Letter of Helaman to Moroni
composed ca. 60 BC
And now it came to pass in the commencement of the thirtieth year of the reign of the judges, on the second day in the first month, Moroni received an epistle from Helaman, stating the affairs of the people in that quarter of the land. And these are the words which he wrote, saying:
My dearly beloved brother, Moroni, as well in the Lord as in the tribulations of our warfare. Behold, my beloved brother, I have somewhat to tell you concerning our warfare in this part of the land.
Behold, two thousand of the sons of those men whom Ammon brought down out of the land of Nephi — now ye have known that these were descendants of Laman, who was the eldest son of our father Lehi — now I need not rehearse unto you concerning their traditions or their unbelief, for thou knowest concerning all these things. Therefore it sufficeth me that I tell you that two thousand of these young men have taken their weapons of war, and would that I should be their leader. And we have come forth to defend our country.
And now ye also know concerning the covenant which their fathers made, that they would not take up their weapons of war against their brethren to shed blood. But in the twenty and sixth year, when they saw our afflictions and our tribulations for them, they were about to break the covenant which they had made and take up their weapons of war in our defense. But I would not suffer them that they should break this covenant which they had made, supposing that God would strengthen us, insomuch that we should not suffer more because of the fulfilling the oath which they had taken.
But behold, here is one thing in which we may have great joy. For behold, in the twenty and sixth year, I, Helaman, did march at the head of these two thousand young men to the city of Judea, to assist Antipus, whom ye had appointed a leader over the people of that part of the land. And I did join my two thousand sons, for they are worthy to be called sons, to the army of Antipus, in which strength Antipus did rejoice exceedingly. For behold, his army had been reduced by the Lamanites because their forces had slain a vast number of our men, for which cause we have to mourn.
Nevertheless, we may console ourselves in this point, that they have died in the cause of their country and of their god, yea, and they are happy. And the Lamanites had also retained many prisoners, all of whom are chief captains, for none other have they spared alive. And we suppose that they are now at this time in the land of Nephi. It is so if they are not slain. And now these are the cities of which the Lamanites have obtained possession by the shedding of the blood of so many of our valiant men:
The land of Manti, or the city of Manti, and the city of Zeezrom, and the city of Cumeni, and the city of Antiparah.
And these are the cities which they possessed when I arrived at the city of Judea. And I found Antipus and his men toiling with their might to fortify the city. Yea, and they were depressed in body as well as in spirit, for they had fought valiantly by day and toiled by night to maintain their cities. And thus they had suffered great afflictions of every kind. And now they were determined to conquer in this place or die. Therefore you may well suppose that this little force which I brought with me, yea, those sons of mine gave them great hopes and much joy. And now it came to pass that when the Lamanites saw that Antipus had received a greater strength to his army, they were compelled by the orders of Ammoron to not come against the city of Judea, or against us, to battle. And thus were we favored of the Lord. For had they come upon us in this our weakness they might have perhaps destroyed our little army. But thus were we preserved.
They were commanded by Ammoron to maintain those cities which they had taken. And thus ended the twenty and sixth year. And in the commencement of the twenty and seventh year we had prepared our city and ourselves for defense. Now we were desirous that the Lamanites should come upon us, for we were not desirous to make an attack upon them in their strongholds. And it came to pass that we kept spies out round about, to watch the movements of the Lamanites, that they might not pass us by night nor by day to make an attack upon our other cities which were on the northward. For we knew in those cities they were not sufficiently strong to meet them. Therefore we were desirous, if they should pass by us, to fall upon them in their rear, and thus bring them up in the rear at the same time they were met in the front. We supposed that we could overpower them. But behold, we were disappointed in this our desire. They durst not pass by us with their whole army, neither durst they with a part, lest they should not be sufficiently strong and they should fall. Neither durst they march down against the city of Zarahemla, neither durst they cross the head of Sidon, over to the city of Nephihah. And thus, with their forces, they were determined to maintain those cities which they had taken.
And now it came to pass in the second month of this year, there was brought unto us many provisions from the fathers of those my two thousand sons. And also there were sent two thousand men unto us from the land of Zarahemla. And thus we were prepared with ten thousand men, and provisions for them, and also for their wives and their children. And the Lamanites, thus seeing our forces increase daily, and provisions arrive for our support, they began to be fearful, and began to sally forth, if it were possible to put an end to our receiving provisions and strength. Now when we saw that the Lamanites began to grow uneasy on this wise, we were desirous to bring a stratagem into effect upon them. Therefore Antipus ordered that I should march forth with my little sons to a neighboring city, as if we were carrying provisions to a neighboring city. And we were to march near the city of Antiparah, as if we were going to the city beyond, in the borders by the seashore. And it came to pass that we did march forth, as if with our provisions, to go to that city.
And it came to pass that Antipus did march forth with a part of his army, leaving the remainder to maintain the city. But he did not march forth until I had gone forth with my little army, and came near the city Antiparah. And now, in the city Antiparah were stationed the strongest army of the Lamanites; yea, the most numerous. And it came to pass that when they had been informed by their spies, they came forth with their army and marched against us. And it came to pass that we did flee before them, northward. And thus we did lead away the most powerful army of the Lamanites. Yea, even to a considerable distance, insomuch that when they saw the army of Antipus pursuing them, with their might, they did not turn to the right nor to the left, but pursued their march in a straight course after us. And, as we suppose, it was their intent to slay us before Antipus should overtake them, and this that they might not be surrounded by our people. And now Antipus, beholding our danger, did speed the march of his army. But behold, it was night. Therefore they did not overtake us, neither did Antipus overtake them. Therefore we did camp for the night. And it came to pass that before the dawn of the morning, behold, the Lamanites were pursuing us. Now we were not sufficiently strong to contend with them. Yea, I would not suffer that my little sons should fall into their hands. Therefore we did continue our march, and we took our march into the wilderness.
Now they durst not turn to the right, nor to the left, lest they should be surrounded. Neither would I turn to the right nor to the left lest they should overtake me, and we could not stand against them, but be slain, and they would make their escape. And thus we did flee all that day into the wilderness, even until it was dark. And it came to pass that again, when the light of the morning came we saw the Lamanites upon us, and we did flee before them. But it came to pass that they did not pursue us far before they halted. And it was in the morning of the third day of the seventh month.
And now, whether they were overtaken by Antipus we knew not, but I said unto my men: Behold, we know not but they have halted for the purpose that we should come against them, that they might catch us in their snare. Therefore what say ye, my sons, will ye go against them to battle?
And now I say unto you, my beloved brother Moroni, that never had I seen so great courage, nay, not amongst all the Nephites. For as I 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, and he will not suffer that we should fall. Then let us go forth. We would not slay our brethren if they would let us alone. Therefore let us go, lest they should overpower the army of Antipus.
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.
And it came to pass that I did return with my two thousand against these Lamanites who had pursued us. And now behold, the armies of Antipus had overtaken them, and a terrible battle had commenced. The army of Antipus being weary, because of their long march in so short a space of time, were about to fall into the hands of the Lamanites. And had I not returned with my two thousand they would have obtained their purpose. For Antipus had fallen by the sword, and many of his leaders, because of their weariness, which was occasioned by the speed of their march — therefore the men of Antipus, being confused because of the fall of their leaders, began to give way before the Lamanites. And it came to pass that the Lamanites took courage, and began to pursue them.
And thus were the Lamanites pursuing them with great vigor when Helaman came upon their rear with his two thousand, and began to slay them exceedingly, insomuch that the whole army of the Lamanites halted and turned upon Helaman.
Now when the people of Antipus saw that the Lamanites had turned them about, they gathered together their men and came again upon the rear of the Lamanites. And now it came to pass that we, the people of Nephi, the people of Antipus, and I with my two thousand, did surround the Lamanites, and did slay them! Yea, insomuch that they were compelled to deliver up their weapons of war and also themselves as prisoners of war. And now it came to pass that when they had surrendered themselves up unto us, behold, I numbered those young men who had fought with me, fearing lest there were many of them slain.
But behold, to my great joy, there had not one soul of them fallen to the earth. Yea, and they had fought as if with the strength of God. Yea, never were men known to have fought with such miraculous strength! And with such mighty power did they fall upon the Lamanites, that they did frighten them. And for this cause did the Lamanites deliver themselves up as prisoners of war. And as we had no place for our prisoners, that we could guard them to keep them from the armies of the Lamanites, therefore we sent them to the land of Zarahemla, and a part of those men who were not slain of Antipus, with them. And the remainder I took and joined them to my stripling Ammonites, and took our march back to the city of Judea.
And now it came to pass that I received an epistle from Ammoron, the king, stating that if I would deliver up those prisoners of war whom we had taken that he would deliver up the city of Antiparah unto us. But I sent an epistle unto the king, that we were sure our forces were sufficient to take the city of Antiparah by our force. And by delivering up the prisoners for that city we should suppose ourselves unwise, and that we would only deliver up our prisoners on exchange. And Ammoron refused mine epistle, for he would not exchange prisoners. Therefore we began to make preparations to go against the city of Antiparah.
But the people of Antiparah did leave the city, and fled to their other cities, which they had possession of, to fortify them. And thus the city of Antiparah fell into our hands. And thus ended the twenty and eighth year of the reign of the judges.
And it came to pass that in the commencement of the twenty and ninth year, we received a supply of provisions, and also an addition to our army, from the land of Zarahemla, and from the land round about, to the number of six thousand men, besides sixty of the sons of the Ammonites who had come to join their brethren, my little band of two thousand. And now behold, we were strong, yea, and we had also plenty of provisions brought unto us. And it came to pass that it was our desire to wage a battle with the army which was placed to protect the city Cumeni.
And now behold, I will show unto you that we soon accomplished our desire. Yea, with our strong force, or with a part of our strong force, we did surround, by night, the city Cumeni, a little before they were to receive a supply of provisions. And it came to pass that we did camp round about the city for many nights. But we did sleep upon our swords, and keep guards, that the Lamanites could not come upon us by night and slay us, which they attempted many times. But as many times as they attempted this their blood was spilt. At length their provisions did arrive, and they were about to enter the city by night. And we, instead of being Lamanites, were Nephites: therefore, we did take them and their provisions.
And notwithstanding the Lamanites being cut off from their support after this manner, they were still determined to maintain the city. Therefore it became expedient that we should take those provisions and send them to Judea, and our prisoners to the land of Zarahemla. And it came to pass that not many days had passed away before the Lamanites began to lose all hopes of succor. Therefore they yielded up the city unto our hands. And thus we had accomplished our designs in obtaining the city Cumeni. But it came to pass that our prisoners were so numerous that, notwithstanding the enormity of our numbers, we were obliged to employ all our force to keep them, or to put them to death. For behold, they would break out in great numbers, and would fight with stones, and with clubs, or whatsoever thing they could get into their hands, insomuch that we did slay upwards of two thousand of them after they had surrendered themselves prisoners of war. Therefore it became expedient for us, that we should put an end to their lives, or guard them, sword in hand, down to the land of Zarahemla. And also our provisions were not any more than sufficient for our own people, notwithstanding that which we had taken from the Lamanites. And now, in those critical circumstances, it became a very serious matter to determine concerning these prisoners of war. Nevertheless, we did resolve to send them down to the land of Zarahemla. Therefore we selected a part of our men, and gave them charge over our prisoners to go down to the land of Zarahemla.
But it came to pass that on the morrow they did return. And now behold, we did not inquire of them concerning the prisoners. For behold, the Lamanites were upon us, and they returned in season to save us from falling into their hands. For behold, Ammoron had sent to their support a new supply of provisions and also a numerous army of men. And it came to pass that those men whom we sent with the prisoners did arrive in season to check them, as they were about to overpower us. But behold, my 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. 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. 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.
And now behold, it was these my sons, and those men who had been selected to convey the prisoners, to whom we owe this great victory. For it was they who did beat the Lamanites. Therefore they were driven back to the city of Manti. And we retained our city Cumeni, and were not all destroyed by the sword. Nevertheless, we had suffered great loss. And it came to pass that after the Lamanites had fled, I immediately gave orders that my men who had been wounded should be taken from among the dead, and caused that their wounds should be dressed. And it came to pass that there were two hundred, out of my two thousand and sixty, who had fainted because of the loss of blood. Nevertheless, according to the goodness of God, and to our great astonishment, and also the joy of our whole army, there was not one soul of them who did perish! Yea, and neither was there one soul among them who had not received many wounds. And now, their preservation was astonishing to our whole army, yea, that they should be spared while there was a thousand of our brethren who were slain. And we do justly ascribe it to the miraculous power of God, because of their exceeding faith in that which they had been taught to believe: that there was a just God, and whosoever did not doubt that, they should be preserved by his marvelous power. Now this was the faith of these of whom I have spoken. They are young and their minds are firm, and they do put their trust in God continually.
And now it came to pass that after we had thus taken care of our wounded men and had buried our dead and also the dead of the Lamanites, who were many, behold, we did inquire of Gid concerning the prisoners whom they had started to go down to the land of Zarahemla with. Now Gid was the chief captain over the band who was appointed to guard them down to the land. And now, these are the words which Gid said unto me:
Behold, we did start to go down to the land of Zarahemla with our prisoners. And it came to pass that we did meet the spies of our armies,
Who had been sent out to watch the camp of the Lamanites.
And they cried unto us, saying — Behold,
The armies of the Lamanites are marching towards the city
Of Cumeni! And behold, they will fall upon them, yea,
And will destroy our people.
And it came to pass that our prisoners did hear their cries,
Which caused them to take courage
And they did rise up in rebellion against us.
And it came to pass because of their rebellion we did cause
That our swords should come upon them.
And it came to pass that they did in a body run upon our swords,
In the which, the greater number of them were slain!
And the remainder of them broke through and fled from us.
And behold, when they had fled and we could not overtake them,
We took our march with speed towards the city Cumeni
And behold, we did arrive in time that we might assist our brethren
In preserving the city.
And behold, we are again delivered out of the hands of our enemies.
And blessed is the name of our god!
For behold, it is he that has delivered us.
Yea, that has done this great thing for us.
Now it came to pass that when I, Helaman, had heard these words of Gid, I was filled with exceeding joy because of the goodness of God in preserving us, that we might not all perish. Yea, and I trust that the souls of them who have been slain have entered into the rest of their god.
And behold, now it came to pass that our next object was to obtain the city of Manti. But behold, there was no way that we could lead them out of the city by our small bands. For behold, they remembered that which we had hitherto done. Therefore we could not decoy them away from their strongholds. And they were so much more numerous than was our army that we durst not go forth and attack them in their strongholds. Yea, and it became expedient that we should employ our men to the maintaining those parts of the land which we had regained of our possessions. Therefore it became expedient that we should wait, that we might receive more strength from the land of Zarahemla and also a new supply of provisions.
And it came to pass that I thus did send an embassy to the governor of our land, to acquaint him concerning the affairs of our people. And it came to pass that we did wait to receive provisions and strength from the land of Zarahemla. But behold, this did profit us but little! For the Lamanites were also receiving great strength from day to day, and also many provisions. And thus were our circumstances at this period of time.
And the Lamanites were sallying forth against us from time to time, resolving by stratagem to destroy us. Nevertheless we could not come to battle with them, because of their retreats and their strongholds. And it came to pass that we did wait in these difficult circumstances for the space of many months, even until we were about to perish for the want of food. But it came to pass that we did receive food, which was guarded to us by an army of two thousand men to our assistance. And this is all the assistance which we did receive, to defend ourselves and our country from falling into the hands of our enemies, yea, to contend with an enemy which was innumerable.
And now the cause of these our embarrassments, or the cause why they did not send more strength unto us, we knew not. Therefore we were grieved and also filled with fear, lest by any means the judgments of God should come upon our land, to our overthrow and utter destruction. Therefore we did pour out our souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, yea, and also give us strength that we might retain our cities, and our lands, and our possessions, for the support of our people. Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our god did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us. Yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him. And we did take courage with our small force which we had received, and were fixed with a determination to conquer our enemies, and to maintain our lands, and our possessions, and our wives, and our children, and the cause of our liberty. And thus we did go forth with all our might against the Lamanites, who were in the city of Manti. And we did pitch our tents by the wilderness side, which was near to the city.
And it came to pass that on the morrow, that when the Lamanites saw that we were in the borders by the wilderness which was near the city, that they sent out their spies round about us that they might discover the number and the strength of our army. And it came to pass that when they saw that we were not strong, according to our numbers, and fearing that we should cut them off from their support except they should come out to battle against us and kill us, and also supposing that they could easily destroy us with their numerous hosts, therefore they began to make preparations to come out against us to battle. And when we saw that they were making preparations to come out against us, behold, I caused that Gid, with a small number of men, should secret himself in the wilderness, and also that Teomner and a small number of men should secret themselves also in the wilderness.
Now Gid and his men were on the right and the others on the left. And when they had thus secreted themselves, behold, I remained, with the remainder of my army, in that same place where we had first pitched our tents against the time that the Lamanites should come out to battle. And it came to pass that the Lamanites did come out with their numerous army against us. And when they had come and were about to fall upon us with the sword, I caused that my men, those who were with me, should retreat into the wilderness.
And it came to pass that the Lamanites did follow after us with great speed, for they were exceedingly desirous to overtake us that they might slay us. Therefore they did follow us into the wilderness. And we did pass by in the midst of Gid and Teomner, insomuch that they were not discovered by the Lamanites. And it came to pass that when the Lamanites had passed by, or when the army had passed by, Gid and Teomner did rise up from their secret places, and did cut off the spies of the Lamanites that they should not return to the city. And it came to pass that when they had cut them off, they ran to the city and fell upon the guards who were left to guard the city, insomuch that they did destroy them and did take possession of the city.
Now this was done because the Lamanites did suffer their whole army, save a few guards only, to be led away into the wilderness. And it came to pass that Gid and Teomner by this means had obtained possession of their strongholds. And it came to pass that we took our course, after having traveled much in the wilderness towards the land of Zarahemla. And when the Lamanites saw that they were marching towards the land of Zarahemla, they were exceedingly afraid, lest there was a plan laid to lead them on to destruction. Therefore they began to retreat into the wilderness again, yea, even back by the same way which they had come. And behold, it was night and they did pitch their tents, for the chief captains of the Lamanites had supposed that the Nephites were weary because of their march. And supposing that they had driven their whole army therefore they took no thought concerning the city of Manti.
Now it came to pass that when it was night, I caused that my men should not sleep, but that they should march forward by another way towards the land of Manti. And because of this our march in the night-time, behold, on the morrow we were beyond the Lamanites, insomuch that we did arrive before them at the city of Manti. And thus it came to pass, that by this stratagem we did take possession of the city of Manti without the shedding of blood. And it came to pass that when the armies of the Lamanites did arrive near the city, and saw that we were prepared to meet them, they were astonished exceedingly and struck with great fear, insomuch that they did flee into the wilderness. Yea, and it came to pass that the armies of the Lamanites did flee out of all this quarter of the land. But behold, they have carried with them many women and children out of the land.
And those cities which had been taken by the Lamanites, all of them are at this period of time in our possession. And our fathers and our women and our children are returning to their homes, all save it be those who have been taken prisoners and carried off by the Lamanites. But behold, our armies are small to maintain so great a number of cities and so great possessions. But behold, we trust in our god who has given us victory over those lands, insomuch that we have obtained those cities and those lands, which were our own.
Now we do not know the cause that the government does not grant us more strength. Neither do those men who came up unto us know why we have not received greater strength. Behold, we do not know but what ye are unsuccessful, and ye have drawn away the forces into that quarter of the land. If so, we do not desire to murmur. And if it is not so, behold, we fear that there is some faction in the government, that they do not send more men to our assistance. For we know that they are more numerous than that which they have sent. But, behold, it mattereth not. We trust God will deliver us, notwithstanding the weakness of our armies, yea, and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies.
Behold, this is the twenty and ninth year, in the latter end, and we are in the possession of our lands. And the Lamanites have fled to the land of Nephi. And those sons of the people of Ammon, of whom I have so highly spoken, are with me in the city of Manti. And the Lord has supported them, yea, and kept them from falling by the sword, insomuch that even one soul has not been slain. But behold, they have received many wounds. Nevertheless they stand fast in that liberty wherewith God has made them free. And they are strict to remember the Lord their god from day to day. Yea, they do observe to keep his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments continually. And their faith is strong in the prophecies concerning that which is to come.
And now, my beloved brother, Moroni, may the Lord our god, who has redeemed us and made us free, keep you continually in his presence; yea, and may he favor this people, even that ye may have success in obtaining the possession of all that which the Lamanites have taken from us, which was for our support. And now, behold, I close mine epistle. I am Helaman, the son of Alma.