Monday, February 17, 2020

The Young Age and Nature of Moroni

Mormon writes: “And Moroni took all the command, and the government of their wars. And he was only twenty and five years old when he was appointed chief captain over the armies of the Nephites" (Alma 43:17).
    At first glance, it would seem that a man as young as Moroni would never be the top officer of a large army. Yet, Moroni, who was appointed when he was only twenty-five was the chief captain of all armies of the Nephites. He took all the command, and the government of their wars (Alma 43:17).
    In fact, Moroni’s genius is covered more thoroughly, and in greater depth, than any other individual in the Book of Mormon, except for Nephi. As Mormon wrote of Moroni: “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). To make sure his readers understood that the military man was a man of God, Mormon added, “Behold, he was a man like unto Ammon, the son of Mosiah, yea, and even the other sons of Mosiah, yea, and also Alma and his sons, for they were all men of God” (Alma 48:18). In fact, Mormon goes on to measure Helaman and his brethren to Moroni (Alma 48:19).
Mormon continued with Alma’s counsel to his three sons, then picked up where he had left off in giving his historical narrative report “of the wars between the Nephites and the Lamanites” (Alma 43:3)—nearly all of the remainder of the book of Alma (Chapters 43-62), covers one detailed account after another of battles and strategies used during a period of extensive warfare. At the head of the armies at this pivotal time was Moroni, the Nephite chief captain, who took command of all the armies of the Nephites, in the eighteenth year of the Nephite reign of the judges.
Despite his youth, Moroni proved to be a very effective military commander. There seem to be two reasons for Moroni’s success:
(1) he implemented innovative defensive measures;
(2) he sought and followed prophetic counsel.
    Effective military leadership and innovation, is seldom seen in leaders of the past. Most men in that era simply fought with brute force or overwhelming numbers, as did the Lamanites. We see this in a Chinese emperor during the Xia Dynasty, who controlled the largest armies of the ancient world—a force of 12,000 in 2000 BC. In 1250 BC, the Egyptian pharaoh Ramasses II had an army of 100,000 men, in which he easily conquered the Huttites, Nubians and the Libyans by overrunning their smaller forces. In 500 BC, Cyrus the Great fielded an army of 500,000 men, conquering almost half of the known world at the time. Other great empires had forces of 500,000 in India and 475,000 in the Roman legions.
    Much later, in the13th Century AD, Genghis Khan fielder an army of one million warriors that conquered much of the world at the time.
    Douglas J. Bell, a former BYU professor and officer in the U.S. Army, succinctly listed Moroni’s innovative leadership practices, saying: “he creatively fortified his cities, designed body armor, and motivated every city with the Title of Liberty” (Douglas J. Bell, Defenders of Faith: The Book of Mormon from a Soldier’s Perspective, Cedar Fort, Springfield UT, 2012, p135).
Lamanites preparing for attack without armor of any type 

While those earlier-mentioned massive forces never used armor, but fought in simple clothing, the first of Moroni’s innovations was the protective armor with which he equipped his men (Alma 43:19), which is a considerable difference from the previous conflicts where the Lamanites were “naked, save it were a skin which was girded about their loins” (Alma 43:20). No doubt, the Nephites before Moroni went into battle without any protective measures. In fact, according to anthropologist Ross Hassig, from University of Stanford and a specialist in Mesoamerican history, as well as a scholar-in-residence of Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, “other cultures of the time throughout the regions of Mesoamerica did not use armor” (Ross Hassig, War and Society in Ancient Mesoamerica, University of California Press, (Berkeley CA, 1992, p73).
    Consequently, earlier examples of armor are rare and vague, with a comment on Laban’s armor (1 Nephi 4:9); Jaredite “breastplates” (Mosiah 21:7); armor of the Limhites (Alma 3:5), but the Lamanites were without any protective covering until after they saw the Nephites full armored army. It seems likely, according to William J. Hamblin, that this resulted in uneven or inadequate armor for the rank-and-file (William J. Hamblin, “Armor in the Book of Mormon,” in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, ed. Stephen D. Ricks and William J. Hamblin Deseret Book, Salt Lake City and FARMS, 1990, pp404–410).
Moroni equipped his soldiers with protective armor 

On the other hand, under Moroni’s command, each soldier was equipped with a full ensemble of protective gear, which included breastplates, arm-shields, head-shields, and thick clothing.
    In addition, it would appear that prior to this time, individual soldiers were evidently responsible for arming themselves (David E. Spencer, Captain Moroni’s Command: Dynamics of Warfare in the Book of Mormon (Cedar Fort, Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, 2015). Obviously, such armor would have been limited and therefore less protective before Moroni introduced the full ensemble of armor (Alma 43:19), which consisted of head gear, breastplate, gauntlet (heavy gloves), leg covering and foot gear. In fact, anciently in the Near East, only privileged leaders owned and used protective metal armor. Thus, we see that Moroni was a man long before his time, and because of him, the Nephites were able to stave off the repeated Lamanite attacks, even though they had overwhelming numbers to send against the Nephites.
    It should also be noted, that part of Moroni’s very successful innovations, was in his building extensive fortifications, with ditches, earthen walls, and palisades (Alma 49:2,4,8,13-15,18; Alma 50:1-6), erecting fortifications had been known among the Nephites at an earlier time, but they are only briefly mentioned and only in the Land of Nephi. Mormon reported that Moroni’s fortifications were “in a manner which never had been known among the children of Lehi” (Alma 49:8). Keep in mind that this statement covered a period of war between the Lamanites and Nephites for over 500 years.
In addition, Moroni also rallied the people behind a righteous cause, and raised a battle standard upon a pole to represent this title of liberty (Alma 46:13). Using a battle standard allowed for greater cohesion and unity on the battlefield and a lack of evidence for battle standards as a lack of previous formal military units and formations (Ross Hassig, War and Society in Ancient Mesoamerica, University of California Press, Berkeley CA, 1992 pp64,97). In fact, never before had there been a use of a battle standard mentioned among the Nephites. 
    It should also be noted that in addition to the physical preparations, Moroni sought and followed the guidance of the Lord. As an example, before going to rally the people with his battle standard, “he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God” (Alma 46:13). In the first battle under his command, he “sent certain men” to the prophet, Alma, “that he should inquire of the Lord whither the armies of the Nephites should go to defend themselves against the Lamanites” (Alma 43:23). As a result, the Lord revealed the activities of the Lamanite army, and Moroni was able to cunningly put his troops in place to cut off the Lamanite soldiers.
    Of course, Moroni was not the first to draw on the prophet for guidance in wartime (Alma 16:5-6), but was part of a long-standing Israelite and ancient Near Eastern tradition (Hugh Nibley, “Since Cumorah,” The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, vol.7 (Deseret Book and FARMS, Salt Lake City and Provo, UT, 1988, p242).
    There can be no question that Moroni was extremely innovative in so many ways on the battlefield, he proved willing to continue on in righteous traditions, much to his benefit and success.
    Moroni’s young age likely played a crucial role in the Nephites’ military successes. As a young military captain, he was particularly open to applying and adapting military technology present or emerging; as an example, Moroni’s preparations for war “had [never] been known among the children of Lehi” (Alma 49:8). Similarly, younger leaders may have an advantage in using innovative technologies to further the Lord’s work since they are not programmed to use the standard manner of earlier generation
    Moroni followed divine counsel in wartime preparations and by so doing succeeded in the face of impossible odds. He not only preserved the Nephite people from a dangerous adversary, but he also secured his place in Nephite history.

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