Alma 57 is another chapter in which the great acts of the stripling warriors in the second part overshadow the text of the first part. So we will look at that first part. Here Helaman reports how he was able to regain the city Cumeni. Notice how important provisions become to this story.
6 And it came to pass that in the commencement of the twenty and ninth year, we received a supply of provisions, and also an addition to our army, from the land of Zarahemla, and from the land round about, to the number of six thousand men, besides sixty of the sons of the Ammonites who had come to join their brethren, my little band of two thousand. And now behold, we were strong, yea, and we had also plenty of provisions brought unto us.Essentially Helaman besieges the Lamanites by disrupting their supply lines. It is very interesting how this is described. It says that the Nephite army surrounded the city “a little before they were to receive a supply of provisions.” This tells us that Helaman had observed that the Lamanite supply came according to a schedule, so he used that schedule to get in the way. Then there is another little interesting detail—“at length their provisions did arrive”—that “at length” sounds like the Lamanite provisions were significantly delayed. What kind of effect did this have? At first, the Lamanites were still determined to keep the city, but then “not many days had passed away before the Lamanites began to lose all hopes of succor,” so they gave up the city. (Unbeknownst to them, another Lamanite army with provisions was coming their way in verse 17, but the Cumeni Lamanites had lost faith, so they couldn’t wait and they gave up.)
7 And it came to pass that it was our desire to wage a battle with the army which was placed to protect the city Cumeni.
8 And now behold, I will show unto you that we soon accomplished our desire; yea, with our strong force, or with a part of our strong force, we did surround, by night, the city Cumeni, a little before they were to receive a supply of provisions.
9 And it came to pass that we did camp round about the city for many nights; but we did sleep upon our swords, and keep guards, that the Lamanites could not come upon us by night and slay us, which they attempted many times; but as many times as they attempted this their blood was spilt.
10 At length their provisions did arrive, and they were about to enter the city by night. And we, instead of being Lamanites, were Nephites; therefore, we did take them and their provisions.
11 And notwithstanding the Lamanites being cut off from their support after this manner, they were still determined to maintain the city; therefore it became expedient that we should take those provisions and send them to Judea, and our prisoners to the land of Zarahemla.
12 And it came to pass that not many days had passed away before the Lamanites began to lose all hopes of succor; therefore they yielded up the city unto our hands; and thus we had accomplished our designs in obtaining the city Cumeni. (Alma 57:6-12, emphasis added)
Satan knows when we are scheduled to receive reinforcements and provisions, so he tries to get in the way. We get a supply of strength ever week at church. Just two weeks ago, a woman in our ward shared her experience of having to work hard to resist Satan’s temptations as he tried to prevent her from going to church. Even though she felt like her health problems (of a physical frailty type) provided her with a legitimate excuse to stay home, she also had the feeling that it was important to come to church and she was elated to tell us during Relief Society that she had experienced a spiritual outpouring that had made it worth it for her to come. She had prevented Satan from disrupting her spiritual supply lines.
We get a supply of strength from going to the temple. So of course Satan will try to get in the way of us going then too. I remember as a teen that my Mom told me that she always seemed to be hit with extra opposition just as she and Dad were getting ready to go on the 100-mile trip to the Chicago temple. She told me Satan would try to prevent it. I began to see it too at the beginning of our youth temple trips, which happened twice a year. Someone would always join the car pool group feeling irritated and cranky for seemingly no reason and it seemed that Satan was trying to destroy our peace. Thankfully, the prayer to bless the trip seemed to smooth things over. Other obstacles are: forgetting temple recommends, late starts, car troubles, etc. I can just imagine the troubles that families with children face.
We get a supply of strength from general conferences. So Satan tries to disrupt that experience for us too. When I was a college student, it seemed like every time conference came around, inexplicably I’d have loads of homework dumped on me, and though I had gotten to the point that I was determined to watch conference and let homework go, it was still tempting to allow the stress get to me and affect my attitude between sessions and my relationship with my husband. I didn’t even notice that I had this problem until my husband pointed it out.
We can get a supply of strength from a number of other things, such as prayer, scripture study, and fasting. We can get it from religion classes, gospel discussions, family home evenings, church broadcasts, and church magazines. But it is often up to us how often these things are in our lives. The more sporadic they are, the more Satan will try to get in the way.
We have so many sources of strength to supply us, and this story from the Book of Mormon shows us that it matters how often we are supplied. The Lamanites were scheduled to be supplied only once in a while, and if something got in the way, they were in big trouble. In terms of spiritual things today, if the only provision we get is at church on Sunday, if we miss church, we’re in big trouble. (Personally, I really don’t see how a member can get by today just by going to church.)
Not only did an army get in the way of the Lamanite provisions, the people who were to supply the men and provisions delayed sending them, and that delay, added to the obstruction, caused the Lamanite army at Cumeni to lose all hope of succor. They lost hope that help would ever come because the previous delay sent a message that headquarters didn’t care about them. This shows us that if we delay reinforcing and supporting our children or those who depend on us, they will feel like we don’t care and they will lose hope and give in to… whatever. So how often do we mentally, physically, and emotionally and spiritually reinforce and supply our families, particularly our children, as they are under siege? How often do we seek strength from the Lord?
It seems that the Lamanites actually learned from their mistakes, and in the very next chapter, Helaman reports that “the Lamanites were also receiving great strength from day to day, and also many provisions” (Alma 58:5). The Lamanites figured out that it was much better to supply many provisions to their armies daily than to only send a big shipment every once in a while and risk having the big one disrupted. It is the same for us. It is best for us to give plenty of spiritual reinforcement to our families daily with family scripture time and family prayer than to only do a big thing once in a while. It is better to build the 3 month supply in increments than to get it all at once. It is better to receive our strength from the Lord through daily scripture study and personal prayer than to have a big spiritual binge session every once in a while.
Have you ever had experiences when your spiritual provisions were disrupted? If so, how did you remove the obstacle? If you’ve never allowed a disruption of your spiritual supply line, please tell when you realized the importance of it and how you have prevented that disruption.
Image: Dvids Defense video & imagery distribution system, http://www.dvidshub.net/image/292348/army-food-service-workers-serve-soldiers, U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joseph Rivera, 120th Public Affairs Detachment