13 But it came to pass that when they saw the danger, and the many afflictions and tribulations which the Nephites bore for them, they were moved with compassion and were desirous to take up arms in the defence of their country.
14 But behold, as they were about to take their weapons of war, they were overpowered by the persuasions of Helaman and his brethren, for they were about to break the oath which they had made.
15 And Helaman feared lest by so doing they should lose their souls; therefore all those who had entered into this covenant were compelled to behold their brethren wade through their afflictions, in their dangerous circumstances at this time.
What a dilemma these believing Lamanites found themselves in! After being converted to the gospel by the preaching of Ammon, they had buried their weapons and made an oath to never fight again. They had demonstrated on multiple occasions that they were committed to this oath, that they were even willing to give up their lives rather than break it. But now, with the Nephites fighting and dying to defend them, these Lamanite converts were wavering. How could they stand by while their neighbors paid such a terrible price? Under these circumstances, wouldn’t they be justified in taking up arms, even though they had sworn never to do so again?
With much effort, Helaman and other church leaders persuaded them not to break their oath. Fortunately, a solution emerged. About 2,000 of their sons, none of whom had taken the oath, volunteered to fight with Helaman as their leader.
I can understand why these Lamanite converts would consider breaking their oath, and I can also understand why Helaman didn’t want them to. The oath had become a symbol of their conversion. To take up arms now would call into question everything they had become and what they stood for. (See Alma 24:17-19.) Better to keep the oath, even at the cost of their neighbors’ lives, who had taken them in and sworn to defend them. (See Alma 27:22-24.) Better to maintain their integrity than to break a solemn promise to God and possibly lose their souls.
After seeing this struggle and recognizing the priority Helaman placed on personal integrity, is it any wonder that the sons of these great Lamanite converts were young men of integrity? As Mormon tells us later in this chapter, “they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted” (Alma 53:20). And Helaman later marveled that “they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness” (Alma 57:21). Their integrity was built on a firm foundation: they had learned from their parents’ example that personal integrity was more important than life itself.
Today, I will remember the importance of integrity. I will strive to fulfill all of my duties with exactness and to be true to my word. I will keep the promises I have made to God, to myself, and to others.