I know that none of the stripling warriors were killed but surely they were wounded. John Bytheway has a talk where he says that none were even wounded. Which is correct?
I am not familiar with Brother Bytheway’s talk that you mention. Based on what you have written, Brother Bytheway’s statement sounds speculative, but possibly correct. You are also correct. Let’s examine this very interesting account.
WHO WERE THE “STRIPLING WARRIORS?”
First, who were this “stripling warriors?” What was their background?
The word “stripling” means a young man. The Book of Mormon introduces the Lamanite “stripling warriors” (also called the “sons of Helaman”) in Alma 53. These young men were the children of a group of repentant Lamanites called the people of Ammon. In a covenant of repentance for their “many murders”, the people of Ammon had sworn fifteen or so years earlier never to shed human blood again for any reason. At that time, a thousand of them, perhaps including women and children, had been slaughtered by their fellow Lamanites with no attempt at self-defense. (See Alma 24 for details.) For years, they had relied on the Nephites for protection.
After years of watching the Nephites fight and die defending them, many of the people of Ammon were ready to take up their swords again and join the Nephites in their own defense, in defiance of their covenant to God. At the last minute, they were talked out of this rash action, and were instead required to continue watching the Nephites fight for them. But they realized that their stripling sons had not made that covenant, and so they sent two thousand of their sons to join the Nephite armies and help defend the Nephite nation.
In my mind’s eye, I picture a poignant scene: The fathers of these young men instructing their sons to go perform their fathers’ duties, perhaps telling them to be strong, fight like men, and die in the service of God. But whatever the young men’s fathers may have told them, their mothers told them in no uncertain terms that “if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.” The young men told these words to their leader, Helaman, and added, “We do not doubt our mothers knew it.” (See Alma 56:47-48.)
HOW WERE THE STRIPLING WARRIORS PROTECTED?
These young men were not in the Nephite army very long before they saw their first battle, an ugly affair involving deception, chase, attack, counterattack, and significant losses on both sides, resulting in the surrender of the Lamanite forces involved. After the battle, Helaman reported:
“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 no 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.” (Alma 56:55-56)
This account does not explicitly say that none of the stripling warriors were even injured, but that does not seem an unreasonable speculation. In any case, all were protected.
The account of a battle soon afterward shows the amount of miraculous protection provided for these two thousand warriors, and sixty more of their Ammonite brothers who had joined them. These two thousand sixty young men were part of a large Nephite garrison that had been diminished when many of their fellow soldiers left on an escort mission to deliver Lamanite prisoners of war to a secure facility. In this weakened state, the Nephite army was surprised by an attack from a large army of Lamanites. The Nephites almost fell to this attack, but the heroic fighting of the sons of Helaman, together with the hurried return of the other portion of the Nephite army, saved the day and prevented a catastrophic loss of troops — though a great many Nephites were killed. Helaman recounts the aftermath in these words:
“[A]fter the Lamanites had fled, I immediately gave orders that my men who had been wounded should be taken from among the dead…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.” (Alma 57:24-25)
WHAT DOES THIS ACCOUNT ILLUSTRATE?
Picture this scene: A Nephite army of five or six brigades, each with two to three thousand men, forming an army of perhaps fifteen thousand or more, meets an equal-sized or (probably) larger Lamanite army in battle. Hours later, the Lamanites are finally driven off, and a thousand of the Nephites lie dead. The survivors organize into their brigades, and the brigade colonels (or what the Nephites called “captains”) number their dead. On average, each brigade will expect one to two hundred deaths; a brigade that experienced a mere fifty deaths would be considered very lucky. Yet the brigade that was in the thick of the heaviest fighting — a brigade where literally no one got out uninjured — has zero mortality! This is unheard of! What could the survivors possibly think except that here were men being protected by a force beyond that of mortal flesh! I believe that no one in such a situation would doubt that God’s might had been revealed.