Thursday, May 19, 2016

What a young man taught me about Teancum

I remember teaching the Book of Mormon to youth and, when we came to the part in Alma that recounts Teancum’s contributions, I asked the students what they knew about Teancum.
Without hesitation, one young man piped up, “Teancum was a stud!”

At that time I remember thinking, he doesn’t know the whole story or—if he does—he doesn’t understand it. After all, Teancum died killing Ammoron in personal anger. His downfall came because instead of doing something for God he went and did something for himself. Physically and spiritually Teancum, as the scriptures record, “had gone the way of all the earth” (Alma 62:37). He had, I felt, lowered himself to the plane of the world.

Yet, over the years, my student’s statement has refused to leave me and now I realize maybe I didn’t know the whole story—maybe I didn’t understand it. Maybe my student was right. Maybe Teancum, even with his imperfections, “was a stud” and we would all be better members if we learned from his example.

Be the kind of person leaders will call on. When Captain Moroni couldn’t be there to physically stop the people of Morianton from fleeing north he called for Teancum. He trusted this Nephite military leader to do the job he couldn’t…a job that if Teancum failed would “lead to the overthrow of their liberty” (Alma 50:32). Moroni knew the consequences of failure and there was only one man he chose to call.

When our son broke his back in two places while playing football my husband was hundreds of miles away, involved in meetings. In those frantic first hours, when he couldn’t be there to give our son a blessing, my husband made a phone call to the one person he trusted enough to stand in for him as a father. That man did not hesitate and gave our son a powerful blessing, paving the way for the Spirit to calm us and give us reassurance for our son’s recovery.

There are many people you can trust with various jobs in life. There are only a handful of people you will ever trust to represent YOU fully and completely. Be that kind of person. When spiritual or physical liberty is at stake, have the strength of character that shows you will stand firm in the call. Be the kind of person leaders will actually call on. Teancum was.

Be the kind of person who builds and strengthens others. The scriptures tell us that Teancum and his men “were great warriors; for every man of Teancum did exceed the Lamanites in their strength and in their skill of war” (Alma 51:31).

The scripture notes that every man was better than the enemy…not just some of them. How does that happen?

Now it is possible that Teancum was assigned a hand-picked army of elite fighters who just happened, every man, to be bigger and stronger and better than the enemy; but chances are far more likely that Teancum had a mixture of men and ability in his army. That means, in order to make sure every man exceeded the Lamanites, Teancum worked with what he had. He taught, he trained, he encouraged—he exampled the kind of warrior these men eventually became. He built them up from what they were until every man did exceed the enemy in their strength and skill of war. That takes time and commitment and vision…the vision of seeing what other people can become. Not everyone can see that, even in themselves. Teancum not only saw potential in every man in his army, he worked to help them reach that potential.

Be the kind of person who actually does something--today. We all say it--tomorrow I’m going to start my diet. Tomorrow I’m going clean that closet. Tomorrow I’m going to start reading my scriptures again. Tomorrow I am going to get my life in order and prepare for a mission/temple marriage/(fill in the blank).

Most of us talk as if talking actually counts.

Action is what actually gets the job done.

We are admonished to “be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). Teancum understood that. He wasn’t merely a hearer or a talker. He wasn’t simply thinking about doing something. He didn’t just listen and nod to the task he’d been given to stop the Lamanite army. He was a doer—even when others felt they had done enough.

After a tremendous, day-long battle with no clear victor, the Lamanites were overpowered with fatigue and heat; yet Teancum and his men did not rest even though they had been in the same battle. Teancum and a companion, dealing with the emotional and physical aftermath of battle, “stole forth and went out by night, and went into the camp of Amalickiah…(and Teancum) stole privily into the tent of the king…and did cause the death of the king” (Alma 51:34). He then returned to his own camp, awoke his tired men and, despite their fatigue, they all stood in readiness to fight again (Alma 51:33-36). Even though rest was sorely needed and would have been easier, Teancum didn’t wait for tomorrow to stop the king. He did it that very day and, because he did, the entire battle ended when the Lamanites discovered their slain king.

Stop, for a moment, and think of how many more lives would have ended if Teancum had decided to wait and stop the king ‘tomorrow’. How many more families would have been devastated? Teancum was tired, he had lost those he loved in that battle, he may even have been wounded himself, yet he pushed forward and did what he had been asked to do…understanding the urgency of doing it now. He didn't wait until it was convenient or better suited him, personally.

Now think, for a moment, the damage your spiritual rest may be causing others. Should you be resting? Do you understand the urgency of doing it now? Are you a Teancum--up and doing even when you have a million reasons not to? Or are you like Amalickiah--asleep in your tent?

Be the kind of person who works--even when there is reason not to. There was a time when the enemy outnumbered Teancum’s army. More troops were coming to help and Teancum could have simply sat back waited for Captain Moroni’s men to arrive. But Teancum respected his leader too much to be a burden on his leader. Remember that! Instead, Teancum spent time “casting up walls round about and preparing places of resort for his men” so when the time came to go to battle their enlarged army would have extra protection (Alma 52:6).

After the battle, charged with taking prisoners to the city of Bountiful, Teancum was given additional orders by Moroni to fortify the city when he got there. Rather than complain that he already had prisoners to guard, Teancum devised a plan to put the prisoners to work. And they dug a ditch “round about the land, or the city, Bountiful. And he caused that they should build a breastwork of timbers upon the inner bank of the ditch, and they cast up dirt out of a the ditch against the breastwork of timbers….until they had encircled the city of Bountiful round about with a strong wall of timbers and earth, to an exceeding height” (Alma 53:3-4).

And then this comment about Teancum’s work that we forget: “And this city became an exceeding stronghold ever after” (Alma 53:5).

WOW! Ever after is a long legacy to leave behind for the blessing of others and Teancum did just that. How many of us can claim the same?

We don’t know if Teancum was older or younger than Captain Moroni but we do know this—no matter what his age, when his leader asked him to do something, Teancum didn’t complain, didn’t grumble, didn’t avoid the project. He rolled up his sleeves and honored his leaders by his actions. Do we do the same? And what about when our parents or loved ones ask us to do something we don’t want to do? Are we going to join the camp of Laman and Lemuel and complain and say it is a hard thing, it doesn’t fit my lifestyle, it’s not something I want to do? Or do we follow Teancum’s example and do the harder right?

In the end we learn that Teancum really was a stud. Teancum didn’t complain. He didn’t just nod and listen with half attention to the advice of his leaders. He didn’t wait until 'tomorrow'—until after he’d had his fun, 'found' himself, had his rest or watched his favorite team on T.V. This chief captain who had “suffered very many exceedingly sore afflictions” didn’t quit, didn’t wait, didn’t grumble, didn’t make up excuses (Alma 62:37). He didn’t justify or rationalize his way out of the “harder right”. He gave everything he had today and when he died both Moroni and Lehi “were exceedingly sorrowful” (Alma 62:37). That isn’t said often in the scriptures, nor is it often expressed by two great leaders. Both Captain Moroni, whose strength of character could “shake the very powers of Hell”--and Lehi, a man “like unto Moroni” who captained “the men of Lehi” felt sorrow on the death of this great man (see Alma 48 and 53:2).

Despite his personal weaknesses, Teancum was a great man. He was a great example then and now and accomplished tremendous things.

Yes, I can see why that youth said, "Teancum was a stud!"