A Stripling Warrior Education
Updated: Jan 3, 2020
A common concern we hear from parents is whether their children will be ill-prepared for facing the world if their formative years are spent within the bubble of a faith-based private school or a home school environment. We are repeatedly told the importance of “being in the world, but not of the world,” and we sometimes see a spiritually neutral public school experience as an ideal training ground for what our children will have to face when they leave our homes and venture forth into the world as adults. As it turns out, a favorite Book of Mormon story contains the key for resolving the seeming contradiction between our desire to shelter our children and the duty we feel to prepare them for the real world.
The 2000 Stripling Warriors
In the Book of Mormon, there was a group of people called Lamanites who were generally a wicked and violent people. Through the efforts of Nephite missionaries, a group of Lamanites learned the error of their ways and repented. They were so committed to living their newfound faith and turning from their violent past that they buried their weapons and made a covenant to never touch them again, not even in self defense.
They made this covenant in response to the threat of imminent invasion by a band of unconverted Lamanites, and, true to their word, they offered no resistance and many were killed. This massacre did nothing to weaken their determination, and when the disgruntled Lamanites returned a second time, they were again prepared to die rather than break their covenant. This time, however, the Lord commanded them to leave their lands and turn to the Nephites for protection. They were received warmly by the Nephites, given lands, and became known as Ammonites, so named for one of the missionaries who had risked everything to bring light to their dark world.
Many years later, the Nephites found themselves in the midst of a long, arduous war with the Lamanites who had invaded and captured many cities. By this time, the Ammonite children, who at the time of their conversion had not been old enough to make the covenant, were now old enough to volunteer for military service. There was no expectation that the Ammonites provide soldiers for military service, but these young men volunteered anyway out of a desire to do their part to protect the freedoms they enjoyed.
Their aid came at a critical point in the war. They were two thousand strong which significantly improved the strength of the army they joined. Even more importantly, though, is how the light of their faith brought hope to a hopeless situation. Battle after battle they fought with miraculous preservation. Not one of them died though all were severely wounded at one point or another. Not only did the heavenly protection they enjoyed bring hope and joy to the rest of the army, but they were exemplary soldiers. Even to the seasoned veterans they had joined, they were examples of obedience to be emulated. To what did they attribute their faith and obedience? They credited the instruction they had received at the feet of their angelic mothers.
This story has always been one of my personal favorites. During a recent Book of Mormon challenge I completed, another piece of this story jumped off the page at me. This piece of the story occurs between the time of the Ammonites’ conversion and the stripling warriors’ enlistment in military service. It sheds some light on the environment in which these young men were reared, and it also allows us to infer something about what their education might have been like.
Korihor and Education
About ten years prior to their enlistment, a man named Korihor went among the Nephites teaching a new doctrine. He denied Christ, disparaged a belief in the unseen as evidence of a deranged mind, claimed that morality was relative, and deified human genius and strength. Korihor’s doctrine resonates with the creeds of modern-day atheism, agnosticism, and Secular Humanism. He enjoyed some level of success, but not among the Ammonites. No sooner had he entered their lands to preach than they immediately cast him out.
Consider what this story tells us about the environment in which the mothers of the stripling warriors taught their children. Take a moment and try to imagine what school might have been like for them. Do you think it is possible that they, like the founders of our nation, might have learned to read from the scriptures? Do you think as they studied the heavens and the world around them that they looked for the finger of God in His creations? As they studied the history of their society, would they have seen God’s hand shaping its events?
If we could invite the mothers of the stripling warriors to tour our schools, what would they think? How would they react to the fact that we have forbidden the creator of the universe and source of all light and truth from entering our temples of learning. Would they see our educational institutions as safely neutral or eerily reminiscent of Korihor’s world view? What if, alternatively, we were transported back in time and could observe their society first hand? Would we call their children sheltered? Did the stripling warriors, in fact, grow up in a bubble?
Perhaps they were sheltered, and maybe they did grow up in what, today, we would call a bubble, but was that detrimental to their development? Did their sheltered upbringing ill prepare them for the challenges they would face a few short years later? The Book of Mormon account answers this question with a resounding NO. It is difficult to imagine a more jarring contrast to their upbringing than the horrors of war, but the shock of that contrast did not break them. Rather, in a war that left many hardened and calloused, the stripling warriors stand as a beacon of strength. When those around them were being both physically and spiritually cut down, they stood firm and faced the horrors of their world with a strength that was simply astounding.
Our children were enlisted at birth in in a war that carries with it dangers and consequences the likes of which our world has never seen. What we learn from this account is that there is absolutely nothing wrong (in fact, there is a lot right) with protecting our children from the winds of temptation while nurturing them in an environment where the fires of their testimonies can be lit and stoked into raging bonfires. Candles or matches are easily snuffed out with the slightest breeze, but a bonfire is driven by the winds to greater and greater strength and light. With such testimonies burning brightly, our children are prepared to venture forth into the tumult of a dark world that desperately needs the light they carry.
Image: “Put on the Armor of God - Child” by Celestial Heritage
Ammonite conversion: Alma 17-19, 24, 27
2000 stripling warriors at war: Alma 56-58
Korihor: Alma 30
War hardens some of the Nephites: Alma 62:41