1 And now it came to pass that I [Helaman] received an epistle from Ammoron, the king, stating that if I would deliver up those prisoners of war whom we had taken that he would deliver up the city of Antiparah unto us.Antiparah was the city that the stripling warriors led away the Lamanite army away from, so it could be concluded that the Lamanite force left to protect it was small. And since Ammoron was offering to trade the city for prisoners, it is safe to conclude that Ammoron was in the city; I don’t see that he would allow anyone else the authority to make such a trade. (Ammoron must have felt pretty exposed, sitting in the city without much of an army to protect him. He must have realized that occupying a city meant nothing without a force to keep it safe, so he changed his focus to getting his army back.)
2 But I sent an epistle unto the king, that we were sure our forces were sufficient to take the city of Antiparah by our force; and by delivering up the prisoners for that city we should suppose ourselves unwise, and that we would only deliver up our prisoners on exchange.
3 And Ammoron refused mine epistle, for he would not exchange prisoners; therefore we began to make preparations to go against the city of Antiparah.
4 But the people of Antiparah did leave the city, and fled to their other cities, which they had possession of, to fortify them; and thus the city of Antiparah fell into our hands. (Alma 57:1-4)
I find it curious that Helaman didn’t take Ammoron’s offer to exchange Lamanite prisoners for the city Antiparah. You’d think he would have been interested in negotiations; peace-loving people tend to prefer accomplishing things through talk instead of war. Of course, Helaman couldn’t immediately grant Ammoron’s request anyway; Helaman had already sent the Lamanite prisoners to Zerahemla, but he probably had the power to bring them back for a prisoner exchange if he wanted to.
But rather than do this, he makes his own terms. Antiparah will fall to the Nephites no matter what and he will only exchange Lamanite prisoners for Nephite prisoners.
It is interesting that though Helaman refused to give up prisoners in exchange for the city, Ammoron left the city anyway. Because Helaman remained firm, he got what he wanted without giving up any advantage.
One thing that I puzzled over though, was Helaman’s statement “by delivering up the prisoners for that city we should suppose ourselves unwise.” On the surface it seemed that he refused to value real estate more than his people. Perhaps that is true, but it seemed like there was some very practical considerations behind it too.
As a general, his objective was to recapture Nephite cities, AND neutralize the Lamanite threat, and so far, one of those objectives had been met. If he got the city back and then let the Lamanite prisoners go, that would mean giving up one successful military object in return for the other. Yet both objectives were presently within his grasp. It would be stupid to give up what they’d already fought so hard to capture (prisoners) just for a city. If they gave up the prisoners, then they’d only have to fight them again, and that would be a mockery of all the lives that were lost to win the first time.
That seems to be the lesson from this little story: it would be stupid to give up the thing we’ve worked so hard to win because then we’ll only have to fight for it again. It would be stupid if, for the sake of some fleeting pleasure, we give up our marriage or our kids that we’ve worked so hard to have. It would be stupid to give up our dream that we’ve worked so hard to attain. It would be stupid to give up our purity that we’ve worked so hard to maintain. It would be stupid to give up our standards that we’ve worked so hard to establish and live by.
Let’s be smart and maintain the victories we've fought so hard for.