Oath and Covenant
Zelek shut the door quietly and looked at his wife, concern clearly etched into his worn face. “Where is he?” She motioned to the boy’s bedroom, the unspoken tension thick around them. Zelek sighed as he raised his hand to knock on Teaum’s door. He rapped lightly; then opened it. His son was in the middle of the room, adjusting the leather straps on a breastplate. “Teaum…”
“Forget it Dad, I’m fighting.”
“Can we talk about this?” Zelek shut the door and moved to the bed.
“No, we can’t talk about this. My mind’s made up.”
“Teaum, think for a minute.”
His son looked at him fiercely. “I already did. That’s why I’m going.”
Zelek sighed again. “Teaum, please!” He tried to maintain his composure. “You’re barely sixteen and my only son. I can’t afford to lose you.”
“Stop Dad. Don’t try and get sentimental. My mind’s made up. And that’s final.” Teaum started putting on his boots.
“Son, can you help me understand why this is so important to you?”
Teaum glared. “It has to be. If for no other reason than because it’s not to you.”
“That’s not fair, Teaum. Why would you say that?”
Teaum moved to the door and opened it. Looking back, he said, “The Lamanites are coming whether you accept it or not. Too many Nephites have already died to protect us. And our people just sit here and let it happen! Someone has to fight. If you refuse to be man enough to step up when your people need you, then I will.” The door slammed behind him as he left.
Zelek buried his face in his hands. Teaum’s word stung him like scorpion barbs. Teaum didn’t understand the oath they’d made to never fight again. When they had been faced with continuing to either shed blood or help substantiate their faith, his people had heeded Ammon’s suggestion to bury their weapons. Zelek remembered clearly the day he threw his blood-stained sword into the earth and turned his back on that gaping pit, content to never shed blood again. He looked now at the closed door and tried to stop tears of frustration. The war was escalating; many of the youth were fed up with their parent’s lack of commitment to the Nephites. If the adults wouldn’t fight, they would. But Teaum. This was his son, his only son.
Zelek stood up and left the bedroom. His wife pointed toward the front door, not saying a word. Zelek went outside and found Teaum sitting nearby, sobbing.
“Teaum!” He said, moving to console him.
“I’m scared, Dad.” Teaum lifted a hand to wipe at his tears.
“Teaum. Don’t be scared. You’ll be fighting for a just cause.” He put a hand on his son’s shoulder to reassure him. “I can’t fight because I promised God I wouldn’t. In the days before our conversion, there were also wars; fighting was our way of life. Bloodshed and murder was all we knew before Ammon came. In his teachings we found new purpose; a different path, one of peace. The Lord became the most important part of our lives, as you know He still is.”
Teaum nodded. He’d stopped crying and was listening intently to his father. “Mom teaches me daily about God and how important He is. You teach me too, through your example.” He flashed a smile and Zelek smiled back.
“Trust me Son. Since the Lamanites attacked Bountiful, I’ve thought endlessly about my covenant to not fight. My heart aches whenever I hear of fallen Nephites. I’ve wrestled many nights on my knees with the Lord desiring to intervene. But a promise is a promise, and the ones I have with the Lord are the most important promises to keep.”
Teaum understood. “I didn’t make any promise to God about fighting, so I can fight for you. My friends say that a righteous man named Helaman is going to be our commander. And I have the Spirit to guide me, so everything should be fine.”
Zelek pulled Teaum close to him. “I know it will be. I just can’t bear the thought of losing you; you’re all Mom and I have to keep us going.”
“I’ll be careful. I can do it, Dad.” Teaum paused, seemingly to collect his thoughts, then said, “Do you have faith in me?”
Zelek looked at Teaum in disbelief. “What kind of a question is that? Of course I have faith in you. I always have.”
“Good, because I need that, Dad. I know I’m young but I can be a man. I can.” Teaum looked off into the distance, preparing to go.
Zelek followed his gaze. “Son?”
“I’m proud of you for being brave.”
Teaum flung his arms around his dad’s neck. “I love you, Dad.”
“I love you too Son. You know we’ll pray for you.”
Teaum nodded. “I know. Thanks Dad. I’m not scared anymore.” He stood and hugged Zelek again. Sensing something was wrong, Zelek’s wife appeared in the open door. Catching her eyes for a moment, as if to say ‘I’m sorry, and I love you,’ Teaum turned to leave.
She called after him. “Teaum!”
He looked back briefly and hesitated; then kept walking. Zelek moved to embrace his wife as she burst into tears. “It’s okay, Honey. He’s a brave boy and we’ve taught him to trust in the Lord. He knows who to rely on and that will bring him back to us.”