Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Problem With Journals – The Story of Zelph and Onandagus - Part III

Continuing from the previous post regarding this event and what can be learned from it, and here picking up with the sixth of the five journal entries:
In addition, Wilford Woodruff (left)wrote that he "visited many of the mounds which were flung up by the ancient inhabitants of this continent, probably by the Nephites & Lamanites." Who else would he think had done such a thing? They were talking about the Nephites and Lamanites, and Joseph considered this area the Plains over which the Nephites had moved. Woodruff’s association of the mounds, obviously something of great antiquity and built by an unknown people, and associated them with the Nephites and Lamanites, yet was still unwilling to say definitely—the word “probably” suggests he wasn’t positive.
    The point is, that while an individual is free to write whatever he chooses in his journal and personal and records and documents, the Church has the responsibility of being correct and accurate with its records. Consequently, despite all the claims to the contrary the following statements attributed to Joseph Smith by various people at the time involved in the incident are not always accurate. As an example, it is claimed that Joseph Smith said that:
    “Zelph was a white-Lamanite warrior and chieftain under the great prophet Onandagus, who was known from the hill Cumorah or eastern sea to the Rocky Mountains.” It is also claimed that Joseph Smith said, “Zelph was killed in battle by the arrow found among his ribs during the last great struggle with the Lamanites and Nephites.”
    Now the information we have of the incident that was recorded, for Joseph Smith did not record this specific information, comes from seven brethren who were part of Zion’s Camp and eye-witnesses to the events: among them were Heber C. Kimball, Reuban McBride, Moses Martin, Levi Hancock, Wilford Woodruff, and 12 years later a Times & Seasons report in January 1846.
    As one historian, Kenneth W. Godfrey, wrote: “Although such a discovery is exciting and insightful, many of the accounts are inconsistent and most of the details surrounding Zelph and his life remain unknown. The skeleton cannot therefore, provide conclusive evidence for anything, and Latter-day Saints should remember that more important than identifying the location of Book of Mormon events, the story should strengthen their belief in the book’s divinity” (“What is the Significance of Zelph in the Study of Book of Mormon Geography,” Neal A. Maxwell Institute, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 8/2(1999): p70-79,88).
Moroni spoke of at least 36 years of civil wars among the Lamanites after their annihilation defeat of the Nephites in 385 AD

What little can be gleaned from this experience is that there were Nephites in North America, or at least there were Lamanites in the area at one time—the arrow that killed the Lamanite Zelph simply could have been during a Lamanite-Lamanite battle—when we do not know and under what circumstances we do not know.
    What we do know is that five men wrote of the incident and two spoke of it (three of which later became Presidents of the Church), each recorded what they saw slightly different, some adding words and descriptions others did not, and some omitting points that others seem to have heard. So what was actually stated? We do not know—only our personal interest drives the argument over the differences.
    As an example, one used the term “Cumorah” while others used the “East Sea,” for an eastern boundary. One inserted “the last great battle of the Nephites and Lamanites,” while no one else mentioned that—was it one addition or several omissions?
    Take for example, of the five journal records:
1. One said Zelph was a warrior, another a great warrior, a third said he was a warrior in his youth, and one said he was a Chieftan;
2.  One said he was a man of God, one said he was a prophet, and two said he was a great prophet;
3. Four of the five said there were multiple burial mounds in the area;
4. One said it was 300-feet above the river, one said it was 100-feet above the river, and one said it was high above the river;
5. Only one said there were stones that looked like an altar on top;
6. Only one mentioned that they dug down on the top of the mound (years later one said it was halfway down);
7. One said they dug down two feet, one said they dug down one foot (years later one said they dug down a few inches), no one else mentioned how far down they dug;
8. One identified their discovery as a skeleton, one the bones of a man, one bones and a broken arrow, one a skeleton and arrow;
9. Three of the five gave the man’s name as Zelph;
10. Two identified that Zelph fought under Onandagus, one wrote under Onandagus, a king and great man; two made no mention.
11. Four of the five actually visited the mound, one said he did not.
It might be of interest to note, that beginning eleven years later, Heber C. Kimball (left) in recollection, Wilford Woodruff in 1850 and again in 1893, and George A. Smith in 1857, added to their comments with sometimes considerable differences. In fact, Wilford Woodruff’s 1893 comments, 59 years later, as might be expected, differed considerably in his recollection of the event.
    As was the case in the early days of the Church, it was the job of the Church Historian to enter into permanent record the events that took place in the Church. More than a century later, it was the role of the Ward Clerk to keep a history of the Ward’s activities and send it into the Church. Now the record goes from the Ward to the Stake Historian, whose job it is to edit and accurately state the Stake’s history before sending it into the Church Historian’s Office.
    Beginning in 1842, eight years after the event, Willard Richards compiled a number of records in order to produce a history of the church. Among the records examined were the various accounts related to Zelph. In the process of combining the accounts, Richards crossed out Woodruff's references to "hill Cumorah," and Heber C. Kimball's reference to the "last" great struggle with the Lamanites.”
    Evidently, since those two statements seem obvious additions to the facts that were isolated in those two men without any support elsewhere, it seemed to Roberts that they were added from a mind set (East Sea meant Cumorah to Woodruff, and great battle meant the last battle between the Nephites and Lamanites to Kimball). It is not that the story of Zelph is inaccurate, only the memories of some of those present as to how they wrote it down or remembered it. In fact, if everyone had recalled it identically, it would have the feeling of a contrived or made up event. The fact that different people saw the events differently only adds to the reality of what took place. This is seen in the various accounts of the Three Witnesses to seeing and handling the gold plates, and the Eight Witnesses who saw the plates.
Anyone in law enforcement can verify this simple fact. Ask half a dozen witnesses to a special event, such as a robbery, etc., what they saw and you get half a dozen different versions of what took place.
    Take for example the ethnicity of Zelph. All agreed he was a Lamanite. One said he was a white Lamanite. But how did they know he was a Lamanite? Was it a conclusion jumped to or group decision because all the Nephites were said to have been wiped out at the close of the Book of Mormon in 421 A.D.? Or was it simply a term that had been adopted by members who considered at the time that all “Indians” were “Lamanites”? It would appear that nothing in the accounts can settle the question of Zelph’s specific ethnic identity. And with only bones remaining, how did these brethren or at least one of them, know that he was a white-skinned Lamanite? Short of a revelation, that would not have been known.
(See the next post,” The Problem With Journals – Part IV,” for more information on Zion’s Camp and the story of Zelph and Onandagus)

Friday, August 30, 2019

The Problem With Journals – The Story of Zelph and Onandagus - Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding this event and what can be learned from it, and here picking up with the sixth of the five journal entries:
An example of a large mound—it certain had nothing to do with buildings or housing on top as some theorists have claimed

4. This being in the County of Pike, here we discovered a large quantity of large mounds. Being filled with curiosity we excavated the top of one some 2 feet when we came to the bones of an extraordinary large person or human being, the thigh bones being 2 inches longer from one Socket to the other than of the Prophet who is upwards of 6 feet high which would have constituted some 8 or 9 feet high. In the trunk of this skeleton near the vitals we found a large stone arrow which I suppose brought him to his end. Soon after this Joseph had a vision and the Lord shewed him that this man was once a mighty Prophet and many other things concerning his people. Thus we found those mounds to have been deposits for the dead which had fallen no doubt in some great Battles. In addition to this we found many large fortifications which also denotes civilization and an innumerable population which has fallen by wars and commotion and the Banks of this Beautiful River became the deposit of many hundred thousands whose graves and fortifications are overgrown with the sturdy oak 4 feet in diameter.
5. Tuesday [Jun] 3 visited the mounds. A skeleton was dug up. Joseph, said his name was Zelph a great warrior under the Prophet Onandagus. An arrow was found in his Ribs which he said he supposed occasioned his death. Said he was killed in battle. Said he was a man of God and the curse was taken off or in part he was a white Lamanite was known from the Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains.
6. On the way to Illinois River where we camped on the west side in the morning, many went to see the big mound about a mile below the crossing, I did not go on it but saw some bones that was brought with a broken arrow, they were laid down by our camp. Joseph addressed himself to Sylvester Smith, "This is what I told you and now I want to tell you that you may know what I meant; Onandagus was the king and a good man was he, there in that mound did he bury his dead and did not dig holes as the people do now but they brought there dirt and covered them until you see they have raised it to be about one hundred feet high, the last man buried was Zelf, he was a white Lamanite who fought with the people of Oneandagus for freedom, when he was young he was a great warrior and had his thigh broken and never was set, it knitted together as you see on the side, he fought after it got strength until he lost every tooth in his head save one when the Lord said he had done enough and suffered him to be killed by that arrow you took from his breast." These words he said as the camp was moving off the ground; as near as I could learn he had told them something about the mound and got them to go and see for themselves. I then remembered what he had said a few days before while passing many mounds on our way that was left of us; said he, "there are the bodies of wicked men who have died and are angry at us; if they can take the advantage of us they will, for if we live they will have no hope." I could not comprehend it but supposed it was all right.
Journals kept by the six who recorded the events

As one can see from these six journal entries, no two are identical and several have both conflicting and non-supportive statements, i.e., they do not agree with one another. Yet, from them a picture can be developed that more-or-less tells us what happened.
    Joseph Smith recorded the event only in a passing note in a letter the next day (June 4, 1834) to his wife Emma Smith, writing: “The whole of our journey, in the midst of so large a company of social honest and sincere men, wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recounting occasionally the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls & their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity, and gazing upon a country the fertility, the splendor and the goodness so indescribable, all serves to pass away time unnoticed.”
    Since there was never an area in the Book of Mormon Land of Promise called the “Plains of the Nephites,” one might imagine that he was naming it himself from the flat plains over which their group had been passing, and not using the term as a name, but as a descriptive comment so that Emma might get a visual image of their travels and drawing attention to her that Nephites had traveled over this area at one time.
    The point is, as it always is, that information given us from the past by people who are, in fact, stating only their opinions of what they have seen or heard, are always going to be open for questioning, especially when they disagree with others seeing and hearing the same thing. As an example, we do not know that the word “Cumorah” was used in Joseph Smith’s explanation as to the widespread recognition afforded Onandagus. Was “Cumorah” something added by Wilford Woodruff? Or is he the only one that heard it correctly and included the full comment in his journal? It is not that Woodruff would not be a creditable witness, only whether he actually heard that or wrote it down because, to him, that would have been the eastern edge (like the Sea East) of the Land of Promise, in which Onandagus would have been known.
    The problem is, that there is no way to know which of these two possibilities took place. And since there is no verification from any of the others who wrote—and one would logically think there would have been if that was what was said—then it stands to reason that it was removed from the official record as unverifiable.
    If we take this further, let’s consider the mental state of those involved at the time. We have three options, each recorded, some more than once, and that is that Onandagus was known far and wide, from “in the east” to:
Hill in western New York people call Cumorah

1. Cumorah, a hill all would have known about;
2. A sea (Sea East), the eastern terminus of the Land of Promise, of which all would have known about;
3. The Atlantic Ocean, the eastern terminus of the United States, the land in which the men were traveling, and of which all would have known about.
    Since Zelph and Onandagus were identified as Lamanites (not specifically Nephites), certainly these men’s minds would have been drawn to the Book of Mormon. In a time when people in general thought the Book of Mormon was a fallacious writing, made up by Joseph Smith and possibly others, anything that would have defended the correctness of the Book of Mormon surely would have been of interest. And if “Cumorah” had been stated, it stands to reason that more than one person would have heard and recorded it. Since others did not, it seems reasonable to suggest that this was an opinion inserted by Woodruff that, to him, made sense.
    Now, a few things need to be made clear. The comment about Cumorah and the eastern sea is discussed in the last post. But in addition, it should be noted that one of the witnesses named Reuben McBride, whose journal entry is the closest to the date of the event, while others are several days or weeks later, penned in his journal that Zelph: "was known from the Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains” which has no mention of Cumorah or eastern sea, suggesting Joseph’s mention of the breadth of knowledge about the ancient prophet was from the Atlantic (eastern sea) to the Rocky Mountains. Levi Hancock’s journal entry said that: “Zelpf was a white Lamanite who fought with the people of Onandagus for freedom.” Moses Martin wrote in his journal: "Soon after this Joseph had a vision and the Lord shewed him that this man was once a mighty Prophet and many other things concerning his dead which had fallen no doubt in some great battles.”
Reuben McBride one of those journal keepers on the Zion’s Camp march

We can also look at Sea East—another Book of Mormon supportive statement, but again, this was not reported by more than one person. However, the term “Atlantic Ocean” or “eastern sea” was mentioned more than once, once of which was by Reuben McBride, who was 31 years old at the time of Zion’s Camp and had been baptized the year before. After Zion’s Camp, McBride became the custodian of the Church property and the Temple in Kirtland. A footnote as to the character of the man is shown in the incident when he was subpoenaed to court to give testimony concerning the whereabouts of the Prophet Joseph, which he adamantly refused, saying, “I refuse to give such testimony, and rather than be thus imposed upon, I will lie in your jail until the maggots carry my body through the keyhole of your door.” Later, he was the first person to be baptized for the dead in the font of the Nauvoo Temple.
    In addition, regarding the “last, great battle between the Nephites and Lamanites,” is another instance of one person claiming that was said, when the others claimed it was just some battle—a far cry from the last great struggle between the Nephites and Lamanites. Yet, it is understandable, given the circumstances, to include wordage of events in terms of how they were understood in the Book of Mormon. After all, the last, great battle between the Nephites and Lamanites had occurred many centuries earlier—it stands to reason someone thought of this battle as that one.
(See the next post, “The Problem With Journals – The Story of Zelph and Onandagus - Part III, for more information regarding what Zion’s Camp found and what we can understand from this event)

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Problem With Journals – The Story of Zelph and Onandagus - Part I

While journals, of course, are a good thing to have, especially from creditable people such as Church leaders, however, at times such information is taken far beyond its original intent and purpose, and other times allows for the fostering of ideas and opinions far beyond their accuracy or provability. Take the instance of the Lamanite named Zelph. Though a minor figure in Mormon history and not even part of the Book of Mormon record, his remains were uncovered in the late Spring of 1834 during a march from Kirtland, Ohio to Jackson County, Missouri, known as Zion’s Camp.
(Image A – NO Caption 
When Zion’s Camp reached an area in southern Illinois near Griggsville, we know from records and journals that some of the party was on the west bank of the Illinois River in Pike County on 2 and 3 of June 1834. On June 2, some men climbed up a one-hundred-foot earthen burial mound, overlooking the Illinois River. While on the mound they uncovered a large skeleton. Heber C. Kimball wrote in 1841 that the following day several of the group, along with Joseph Smith, found: “On the top of this mound there was the appearance of three altars, which had been built of stone, one above another, according to the ancient order; and the ground was strewn over with human bones."
    Kimball added, “After continuing on their journey, “it "was made known to Joseph that he had been an officer who fell in battle, in the last destruction among the Lamanites, and his name was Zelph. This caused us to rejoice much, to think that God was so mindful of us as to show these things to his servant. Brother Joseph had enquired of the Lord and it was made known in a vision” (Extract from the Journal of Heber C. Kimball,” Times and Seasons, 1841),
    Joseph Smith added that the bones belonged to “Zelph, a white Lamanite, who had been a warrior under a leader named Onandagus.”
    On June 4 on the banks of the Mississippi River, Joseph Smith wrote a letter to his wife Emma. It should be noted that “While he was away, Joseph and Emma wrote consistently to one another, and though only some of those letters have survived, their content and the context in which they were written tell a powerful story. In one letter, Joseph wrote: “The thoughts of home, of Emma and Julia, rush upon my mind like a flood and I could wish for a moment to be with them,” and in another, he wrote: “My heart is entwined around yours forever and ever.” He also wrote ““My dear and beloved companion of my bosom in tribulation and affliction.” In another letter, keenly feeling the sacrifice of being absent from his family, he wrote to Emma: “If you want to know how much I want to see you, examine your feelings, how much you want to see me…I would gladly walk from here to you barefoot and bareheaded…to see you and think it great pleasure, and never count it toil” (“Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith,” Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society course of study, pp241,242,244,242, 2007).
Emma wrote Joseph many letters while he was away. The content of both their letters to each other show a tender feeling and  how difficult it was when they were separated as they often were

On May 19, 1834, Joseph Joseph was gratified to hear from Emma that all was well at home. In response to her letter, he wrote: “I sit down in my tent to write a few lines to you to let you know that you are on my mind and that I am sensible of the duties of a husband and father…The few lines you wrote…gave me satisfaction and comfort” (Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, May 18,1834, comp. Dean C. 2002, p341). In this letter, he also wrote: “I hope you will continue to communicate to me by your own hand, for this is a consolation to me to converse with you in this way in my lonely moments” (p341).
    In addition, in this letter while on Zion’s Camp, Joseph told Emma that “they had been wandering through the plains of the Nephites.” According to Joseph Smith this experience, no doubt the finding of Zelph and the vision afterward, attested to the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. There can be no question that the journal accounts of Joseph Smith's activities and his letter indicate that he believed that Nephites, at some point in time, were in North America.
    Because of this statement, numerous North American theorists claim that is proof that Lehi landed in North America. However, upon further study, the term “plains” relating to a terrain is only mentioned in the Book of Mormon in four places
1. The unnamed plains adjacent to the city of Mulek far to the north (Alma 52:20)
2. The plains of Nephihah, named after the city of Nephihah where Moroni wanted to battle the Lamanites (Alma 62:18-19)
3. Plains of Heshlon (Ether 13:28-29)
4. Plains of Agosh (Ether 14:15-16)
Joseph writing his wife while at Zion’s Camp shows that he was reminiscing of better times when they were together 

Thus we see that there is no such term as the Plains of the Nephites in the entire Book of Mormon. Thus, we also see, that Joseph’s letter to his wife, Emma, was more reminiscent than location accurate. On the other hand, there is no question that the Lamanites were in North America. Zelph was a white Lamanite. We are not told whether the leader Onandagus was Nephite or Lamanite. But either way, neither the name Zelph nor Onandagus are Book of Mormon names and we have no knowledge that they were part of the Land of Promise story in the Book of Mormon. Likely, they were descendants of those who went north in Hagoth’s ships. 
    So does any of this tell us where the Land of Promise was located? Do we learn from this that the area now known as the United States was the Land of Promise? Can we say for certain Zelph’s presence in Illinois answers these questions? Evidently not, for this simple and non-descript event, of little import in regard to the importance of the Book of Mormon and its events and doctrinal value, stems a problem that has gained in importance because of people’s lack of understanding and members in general lack of knowledge of what took place at the hill and the role of the Church Historian’s Office and their involvement in the historical accuracy of the record the Church keeps. All we know from the recorded events and descriptions is that Zelph fought and died in southern Illinois on or around this burial mound now known as Naples Mound 8.
    Part of the problem and resulting controversy that is used by numerous Theorists who try and prove their location model is that the journal recordings tell us a confusing and conflicting story.
    As an example, from the recorded journal statements, we learn:
1. "Monday, 2 June 1834: Some of us visited a mound on a bluff about 300 feet high and dug up some bones, which excited deep interest among the brethren. The President and many others visited the mound on the following morning." 
2. While on our travels we visited many of the mounds which were flung up by the ancient inhabitants of this continent probably by the Nephites and Lamanites. We visited one of those Mounds and several of the brethren dug into it and took from it the bones of a man.
We visited one of those Mounds: considered to be between 100 and 300 feet above the level of the Illinois river. Three persons dug into the mound and found a body. Elder Milton Holmes took the arrow out of the back bones that killed Zelph and brought it with some of the bones in to the camp. I visited the same mound with Jesse J. Smith. Who the other persons were that dug in to the mound and found the body I am undecided.
Zelph was a white Lamanite who had been buried in the mound shown

Brother Joseph had a vision respecting the person. He said he was a white Lamanite. The curse was taken from him or at least in part. He was killed in battle with an arrow. The arrow was found among his ribs. One of his thigh bones was broken. This was done by a stone flung from a sling in battle years before his death. His name was Zelph. Some of his bones were brought into the Camp and the thigh bone which was broken was put into my wagon and I carried it to Missouri. Zelph was a large thick set man and a man of God. He was a warrior under the great prophet Onandagus that was known from the hill Camorah, or east sea to the Rocky Mountains. The above knowledge Joseph received in a vision 
3. On Tuesday the 3rd, we went up, several of us, with Joseph Smith jr. to the top of a mound on the bank of the Illinois river, which was several hundred feet above the river, and from the summit of which we had a pleasant view of the surrounding country: we could overlook the tops of the trees, on to the meadow or prairie on each side the river as far as our eyes could extend, which was one of the most pleasant scenes I ever beheld. On the top of this mound there was the appearance of three altars, which had been built of stone, one above another, according to the ancient order; and the ground was strewn over with human bones. This caused in us very peculiar feelings, to see the bones of our fellow creatures scattered in this manner, who had been slain in ages past. We felt prompted to dig down into the mound, and sending for a shovel and hoe, we proceeded to move away the earth. At about one-foot-deep we discovered the skeleton of a man, almost entire; and between two of his ribs we found an Indian arrow, which had evidently been the cause of his death. We took the leg and thigh bones and carried them along with us to Clay county. All four appeared sound. Elder B. Young has yet the arrow in his possession. It is a common thing to find bones thus drenching upon the earth in this country.
    The same day, we pursued our journey. While on our way we felt anxious to know who the person was who had been killed by that arrow. It was made known to Joseph that he had been an officer who fell in battle, in the last destruction among the Lamanites, and his name was Zelph. This caused us to rejoice much, to think that God was so mindful of us as to show these things to his servant. Brother Joseph had inquired of the Lord and it was made known in a vision. 
(See the next post, “The Problem With Journals – The Story of Zelph and Onandagus - Part II, for more information regarding what Zion’s Camp found and what we can understand from this event)

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Capt. Moroni and His Captains: Men of Peace in a Time of War –Part IV

Continuing from the previous post regarding Captain Moroni and Mormon’s Writing of the erstwhile Nephite General and his command.
    After discussing Capt. Moroni and some of his Captains, let us now turn to Helaman, who was a most unusual general—and Mormon lets us know that by including some of Helaman’s correspondence with Moroni, written while each was hard pressed fighting on a different front.
    Helaman was a son of the prophet Alma, and one of the “high priests over the church” (Alma 46:6). Yet in this time of his people’s need, he took up arms and went into battle, still retaining his own gentleness and righteous aversion to bloodshed.
    While Moroni, Teancum, and Lehi were fighting the Lamanites in an attempt to retake the city of Mulek, which was “on the east borders by the seashore” (Alma 51:26), other Lamanite armies had penetrated the Nephite lands “on the west sea, south” (Alma 53:8), keeping Moroni from going to the aid of Helaman (Alma 52:11), but north of the narrow strip of wilderness, or more accurately, on the west coast of the Land of Zarahemla to the south, near the border of the Land of Nephi, for “insomuch that they [Lamanites] had obtained possession of a number of their [Nephite] cities in that part of the land” (Alma 53:8).
    It was Helaman who filled the breach by undertaking a lengthy march at the head of a hastily recruited army of 2,000 untried and inexperienced young men, the sons of the “people of Ammon,” from their land “to the support of the people in the borders of the land on the south by the west sea” (Alma 53:22).
In the lower left area is the brown curved line representing the area where Helaman was dispatched with his 2000 warriors to reclaim the Nephite cities along the coast that had been attacked by the Lamanites. Helaman’s forced march was from the area of Mulek in the northeast

It should be noted here that the words ”on the south by the west sea,” or “on the west sea, south,” has a specific meaning in these two scriptures, and that is that the Sea West runs the length of the Land of Promise, but specifically from the narrow neck to the Land of First Inheritance where Lehi Landed, but for the most part, the west sea is pictured from the area of Hagoth’s shipyard to the area where the narrow strip of wilderness crosses the land and separates the Land North (Land of Mulek) from the Land South (Land of Lehi), and that Hagoth is along the west sea north (actually central) and the activities within the Land of Zarahemla toward the border with the Land of Nephi, is the west sea south. It should be noted that the term “West Sea, South” is not a separate sea, but is like saying “in the southern area of the West Sea” as opposed to “in the northern area of the West Sea,” or “the central area of the West Sea.”
    This is the same as saying the Pacific Ocean is one ocean, from the Bearing Sea in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, yet it is differentiated by the North Pacific Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean; we also sometimes say the Western Pacific and the Eastern Pacific because it is such a large ocean. But it is one ocean.
The Land of Promise shown with directional names

The Sea West (West Sea) of the Nephites was one ocean, with northern boundaries off the Land Northward and southern boundaries off the Land Southward—but the Land Southward is a large area of activity during most of the Book of Mormon, so the Sea West is considered more or less to be that area north of the narrow strip of wilderness, i.e., opposite the Land North, with the West Sea South considered that area further to the south near where Lehi landed, called the Land of First Inheritance.
    While this is not spelled out in the scriptural record as such, it basically corresponds with the usage of the terms as they are described and as they are located, such as by the Nephite cities along the West Sea South (Alma 53:8), or “south by the west sea” (Alma 53:22). While this is probably not a hard and fast rule, it is a general understanding as how the terms are used and what they mean.
    Now the “people of Ammon” were a group of former Lamanites that Ammon had converted about twenty-five years before. These people had been settled in Nephite territory, with Nephite armies set between them and the Lamanites for their protection, for at the time of their conversion they had sworn never to take up arms again, even in their own defense. Part of that covenant was a willingness to die rather than break that oath (Alma 24:18), and their willingness had been tested almost immediately when bloodthirsty Lamanites (stirred up by dissident Nephites) slaughtered them, without resistance, until the power of such sacrificial love moved them to “forbear from slaying them” (Alma 24:24).
    At that point more than a thousand of them were converted, moving Mormon to comment, “Thus we see that the Lord worketh in many ways to the salvation of his people” (Alma 24:27).
Helaman and his 2000 Stripling Warriors

Now a generation later, these Ammonites were “moved with compassion” (Alma 53:13) when they saw their beleaguered Nephite brethren struggling against the Lamanites on so many fronts, and they considered breaking their oath and going to the aid of those who had been protecting them for so many years. But Helaman “feared lest by so doing they should lose their souls” (Alma 53:15), and persuaded them not to take up their weapons again. However, 2,000 of their young sons, who had not sworn the oath, volunteered as warriors and asked Helaman to lead them in the southern campaign” (Alma 53:16-19).
    This was an unlikely army, made up of young men raised by parents whose resolute pacifism was part of their most sacred commitments, led by a church leader turned military captain, and they without any military or fighting experience. But their story proves that, contrary to the wisdom of men, they are the very type of army the Lord can best accept and make effective in battle—while still protecting them from the soul-destroying evil of bloodlust.
    Whatever doubts Helaman might have had about their fighting ability, he had known about the character of these “stripling soldiers.” They were “exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity,” he reported to Moroni, but also they were “men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted. Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him” (Alma 53:20-22).
    In an exciting story of march and countermarch, they decoyed the Lamanite defenders out of the city Antiparah so that Antipus could occupy it and in turn pursue the Lamanite army. After fleeing for two days, Helaman saw that the Lamanites, who had been hot on their heels, were no longer in sight and suspected that they had stopped to lure them back into a trap. He knew he did not have the numbers to stand against the Lamanites, but he was also aware that they might have turned back to attack Antipus. And so he asked his 2,000 young men, “What say ye, my sons, will ye go against them to battle?” There followed one of the great scenes of the Book of Mormon—and one of the great lessons Mormon was using this space to teach. This citizen army, not professionally trained, not indoctrinated in hatred of their enemies, responded in a way that moved Helaman to write, “And now I say unto you, my beloved brother Moroni, that never had I seen so great courage, nay not amongst all the Nephites” (Alma 56:45).
What was the source and spirit of their courage? This is Helaman’s response: “For as I had ever called them my sons (for they were all of them very young) even so they said unto me: Father, behold our God is with us, and he will not suffer that we should fall; we would not slay our brethren if they would let us alone; therefore let us go, lest they should overpower the army of Antipus” (Alma 56:46).
    “Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them” (Alma 56:47). And just as importantly, they had been taught by the scene and stories of their fathers who had chosen death over going back on their word of honor and oath to God.
    “And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it” (Alma 56:48).
    By such examples, these stripling warriors, these very young men, trusted in their God and fought as only such young men could, being led by God through Helaman to stand up for their rights and defend themselves and their brethren.
    Often reader’s of the  Book of Mormon are surprised and taken aback at so much written about wars, killing, and bloodshed. However, in viewing these chapters in such a way they lose sight of why Mormon included it in his record and why he was inspired to do so. As Mormon stated: “I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will” (Words of Mormon 1:7). And also “And now I, Mormon, proceed to finish out my record, which I take from the plates of Nephi; and I make it according to the knowledge and the understanding which God has given me.” (Words of Mormon 1:9).
    The Lord wanted the wars and bloodshed of evil men and the need to fight against them for us to realize what those of the past went through to solidify their testimonies of the Gospel, and for us to understand the integrity and greatness of achievement when we are obedient to him. The stories of Moroni and his Captains give us insight into the extreme confidence these men had, during the most difficult of times, to stand on the Lord’s side and actively bring about his will.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Capt. Moroni and His Captains: Men of Peace in a Time of War –Part III

Continuing from the previous post regarding Captain Moroni and Mormon’s Writing of the erstwhile Nephite General and his command.
    After Moroni hoisted his banner of Liberty, the people, responding to the spiritual power behind this symbolic action proclaiming Liberty in the land, ran to Moroni rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that if they should transgress the commandments of God the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments (Alma 46:21).
Moroni hoisted his title of liberty banner before the Nephites

Continuing the symbolism, they swore to Moroni: “We covenant with our God, that … he may cast us at the feet of our enemies, even as we have cast our garments at thy feet, if we shall fall into transgression” (Alma 46:22). With a spiritual insight that went much deeper than mere political astuteness, Moroni further welded this new bond that unified his people by linking their action to their great picture as children of Israel: “We are a remnant of the seed of Joseph, whose coat was rent by his brethren into many pieces; yea, and now behold, let us remember to keep the commandments of God, or our garments shall be rent by our brethren, and we be cast into prison, or be sold, or be slain. Yea, let us preserve our liberty as a remnant of Joseph” (Alma 46:23-24).
    Who among his hearers would not stir to that heroic and sacred history? But he took the symbolism a step further still and, in the process, gave us a story about our common ancestor Joseph that must have been preserved on the brass plates, though it has not come down to us in our Bible. Before his death, Jacob saw that a fragment of Joseph’s coat had not decayed; he then prophesied, “Even as this remnant of garment of my son hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my son be preserved by the hand of God, and be taken unto himself, while the remainder of the seed of Joseph shall perish, even as the remnant of this garment.”
    Here we see Moroni, both as a military leader appealing to men pledged to his command, and also a devoted, thoughtful student and teacher of the scriptures—using a form of teaching through physical symbols that seems unusual to us: “And now who knoweth but what the remnant of the seed of Joseph, which shall perish as his garment, are those who have dissented from us? Yea, and even it shall be ourselves if we do not stand fast in the faith of Christ” (Alma 46:24,27).
Amalickiah saw that the people of Moroni were more numerous than his also saw that his people were doubtful concerning the justice of the cause in which they had he took those of his people who would and departed into the land of Nephi

Obviously, the Nephite well understood that form of idea and well understood the consequences of their choice. The dissenters were captured, except for Amalickiah and a small group who escaped to the Lamanites. This brought Moroni face to face with a situation that reveals another facet of his character: a humane commitment to the rule of law as deep as his tough and pragmatic devotion to freedom.
    Moroni was careful to act strictly according to the law in not executing the rebels out of hand. Instead, he gave them the choice between covenanting to support a free government or being put to death. Mormon adds, with what may be regarded as a flash of understated irony, for given such a choice: “There were but few who denied the covenant of freedom” (Alma 46:34-35).
    While Moroni was uniting his people in righteous love of freedom, Amalickiah was proving Mormon’s repeated observation that former Nephites, who had once known the light and then turned their back on it, were prone to become the most wicked of all. “A very subtle man to do evil” (Alma 47:4), Amalickiah stirred up the Lamanites and then played their armies against each other in a clever strategy that enabled him to bring about the murder of the king and take over the throne himself—and even marry the queen—this in a series of betrayals, poisonings, stabbings, and power plays that make the forty-seventh chapter of Alma read like one of Shakespeare’s bloodier history plays. But like other villains of history, his evil bravado, successful for a while, led him to overreach himself by seeking to reign over the Nephites, as well as the Lamanites.
    Moroni’s fortified cities repelled the attack of his armies, and the Lamanites, cowed by their second military disaster in two years due to superior Nephite armaments and tactics, retreated in such psychological and physical exhaustion that not even Amalickiah’s wrath could stir them up again at that time.
Moroni oversaw the work of his Lamanite armies as they prepared to defend themselves against future attacks

Thus came the five-year period of freedom from Lamanite attack. But even during that breathing space not all was well all of the time, for in the fifth year of peace another Nephite dissenter, Morianton, after his scheme to acquire land that was not his, appealed to a group of land-hungry Nephites that had joined him in his take-over to flee into the land northward and there set up a separate kingdom. Acting under Moroni’s order, an army led by a chief captain named Teancum headed them off at a strategic location, killed Morianton, hauled the dissenters back, and presided over their covenanting to keep the peace.
    In many ways, Teancum was a heroic extension of Moroni’s own quickness, decisiveness, and boldness. Teancum’s personal courage went almost to the point of recklessness, in a way that appeals to our sense of adventure even while we recognize the dangers. When Amalickiah again stirred up his Lamanites to attack, in the midst of another internal dissension among the Nephites, it was Teancum’s army that intercepted and repulsed him (Alma 51:29-31). We do not know whether Teancum soberly calculated the cost in lives of another battle or was inflamed with fury against the renegade Nephite who had caused so much bloodshed. At any rate, while the armies slept in exhaustion, he crept through the Lamanite camp to Amalickiah’s tent, killed him silently, and then withdrew. When the Lamanites awoke on the first day of the new year (in 66 B.C.) to find their king dead and the Nephites poised for battle again, they fled in terror to regroup behind Ammoron, Amalickiah’s brother. Moroni then joined Teancum for a decoy-attack that completely routed the already demoralized Lamanites. And again Moroni, though wounded and sore pressed in the heat of battle, still gave the confused Lamanites every opportunity to surrender, promising, “We will forbear shedding your blood” (Alma 52:37).
Teancum stole through the forest and into the city by stealth and killed Amalickiah, changing the course of the war

Teancum was not Moroni’s only chief captain; the record also mentions Antipus, Gid, Helaman, and Lehi, and refers to numerous others (Alma 52:19). But Teancum, Helaman, and Lehi are singled out for special mention. Mormon, who knew what loyalty tested in battle meant, reveals a great deal in what he tells us of Moroni’s relationships with his chief captains. In any military society, the brutalities of war can unite men in a kind of competition of escalating toughness, competency in killing, and callousness to sensitive feelings.
    Instead, we see in Moroni and his chief captains an exceptional and exemplary masculine relationship based partly on shared skills and shared dangers but also on a loving friendship and a righteous desire for liberty and peace. All of these men were courageous in defense of liberty.
    Lehi’s reputation as a warrior was such that the Lamanites were afraid to attack a city he held because they “feared [him] exceedingly” (Alma 49:17). Mormon goes on to say, “This Lehi was a man who had been with Moroni in the more part of all his battles”; and then he adds this high praise: “He was a man like unto Moroni, and they rejoiced in each other’s safety, yea, they were beloved by each other, and also beloved by all the people of Nephi.” (Alma 53:2).
    Teancum’s personal valor—possibly modeled on Moroni’s personal involvement in battle—led him not only to kill Amalickiah but also into fatal danger when he penetrated Ammoron’s camp and killed him. We know his motivation this time. He was “exceedingly angry, … insomuch that he considered that Ammoron … had been the cause of so much war and bloodshed, yea, and so much famine” (Alma 62:35). Teancum must have known the odds were against his success. Ammoron was in a fortified city, not a tent on the other side of a battlefield. He had to scale the wall and then search for the king “from place to place.” Apparently he could not get close enough to kill the king quietly, for he had to “cast a javelin at him.” And thus the king was able to awaken his servants before he died, and they pursued and killed Teancum (Alma 62:36).
     Epitaphs are not common in the scriptural record, but Mormon records that Lehi and Moroni were “exceeding sorrowful,” and he gives the reasons: Teancum “had been a man who had fought valiantly for his country, yea, a true friend to liberty; and he had suffered very many exceedingly sore afflictions” (Alma 62:37).
(See the next post, “Capt. Moroni and His Captains: Men of Peace in a Time of War-Part IV,” for more on this all-important subject)

Monday, August 26, 2019

Capt. Moroni and His Captains: Men of Peace in a Time of War – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding Captain Moroni and Mormon’s Writing of the erstwhile Nephite General and his command.
    Mormon wrote: “The people of Nephi did thank the Lord their God, because of his matchless power in delivering them from the hands of their enemies,” and “There was continual peace among them, and exceeding great prosperity in the church because of their heed and diligence which they gave unto the word of God,” and “Thus we see how merciful and just are all the dealings of the Lord, to the fulfilling of all his words…which he spake unto Lehi,” and “We see that these promises have been verified to the people of Nephi; for it has been their quarrelings and their contentions, yea, their murderings, and their plunderings, their idolatry, their whoredoms, and their abominations, which were among themselves, which brought upon them their wars and their destructions,” and “Those who were faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord were delivered at all times, whilst thousands of their wicked brethren have been consigned to bondage, or to perish by the sword, or to dwindle in unbelief, and mingle with the Lamanites.”
    Of course, Mormon is not only commenting here on events 400 years old, but on what continually led to the destruction of the Nephites in the entire course of their history, including his own time.
    How Mormon must have yearned for that earlier time when Capt. Moroni’s people humbly thanked God for their victory rather than boasting in their strength as Mormon had seen his own people do (Mormon 3:9). No doubt with great longing, Mormon wrote of that period between wars, “But behold there never was a happier time among the people of Nephi, since the days of Nephi, than in the days of Moroni” (Alma 50:23).
Moroni, the chief Captain of the Nephite armies, led the Nephites against Zarahemnah and his Lamanite army under the leadership of Amalekites and Zoramites, all former Nephites who had a more wicked and murderous disposition than the Lamanites

We first meet Moroni in the crisis of the Lamanite attack under Zerahemnah. “Now, the leader of the Nephites, or the man who had been appointed to be the chief captain over the Nephites—now the chief captain took the command of all the armies of the Nephites—and his name was Moroni” (Alma 43:16). He was a young man, for the Nephites seemed to prefer young military leaders. “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).
    When these two armies met on the field of battle, the Lamanites were astonished by the preparations of Moroni’s men. “And it came to pass that he met the Lamanites in the borders of Jershon, and his people were armed with swords, and with cimeters, and all manner of weapons of war” (Alma 43:18). This is the first insight we have into Moroni’s superior thinking and preparations, for he had provided such protection for his men that had not previously been seen on the battlefields of the Land of Promise, which frightened the armies of the Lamanites for they did not have breastplates and arm-shields, nor any shields to defend their heads, nor any thick clothing (Alma 43:19). For the Lamanites were ”all were naked, save it were the Zoramites and the Amalekites; But they were not armed with breastplates, nor shields—therefore, they were exceedingly afraid of the armies of the Nephites because of their armor, notwithstanding their number being so much greater than the Nephites” (Alma 43:21).
Zerehemnah, the Nephite defector, is outmatched by Moroni’s careful and effective planning for battle

It should also be noted that herein lies a pattern of Nephite-Lamanite wars that is seen throughout Nephite history, for the warfare was instigated not by the Lamanites themselves but by dissenting Nephites. Zarahemnah appointed as his chief captains other former Nephites who were of “a more wicked and murderous disposition than the Lamanites” (Alma 43:6); and then, with traditional resentments and hatreds inflamed, he led his Lamanite armies in an attack against the Nephites in 74 B.C. Moroni, though only twenty-five years old, immediately proved his ability by not only equipping his men with armor, but also by outmaneuvering Zerahemnah, whose army was more than double the size of his own (Alma 43:51).
    Moroni’s superior tactics included posting spies, but he also sent to Alma, desiring that prophet to “inquire of the Lord whither the armies of the Nephites should go to defend themselves” (Alma 43:23). It was a perfect combination. Alma told Moroni where to march, and his spies told him when. With such aid, the Lamanites were surrounded and trapped against the river Sidon.
Rather than kill the trapped Lamanites outright, Moroni (left) offers a magnanimous truce and surrender to Zerahemnah (right), but the defector refused
Here again, Moroni showed the caliber of his leadership as both a military expert and as a man of God, for instead of pressing his advantage, he called a truce, telling the Lamanites, “We do not desire to slay you,” and then asked Zerahemnah to surrender (Alma 44:1). When the Nephite defector refused, Moroni commanded Zerahemnah to surrender “in the name of that all-powerful God, who has strengthened our arms that we have gained power over you” (Alma 44:5).
    Not being a man of God, Zerahemnah could not recognize the reality of God’s aid to the Nephites and rejected Moroni’s offer, saying: “We do not believe that it is God that has delivered us into your hands; but we believe that it is your cunning. Behold, it is your breastplates and your shields that have preserved you” (Alma 44:9).
    Like in most such conflicts, when two forces face one another with such radically different views of life and what is acceptable and achievable, a meeting of the minds is not very likely. Even though Moroni insisted that the Lamanites could go free, only if they would covenant never to fight again, Zerahemnah, with an interesting indication of the seriousness of oaths, denied the value of the offer and declared that he would not swear an oath he knew he would break! (Alma 44:6-8).
    As Moroni returned the Lamanite weapons to recommence the struggle, Zerahemnah, being the cowardly individual he was, suddenly attacked Moroni on the field of truce. In one of the more humorous yet courageous acts in the record, a watchful Nephite soldier intercepted with a blow that took off Zerahemnah’s scalp. In a bizarre but effective symbolic action characteristic of the Old Testament and Book of Mormon cultures, the nameless soldier held forth the bleeding scalp on his sword before the Lamanites and threatened: “Even as this scalp has fallen to the earth…so shall ye fall…except ye will deliver up your weapons of war and depart with a covenant of peace” (Alma 44:14).
    This dramatic prophecy struck such fear into the hearts of the Lamanites that most of them surrendered and made the covenant, though Zerahemnah and a few others still refused and had to be dealt with by force.
Moroni had poured out his soul to God, he named all the land which was south of the land Desolation, yea, and in fine, all the land, both on the north and on the south—A chosen land, and the land of liberty

Moroni’s decisive generalship and his faith, which was so deeply shared with his men that it inspired that nameless Nephite’s spontaneous act, had been the Lord’s instruments in preserving the people. Obviously, the young leader of the Nephite armies inspired such courage and bravery among his men for he, himself, was of that caliber.
    But Moroni returned from this bloody front-line battle to preserve Nephite liberty only to find that a rebellion had sprung up at home. Amalickiah, proud and rich, had opposed Helaman, the new head of the church appointed by Alma, and was seeking to become king and to destroy the church.
    Angry at Amalickiah, Moroni “rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children,” fastened it to a pole, and went forth among the people. With this “title of liberty,” and the strength of having “poured out his soul to God,” he rallied the Nephites with the cry, “Come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that [ye] will maintain [your] rights, and [your] religion, that the Lord God may bless [you]” (Alma 46:12,13,17,20).
(See the next post, “Capt. Moroni and His Captains: Men of Peace in a Time of War-Part III,” for more on this all-important subject)

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Capt. Moroni and His Captains: Men of Peace in a Time of War - Part I

Captain Moroni: the quintessential Nephi leader

As Mormon wrote of Captain Moroni, “Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, 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” (Image Walter Rane)
    No greater accolade is given in the entire scriptural record than this honorific provided by Mormon after reading and abridging Alma’s record of Moroni, the chief captain of the army, over all the other captains or commanders, what we call today the General of all the Armies, the military commander in chief. So taken with Moroni, Mormon named his son after the ancient legendary hero of the Nephite Nation.
    Considering all that Mormon went through in being appointed leader of the Nephite armies at the age of 15 and spending his entire life in the service of his people, both as a prophet and their military leader, he was prepared as few Nephites ever were to appreciate the consummate skill of Moroni’s earlier generalship. A righteous man himself, Mormon responded deeply to Capt. Moroni’s own righteousness.
Capt. Moroni instilled hope and courage in his followers and led the Nephite Armies with integrity and righteousness    (Image Del Parson)
Though Moroni fought at a time when the Nephites were a righteous people for the most part, Mormon’s experience with an unrighteous Nephite Nation was even more devastating, with far less chance of success.
    Yet, like Moroni, Mormon refused to let the long, desperate fighting lead him to bloodthirstiness; instead, as the Lord directed him, he resigned his command to stand by “as an idle witness” when their wickedness led them to fight in a spirit of vengeance (Mormon 3:9-16).  
    For the uninitiated, the last twenty-one chapters of the book of Alma contain few examples of what we usually think of as “scriptural” material—no sermons per se, no visions, almost no prophesying, very little exposition of theological principles. At first it may seem to be one long, detailed record of all-out warfare between the Nephites and the Lamanites, of battles that raged back and forth through a score of cities and destroyed thousands of lives. Yet, the experiences of these events and Capt. Moroni’s handling of them, as well as his captains and leaders under his command, teaches us powerful religious lessons based on normal (political) events. In a little more than a tenth of the total Book of Mormon, this political world of the Nephites is introduced and covered in hard history to tell us in the same manner he earlier described prophets and teachers with the same care he gave to describing their preaching and miracles.
    In this part, Mormon covers treachery and bloodshed with the same exactness that he had earlier used in describing honor and obedience. Here we learn powerful religious lessons, such as the value of freedom, God’s role in preserving it, the moral justifications for waging war to uphold freedom, and the moral limitations on bloodshed, even for freedom’s sake. And this is done in such a manner that we can take these points and apply them to our daily lives and the political nature of our own people, government and nation.

To understand Mormon and his writings of this period, we have to understand that Mormon is not an historian, writing about historical viewpoints from a uninvolved perspective—he is a Prophet, Seer and Revelator, writing about 1000 years of history of a nation and its relationship with its God. And how man’s interaction with God determines the course and outcome of that history. We can understand this exposition of freedom and what leads to it or away from it by understanding Mormon and his relationship with his God and how he sees and writes about that relationship with God had among his people, the Nephites.
    When you read about history of antiquity from archaeologists and anthropologists today, you read a great deal about the savage side of man’s view of religion, including human sacrifice, unchecked power, avarice, and individual interests. Mormon, on the other hand, shows us a people that lived their religion and its results, compared with that same nation who lost their grace and destroyed itself through the worst found in government and human greed.
    Obviously, Mormon was struck by the parallels between Moroni’s experiences and his own life of warring against the Lamanites 400 years later. When he read the story of Moroni, Mormon had already been the leader of the Nephite armies through many years of bitter battles. Like that earlier Moroni, he was never identified by the title “general” in the Book of Mormon; nevertheless, both were commanders over the Nephite armies—chief captains over chief captains—and exercised the authority of what we would call the rank of general.
    In short, our key to understanding those last twenty-one chapters of Alma lies in Mormon’s assessment of Moroni, man and military leader. That assessment is a valuable one for all of us, who, like Mormon, look for models to guide our lives through the conflicts of the present world. Here are Mormon’s words for us, as he looked down through time and yearned for us to learn from his people’s history:
“Now 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.
    “And this was their faith, that by so doing God would prosper them in the land, … yea, warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger; …“And this was the faith of Moroni, and his heart did glory in it; not in the shedding of blood but in doing good, in preserving his people, yea, in keeping the commandments of God, yea, and resisting iniquity.
    Mormon obviously saw Moroni’s personal righteousness as a dominant factor in the creation of a national righteousness powerful enough to sustain national freedom against great odds. To drive home his point, he gives us ample detail and ample commentary on those crucial fourteen years from 74 B.C. to 60 B.C. The time divides itself into three periods: 1) a sudden, savage outbreak of war and rebellion that lasted two years, 2) a five-year respite of peace and preparation marred only by a single internal difficulty, and 3) seven exhausting years of siege, insurrection, battle.
Moroni built walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of their lands; yea, all round about the land.
During the five-year respite, Moroni drove his people urgently to prepare to defend themselves in case of future attacks by the Lamanites—to him it was not a time for relaxing, scaling back, diminishing defensive and military capability. It was a time to prepare for future battles that did indeed come to pass.
    The social energy resulting from the necessary work of garrisoning cities overflowed into riches, prosperity, and strength (Alma 50:1-18). At this break in the action, Mormon took advantage of his role as a teacher of future generations to insert a “thus we see” passage that interprets the whole war, with its causes and effects, in terms of the entire history of God’s dealings with the descendants of Lehi.
(See the next post, “Capt. Moroni and His Captains: Men of Peace in a Time of War-Part II,” for more on this all-important subject)