27 And behold, as they were crossing the river Sidon, the Lamanites and the Amlicites, being as numerous almost, as it were, as the sands of the sea, came upon them to destroy them.
28 Nevertheless, the Nephites being strengthened by the hand of the Lord, having prayed mightily to him that he would deliver them out of the hands of their enemies, therefore the Lord did hear their cries, and did strengthen them, and the Lamanites and the Amlicites did fall before them.
29 And it came to pass that Alma fought with Amlici with the sword, face to face; and they did contend mightily, one with another.
30 And it came to pass that Alma, being a man of God, being exercised with much faith, cried, saying: O Lord, have mercy and spare my life, that I may be an instrument in thy hands to save and preserve this people.
31 Now when Alma had said these words he contended again with Amlici; and he was strengthened, insomuch that he slew Amlici with the sword.
32 And he also contended with the king of the Lamanites; but the king of the Lamanites fled back from before Alma and sent his guards to contend with Alma.
33 But Alma, with his guards, contended with the guards of the king of the Lamanites until he slew and drove them back.
34 And thus he cleared the ground, or rather the bank, which was on the west of the river Sidon, throwing the bodies of the Lamanites who had been slain into the waters of Sidon, that thereby his people might have room to cross and contend with the Lamanites and the Amlicites on the west side of the river Sidon.
35 And it came to pass that when they had all crossed the river Sidon that the Lamanites and the Amlicites began to flee before them, notwithstanding they were so numerous that they could not be numbered. (Alma 2:27-35)
In this story of when the Nephites fight the combined Amlicite and Lamanite armies, I knew there was a river involved, but I didn’t realize how it played into the Nephite difficulties in such a way as to heighten the miracle of their victory.
Verse 27 notes that as the Nephites were crossing the river, the Lamanites came upon them (most likely from the opposite side). We don’t know how deep the river was, but it would have become a significant obstacle. It is much harder to move quickly through water than air. It sounds like the Amlicite-Lamanite army tried to keep the Nephites from getting out of the river.
So there is this battle between Alma and Amlici, and Alma finally wins after having been strengthened by God. Then he has to fight the Lamanite king.. and then the king’s guards. Eventually Alma and his guards are able to clear the bank at the river side so that his people could get out of the water and have an easier fight on dry ground. So Alma and his guards seem to have been part of a preliminary thrust that was able to push the enemy back from the water’s edge.
Having to cross the river to fight was a significant obstacle the Nephites faced. And with the larger numbers of the enemy, they had no guarantee that they would succeed. But the Lord helped Alma and his guards to break down the strategic advantage the enemy had over them, and once that was done, the fight became easier, and the enemy cut and ran.
Why did the enemy run? I think it was because seeing the Nephites overcome their strategic disadvantage made the Amlicite-Lamanite army feel like the Nephites were extra strong and that overwhelming numbers would not be enough to stop them. So for the Nephites, overcoming a strategic disadvantage effectively demoralized their enemy.
What does this teach us? How can we use this in our lives?
I can think of several ways it can help.
We all have battles we have to fight, and there is always some way that we come to particular battles with a disadvantage. It might be physical. It might be emotional. It might be mental. We might be at a disadvantage in forming a family because of growing up in a broken home. We might fight addictions that others are not predisposed to suffer. We might come from an uneducated family and be trying to rise to a more educated level. We might be a lone voice against the crowd.
Heavenly Father knows our disadvantages and He can give us the strength to overcome them. And sometimes overcoming those disadvantages is THE battle. After we’ve done that, the opposition cuts and runs and it’s over.