by Charlie Moore
Kelihah watched his father pray, his brow furrowed with fascination. Keli remained on his knees for a long time praying to Heavenly Father, his words soft yet meaningful and his head bowed in reference. The young boy was intrigued by his father’s commitment and humble nature.
When his father finished praying the little boy spoke, asking, “Why do you pray so much, father? You are the commander of righteous men fighting to protect the gospel. Surely the Lord will always protect you.”
“Kelihah,” his father reproached him, “you must never become comfortable in assuming things. I pray to Heavenly Father because I need strength and guidance. I need it every day. Also, I want to tell Heavenly Father that I love and worship him every day.”
Listening to his father brought confusion to the young boy. He saw a man who commanded Nephite soldiers in righteous battles and he always won. Kelihah thought it was because his father was a great warrior and he wanted to be like his father one day. Could it really be true his father won all his battles because he prayed. Kelihah tried to focus his attention on this concept.
He did not pray every day like his father, but Kelihah knew how to pray. If his father prayed so much, he decided, it probably covered him as well. Yet, he thought on the words his father had spoken. Kelihah could see prayer was important to his father. He made a commitment to soon start praying more, like his father.
Keli had left to train with the Nephite soldiers he commanded and Kelihah scooted off into a wooded area near their home. The area, thick with foliage, with several small clearings, was a favorite place for Kelihah to play – and to think. When he was left alone he often retreated to the woods. And again, it was because he’d seen his father go into the woods alone many times.
A bright sun filtered through the tall trees warming Kelihah’s skin. His bronze color testified of his desire to be outside with the sun baking his skin. Staying inside was not an option. He had to be outside like his father. Sounds reached the young boy from the Nephite soldiers as they trained. He listened carefully to his father’s distant voice giving his men orders and teaching them how to be righteous fighters.
Kelihah’s father and the Nephite soldiers battled against the Lamanites. Kelihah had been taught somewhat about the Lamanites from his parents and knew they were a people who had rejected the Lord’s gospel and lived in various stages of sin. They also had an army and they wanted to destroy the Nephites. Kelihah realized the time would come when his father would grow old and he would have to take over commanding the Nephite soldiers. He must prepare. Following his father’s example, Kelihah knelt down in a clearing and began to pray, his small frame peaceful in reverence.
Almost before he could begin his prayer, Kelihah heard a piercing yell. Jumping up, he ran through the trees to see what caused the alarming sound. When he reached the edge of the woods bordering his village he came up short. The yell, or scream, had actually been a command from his father to the Nephite soldiers. Lamanite warriors had silently come upon the Nephite village to destroy it and Keli had ordered his men to stop their advance. Kelihah stayed out of sight and watched as the battle raged. His father drew his sword from its sheath and plunged it through the heart of an oncoming Lamanite. Kelihah watched and wondered how one man could do that to another man. His father always talked to him about peace and yet he watched him kill. It didn’t make sense.
Soon the brief skirmish was over and Kelihah’s father was ordering his men to clean up the area and dispose of the fallen Lamanites. Kelihah waited a while longer and then returned to the village. Keli saw his son and walked toward him. Kelihah had never seen his father as he had that day and he had many questions. His father was wise and knew he must explain his actions.
“You won another battle, father. But you killed that man with your sword after you prayed to Heavenly Father for peace,” Kelihah sought counsel from his father. “I am confused.”
Keli saw the confusion in the dark brown eyes of his young son. “I always pray for peace, son, but sometimes we have to do difficult things to make peace happen. We are challenged daily by the Lamanites and now they bring the fight into our own village. Peace and the gospel can only have fullness if we eliminate the threat against it. The Lamanites are a threat.”
The young boy listened to his father while they ate the evening meal. His mother waited for the men to finish and also listened to her husband. Kelihah wondered why his mother always waited for him and his father to finish eating before she ate. He surmised it must be a thing that women just did. Maybe it was a tradition of some sort. Kelihah’s father often spoke of Nephite traditions.
As Keli finished the last of his bread he announced he’d be gone for several days. “I must take the soldiers and battle the Lamanites in their own land. The skirmish today taught me to not be passive. I must look after the safety of this village and the women and children. When the sun crests the horizon I will leave with the Nephite army under my command to fight against our enemy, the Lamanites, on neutral ground or in their own land.”
“I must learn to fight so I can go with you, father,” Kelihah said.
“You are young, son, and your time is not yet come. But one day when you become a man I will teach you to fight and to do it for the sake of righteousness. For now you must stay here in the village and take care of your mother.”
Like any young boy wanting to be like his father, Kelihah’s face was etched with disappointment. He knew, however, not to doubt his father. His father was a kind man, but his authority was not to be questioned. So Kelihah nodded his head and with respect told his father he’d take good care of his mother.
Kelihah had ideas of his own. Mother did not need a boy to watch over her, at least not all the time. He would take his father’s old sword into the woods and practice. He would practice everyday while his father was gone and show him he wasn’t so young. Kelihah would convince his father he could fight like any of the Nephite soldiers. But Kelihah also felt sad and just a little afraid. Every time his father left the village with his Nephite soldiers he felt this way. He was ashamed and wanted to be like his father, all grown up and strong.
Soon morning came, the bright sun cresting the horizon and promising scorching heat for later in the day. Keli formed his soldiers into solid lines and they began their march away from the village. Finding the Lamanites would not be difficult for they were a bold people – secure in their feelings of superiority – who saw no reason to hide. True they had fortified some of their villages, but Keli knew of the weak points and these he would exploit.
Kelihah slept through the departure of the Nephite soldiers and his father. When he awoke he was very upset. Why did his father have to leave so early? Kelihah quickly dressed and ran to the edge of the village hoping for a glimpse of his father. There was nothing to see.
When Kelihah returned home he found his mother preparing a meal. “I am not hungry right now, mother. I am going into the woods to practice.”
“What are you going to practice, Kelihah?” his mother asked.
“It is not important, mother. I will be learning to play a new game.”
Kelihah scurried off before his mother could ask further questions. Kelihah wanted to be like his father – a fighting man who led men and wasn’t afraid – and he didn’t have time for the worries of his mother. When he got to the clearing he realized he’d left his father’s old sword behind. Upset, he picked up a few rocks and began throwing them at a tree. While this helped ease his aggressive craving, he also noticed his accuracy. Every rock was hitting the tree.
Perhaps there was a way he could use rocks as weapons. If it was that easy to hit a tree, it could also be easy to throw a bigger rock at Lamanite soldiers. He let this new idea form in his head, but he still wanted to practice with his father’s sword. Killing the enemy like his father did would prove to his father he was indeed a man, all grown up and without fear.
In the back of his mind, Kelihah also remembered the other side of his father. He recalled the times when his father knelt down and prayed to Heavenly Father and they were often. His father had told him many times about prayer and how important it is. But Kelihah had prayed before, like his father, and nothing had really happened. At times he wondered why his father spoke of its importance. First he would learn to fight and to kill, and then he would think about prayer.
When he returned home his mother had food prepared. “Please sit down, Kelihah. Eat, son. You must be hungry.”
“Thank you, mother.” While Kelihah ate he thought about his father’s sword. When he’d lifted it before he had noticed how heavy it was. His father, with his massive arms, swung his sword around like a feather. But Kelihah was not as strong as his father and he knew the only way to gain the strength he needed was to practice with the sword. He would swing it above his head as many times as he could and then he would plunge it into the earth or a rotted tree until he was so tired he couldn’t do it any longer. The first challenge he faced, however, was getting his father’s sword away from their home without his mother knowing.
“How long will father be gone?” Kelihah asked his mother.
“I do not know, Kelihah,” his mother responded. “I believe it will take many days to find the Lamanites and defeat them.”
“Father has said I must help you while he is gone, mother,” Kelihah remembered his father’s counsel. “What would you have me do?”
After his mother had told him of several things needing done he began to regret remembering the counsel of his father, at least where women’s chores were concerned. But he could not deal with his father’s anger and would never disrespect him, so he began to do the things his mother asked of him. He worked as fast as he could, but the hot sun made him tired. One of the chores his mother assigned actually worked into an idea for getting his father’s sword out of their home. She had told him to take all of his father’s swords, for he had several, to be sharpened. A man in the village sharpened the swords for all the Nephite soldiers.
Kelihah was sure his mother did not know how many swords his father actually had and she would not miss one if he hid it in the woods. As darkness broached the day he was able to hide one of the swords under some brush and return the others. His mother simply thanked him and returned to her own work. Feeling successful in his deception, Kelihah immediately began to think of the next morning. He would arise early, like his father did, and go to the clearing in the woods to practice with his father’s sword.
Several days went by and Kelihah spent part of each day with his father’s sword. He felt his practice was paying off as he swung the sword above his head and in crisscrossing patterns in front of him in mock attack of the enemy Lamanites. His chest became brazen in puffed out confidence as he imagined killing a Lamanite just as he’d seen his father do. And the sword, in the beginning a heavy awkward object, now felt light in his hands and he controlled its movements with a poise he knew his father would respect.
Word came back to the village that the fighting continued and the battles were fierce. Both Nephites and Lamanites had died. There was word of other battles in other lands and Kelihah knew his father commanded just a small group of Nephite soldiers. The commander of all the Nephites was a man named Moroni. Keli spoke often to Kelihah of Moroni and had a tremendous respect for him. He had called Moroni a true man of God, a prophet. Kelihah did not truly understand what it meant to be a prophet even though his father had told him Moroni was highly favored in the eyes of Heavenly Father. He just knew if his father respected someone then he would show the same respect.
Six days after Keli and the soldiers had left the village Kelihah used his father’s sword as a deadly weapon. While he practiced he saw a small animal dart through the grass and into some thicket. He followed the animal and felt a surprising desire to kill it. His father had often killed animals for food. He would kill the small animal with his father’s sword for the same reason. Kelihah saw his mother thanking him for providing food for the table and, more importantly, his father would see him as a man. And the next time his father went out to fight, Kelihah was sure he would go to fight along side his father and all the brave Nephites.
But his mother’s reaction was not as he expected. She was angry with him for bringing the dead animal home. She told him his father had provided plenty of food for them and she questioned how he had killed the animal. Where did he get a weapon? Kelihah did not know what to say to his mother.
He finally walked away from her without saying anything. It wasn’t because his mother was upset with him, but he knew when his father came home and found out he’d upset his mother he would also feel disappointment in the young boy. He felt tears begin to well up in his eyes and he fought to control them because he did not want to show weakness. His father was the most important person in the world to Kelihah and he could not disappoint him.
Then, the next day, while Kelihah brooded over the reaction of his mother, the unthinkable happened and his heart, so intend on pleasing his father, stopped beating. At first excitement rose in the boy when he saw the Nephite soldiers approach the edge of the village. His excitement was replaced almost immediately with worry when he did not see his father leading the soldiers. He wondered if his father had been called to fight with some other soldiers in another battle. Maybe he was fighting beside the great leader, Moroni. He raced toward the men and welcomed them home, and to find out about his father.
A soldier near the front named Mosha pulled young Kelihah to the side and looked into his eyes. “Our battles with the Lamanites have been many,” he spoke to Kelihah. “With the help of our Lord we have been victorious in our battles, but people have died, both Lamanites and Nephites. Kelihah, you must go tell your mother that your father, Keli, was killed by a Lamanite warrior in our last battle. He was brave and gave his life for the gospel of the Lord.”
Kelihah could not believe the words of Mosha. His father could not be dead. He refused to accept the possibility even though his father had not returned. As a sudden defiance enveloped him he ran toward the woods and the clearing where his father’s sword lay hidden. If Mosha had actually told him the truth he would take the sword and kill the Lamanite responsible.
The sharp tip pierced the skin causing blood to pulsate profusely from a wound soon gaping by the twisting blade plunging deeper into Keli’s body. Life quickly ebbed from his body and Keli choked as he called on his Lord to save him. Fierce blood red eyes searched his own as the Lamanite thrust the dagger deeper into Keli’s body. As the blood began to rise in his throat and fill his mouth and words were no longer possible, thoughts took over, and the thoughts were of Kelihah. Please watch over Kelihah, Father, for I fear he will lose his focus after this, Keli silently prayed as life slipped from him.
Kelihah’s mother shook him from sleep. He thrashed about and she knew not why. His mother mopped the dampness from his forehead. “Are you ill, Kelihah?” She had never seen a person behave in such a way as they slept. “I am frightened. What has happened to you?”
“Mother, I have had a dream and it was terrible,” Kelihah spoke with a rush. “A Lamanite, mean and horrible looking, thrust a sword into father and blood gushed forth from father’s body like when father cut the throats of the sheep. Father fought against the Lamanites, but one took him by surprise. And father knew he was about to die so he prayed to Heavenly Father to spare him. It was in my dream, mother. But Heavenly Father was taking father and he knew it so then he prayed again and his final prayer was for me, his son, for he worried about my reaction to his death. I saw that Heavenly Father looked upon Father with great favor and my own heart has been touched.”
Time passed by and Kelihah grew into manhood. Fighting between the Nephites and Lamanites continued and Kelihah fought for the same cause his father had fought for. He fought alongside the great Moroni – he also came to know Moroni as a prophet of God. Yet he never sought out personal revenge against the Lamanite who had killed his father. His father had taught him the fight was to protect and defend the Lord’s gospel and the people who believed in it. Kelihah never strayed from the things his father taught him and lived the gospel as the Lord commanded him. Each day before the battles began Kelihah found solitude and in the quiet he prayed for Heavenly Father to guide him through that day – the true power of his father’s sword had always been prayer.