaware, they had received no provisions or reinforcements for quite some time.  They were malnourished and small in numbers.  They had to come up with a very clever plan to be successful this time.

Like the other Nephite border cities, the city of Manti was mightily fortified.  After praying for God’s help to strengthen and deliver them once again (Alma 58:10), their whole (small) and receiving his renewed promise that he would (Alma 58:11), they came up with a plan.  They brought their whole (small) army near the city and camped, making it appear that they planned to put the city under siege, like they had done at Cumeni.  The Lamanites saw how small their numbers were and decided to attack them, rather than risk an ambush on their supply trains.  When the Nephite spies saw that the Lamanites were preparing to come out, Helaman split the small army into three tiny squadrons.  Two of the squadrons hid, leaving the stripling warriors as the decoy again.  As the Lamanites came out to battle them, the Army of Helaman began to retreat.  The Lamanites pursued.  The hidden squadrons cut off the Lamanite spies so they couldn’t return to warn the city, and then they attacked and conquered the city easily because very few had been left to guard it.

The 2,000 warriors traveled for days, with the Lamanites right on their tails.  Suddenly, the Lamanites realized that they were heading toward the big Nephite city of Zarahemla and decided they had better back off.  They camped for the night, intending to turn back to Manti the next day.  But Helaman commanded his soldiers to march all night, going around the Lamanite camp, so that they reached the city of Manti first.  When the Lamanites arrived and realized that the city was full of Nephite warriors now, they fled into the wilderness.  With very little bloodshed, the city of Manti was regained.  (Alma 58:39)

APPLICATION

We also will be strengthened and preserved as we follow the example of the people of Ammon and their sons, the 2,060 stripling warriors (60 more enlisted during the war).  (Alma 58:40)
·         LIBERTY:  They stood fast in liberty.  We can do this in the defense of our countries at war time.  We can also defend our religious rights from attacks of those who would remove them.  And we can resist giving away our personal agency to any sin or addiction on a daily personal basis.
·         MEMORY:  They remembered God, day to day.  They remembered what he had done for them in the past, and they remembered his promises for the future.  We can do the same through our church worship (specifically the sacrament and the temple), our daily prayers and scripture study, our patriarchal blessings and other blessings.
·         OBEDIENCE: They kept the commandments.  We have all covenanted to do the same and the keeping of our covenants will strengthen and preserve us as it did them.  Like the stripling warriors, we need to obey every word of the prophet with exactness.
·         FAITH IN CHRIST:  They had “faith in the prophecies of that which is to come.”

As the children’s song says, we must follow the example of the Army of Helaman with courage and conviction that the Lord will preserve us in our daily battles for freedom.

Here are a few links to "We'll Bring the World His Truth" (AKA "The Army of Helaman") Primary song on YouTube.

Brett Raymond's high energy version from his "Primarily For Grown-Ups" album  (This is probably also available on I-Tunes, if you want to buy it.)