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We Are as the Army of Helaman

Brothers and sisters, aloha. I am grateful to be here with you today. I bring you the greetings and love of your brothers and sisters at BYU-Idaho, and I pray that the Holy Ghost will be with us that we might be taught and edified together.

You live in the dispensation of the fullness of times. You have been prepared for just this time. You are here in this wonderful university to further prepare you for the great work the Lord will do through you. This is your time. It is a time of great wickedness, and challenge, and turmoil, but it is also the time of the Restoration when the Kingdom of God is rolling forth in the world and when we have so many marvelous blessings from the Lord.

One of the most important blessings of the Restoration is the Book of Mormon. I love the Book of Mormon, and I testify to you and bear witness to you that it is true. It is another testament of Jesus Christ, full of true doctrine and true principles for our lives.

Some of the most important insights from the Book of Mormon come from the patterns we see in the lives of the children of Lehi. The Book of Mormon was written by prophets and compiled and edited by prophets who saw our day. Everything in the book was carefully selected under the inspiration of the Almighty to speak specifically to us in this time of commotion and challenge. I believe the patterns we see in the book were included because they are of particular significance to us who live in the dispensation of the fullness of times.

There is a Primary song about a Book of Mormon story with important patterns for your lives. The song captures much of what I feel about your destiny and about you. The chorus of the song, which I'm sure you all know, goes like this:

We are as the army of Helaman.
We have been taught in our youth.
And we will be the Lord's missionaries
To bring the world His truth.

Every time I hear that song, the Spirit bears witness it is true. You really are as the army of Helaman, and you really will build the Kingdom of God and bring the world His truth.

I'd like to reflect with you for a few moments today about two patterns we find in the story of the army of Helaman: 1) being valiant in a time of war through trust in God, and 2) the power of righteous parents.

Pattern #1: Being Valiant in a Time of War Through Trust in God
In Alma chapters 56 and 57 we read the story of the two thousand young men of the people of Ammon who volunteered to fight the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites. This is the army of Helaman. Theirs is a story of faith and courage. With no previous experience, but with great faith, they went to war and fought with "miraculous strength" under the leadership of Helaman. They faced the Lamanites in many battles, but not one of them was killed. We have much to learn from the army of Helaman about trusting in God and being valiant in a time of war.

Brothers and sisters, we live in a time of war. I speak not only of the wars of men, but also of the Great War between good and evil. That war rages across the earth. As we ponder together today the experience of the army of Helaman, I pray that the Spirit will help you see what you need to do to be valiant in a time of war through trust in God.

The story of the army of Helaman is familiar. But I'd like to step back and consider a part of this story about which we rarely talk. I would like to focus for just a moment on Helaman.

Helaman was the oldest son of Alma the Younger and the grandson of Alma the Elder. He was the son of a prophet and saw great and marvelous things in his life. The times of Helaman were full of turmoil and difficulty. They were days of great wickedness and contention and war.

The Lamanites waged war against the Nephites many times in Helaman's lifetime, and on three occasions over about a twenty-year period Helaman experienced civil war among his own people. This was a time of dissension and outright rebellion, afflicting both the government of the people of Nephi and the Church. Some of the most wicked but also the most talented and persuasive of men in all the Book of Mormon lived in Helaman's time. Evil men like Korihor, Amalickiah, and Morianton had great communication skills and presented themselves and their evil ideas with great effect.
In the midst of this tumultuous time, Helaman became a high priest in the Church and took charge of the records he received from his father, Alma. He kept the records, preached the gospel, and was a great priesthood leader in a time of war and wickedness and intrigue. He was part of a remarkable set of righteous leaders in that time. Mormon describes Helaman as a "[man] of God" like unto Moroni, "a strong and a mighty man ... firm in the faith of Christ."
Shortly before Helaman took responsibility for the records and began his ministry in the Church, his father, Alma, gathered all of his sons together and gave them "his charge ... concerning the things pertaining unto righteousness." Now since Helaman was true to the charge his father gave him, the words of Alma are a description of the man and the leader Helaman became. There is great value in Alma's words to Helaman; but in light of Helaman's role as the leader of the two thousand warriors, there are four messages that stand out. I'll tell you each one, and then a little scripture that goes with it, that comes from Alma chapters 36 and 37:

Trust in God -- "... for I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions."

Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer -- "... behold ... I cried within my heart: O, Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me ... . And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more... ."

Remember and keep the commandments of God -- "O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God."

Look to God and live -- "Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; ... if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day."

Helaman was a man of faith, a man who trusted in God, a man willing to give his life in the service of the Lord. He walked in the footsteps of his father, Alma, and was counted among those of great stature and strength among the people of Nephi. It was Helaman who persuaded the people of Ammon not to break their covenant to never take up arms against their brethren. And it was Helaman the two thousand young men wanted for their leader in the war against the Lamanites.

And so it was that these two thousand became the army of Helaman. Helaman marched at their head, fought by their side, went where they went, ate what they ate, and suffered and persevered and rejoiced with them in the miraculous victories the Lord gave them. In Alma chapter 57, verse 27, Helaman describes the characteristics that set his army apart:

Now this was the faith of these of whom I have spoken; they are young, and their minds are firm, and they do put their trust in God continually.

These three characteristics--trusting in God, minds that are firm, and being young and strong in the Spirit--capture the essence of what it means to be "as the army of Helaman." I want to consider each one with you today.

They Put Their Trust in God
The young men of the army of Helaman had never fought in war but they had been well-trained in warfare and in matters of faith. Their mothers had taught them "that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them." They were children when their parents were converted to the gospel. They were young boys when their fathers faced a fierce army of the Lamanites without weapons, but with great commitment, courage, and faith. Theirs was a legacy of faith and devotion. And they had a leader in Helaman who trusted in God with all of his heart and soul.

These two thousand young men knew of the power of obedience from their own experience, and they put their faith in action. Helaman said of them, "they are strict to remember the Lord their God from day to day; yea, they do observe to keep his ... commandments ... and their faith is strong."
For the army of Helaman, obedience was both the foundation of trust and its most important evidence. So it is with you. You, too, are part of the great army of the Lord, and you will have and face spiritual battles that will test you every bit as much as the army of Helaman. The only sure way to be valiant, the only sure power of deliverance, is to be as the army of Helaman and trust in God.

Now here's something practical to help you secure and sustain the faith and trust you need: Always keep the commandments of God--no matter what.

No matter how poor you are, no matter what problems arise, always pay your tithing. No matter what situations you are in or temptations you face, always live the Word of Wisdom. Always hold family home evening, keep the Sabbath day holy, and pray morning and night. Never compromise your divine heritage as sons and daughters of God--always live the law of chastity. Keep the commandments of God--no matter what. If you do, your trust in God will grow, His power will be manifest in your life, and you will be as valiant as the army of Helaman.

Their Minds are Firm
The army of Helaman fought with great courage and with great strength. Helaman said of them, "... never had I seen so great courage." As they faced the fury of the enemy, they were "firm and undaunted" so that Helaman could say of them, "their minds are firm." As Helaman used the word "firm," it means steadfast, immovable, resolute, and unwavering. The minds of those young men were not weary nor darkened by unbelief. They did not "halt ... between two opinions," nor were they "double minded." In the words of Paul, "God hath not given [them] the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."

This is your heritage. God has not given you the spirit of fear either, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. In the Great War between good and evil, you will need to be as courageous, steadfast, and committed as the army of Helaman.

Now here is something practical you can do to avoid the distractions, fear, corruption, and darkness of the world and, therefore, develop minds that are firm: Establish an architecture of righteousness in your daily life.
I use the word architecture here to convey a sense of structure and commitment that is built into your life. Build a structure in your life around the things of eternity, the things that really matter. Have personal and family prayer morning and night. Make prayer a commitment that is fixed and immovable, something you do at the same time every day. Get up early and study and ponder the scriptures every day, and then read the scriptures together as a family every day.

Always be worthy to hold a temple recommend. Worship in the temple as often as you can. Make that commitment and build it into your life. Share the gospel on a regular basis; do your home and visiting teaching; hold family home evening every week; attend Church and partake of the sacrament every week. Build these things into your life with a regularity that becomes a powerful commitment to do what is right.
I give you a promise: If you do these things in faith and diligence, you will not fear nor be weary, and you will have courage and strength beyond your own. Your minds will be firm, and you will be as valiant as the army of Helaman.

They are Young
The members of the army of Helaman were young men (Helaman says they "were very young"), but their age was not what mattered in their faith. What really mattered was their spirituality. They had experienced a "mighty change of heart," and they "walked in the newness of life." They were childlike in their willingness to do whatever Helaman asked them to do. Their obedience was so precise and so careful that Helaman said of them, "They did obey and observe ... every word of command with exactness."

All this means that in their character, in their attitudes, and in their hearts, the young men in the army of Helaman were children of Christ. Like the people of King Benjamin, they had made sacred covenants with the Lord and could be "called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters."

So it must be with you. You, too, must be valiant and courageous in a time of war. The Lord has important work for you to do. He wants you to be a true disciple, a trusted servant. If you would accomplish all He will set before you, you, too, must be spiritually prepared and spiritually strong. You, too, must experience a mighty change of heart and become a child of Christ, and:
... [put] off the natural man and [become] a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and [become] as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [you], even as a child doth submit to his father.

Now here is something very practical you can do to be and become a child of Christ and become spiritually strong: Always accept and always magnify callings in the Church, and always volunteer to be of service in the Kingdom. If your bishop calls you to be the nursery leader, accept and magnify. If he calls you to be the orchard specialist in the welfare program, accept and magnify. If your stake president calls you to be the stake director of physical activities or the Young Women camp director, accept and magnify.

When opportunities come to volunteer for service, be the first person with your hand in the air, the first person with your name on the sign-up sheet. When the call comes to shovel the mud out of someone's home or set up chairs or take a meal to a ward member or make a visit to the hospital, be the first one to stand up and say, "Here am I; send me."

In your service, please remember the wise counsel of King Benjamin:
And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength.

The Lord does not want you to run faster than you have strength. His work is like a marathon, not a sprint; and it must be done in wisdom and order. But He does want you to run just as fast as you can. In that service there are great blessings of spiritual strength.
If you accept and magnify and volunteer to be of service, you will take upon you the yoke of Christ. You will do His work with Him, and you will come to know Him and His love and His mercy and grace. As you do so, you will be moved to repent, to turn to Him with your whole soul. You will experience the mighty change of heart and become a son or daughter of Christ. You will "walk in [the] newness of life," and you will be as valiant as the army of Helaman.

Pattern #2: The Power of Righteous Parents
The young men of the army of Helaman were valiant in a time of war through their trust in God. That's the first pattern we see in their story. The second pattern is the power of righteous parents. We see that pattern in the lives of both the young men and Helaman.

Helaman was very much like his father and his grandfather. Helaman knew his grandfather, Alma the Elder, and I am sure that family home evenings were full of stories about his grandfather's conversion, his travails in the wilderness, and the Lord blessing his people.

Likewise, Helaman was a boy when his father saw the angel and was converted in a miraculous way. He saw his father become a great prophet and the chief judge, the most important office in the land. And he watched his father give up that honor and recognition to preach the gospel.
We see in Helaman the same courage and devotion and faith that we see in his father and grandfather. Like them, he faced significant challenges in his life; and, like them, he met those challenges with the miraculous help of the Lord. I am confident that Helaman talked often with his army about his father and grandfather and about the legacy of faith they had given him.

That legacy did not end with Helaman. He passed it on to his son Helaman, and through him to his grandson Nephi and his great-grandson Nephi. These were all men of faith, devotion, and great capacity. The son and grandson of Helaman both became chief judge in the land, and Helaman's grandson Nephi gave up that position to preach the gospel, just like Alma the Younger, his great-grandfather before him. And the great-grandson, also named Nephi, was a mighty prophet in the years of terrible turmoil following Christ's birth. When the Savior appeared at the temple in Bountiful, He chose Nephi to preside among the twelve disciples.

Truly there is power in righteous parents, power to influence and shape the lives of their children and their posterity over many generations. That power lies in who they are and what they do. Now we know that power cannot destroy agency. Some of the children may choose to follow a different path. But we should not underestimate the power of righteous parents. We see that power in the army of Helaman.

These two thousand young men had great mothers. We know their mothers taught them to trust in God, but their fathers also had a powerful influence. When those boys were born, their fathers were Lamanite warriors who had committed much murder and bloodshed. In the fathers' own description they were "... the most lost of all mankind." But those fathers (and mothers) were converted by the preaching of powerful missionaries--the sons of Mosiah -- and they experienced the redeeming power of Christ. Powered by the Holy Ghost, the gospel sunk deep into their hearts. In Mormon's words, they were "distinguished for their zeal towards God, ... they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ."

The fathers of the two thousand young men entered into a covenant with God and buried their weapons of war in the earth as a testimony. This is the covenant they made:
... that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would give up their own lives; and rather than take away from a brother they would give unto him; and rather than spend their days in idleness they would labor abundantly with their hands.

The young men of the army of Helaman grew up in a remarkable covenant community. Their mothers knew the truth and taught their sons that God would deliver them. They had fathers with faith and courage, whose testimonies of the gospel were very, very deep in their hearts. They were boys when one thousand five of their fathers gave their lives rather than break the covenant.

These were boys who grew up on stories of the covenant their fathers had made and of their courage and faith. They were immersed in those stories, and it showed in their lives. For example, those boys did not fear death. Their fathers had faced death with great resolve and courage and many of them had been killed. But there was in that community and in those families a deep conviction that death was but a changing of the scene. In every sense those fathers who died were alive in Christ; they died with the hope of a glorious resurrection. Their sons had been taught just this kind of faith and just that kind of courage; it was in their minds, and it was in their hearts. In every way, the two thousand warriors were the sons of their fathers.

Like Helaman, the young men of the army of Helaman passed that legacy on to their families. Sixty years--sixty years--after Helaman led the army of Helaman into battle, Samuel the Lamanite said of the children and grandchildren of the army of Helaman (and also many other Lamanites) "... [they are] in the path of their duty, and they do walk circumspectly before God, and they do observe to keep his commandments ... [B]ecause of their steadfastness ... [and] their firmness ... the Lord shall bless them and prolong their days."

The power of parents in the story of the army of Helaman is surely an important pattern for all of us. But some of you may be thinking: Well, what if I don't have a legacy of faith and devotion in my family? What if my family has not given me that kind of example? What about me?

The message of the army of Helaman is this: no matter where you are, if you are the first generation in the kingdom or you're the seventh, no matter if your family is faithful or not, you can be the beginning of an eternal family. If you are the seventh generation of a faithful Church family, it is your responsibility to keep the chain of the generations unbroken. For you, the message is: don't break the chain! If you are the first generation in the Church or if your family has not given you a righteous legacy, you can be like Alma the Elder, you can be like the great mothers and fathers of the people of Ammon. Your faith and your devotion and your example to your children can be the beginning of a great chain of faithful families through the eternities.

And because you live in the dispensation of the fullness of times when temples and sealing power are on the earth, that chain of the generations can go forward and backward. Think of it, brothers and sisters, this is the great blessing of the sealing power in the house of the Lord: You can be the beginning of the great welding link for your ancestors, including your immediate family. You can search out your ancestors and in the holy temple provide for them the opportunity for salvation and exaltation in the kingdom of God. This is the message for you: you can be the beginning.

Now, my dear brothers and sisters, the patterns we've discussed today are based on true stories and true doctrine. The Book of Mormon is true. I leave you my witness, brothers and sisters, that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. I know He lives, and I know he loves you. I felt that love as you walked in today. I bear witness to you that He lives and loves you. This is His work, His Church, and His Kingdom, restored to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith. There is an unbroken chain of power and authority and keys of the priesthood that links Joseph Smith and Thomas S. Monson. I bear witness to you that President Monson is the prophet of the Lord.

Now you have a great work to do in the Kingdom. I pray that you will take the patterns in the Book of Mormon into your hearts and into your lives. May the Lord be with you and watch over you all the days of your life. And may you be as the army of Helaman, firm and undaunted, faithful and true, valiant in a time of war, and a powerful welding link in the generations of your family. That is my prayer for you, and I leave you with a blessing. By virtue of the calling that I have and the ordination I have received in the holy priesthood, I bless you that you will feel and know of the power and love of God in your life. I bless you that the temple will stand for you as a great invitation to come unto Christ, that you will see in it the great blessings that the Lord has in store for you and for your family. I leave you that blessing and my witness, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.