Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Adolescents who enter the freshman class at, for example, Virginia Military Institute are immediately shorn of their hair, deprived of their civilian clothes, and taught to drill and march in step- as prior class, race, or political loyalties fade into columns of identically appearing, moving, and chanting cadets. Take the most vicious street or motorcycle gang, replete with Uzi machine guns and years of experience in shooting rival thugs, and it would not stand a chance in battle against a regiment of armed VMI classmates-none of who have a single serious misdemeanor record of arrest or have fired a shot of anger in their entire lives...Such is the power of drill and the discipline it spawns.

Military historian Victor David Hanson's description of discipline explains the performance of the Stripling Warriors (Carnage and Culture, 331). We read that that they "never had fought" but did not fear death" (Alma 56:47). And in a fierce battle:

19...[the] little band of two thousand and sixty fought most desperately; yea, they were firm before the Lamanites, and did administer death unto all those who opposed them.
20 And as the remainder of our army were about to give way before the Lamanites, behold, those two thousand and sixty were firm and undaunted.
21 Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them; and I did remember the words which they said unto me that their mothers had taught them.

This discipline was held by men who had never fought while in the face of greater numbers. The Lamanites are thought to have taken captives for sacrifice, and evidence for this period of Mesoamerica point to the same. Just as the freshman class of VMI can beat a veteran biker gang, the Sons of Helaman beat the Lamanites due to their superior discipline.

What other examples of discipline can you find in The Book of Mormon? How does this principle apply in our daily lives?


Jennifer O. said...

Morgan, great post. I really liked the comparison between the VMI and the sons of Helaman. Their successful obedience with exactness taught them honor, which in turn developed integrity.

D&C 29:36 links "honor" to "power" and we see, then, how the sons of Helaman came to defeat a ruthless army of Lamanites through living up to their covenants, having strong testimonies taught to them by "mothers who knew".

There is power, higher power, given to those who honor their covenants with exactness - and this power can overcome any- and every-thing that the adversary throws our way, allowing us to "quench all the fiery darts" (Eph 6:16). When we truly realize the potential we have and the power that will be given us, no earthly army should be feared as we are clothed with the armor of God.

It is also through this integrity to covenants that we are able to truly be called "sons" and "daughters" as were the stripling warriors.

Morgan Deane said...

Thanks Jennifer. Its great that you mentioned how honoring our covenants can grant us power. There is a Chinese word called "Li" that refers to the proper forms of conduct and ritual. It was thought that through OBERSERVING these proper forms a ruler would gain the mandate (or power) of Heaven to rule his realm, and a individual's proper form of conduct would ensure their power as well.

I am trying to organize an article for the Mormon Review that will detail these themes in more detail. And your scripture from section 29 helps a great deal. I would also mention that the Doc&Cov also mentions how the powers of heaven must "flow" unto you as well.

Thanks again.

Michaela Stephens said...

Good post. Military discipline can be a good metaphor for spiritual discipline.

Here's one of my old posts about things I noticed about the stripling warriors: