Monday, March 23, 2015

You Don't Know Shiz About Warfare in the Book of Mormon

This is a short round up of reviews for my first book, Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents: Ancient Warfare in the Book of Mormon. The title of this post is borrowed from the first review by award winning author David West. He gives a brief overview of the book and even says I'm a Nibley understudy.

The second is by Micheal Collins. Collin's adds that the book "ultimately [ties] the Book of Mormon account into modern concerns for and experiences with political terrorism in ways that are insightful and enlightening."

National Security Affairs officer David Spencer offers the third review. He summarizes the chapters and says that the book is "work is well-written and thought provoking, required reading for those interested in warfare in the Book of Mormon as warfare, rather than just spiritual analogy."  This was not a quid pro quo, we are simply colleagues in the same very small field, but you should be seeing my endorsement on his new book shortly, Captain Moroni's Command: Dynamics of Warfare in the Book of Mormon.

If you haven't got a chance yet this is a great time to pick up a copy and see what everybody is excited about!  If you are short on money but really want one feel free to send me a message! If you have a blog or another platform for review you may also contact me for a copy. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy my book!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Rethinking Moroni and the Great War

          One of the three blog posts and dozens of comments that complain  about me provides a few chances to explore the research in my new book, Rethinking the Book of Mormon. What follows is a response to Kendal Anderson insofar as it provides a chance to show details from my new book.    

“Deane is correct in assuming that such 'offensive' attacks were facilitated to reclaim cities and forts that had fallen into the hands of the Lamanites, but never to conquer Lamanite lands, cities and forts.”

          Alma 50 is an interesting and under studied chapter. In this chapter Moroni seized lands that the Lamanites possessed during a time of peace.  A person could argue at best that this was during a cold war and a necessary measure.   The names of the new cities are particularly insightful (v.13-14, 25), they are powerful people that include the chief judged that retired in the same chapter (Nephihah in a quid pro quo?), the man who refused the crown to leave on a mission in Aaron (this possibly refers to a different one, but given the company I don’t think so), military leaders (Moroni, Lehi) and a powerful leader of an ethnic group (Morianton). Not only did they seize land, but this was described by the narrator as a Nephite golden age- Alma 50: 23. 

          My research shows how new land proved to be a boon to the current leadership because it was land outside of the existing power structure.  Instead of having to defeat rival nobles to seize land, they could seize land from their external foes, and extend their power a great deal vis a vis their external enemies and internal rivals. The chief political leader could distribute land and both create and empower new allies among their political and military peers. Referring to the list of cities a person can see these major alliances among the military, political elites, and ethnic groups. (Of course the people left out from this deal, maybe a good deal of the lower judges in Alma 46:4, and perhaps people like Amalickiah, had reason to be upset over this proposal.)

"A man who 'did not delight in the shedding of blood,' and who sought not for power, 'but to pull it down,' would not have engaged in such debauchery.[martial law, military check points, Abu Gharib, etc.]”

          According to Anderson, Moroni is very good. (Moroni does get a great endorsement from Mormon about shaking the foundation of Hell.) Therefore anything Anderson doesn’t like in the present is something that Moroni would also oppose. But being praiseworthy doesn’t mean perfect. A close reading of scriptures suggest many defects.  He held men in prison for years without trial in Alma 51:19; 62:9. There is evidence that he killed dissenters (Alma 51:19), threatened a coup and a genocide in separate letters (Alma 60:25-27; Alma 54:12-13), along with calling his own governor a traitor and opponent a child of Hell (Alma 60:18; 54:11), he possibly militarized a vote against the King Men (after all, he and his supporters put on armor and gathered in a loud shouting body before the vote, Alma 46:21), combined with the discussion of preemptively seizing land in the East Wilderness during a time of peace his actions likely supplied Amalickiah with plenty of juicy gossip, and probably created the kind of material that stirred the Lamanite king towards war (Alma 47:1).

          In short, close and careful analysis suggests that Moroni helped instigate the war.  After the war, my research suggests his heavy armor and fortifications required higher taxes and a government that could seem rapacious to the average tax payer; which in turn may have inspired the insurgency reported in Helaman. The newly empowered elites, (with the newly seized territories), could have constituted a self interested, and almost parasitic class that used their military and political positions to feed off the people.  All of this does seem like a strong parallel to Iraq, only it is Moroni/ American policies that inspired these behaviors.  

Quoting me:  “A careful reading of the war chapters suggests that Moroni initiated a series of actions that inaugurated an imperial period within the book, led to their eventual destruction as a political entity, and can be used by modern readers to justify an aggressive and interventionist American foreign policy.” End of quoting me.

Anderson continues: “Imperialism?  Aggressive and interventionist foreign policy?  Really Deane?  Did Moroni ever invade and conquer Lamanite lands?  Did he annex new territory, engage in nation building, set up foreign trading stations, send Nephite troops all over the world to police it, and build bases on foreign soil?  That is what a empire does.  Moroni’s war was nothing but a war of self-defense against an invading Lamanite army.  Once the defeated threat was driven out of Nephite lands and swore an oath of peace the war was over.  You’re digging for things in the text that don’t exist.  Instead of applying our situation to the scriptures you are applying the scriptures to our situation.  The Book of Mormon should be the measuring stick, not the American empire.”

          I made an exception and included a lengthy excerpt from his “arguments,” only because I think Anderson severely misunderstands me. Just because it can be used to justify an aggressive and interventionist foreign policy doesn’t mean I think it should be. Anderson seems to think that I’m using the scriptures to justify American imperialism.  In calling the Nephites imperial which led to their destruction I showed that is not my position.  As I briefly sketched above, Moroni’s use of innovative strategies such as using heavier armor, new fortifications, seizing flanks, and preemptive war, had negative consequences.  These consequences have gone wholly unexamined by readers who focus almost exclusively on the short term victory in the war chapters, and supporting their pet ideologies, but don’t examine the many defeats that followed the next 70 years or so in the book of Helaman. 

          As far as I know I’m the first person to show how their defeats are a result of their victories. The genesis for this chapter actually came when I was teaching and noticed all the problems the British started having in the American colonies after their victory in the 7 Years War (1756-1763). From being in debt, to their tax policies, to shifting balance of power between the European powers, colonists, and Indians, to the attempts to alleviate friction with the Indians, to trying to set policy towards Catholics in Canada, and of course the rebellion a short time later, the British actually lost more in America than they gained. So I started to look at how victory can sow the seeds of defeat. I began with the things Moroni did to achieve victory and then looked at some potential consequences. For example, more armor costs more money. Where did the money come from and how might it change those who collect it, and those from whom its collected? (This has obvious application to the extraordinary amount of money we spend on deployed forces around the world and the taxes needed to furnish that money.)  The results were intriguing and powerful because I started seeing those consequences all over the book of Helaman and 3 Nephi.[1]   

“Truth is, it doesn’t matter what could’ve been prevented.”

         I think the thousands of people that died on 9/11 or the people in Nephite villages that were destroyed in places like Alma 16 and Helaman 1, as well as their families members, certainly believe it matters.   

         If I might humbly suggest, if we had power to prevent deaths, it should be seriously considered and not flippantly dismissed because you don’t like the strategy that might save them. As the research in my new book suggests, every strategy has powerful consequences that can save lives, but also cause more harm than good. That's why the text demands serious and careful study from every angle, and a fearless and searching evaluation and reevaluation of the scriptures, regardless of how well it merges with our beliefs.  Contrary to the notion from Anderson’s colleagues that I’m “tainted” because of my military service, or “twist” scripture, I have years of study, books, articles and blog posts that show my commitment to diving as deeply as I can into understanding the scriptures regardless of where it might lead.[2] My new book is a result of that study and I’m not using hyperbole when I say it contains revolutionary material that will completely change the way we look at the text.  For the first time I examine facets of the Great War and other topics, and offered a nuanced view of major figures in the text.  I invite all interested readings to enjoy my forthcoming book, Rethinking the Book of Mormon.


1  Just for the record, Anderson dismissed my arguments that support preemptive warfare, and my arguments that also suggest it has dangerous consequences. Good grief, that strongly suggests to me that the only acceptable answer to people like Anderson is that I agree with them! After all, one of Anderson’s associates, Irvin Hill, described himself as a “rude pig,” and admitted that he doesn't disguise his contempt for “pricks” like me. They reflexively disagree after misreading my arguments, openly hold me in contempt, in their own words act like "rude pigs,"  but are surprised when I don't think its worth my time talking with them!  
2   I don’t see the same commitment from somebody who admits he only spent a “couple months” of serious study in the war chapters and seems to ignore sections of scripture such as Alma 50.   Kendal Anderson  War: A Book of Mormon Perspective: How the War Chapters of the Book of Mormon War Against Wars of Aggression and the Warfare State (Create Space, 2015), 9.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Rethinking the Book of Mormon

[I've included the potential book blurb for my second second volume, and a preliminary table of contents. The manuscript is submitted to the publisher, and I look forward to hearing back from them. I hope you're as excited as I am!] 

Believers in the Book of Mormon contend it is an account of real people that existed in history. From Joseph Smith’s plural marriage to Brigham Young’s statements on race, as we study the complexity of history we develop a deeper appreciation for struggling leaders moving, sometimes imperfectly, through a tragic and fallen world. Rethinking the Book of Mormon is the first book of its kind to develop a similarly complex history within ancient scripture. Extensive historical examples, including the campaigns of the Byzantine general Belisarius, "evil gangs" of Samurai, and purposeful manipulation of records by Chinese dynastic historians, combine with detailed analysis of subtle clues in the text to provide additional insight into the militarization of the Nephites by their spiritual leaders, the deadly machinations even righteous rulers needed to gain and keep political power, and the reliability of reported armies sizes as judged by the military participation ratio. Filled with unique insights, such as the ironic use of peace rhetoric by Amalickiah that led to a great war, the velvet glove rhetoric of Giddianhi that suggests he was more than a toothless highway robber and had some legitimate complaints, and Moroni’s innovative and winning tactics leading to rapacious taxation and insurgency, Rethinking the Book of Mormon is a revolutionary interpretation that offers a complex understanding and reinterpretation of both heroes and villains in the text; which promises to enrich our understanding of the vibrant historical narrative within the Book of Mormon.  

1. Introduction
2. Gideon's Legacy: The Spiritual Foundation and Militarization of the Nephites
3. The Vandal Wars, Evil Gangs, and the Fall of Chang'an: Three Untold Stories in the Book of Mormon
4. For the Peace of our People: Amalickiah's Arguments in Alma 47
5. Undissected Victory: The Consequences of the Great War
6. Plundering the Narrative: Giddianhi's Letter in 3rd Nephi 3:2-10
7. Myriads, Centurions, and a Nephite Ten Thousand
8. Complexity, Political Maneuvers, and Contradiction: The Book of Mormon Rethought  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Humble Note From Your War Mongering Propagandist

          I read an interesting thread over at Pure Mormonism.  The author, Rock Waterman mentioned a book about the war chapters in the Book of Mormon. Being the literal Deane of warfare in the Book of Mormon I thought it worth point out I have a book and several publications on the subject. Unfortunately, instead of reading my book, Irven Hill, has decided to write a post in response.  Irven Hill’s poor arguments and frequent use of ad hominem undermine his attempts to be taken seriously. 
(All quotes from the article unless otherwise noted.)

“Apparently Deane fails to understand the first part of his sentence, “once the Nephite lands were invaded.”

          “Apparently” is the only correct word in that sentence.  As I described in Moroni’s preemptive war  Moroni also expelled the Lamanites from their lands during a time of peace see (Alma 50:7 for example.) This is on top of preemptive action against Amalickiah when there wasn’t a time of war. You have an example of preemmptive action both within and outside Mormon lands without a peep from the narrator, who, if we are to believe my opponents, was so against preemptive war that he refused to lead his people and would rather they were slaughtered than commit an act of preemptive war. This is a strange place in the narrative to suddenly go silent.   

“Do the weapons and travel arrangements of “dangerous People” change the nature of what constitutes offense and/or aggression? If so, maybe the travel arrangements of attractive women could change what constitutes adultery. After all, worldwide airline travel easily transports beautiful women. “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, may not apply in the modern world. Of course, that is ridiculous, right on the face of it, but what’s the difference?”

Yes. The wonder of modern pills notwithstanding, a person still has to commit adultery by being in the same room (and probably within nine inches or so) of the person with whom they are committing adultery. Though Jesus did say you can commit adultery in your heart just by looking at a women. In that sense modern technology does make it easier to commit adultery. A person can watch smut on television, or porn on their computer and commit adultery with far greater ease. That means modern technology has changed the many ways we must prepare and defense ourselves.

Part of this defense includes preemptively, (rut roh), deciding to take a course of action. This means using the vchip, filters on the computer, or adopting a very proactive policy of combating (ahem) the problem.  I normally don’t include explanations this long.  But Hill tried to use the adultery example to show how ridiculous it is to believe that modern technology can change the speed and destructiveness of adultery or enemy technology. (Keep in mind that nuclear weapons delivered by terrorists and facilitated by rogue regimes getting weapons of mass destruction were the major reasons Bush gave for preemptive war.) The easy facilitation of porn, that is, modern technology, has changed adultery for men, to the point that those who are in combat with pornography have to adopt preemptive measures to avoid it.  In short, he proved my point. 

“Of course, being “up and doing” in defense of our liberty is no sin. The key word being defense. Or are you speaking “offensive defensive” here? Does that term mean the same as only defense, in your mind?”

          The offensive defensive is a specific strategy described by Russell Weigley to describe, among other things, the Confederate strategy during the civil war.[1] Of course Hill would know if he bothered to read the several published chapters I have on this matter, and not argue with a preliminary blog post more than a half decade old. On the Pure Mormonism thread I practically begged him and others to read the refined and published material, but these people, who always claim to be very serious about liberty and warfare, can’t be bothered to read some important texts on the matter, such as the one endorsed by Rock Waterman himself: War and Peace in Our Times: MormonPerspectives. 

“Now many nations, if any that have not had American military/CIA interventions into their lands are supporting terrorism and seek the “most devastating weapons known to man”? Did it ever cross your mind, that maybe….just maybe, “terrorist promoters” and “devastating weapon” seekers have had the American military intervening in their affairs for at least 50 years or more?”

          I assume he is referencing the blowback argument, though asking questions is a poor form of arguing. Instead of asking questions, a stronger argument would simply answer the questions and make the point. (In contrast to the war mongering that libertarians think I promote with my students, I really teach them how to write expository essays, which includes not advancing the argument with questions.)  That aside, this is referring to the blowback theory that blames America for terrorist actions. Their central point is that the CIA intervened in Afghanistan and we ended up supplying and supporting the people who ended up attacking us on 9/11. There isn’t a straight line between the two events, nor do blowback theorists properly account for the cost of inaction.  Outside of vaguely implying it, the author didn’t make a case for blowback. So I’m not going to make his argument for him, and then provide my counter argument.  If he wants to get serious and provide one, I reserve the right to respond.

“Could you please describe what a “neo-isolationist” foreign policy is? Did it ever occur to you that non aggression and non interventionism are different than isolationism?:”

          This is more weak argumentation in the form of questions.  Yes it occurred to me and I reject the notion they are different. I have significant archival experience studying early Cold War politics for which I won the George C. Marshall Award. I have seen the same arguments, and sometimes almost the same words, in support of isolationism from today with those made in 1950.  These arguments include America lacking a moral right to intervene, American actions causing foreign hostility in the first place (see above), the material cost of war being too much, and American imperialism taking away from nation building at home.  If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck, no matter how much you want to be called something slightly different after the ducks have been discredited. Since one is newer than other, modern proponents making the same arguments earn the term “neo,” which is another word for “new.”   

“It is disheartening, Mr. Deane, that you have influence on so many youth at BYU-I. You go to great lengths to attempt to construe the Book of Mormon in a way that fits your world view and your former craft as a government troop. I would have rooted you and your propaganda on back when I was younger in the early 2000’s.”

          This is the most frustrating part in dealing with libertarians.  A person that disagrees with them is not just wrong, but they are a war mongering propagandist, a brainwashing teacher, or a biased apologist for the military.  Others have labelled their opponents as Gadianton Robbers, and compared the church PR department to Nazis propagandists.  I understand there are strong differences of opinion. Since war is the way to life or death, as Sunzi said, it demands a thorough examination.  But arguments such as these from Mr. Hill, are incredibly light on argument, but heavy on attacks and poor questions. That isn't close to the kind of study that subject demands. 

          His frequent attacks are somewhat ironic as well. Hill accused me of providing a fallacious straw men argument. And at Pure Mormonism, a pedantic poster named Gary Hunt kept posing as a fallacy cop. After demanding I take a pop quiz before he talked with me, he pointed out all of the supposed fallacies I was making, and he even suggested I study them!  But sprinkled in with all of this fallacy policing was a liberal dose of the ad hominem fallacy. As I said before,  I wish radical libertarians would spend a little more time in the library, with serious books about warfare in the Book of Mormon, and a little less time hurling insults in their online echo chambers.  

          The biggest irony of all, is that people like Hill have hyperventilated so much over this subject, they failed to realize that I have additional research that points out the negative consequences of Moroni’s actions.  In case that isn't clear enough, that means I'm somewhat walking back my previous arguments! But I'm doing so based on a careful and detailed study of Helaman and 3 Nephi, not because my opponents call me a propagandist and fail to read anything that disagrees with them! (See the last paragraph of his post where he explains why he won’t buy any of the books I recommended). I often joke that I sit alone because the conversation is better.  Well, I also have to argue alone because few even summarize my arguments correctly, let alone engage them in a substantive and scholarly manner. Thanks for reading.  

[1] Russell Weigley, The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Policy and Strategy (Bloomington: University of Indiana, 1977), 97.