In June of 1999, I arrived at the Missionary Training Center to begin my 2-year mission to California. I was fortunate that my future Mission President was also being trained at the MTC while I was there. We were able to meet up with him and his wife for a few hours. While we were visiting with him, he introduced to us what would be come the theme scripture for his time as the Mission President. The scripture is set in our study for the past few weeks. It is a description from Helaman about the 2,000 young warriors who miraculously turned the tide of a terrible war:
And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted. Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him.Alma 53:20-21
I plan to spend a little more time on this scripture later, but for now I want to focus on the first part where it calls the young men “Exceedingly Valiant for Courage.” This was what my Mission President wanted us to become. Although, I wasn’t perfect I remember when I finished my mission, I felt that I had become more valiant and more courageous.
This past week, as I attended my wonderful Grandma Bonnie’s funeral, I was struck with what it really meant to be “Exceedingly Valiant for Courage” because that is what she was. She faced many difficult things that I have never had to face, and yet she maintained her love for everyone and her faith in God. She was the true example of what my Mission President was trying to teach us.
I realize now that for us to be truly valiant, we need to do it for our entire lifetime. The endurance is what makes faith hard, but it is also what makes that faith truly change us into something more than we would otherwise become.
The chapters we cover in this week’s study are mostly about war and conflict. While Mormon focuses on the highlights and emphasizes the righteousness of the Nephite cause, it is clear that these conflicts were brutal and impacted people’s lives in so many negative ways. Conflict is part of our journey and the symbolism that comes from these conflicts are something we can apply to our lives. In the midst of conflict or unbearable trials, will we turn to the Lord Jesus Christ? In the face of doubt and questions will we lean on the Lord for support?
CHAPTERS FOR STUDY WEEK 31-32 – Alma 43-63
– Our intentions matter to God and are a key component to our success.
– Forced compliance to ideas, religion, or opinions leads to misery, division, and destruction.
– Being true to God is proven through the conflicts of our life.
History and Context:
– Mormon spends quite a bit of his abridgment on the conflicts of this time period. It is clear that he adores Captain Moroni, even naming his son after him. It also makes a lot of sense that Mormon would focus on this war because he was the captain of a war where his people are completely destroyed, in his mind, because of their unfaithfulness. Captain Moroni’s war is the counterpoint and proof that if a people is faithful that the Lord will protect them. This is the true thesis of Mormon’s writing and it is his primary example of the point he is trying to make to future generations. If you are faithful you will come out victorious in the face of inevitable conflicts and trials.
– While Mormon focuses primarily on the faithfulness of the Nephites, and the wickedness of the Lamanites, it is clear from our previous study that the conflict was about so much more than religious and moral differences. It was much more about multiple groups of refugees abandoning their people (Anti-Nephi Lehi people, and the Zoramite Converts) and moving to Jershon. This abandonment and betrayal lead to a severe weakening of their former communities both politically and economically because of their cheap labor. In addition, after only a few years since previous skirmishes and hurt feelings the situation was ripe for conflict.
– There are many cities that are mentioned in this major conflict, but a few are helpful to remember the main things about:
- Jershon – Community where the Anti-Nephi Lehi and Zoramites were living. It was under the protection of Zarahemla.
- Sidon – Large River that seemed like a major border.
- Zarahemla – Central city of the Nephite community.
- Morianton – The first city to fall to the Lamanites on account of their division and pride that separated the people.
- Bountiful – After Moroni’s distraction is putting down divisions in Zarahemla, Amalickiah took many cities and Bountiful was the place where Teancum stood against them and assassinated Amalickiah.
- Manti – The key and final city taken by Helaman and his 2,000 Lamanite young men, which pretty much sealed the victory on this side of the conflict.
- Moroni – After Captain Moroni leaves the army to save Pahoran in Zarahemla, Teancum is angry at Ammoron and sneaks into the city to assassinate him. He is successful but killed and this is the final act that ends the conflict.
- Zarahemna – First leader of the Lamanite offensive against Moroni.
- Amalickiah – Former Nephite, and fierce believer of Nehor who by deception becomes the King and attacks Moroni again.
- Ammoron – Brother of Amalickiah who takes over the armies after Amalickiah’s assassination.
- Pachus – Zarahmelan dissident who overthrows Pahoran in connection with Ammoron’s war against Moroni.
- Captain Moroni – Leader of Nephite armies
- Alma – Spiritual leader of Zarahemla
- Lehi – Second in command to Captain Moroni
- Teancum – Critical warrior in the fight, assassinated Amalickiah and Ammoron.
- Helaman – Spiritual leader after Alma, and also led the 2,000 warrior children of the people of Jershon.
- Pahoran – Chief judge of Zarahemla
– Laman – it is very interesting that Laman is chosen to become a spy to the Lamanite armies with two other Nephites. This clearly shows that the color of the skin of the people was not an indicator of their spiritual righteousness or not, as Mormon and others so often focus on. Otherwise the two Nephites would have been discovered immediately. Instead it was very likely language, or particular actions or knowledge that made them different at the time.
– Timeline 74 BC – 53 BC
Opening Conflict and Alma’s Ascension (43-45)
Zarahemna leads a conflict against Jershon after the betrayal of the Zoramite converts. Captain Moroni heads off their offensive and surrounds Zarahemna’s armies. He asks for them to covenant not to fight anymore, but Zarhemna refuses and the conflict continues until the Lamanites agree to make the covenant.
Alma is ready to die and he blesses his family and turns over the record and the responsibility as the High Priest to Helaman.
Moroni and Amalickiah (46-50)
Amalickiah, a Nephite by birth, and believer in the Order of Nehor, is among the army that covenanted not to return to fight the Nephites. However, his anger is unquenchable and so through murder, fraud and deceit he obtains the kingdom and unites the armies in the purpose of destroying the Nephite kingdom.
Captain Moroni on the other hand, through emphasizing faith, and liberty, and protection spends these years preparing the people spiritually, building fortifications and protections in all the cities, and training and arming his people for future conflicts. These two strategies are in stark contrast to each other and are clearly a symbol for us to evaluate our own preparations and purposes.
Division and Pride Bring Misery (51-58)
Initially Moroni’s fortifications and preparations are clearly enough to repulse the Lamanite armies. However, after a vote to replace Nephihah with Pahoran as Chief Judge, there is an extreme division among the people regarding whether the people should be governed by liberty and judges, or by a king. The conflict leads to physical violence and rebellions, these distracts Moroni from his primary foes.
Another symbol that shows how division and distraction opens us up to the adversary’s advances, these divisions allow room for Amalickiah to take over quite a few Nephite communities on their path to Zarahemla.
After Amalickiah is assassinated by Teancum, Ammoron leads the people in an even more furious advance. Moroni enlists Helaman to find more warriors and before the people of Ammon who had covenanted not to take up arms could join, 2,000 of their children agree to fight and follow Helaman into the conflict.
Conflict Finale (59-63)
After the city of Nephihah is taken, Moroni is upset with Pahoran for receiving no assistance for his or Helaman’s troops. He and Pahoran exhange letters and Moroni is informed that Zarahemla has fallen to Pachus, who is in league with Ammoron. This explains the lack of support, but also shows that they are fighting a war on three fronts and they need a miracle.
Helaman, and his miraculous 2,000 warriors are able to end the conflict on one front by taking back many cities culminating with Manti. Moroni leaves the front and is able to free Zarhemla. He returns with provisions to the final front of the conflict and learns that Teancum had killed Ammoron, but was killed in the process. This puts an end to the war.
The people prosper with Helaman, Pahoran, and Moroni’s son Moronihah as leaders. After they pass away Helaman’s son ends up with the records and the chief priest of the people and the Book of Alma is finished.
Key Moment or Scripture: Alma 53:20-21
20 And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted.
21 Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him.
Originally when I was planning out this post, I was going to spend a lot of time talking about my mission. The past few weeks took me on a different path, and I spent most of my time with my family and writing an obituary and a post for my Grandma instead. However, I did want to spend a little time breaking down my mission scripture into what it meant to me then and now.
- Valiant (Determination)
- Courage – Determined to do what is right in the face of anything.
- Strength – Determined to build up physical and spiritual endurance and power.
- Activity – Determined to put faith and goodness into action, not just theory, but service, assistance, helping and doing good.
- True at all times to what is entrusted – Being trusted and trusting others is probably the most important love language I have. When it comes to relationships there is almost nothing I value higher than trusting and being trusted. The Lord will bless those whom he trusts with opportunities to bless others.
- Truth and Soberness – For me this means honesty and clear mindedness. Seeing things clearly, not emotionally, not irrationally, but being true and being clear in how we address and approach situations, especially difficult ones.
- Keep the Commandments – I have always been a bit rebellious and don’t like rules, so to me this means following the path of the Savior. The commandments are the guideposts that mark the way and the safe path. If we walk on that path, then we can influence so many more people to come to the Lord.
- Walk Uprightly before God – Confidence that the Lord loves us and trusts us is a key component of faith and spiritual power. This comes from believing the Lord, believing that His atonement is all powerful and that it is intensely individual as well. I know that Christ loves me and that even if I make mistakes, He will keep trusting me if I keep trying to be better.
The Pride Cycle at its most monumental thing we will learn about in the following chapters. The Book of Helaman is one of my favorites, often overlooked because of the enormity of the Book of Alma and the wonderful chapters with the Savior in 3 Nephi. We will spend most of the Book of Helaman focusing on the Pride Cycle.
- Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon by Brant Gardner
- The Book of Mormon as History by Brant Gardner
- Understanding the Book of Mormon by Grant Hardy
- The Book of Mormon Made Harder by James Faulconer