Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Mother's Day story from the Book of Mormon.

Happy Mother's Day, Internet!

I know I have not blogged in a while so today I thought I'd share something that I wrote two years ago.  On Mother's Day 2010, I was asked to speak in Church.  This is what I wrote and shared with the congregation:
I’d like to share with you a story.  This story starts about 2100 years ago, with a man named Ammon, a son of King Mosiah.  My story isn’t centrally about Ammon, but his story is the prologue.  It sort of sets the stage.
Ammon went on a mission after repenting of a severely rebellious childhood.  While Ammon was a missionary, he met a group of people under a king named Lamoni.  These people were Lamanites, enemies to the Nephites:  enemies to Ammon’s people.  But Ammon won King Lamoni’s trust and worked as a servant.  He was humble and diligent and, whenever possible, looked for opportunities to demonstrate the power of God.  King Lamoni was impressed with Ammon, and started to ask him the kind of questions every missionary loves to hear.  Questions like, “is there a God?”
Ammon had all the right answers, because he was led by the Spirit to know what to say.  To make a long prologue short, Ammon was instrumental in the conversion of a large group of people who eventually became known as the Ammonites.  The Ammonites are the main subjects of my story today.
I want us to remember throughout this story that the Ammonites were converts.  They had lived a vicious lifestyle and now thirsted instead for virtue.  The Ammonites had seen death and murder, crime and corruption, but when Ammon came into their land preaching the Gospel of Christ they were “pricked in their heart,” like Peter’s audience on the day of Pentecost, and they wanted nothing more than to follow God the rest of their lives.
Part of the way they showed God their change of lifestyle, their change of heart, was by burying their weapons.  Literally, they buried all their swords and bows and axes deep in the ground, and made an oath with God that they would not use them anymore.  They felt like their hands were stained with the blood of former enemies, and as part of how they showed their discipleship, they vowed to never fight again.
So that’s a portrait, if you will, of who the Ammonites were.
This is when things get difficult.  See, the Ammonites were often under attack by the Lamanites, now their enemies.  But they had no way of defending themselves, because they had promised God they would not fight.  So their new friends the Nephites took them in with welcoming arms and said, “You stay with us.  We have some land for you, and we will protect you.”  The Nephites fought and died protecting and defending the Ammonites.  I want you to put yourself in the shoes of these people, these Ammonite converts:  surely they felt terrible – powerless – and they wanted to defend themselves.  The scriptures record that at one point, they were even ready to pick up their weapons again and break their oath.  Of course that would not have been wise, to break their promise with God, but that is how dire the situation was.
And then something happened.  Their sons, still quite young, volunteered to fight.  These two thousand sons had not taken any oath of pacifism, so they could help with the war.  The scriptures describe these sons in Alma chapter 53 as being young, courageous, strong, and most importantly, “true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted.”  In other words, these young men had unshakable integrity.
This brings me to the topic I was asked to speak about today:  the example of women, especially mothers, in the Gospel.  These two thousand young warriors attributed their spiritual strengths to the teachings of their mothers.  Helaman acknowledges the same debt in describing the soldiers, and later, the historian Mormon makes similar commentary, agreeing that these young men were who they were because of their mothers.  In other words, the two thousand were so legendary and steadfast because of the examples of the righteous Ammonite women who raised them.
Let’s examine one of those strengths, faith, in a little more detail.  In Alma chapter 56, Helaman leads the two thousand young warriors past the city of Antiparah.  Antiparah is holding the Lamanite’s strongest army at this point, and the plan is to march near it, as if to carry supplies to a nearby Nephite city, and lure the Lamanites out.  The Lamanites took the bait, and started chasing down Helaman and the two thousand.  Meanwhile, another Nephite army – led by Antipus – joined the chase from behind.  When the Lamanites saw that they were being chased, they kept pressing forward, intending to wipe out Helaman’s two thousand men before Antipus’ army arrived.  This chase continued for quite a while.  Eventually, though, it seemed as if the Lamanite army was no longer on Helaman’s tail.  So our heroes stopped, and discussed what could be happening.  Helaman described to his men two possibilities:
1.    Antipus caught up with the Lamanites and wiped them out, or,
2.    The Lamanites are setting a trap, stopping to see if we’ll turn around.  When we turn around to see what happened, they’ll wipe us out.
He then asked them, “what say ye, my sons, will ye go against them to battle?”
The answer is inspiring.  “Our God is with us,” they said, “and he will not suffer that we should fall; [so] let us go forth.”  Helaman records that these young men were not afraid of death, and that “they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.”  Remember, these warriors were still quite inexperienced, and this was to be their first battle.  But instead of fear, their hearts were full of courage and faith.  They knew that what their mothers had taught them was true:  God delivers.
Later, we read that none of the two thousand died in the battle.  Chapter 57 records that “their minds [were] firm, and they [did] put their trust in God continually.”  That sort of faith and trust came from the apparently deep and powerful impressions their mothers left on them.  It wasn’t just that their mothers taught or explained those principles; their mothers lived those principles.  Remember, these mothers are Ammonite women, converts who had listened to the words of Ammon and who had changed their lives to invite Christ into their hearts.  These women knew the power of the Spirit, and strived to keep it every day – and their sons noticed.  This, brothers and sisters, is an exemplary story about how the righteousness of women, especially mothers, can have a profound effect on others.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day, let us ponder in what ways our own mothers were and are like the Ammonites.  We might not feel like we are similar at all to Helaman’s young warriors, but in God’s eyes we are certainly young, and in God’s eyes we are certainly in a war.  As we do spiritual battle every day, let us remember our mothers, and try to make them proud.  Let us remember to always trust God, and he will deliver us.  The sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ has made that deliverance possible.  I know that to be true, and I know my mother knows it to be true.  I am ever grateful for her testimony, which she graciously allowed me to lean on until I gained my own.  I am ever grateful for her loving support as I left to serve a mission.  I am ever grateful that – years ago – my mother, like the Ammonite women, listened to the promptings of the Spirit when missionaries like Ammon shared the Gospel with her.  I know the message that they shared was true:  that, in answer to King Lamoni’s question, there truly is a God.  He lives, and he loves us, and this is his church.
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