Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wickedness and Warfare in Omni

So I was reading my scriptures last night and I realized a couple things. First, much of the military discussion is focused on the two Moronis. The pre Christ (75-60 BC)and final warrior (320-400 AD) Moronis. But upon reading Omni and Words of Mormon I found there were several questions and some possible answers that do relate to warfare and will help us understand further.

The Nature of Wickedness in Omni: I suggest the the Plates of Nephi ended due to the wickedness of his successors as described in Omni. In v.2 Omni admits that he is a wicked man. This could be an example of Nephi's Psalm (2 Nephi 4:15-35), and it could be like the words of Joseph Smith. After confessing to being a sinful Joseph adds that nobody should think he is guilty of any great and malicious sin, but simply subject to the errors of youth. (JS History, 1:28) Since we don't have much we can assume that his sins were bad enough to warrant mention, and could be represented in later events.

The small book of Omni includes many mentions of war: v.3, 7, and 10 as well as the numerous mentions in the next small book. In connection with these wars Amaron mentions how if they would only follow God they would prosper in the land. (v7.) And the great grandson of Omni, Amaleki had to flee from the land of Nephi with the people of God. This could represent a newly made minority seeking a new land. Just as Nephi had to flee his brothers, and Lehi had to flee Jerusalem, the righteous are commanded to flee and gather.

But, even the brother of Amaleki wanted to go back. And Amaleki had no son, living relative, or righteous combination of the previous two that could take the plates. Thus there is evidence that, like the children of Israel in the desert, many looked back during the Exodus towards Egypt/their sinly ways. (See 1 Nephi 17:20-21 for an internal example)
The text reads:

And now I would speak somewhat concerning a certain number who went up into the wilderness to return to the land of Nephi; for there was a large number who were desirous to possess the land of their inheritance. Wherefore, they went up into the wilderness. And their leader being a strong and mighty man, and a stiffnecked man, wherefore he caused a contention among them; and they were all slain, save fifty, in the wilderness, and they returned again to the land of Zarahemla.
The footnote refers to Mosiah 9:2 which reads from a first hand account of the journey:
Therefore, I contended with my brethren in the wilderness, for I would that our ruler should make a treaty with [the Lamanites in the land of Nephi]; but he being an austere and a blood-thirsty man commanded that I should be slain; but I was rescued by the shedding of much blood; for father fought against father, and brother against brother, until the greater number of our army was destroyed in the wilderness; and we returned, those of us that were spared, to the land of Zarahemla, to relate that tale to their wives and their children.

Lessons: It seems the contention was between fighting for the land through battle, and peacefully possessing the land through treaty. The number 50 also suggests that the strongest survived. Again these could be body guards or full time soldiers.(See Army Tactics and Composition for more) In this case it seems the body guards (the 50 that survived which includes at least one spy) turned against their leader. This somewhat matches the latter rebellion against king Noah, where a wicked and bloodthirsty commander forfeits his right to rule. (Mosiah 19:1-6,19-20) The text also reinforces the suggestion that spies were actually closer to scouts and rangers than cloak and dagger forces. (see Army Tactics and Composition) The familial strife may also indicate that units were tribally created along family lines. And it indicates a simpler level of society compared to the time of two Moronis. In this case right made might- the side that won decided to make a treaty and colonize the land. There also seemed to be less control over tribal secession. Since in Omni there is no indication of government control over tribal movement. (compare to Alma 27:14-15, or the mission to reclaim the Zoramites, or Moroni's aggressive attempts to prevent the King Men escape) Also in Words of Mormon v. 16, there are numerous dissents unto the Lamanites but no mention of control or trying to control them.

Conclusion: I was amazed that I could glean so much from only a couple pages of text. The Book of Mormon continually amazes me, and there is so much research to do concerning warfare in that book. In this short chapter alone we find information about Nephite society, army composition, and even some political detail. Coming soon...Words of Mormon

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