The Lamanites who were converted by the preaching of Ammon and his brothers had previously been “a hardened people,” quick to engage in violence (Alma 17:14). After their conversion, as a symbol of their changed hearts, they buried their weapons “deep in the earth” (Alma 24:17).
And this they did, it being in their view a testimony to God, and also to men, that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood; and this they did, vouching and covenanting with God, that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would give up their own lives (Alma 24:18).
Many years later, these same people found themselves in a very difficult circumstance. The Nephite armies, who had promised them protection, were fighting and dying to defend them and their families. And it was anything but clear that the Nephites would win the war. These faithful disciples of Christ, who were willing to give up their own lives rather than take the life of another person, were “moved with compassion” for the people who were defending them, and “they were about to break their oath” (Alma 53:13-14).
But a wise ecclesiastical leader, Helaman, persuaded them not to do this. He “feared lest by so doing they should lose their souls” (Alma 53:15). Why was this a danger for people who had demonstrated their unwavering commitment to their new life over a period of many years?
As Elder Richard G. Scott explained:
It is a fundamental truth that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can be cleansed. We can become virtuous and pure. However, sometimes our poor choices leave us with long-term consequences. One of the vital steps to complete repentance is to bear the short- and long-term consequences of our past sins. Their past choices had exposed these Ammonite fathers to a carnal appetite that could again become a point of vulnerability that Satan would attempt to exploit….
Even after their years of faithful living, it was imperative for them to protect themselves spiritually from any attraction to the memory of past sins.
(“Personal Strength Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ,” General Conference, October 2013)
Elder Scott went on to explain that the children of these Ammonites were not susceptible to the same temptations as their parents, and were therefore able to fight without compromising their spiritual health.
The implications of this insight are significant. God’s commandments are universal, but each of us has unique strengths and weaknesses. An important part of discipleship is to be aware of our weaknesses and to take appropriate precautions. (See Ether 12:27.) Those personal restrictions may be different from the standards kept by other people, and that’s okay. An awareness of our individual weaknesses can enable us to avoid situations and influences which would be uniquely challenging for us.
Today, I will remember the example of the Ammonite parents. I will walk the path of discipleship, avoiding circumstances which would be challenging to me, so that I can be steadfast in keeping the covenants I have made with God.