13 But it came to pass that when they saw the danger, and the many afflictions and tribulations which the Nephites bore for them, they were moved with compassion and were desirous to take up arms in the defence of their country.
14 But behold, as they were about to take their weapons of war, they were overpowered by the persuasions of Helaman and his brethren, for they were about to break the oath which they had made.
15 And Helaman feared lest by so doing they should lose their souls; therefore all those who had entered into this covenant were compelled to behold their brethren wade through their afflictions, in their dangerous circumstances at this time.
I love this story for many reasons. First of all, I love that the anti-Nephi-Lehi’s were moved with compassion and a righteous desire to help. They didn’t allow their covenant become an excuse to check out and ignore the fighting around them. Even though they were not active combatants they were still a vital part of the war effort.
Second, I love how Helaman understood the importance of covenants. Had the people broken their promise–even for a good cause–it would have been far more harmful than the impact of withholding combatants. Breaking their promise would have compromised the people spiritually and could have led to moral relapse.
Finally, I love that the people still thought of a creative solution. If they were bound, they realized that their children were not. And they were willing to send their children to war. So their concern was not feined. They showed their sincerity through their willingness to sacrifice.