Wednesday, July 29, 2009

No less serviceable

I came across an interesting discussion of ritual war within Karl Friday's Samurai Warfare and the State in Early Medieval Japan. On page 32 he says:

To the Japanese of the Nara, Heian and Kamakira eras, ritual and ceremony were not quaint or meaningless customs designed to occupy the time of bored courtiers, they were a visible symbol of the social order and served an important function in vitalizing and renewing the polity...for from the very beginning, court ritual and ceremony were politics.

As such, defense of the emperor and the state involved far more than just guarding the security of his corporeal body, and military service extended into the realm of [the spiritual]. Participation in rites of this sort was, in effect, an alternative type of military service, one equally valued at the time as police work and battlefield activity.


With the both physical and spiritual service being equally important in Ancient Japan I was drawn to a discussion of the spiritual leaders of the Nephite realm. In Alma 48, Mormon praises the military leader Moroni [1] for his military and spiritual might, but he makes sure to point out that:

19...Helaman [the prophet] and his brethren were no less serviceable unto the people than was Moroni; for they did preach the word of God, and they did baptize unto repentance all men whosoever would hearken unto their words.
20 And thus they went forth, and the people did humble themselves because of their words, insomuch that they were highly favored of the Lord, and thus they were free from wars and contentions among themselves, yea, even for the space of four years.


The modern Western mind often separates the spiritual from the martial. In fact, any connection of the two usually brings up significant negative connotations like Al Qaeda and religious inspired terrorism. I recently read an article where Jerry Falwell, the former Christian minister at Liberty, caused quite a stir when he said that Christians must put on the "Armor of God". The press office had to quickly point that he only meant that spiritually.

In contrast, the prophets in the Book of Mormon were often their military leaders. (3 Nephie 3:19)Moroni received direction from the prophet on where to position his forces. (Alma 43) He told Pahoran what the Lord had said to him. (Alma 60:31-35) And he blessed a banner which he then used as flags of allegiance and as a battle standard. Yet through all those actions, Moroni and other Nephite generals were still only equal to the prophets of God who cultivated the spirituality of the people. As in many other ancient societies, their spiritual health directly reflected their physical health. And it had a direct bearing on the safety of their realm. This is best summarized by the promise: If you keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land.

2 comments:

David J. West said...

Hope this is somewhat on topic.

I am convinced that Mormon became leader of the Nephite armies because he was spiritual giant and not because he was LARGE in stature. He must have had the lack of ego like a truly noble samurai, the extreme humility to not tell us why he really was the general at 16 years of age.

I think somehwere else in your posts was the mention of the possibilty of the position/station being hereditary and I don't think thats impossible but we are talking about a period after the Christ when such things were done away with for a time, lessening the liklihood (in my mind)that he recieved the generalship just because of the family line.

Morgan Deane said...

I see your point. We learn that he was "quick to observe" and if you go back to the troops of a father and son posts, that means he observed the proper forms of conduct i.e. was righteous. There was a also a mention about Mormon where his soldiers looked to him as a though he could save them. Perhaps a cultural relic of when they truly believed that being spiritual strong made you physically strong.

John Tvedness has an article called "The Military Caste in the Book of Mormon" (in Warfare in the Book of Mormon), the best argument is from the earlier Moroni and his son Moronihah. The reviewer David B. Honey critiqued his evidence, and you offerend one more bit against his thesis.

Thanks for commenting.