1. Two thousand valiant young Ammonites covenant to fight for the liberty of the Nephites.
Alma 53:14 They were about to break the oath
“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.” (David O McKay, Conference Report, October 1952, p. 88-90.)
Alma 53:16 The stripling warriors
“To our young men who go into service, no matter whom they serve or where, we say live clean, keep the commandments of the Lord, pray to Him constantly to preserve you in truth and righteousness, live as you pray, and then whatever betides you the Lord will be with you and nothing will happen to you that will not be to the honor and glory of God and to your salvation and exaltation. There will come into your hearts from the living of the pure life you pray for, a joy that will pass your powers of expression or understanding. The Lord will be always near you; He will comfort you; you will feel His presence in the hour of your greatest tribulation; He will guard and protect you to the full extent that accords with His all-wise purpose. Then, when the conflict is over and you return to your homes, having lived the righteous life, how great will be your happiness—whether you be of the victors or of the vanquished—that you have lived as the Lord commanded. You will return so disciplined in righteousness that thereafter all Satan’s wiles and stratagems will leave you untouched. Your faith and testimony will be strong beyond breaking. You will be looked up to and revered as having passed through the fiery furnace of trial and temptation and come forth unharmed. Your brethren will look to you for counsel, support, and guidance. You will be the anchors to which thereafter the youth of Zion will moor their faith in man” (Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., David O. McKay, in Conference Report, Apr. 1942, p. 96).
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).’ (Bryan Richards, GospelDoctrine.com)
Alma 57:21 With exactness
“I find the elements of obedience within this verse fascinating. What is the motivation for obeying with exactness? Could this be seen as blind obedience? Blind obedience is sheep following sheep, while following in exactness is sheep following the Shepherd; and Christ is the Good Shepherd (see Alma 5:37-39). This is the same principle the Lord was teaching the Saints in 1832, when he said, ‘I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise’ (D&C 82:10). By obeying Helaman’s orders with exactness, they were showing they did not doubt the Lord’s promise made to them through their mothers.
“The stripling warriors must have been aware that their obedience to their leaders was an extension of their obedience to their God. This was not a new concept to the Nephites. (See 1 Nephi 3:5-7; Mosiah 2:30-31; Alma 45:2-8) Their obedience to Helaman’s command was more than swift, it was exact. A celestial strategy was involved, even in that mortal battlefield. They had been promised that if they, ‘did not doubt, that they should be preserved by his [God’s] marvelous power’ (Alma 57:26). Would it have been possible for them to support their God without supporting their leaders? This is the ultimate test of obedience; to show one’s allegiance to a perfect and infallible God by how we obey those less than perfect who are called to lead us.” (K. Douglas Bassett, Alma, the Testimony of the Word, ed. by Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, Jr., p. 229)
2. The young soldiers exercise faith in God and fight courageously.
Alma 53:20 Exceedingly valiant
‘Listen to those words, my young brethren: valiant, courage, strength, active, true. We don’t need spiritually weak and semicommitted young men. We don’t need you to just fill a position; we need your whole heart and soul. We need vibrant, thinking, passionate missionaries who know how to listen to and respond to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. This isn’t a time for spiritual weaklings. We cannot send you on a mission to be reactivated, reformed, or to receive a testimony. We just don’t have time for that. We need you to be filled with “faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God” (D&C 4:5)’ (M Russell M Ballard, General Conference, October 2002)
Alma 56:38-39 But, behold, it was night
‘The fact that all movement stops after dark is a telling detail about the influence of light in warfare. All three armies have a great incentive to move quickly. Nevertheless, all three stop when night falls. This description depicts the difficulties of large-scale troop movements in Mesoamerica over an area that almost certainly had, at best, a trail rather than a smooth road, uneven terrain, and untold natural obstacles from vegetation and topography. Mesoamerican battles seldom included night maneuvers; they typically began at first light. Helaman’s resumption of flight “before” dawn—probably as soon as it was possible to distinguish objects, again accurately depicts Mesoamerican conditions.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)
Alma 56:47 They had been taught by their mothers
“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?” (Neal A Maxwell, “The Women of God,” Ensign, May 1978, 10-11)
Alma 56:48 We do not doubt our mothers knew it
‘In the Book of Mormon we read about 2,000 exemplary young men who were exceedingly valiant, courageous, and strong. “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 53:21 These faithful young men paid tribute to their mothers. They said, “Our mothers knew it” Alma 56:48 I would suspect that the mothers of Captain Moroni, Mosiah, Mormon, and other great leaders also knew.
The responsibility mothers have today has never required more vigilance. More than at any time in the history of the world, we need mothers who know. Children are being born into a world where they “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” Ephesians 6:12 However, mothers need not fear. When mothers know who they are and who God is and have made covenants with Him, they will have great power and influence for good on their children.’ (Julie Beck, General Conference, October 2007)
Alma 57:20 Firm and undaunted
“‘You reflect this Church in all you think, in all you say, and in all you do,’ President Hinckley told the youth. ‘Be loyal to the Church and kingdom of God.’ …
“President Hinckley told the youth that they 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.’
“Speaking of the world in which they live, President Hinckley told the youth, ‘You’re in the midst of Babylon. The adversary comes with great destruction. Stand above it, you of the noble birthright. Stand above it’” (“Prophet Grateful for Gospel, Testimony,” Church News, Sept. 21, 1996, 4).