Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Research Update: Buffet Style

I've sat here at my computer for almost an hour now as I write a few sentences and delete them, only to do the same thing again with another topic. So instead I will change things up and give you a peak at several items, questions and research topics I am looking at.

Slavery in the Book of Mormon: Helaman 11:3 mentions how women and children were kidnapped by Gadianton robbers. Why? Was it slave labor, companionship, or trading items (like the African nations that traded slaves for guns)? This could be another example of "Sabine Women", where they steal the women to marry them. This also connects to the agrarian crisis I talked about . One of the actions that cause the crisis (described in a link below) is the importation of slaves through successful wars of conquest. These slaves then become the labor that fuels that rise of rich large landowners and displaces the small farmers that form the bulk of soldiers.

King Men Insurgency: The letter from Giddianhi in 3 Nephi 3 sounds remarkable similar to Helaman 1. Both leaders complain about their "rights of government". Both Helaman 1 and 3 Nephi 3 contain similar sounding names: Pacumeni, Pahoran, and Paanchi. And Gidgiddoni and Giddanhi. The conflict over the judgeship started the Gadianton robbers since Paanchi was set to be executed by his brother Pahoran but Kiskumen assassinated him. 3 Nephi 4 is the one of the ultimate resolutions where the Gadianton robbers are defeated in a 11 "...great and terrible...battle thereof, yea, great and terrible was the slaughter thereof, insomuch that there never was known so great a slaughter among all the people of Lehi since he left Jerusalem."

The insurgency part comes from the earlier parts of the struggle, where they operate secretly in the cities. But some 60 years later they can operate as a (almost) nation killer. In many cases this matches the classic three phase insurgency advocated by Mao Tse Dung. Daniel Peterson in Warfare in the Book of Mormon discusses the theory behind their actions. I simply wanted to suggest their political motives, stated in Helaman 1 and in Nephi 3 and suggest that many of the Gadianton robbers were from leading houses and possibly the two leaders: Giddianhi and Gidgiddoni were from the same house. The replacement leader (Zemnarihah) also sounds much like previous dissidents. 3 Nephi 1:29 says that Zoramites were the cause of some dissensions, so there is another connection.

Agrarian Crisis Update: I stated my preliminary research here I read the Book of Helaman and 3 Nephi in depth searching for the 6 major steps I described there. I did not find a neat picture. I found so much material I may have to divide it into books. I have also found a great deal about the possible motivations for the Gadianton robbers. Such as soldiers that wanted "their cut" of the economic pie, disaffected rich citizens, those that could not stay in the Church simply by "professing" loyalty(Helaman 3:33). These all flourished due to the diminishing power the Chief Judge, resulting in almost complete impotence by 3 Nephi 7. I found the wars were actually closer to home and less frequent with the Lamanites. The chief problem was an internal struggle for power among leading Nephite houses. And the government lost control over the exercise of violence. There seemed to be private wars (Helaman 4:1-2 and 5:21, predatory practices among the Nephite elite (Helaman 5:38 and 3 Nephi 1:9) and significant local autonomy as well (3 Nephi 5:23).

In short, I have to take alot of time and see if the text matches the model presented. But the difficulty in doing so suggests some similarities that stimulate thought and discussion but there is a better model to explain the social problems in the Books of Helaman and 3 Nephi.

The Land Northward: The end of Alma suggests that the land Northward became an active region in Nephite life. The 6 year ministry of Nephi suggests these lands were extensive (Helaman 7:1). The Gadianton robbers had to be cut off from the land Northward by Gidgiddoni. And after the disintegration of central power by King Jacob and his band he fled to the land Northward so he could "flatter" the people and grow in strength. (the same word, "flatter" is used to describe Paanchi's efforts which resulted in the established of the Gadiaton robbers; Helaman 1:7) In conjunction with the concept of military colonies, naval military expeditions, and these verses, there is something about the lands North that contribute to military power. At the very least the land is far enough removed from the central government to make extensive control and military expeditions difficult. I have also heard some internet chatter about comparing the extreme northern lands to the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. The concept is intriguing and may be the "break" in external evidence that many look for.

Local Elites: I promised last time that I would discuss an example from Chinese history concerning local defections and a disconnect with the central government. The defection of Lu Wende to the Mongol leader opened up the Yangtze to invasion and started a "band wagon" effect for other leaders. These leaders were disconnected from the Song Court due to jealous civil bureaucrats and local parochial elites. (See War Politics and Society in Early Modern China by Peter Lorge, chapter 4) In the Book of Mormon I can see that their government was not a strong hegemonic empire like the Romans, but more of a loosely connected confederation of city states led by local elites. Thus some ruling families that may feel "outside", such as younger brothers or old Mulekite and Jaredite families would feel the need to gain greater power. Look at the dissenter Coriantumr (Helaman 1:15) and Zemnarihah (3 Nephi 4). Thus a comparison with other cultures in history, such as Chinese culture, could help us glean more information concerning Nephite culture.

So there are a few of the topics I thought about posting on. Comments and suggestions are appreciated as I try to sort through and refine the million different ideas I have.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Impact of Naval Warfare

Many members of the Church of Jesus Christ are good at explicating spiritual messages from the text of the Book of Mormon. As recent talk given by Robert D. Hales as a Church Education Fireside used the concept of "high ground" that an army used for defense in Alma 47 as the basis for his over 30 minute keynote address. I was impressed at how easily the speaker and audience seemed to transition between sound military principle and useful spiritual lessons.

On a related note, my wife has recently commented that I have "ruined" her. She was recently reading a verse and thought it was about naval warfare. Of course, I don't believe I "ruined her". Instead of reading the Book of Mormon for spiritual experiences, she has started to read it "backwards". Instead of taking obvious military principles like the high ground and applying it to spiritual matters, she takes narratives that are ostensibly about religious material and finds military lessons or ideas. Thus this post points out two additional scriptures that involve naval warfare. But I also wanted to point out the need for readers of the Book of Mormon to have their minds work both ways. One of my papers mentioned the double helix of spiritual and warfare that is intertwined throughout the book. Thus we need to look at both topics, examine ideas from both directions, and have our scholarly ideas be as strong as the spiritual ideas we find.

Without further ado here is verse #1 in Alma 2:
15.And it came to pass that the Amlicites came upon the hill Amnihu, which was east of the river Sidon, which ran by the land of Zarahemla, and there they began to make war with the Nephites

My wife mentioned this verse as a possible naval invasion of Zarahemla. (I discussed the conflict and campaign here) This is completely possible. I have discussed how ancient armies would have used rivers over land due to their ease of transport and supply compared to land roots. The advancing army could have been river borne and used the hill as a convenient staging area before they attacked the city. They could have come up and over the hill by land to start the battle as well, so there is some ambiguity in the verse. If this was a river borne assault then that suggests that the Capital did not have adequate naval defenses or possibly even a navy. If the Sidon area was a wealthier city with secessionist tendencies this could have been a private army and navy against a still weak central government (This was the second year of the reign of the judges immediately after the humble reign of King Mosiah). Thus this verse does point to some possible insights into Nephite War, society, and government based upon their manner of naval warfare.

Verse #2 Alma 51:
32 And it came to pass that they did harass them, insomuch that they did slay them even until it was dark. And it came to pass that Teancum and his men did pitch their tents in the borders of the land Bountiful; and Amalickiah did pitch his tents in the borders on the beach by the seashore, and after this manner were they driven.

Upon reading this verse it dawned on me that maybe Amalickiah's army retreated to the sea shore for resupply! The British did this at Yorktown. And if we assume that the Nephite government had a smaller and part time army than their war like neighbors (see above)this would apply to their navy as well. So we can deduce that the Lamanites would have at lest local naval superiority.

It should be remembered that Alma 51 described a revolt similar to that in Alma 2. Only Moroni had to travel to their cities and "pull down their pride and nobility". So there is a possibility that the naval capacity of the Nephites were being used just downstream of Zarahemla, and not by the seashore of Bountiful through Moroni. This reinforces verse 22 that shows the Lamanites taking advantage of the Nephite contention. It also gives us tantalizing insight into Chapter 60:

16 Yea, had it not been for the war which broke out among ourselves; yea, were it not for these king-men, who caused so much bloodshed among ourselves; yea, at the time we were contending among ourselves, if we had united our strength as we hitherto have done...had they..united with us, and gone forth against our enemies...if we had gone forth against them in the strength of the Lord, we should have dispersed our enemies...

I am thinking this wish for "uniting" includes the naval forces available to many of the capital cities north of Zarahemla. But instead of uniting with the central government the government had to use their own forces to subdue them. Thus most of the naval forces (since the capital was fighting the capital parts) were engaged elsewhere and Amalickiah could safely camp on the sea shore and receive resupply from his naval forces.

This explores several scriptures that imply naval warfare, trasport, and supply. These verses are also surprisingly consistent in describing the impact of that Naval warfare had on Nephite government (private navies used to overthrow government), society (increased wealth allowed private armies/navies of "king men"), and war strategy (lack of navy at the capital and eastern sea shore hurt Nephites but helped the King Men and Lamanites, a navy was also needed to subdue the King men). These are just a few ideas I have concerning the needed explication of military ideas from the Book of Mormon.

In the future I plan to examine the defection of critical navies with Chinese history, and connect this to the Malay Model for Book of Mormon geography. Thank you for reading, and a special thank you to Mormon Heretic at mormonmatters.org for his help with links. As always I look forward to your comments.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Household and War Bands in the Book of Mormon

Reading the end of Ether 13, I found several instances of war bands and an emphasis on the household.

15 And it came to pass that in that same year in which [Ether] was cast out from among the people there began to be a great war among the people, for there were many who rose up, who were mighty men, and sought to destroy Coriantumr by their secret plans of wickedness, of which hath been spoken...
20 And in the second year the word of the Lord came to Ether, that he should go and prophesy unto Coriantumr that, if he would repent, and all his household, the Lord would give unto him his kingdom and spare the people—
21 Otherwise they should be destroyed, and all his household save it were himself...
22 And it came to pass that Coriantumr repented not, neither his household, neither the people; and the wars ceased not...
25 Now there began to be a war upon all the face of the land, every man with his band fighting for that which he desired.

Verse 22 in particular points to the a difference between the leader, his "household", and the people. Using historical examples and other examples from the Book of Mormon, we can speculate what these war bands and households consisted of. In Anglo Norman Warfare ed. by Matthew Strickland, we learn that Housecarls (from the Old Norse meaning house man or house servant) served as "a unique, closely knit organisation of professional warriors who served the Kings of England...and became the spearhead of the English army" (pg. 2). For an example of this in literature think of Beowulf's personal band of followers that went to fight the dragon with him; and Wagliff's speech condemning those warriors that ran away after they had been generously supplied with weapons and armor from Beowulf.

In Asian society we read that local elites often attracted peasants. Since their power sharing agreements with the Emperor often allowed them a great amount of local autonomy they could provide a tax free place for peasants to live. Also, towards the end of a disintegrating dynasty the local elites were the only forces that could protect the peasants. (The often distant central government being unable or unwilling to provide security against internal and external threats) Thus the local magnates became very powerful, and could increasingly field their own armies, finally leading to conflict with the Emperor and regional warlordism. Also, many bandit forces quickly grew in size due to smaller leaders pledging their loyalty to seemingly stronger bandits. (See David Graff "Medieval Chinese Warfare 300-900" and Peter Lorge "War Politics and Society in Early Modern China 900-1795")

In Richard Gabriel's "A Military History of Israel" we learn that King David also had a band of followers personally loyal to him. During part of his career he served as a mercenary for the Phillistine leaders and his band of followers depended on him for their economic wealth, and formed his elite bodyguard after his accenscion to the throne.

Thus we see that economics, personal relations and politics intersect in the formation of Households and War Bands. The salient features include: 1. The use of personal retainers as bodyguards and elite force. 2. The loss of central control over military force and the rise of centrifugal military power and leaders 3. The increasing focus on plunder as opposed to faithful government service. 4. The warriors also follow a strong and charismatic leader founded upon tribal or personal loyalty.

We find much of the above in the Book of Mormon. Due to the delphic nature of the text we cannot say for certain. But I have already shown that Kings had a personal retinue of bodyguards.(1) Verse 15 from Ether 13 describes how many "combinations" opposed the King. These could be mercenaries that abandoned the King for more promising leaders. They also suggest the rise of strong leaders that are not loyal to the King. (2) While the King held onto many of his followers through a chance to plunder the "households" or "war bands" of the enemy. (3) I have also shown that the rise of Gadianton robbers in Nephite Society could also follow from out of work soldiers who see more booty in the service of "combinations" than serving the King or the Nephite government. They could also find more attractive service in the company of rich landowners ("King Men") than they could serving in distant outposts under a government that opposed the single minded focus on acquiring wealth.(See "Military Causes for the Problems in the Book of Helaman" on this blog) And the most important evidence is the "bands of men" that fought the King all across Jaredite lands, and the many separate mentions of household in the Book of Ether; suggesting a group of people tied to a ruler based on bonds of loyalty, that would likely serve as warriors.(4)

Thus the Book of Mormon, sparse as it is in describing military matters, accurately describes the salient features of ancient societies concerning households and war bands. I am done moving, but not with my two jobs. I look forward to hearing from you and hope to continue my research.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Exciting News

Great news everybody. The program for the 2009 Historicon conference on Napoleonic warfare has been released. The links are below. Again this does not have much to do with warfare in the Book of Mormon, but I am way excited to see the fruits of all those long hours of reading and research. It is also amazing because I wrote the paper I am presenting as I lived in three different locations, had to use public libraries, during a full time job, and with my personnel life falling apart. This also has reference to my post called "Ad Hominem in Mormon studies", if my research is "credible" enough for the academic community, than why does it suddenly become a farce if I turn my academic skills to the Book of Mormon? You can find the links here and here

A special thanks again to Mormon Heretic for helping me out with links. It certainly looks so much more professional.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Enlightening Conversation

Here is a brief dialogue I have had with somebody who does not believe in the Book of Mormon. I thought much of his criticisms were rather basic. Many have been answered elsewhere(such as steel swords in the Book of Mormon, or the supposed lack of archaeological evidence) and others were based on shallow reading (the "millions" of dead commentin Ether 15:2). But I wanted to post it here because I did make some good points that I feel are quite original. These concern the possibility of technological borrowing from Jaredite to Nephite cultures, and a weapon cache (or mineral deposit) that made the lands north very important to Nephite society and caused the Lamanites to alter their strategic decisions based on it. I also wanted to point out the fact that I have already addressed many of these "problems" on my blog before. (I have also corrected some spelling errors on my part)

April 11th, 2009 at 12:01 pm
I have to disagree with your analysis posted here. I have studied the warfare in the Book of Mormon extensively. I find that warfare in the Book of Mormon is one of its greatest strengths and invite you to research the matter a little further, either on my blog or in the book “Warfare in the Book of Mormon” which addresses many of your problems.
I would also like to know what verse in the Book of Mormon mentions “great mounds” of weapons. Thank you for your time.

April 11th, 2009 at 1:21 pm
Hi Mr. Deane. Thank you for your comment. I did indeed visit your site and appreciate your studies in military matters. I myself write regularly for Military Officer and Today’s Officer magazines and so am interested in military subjects myself. I have not read the book you recommended.

Let me address the two main issues you raised. First of all is the matter of warfare in the Book of Mormon. I repeat that there is not a single non-LDS scholar who would agree that there is any archaeological evidence for the warfare described in the Book of Mormon — and on the scale described in the Book of Mormon. If there is such a scholar I would be most grateful to read what he or she has to say.

I used the phrase “great mounds of weapons” (which you accurately noted is not a phrase from the Book of Mormon, and I did not put it in quotes in my post.) Joseph Smith believed the mounds or drummonds of North America were the result of BofM warfare, as this quote shows:

We encamped on the bank of the [Illinois] river until Tuesday the 3rd during our travels we visited several of the mounds which had been thrown up by the ancient inhabitants of this county, Nephites, Lamanites, &c., and this morning I went up on a high mound, near the river, accompanied by the brethren. . . . The brethren procured a shovel and hoe, and removing the earth to the depth of about one foot discovered skeleton of a man, almost entire, and between his ribs was a Lamanitish arrow, which evidently produced his death, Elder Brigham Young retained the arrow . . . The contemplation of the scenery before us produced peculiar sensations in our bosoms; and the visions of the past being opened to my understanding by the spirit of the Almighty I discovered that the person whose skeleton was before us, was a white Lamanite, a large thick set man, and a man of God. He was a warrior and chieftain under the great prophet Omandagus, who was known from the hill Cumorah, or Eastern sea, to the Rocky Mountains. His name was Zelph. . . . one of his thigh bones was broken, by a stone flung from a sling, while in battle, by the arrow found among his ribs, during the last great struggle of the Lamanites and Nephites. (Times and Seasons, Vol. 6, No. 1, p. 1076.)

Why do I say there were great mounds of weapons? “He saw that there had been slain by the sword nearly two millions of his people… two millions of mighty men, and also their wives and their children” (Ether 15:2). In preparation for the next battle, “they were for the space of four years gathering together the people… with their wives and children - both men, women and children being armed with weapons of war… they did march forth one against another to battle” (15:14-15). After about six days of battle, there remained only “fifty and two of the people of Coriantumr, and sixty and nine of the people of Shiz” (15:23). So what happened to all their weapons? Of millions? Are we to believe that the warlike Lamanites wouldn’t have reused them? (In which case Columbus and others would have seen evidence of this.) The only alternative, which Joseph Smith apparently believed, was that they would have been buried — or just disappeared altogether. That certainly isn’t true of Old Testament weapons.

April 11th, 2009 at 2:25 pm
Those are some good points. I would refer you to my post entitled “Ad Hominem in Mormon Studies”. Mormon scholars can make good points if they are indeed scholars. For instance, I have now been published multiple times by a variety of credible secular publishers. Its rather insulting to think that analysis and writing which is good enough for the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies is suddenly not good enough if it I turn my attention to The Book of Mormon.

In reference to the “mounds of weapons” I would point you to textual analysis that points to rather dubious foundations for the Joseph Smith quote. (There is a good article by Kenneth Godfrey in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies for one) The “millions” you refer to in 15:2 links to the prophecy of Ether in 13:20-21. Between 13:20 and 15: 2 there are 12 references to battle over 10 years that range over “all the land”. (Ether 13: 25, 28, 29, 30, 31; 14:3, 4, 5, 13, 14, 15, 16,17, and 27 ) Thus there are enough battles and references to destruction of women and children that millions could be accurate. “millions” may be a literary device, but that still does not disqualify the books historicity. Herodotus said that the Persian army numbered in “millions”. This number was obviously false, but we still consider him a real historian. (See an article by Brant Gardner called “If I told you once” or my blog post called “The problem with numbers”) Externally, anthropologist John Sorenson has outlined the parallels between Nephite history and Mesoamerican history. I am moving and have my books packed up, but his “Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon” places Jaredite history with the collapse and depopulation of the Olmec culture.

As far as the use of weapons goes, the book of Mosiah mentions a search party that found rusted and unusable weapons in Jaredite lands. So many weapons could have been unusable after a short time. But there are some scholars (like Hugh Nibley) that say there was a slight continuation of Jaredite culture, thus it would be an unstated and obvious assumption that the weaponry would be largely similar, since many aspects and military leaders were. (Helaman 1:15 has an army led by Coriantumr for example) There is a good article by William Hamblin that discusses swords throughout the Book of Mormon. In his article he hints that there was a technological loss between Nephi's time (550 BC) and the next mention of swords (around 200 BC), perhaps there was some cultural borrowing based on the remaining weapons from Jaredite society.

And the Lamanites were on the south and there are numerous references to the Nephites denying the Lamanites access to the lands in the North, so there would be little contact between Lamanites and the Jaredite homeland untill about 300 AD, or almost 600 years after the final Jaredite battles. Given that they were mortal enemies the Nephites would seek to deny access to those weapons, providing one more reason for the incessant warfare between them, and making the strategic decisions of Lamanite leaders make more sense. (Like Amalickiah seeking “the lands north” instead making a turn and flanking the Nephite capital in Alma 51, or that same Coriantumr from Helaman 1:15 driving for the land north as his top priority)

Finally, the time of Columbus’s arrival was over 1000 years after the end of the Book of Mormon. In a general sense many things were found. My post entitled “But Ricky” has many of them, Jeff Lindsey has complied many, John Sorenson, and Clark have as well, you simply need to take so time to look at many of these “evidences” that pile up in the Book of Mormons favor.

This post is getting rather long winded, I hope it made sense and answered some of the problems you had. If it doesn’t, I can clarify anything I left unclear. I appreciate your time, and suggest that you study the Book of Mormon more in depth and read some arguments from its adherents before you disqualify them right off the bat. If you don’t have any questions about my post, I will humbly bow out and agree to disagree with you.

(And yes I should be packing, but I don't want to)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Published research

Well great news everybody. Some of my research has been published.

I hope you all get a chance to go see some of my research. It is not directly involved with Warfare in The Book of Mormon, yet this will help you see the background for some of my posts such as "Clausewitz on Captain Moroni's Genius".

I am still in the process of moving, so I cannot guarantee any lengthy posts until the second half of the month. Thank you all for your patience.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Naval Warfare in the Book of Mormon

This may seem an odd post since there is no explicit mention of warfare upon the waterways in the Book of Mormon. But there are ships, rivers, oceans, and armies fighting, which means warfare extended to that arena.

The logical place to start is with the few mentions of sea going vessels in the Book of Mormon. The original settlers arrived across the ocean in a boat. Although that ship's construction was on par with other miracles like Moses crossing the Red Sea, (1 Nephi 17) so it is unlikely the Nephites built more once they arrived. According to Sorenson they probably moved into the highlands away from the coast.(Ancient American Setting, 138-140) A small tribal confederation in the highlands would have little need, or means for a navy, or even much maritime trade. (If I was an expert in 6th Century Mesoamerican economics I could insert some cool figures here, but I am basing my views on general knowledge I have on Nephite society, and in knowledge I have of other ancient civilizations)

The next mention of ships is in Alma 63 where the "exceedingly curious" person named Hagoth uses his skill in shipbuilding to expand Nephite trade and settling. This represents a new period of expansion in Nephite trade and society. There are other examples from ancient societies that mix trade, colonization, and warfare. William Hamblin in Warfare in the Ancient Near East describes how Egyptian rulers often combined trade and military missions. In fact, a receipt of goods was often a sign of superior military strength, and after receiving goods the stronger power would leave a garrison to establish political control and ensure favorable terms with their "trading" partner. I have also talked about the likely hood of the colonizers being former army veterans, thus the overseas expansion of the Nephites, enabled by Hagoth's shipbuilding, was at least under protection of the Nephite soldiers (part of the "Corporate Sponsorship" that Sorenson described in Nephite trading missions, 211) and could have been more overt military ventures- like using military force to ensure favorable trading status and/or to exert military control.

In discussing these tenuously supported ideas, we should keep in mind that "a hundreth part" of what happened in Nephite society is included in the record. (Helaman 3:14) Thus there should be a a little understanding in trying to figure out the other 99 parts.

Part of those unstated factors are the logistical and strategic concerns from the river Sidon. The river could be crossed (on foot it seems-Alma 43:35) above Zarahemla, but was deep enough to float bodies out to sea beneath Zarahemla. This suggests an ebb and flow to the river, and that the river is deeper down stream from Zarahemla. Rivers were almost always logistic highways due to the ease of transporting large amounts of supplies compared to using land routes. Both ancient Egypt (in Ancient Warfare in the Near East) and ancient China ("Dou Jiande's Dilema..." by David Graff in Chinese Ways of Warfare) used rivers for troop and supply transport, as well as many other societies. (See John Lynn Ed. "Feeding Mars") The Egyptian example was from the early Bronze age and the Nile had many areas with impassible rapids, so even societies with primitive technology and with unfriendly terrain could see and use the advantage offered by waterways.

In strategic matters, if we accept Sorenson's map 12 on page 240 then the important city of Sidon and maybe even the military city of Moroni were on the river, and the river marked a boundary with the Lamanite center of influence. The Southern Song and Chen Dynasty in China can testify to the importance of using a river for defense since they were both conquered by Northern Empires using the Yangtze as a highway for conquest.(General Grant did the same thing in Tennesse during the American Civil War as well) Plus, the famous Battle of Red Cliffs and Fei River represented the ability of a weak opponent to turn back a strong one by defending pivotal river crossings.(The Battle of Shiloh during the American Civil War is another example of defending against river crossing by a stronger power, amazing how good military principles transcend time and place huh?) This is another piece of evidence that bolsters the case for Moroni placing a military garrison on the river: he sought to deny the enemy a chance to cross the river. It could also answer the charge of some critics who contend that Mesoamerican (and hence Nephite) societies were not advanced enough to equip, transport, and supply armies across large distances in the first century B.C.. Using the river Sidon as a highway for transport and supply would ease logistical burdens for much of their possessions on the "East Sea". It would make an ability to project power in that direction far easier. And explain why on the west sea the Nephites had to establish military colonies (that I argue for in a paper based on Alma 56:28). And further explains the fatalistic thoughts that occurred when Nephihah was captured: in Alma 59:11 Moroni wonders if the war could be won if his government so easily abandons a pivotal city.

Thus it is impossible to think that the Nephites did not use the river to transport soldiers (perhaps the reason Moroni had time to redeploy from Jershon to Zarahemla faster than the Lamanite force). The Nephites already used it to depose of dead bodies (Alma 44:22). And I have an unpublished paper that discusses logistical concerns, with the river Sidon being important to that.

Conclusion: I have discussed external evidence from ancient societies that could help shed light on naval warfare in the Book of Mormon. And I have shown that the Book of Mormon contains sufficient evidence to discuss overseas trading missions, and possible military ventures. The direction of Nephite political power could at least partially result from the benefits of the river Sidon. And many strategic decisions make more sense as well if we accept the benefits that the river Sidon offered. Like many other topics I discuss here, these are preliminary comments and research that demand comment, discussion and further research. Thanks for reading and I hope you can contribute to those stated goals.