Hidden Stories: The Return of the Men

Note: “Hidden stories” is (will be) a series of posts that highlight less prominent stories in the scriptures: the side-stories we often overlook, the details we might not catch at the first or even the fiftieth read. Or maybe they just weren’t visible to me until I finally stumbled upon them (and, let me tell you, I’m so glad I did!)

The Return of the Men

Remember King Noah? The wicked king in the Book of Mormon who had the prophet Abinadi burned to death? Well, after that happened, the Lamanites came to attack King Noah’s people. King Noah and his subjects fled for their lives but before they found safety, the Lamanites fell upon them. Since the women and children were apparently slowing them down, King Noah commanded the men to leave their families behind (ditch the dead-weight, people!) Some men refused, but some did as the king commanded.

Those who followed King Noah eventually came to their senses (wait a minute—my wife and kids aren’t luggage!) Angry with King Noah, they made him suffer death by fire (talk about reaping what you sow…). The men returned to their families, who had survived because their daughters begged the Lamanites to spare them (and after that, the Lamanites appointed them land and had them pay taxes, etc…).

Except for the part about being subjected to the Lamanites, everything must have been pretty great, right? Families reunited! Hugs and kisses bursting forth like candy from a cracked Piñata!

Ehm, how would you feel if your husband/dad/brother/son came home after leaving you behind to be slaughtered? Would you even want him to return? Would you let him step through your front door??

Hm.

We don’t really know how the families received the men when they returned. I’m sure there was a spectrum of reactions. Maybe “M” forgave her husband right away and never talked about his abandonment again. Maybe “S” took every opportunity until the day she died to throw snide comments at her son, even though he always provided diligently for her after his return. Maybe “L,” upon seeing what her father had done that time when she was ten, could never really connect with or trust her wonderful husband because she always expected he would disappoint her in the end—just like her father had!

And the hidden story within the hidden story? How did the men feel about what they had done? Maybe “C” didn’t think leaving behind his wife and kids was that big of a deal—after all, he had just been in self-preservation mode! Maybe “K” was horrified at having abandoned his six-year-old daughter, his only child, especially since her mother died in childbirth: he was all his daughter had left in the world, for crying out loud! Maybe the Lamanites, before being charmed by the daughters, killed “E’s” mother and “E,” unable to get over his cowardice, willingly let the Lamanites kill him in an upcoming battle.

When I first considered this post, I thought this hidden story was about forgiveness, more specifically about the families forgiving their returning husbands. Then I thought about the men’s point of view and how they would need to forgive themselves and be forgiven by the Lord. Now, after writing this post, I realize this hidden story can teach us so much more! One example: Our actions have consequences! Rash decisions can change our lives and the lives of our loved ones, so we better think before we act.

Any thoughts? Other lessons we can learn from this hidden story?

Ps. Find the main story in Mosiah, Chapter 19 (the Book of Mormon)