Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Day They Came


The villagers were enjoying the last coolness of the night before the sun rose. A gentle breeze rolled off of the ocean from their semi-permanent shelters. A few women were already beginning to grind nuts and millet to make the morning meal.  The men were stirring, ready to hunt wild pigs and speer fish to supplement the fruits and grain.

As the sun rose the first hint of danger was the barking and squawking of small animals in the village. On top of the hill, the birds suddenly flew from the tree tops and thick brush. The rustling of fleeing animals from the underbrush got louder. Once the sun has crested the hill it outlined the approaching soldiers. Their head gear added to the length of their shadows, and the sun glistened off of their new heavier armor made of glass, bone, and pieces of metal. Their swords were already in hand, and they had started to pick up the pace in their balanced ranks.

The cry went up from one of the women and the village became a scene of commotion. The women screamed for their children, or just screamed in terror. The old men stirred more slowly, sad at what they knew was coming to their village. They had warned the younger elders of the perfidy of their neighbors, just as their grandfathers had warned them.  They even received warnings from fleeing political leaders. He told disturbing tales of armies that were led by a young, angry, firebrand who it was said, often discussed his desire to seize more land and used the army to intimidate disagreeing opponents. It was said he spent small fortunes on arming them with new and heavier armor, he desired the extermination of everybody who opposed him, and he sent that army to pull down and level his opponents and seize their wealth.  And the intimidating soldiers, with heavier armor stood right in rank and file as evidence in front of the terrified villagers.

The young men in the village were moving the fastest. The soldiers marched forward with a steady crunch, swhoosh, chrunch, swhoosh and by the time the soldiers had marched to the bottom of the hill they faced a small line of young men and experienced warriors armed with swords, curved swords, and slings made out of bone, jade, obsidian. The fleet and elite warriors of the village managed to put on hide armor and thick, padded cloth armor.

The captains yelled to maintain ranks, and the chief captain yelled the order to attack, and the soldiers rushed forward with a unifying cry! The skirmish was over quickly, as the heavier and ornate armor of the army deflected the blows of the warriors. Only one of them every now and again was even wounded, while the lightly armored and surprised warriors were quickly killed and overwhelmed. The few armed with slings managed to wound a few soldiers, mainly in the legs, but it was a one- sided conflict. The defeated villagers grabbed whatever they could and rush into out the other side of the village. They fled in small groups with bits of necklace, pottery, food, and clothing.

Each family in the village had at least one small boat for fishing in the sea, and it proved useful in crossing the nearby river. The softly rushing water flowing through reeds, and the croak of frogs contrasted with the smell of smoke, screams of the wounded and dying, the mourning for the fallen and the crackling fire that soldiers had started. Those who fought the fear and the heart break to look behind them saw the rising smoke. They would never come back to what they considered their home. They faced an uncertain future among loosely related political and ethnic groups around the capital and its environs, the surviving men resolved to get revenge for their eviction and looked forward to telling their stories of woe to whoever would hear it. Maybe they would be allowed to speak from the towers…

*****
English colonists attacking the Pequot in 1636. I know this brings up imperialism and other sensitive matters, but that was not an exclusive Western, white, and modern sin. I think an argument can be made that the Nephites were imperialists as well. 



In the village the captains started organizing the consolidation. They focused their ire on a large wooden tower. It was recently built in the center of the village and the army didn’t need to guess what lies it had testified to. They just barely missed capturing that traitor and he had found a friendly audience among this group. They torched the tower immediately.  The semi-permanent structures were torn apart by soldiers. The new space would be the location of a governor’s headquarters, the first homes for new settlers, and store houses for the expected farming and hunting.  Most importantly, they would have space for a barracks. The wood could be used for new palisades on top of the planned berms around the city. The remaining individuals not quick or healthy enough to flee were held captive. The soldiers were under strict orders not to rape them, but some of them certainly leered enough to make the women and girls uncomfortable. Their last king had outlawed slavery years earlier, but the soldiers had plenty of work to do before the coming settlers, they wanted some reward and could use the cheap labor provided by the captured individuals. The captured would work in the houses and fields of the new elites and be grateful for the steady employment and lifestyle far above their current savage condition.

The chief captain sheathed his sword and took a deep breath. He examined the bustling activity and felt a surge of pride. He had sworn and oath to protect his people and continue to do so. The berm and palisade along the river would prove a solid defense against the depredations of these savages. They’ve wasted this land, and laid waste to his land for far too long. They’ve been even more restless since that traitor escaped, and he instinctively took another satisfying breath of the burning wood from the tower.  He point north and south along the river and directed the new patrols to hunt down and capture stragglers. He asked his assistant to bring his writing equipment and erect a small table. He needed to report to the Chief Governor, and make sure the new settlers arrived in orderly fashion. The security of the realm depended making this region productive…
***** 

This is a dramatic recreation of the events in Alma chapter 50 and includes elements from the war chapters in general. That chapter describes Moroni’s actions to fortify the land and expel Lamanite settlers in rather laudatory terms. Verses 18-21 actually described a Nephite golden age that happened right after these actions. As Grant Hardy described, in literary accounts the text often tries to distract a person. I thought it was interesting that the account moved away from Moroni’s actions to instead discuss how happy the Nephite’s were. But I thought a more critical look at his actions suggest this might have had negative consequences, such as a flow of angry refugees, and a confirmation of the insidious stories that Amalickiah was telling. I doubt the process of securing the wilderness areas was pleasant. They didn’t get an eviction notice with 30 days to prepare; it was likely an unpleasant and violent experience for those that experienced it. I also added some reasonable embellishments based on my knowledge of military history, the history and geography of the region, and human nature. I hope you enjoy it, I might add this to the introduction of my next book, and if I was really ambitious perhaps I would write a Game of Thrones style epic fantasy based on the war chapters. What details did you notice from the scriptures? What details do you think I should have added? Thanks for reading! 

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Pictures from Decisive Battles in Chinese History

My book, Decisive Battles in Chinese History from Westholme Press is scheduled to come out in October. I've been going through edits and checking the maps for the book.  Here are a few of the pictures I hope to use. My guiding principle was to take pictures associated with the text that are evocative on their own, but also show something that you don't expect from Chinese history.  I do have one picture of a Terra Cotta Warrior (that restored the original color), but I generally tried to stay away from stereotypical Chinese images.

Song Heavy Cavalry (960-1279). Because heavy cavalry is focused on the plains of Northern China, I estimate this is sometimes between 960 and 1126. 

Japanese soldiers in Shanghai fighting under the Coke billboard. 1937.

The Human Bridge, 20th century painter Gu Fuan. 

Artist representation of a tower ship opposing a much smaller ship from the Ming Dynasty, Battle of Lake Poyang 1363. 

View of an American Marine facing south on the lower Yangtze. (If you look very closely you can see the American flag on the mast on the front of the boat.) American soldiers protected US civilians and trade in the region throughout much of the first half of the 20th century. 

12th century ink drawing of the 3rd century Battle of Red Cliffs. 

Peach Blossom Study water color painting by a 15th century Ming painter. My book includes an amazing story about the Peace Blossoms in Spring. 

What picture do you like the most, and what pictures would you like to see in a book on Chinese military history?

Thanks for reading and I'll get you a link and information about a launch party as they become available.

[I work as a freelance author. If you found value in this work please consider donating using one of the paypal buttons at the bottom of the page.] 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The 21st Century Book of Mormon

[This is a rough draft of a book proposal I have in mind. There is a 21st century series edited by one of my friends, I've also seen a think tank that a has a similar series. I thought the Book of Mormon could use the same treatment. What do you think? Is the idea unique enough to warrant its own book? What topics unique to the 21st century would you like to see discussed? What do you think overall of the proposal?]

The Book of Mormon is listed as the 4th most influential book in American history. It is revered by millions as a book of sacred scripture, and was a guiding book for the 2012 Republican presidential candidate, as well as numerous Senators and public officials. Yet despite its contribution to shaping American history and the worldview of America’s leaders, an academic study of the book still remains in its infancy.

Over one third of the book is devoted to warfare, yet there are only a handful of texts are exclusively devoted to a study of warfare.  Sadly, just a few of those books maintain high academic standards. Warfare in the Book of Mormon, is a collection of essays from a conference held almost 30 years ago.  War and Peace in our Times: Mormon Perspectives, includes a good deal of research, but also branches out to other disciplines and approaches that move away from the Book of Mormon. Some aspects of study, such as placing the historical practice of warfare within a specific time and place, wait further research what are considered likely Book of Mormon locations in Mesoamerica.  And any research is hampered by the intense disputes about the book’s historicity. 

The Book of Mormon is a complex text that deserves to be taken seriously by policy makers and generals. This book proposes a series of essays that uses the Book of Mormon to discuss and analyze key issues such as preemptive war, peace strategies, ethno religious insurgency, partisan strife, grand strategy, refugee policy, income inequality, and social justice. The end result should make vast strides in understanding the text and making judicious application during a turbulent period. 

Preliminary Table of Contents:

 Preemptive war- Morgan Deane (M.A. military history, study at Kings College London, author Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents: Ancient Warfare in the Book of Mormon
Peace strategies- Joshua Madsen (author Non Violent Reading of the BoM) / Patrick Mason
Ethno Religious Insurgency- David Spencer (PhD., National Security Specialist on Latin American Insurgency, author of Moroni’s Command: Dynamics of Warfare in the Book of Mormon.)
 Income Inequality- Michael Austin (author, Rereading Job)

Social Justice- Grant Hardy (PhD, author of Understanding the Book of Mormon.

[Thanks for reading. I work as a freelance writer, if you found value in this work please consider making a donation using one of the pay pal buttons at the bottom of the page.] 

Monday, June 12, 2017

LDS Stance on War

[I had the pleasure of appearing on the Interpreter Radio Broadcast several weeks ago. I was on 1340 AM in the Salt Lake Area discussing the LDS stance on War.  I will try to provide the link so you can listen to it.  Meanwhile, these are my prepared notes for the broadcast. As you can tell, they don't have perfect format, but I think you'll find this fairly comprehensive.] 

Early church history was a combination of spiritual rhetoric and practical application.  Section 32 prophesied the American Civil War which would start a series of wars culminating in the Second Coming. Section 98 calls for Latter Day Saints to renounce war and proclaim peace. 

They practical aspects include Zion’s camp and the Mormon War in 1837, both of which featured use of the militia. Nauvoo Legion was rather prominent, Joseph Smith a Lt. General.  Though in that age being part of a militia was part of being a respectable leading citizen and wasn’t necessarily a sign of militarism.  The relations with Native Americans in Utah territory shifted from religious to practical and often violent. (Zion as a Refuge, Mark McGee, Mormon Perspectives on War).  They were called selectively pacifistic by historians like Micheal Quinn, geographic position combined with theology allowed them to remain somewhat aloof from secular military conflicts.

Civil War seen as a judgement of God upon the US, especially the action in Missouri which was particularly brutal. They raised a cavalry regiment to help protect the mail (and gain the lucrative contract associated with it.)

Key turning point was the Spanish American War in 1898.  Brigham Young Jr. said there are other ways to show patriotism than throwing away sons for foreign wars. Church leaders such as George Q. Cannon and Wilford Woodruff emphasized the need to avoid a fracture with the US. They were the baby (newest) state and had a long fight with the federal government. Long term, this showed the integration of the church into good patriotic citizens. They raised several more units than the government asked.  Bloggers like Gina Colvin don’t like this but the church often matched positions with American foreign policy.

In 1941 Clark wrote a rejected draft of a first presidency letter that rejected war, it was not the "Masters Way but the jungle laws of the beast.” (Quinn, Pacifist Prophet, in Mormon Perspectives on War.) In 1942 the first president issued a statement regarding war. Latter Day Saints should have peace in their hearts, they are subject to their countries and should serve patriotically. If they kill in the course of war it would not make them murderers.  The church, probably under the urging of the “pacifist apostle” J Reuben Clark later clarified that conscientious objectors were allowed to defer. 

Since that time the church has generally held the position that they should renounce war and proclaim peace, they should love their enemies and pray for peace, but under scriptures such as those describing Captain Moroni they are allowed to fight for liberty and family. President Hinckley exemplified this approach during the Iraq War using the same examples. Follow the Prince of Peace, but identify with Moroni’s Title of Liberty and other just items as validation for war.

There are significant minority voices in the church though. J Reuben Clark fought for the protection of conscientious objectors, strongly denounced war, and even called America’s firebombing of Dresden and use of atomic weapons as the “crowning savagery of war.” Ironically, in all 82 boxes of his personal records there is not one condemnation of Nazi war crimes except his criticism of the Nuremburg Trials. Many Latter Day Saints of the time were appalled at his conduct. They called his words the most seditious they had ever heard, and called him The Butchers’ Apostle.  His opinions were largely subsumed by official First President statements above and he is largely a cause celeb among anti war members but has not affected doctrine to any significant degree. Russell Nelson also sounded clear anti war messages.  He made news during the height of the build up to the Iraq War for his statements that seemed to condemn it. The church quickly contextualized his statements in the context of the renouncing war but supporting Just Causes displayed by Hinckley and the 1942 statement. 

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