In the Book of Mormon we read of a group of Lamanites who renounce their past murders and other sins. They covenant with God to never fight again lest they return to their old ways and sin again. They vowed to never fight even to save their own lives or the lives of their family. Here is this account in the book of Alma:
“12 Now, my best beloved brethren, since God hath taken away our stains, and our swords have become bright, then let us stain our swords no more with the blood of our brethren.
13 Behold, I say unto you, Nay, let us retain our swords that they be not stained with the blood of our brethren; for perhaps, if we should stain our swords again they can no more be washed bright through the blood of the Son of our great God, which shall be shed for the atonement of our sins.
14 And the great God has had mercy on us, and made these things known unto us that we might not perish; yea, and he has made these things known unto us beforehand, because he loveth our souls as well as he loveth our children; therefore, in his mercy he doth visit us by his angels, that the plan of salvation might be made known unto us as well as unto future generations.
15 Oh, how merciful is our God! And now behold, since it has been as much as we could do to get our stains taken away from us, and our swords are made bright, let us hide them away that they may be kept bright, as a testimony to our God at the last day, or at the day that we shall be brought to stand before him to be judged, that we have not stained our swords in the blood of our brethren since he imparted his word unto us and has made us clean thereby.
16 And now, my brethren, if our brethren seek to destroy us, behold, we will hide away our swords, yea, even we will bury them deep in the earth, that they may be kept bright, as a testimony that we have never used them, at the last day; and if our brethren destroy us, behold, we shall go to our God and shall be saved.
17 And now it came to pass that when the king had made an end of these sayings, and all the people were assembled together, they took their swords, and all the weapons which were used for the shedding of man’s blood, and they did bury them up deep in the earth.
18 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; and rather than take away from a brother they would give unto him; and rather than spend their days in idleness they would labor abundantly with their hands.” (Alma 24:12-18).
These faithful followers of Christ gave up their sins. For them, killing had been a common occurrence. They were a wicked and warlike people. By giving up fighting altogether they demonstrated their desire to change.
Some time after this covenant was made some of the children of these people decided they needed to go to war to fight to protect their families, freedoms, and religion. They had not promised that they would not fight again – their fathers and mothers had made that covenant. These stripling warriors were of great faith. It is written of them: “Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.” (Alma 56:47-48).
Recently I pondered this scripture. Why were the teachings and faith of their mothers so important to these young men? Mothers are always important, they do most of the teaching of children. Mothers are important and should be recognized but why were these mothers recognized here? Was it the miraculous nature of the survival of these young men? I’m sure that was part of it but there was more.
I then realized that this group of people – the Anti-Nephi-Lehis – had been slaughtered by fellow Lamanites a few years before. Those are the verses I quoted from Alma 24. Most of those killed probably were men. Both men and women faced death fearlessly after they covenanted to never kill again. However, it is my opinion that most of those killed were men. I think they would have placed themselves in a position so they were the first attacked by the Lamanites. So many of these young men had likely lost their fathers in this attack. A lot of the attackers when they saw what they were doing, threw down their weapons of war and joined with the Anti-Nephi-Lehis but I doubt any of the mothers would have remarried any of those other Lamanites – it’s possible but not probable. They were forgiving people but there is a difference between forgiving the person who might have killed your husband and turning around and marrying them.
While some of these widows might have remarried (men other than their converted attackers), it’s likely that many were left to raise their children on their own (with the help of the church and community). There were fathers involved (“they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives”) but the mothers played the larger role. Again, I believe that it is because many of their fathers had been killed by the wicked Lamanites. These were “Momma’s boys” because for many of them, a mom is all they had. This is all opinion (and maybe literary license) but it makes sense. These sons of widows were taken care of by He who watches over and cares for the fatherless and widows.
This might also explain why Helaman referred to these youths as his sons (even “little sons”) and they him as their father. “And I did join my two thousand sons, (for they are worthy to be called sons) to the army of Antipus…” (Alma 56:10). The young men were upstanding, honest, and righteous. They had great faith: “For as I [Helaman] had ever called them my sons (for they were all of them very young) even so they said unto me: Father, behold our God is with us…” (Alma 56:46). While many of these young men might not have had living earthly fathers, they had Helaman who cared for them as sons and they had their Heavenly Father who watched over and protected them.