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The Stripling Warriors: Lessons for Our Day (Alma 56-57)

A Video Supplement for
Come, Follow Me Book of Mormon Lesson 32
“Preserved by His Marvelous Power” (Alma 53-63)




One of the neatest episodes in the “war chapters” of the latter part of the Book of Alma, is the story of the 2000 stripling warriors. By way of definition, a stripling is an adolescent young man, though the lessons of this chapter are applicable more generally. These young men were children of the Anti-Nephi Lehis, who settled with the Nephites in the land of Jershon. Their parents had covenanted to forswear armed conflict and had buried their weapons of war in connection with this covenant. However, their children had not entered this covenant and chose to take up their arms in defence of their families and freedom and that of the Nephites and asked Helaman to be their leader. Their influence is first seen in Alma 56:16 where they reach the city of Judea where Antipus and his men have been having a bad time, and their arrival both buoys up the Nephite defenders and deters the Lamanites from attacking until they are able to properly fortify the city. However, their most interesting story, and the one for which they are most remembered comes later in the chapter when they are initially used as the bait for a plot to draw the Lamanites out of their fortifications. To do this, the stripling warriors, led by Helaman, march past the city of Antiparah as if resupplying one of the Nephite cities beyond. The Lamanites gave chase with their strongest army. Helaman and the 2000 did what any reasonable group of people would do, and ran in the opposite direction. Antipus, followed the Lamanites hoping to catch them between the his forces and Helaman’s 2000, and all three armies initially followed a fairly straight northward track. The Lamanites continued pursuing Helaman nearly reaching him, beginning with verse 41,

41 And it came to pass that again, when the light of the morning came we saw the Lamanites upon us, and we did flee before them.
42 But it came to pass that they did not pursue us far before they halted; and it was in the morning of the third day of the seventh month.
43 And now, whether they were overtaken by Antipus we knew not, but I said unto my men: Behold, we know not but they have halted for the purpose that we should come against them, that they might catch us in their snare;
44 Therefore what say ye, my sons, will ye go against them to battle?

Facing uncertainty can be one of the most profound and defining tests we face in life, and the response of the 2000 reveals their strength of character and, further, reveals the source of that character, continuing with verse 45, “And now I say unto you, my beloved brother Moroni, that never had I seen so great courage, nay, not amongst all the Nephites. 46 For as I had ever called them my sons (for they were all of them very young) even so they said unto me: Father, behold our God is with us, and he will not suffer that we should fall; then let us go forth; we would not slay our brethren if they would let us alone; therefore let us go, lest they should overpower the army of Antipus. 47 Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. 48 And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.”

I doubt their mothers supposed that their words would be immortalized in scriptures when they taught their children to trust in the Lord; nevertheless, they taught their children the principle that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them with such power and faith that it resulted in a miracle.

49 And it came to pass that I did return with my two thousand against these Lamanites who had pursued us. And now behold, the armies of Antipus had overtaken them, and a terrible battle had commenced.
50 The army of Antipus being weary, because of their long march in so short a space of time, were about to fall into the hands of the Lamanites; and had I not returned with my two thousand they would have obtained their purpose.
51 For Antipus had fallen by the sword, and many of his leaders, because of their weariness, which was occasioned by the speed of their march—therefore the men of Antipus, being confused because of the fall of their leaders, began to give way before the Lamanites.
52 And it came to pass that the Lamanites took courage, and began to pursue them; and thus were the Lamanites pursuing them with great vigor when Helaman came upon their rear with his two thousand, and began to slay them exceedingly, insomuch that the whole army of the Lamanites halted and turned upon Helaman.
53 Now when the people of Antipus saw that the Lamanites had turned them about, they gathered together their men and came again upon the rear of the Lamanites.

So Antipus had fallen and his army was on the verge of a catastrophic collapse. The attack of Helaman’s 2000 came at a critical moment and completely changed the course of the battle by attacking the rear of the Lamanite aggressors. This allowed the men of Antipus to rally and counter attack and effectively surrounded the Lamanites. Continuing with verse 54,

54 And now it came to pass that we, the people of Nephi, the people of Antipus, and I with my two thousand, did surround the Lamanites, and did slay them; yea, insomuch that they were compelled to deliver up their weapons of war and also themselves as prisoners of war.
55 And now it came to pass that when they had surrendered themselves up unto us, behold, I numbered those young men who had fought with me, fearing lest there were many of them slain.
56 But behold, to my great joy, there had not one soul of them fallen to the earth; yea, and they had fought as if with the strength of God; yea, never were men known to have fought with such miraculous strength; and with such mighty power did they fall upon the Lamanites, that they did frighten them; and for this cause did the Lamanites deliver themselves up as prisoners of war.”

Their faith in their mothers’ words had resulted in their preservation.

On another occasion, in Alma 57, these 2000, joined by 60 more young men again faced battle to similar effect, beginning with verse 19,

19 But behold, my little band of two thousand and sixty fought most desperately; yea, they were firm before the Lamanites, and did administer death unto all those who opposed them.
20 And as the remainder of our army were about to give way before the Lamanites, behold, those two thousand and sixty were firm and undaunted.
21 Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them; and I did remember the words which they said unto me that their mothers had taught them.

Understandably, in such a difficult battle Helaman was concerned that some of his 2060 might not survive, continuing with verse 25,

25 And it came to pass that there were two hundred, out of my two thousand and sixty, who had fainted because of the loss of blood; nevertheless, according to the goodness of God, and to our great astonishment, and also the joy of our whole army, there was not one soul of them who did perish; yea, and neither was there one soul among them who had not received many wounds.
26 And now, their preservation was astonishing to our whole army, yea, that they should be spared while there was a thousand of our brethren who were slain. And we do justly ascribe it to the miraculous power of God, because of their exceeding faith in that which they had been taught to believe—that there was a just God, and whosoever did not doubt, that they should be preserved by his marvelous power. 27 Now this was the faith of these of whom I have spoken; they are young, and their minds are firm, and they do put their trust in God continually.

We are fortunate and blessed in our circumstances that we have little cause to send young teenagers into combat. Nevertheless, these stories are entirely applicable to our day. If we will teach our children to trust in the Lord continually and not doubt, we need not lose any. Now that does not mean that they won’t experience the pains of life. Nearly a tenth of the stripling warriors had fainted from loss of blood, and sometimes we too will encounter horrifying challenges in our own time, but if we will trust in the Lord continually, and faithfully execute his commands, then what wounds may come we will be enabled to faithfully finish our work on the earth and rest safely and joyfully in his presence.

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