"One of the great war stories in the Book of Mormon is the account of the 2,000 young warriors who . . . fight under the leadership of Helaman in the war between the Lamanites and the Nephites," wrote Daniel H. Ludlow in A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon.
The warriors were sons of the Ammonites - formerly known as the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi - who, upon their conversion to the gospel, had covenanted to never again take up arms in battle.Because the Ammonites refused to fight, they were defenseless before the Lamanites. They were moved into land of Zarahemla where the Nephites could protect them. However, the Nephites' defenses were weakened, and several cities were lost to the Lamanites. When the Ammonites saw the danger and trials the Nephites bore for them, "they were moved with compassion and were desirous to take up arms in the defence of their country." (Alma 53:13.)
Helaman, one of the sons of Alma the younger, feared that the Ammonites would "lose their souls" if they broke their covenant and went to battle. (Alma 53:13.)
The Ammonites' sons, however, had not entered into the covenant. They volunteered to "fight for the liberty of the Nephites, yea, to protect the land unto the laying down of their lives. . . ." Alma 53:17.)
"Because of their great faith, valor, and courage," Ludlow wrote, "these young warriors were protected by the Lord through several battles, and not one lost his life.
"This story is frequently told to illustrate the importance of correct teaching in the home and the blessings that come from honoring parents. These young men told Helaman that 'they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.' Then they added: 'We do not doubt out mothers knew it.' (Alma 56:47-48.)
"In a letter to Moroni, Helaman attributes the success and preservation of his warrior sons to the power of God and to their faith: 'And we do justly ascribe it [their preservation] 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.'" (Alma 57:26.)
President Ezra Taft Benson likened the challenges faced by today's youths to the battles fought by the sons of Helaman. In an address during the priesthood session of the April 1986 general conference, President Benson said:
"Young men of the Aaronic Priesthood, 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.'
"In the spiritual battles you are waging, I see you as today's sons of Helaman. Remember well the Book of Mormon account of Helaman's 2,000 stripling warriors and how the teachings of their mothers gave them strength and faith. These marvelous mothers taught them to put on the whole armor of God, to place their trust in the Lord, and to doubt not. By so doing, not one of these young men was lost." (Alma 53:10-23; 56:41-56.)
The story of Helaman and his "sons" often is told to illustrate courage. In his October 1986 general conference address, President Thomas S. Monson asked: "Who can help but be inspired by the lives of the 2,000 stripling sons of Helaman, who taught and demonstrated the need of courage to follow the teachings of parents, the courage to be chaste and pure?"