Alma 56:1 in the commencement of the thirtieth year...Moroni received an epistle from Helaman
Wartime communication is a perennial problem for any military commander. While busy on the east coast, Moroni seems to have been uninformed as to the events on the west coast prior to this letter from Helaman. What is amazing is that Helaman has to recount four years of fighting (see v. 9)! From 66 BC to 62 BC, Moroni was apparently too busy on the eastern front to visit his forces on the west. Such is the problem with a war on two fronts.
Alma 56:2 our warfare in this part of the land
Moroni had previously defended the line on the western front (Alma 52:11). But he had to leave that area in order to come to the aid of Teancum in taking the city of Mulek on the east coast. In Moroni's absence, the Lamanites had made considerable advances, now it came to pass that the armies of the Lamanites, on the west sea, south, while in the absence of Moroni on account of some intrigue amongst the Nephites...had gained some ground over the Nephites, yea, insomuch that they had obtained possession of a number of their cities in that part of the land (Alma 53:8). The two thousand stripling warriors were to assist the wearied army of Antipus in retaking those cities (Manti, Zeezrom, Cumeni, Antiparah, Judea) lost in Moroni's absence.
Alma 56:11 we may console ourselves in this point...they are happy
We may also console ourselves that those loved ones who have passed on are happily resting in the paradise of God. But the nature of the spirit world was a relatively new doctrine for the Nephites. It was Helaman's father Alma who had inquired as to the state of the soul between death and resurrection. He learned by revelation that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow (Alma 40:12).
To see those that are in the prime of life suffer tragedy and death is particularly harrowing. It often raises the question, "how could a loving God allow something like this to happen?" Yet, a loving God knows that for the righteous, the tragedy doesn't begin at death-it ends at death. Accordingly, the spiritually-minded members of Antipus' army may have realized that while they wearily struggled to maintain their lands, their fallen comrades were resting in the paradise of God.
"To you whose lives may be taken in war and to you who may mourn the loss of loved ones so taken, may I bring you again the comfort of the words of Moroni, the captain of the guard; 'For the Lord suffereth the righteous to be slain that his justice and judgment may come upon the wicked; therefore ye need not suppose that the righteous are lost because they are slain; but behold, they do enter into the rest of the Lord.' (Alma 60:13)" (Book of Mormon Student Manual, p. 339)
Alma 56:45 never had I seen so great courage...amongst all the Nephites
The stripling warriors are about to engage in their first battle. Their enemy is the largest Lamanite army, from which they had been running for almost three days. To go from running for their lives to contending with the largest Lamanite army takes some real fortitude, but the stripling warriors were ready.
Alma 56:47 they had been taught by their mothers
David O. McKay
"Motherhood is the greatest potential influence in human society. Her caress first awakens in the child a sense of security; her kiss, the first realization of affection; her sympathy and tenderness, the first assurance that there is love in the world. Thus in infancy and childhood she implants ever-directing and restraining influences that remain throughout life." (Home Memories of President David O. McKay, p. 225.)
Spencer W. Kimball
"The stripling sons of the former . . . Lamanites were superior because '. . . they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them' (Alma 56:47). This teaching is not a single sermon but a lifetime of example and precept. Here were mothers who loved their sons more than themselves, more than clothes, or entertainment, or social life, or business life, or luxuries. Here were women who gave themselves to their families-time, energy, effort, mind, and soul. Then came the dividends: a whole community of righteous, noble sons to sire generations of people so full of goodness and faith that it was to carry over through centuries. (Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1958, p. 7)
Marion G. Romney
"Without a knowledge of the word of God, these noble mothers never could have built into their sons such an abiding conviction that 'if they did not doubt, God would deliver them'; and neither could they have inspired in their sons an unshakable faith that their mothers knew what they were talking about.
"It is a mistake to depend solely upon the Church organizations to give children a knowledge of the principles of the gospel. The primary and the final responsibility to bring up their children in light and truth rests with parents. There is no better place to find this knowledge than in the standard works. Read them and do as the Lord says: 'Let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds.' (D&C 43:34.)...
"Begin with your children while they are exclusively under your care, and continue as long as you have any influence upon them to impress upon their minds and precious souls the grandeur of the concepts of the gospel...See that these truths are imbedded in your minds. If they are, you will have an anchor that will carry you over the roughest passages in your life.
"I remember on one occasion riding with President Stephen L Richards to a conference in Idaho. As we drove along, we were considering means to encourage the people to live the gospel more effectively. He expressed his conviction that people would be more diligent in living the gospel if they could but get true concepts of its principles in their minds and appreciate their implications. I have often thought about this statement, and I believe it is true. I am further persuaded that Latter-day Saint parents can, if they will, help their children to learn and appreciate these principles. This requires parents themselves to become more familiar with the word of God. I counsel you to study and teach your children from the standard works of the Church." (Learning for the Eternities, p. 124-5.)
James E. Faust
"Generally, those children who make the decision and have the resolve to abstain from drugs, alcohol, and illicit sex are those who have adopted and internalized the strong values of their homes as lived by their parents. In times of difficult decisions they are most likely to follow the teaching of their parents rather than the example of their peers or the sophistries of the media, which glamorize alcohol consumption, illicit sex, infidelity, dishonesty, and other vices. Those young people who demonstrate moral courage are like Helaman's two thousand young men who 'had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them' from death (Alma 56:47). 'And they rehearsed . . . the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it' (verse 48).
"What seems to help cement parental teachings and values in place in children's lives is a firm belief in Deity. When this belief becomes part of children's very souls, they have inner strength. So, of all that is important to be taught, what should parents teach? The scriptures tell us that parents are to teach their children 'faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost,' as well as 'the doctrine of repentance' (D&C 68:25). These truths must be taught in the home. They cannot be taught in the public schools, nor will they be fostered by the government or society. Of course, Church programs can help, but the most effective teaching takes place in the home." (Finding Light in a Dark World, p. 94.)
Neal A. Maxwell
"When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses?" ("The Women of God," Ensign, May 1978, 10-11)
Alma 56:47 if they did not doubt, God would deliver them
The antithesis of faith is doubt. The power of heaven cannot be wielded in the mind of the wavering. Peter walked on water until the winds kicked up and made him doubt (Matt14:25-31). Joseph Smith's successful boyhood prayer only opened the heavens because he asked in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord (James 1:6-7). If we expect to receive any thing from the Lord, we must be as the stripling warriors who, although they had plenty of reasons to doubt their own ability, instead had cleared their minds of negative thoughts. They had purged any intimation of inadequacy. They had swept away the smallest suspicion. The strength of their faith could be measured by the absence of doubt-a trait learned by example, for they did not doubt [their] mothers knew it (v. 48).
Neal A. Maxwell
"The reliance, of course, by these young men on their mothers is touching and profound, but the mothers first had to know 'it' in such a way that the young men, observing them closely and hearing them (as is always the case with children observing parents), did 'not doubt' that their mothers knew that 'it' was true." (That My Family Should Partake, p. 59.)
Neal A. Maxwell
"Only about two years ago I learned from my aunt, Arlene Ash Turner, something precious of which I was completely unaware. It occurred back in May of 1945-the Okinawa period, where I was serving as a frightened infantryman in a mortar squad. Arlene told me that one day my mother had told her that the night before she and Dad had had their parental prayers and had prayed over me and my sisters. When abed they were nearly asleep, Mother reportedly said, 'Clarence, we need to get out of bed and pray again. Neal is in grave danger!' They did, pleading for me afresh. I do not know the precise date, but the time zones are such that their late night prayer would match mid-afternoon or early evening on Okinawa. The Japanese had been trying to hit our mortar squad position but were unable to do so because of some low, intervening hills. They must have moved their artillery pieces, because soon a round of artillery came squarely in between two of our foxholes. Shaken, I prayed most earnestly (doubtless along with others), naively promising to pay the Lord back. Relief came! Now, of course, I am much more in His debt.
"I do not know the date of the parental prayer, but in the words of some other young men who had special mothers and who also went off to war, I 'did not doubt [my mother] knew it' (see Alma 56:48).
"Having such prayerful parents was a great inspiration to all of us in the family, and to learn so many years later of that simple but powerful act has been a great source of joy to me; and it has caused me to weep with appreciation more than once." (One More Strain of Praise, p. 108.)
Alma 56:56 not one soul of them fallen to the earth; yea, and they had fought as if with the strength of God
Stories about David and Goliath, Ammon at the waters of Sebus, and the stripling warriors are nothing but good stories unless we are able to emulate the great faith which was the foundation for each success. Faith will forever remain an ethereal concept unless we exhibit courage without concern for ourselves, follow every command with exactness, rely on the Lord, believe in the teachings of our mothers, and exhibit faith without doubting. Many believe that Peter walked, for a time, on the surface of the Sea of Galilee, but few would have been courageous enough to say to the Lord, bid me come unto thee on the water (Matt 14:28). Many believe that David killed Goliath, but how many would have said to Saul, "I will go and fight with this Philistine" (1 Sam 17:32). While we believe the story of the stripling warriors, how would we have responded to the question, 'what say ye, my sons, will ye go against them to battle' (v. 44)?
While believing in the scriptures, we still seem to get stuck in a quagmire of faithlessness. While we believe in great stories, we don't emulate great faith. While we know the Lord is soon to come again, we don't act like the generation foreordained to usher in the Millenium. Certainly, the latter-day armies of Israel need to fight as did the sons of Helaman, who could not be slain because they fought as if with the strength of God. The secret to this great source of ultimate power, ironically, is the first principle of the gospel-Faith.
"The war is on. Satan is real. He attacks, but we have the upper hand. We have the means to defend ourselves; we know how to prepare ourselves, how to avoid the fiery darts of temptation by putting on the armor of Christ (see Ephesians 6:12-17). We do this by making our will and the Lord's will the same-by choosing what he would want us to choose, doing what he would want us to do, saying what he would want us to say.
"In this battle we have a leader-the Lord Jesus Christ. Will we listen to this commander? Of course! If we really believe that this earthly war is real, we will listen to and follow him and his servants. We will humbly and gratefully submit to his will and guidance. We will plead and pray for his direction. We will obey just as the Sons of Helaman did-with exactness-and receive the blessings of obedience which are safety and happiness.
"The Savior, our leader, knows we can win this war. He and our Heavenly Father have great confidence in us. And they have promised us great blessings." (Ed and Patricia Pinegar, Why Say No When the World Says Yes? Resisting Temptation in an Immoral World, compiled by Randal A. Wright, pp. 4 - 5.)
Gordon B. Hinckley
"[You are] out there as the sons of Helaman in a world that is full of destructive influences. . . . But if you put your trust in the Almighty and follow the teachings of this Church and cling to it notwithstanding your wounds, you will be preserved and blessed and magnified and made happy." (LDS Church News, 09/21/96)
Ezra Taft Benson
"Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace" ("Jesus Christ-Gifts and Expectations," Christmas Devotional, Salt Lake City, Dec. 7, 1986).