Thursday, December 31, 2009

What a Nice Necklace: The Flattering of Amalickiah

In reading Alma chapter 47 I couldn't help but get the impression about the stupidity of Amalickiah's enemies. Then I realized that much of their "stupidity" was a result of the Amalickiah's flattery. With that flattery stripped from the account we can better understand his dangerous game.

A good example are the events surrounding Lehonti's encounter with Amalickiah. In chapter 47 we read that the "larger part" of the Lamanite army did not wish to fight the Nephites. So Amalickiah led the loyal part of the army to subdue the rebellious part according to the orders of the King.

8 Now it was not Amalickiah’s intention to give them battle according to the commandments of the king; but behold, it was his intention to gain favor with the armies of the Lamanites, that he might place himself at their head and dethrone the king and take possession of the kingdom.
9 And behold, it came to pass that he caused his army to pitch their tents in the valley which was near the mount Antipas.
10 And it came to pass that when it was night he sent a secret embassy into the mount Antipas, desiring that the leader of those who were upon the mount, whose name was Lehonti, that he should come down to the foot of the mount, for he desired to speak with him.
11 And it came to pass that when Lehonti received the message he durst not go down to the foot of the mount. And it came to pass that Amalickiah sent again the second time, desiring him to come down. And it came to pass that Lehonti would not; and he sent again the third time.
12 And it came to pass that when Amalickiah found that he could not get Lehonti to come down off from the mount, he went up into the mount, nearly to Lehonti’s camp; and he sent again the fourth time his message unto Lehonti, desiring that he would come down, and that he would bring his guards with him.
13 And it came to pass that when Lehonti had come down with his guards to Amalickiah, that Amalickiah desired him to come down with his army in the night-time, and surround those men in their camps over whom the king had given him command, and that he would deliver them up into Lehonti’s hands, if he would make him (Amalickiah) a second leader over the whole army.

Why would Lehonti agree to this? Amalickiah was dangerous and presenting a deal too good to be true. But Amalickiah could argue that he did not desire to shed blood. He had the "smaller part" of the army and had to attack a fortified position and could argue that he was saving his army from destruction. Plus, if his army lost the battle with Lehonti (which was likely considering his disadvantages)he would have no command and maybe loose his head in battle or from the Kings wrath for failing. So he was saving at least partial command by offering his army's surrender to Lehonti.

Amalickiah presented a win win situation because Lehonti did not have to kill his brethren and he gained greater strength to his army. Lehonti probably had his ambition flattered as well. Amalickiah could argue that with the combined strength of the armies that Lehonti could place himself on the throne.

14 And it came to pass that Lehonti came down with his men and surrounded the men of Amalickiah, so that before they awoke at the dawn of day they were surrounded by the armies of Lehonti.
15 And it came to pass that when they saw that they were surrounded, they plead with Amalickiah that he would suffer them to fall in with their brethren, that they might not be destroyed. Now this was the very thing which Amalickiah desired.

In addition to fulfilling the win win situation he gained the loyalty of his army by saving them from certain destruction.

16 And it came to pass that he delivered his men, contrary to the commands of the king. Now this was the thing that Amalickiah desired, that he might accomplish his designs in dethroning the king.
17 Now it was the custom among the Lamanites, if their chief leader was killed, to appoint the second leader to be their chief leader.
18 And it came to pass that Amalickiah caused that one of his servants should administer poison by degrees to Lehonti, that he died.
19 Now, when Lehonti was dead, the Lamanites appointed Amalickiah to be their leader and their chief commander.

In debating class I was often told that aiming to hang your opponent is too obvious and won't work, you need to make him look at the rope and say "what a nice necklace or neck tie". Amalickiah presented what appeared to be acts of self preservation: saving his army (and neck) from a frontal attack against a larger army in a fortified position. And he flattered the ambition of Lehonti by giving him command over the combined armies and perhaps by appealing to his desire to be king. These two things made the decision of Lehonti the most logical choice and cautions the modern reader to be aware of the pretty necklace or neck tie.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Lessons of Ancient Historians

Micheala operates a blog called The Scriptorium Blogorium. Her analysis of the scriptures often seems to spring from my own mind as she presents historical, cultural and spiritual lessons. Although this time she presented something that never occurred to me. She discussed the possibility that the initial confrontation with the Amlicites was a fake to draw the Nephites away from Zarahemla so their combined army with the Lamanites could attack the now unguarded city.

Here is how Micheala describes it:

Then something else occurred to me. I thought it was very interesting that Amlicites, when they were beaten, fled off into the wilderness. Interesting that they seemed to know exactly where to go to meet the Lamanites. And why didn’t the Amlicites wait until the Lamanites got there before they fought the Nephites? Could it be that the first Amlicite battle was not supposed to be the real battle at all? What if it was actually supposed to be a decoy, a diversion? It certainly could have ended up that way if the spies hadn’t been sent to follow the Amlicites to see what they would do. With the Nephite army clear out in the wilderness, Zarahemla would be wide open for invasion.

That has to be what happened. The Nephites almost were defeated with a diversionary strategy worthy of Captain Moroni. What saved them? Nephite spies were sent to watch the fleeing Amlicite army. Those spies warned the army in time and the army got to Zarahemla in time (to realize just how outnumbered they were). Who sent the spies out? Alma the Younger, who was the prophet.

So now we have a better idea of why this account was special. The Nephites were at a major disadvantage, being unaware of a clever diversionary plan to decoy them away from the city, and being far fewer in number than the invading armies of Amlicites and Lamanites. The deck was certainly stacked against them. And yet.. they won. With the help of the Lord they won.

The message I see in this story is that we don’t need to fear being outnumbered. We don’t need to fear the strategies against us. If we follow the prophet, we’ll be safe and we will be led to defend exactly what is under attack. If we pray for help, we’ll be strengthened at those times that we are outnumbered.

I think Micheala's analysis is both intriguing and accurate. Micheala correctly applies the spiritual principle of the story. But if we look at this historically it would make sense that the editor, Mormon, would be loath to include an episode that casts his people in a negative light unless there was a didactic purpose for it. Thus the teaching lesson that Micheala pointed out is EXACTLY the reason the story was included. Following the Warrior Prophet allowed the Nephites to escape the ruses of the enemy. This has spiritual value for us, but also corresponds to the reason many other ancient books were written such as Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War, Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, and Chinese Imperial histories. For example, the latter were written by the new dynasty to explain why the previous dynasty lost the Mandate of Heaven and the new dynasty gained it. (see my post on bad and good emperors for more on that)So this episode points out the fact that Mormon was not a historian in the modern sense of the word, but was a typical ancient historian that wrote his record to teach us specific principles. I appreciate Micheala pointing out both the spiritual and historic value of this episode.

What do you think?
Update: I just realized this is my 100th post. Thank you to all my readers for making this worthwhile and for providing such excellent feedback. I hope to provide so many more posts worth reading.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

If its so hot, why am I shoveling all this snow?

Today's activities included shoveling my car out of a six foot snow drift. But don't worry, after getting my car out I spent the rest of my day mad at directv for having satellites that can't handle a few feet of snow (and cursing my contract with them of course). I only bring this up because I often read of people who advocate a North American Geography for The Book of Mormon. They often fail to address this interesting tidbit from the campaigns of the Nephites.

After Teancum defeated a Lamanite army we read in Alma 51 that:

33 And it came to pass that when the night had come, Teancum and his servant stole forth and went out by night, and went into the camp of Amalickiah; and behold, sleep had overpowered them because of their much fatigue, which was caused by the labors and heat of the day.

We also learn from the next chapter that this was a news years eve raid designed to take advantage of the Lamanites superstition.

Now I certainly labored diligently to get my car out but "the heat of the day" did not contribute to my fatigue. In fact, according to the average high temperature for the months of December through February (depending on the Lamanite new year) was 40 degrees. Not only is the one day out of ordinary, but the Nephites normally campaigned during what we would consider the winter time.[1] Sorenson has pointed out that the Nephite records point to an almost exclusive conduct of warfare during the tenth through second months. This would be extremely unusual for European and American audiences, but normal for agrarian societies. The latter usually have a wet season (for planting) and after the harvest they would have a limited window of dry (but hot) weather for campaigning.

So the next time you read somebody's North American geography ask for their explanation of that new years day heat wave and almost exclusive Nephite campaigning in the winter time.

1. John Sorenson "Seasons of War Seasons of Peace" William Hamblin and Steven Ricks eds. Warfare in the Book of Mormon Provo: FARMS, 1991.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fatal Terrain in The Book of Mormon

What follows is a portion of some unpublished research that I wrote a year ago. It dives into some of the interesting elements revealed by Alma 56:28. I would try to write more original posts but I am currently facing a very difficult time in my life. Not only do my classes keep getting canceled, but I have additional family burdens weighing upon me. If you would like to read the whole paper you can either email me or go to site operated by Mormon Heretic and look for a thread titled "My Second Scoop".

Alma 56:28- And also there were sent two thousand men unto us from the land of Zarahemla. And thus we were prepared with ten thousand men, and provisions for them, and also for their wives and their children.

Likely explanations of Alma 56:28 also include a psychological motivation for the inclusion of women and children on a border city. Classic Chinese military theorists such as Sun-Tzu wrote that when a commander “[throws] his soldiers into a place from which there is nowhere to go, they will die rather than flee. When they are facing death, how can one not obtain the utmost strength from the officers and men?”[1] Historian David Graff called this a “psychological trigger” that commanders would employ in order to “stimulate” a soldier that would otherwise act indifferently.[2] In this case, the deployment of both soldiers and family could be viewed as a governmental policy designed to help conscripts fight with greater élan. Moroni could have thought that having the family of fighting soldiers live in the threatened city would spur the Nephite armies more than leaving the family safely at the capital. In support of this argument, Moroni hinted at the apathy associated with staying in the capital when he condemns the civil government for lack of effort.[3] Plus, previous events in the Book of Mormon contribute to the deadly combination of family and military service. The soldiers of King Noah burned him at the stake for his order to abandon their families and his refusal to allow them to return.[4] This event could be an abnormal exception, or it could be the logical and expected sequence of events for soldiers that are forced to abandon their families by order of the government. The Nephites abnormal behavior of burning their king could be considered a psychologically motivated event based on familial concern.

The foregoing explanation assumes that the average Nephite soldier needed this boost, and that the government and Moroni would be harsh enough to place families in a dangerous situation simply to incite greater effort. This would also seem to counter the ideological imperative stated in the Title of Liberty- that the rights of their family trump the right of the Nephite leadership to use them as psychological props. A compromise position could consist of Moroni including the wives and children of soldiers in the field armies for their pragmatic benefits of increased morale, more efficient use of combat power and ideological purity; with the unstated or even unintentional benefit of a psychological trigger as well.

Thanks for reading. What do you think? Can you think of other examples that display this kind of military thinking? Are there any contradictory examples in The Book of Mormon?

1. Ralph Sawyer trans. The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China (New York: Basic Books, 1993.)179, also see footnote 162.
2. David Graff Medieval Chinese Warfare 300-900 (London and New York: Routledge Press, 2002) 169.
3. Alma 60:21-22.
4. Mosiah 19: 16-20.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"Millions" in The Book of Mormon

Many critiques of The Book of Mormon often result from several common errors. The attack against the "millions" number from the book of Ether is a perfect example of arguments that result from shallow reading of the text and a lack of historical context.

1. Shallow Reading: The "millions" that some site is actually "nearly" that number. This equivocation is not something that I made up, it’s in the text. So critics take a figure explicitly inexact and turn it into a precise number. There is internal evidence for doubting BoM numbers elsewhere as well. At one point Mormon says that the Nephites “numbered as it were, the sands of the sea”. Yet this innumerable nation only mustered 30,000 soldiers for their war of survival against the Lamanites. (Mormon 1:7; 2:25)

But back to the chapter at hand, this number (of millions) is assumed to be from one battle in one area. This is demonstrably false. First, Ether 15:2 states that these casualties are in the past tense. So you have to look at chapter 14:
v 1-2 social order breaks down
v 3 civil war faction "gave battle" unto Coriantumur
v 4 more battles, travel
v 5 a long siege more deaths
v 6-10 more civil war and intrigue
v 11 two factions "give battle" across the land
v 13 another battle
v 14 army "smited"
v 16 a series of battles across the land
v 17 "many" cities overthrown and inhabitants killed
v 18-26 "swift" and "speedy" destruction across the land
v 27 more battle

So Chapter 15:2 is the result of the previous sanguine conflicts that ranged across the land. Not one “skirmish” in front of Ramah.

2. Historical Context: The possibly exaggerated numbers within The Book of Mormon fits many other historical accounts. Many scholars have already done a great job of pointing out the flaws in the Exodus numbers.[1] But I'm reminded of Edward Dryer's account of the "War of the Eight Princes" that decimated the Western Jin Dynasty in Ancient China. Some scholars argue the Jin army had 700,000 soldiers, and their capital at Luoyang boasted a population in the hundreds of thousands but was deserted by the end of the civil war. The battles from this civil war ranged across Northern China for only about 7 years, one contemporary observer said that the “bones had been picked” from the dynasty and one ancient historian suggests that one province had only 1% of its population survive the conflict.[2] Even earlier in Chinese history, Ralph Sawyer has pointed out that Warring States Period Kingdoms could possibly field up to half a million men for one campaign.[3] In every case these numbers are taken with a grain of salt, but that doesn’t condemn the texts that state them as a fraud.

Despite the evidence that pre modern societies could create and kill incredibly large armies over a short space of time, lets assume that the people here are right, and that other scholars who cite demographic impossibility of “millions” are right: does that destroy the historicity of the Book of Mormon?

The answer is a resounding no. In fact, having number problems would put The Book of Mormon in good company. Herodotus said the Persian army numbered in the millions. According to one scholar an army that big would have the beginning of the column in Greece before the end of the column even started![4] Kelly DeVries has discussed the imprecise nature of Medieval European military chronicles and cites the same problems.[5] As stated above, Edward Dryer doubts the numbers contained in the Imperial history of the “War of the Eight Princes” but still studies the primary sources for the conflict.

Scribal error, deliberate exaggeration, and a use of numbers as a colloquium (I told you a million times) explain the "wrong" numbers in the Book of Mormon far better than other theories and places it on a firm foundation with other ancient texts. Critics will cry foul, and argue that I just said that mistakes in the Book of Mormon prove its true, that's exactly what I did because historians  know the limitations of their sources and often accept their historicity even with those limits. To cite another example Greek historians, much like Mormon, had an ethnocentric view of their world. If all you read was Herodotus and Thucydides you would conclude that Westerners were the center of the world. But when study the Greeks with their proper historical context, you would know that there was a much bigger and arguably more influential power in Persia.[6]

So in short, there is a great deal of precedent for large numbers of soldiers being killed in battle. A careful reading of the text within The Book of Mormon suggests that an inexact number of people were killed over the course of numerous battles and locations. But The Book of Mormon is not false for possibly presenting exaggerated numbers, instead those wild numbers suggest that Mormon had the same editorial proclivities as other ancient historians. Thanks for reading, I look forward to your comments.

1. See The Church of Jesus Christ's Old Testament manual for one example.
2. Edward Dreyer, “The War of the Eight Princes”, Nicola Cosmo Ed. Military Culture in Imperial China Harvard University Press, 2009.
3. Ralph Sawyer Trans. The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China West View Press, 1993.
4. N. Whatley. "On the Possibility of Reconstructing the Battle of Marathon" N. Whatley, Journal of Hellenistic Studies 84.1 (1964):119-139.
5. Kelly DeVries. "The Use of Chronicles in Recreating Medieval Military History, Journal of Medieval Military History, 2.1 (2004): 1-30.
6. Victor David Hanson Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western PowerAnchor Books, 2001, Chapter 1.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Monkey Business and the Problems with Comparisons

The title of this post is drawn from a line that one of my graduate school advisers used to say. Dr. John Grenier told us that any monkey can make a comparison. Its the differences that can really make or break a point. He also cautioned us to be very specific and narrow in making comparisons.

I used this advice when confronted with a post about evil Chinese invading Texas for oil. In the comments section I explained why that analogy fails on so many points. Basically, its the differences between Chinese and American foreign policy over the past 100 years, and differences in justification between the fictional Chinese invasion and the American attack on the Taliban. But you should also go there for my full explanation and context.

But there is a more widely used analogy that fails as well. This is the myth of Afghanistan as the "Graveyard of Empires". This analogy fails due to the same advice I learned in graduate school: shallow comparisons do not work when you begin to notice the differences in details. What follows is an article from the military historian Victor David Hanson that describes the important differences, and sometimes historical inaccuracies that make the grave yard of Empires comment a myth. Normally I prefer to offer a link and focus on my own analysis, synthesis and argument. However this article was so completely spot on and made me shout "exactly" or "that's what I said" into my computer screen so many times that I thought it was worth re posting large chunks of it here.

The topic of Afghanistan in itself is tangential to warfare in The Book of Mormon. But the monkey business I described here is directly related to it. As I described before, your chance in making faulty comparisons increases a great deal with an ancient (or plagiarized) book and both sides of The Book of Mormon historicity debate have faced this problem. On this site I've striven to avoid shallow comparisons and to offer the important differences when I do see a problem.

Without further ado, here is Victor David Hanson: Afghan Mythologies

As President Obama decides whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, we should remember that most of the conventional pessimism about Afghanistan is only half-truth.

Remember the mantra that the region is the “graveyard of empires,” where Alexander the Great, the British in the 19th century, and the Soviets only three decades ago inevitably met their doom?

In fact, Alexander conquered most of Bactria and its environs (which included present-day Afghanistan). After his death, the area that is now Afghanistan became part of the Seleucid Empire.

Centuries later, outnumbered British-led troops and civilians were initially ambushed, and suffered many casualties, in the first Afghan war. But the British were not defeated in their subsequent two Afghan wars between 1878 and 1919.

The Soviets did give up in 1989 their nine-year effort to create out of Afghanistan a Communist buffer state — but only because the Arab world, the United States, Pakistan, and China combined to provide the Afghan mujahideen resistance with billions of dollars in aid, not to mention state-of-the-art anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons.

While Afghans have been traditionally fierce resistance fighters and made occupations difficult, they have rarely for long defeated invaders — and never without outside assistance.

Other myths about Afghanistan abound.

Is the country ungovernable? No more so than any of the region’s other rough countries. After the founding of the modern state in 1919, Afghanistan enjoyed a relatively stable succession of constitutional monarchs until 1973. The country was once considered generally secure, tolerant, and hospitable to foreigners.

Did we really take our eye off the “good” war in Afghanistan to fight the optional bad one in Iraq? Not quite. After our brilliant campaign to remove the Taliban in 2001, the relatively stable Karzai government saw little violence until 2007. Between 2001 and 2006, no more than 100 American soldiers were killed in any given year.

In fact, American casualties increased after Iraq became quiet — as Islamists, defeated in Iraq’s Anbar province, refocused their efforts on the dominant Afghan theater.

Is Afghanistan the new Vietnam? Hardly. In the three bloodiest years, 2007 through 2009 so far, the United States has suffered a total of 553 fatalities — tragic, but less than 1 percent of the 58,159 Americans killed in Vietnam. What is astounding is the ability of the U.S. military to inflict damage on the enemy, protect the constitutional government, and keep our losses to a minimum.

Our military is the most experienced in both counterterrorism and counterinsurgency warfare in the world. The maverick savior of Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, now oversees operations in the Mideast and Central Asia. His experienced lieutenant, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, is a successful veteran of the worst fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Unlike past foreign interventions, our U.N.-approved aim is not to create a puppet state, but a consensual government able to defend itself against the Taliban and al-Qaeda — while preventing more strikes against the United States.

With Iraq relatively stabilized, jihadists have no choice but to commit their resources to prevent a second defeat. Meanwhile, Pakistan at last is cracking down on terrorist enclaves...

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

With "Support" like this, Who Needs an Enemy?

I read a recent column from a blogger that discussed how he "supports" the troops. I explained my reasoning in the comments section of that blog, but his support is hardly such. You can click the link for my full explanation and context, but as a veteran of 9 years who even participated in these wars I questioned his support. He wished for me to fail in the current unjust wars, but still claimed he cared about me. Other commenters suggested that I was a Nazi, war criminal, brainwashed, pathetic, anti Christ, and stupid. And there is the title of this post.

Thanks for the support, but no thank you. I would rather you wish me success in prosecuting the war, not simply give me a courtesy that everybody but the criminally insane gives by supporting my desire not to be killed. The position of supporting the troops while opposing the war is also logically untenable. I am a willing participant in executing the policy of this country (since we know from Clausewitz that war is a continuation of policy by other means). I explicitly endorsed these wars when I re enlisted (twice) during them. So its incongruent to say you support me but don't support the policy I endorse, and that you wish for me to fail in my efforts.

In future posts I will discuss some of the mistakes that current anti war advocates make in applying The Book of Mormon and other scripture to their position. This includes the difficulties of a purely defensive strategy brought upon by modern technology. I will also discuss some common historical and scriptural misconceptions that are apparent in the linked thread and others I've seen. These include the myth of Afghanistan being the "graveyard of Empires" and the superficial use in citing Christ as "The Prince of Peace".

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Revisiting the Military Problems in the Book of Helaman

A little while ago I discussed the social and political problems that resulted in the Books of Helaman and Third Nephi due to an influx of military veterans. I elaborated on this concept further in describing war bands in the Book of Mormon. Without going into excessive detail, the main thrust of my posts was to explore the reason for a social breakdown among the Nephites described in the years immediately before the coming of Christ. I postulated this was due to an increase in lengthy and distant wars which led to what Roman historians call The Agrarian Crisis. The length of wars caused many small farmers to lose their farms. This led to the rise of large landowners, while the de mobilized soldiers moved to the cities and increasingly became full time soldiers of fortune. Large private landlords could offer the rewards of full time military service that the state could not, and thus central power broke down and warlordism started to rise.

I applied this model to the events recorded in Helaman and Third Nephi with mixed results and largely abandoned it to explore other areas. But a recent video posted on youtube brought this topic back to me. Starting at about 1:45 in the video the narrator describes the social consequences of the elite's building program.

As the elites sought extravagant building projects many farmers lost their livelihood and became the poor masses. These poor and landless masses became exploitable as household soldiers, since many of the small farmers would not have the resources to cope with the changes. Second, many of these affected farmers would flee, either to large households or into the mountains to pursue banditry. It is not surprising that the Book of Helaman would show the effects of these actions. Many large households in ancient China could act as a tax and physical shelter to peasants. This would decrease the revenue and power of the state and increase the ability of large land holders to act with greater autonomy. This causes a self repeating cycle where the peasants continue to feel unsafe and either join the robbers, or seek protection of those with local and real power, (as opposed to an increasingly distant and impotent central power). The above analysis in conjunction with my previous posts goes a long way in explaining the causes detailed within the books of Helaman and Third Nephi.

What do you think? Is the Agrarian Crisis an appropriate comparison? Am I fitting the narrative to fit a preconceived conclusion? Am I right on? Did this help you understand the perils of seeking riches? Did this help you look at the scriptures in a different way? Thanks for reading.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ratings Low? Lets Talk about SEX!

Many people say you can increase the popularity of your product by including sex and violence. Since this blog is about warfare I already have plenty of the latter; and as I was reading some Chinese military theory I did realize how sex can be used as a weapon, and how it has a comparable example in The Book of Mormon.

Introducing Tai Kung's Six Secret Teachings, Ralph Sawyer describes how some scholars believe that it "preserves at least vestiges of the oldest strata of Chinese military thought...[And]The Six Secret Teachings is the only military classic written from the perspective of revolutionary activity.[1]

This revolutionary activity includes striking at the enemies Mandate of Heaven. This includes "using bribes, gifts, and other methods to induce disloyalty among enemy officials and to cause chaos and consternation in their ranks; and further increasing the enemy's profligacy and debilitation by furnishing the tools for self-destruction-such as music, wine, women. Complete secrecy is mandated."[2]

Finally, the specific text tells the revolutionary leader to "introduce beautiful women and licentious sounds in order to befuddle him...when these...are employed they will become a military weapon."[3]

There are several important instructions we need to draw from these words. 1. These instructions come from "secret" texts. 2. Arguably, they come from some of the oldest military thought in Chinese history. 3. These methods were often employed using secret oaths. 4. These methods aimed to overthrow a rival and more powerful state. 5. They advocated using sexual desire as a means of attack.

Now that we have the basic methods described for us, we can examine the text of The Book of Mormon. In Ether chapter 8 we read:

7 And now Jared became exceedingly sorrowful because of the loss of the kingdom, for he had set his heart upon the kingdom and upon the glory of the world.
8 Now the daughter of Jared being exceedingly expert, and seeing the sorrows of her father, thought to devise a plan whereby she could redeem the kingdom unto her father.
9 Now the daughter of Jared was exceedingly fair. And it came to pass that she did talk with her father, and said unto him: Whereby hath my father so much sorrow? Hath he not read the record which our fathers brought across the great deep? Behold, is there not an account concerning them of old, that they by their secret plans did obtain kingdoms and great glory?
10 And now, therefore, let my father send for Akish, the son of Kimnor; and behold, I am fair, and I will dance before him, and I will please him, that he will desire me to wife; wherefore if he shall desire of thee that ye shall give unto him me to wife, then shall ye say: I will give her if ye will bring unto me the head of my father, the king.
11 And now Omer was a friend to Akish; wherefore, when Jared had sent for Akish, the daughter of Jared danced before him that she pleased him, insomuch that he desired her to wife. And it came to pass that he said unto Jared: Give her unto me to wife.
12 And Jared said unto him: I will give her unto you, if ye will bring unto me the head of my father, the king.
13 And it came to pass that Akish gathered in unto the house of Jared all his kinsfolk, and said unto them: Will ye swear unto me that ye will be faithful unto me in the thing which I shall desire of you?
14 And it came to pass that they all swore unto him, by the God of heaven, and also by the heavens, and also by the earth, and by their heads, that whoso should vary from the assistance which Akish desired should lose his head; and whoso should divulge whatsoever thing Akish made known unto them, the same should lose his life.
15 And it came to pass that thus they did agree with Akish. And Akish did administer unto them the oaths which were given by them of old who also sought power, which had been handed down even from Cain, who was a murderer from the beginning.
16 And they were kept up by the power of the devil to administer these oaths unto the people, to keep them in darkness, to help such as sought power to gain power, and to murder, and to plunder, and to lie, and to commit all manner of wickedness and whoredoms.
17 And it was the daughter of Jared who put it into his heart to search up these things of old; and Jared put it into the heart of Akish; wherefore, Akish administered it unto his kindred and friends, leading them away by fair promises to do whatsoever thing he desired

Thus we see many of the points described by Tai Kung. 1. In verse 9 we read about secret plans. Its intriguing to note that these plans came from somewhere "across the great deep". The Jaredite timeline would put them in Asia sometime in during the Legendary Sage Emperors of China (2800-2200 BC). 3. Obviously, these method were employed through secret oaths. 4. These methods sought to overthrow an existing dynasty. 5. And famously, the daughter of Jared used her sex appeal to corrupt an official and gain the kingdom for her father.

Normally, I would simply point out that an ancient text agrees with another ancient text in many important details. Details that would make it difficult to believe that Joseph Smith simply guessed right. But in this case I will not only reaffirm that point, but point out the diversity of thought within the subject of military history were even a women's sex appeal can act as a weapon.

Finally, the text suggests a connection between some kind of ancient old world military theory and with a mention of old secret plans from "across the deep" referenced by the daughter of Jared. Hugh Nibley has suggested an Asiatic connection to the world of the Jaredites.[4] And the similarity between ancient Chinese military theory and the Jaredite secret practice reinforces this connection.

What do you think? Is this an example of two different societies independently developing the same practice, or do you think that "across the deep" means ancient China? Did this bring any other verses to your mind? Thanks for reading.

1.Ralph Sawyer Trans. The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China New York: Westview Press, 1993, 23.
2. Ibid., 33.
3. Ibid., 57.
4. Hugh Nibley, The World of the Jaredites.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bored Soldiers: The Game

One of my frequent complaints during the boring times of my military service was: "they never showed this in the recruiting video." So in conjunction with my previous post on bored soldiers, here is the video game version of it:

Ultra-Realistic Modern Warfare Game Features Awaiting Orders, Repairing Trucks

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Steel Swords

I often do not discuss this topic for several reasons. 1. I feel the subject has already been addressed in depth. 2. The subject bores me. A recent post by Jeff Lindsey fits into the former category. Enjoy:

Laban's Sword of Precious Steel: Increasingly Plausible

Friday, November 13, 2009

Guest Blogger: Consistency in the Location of Nephihah

What follows is a post from one of my frequent commentators. This was originally going to be a comment on one of my earlier posts. Due to its length, and the merits of its argument I thought I should promote it to a guest blog post. I also included a map to help guide you through the analysis. What follows does not necessarily endorse a particular geographic model, and is presented as it was sent to me outside of a couple spelling errors and formatting:

Although I am aware of your later post using the Baja California model of A Choice Land, and I do agree with your tactical analysis of the geographical clues in the Battle of Nephihah, I think there are some additional clues from the overall campaign leading to this battle that need to be considered, too.

Since this post involves clues from Sorenson’s analysis that assumes the Jaredites are the Olmec and the Nephites/Mulekites the Highland Maya during the early Zarahemla period, I’ll go with that model to see how the campaign can tell us some more about the geography of Nephihah.

The campaign tells us about the relationship between Nephihah and four other important Nephite cities besides Zarahemla: Moroni, Lehi, Morianton, and Aaron. And another campaign tells us about the geographic relationship between Lehi and Morianton.

Moroni is built to form the eastern anchor of the Nephite defenses, and is near the East Sea and thus as far south as the mountains that form the natural defense line between the Nephites and Lamanites. However, since it “drowns” later, it probably plugs the gap between the mountains and the sea on the coastal plain and is not in the mountains itself. In the Sorenson approach, this could be near where the Gulf of Honduras reaches southern Belize.

Nephihah is founded at the same time as Moroni and links a natural transportation corridor between Moroni and the direction of Zarahemla. Its relationship with Aaron is not entirely clear; Aaron could be between Nephihah and Zarahemla, or could flank Nephihah on the Moroni-Zarahemla route (guarding an alternative approach). As you point out, it is at the edge of a plain and approachable from above from a more interior Zarahemla defensive perimeter.

Nephihah is inland from Moroni (because the Lamanite thrust stays along the coast) but close enough to be the natural refuge for those fleeing from Moroni. However, Lehi begins to fortify when Moroni falls, indicating that there is a natural approach to Lehi from Moroni. Lehi is NOT a coastal city because Lehi is not among the INITIAL cities to fall during the coastal thrust (as I’ll show below). However, there is something “particular” about the way Lehi is built, which is never explained in the Book of Mormon.

You can think of a couple of things that might qualify in the Mesoamerican model. One would be a natural defensive position that while still primitive, can be fortified easily, such as the site where Yaxchilan will later grow up to prominence and dominate the Usumacinta River Valley. If the Highland Mayan mind regarded anything that was low and swampy in the East as in the borders by the seashore, then the cities built up above the swamps and connected by causeways in the Mirador Basin might also qualify as “particular”. That’s a lot of potential area and doesn’t tightly constrain the location of either Lehi or Nephihah – except that it indicates that Nephihah was not attacked as much because it was well to the west or south of the main Lamanite axis of advance as because of its inherent strength.

Now consider the earlier land dispute between Lehi and Morianton. Morianton wants Lehi, but when the latter city appeals to (Captain) Moroni, the people of Morianton flee to the north into a land of many waters. Again, this would be consistent with fleeing further into the lowlands of Yucatan from within the Mirador Basin, or toward the mouth of the Usumacinto. However, Captain Moroni would hardly regard the former as the kind of strategic threat to the Nephites that the latter would be – and Captain Moroni responds like it’s a mortal threat.

Sorenson regarded the Sidon as the Grijalva River, and the location of Zarahemla in the upland Grijalva River Valley (suggesting the now inundated site of Santa Rosa). From the mouth of the Usumacinta, the mouth of the Grivalja can be threatened, and if occupied, Morianton can control access to the Olmec heartland. Zarahemla would face hostile Lamanites to the south, and, at best, an unreliable power to its north sitting on its most important interior trade route, the Sidon. (Note that if Zarahemla were on the Usumacinta, and Morianton was somewhere to the East, it’s hard to see why Captain Moroni would care if Morianton went north, or how Teancum could be sent to “head” Morianton’s flight if he did.

Now consider one more part of the campaign leading up to the Battle for Nephihah. Nephihah doesn’t just hold the refugees from the City of Moroni; it holds refugees from the fall of Lehi AND Morianton as well. But Lehi must lie somewhere between Morianton and Moroni, and Morianton must then fall before Lehi, or refugees from Morianton would not then be able to flee through the land of Lehi to get to Nephihah.

So there is a self-consistent strategic picture emerging here of the Lamanite advance in the Sorenson approach. I suggest that the Lamanites unhinge Nephite defenses by taking the City of Moroni and occupy the coastal cities against little opposition (quite possibly moving very rapidly – as you’ve suggested in a previous post – by taking advantage of intra-coastal shipping routes for naval supply and movement that Zarahemla, an inland power, cannot then counter. The Lamanites then sweep UP the Usumacinta River Valley and clear Morianton and Lehi, with the inhabitants of those cities fleeing further up the river to Nephihah. Nephihah is then the obstacle that prevents the Lamanites from linking up their advance with their homeland and shortening their supply line by a lot, securing their conquest of all of the Nephite eastern lands and advancing on Zarahemla either along a direct route from Nephihah, or almost anywhere from the south and east. (Moving against Bountiful would allow them to also replicate Morianton’s original strategy of seizing the mouth of the Sidon).

Indeed, when Nephihah falls, it is due to reinforcements of Lamanites moving around the perimeter of the Nephite lands to the south. So this would place a possible location for Nephihah nearer the headwaters of the Usumacinta, guarding a passage between the Lamanite lands and the Usumacinta River Valley and/or between the Usumacinta and Grijalva watersheds.

As you do, I’d place all sorts of disclaimers on the particular model. But what I want to note is the rich detail and self-consistency that exists in the military aspect of the story at tactical, operational, and strategic levels in the MesoAmerican model, because whatever geography Joseph Smith and early church leaders imagined about the location of the Book of Mormon before 1830, it wasn’t this one.


Monday, November 9, 2009

The Case for Intellectual Study

I ran across a great article at The Times and Season's Blog. James Olsen makes an excellent case for why the average reader of The Book of Mormon should take an intellectual approach to the book. I also feel somewhat vindicated in my approach to the book, since I often do not include devotional material but focus more on scholarly approaches.

Under Intellectual Condemnation

Friday, November 6, 2009

Bored Soldiers

This is a great and funny video about the activities that bored soldiers take part in. On the surface it appears that this has no similarity to events in The Book of Mormon. We read in Alma 55 that:

7...the Nephites were guarded in the city of Gid; therefore Moroni appointed Laman and caused that a small number of men should go with him.
8 And when it was evening Laman went to the guards who were over the Nephites, and behold, they saw him coming and they hailed him; but he saith unto them: Fear not; behold, I am a Lamanite. Behold, we have escaped from the Nephites, and they sleep; and behold we have taken of their wine and brought with us.
9 Now when the Lamanites heard these words they received him with joy; and they said unto him: Give us of your wine, that we may drink; we are glad that ye have thus taken wine with you for we are weary.
10 But Laman said unto them: Let us keep of our wine till we go against the Nephites to battle. But this saying only made them more desirous to drink of the wine;
11 For, said they: We are weary, therefore let us take of the wine, and by and by we shall receive wine for our rations, which will strengthen us to go against the Nephites.
12 And Laman said unto them: You may do according to your desires.
13 And it came to pass that they did take of the wine freely; and it was pleasant to their taste, therefore they took of it more freely; and it was strong, having been prepared in its strength.
14 And it came to pass they did drink and were merry, and by and by they were all drunken.

This is an excellent description of the average soldiers life. They receive a small amount of rations and their leaders often put them on boring guard duty. Thus they try to supplement their rations with stolen goods. And they try to dull their boredom by drinking.

I'm amazed at how even the casual details included in The Book of Mormon still include wonderful bits of information.

Nephihah in Google Earth

Over at a A Choice Land you can look up a proposed model for The Book of Mormon geography. Their location of Nephihah largely matches my analysis. It protects the approach towards the city of Zarahemla and you can even see a modern road that runs through this area. There is rough terrain west of the river that could act as the "cliff" side that Moroni entered the city from. And there is more open land to the east the river where the road is. The East side of the city is where the Lamanite army was encamped facing the Nephite army outside the city. The tentative placement of this city by the authors of A Choice Land correspond to its strategic importance and tactical strength as I described in an earlier post.

This is only one of many models out there and my use of this site does not necessarily consist of an endorsement of their thesis. I do think they have one of the most visually pleasing sites and their use of google Earth adds to the study of Book of Mormon lands.

What do you think? Based on other geographic models does anybody have any other ideas?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Call for Papers

As you can see (if you click on it), the theme of the conference is pretty wide open. Please contact me if you wish to be included on a propsed panel dealing with warfare in The Book of Mormon.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Geographic Strategy Behind the Location of Nephihah

Using the terrain to strengthen your defense is not a new idea. Richard Smail described the early crusader habit of building forts using existing terrain.[1] Such a fortress would be built upon a spur near a pivotal river crossing, and thus be only accessible by one side. This would reduce the need to four high walls, hence both men and material could be better concentrated. Benjamin Wallacker discussed how many Chinese cities could be self sustaining fortresses.[2] This allows the defender a greater degree of sustainability in the face of assault. Finally, David Graff's analysis of the Battle of Huo-I examined how that city was placed to guard the open plains extending away from a narrow river gorge.[3]

This final point has direct application to the city of Nephihah, its importance to the Nephite government, and the actions of Moroni. The Book of Mormon describes plains being near the city and bearing the same name(Alma 62:18). When this city fell Moroni doubted if the Nephite government would survive (Alma 59:11). John Sorenson places the city in a position between the capital of Zarhahemla and the Nephite possessions on the East Sea.[4] So we can assume that the capture of Nephihah opened up another avenue of approach to the capital (the other being on the West sea where Helaman was fighting) and almost fulfilled the Nephite nightmare of being harassed on every side (Alma 52:13-14).

I submit that the strategic importance of this city, evidenced by the internal evidence and geographer cited above, is due to the tactical importance gained from its location. Micheala Stephens has discussed the unique tactical insight from the description of Moroni's night time scouting recorded in Alma 62.[5] Since Moroni needed no ladders to get on the walls, but did need cords to get down OFF of the wall she argues that the city was backed by cliffs on at least one (and presumably the west) side. I support this assertion for several reasons. First, the macro geography of the Nephite nation supports Nephihah as a pivotal city in their defenses. And based on the readings I outlined in the first paragraph, few places are more solid than a self sustaining fortresses that takes advantage of micro terrain and protects a river valley leading to the capital.

Furthermore, the account mentions how Moroni came upon the West side of the city and was able to see the army camped by the East side of the city. While Moroni could see this while standing on the city wall, it makes more sense if he were significantly higher by standing upon the cliff side in the west and able to see the army campfires in the east. An article by William Hamblin described how Saladin used the ruse of climbing upon an unexpected place to surprise an army; so this has verifiable historical correlations as well.[6] Finally, the account mentions the Lamanites attempted to flee out "by the pass"(Alma 62:24). This pass could mean a number of things including the East gate where they were camped or another gate. But it could refer to a mountain pass that would be near Nephihah, especially if it was built into a cliff. And it could refer to whatever terrain is opposite the "plains of Nephihah". This includes the example of Huo-I, which described a city located at the opening of a narrow river valley into a plain.

The brevity of the text and the preliminary nature of Book of Mormon geography preclude a definite conclusion.[7] But the above was a consistent reading of both internal and external evidence that point towards Nephihah being strategically located withing Nephite lands with the benefit of natural terrain such as cliffs and or "passes". And I suggest that Nephihah was located near a strategic choke point along the river Sidon with rocky terrain to one side, and upon plains to the other. The next step would be to correlate the theory presented here with real world geographic models and see what we find!

Thank you for reading. I invite your comments.

1. Richard Smail. Crusading Warfare: 1097-1193 London: Cambridge University Press 1995.
2. Benjamin Wallacker "The Siege of Feng Tian", Peter Lorge Ed. Warfare in China to 1600,London: Ashgate Publishing, 2005.
3. David Graff, "The Battle of Huo-I", Ibid.
4. John Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon. Provo: F.A.R.M.S. Press, 1985, 241.
5. Private Email Correspondence October 24th, 2009.
6. William Hamblin. "Saladin and Muslim Military Theory", The Horns of Hattin, 228-238.
7. But please see this post for why you haters can go screw yourself.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Spiking and Tilting

An article by Bejamin Wallacker titled "Two Concepts in Early Chinese Military Thought" gives us the title of this thread.[1] He first presents a translation of the military writer Sunzi:

What enable the masses of the Three Armies to invariably withstand the enemy without being defeated are the unorthodox [chi] and the orthodox [cheng]...In general, in battle one engages with the orthodox and gains victory through the unorthodox. Thus one who excels at sending forth the unorthodox is as inexhaustible as Heaven, as unlimited as the Yangtze and Yellow rivers...In warfare the strategic configurations of power [shih] do not exceed the unorthodox and the orthodox, but the changes of the unorthodox and orthodox mutually produce each other, just like an endless cycle. Who can exhaust them?[2]

As an explanation of this concept Wallacker cites Samuel Griffith who says:

The concept expressed by cheng, 'normal' [or orthodox] and chi, 'extraordinary' [ or unorthodox] is of basic importance. The normal (Cheng) fixes or distracts the enemy; the extraordinary (chi) forces act when and where their blows are not anticipated. Should the enemy perceive and respond to a chi [or unorthodox] maneuver in such a manner as to neutralize it, the maneuver would automatically become cheng [or orthodox].[3]

This is quite an interesting concept to explain. The best way to describe it would be the debate with the Sicilian from Princess Bride. In trying to determine which cup has the poison, the Sicilian reaches the point where he says something like: "I can expect you to expect me to expect that you are lying, therefore I..." This quote represents the endless nature and connection between the two concepts. And it explains why this concept is so difficult to translate: Since they are expecting the unexpected would the expected then become unexpected?

Finally, Wallacker studies the etymology of the words Cheng and Chi in order to better relate them to English. He says:

The Sun-Tzu tells us, then, that after 'spiking' the foe, keeping him fixed vulnerably to his position, we bring in our 'tilting' forces to know him off balance and even to topple him over. The English 'tilt' helps us keep in mind also the [unorthodox] nature of the typical Chi maneuver. It is [unorthodox] in direction and method, [unorthodox] also brings in something extra, something the foe cannot take account of.[4]

We have an example of this in the Book of Mormon. In Alma 62 we read that:

30... Moroni, after he had obtained possession of the city of Nephihah...went forth from the land of Nephihah to the land of Lehi.
31 And it came to pass that when the Lamanites saw that Moroni was coming against them, they were again frightened and fled before the army of Moroni.
32 And it came to pass that Moroni and his army did pursue them from city to city, until they were met by Lehi and Teancum; and the Lamanites fled from Lehi and Teancum, even down upon the borders by the seashore, until they came to the land of Moroni.
33 And the armies of the Lamanites were all gathered together, insomuch that they were all in one body in the land of Moroni. Now Ammoron, the king of the Lamanites, was also with them.
34 And it came to pass that Moroni and Lehi and Teancum did encamp with their armies round about in the borders of the land of Moroni, insomuch that the Lamanites were encircled about in the borders by the wilderness on the south, and in the borders by the wilderness on the east.

Thus you have Moroni who pursues the main army of the Lamanites. The narrative places him as the focus of the Lamanite army, and he pushes them to the last Nephite city held in enemy hands, Moroni. At this city the Lamanites are out of options. They have largest army led by the Nephite Chief Captain to their west, they have nothing but seashore to their east, they could admit defeat and retreat to their own territory in the south, they only have to the North (but not really). Moroni has "spiked" them in place, while Lehi and Teancum take advantage of pinned main Lamanite army by expelling the Lamanite garrisons to the north of the city of Moroni, and by merging their forces with Moroni. In short: Moroni spiked them and Lehi tilted them. This piece of military theory and practice sets up the conclusion for war.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to your comments.
1. Benjamin Wallacker "Two Concepts in Early Chinese Military Thought" Peter Lorge Ed. Warfare in China to 1600 Vermont: Ashgate Publishing, 2005, p. 235-240.
2. Ralph D. Sawyer Trans. The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China Colorado: Westview Press, 1993, 164-165.
3.Wallacker, "Two Concepts", 296.
4. Ibid., 299.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Use of Qualifiers in Studying The Book of Mormon

I want to address the criticism concerning qualifying words in our writings. These are words such as "probably", "most likely" and so on that indicate a degree of doubt concerning scholarly research. What follows is a brief response to the charge that scholarship which defends The Book of Mormon is faulty or inadequate because it includes these qualifiers:

I have found that the more I study and the more degrees I get the more I realize how much I DON'T know. In fact, one of the main conclusions of my Master's Thesis was that even deceptively simple topics defy easy conclusions; and the problem only gets worse with ancient topics that have a paucity of written sources, such as pre Nara Period Japan, Shang Dynasty China, Old Kingdom Egypt and Pre Classic Mesoamerica.

In the books I've read even the most simple points are debatable based on how you interpret evidence. So the authors correctly offer qualifiers. I could open to a random page from any academic book and find the same qualifiers that you attack. This process is accelerated the farther back you go in time. These qualifiers acknowledge the limitations of research and represent an honest attempt to allow the possibility that contradictory evidence may be uncovered in the future. Thus is shows that the historian is aware of the limits of his craft and his sources. When there is a rush to judgement, and refusal to allow for additional sources you will probably find somebody begging the question with an ax to grind.

And these "books" that I mentioned earlier are not fluff pieces either, but from the leaders of their fiel such as Bernard Bachrach, David Graff, Peter Lorge, Ralph Sawyer, and John Gallagher. So people who are leaders in their fields with PhDs and years of experience, still qualify many of their arguments; but those at some "Christian" ministry sites, read a few articles from an anti Mormon site and think they can end the debate. So I think a negative reaction to the use of qualifiers says more about your education and scholarly acumen than quality of Mormon researchers.

My spiritual testimony of the book is firm and unbending, but when you enter the academic realm a cautious reading of sources is not only understandable but desirable.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Extirpative War Contrasting with the Book of Mormon

Seeking evidence for The Book of Mormon through parallels is a double edged sword.[1]In the search for tighter methodological controls a third variable is needed. Instead of A is similar to B, as most comparisons go, we need A is more similar to B than C.

In seeking this additional variable John Grenier's First Way of War is incredibly useful.[2] In this book he describes a way of war beyond the normal conventions. In fact he uses the term Petite Guerre which acts as a synonym for irregular warfare. This included extirpative war making, which Grenier describes as warfare "centered often on individual action, focused primarily on...fields, food supplies, and civilian populations."[3] This way of war specifically avoided what we could call standard battles.

We can then take this way of war and compare it to the militarized periods of Smith's life that I have previously discussed.[4] In the Mormon War we find an example of these extirpative tactics. The time period 1837-1838 is between the time period that Grenier outlined, 1607-1814, and the brutal irregular war the Missouri witnessed during the American Civil War 1861-1865. This is one more research topic that I wish to explore in the future and will keep you updated.

Dealing with The Book of Mormon, we have now have our contrasting variable which solidifies ancient parallels. In my research the Book of Mormon features a focus on strategy and tactics between organized armies of men that seek decisive battle. While there are elements of irregular warfare within the book, the narrative and their society seemed focused on regular warfare. This is in stark contrast to warfare in Smith's day which often focused on destructive war against civilian populations and property, conducted by small bands of irregular soldiers.

This is a rough draft of an research topic I hope to pursue in the future. Between Chinese classes, preparing for graduate school, and familial obligations I am sorry to say I can't offer you more. I hope you enjoy and I look forward to your comments.

1. William Hamblin, "Sharper Than a Two-edged Sword," Sunstone, December 1991, 33-61.
2. John Grenier, The First Way of War: American War Making On the Frontier London: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
3. Ibid., 13.
4. See "The Military Mind of Joseph Smith", posted on this blog and The Millennial Star

Friday, October 9, 2009

Guest Blogger: Moroni as a Great Captain

This is another brief piece from Roger Magneson. He has a B.S. from The United States Military Academy and an M.L.S. from Emporia State. I enjoy this piece because of its "old school" quality. Many of the new approaches to history focus on the expierence of the average soldier, war and society, or gender studies. There is nothing wrong with that, but its also nice to study what historians call grand or high history, i.e. the study of generals, strategy and battle. Without further ado, here is Roger:

Moroni as “Great Captain”

In March of 1989, a symposium on warfare in the Book of Mormon was held at Brigham Young University. After a considerable amount of presentation and discussion, someone asked the question, “What’s all the fuss about Captain Moroni?”

The United States Military Academy (West Point) required first class (senior) cadets to take a two-semester course entitled “History of the Military Art.” Successes in warfare were studied from the careers of the “great captains,” the truly great generals of all time: Alexander, Epaminondas, Hannibal, Caesar, Gustavus Adolphus, Marlborough and Eugene, Frederick the Great, Napoleon, Lee and Jackson, Grant and Sherman, Eisenhower, and probably a few others I’ve forgotten.

What made them “great captains” was that their innovations led them to victory. Innovations could be in strategy, those measures taken before the armies meet in the field that will give one of them an advantage; tactics, those measures taken during the battle that tip the scales in the innovator’s favor; or in some other aspect of warfare such as weapons, organization, communications, etc.

When someone asked what all the fuss was about Moroni, everyone laughed, because they knew of Moroni’s great character attested by the prophet-general-historian Mormon, and they sensed that Moroni could probably claim a place as a great general simply by the nature of his towering, sterling character even though it is unlikely that most of the people there had ever studied great generals, and certainly did not know of them by the term “great captains.” Moroni, often called Captain Moroni, commander of the Nephite forces between 74-57 B.C., was a “great captain” for his innovations in weapons and tactics. When we compare him with other “great captains,” we shall see that he ranks with the very best.

Gustavus Adolphus, the Lion of the North (Palmer & Britt, 1969, p. 4), King of Sweden, and commander of the Protestant army of the Thirty Years’ War, has been called the “father of modern warfare” (Palmer & Britt, 1969, p. 26). His innovations in weaponry made the Swedish army the envy and model of all European armies of the day and influenced the nature of armies for “two centuries afterwards” (Palmer & Britt, 1969, p. 4). At the time of the Thirty Years’ War to move a single gun required “thirty or forty horses” (Palmer & Britt, 1969, p. 12), battles being set-piece affairs, that is, the troops on both sides were organized into three columns with the cannon in the front, where after the opening salvos from both sides the guns were largely ignored. Gustavus (all “great captains” are called by only one name) standardized his artillery to “three sizes—24-pound, 12-pound, and 3-pound” (Palmer & Britt, 1969, p. 12). These are not the weight of the guns, but rather the weight of the projectile the guns “throw,” in this case cannon balls weighing 24, 12, and 3 pounds.

According to Palmer the most revolutionary development was the regimental piece, a 3-pounder which could be moved easily with one horse or by three men. By assigning a regimental gun to at least one platoon in each squadron, Gustavus provided artillery support right down to the smallest combat unit. Some also went to the cavalry. So mobile was the small weapon that it could be—and was—used on all types of operations, not excluding reconnaissance. (p. 12)

When Gustavus came ashore at Peenemünde, his army numbered only 13,000 men. This is remarkably small considering that Wallenstein, the commander of the Catholic forces, had at different times raised personal armies of 50,000 and 20,000 men. To shorten the story, Gustavus garnered the allies he needed and ultimately defeated every army he met.

Now consider Moroni. In chapter 43 of Alma, Moroni had raised his armies to counter the threat of Zerahemnah and the Lamanite armies. While the Nephites and the Lamanites had had swords since the days of the first Nephi, patterned after the sword of Laban (2 Nephi 5:14), Moroni had clad his people in armor: “breastplates. . .arm-shields, . . .and also shields to defend their heads, and also they were dressed with thick clothing” (Alma 43:19). Moroni introduced head protection other than helmets (one piece of metal shaped to fit one’s head), breastplates, and arm protection. What Moroni did not introduce was leg protection. Armor that is worn on the front of the shin usually extending from the knee to the ankle is called greaves, and armor that protects the legs is noticeably missing from the catalog of Moroni’s innovations. Moroni’s armor revolutionized warfare in the Americas, the Lamanites copying the use of all his innovations, and later generations upon the Americas copied the same types of armor to the point that while they had headplates, breastplates, and arm protection, they did not have greaves.

In a three-way comparison of Near East armor as mentioned in the Bible, armor as mentioned in the Book of Mormon, and armor depicted in the stela of Meso-America from circa A.D. 700, William Hamblin at the aforementioned symposium pointed out that while the Bible speaks of helmets, the Book of Mormon speaks of “head-plates,” and while the Bible speaks of greaves, the Book of Mormon makes no mention of such lower leg-protecting armor (Ricks & Hamblin, eds., 1990, p. 417). The Maya used “small plates of jade, shell, or metal” mounted on a “wooden or cloth hat” (Ricks & Hamblin, eds., 1990, p. 414). Additionally, the stela do not depict helmets, a single piece of metal shaped to cover the head. The Mayan armor for the head appears to be far more similar to the “head-plates” of the Book of Mormon.
While the Bible speaks of greaves, Moroni does not seem to have invented them for the First Century B.C. Book of Mormon armies. Thus the Book of Mormon notes that while the soldiers in one battle were protected by their armor, “their wounds were upon their legs, many of which were very severe” (Alma 49:24). Hamblin points out that the stela do not indicate greaves in the sense they were used in the Near East. It appears that Moroni’s innovations in armor lasted for nearly a millennium, even to the lack of greaves. “Great captains” imprint the course of war for generations, and while Gustavus innovates in offensive weapons, Moroni innovates in defensive weapons, armor. Either way, the innovations throw the fight to the innovators.

At the Battle of Leuctra, 271 B.C., Epaminondas, commanding a Theban army of 6,000, faced Cleombrotus, king of Sparta commanding a Spartan army of 11,000 (May, E. C., 1970, p. 28). Armies of ancient Greece fought in three columns. The best soldiers were placed in the right column as a mark of honor. When two armies closed with each other, the right column of each army tended to destroy the left column of the opposing army and create a swirling motion as the successful right columns would then turn on the remaining columns of the opposing army. Epaminondas knew Sparta would not vary from the tactics that had given them hegemony over all of Greece, thus Sparta’s best warriors would be on the right flank. Epaminondas made a surprising tactical innovation placing his best soldiers in the left column and making it 50 ranks deep. Additionally, he attacked obliquely from left to right leading with his left column, where his power lay, so that the other two columns would not engage the Spartans until his left column had destroyed the Spartan right column. The innovation worked exactly as Epaminondas had hoped, and Sparta was deposed as the hegemon of the Greek city-states.

Moroni also used tactical stratagems, not with the same weight of long-term consequences as Epaminondas, but important to a cause whose whole nation’s population was less than half the number of their enemy’s (Alma 43:14). Teancum, one of Moroni’s capable lieutenants, was ordered to attempt to take the city of Mulek which was invested by a Lamanite army under the command of one Jacob, a Zoramite. Teancum thought it not wise to attempt an assault on the city and waited until Moroni arrived. Moroni held a council of war, asking for suggestions on how to take the city. The plan decided upon was straightforward: invite the Lamanites to battle on the plains between the Nephite city of Bountiful and the Lamanite-held city of Mulek. Jacob declined their offer, so Moroni developed a ruse. Moroni’s army marched away from the city of Mulek and into the wilderness by night presumably avoiding Lamanite spies watching their camp. At daybreak, the Lamanites in the city of Mulek saw another very small army under the command of Teancum marching northward along the seashore behind the city, and decided to engage them. Teancum’s decoy ran northward toward the city Bountiful with the Lamanites in bloodthirsty pursuit.

Meanwhile, Moroni sent part of his army into the unattended city of Mulek and captured it. The other part of Moroni’s army followed behind the Lamanite army, at a reasonable distance to avoid being discovered it is to be assumed. As the decoy and the Lamanite army neared Bountiful, Lehi, one of the oldest and most feared of Moroni’s lieutenants, led an army out of Bountiful toward the Lamanite pursuers. The Lamanites, not wanting to meet either Lehi or his fresh troops, turned around and ran toward Mulek only to find themselves facing Moroni’s army in their front and Lehi and Teancum closing upon the Lamanite rear. Jacob decided to cut his way through Moroni’s troops to the city Mulek, rather than fight Lehi. Jacob’s rear troops surrendered to Lehi almost immediately. Jacob’s troops fought fiercely, but in the end they could not break through Moroni’s lines, Jacob was killed, and the Lamanite army surrendered (Alma 52:16-35).

When the Lamanite supreme commander, Ammoron, would not exchange prisoners with Moroni on the terms Moroni demanded, again Moroni resolved upon a stratagem to effect his purpose. Moroni’s people were held in the city of Gid. Moroni found a man of Lamanite descent, named Laman, among his army and sent him to the guards at the city of Gid with wine. Laman told the guards that he had escaped from the Nephites and taken wine in his escape. The guards at Gid asked for the wine, but Laman suggested they should wait. This only made the guards more anxious for the wine, and finally Laman gave in to their pleadings. When the guards were in a drunken sleep, Laman retuned to Moroni and gave him a report of the situation. Moroni returned with his army to Gid, threw weapons over the walls for all of the prisoners including women and children, and surrounded the city. When the guards awoke in the morning, they found they were surrounded by the Nephites without and the Nephite prisoners within were armed. The Lamanites capitulated (Alma 55:2-23).

Moroni qualifies in at least two ways as a great captain. First, as an arms innovator he impacted warfare on the Americas for nearly a millennium. The innovation in armor alone is enough to qualify Moroni as great captain. Second, as a tactical innovator he used different stratagems to bring the Lamanite armies to battle and to give up cities the Lamanites had captured.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Churchill and Pahoran

We can compare Churchill's words with that of Pahoran in Alma 62 where after being called a traitor among other things he said:

9 And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart. I, Pahoran, do not seek for power, save only to retain my judgment-seat that I may preserve the rights and the liberty of my people. My soul standeth fast in that liberty in the which God hath made us free.

Certain principles are timeless, and being able to "eat words", either those of our own or of others, is an important quality to possess. I am grateful for the example of humble men in history and scripture.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Warfare in General Conference

No I'm not referring to the atmosphere that street protesters bring. I did hear two interesting spiritual principles elucidated today.

1. I just described how discipline can increase the power of an otherwise underwhelming group of people like the Stripling Warriors. One member of the Seventy discussed how tempered glass, just like tempered steel can withstand large amounts of pressure. He went on to say that we need to be temperate in our lives. As we patiently bear the trials in our lives we become hardened like steel and able to withstand many more events.

2. Second, the role of warfare as a blessing was described using a verse from Alma 62 which reads:

41 But behold...because of the exceedingly great length of the war...many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility.

Overall, I find it interesting that things like tempered steel, and the humbling effects of war are so easily used. This tells me that at many basic and correct principles of warfare have filtered down to every level, where even non military men and audiences know how to use and understand them. The language of warfare, such as discipline and hardened steel, is an important medium in describing the very real spiritual dangers out there.

Bonus:Nothing requires patience quite like an 80's training montage, enjoy Fire Makes Steel by Survivor.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Adolescents who enter the freshman class at, for example, Virginia Military Institute are immediately shorn of their hair, deprived of their civilian clothes, and taught to drill and march in step- as prior class, race, or political loyalties fade into columns of identically appearing, moving, and chanting cadets. Take the most vicious street or motorcycle gang, replete with Uzi machine guns and years of experience in shooting rival thugs, and it would not stand a chance in battle against a regiment of armed VMI classmates-none of who have a single serious misdemeanor record of arrest or have fired a shot of anger in their entire lives...Such is the power of drill and the discipline it spawns.

Military historian Victor David Hanson's description of discipline explains the performance of the Stripling Warriors (Carnage and Culture, 331). We read that that they "never had fought" but did not fear death" (Alma 56:47). And in a fierce battle:

19...[the] little band of two thousand and sixty fought most desperately; yea, they were firm before the Lamanites, and did administer death unto all those who opposed them.
20 And as the remainder of our army were about to give way before the Lamanites, behold, those two thousand and sixty were firm and undaunted.
21 Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them; and I did remember the words which they said unto me that their mothers had taught them.

This discipline was held by men who had never fought while in the face of greater numbers. The Lamanites are thought to have taken captives for sacrifice, and evidence for this period of Mesoamerica point to the same. Just as the freshman class of VMI can beat a veteran biker gang, the Sons of Helaman beat the Lamanites due to their superior discipline.

What other examples of discipline can you find in The Book of Mormon? How does this principle apply in our daily lives?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Yes They Can, II

I did a recent post about the creepy video of children singing to their dear leader, Barrack Obama. I did not explain in great detail why it was so creepy. Let me clarify, when I pledge allegiance its to the flag of the United States and what the country stands for. Principles like justice apply to everybody regardless of who happens to be in the White House. When I took my oath of enlistment I promised to uphold and defend the constitution against all enemies both foreign and domestic. I most certainly did not pledge my allegiance to the President, but to the same document that he swears to protect. And the hymns I sing are reserved for subjects such as God, his prophets, and general patriotic themes. Again, I would never sign a song about a politician.

Doing so smacks of what historians call a "cult of personality". Its defined by Random house as "a cult promoting adulation of a living national leader or public figure, as one encouraged by Stalin to extend his power." And Encyclopedia Britannica say "A cult of personality [is] when a country's leader uses mass media to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Cults of personality are often found in dictatorships and Stalinist governments."

In The Book of Mormon the most famous cult of personality would be the one that surrounded the Gadianton Robbers. In Ether chapter 8 we learn that the primary bound is an oath of personal loyalty to their leader. Not only were personal loyalty oaths frowned upon but their motive to get power is similar to the cult of personality and strongly condemned:

22 And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed; for the Lord will not suffer that the blood of his saints, which shall be shed by them, shall always cry unto him from the ground for vengeance upon them and yet he avenge them not

Plus in this post, I discussed how historians called private soldiers "robbers" because they did not take a CIVIC oath, instead it was a personal oath of fealty to a landlord. Notice the comparison in the Roman robbers with the oaths that I took, then look at what, or more properly who, the following links praise.

I don't think President Obama is a Gadianton Master, although a future post could compare Alinsky's rules for seizing power with that of the Gadiantons within the BoM. However I am genuinely concerned when I see behavior like this. Remember with any president concerning fascism, extending government control over our lives, and stealing our money: yes they can, especially when you have little children singing primary like hymns to their dear leader. (Dear leader is one of the titles of North Korea's dictator.)

Indoctrination Quiz

More Indoctrination

I have no problem with people supporting President Obama. I do have a problem with people telling me what to think, and making children sing primary songs about him.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Connection From Donna

Despite my recent financial difficulties I am grateful for many things. Pertaining to this blog I have now achieved a place of respect that people send me unsolicited items. In the past 36 hours I've had two book manuscripts, an Education week talk, and a link to another blog that had a military discussion. I am honored that people hold my opinion and ideas in such high regard that they want to consult me. I intend to respect that feeling by keeping the quality and quantity of posts here very high.

The two books will take awhile to get through. Each is over 300 pages and since these are prepublished books my comments will stay private at first. This is because all things must be done in wisdom and order (Mosiah 4:27), and some of my comments may be critical and my job as a peer reviewer is to help their books become better. However, I after the initial review is done I will discuss the issue with them and see if I can post some intriguing snippets. Once the books near publication I will consider an advanced review in consultation with the authors. I am waiting for the permission to post all or some of the education week notes.

I can link to and comment on Donna's recent post. The whole article is good and I recommend that you read it. In particular I enjoyed this paragraph from her thread:
Why did the ancient Greeks use the word kosmokrateros to depict certain aspects of the military? Because the military was filled with young men who had a lot of natural ability — raw power, if you will. In order for that raw power to be effective, it had to be harnessed and organized (kosmos).

Thus, young soldiers with abounding energy were taught to be submitted, disciplined, ordered and perfectly arranged. This is the picture of rank and file. In the end, all of those men, with all of that raw ability, were turned into a massive force.

This compares very well to what historian Victor David Hanson called The Western Way of War. In his book Carnage and Culturehe discusses the discipline of Greek soldiers that becomes a hallmark of the WWoW. On page 329 he writes:
Discipline as it emerged in Europe is the attempt at the institutionalization of a particular type of courage through training and rote, and is manifested in the preservation of rank and order....The key is not to make every man a hero, but to create men who by and large are braver than their untrained allies in withstanding an enemy charge, and in the heat of battle follow the orders of superiors to protect the men at their sides.

In later posts I will develop the theme of discipline within The Book of Mormon and our own lives. For now, enjoy the excellent analysis from Donna's site and enjoy the bonus video clip. (Warning: After the 2:00 minute mark the battle starts. Those who are squeamish should stop there.)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Personal Power Strategies

This is the first of a news series of posts I plan on doing. I previouslydiscussed how good spiritual principles are often interchangeable with good military principles. I also realize that examining The Book of Mormon from a purely historical standpoint ignores a large part of the book's aim and focus. So this ongoing series will first discuss abstract military principles based on both historical military theory and practice. Then I will either reference an excellent discussion of it somewhere else, or I will put on my Sunday School teacher hat and explicate the necessary spiritual principles. The emphasis will be on the connection between good military principle and good conduct and spiritual behavior.

Hard Things First: Our first example comes from the writings of Clausewitz and the Scriptorium Blogorium. Clausewitz, and U.S. Army Doctrine defines the Center of Gravity as "the source of power that provides moral or physical strength, freedom of action, or will to act." (Joint Publication 1-02, DoD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms). A good example from history would be the fact that Robert E. Lee's surrender is considered the end of the Civil War. Yet Jefferson Davis was still trying to reorganize the Confederate government, General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered his army 17 days later, and some Indian tribes continued to fight for several years under the confederate banner. So this results in many pedantic historians trying to pad their own egos by saying things such as: "Well Lee's surrender did not actually end the war..." But due to Lee's victories he had become one of the South's principle centers of gravity. Thus his surrender DID end the war.

Michaela over at Scriptorium Blogorium has an excellent discussion of what this meant for Captain Moroni's strategy, and what it means for our spiritual strategy as well. I don't have enough good words to say about how accurate her analysis is.

Taking the High Ground: In Alma 47 we read that the Lamanie army mustered upon a mountain. And the commander Lehonti refuses to come down and meet Amalickiah under a justified fear that he would be killed. This is such an intuitive principle it almost explains itself. Popular culture reinforces this trend; in The Two Towers (2002)and The Return of the King(2003) the Rohirrim retreat to a mountain fortress and muster their army on the side of a mountain. In Jewish history the revolt of AD70 lasted the longest for those that retreated to their mountain fortress. And the Chinese and Koreans resisted the Mongol invasions for over 50 years due to their use of self sustaining mountain fortresses. Please see Huang K'uan-Chung's article in Chinese Ways of Warfare, edited by Hans Van De Ven. I could point out other numerous battles from Hastings (1066)to the Seven Days Battle (1862) that display the importance of the high ground as well.

Robert D. Hales discussed some of the spiritual applications of this principle in a recent address.

So what do you think? Do these principles help you in your daily life? Do they give you additional insights into how you behave? As an added bonus I've added the video to "Bring the World His Truth" (Army of Helaman).

Monday, September 14, 2009

Surrender in the Book of Mormon

Michaela, who blogs at scriptorium blogorium, asked a very interesting question. She says:
I've noticed that often Captain Moroni causes the opposition to enter into a covenant to keep the peace once he has beat them. I'd like to know whether this covenant IS the surrender or whether it is one of the terms of surrender that Moroni requires of them.

I'm honored that she presented the question to me and I will do my best to answer. As with anything on this site, feel free to disagree or comment on it. The most detailed knowledge of surrender we find in Alma 43-45 in a battle between Zarahemnah and Moroni [1]. Once the enemy is fearful and surrounded the battle stops, Moroni presents his terms for surrender which include a covenant. Zarahemnah rejects these terms and the battle resumes. After further destruction of their army the terms are offered again and the battle is over.

There are several other instances of a "covenant surrender". In 1 Nephi we read that Zoram quite struggling with Nephi after the latter covenanted to "give him a place" at Lehi's camp. Zoram also covenanted to remain with the paty (1 Nephi 4:35-37). In the battle of Mulek one section of the army was forced to surrender (Alma 52:32). The verse is unclear if it was by covenant or not.

From my understanding the covenant is the surrender. Since its a ritual, there are many aspects to it. These are most clearly seen in Alma 44 where Zerahemnah has his weapons returned to him by Moroni and the battle is resumed. Since the ritual would have spiritual meaning, it would "damn their souls" to reject it (Alma 56:7-8). They would also fight without the benefit of their god, or demon like power in the Lamanites case (Alma 43:44).

In my study of ancient conflict, warfare was a clash of the gods. Victory was by divine favor, defeat was an divine diagnostic of Nephite spiritual health. The Chinese often talk of "Heavenly Mandates" and "auspicious omens" with campaigns even starting on a specific day in order to win ideological support for the war (Arthur Wright's Sui Dynasty or Ralph Sawyer trans. Seven Military Classics).

In Mesoamerica they fought under banners infused with the power of deity. A ritual oath to the victorious army and god, meant that any subsequent battles by the defeated force would be without the help of their deity. It would be unthinkable to enter combat without your deity. It would be difficult to even raise an army when under covenant to another god. For instance, in Alma 47:2 the Lamanites are justly afraid of even mustering for battle because the Nephite God have been victorious so many times. These soldiers don't seem to have taken the oath and even they are cautious about attacking again.

Thus the surrender of an opposing army through covenant was the most complete temporal and spiritual victory sought by the Nephite armies. This was accomplished through a ritual that at least included the physical deposit of weapons. Other factors may include a particular march home and maybe even vassal status (Alma 62:29). Included in The Book of Mormon is a "pull[ing] down of their pride and nobility and levelling them to the earth" (Alma 51:17). This may be metaphorical, but I suggest this includes defacing monuments and temples to rival deities, especially since Moroni then forced them to place the banner in "their towers...and cities" (Alma 51:20). (Please see this post for more) Other suggestions for a ritual surrender include the hanging of the Gadianton robber Zemnarihah in 3 Nephi 4:28-33. For further study John Welch has some very interesting observations found here regarding the law of war and ritual surrender.

Thank you for your question and thank you for reading.