(It's True Sir, All Present and Accounted For painting by Clark Kelley Price)
The name is rather long. When you first look at it you might think it means the opposite from what it really says. In the Book of Mormon, Alma 23:17 it tells us. “…they called their names Anti-Nephi-Lehies…” Sounds like they were against Nephi and Lehi, doesn’t it? But that is not the case. Hugh Nibley, who was a professor at Brigham Young University, explained their strong name very well. He said that Nephi-Lehi means a combination of Nephi and Lehi and anti, in this case and point in time, means a face-to-face meeting or a joining together with somebody. (Nibley, 339) Their new name meant they were joining together with Nephi and Lehi.
In Alma chapter 24 we learn what sets the stage for the Anti-Nephi-Lehi young men to become stripling warriors. We read that the Lamanites were riled up because the Anti-Nephi-Lehies broke away from them and wanted to go to war against them. What was the Anti-Nephi-Lehies’ reaction?
“Now there was not one soul among all the people who had been converted unto the Lord that would take up arms against their brethren; nay, they would not even make any preparations for war; yea, and also their king commanded them that they should not.” Alma 24:6
Knowing that their past sins had been forgiven and their swords were wiped clean by Christ’s atonement, they didn’t want to go back to the way things were. They wanted to keep their swords clean of blood.
The Anti-Nephi-Lehies had an enemy knocking on their door wanting to do battle. But instead of storing up weapons, they buried them. Their actions spoke louder than words, and what they did next becomes even more poignant. They didn’t raise the barriers between them and their enemy, they lowered them. And when they saw the enemy coming against them; they prostrated themselves before them.
The Lamanites had no mercy. They killed over one thousand of these brave men. But as the Lamanites realized that the Anti-Nephi-Lehies really weren’t going to fight… a miracle happened. The Lamanites’ hearts began to swell, and they threw down their weapons.
Now you’re probably thinking, but what about the men who were killed? A miracle didn’t save them. Those Anti-Nephi-Lehies, who made the ultimate sacrifice, knew what they were doing. They gained a heavenly reward. And because of their sacrifice their sons and daughters’ faith waxed strong. Many brothers, fathers and grandfathers lives were sacrificed on that field. Their families felt this great loss, but they knew their loved ones had gone to a better place and that their legacy would long be remembered.
Try to imagine how those who survived in the field felt. Here their fellow soldiers, their soldier-brothers, gave their lives to keep their covenant with God never to fight again. You can be certain that they would not let such a sacrifice be in vain. They would keep their covenants!
Time passed…and the Lamanites became contentious towards the Anti-Nephi-Lehies once again. Ammon, one of the sons of Mosiah and a great leader, was so worried about them that he took them to the land Jershon where the Nephites could protect them. The Anti-Nephi-Lehies then became known as “…the people of Ammon” Alma 27:26. We refer to them as the Ammonites.
What happened next between the Nephites and the Lamanites? All-out war. In Alma 28:2 we read “…tens of thousands of the Lamanites were slain and scattered abroad…” Verse 3 records: “Yea, and also there was a tremendous slaughter among the people of Nephi.” So this was a time of great mourning. Imagine how the Ammonites felt knowing that so many Nephites had died protecting them.
The war would rise and fall after this and would eventually become so bad that the Ammonites were willing to break their covenant with God to help in the fight. One man who insisted they keep their oath was not only a chief captain, but also a prophet and the keeper of the records. Helaman feared their very souls would be in danger if the Ammonites broke their covenant with God, so he told them thanks, but no thanks. He’d rather lose the war than have them cut off from the Lord.
Realizing the dire situation their people were in and that many Nephites were dying protecting them and also remembering that many of their brothers, fathers and grandfathers had sacrificed their very lives not to bloody their swords, the young men of the Ammonites stepped forward. They hadn’t taken the oath and they were willing to fight. These brave boys made a covenant to fight for the liberty of the Nephites and to protect their land. Hmm, kind of reminds me of our military today: good, strong people doing what they believe is right.
For more information about the stripling warrior check out some of my previous posting. For example 10 Stripling Warrior Character Traits You Can Apply to Your Life
I imagine if you’re not a Mormon that you have more questions about the church. If so, you might want to check out the other topics on The Mormon Blogfest:
The Book of Mormon and Missionary work with Kayeleen Hamblin
Faith in Jesus Christ with Myrna Foster
Families with Charity Bradford
Family history with Laura D
Joseph Smith with Annette Lyon
Restoration of Jesus Christ’s church with Kelly Bryson
Temples with Krista V