We Were Not Sufficiently Strong – Alma 56:39-40

39 And it came to pass that before the dawn of the morning, behold, the Lamanites were pursuing us. Now we were not sufficiently strong to contend with them; yea, I would not suffer that my little sons should fall into their hands; therefore we did continue our march, and we took our march into the wilderness.
40 Now they durst not turn to the right nor to the left lest they should be surrounded; neither would I turn to the right nor to the left lest they should overtake me, and we could not stand against them, but be slain, and they would make their escape; and thus we did flee all that day into the wilderness, even until it was dark.
(Alma 56:39-40)

The two thousand young men who joined the Nephite armies and served under the command of Helaman were miraculously successful. In at least two battles, in which many people died on both sides, every one of these sons of Helaman survived. (See Alma 56:56, Alma 57:25).

Helaman attributed this miracle to their strong faith in God, and surely that is the central lesson of the story. But Helaman’s own wisdom was also a key contributor to their success. In the passage above, we see Helaman leading them with good judgment. A Lamanite army was pursuing them. Helaman knew that the young men he led “were not sufficiently strong to contend with them.” So he continued their march until additional reinforcements arrived. Earlier in his epistle, Helaman indicated to Captain Moroni how grateful he was that the Lamanite army had not attacked them sooner, “for had they come upon us in this our weakness they might have perhaps destroyed our little army; but thus were we preserved” (Alma 56:19).

Helaman also recognized when his army was in a position of strength. When Ammoron, king of the Lamanites, sent him an epistle offering the city of Antiparah in exchange for prisoners, Helaman responded “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” (Alma 57:2). Helaman’s wisdom was manifest in his accurate perception of what his armies could and could not do. He may not have anticipated the miraculous survival rate among his young men, but he surely contributed to it by avoiding rash decisions based on inaccurate assessments or unrealistic expectations.

Today, I’ll follow Helaman’s example of righteous leadership. I will strive for an accurate understanding of what the groups I lead—my work team, my seminary class, and my family—are capable of. Like Helaman, I will take responsibility as a leader to guide them toward challenges which maximize their probability of success and to help them avoid circumstances in which they are likely to fail. I will recognize that they depend on my good judgment, and that my decisions can have a far-reaching impact on them.

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