As I read through Alma 43-52 in preparing for the August 3-9, 2020 Come, Follow Me lesson, I was looking for ways that I could apply the lessons on wars recorded by Alma and Mormon to our family. While there are physical wars waging throughout the world today, my little family is quite removed from those battles. The more I read these chapters, the more I see that the key message they teach us is how we can fight and win the war against Satan.
Preparing and Teaching Our Children
In order to battle the Lamanites, “Moroni, had prepared his people” (Alma 43:19). Likewise, we need to prepare our children from when they are little. They need to know the tactics that Satan will use as he tries to lead us away from our Heavenly Father. As we daily teach them, we will be ready when the time comes for us to fight. We have learned as a family that it is never too early to prepare (or too late). In fact, it is vital that we get ready as early as possible. Satan is reaching children younger and younger, and if we wait, it may be too late.
One out of every 10 children under the age of 10 has been exposed to pornography. Under the age of 10! Those exposures can come despite every effort we make to protect them. We need to prepare them with figurative helmets, breastplates, arm-shields, and thick clothing (see Alma 43:19).
Maybe our helmet is an internet content filter while our breastplate could involve random parent checks on devices used by children/youth. Arm-shields could be rules we have set up in our home, and thick clothing could be regular family discussions about media, devices, and expectations. We can expect that our family will be not be immune to temptations. When we are doing everything we can, we are simply preparing for the battle.
Learn to Keep the Commandments
Unfortunately, there will still be casualties. We will not win every battle, but we can repent and prepare. If we will learn from our failures, we will be able to grow stronger.
There is a popular story about a country where chocolate cake was not allowed. A man came along and tried to sell the people chocolate cake, but no one would buy from him because it was against the law. He came back later with chocolate chip cookies. He confidently told them that these weren’t chocolate cake: they were just cookies with small chocolate chips.
He was able to convince a few to eat the cookies. The story goes on until little by little everyone in the country was eating chocolate cake every day.
This story illustrates why we have family rules. For example, there are some apps that our children know they are not allowed to use until they are older, and other apps that are not allowed ever. Recently, I noticed that one of my kids was watching a YouTube video that was showing how to use an app that is not allowed in our home. I can see how this could be justified: the video being viewed was clean and funny, nothing bad was happening. It was just a few little chocolate chips.
So, we talked about how that video makes something look fun. Eventually that can lead to trouble later on. We all need to say no to temptations and say no to the figurative chocolate chips cookies. The underlying lesson this parable is trying to teach is that we need be watchful in obeying the commandments of God.
Refusing to Surrender
Just like the Nephites, under the direction of Captain Moroni, we are striving to preserve our rights and privileges, to support our lands, our houses and our families, that we “might worship God according to [our] desires” (see Alma 43:9).
In a 1983 speech, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who at that time was President of Brigham Young University, quoted Winston Churchill at the beginning of World War II as the Nazis began to attack England, “We have before us many, many long months of struggle and suffering. … What is our aim? … Victory—victory at all costs; victory in spite of all terror; victory, however long and hard the road may be … Conquer we must; as conquer we shall … We shall never surrender”
As I heard President Holland say these words in his powerful voice, I imagined this as our own family’s “title of liberty” (Alma 46:13). Our little family struggles at times, but we are fighting back every day. We all are tested. We may be fighting different battles, but our aim is the same—Victory! As we continue on the road ahead and fight with the power of God to help us, we will conquer. As Winston Churchill and Elder Holland both encouraged, “We shall never surrender.” (https://speeches.byu.edu/wp-content/uploads/pdf/Holland_JeffNPat_1983_01.pdf).
As a young woman, I never imagined that there were so many lessons to learn from the war chapters of Alma. Now, as a parent, I am grateful for the insights we can gain from studying and teaching about the Nephite battles with the Lamanites.
As the August 3-9, 2020 Come, Follow Me manual suggests, we could create a flag or banner to display in our homes as a reminder of what we want to stand for and will protect. As families and individuals, we may want to consider what our own titles of liberty would say. We know that victory is possible through Jesus Christ our Lord.