Monday, September 28, 2015

What Did Mormon Mean “Erecting Small Forts, or Places of Resort”

One of the problems facing Moroni and the Nephites in the closing century B.C., was the constant incursions of the Lamanite armies and bands who came down out of the mountains of the Land of Nephi to wage war. While the Lamanites seem to have followed the age old “warning system” of attacking for major wars or events, they did not seem to have done so for these many smaller conflicts, and at times, the Nephites were caught unaware of the approaching Lamamnite hordes until they were almost upon them. 
Consequently, Moroni, being a brilliant military mind and always thinking of defense, spent much of his time as the Chief Captain of the Nephite armies in structuring their defenses that were so far advanced to the Lamanites it often frightening them when they arrived to do battle only to find that Moroni had out-thought them in their preparations, and were astonished exceedingly, because of the wisdom of the Nephites in preparing their places of security (Alma 49:5).
    In fact, Moroni was such an expert in the process of preparation to avoid war, that Mormon said of him, “If all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men” (Alma 48:17). What more could ever be said of any man?
    It should also be kept in mind that the “Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even to the shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea, and they were also taught never to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives” (Alma 48:14).
    Thus, Moroni spent his effort in the art of defense, and during periods of peace, he spent his time strengthening the armies of the Nephites, and erecting small forts, or places of resort; throwing up banks of earth round about to enclose his armies, and also building walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of their lands; yea, all round about the land” (Alma 48:8).
    It should also be kept in mind that the Land of Promise was not a flat, open plain, for the most part but an area of hills, canyons, mountains and large areas of wilderness, i.e., where man was not located and had performed no improvements, such as planting and harvesting, building and leaving his mark.
This was not open land—the approaching Lamanites were well hidden in their movements through mountains, valleys, and the changing topography
     It was through these areas that the Lamanites chose their attacks. They came down from the higher elevation of the Land of Nephi into the lower elevation of the Land of Zarahemla, through mountains, canyons or other means found within the “narrow strip of wilderness” that “divided the Land of Nephi from the Land of Zarahemla,” and then up along the east coast where earlier it had been poorly defended.
    In addition, the Lamanites were a subtle people, expert in living off the land, tracking animals, hunting in the wild, and in so doing, learning to be neither seen nor heard. Several times in the scriptural record we find the Nephites were surprised by a Lamanite army close enough to attack, either in small bands such as those who stole the grain from Zeniff’s and Limhi’s fields (Mosiah 9:13), to a vast army (Alma 47:21) sometimes too numerous to count.
    Knowing this, however, Moroni strengthened the northern border of the narrow strip of wilderness as well as those cities along the eastern seaboard, “placing the greater number of men in their weakest fortifications (Alma 48:9), both of which surprised the Lamamites, for their wars never did cease for the space of many years (Alma 48:22).
    Nevertheless, Moroni prepared his people with not only breastplates and shields, but in such a manner as to astonish the Lamanites who had come down thinking they were well prepared for the fighting they had envisioned. “But behold, to their uttermost astonishment, they were prepared for them, in a manner which never had been known among the children of Lehi. Now they were prepared for the Lamanites, to battle after the manner of the instructions of Moroni. And it came to pass that the Lamanites, or the Amalickiahites, were exceedingly astonished at their manner of preparation for war” (Alma 49:8-9).
    So great was Moroni’s preparations, that “The Nephites had all power over their enemies; and thus the Lamanites did attempt to destroy the Nephites until their chief captains were all slain; yea, and more than a thousand of the Lamanites were slain; while, on the other hand, there was not a single soul of the Nephites which was slain” (Alma 49:23).
    Now, one of the things Moroni did was in preparing “to defend himself against them, by casting up walls round about and preparing places of resort” (Alma 52:6). Mormon explains that a place of resort was “a small fort” (Alma 48:8), and in a military sense, these small forts served as outposts, that is, a small fortified area where a small contingency of troops were kept as part of an “early-warning” system. In mountainous country, lookouts were essential to keep track of attacking armies, the movement of the enemy, and the nature of their subtlety regarding their plans for attacks and battle.
    Again, the question we ask in this series, is what was meant by Mormon’s “places of resort, or small forts”? What purpose would a small fort have against armies so vast they could not be counted?
Places of resort, according to Mormon were small forts or outposts that overlooked the path Lamanite armies would take in their attacks into the Land of Zarahemla 
    The simple answer, and the definition of a small fort found in any military organization is that of an outpost, a lookout station, a place “of last resort” before an actual attack. Such an area provides a “defensive” army with a means of recourse, or other means of defense, a place to fall back upon as the enemy approached until the army came to the main fortification or fortress—“the forts of security for every city in all the land round about” (Alma 49:13).
    These main fortresses as the cities were so well fortified, the Lamanites were disappointed (Alma 49:11). Thus, Moroni had been building “forts of security” behind stone walls (Alma 48:8) that were impenetrable by Lamanite weapons. And in the areas between the cities and the Lamanite routes of attack, Moroni had built these outposts or resorts to warn him and his people of an approaching Lamamnite army and pending attack.
    “Yea, he had been strengthening the armies of the Nephites, and erecting small forts, or places of resort” (Alma 48:8), “all round about the land.”

Thus, we need to find in our search for the Land of Promise, an area where small forts, or resorts, were built into the mountains, above the valleys, along paths armies from the south would have used to penetrate the Land of Zarahemla. And we cannot claim these resorts were built of wood so they would no longer be standing when Mormon makes it clear that these resorts were part of the building of stone carried out all about the land (Alma 48:8).

1 comment:

  1. This is such a great topic and one that I have been interested in a long time as a military man. All credit to Capt. Moroni for his military planning and preparedness, but in the Mentinah Records it explains that Hagoth was the chief engineer for Capt Moroni during the wars and was the one who planned the forts and structures. I have also collected pics off the web of structures built in South America that could only have been military fortresses. I believe Machu Picchu was one of them as it overlooks a river valley that leads from the west coastal plain east through the Andes into the jungle areas of what must have been the land of Zarahemla. It is good to plan your defense in a choke point or narrow point where fighting is restricted by space and terrain features so that a smaller number of defenses can withstand a greater number. It is the same strategy that Leonides used to stop Xerxes and the Persians at Thermopylae. I also found pics of the wall that Moroni had built from the sea west to the mountains of the wilderness to stop the Lamanite advances north along the west coast to points where they could slip through the mountain passes unnoticed down into the land of Zarahemla.