Alma 53

Alma 53:2 Lehi was a unto Moroni

"Teancum was not Moroni's only chief captain; the record also mentions Antipus, Gid, Helaman, and Lehi and refers to numerous others. (See e.g., Alma 52:19.) But Teancum, Helaman, and Lehi are singled out for special mention. Mormon, who knew what loyalty tested in battle meant, reveals a great deal in what he tells us of Moroni's relationships with his chief captains. In any military society, the brutalities of war can unite men in a kind of competition of escalating toughness, competency in killing, and callousness to sensitive feelings. Instead, we see in Moroni and his chief captains an exceptional and exemplary masculine relationship based partly on shared skills and shared dangers but also on a loving friendship and a righteous desire for liberty and peace. All of these men were courageous in defense of liberty." (Eugene England, Ensign, Sept. 1977, p. 29)

Alma 53:7 he did no more attempt a battle with the Lamanites in that year

"The first and probably prime determinant for scheduling wars was the need to provide food according to a natural cycle that allowed few exceptions. We learn quickly that the middle of the Nephite calendar year was the growing season and that the primary harvest became available toward the end of the year. Since no army could operate effectively without a reasonably secure supply of food, this meant that wars had to await the completion of the agricultural year. This fundamental principle is clearly expressed in Alma 53:7, which says regarding Moroni and his forces: 'He did no more attempt a battle with the Lamanites in that year, but he did employ his men in preparing for war . . . and also delivering their women and their children from famine and affliction, and providing food for their armies.'" (Stephen D. Ricks and William J. Hamblin, eds., Warfare in the Book of Mormon, p. 446)

Alma 53:9 because of iniquity amongst themselves...they were placed in the most dangerous circumstances

"Note that Mormon views the conflict between the Nephites and Lamanites from a spiritual context. There is no mention here of the superior military strength of the Lamanites as a reason for their advantage in battle, but it comes from the dissensions among the Nephites." (K. Douglas Bassett, Alma, the Testimony of the Word [Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1992], 292 - 293.)

Hugh Nibley

"So it was a blessing to the Nephites after all to have the Lamanites on their doorstep to stir them up to remembrance...No matter how wicked and ferocious and depraved the Lamanites might be (and they were that!), no matter by how much they outnumbered the Nephites,...they were not the Nephite problem. They were merely kept there to remind the Nephites of their real problem, which was to walk uprightly before the Lord." (Since Cumorah, p. 376 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 358)

Alma 53:14 they were overpowered by the persuasions of Helaman...for they were about to break the oath

David O. McKay

"Fellow members of the Priesthood, do you so esteem your word? In all sincerity I ask it, tonight. You and I have given our words, our covenants.

"Do we hold them as sacred as did the people of Ammon, the story of whom you find in the Book of Mormon, who made an oath that they would never shed blood, and the time came when their benefactors were being punished, persecuted, killed, and the people of Ammon thought they would break that oath, but Helaman said no. And so those good men and women preferred death, if necessary, rather than break their word, violate their oath.

"You know the story of how two thousand boys went out to sacrifice their lives if necessary, so that their parents would not violate that oath. I wish to read something about those boys.

   '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.' (Alma 53:20.)

"That is a great story, and an inspiration to young men in all the world.

"Now, the application-Do you realize that we made a promise, a covenant at the water's edge? You and I are pretty well along in years, some of you, but we remember our baptism on our eighth birthday. There was a sense that came to us that we would not swear after that baptism, that we would do whatever our parents asked us to do, that we would do our part, or render service in the Church when called upon to do it. We were only children at eight years of age, that is true, but I can remember those feelings and sentiments as clearly as though they were yesterday. Don't you?

"Later we realized what that covenant is. We buried the 'old man,' with all of his weaknesses, his jealousies, his tendency to slander, that we might come forth and walk in the newness of life. We refer to it now as the covenant made at the water's edge.

"You made it, you gave your word. Is your word your bond? I ask the Church, and especially the men who hold the Priesthood...We teach honor, truth, integrity, and square-dealing, but to all this we add sacredness of our word of honor. God help us to keep our covenants." (Conference Report, October 1952, p. 88-90.)

Alma 53:19 they would that Helaman should be their leader

Helaman's role so far has been to preach the word of God (Alma 48:19). Helaman was the custodian of the Nephite record and presumably the chief high priest of the church (see heading for Alma 45 and Alma 46:6). According to the record, he had absolutely no military experience. Yet, true to form, the spiritually-minded sons of Helaman chose to be led by a man experienced in the ways of the Spirit rather than someone experienced in the ways of war. The relationship of trust and mutual respect which developed is unparalleled, for Helaman later said, 'they did observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them' (Alma 57:21).

Alma 53:21 they were men of truth and soberness

"President Ezra Taft Benson concerning this generation, 'Never before on the face of this earth have the forces of evil and the forces of good been so well organized. . . . While our generation will be comparable in wickedness to the days of Noah, when the Lord cleansed the earth by flood, there is a major difference this time: God has saved for the final inning some of His stronger and most valiant children, who will help bear off the kingdom triumphantly.' Then, speaking to the youth, he said, 'You are the generation that must be prepared to meet your God' (Ensign, April 1987, p. 73).

"On another occasion, President Benson told the young men and the young women of the Church, 'You have been born at this time for a sacred and glorious purpose. It is not by chance that you have been reserved to come to earth in this last dispensation of the fulness of times. Your birth at this particular time was foreordained in the eternities. You are to be the royal army of the Lord in the last days. You are youth of the noble birthright. (Hymns, 1985, no. 255.)' Speaking to the young men, he added: 'In the spiritual battles you are waging, I see you as today's sons of Helaman...' The stripling warriors of today, like those in times past, are strong largely because of what their mothers know and teach them, often without immediate evidence of the great lessons that are being woven into the fiber of their lives.

"With prophetic insight and concern for our time, President N. Eldon Tanner explained, 'The war which was begun in heaven is raging here upon the earth; two great forces of right and wrong are pitted against each other. It is important that we fight for the right. We must have well trained, disciplined, fearless, and loyal volunteers well equipped with the proper weapons of war and with a determination to win.' Mothers participating in the training of this great volunteer force might more fully understand their influence for good while considering the words of the Apostle Paul to young Timothy: 'Call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also' (2 Timothy 1:5). Did this not give Timothy a sense of who he was: his identity, his heredity, his birthright as a man of faith, a man of God? Was he not profoundly influenced by his mother and grandmother, women of faith, women of God? Did they realize the sacred trust and great responsibility that was theirs when Timothy was only a child? Did they know the great missionary he was to become, and recognize their part in his preparation?" (Ardeth Greene Kapp, What Latter-day Stripling Warriors Learn from Their Mothers, p. 17 - 18.)

David O. McKay

"I have read from the fifty-third chapter of Alma, which gives an account of young men who were exceedingly valiant for courage, for strength, and activity-men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted. Who were these young men? They were sons of parents who were equally true to every trust...I mention this because parenthood has much to do in inculcating courage and trustworthiness in children. The law of cause and effect is working in parenthood as it is in any other law of nature. There is a responsibility upon all, and especially upon fathers and mothers, to set examples to children and young people worthy of imitation. Parents must be sincere in upholding law and upholding the priesthood in their homes, that children may see a proper example. Respect for law and order, as charity, begins at home.

"These young men were true to every trust. They were men of integrity. I cannot think of anything which will contribute more to the establishing of law and order than for each individual to cherish integrity and honesty in his or her heart. Integrity, honesty-the Latter-day Saints stand for these fundamental principles. They are generally noted for their integrity and honesty, and it is with sorrow we receive the word, whenever it comes through the press or by voice, that one of the Latter-day Saints has failed in his obligation to trust." (Conference Report, October 1927, p. 12.)

Alma 53:21 they had been taught to keep the commandments of God

"Countless speeches have been given and volumes written on families, some heaping praise on this basic unit of society and others cautioning about perils that exist or lie ahead...

"Perhaps the quote Latter-day Saints cite most often about families is contained in a statement that President David O. McKay made in an April 1964 general conference address:

'When one puts business or pleasure above his home, he that moment starts to downgrade to soul-weakness. When the club becomes more attractive to any man than his home, it is time for him to confess in bitter shame that he has failed to measure up to the supreme opportunity of his life and flunked in the final test of true manhood. No other success can compensate for failure in the home. The poorest shack in which love prevails over a united family is of greater value to God and future humanity than any other riches. In such a home God can work miracles and will work miracles.'

"Terry Olson, a professor in BYU's Family Sciences Department, has...said,

'We [society at large] are recognizing we have no substitute for the family. When we have abandoned children, orphans, children whose own parents have pitifully abused them, what do we do with these children? We try to find another family. It may be that people are beginning to realize that the magic of family life isn't just in the structure; it's in the quality of life lived by those in the family.'

"He further said it is within the family 'where we learn what it takes to be human, where people can teach us, forgive us, help us, and bless us. The family performs those functions in ways that no other agency will be able to do.'

"David L. and Joye J. Griffin of the Farmington 9th Ward, Farmington Utah South Stake, try to exemplify the ideals of home and family taught by Church leaders...Sister Griffin advocates daily scripture reading and family prayer. 'Our reading is not a long, drawn-out process; it's just a few minutes, but we feel those few minutes will help give our sons a good balance for the whole day, for whatever else will come.' She said her philosophy of being a good parent is summed up in Alma 53:20-21." ("Society's Basic Unit: Today's Family," Church News, Date: 11/23/9)

Alma 53:22 Helaman did march at the head of his two thousand stripling soldiers

In Mormon folklore, the "stripling warriors" have become legendary. Ironically, a great number of members do not know what the word stripling means. Of course, it means "young," but how young were they? We can safely imagine that they were teenagers, for Helaman said that they were all of them very young (Alma 56:46). The only requirement for service was that they were able to take up arms (v. 16).

"Those sons of the Ammonites made up an unlikely army. They were inexperienced young men reared by parents whose pacifism was their most sacred commitment. Helaman may have had doubts about their fighting ability, but he never doubted their character." (Jerrie W. Hurd, Our Sisters in the Latter-day Scriptures, p. 34 - 35)