Book of Mormon Lesson 33 (Alma 53–63)
The people of Ammon were protected by the Nephites at great cost in lives (v. 13). The Ammonites considered breaking their covenant to aid in their defense rather than just sit by and watch the Nephites die. Helaman persuaded the people not to break their covenant lest they should “lose their souls” (vv. 14–15). The Book of Mormon approves fighting in defense of oneself, one’s family, or one’s liberty (Alma 48:14). But from an eternal perspective, it was more important for the Ammonites to keep their covenant.
The Ammonites’ Sons Provide An Answer
Two thousand Ammonite young men volunteered to defend their country and were reinforced later by another 60, making a total of 2,060 (Alma 53:16–21; Alma 56:3–9). These young Ammonites asked Helaman (the prophet) to be their leader (v. 19).
We are also commanded to follow our prophet “in all patience and faith” (D&C 21:4–6).
President Harold B. Lee said, “The power of Satan will increase; we see it in evidence on every hand. . . . The only safety we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized. We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet . . . There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that `the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.’ (D&C 21:6).”1
Characteristics of these stripling warriors: (Alma 53:20–22)
—They were young
—They were exceedingly courageous
—They were very strong and active
—They were true to every trust given to them
—They were men of truth
— They were sober (serious about their responsibilities)
—They had been taught to keep the commandments
CAPTAIN MORONI’S MOTIVES AND CHARACTER
Ammoron wrote to Moroni, proposing a prisoner exchange (Alma 54:1–4). Moroni was willing because it would permit him to use for the benefit of his own people the provisions he was then giving to his prisoners (v. 2). Unlike the Lamanites, who had captured many women and children, Moroni kept no women and children as prisoners (v. 3), and he intended to obtain as many prisoners back from the Lamanites as possible (v. 4).
Moroni’s response to Ammoron is found in Alma 54:5–14. Moroni referenced the war which Ammoron’s brother had begun and which he was now endeavoring to continue against the Nephites (v. 5). He warned that “the justice of God, and the sword of his almighty wrath . . . doth hang over you except ye repent and withdraw your armies into your own lands” (v. 6).
Moroni swore to “retain our cities and our lands; yea, and we will maintain our religion and the cause of our God” (v. 10). He called Ammoron “a child of hell” and was angry at the Lamanites who had “sought to murder us, [while] we have only sought to defend ourselves. But. . .if ye seek to destroy us more we will seek to destroy you” (v. 13).
Ammoron’s response to Moroni is found in Alma 54:15–24. Not surprisingly, when Ammoron received Moroni’s response he was angry (v. 15). He wrote back to Moroni, accusing him of murdering his brother Amalickiah and swearing to avenge his blood upon Moroni personally, “for I fear not your threatenings” (v. 16). He then offered the age-old criticism of the Lamanites—that Nephi had robbed Laman and Lemuel of their right to govern (v. 17)—even though, as an apostate Nephite, he was not himself a Lamanite. He denied knowing the Nephites’ God and said, “if it so be that there is a devil and a hell, behold will he not send you there to dwell with my brother whom ye have murdered. . .? But behold these things matter not.”
Moroni preferred peaceful means but was not afraid to fight (Alma 55:1–3). He created a strategy to make the Lamanite guards drunk (Alma 55:4–14). He did not desire blood and death, only the protection of his people (Alma 55:15–24).
HELAMAN’S ARMY FIGHTS WITH FAITH
Facing Adversity with Courage
When Helaman arrived in the lands of Nephi and Manti he found the Lamanites had superior strength and the Nephite army had a serious lack of provisions and arms. While this situation was depressing to the Nephite soldiers under Antipas’ command, they had decided to conquer or die in that spot. The addition of the provisions and two thousand men under Helaman’s command made Antipus’ army hopeful and joyous and gave them courage.
The army of Antipus was about to fall into the hands of the Lamanites, when Helaman and his two thousand Ammonite “sons” attacked from the rear, defeating the Lamanite army (Alma 56:10).
Helaman concluded that if the Lamanites had attacked his band of men, they might have been destroyed, because God had blessed and preserved them (Alma 56:19–20). The first army that the young Ammonites faced was the Lamanites’ strongest and most numerous army, against whom they had little chance of success (Alma 56:34–43).
The Influence of A Mother’s Faith (Alma 56:44–48)
Yet, when Helaman asked if they wanted to go against this army, his young soldiers did not hesitate because they had been promised safety by their mothers if they were faithful (v. 47). Mothers today can have a similar influence on their children.
President Spencer W. Kimball said, “To be a righteous woman during the winding-up scenes on this earth, before the Second Coming of our Savior, is an especially noble calling. The righteous woman’s strength and influence today can be tenfold what it might be in more tranquil times. She has been placed here to help to enrich, to protect, and to guard the home—which is society’s basic and most noble institution. Other institutions in society may falter and even fail, but the righteous woman can help to save the home, which may be the last and only sanctuary some mortals know in the midst of storm and strife.”2
The importance of punctuation (Alma 56:48). Originally, the Book of Mormon had no punctuation. Punctuation was added by the publisher Gilbert in Palmyra. This verse is punctuated incorrectly. Instead of”We do not doubt our mothers knew it,” it should be “We do not doubt, our mothers knew it”
After the battle, Helaman inspected his warriors for wounds and loss of life (Alma 56:49–57). To his great joy, he discovered that not one of them had been killed.
Remaining “Firm and Undaunted”
During one difficult battle, many Nephites “were about to give way” but were rescued by the return of some they had earlier sent away (Alma 57:12–18). Helaman attributed the Nephite success at Cumeni to: the courage and firmness of the 2,000 Ammonite warriors (Alma 57:19–21). He cited two things: (1) Their obedience to every command with exactness, and (2) their faith in what their mothers had taught them about God.
The results of the young ‘Ammonites’ faith and courage were that not one of them was killed, though every one of them was wounded (Alma 57:22–25; Alma 58:31–33).
The Ammonite soldiers were “firm and undaunted”:
— They had “exceeding faith in that which they had been taught to believe” and they “put their trust in God continually” (Alma 57:26–27).
— They “[stood] fast in that liberty wherewith God [had] made them free” (Alma 58:39–40).
— They were “strict to remember the Lord their God” every day.
— They kept God’s “statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments continually.”
— “Their faith [was] strong in the prophecies.”
— These young Ammonites had developed these characteristics in their youth, before they became soldiers (Alma 57:35–36).
Obtaining Peace Despite Adversity
The Nephite armies led by Helaman, Gid, and Teomner faced “an enemy which was innumerable,” with very little assistance from the land of Zarahemla (Alma 58:1–7). When necessary supplies and men failed to arrive Helaman’s small army “grieved” and were afraid. They turned to God in prayer for strength (Alma 58:8–10). God answered their petitions and spoke “peace to their souls,” which gave them “hope for [their] deliverance” (Alma 58:11–12).
Miraculously, and with the Lord’s help, the Nephites eventually prevailed and regained control of all their cities (Alma 58:31–33, 38). They “[stood] fast in that liberty wherewith God [had] made them free” and were “strict to remember the Lord their God from day to day” (Alma 58:39–40). They were brave and effective warriors, but more importantly they were faithful Christian men who did not forget who they were nor how they should behave in times of war or peace.
LETTERS BETWEEN TWO GREAT PATRIOTS
A fascinating aspect of Mormon’s abridgment of the large plates of Nephi was the inclusion of letters, or epistles, apparently word for word (Alma 54, 56–58, 60–61). Considering the scarceness of space on the plates, Mormon must have considered them very important.
These chapters cover a twenty-eight year period of Nephite history from 52 BC to 24 BC, from the fortieth to the sixty-eighth year of the reign of the judges. During this time of extreme instability, the Nephites wavered from righteousness to unrighteousness and back to righteousness. Mormon’s inclusion of these letters helps to show the greatness of Moroni’s love of liberty, as well as Pahoran’s forgiving and gentle spirit.
Integrity in the Face of Frustration
Moroni’s First Letter to Pahoran
When he learned of Helaman’s successes Moroni rejoiced greatly (Alma 59:1–4). Moroni then wrote to chief judge Pahoran asking that reinforcements be sent to Helaman. The Nephites lost the city of Nephihah even though Captain Moroni had supposed that reinforcements had been sent and that they could have defended themselves (Alma 59:5–13).
Moroni’s Second Letter to Pahoran
Moroni was willing to suffer for his country and his people, but felt that Pahoran had neglected them (Alma 60:1–5). In this letter he summarizes Pahoran’s lack of support (Alma 60:6–17), and his frustrations show in his accusations again Pahoran (Alma 60:18–23). Moroni threatened to overthrow Pahoran if he didn’t repent and respond to the needs of his armies (Alma 60:24–31). He also accused Pahoran of unrighteousness— breaking “the covenant [we] have made to keep the commandments” (Alma 60:32–35).
Moroni’s motives were pure; he was not seeking worldly power or honors, but was more concerned about the glory of God and the freedom of his people (Alma 60:36). Although he was a capable military leader, Moroni did not delight in the shedding of blood. (Alma 55:19).
Pahoran’s Gentle Reply to Moroni
Pahoran explained the reason why he had not sent reinforcements to Moroni (Alma 61:1–8). His reply to Moroni is a classic in scriptural literature. And it reveals important things about his character: (Alma 61:9). He was not angered by the false charges and wanted to retain his office only as a means of preserving the freedom of his people. And he wanted to follow the Lord’s will.
This letter contains the principle of righteous defense of freedom (Alma 61:10–14). Patriotic leaders do not joy in contending with their own, but will destroy internal evil and rebellion to protect their citizens (Alma 61:15–21).
Moroni’s Response to Pahoran’s Letter
Upon receiving Pahoran’s letter and request for help, Moroni took a small part of his army to the governor’s aid. They retook Zarahemla and restored Pahoran to his judgment seat (Alma 62:1–8).
This letter explains the circumstances under which capital punishment is justified (Alma 62:9–10). Note how they treated enemies who surrendered and desired peace (Alma 62:27–29).
The Connection Between Righteousness and Freedom
The correlation between the freedom of a nation and the proper function of the Church (Alma 62:39–44). Note the effect of the prayers of a righteous minority (v. 40).
Because of the exceeding length of their wars, some people were hardened and turned away from God. Others were humbled and turned toward God (vv. 41–42).
Following the defeat of the Lamanites, the Nephite nation prospered and began to expand (Alma 62:45–62 ). They obtained these blessings because . . .
—They repented of their sins, were baptized
—They established the Church throughout the land
—They strengthened the law and chose new judges
—They remembered God and humbled themselves before him, praying continually.
HISTORIES AND MIGRATIONS
New Custodians of the Sacred Records
Following Helaman’s death, his brother Shiblon became custodian of the sacred records (Alma 63:1–3). Corianton, Shiblon’s brother, had gone to the land northward with a shipload of supplies, for those who had emigrated there, and was therefore not available, as was his heritage, to be made custodian. Later, the sacred plates passed from Shiblon to his nephew, Helaman II, who was the son of his brother Helaman.
During the same year that the records were given to Helaman II, Moronihah, son of Captain Moroni, led the Nephite armies in a defense of Nephite lands. The result was that the Lamanites were once again driven back into their own country to the south (Alma 63:10–17).
Hagoth and the Polynesians
Hagoth: The Book of Mormon records that the Nephite civilization expanded into the land northward. A man named Hagoth constructed a ship to transport men, women, children, and provisions by way of the west sea to the land northward. While this ship was gone, Hagoth built other ships. On a subsequent trip, the first ship was lost. One other ship also sailed and was lost (Alma 63:4–9).
The Polynesian People: Latter-day Saints believe that groups such as these became the ancestors of the Polynesian peoples of the Pacific. This belief is substantiated by statements made by several General Authorities.
Mark E. Petersen said, “The Polynesian Saints are characterized by a tremendous faith . . . “Why do they have this great faith? It is because these people are of the blood of Israel. They are heirs to the promises of the Book of Mormon. God is now awakening them to their great destiny. As Latter-day Saints we have always believed that the Polynesians are descendants of Lehi and blood relatives of the American Indians, despite the contrary theories of other men.”3
President David O. McKay said in prayer about the Polynesian people, “We express gratitude that to these fertile Islands Thou didst guide descendants of Father Lehi, and hast enabled them to prosper.”4
1. In Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 152; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, 126.
2. The Teachings of President Spencer W. Kimball , 326–327.
3. In Conference Report, April 1962, 112.
4. “Dedicatory Prayer Delivered by President McKay at New Zealand Temple,” Church News, 10 May 1958, 2.