And when the Lamanites saw that they were marching towards the land of Zarahemla, they were exceedingly afraid, lest there was a plan laid to lead them on to destruction… (Alma 58:24)
This is the story when Helaman and his small army execute a plan of distraction to entice the Lamanites from their stronghold so they can take possession of the city Manti in the Lamanite absence.
I enjoy reading these stories of tactics because it is fun to see the cleverness of the Nephites. Of course, I also realize that only my great distance from the events makes it fun, and for all those actually involved it was a matter of deadly earnestness, a matter of life and death. Therefore, to show respect to those who fought and bled out their lives so long ago for the cause of truth and to preserve the peace, it behooves us to also take these stores very seriously and use them by gleaning the lessons we find represented by either side—Nephite or Lamanite.
One thing I get from this story is that the Lamanites were enticed out of their stronghold and led away from the city, but after a while of chasing the Nephite army, they noticed the direction they were headed and they started to worry that there was a plan laid to lead them on to destruction. In this particular story there was no massive Nephite army waiting for them ready to jump out on them, but the worry they had is one that we should keep in mind too. Just as the Lamanites noticed the direction they were going and worried there was a plan laid for their destruction, we need to notice the spiritual direction we are going and realize that if it is away from God, there is most certainly a plan the devil has laid for our destruction, and we need to take immediate steps to turn around.
If we are not actively moving toward God, we are not standing still; we are being pulled away. One problem I noticed in myself recently has been a tendency toward hard-heartedness. I can see that will lead me on to destruction, so I’m fighting it as best I can.
Now in this story, the Lamanites only became worried when they realized they were headed in the direction of enemy territory. What they didn’t know was they had already lost simply because they left the city to chase the Nephite army. There were two other little Nephite armies that had attacked the city and taken it over as soon as the Lamanite army was gone. All the Nephites wanted was for the Lamanites to chase the main Nephite army with the whole Lamanite army and leave little or no protection at the city. I think we can learn several things from this.
First, there’s the obvious lesson of don’t get distracted from your stronghold. Our strongholds are family, home, church, and the temple. I’ve noticed that when family life feels like a struggle, it is hard to get excited about focusing on it, and I’m liable to want to escape rather than engage myself deeper in it. Things tend to get worse before they can get better, so I just have to stick to my guns and be patient and long-suffering.
Second, if the Lamanites had known there were three armies of Nephites to defend themselves against instead of just one, they would have taken different measures besides just chasing the one. Likewise, there are not just one threat to us and our families, but multiple threats. The pamphlet “For the Strength of Youth” can give us an idea of the different “enemy armies” that may try to lead us on to destruction or draw us away from our strongholds. It also gives us very practical counsel as to how we can minimize our exposure to temptation and build strength to resist. The scriptures and the words of the prophets can help us recognize and fortify against additional threats.
Third, there’s a very telling phrase about the Lamanites a few verses on: “they took no thought concerning the city of Manti..” In their rapid chase, the Lamanites didn’t worry about the welfare of the city they left, nor did they consider it would be wise to get back to it pronto. If they had gone back quicker, they could have dealt with the problem of it having been taken by small Nephite detachments, but their slackness gave the Nephites time to get there first and make sure their prize. Small scale occupation is followed by large scale occupation, whether enemy or friend. This shows us that we have to neutralize small enemy victories at home quickly, otherwise bigger enemy victories and occupations will follow.
Will you tell me of a time when you realized you were headed in the wrong direction and turned around? Or can you remember a time when you were able to keep your home from falling into enemy hands because you took thought for your "city" and returned in time?