Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Troops of a Father and Son

I have been attending my residency at Norwich University for the past week in preparation for getting my M.A. on Friday. Today I had a little bit of free time so I found an interesting piece of text from the writings of Wu-Tzu. In the section on "Controlling the Army" we read:

Marquis Wu asked: "What measures will ensure the soldiers will be victorious?"

Wu Ch'i replied: "Control is foremost...What is meant by control is that when stationary [in camp] they observe the forms of propriety
[Li] and when in action they are awesome. When they advance they cannot be withstood; when they withdraw they cannot be pursued. Their advancing and withdrawing are measured; the left and right flanks respond to the signal flags. Even if broken off from the main order they preserve their formations; even it scattered they will reform lines. They will hold together in peace; they will hold together in danger. Their number can be assembled together, but cannot be forced apart. They can be employed, but they cannot be exhausted. No matter where you can dispatch them, no one under Heaven will be able to withstand them. They are called 'the troops of a father and son.'"

In the footnote Ralph Sawyer writes: "The troops and their commander (and ruler) are characterized by a relationship similar to the idealized one between father and son: it is characterized by benevolence, righteousness, beneficence, good faith, and love from the parent with the reciprocal virtues of trust, love, respect, and obedience from the son."

I should also mention that the word Li in Chinese history refers to the proper observance of religious rituals and righteous behavior according to the Confucian tradition.

Thus the 'troops of a father and son' are righteous soldiers that have mutual love and respect between commanders and soldiers. These soldiers perform difficult maneuvers and respond well to difficult situations.

We read of a similar kind of soldier in the Book of Mormon. In Helaman 53 we read that the people of Ammon:

20...were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted.
21 Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him.

In Alma 56 Helaman continues the story:

10 And I did join my two thousand sons, (for they are worthy to be called sons) to the army of Antipus, in which strength Antipus did rejoice exceedingly; for behold, his army had been reduced by the Lamanites because their forces had slain a vast number of our men...

This small army of father and sons becomes tactical bait for the Lamanites but cannot be caught by their larger army after a multi day chase in Alma 56: 30-42. Cut off from the main army but no longer being chased they debate their next course of action. Their commander recounts the soldier's reply:

43 And now, whether [the enemy army is] overtaken by [the main army] we knew not, but I said unto my men: Behold, we know not but they have halted for the purpose that we should come against them, that they might catch us in their snare;
44 Therefore what say ye, my sons, will ye go against them to battle?
45 And now I say unto you, my beloved brother Moroni, that never had I seen so great courage, nay, not amongst all the Nephites.
46 For as I had ever called them my sons (for they were all of them very young) even so they said unto me: Father, behold our God is with us, and he will not suffer that we should fall; then let us go forth; we would not slay our brethren if they would let us alone; therefore let us go, lest they should overpower the army of Antipus.
47 Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.
48 And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.
49 And it came to pass that I did return with my two thousand against these Lamanites who had pursued us. And now behold, the armies of Antipus had overtaken them, and a terrible battle had commenced.

So they courageously enter battle and now we read of their performance:

52 And it came to pass that the Lamanites took courage, and began to pursue them; and thus were the Lamanites pursuing them with great vigor when Helaman came upon their rear with his two thousand, and began to slay them exceedingly, insomuch that the whole army of the Lamanites halted and turned upon Helaman.
53 Now when the people of Antipus saw that the Lamanites had turned them about, they gathered together their men and came again upon the rear of the Lamanites.
54 And now it came to pass that we, the people of Nephi, the people of Antipus, and I with my two thousand, did surround the Lamanites, and did slay them; yea, insomuch that they were compelled to deliver up their weapons of war and also themselves as prisoners of war.

After the battle Helaman wrote:

56 But behold, to my great joy, there had not one soul of them fallen to the earth; yea, and they had fought as if with the strength of God; yea, never were men known to have fought with such miraculous strength; and with such mighty power did they fall upon the Lamanites, that they did frighten them; and for this cause did the Lamanites deliver themselves up as prisoners of war.

So far we see that these "Sons of Helaman" are righteous men filled with truth, soberness and courage. When they decided to battle they rehearsed the words of their mothers and liberty of their fathers. This deference to familial teachings and the counsel of elders is considered a powerful form of proper conduct [Li] in Ancient China. They loved their father commander and he loved them in return. And they entered battle with vigor (or awesomeness) when it was not required of them. In Alma 57 we read an account of their conduct during a Lamanite counterattack:

19 But behold, my 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.

Just as in the first battle, the "Sons of Helaman" perform better than the regular soldiers. They kept their proper form (in relation to their families and religion) in peace, they remained in formation (or their proper form) while in battle. They were threatened with annihilation but held firm. They obeyed and observed every order of their commander, performing "[measured] advanc[es] and withdraw[s]". They were employed but never 'exhausted in battle', chased but never caught. They were "awesome" when joining battle. They respected their commander so much they called him father. They were led and respected as sons. In short, they exemplified the traits desired by Wu-Tzu for 'the troops of a father and son'.

This post was not designed to prove a definite connection between the Book of Mormon and Asian culture. In the post titled "But Ricky", I used a Hugh Nibley quote to describe how we should expect all sorts of nonsense if we compared a work of fiction to ancient records. But instead we find that an accepted ancient record provides a strong and surprising match for a record that also claims to be ancient. This is now my 50th post, with each one I am more inclined to take away the "claim" from my previous sentence. This is one more example of a match that the critics must explain to me in order to dissuade this historian from concluding the Book of Mormon is an authentic record.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

19th Century American Military Theory and the Book of Mormon

I received a question from Broz who blogs over at, and since I wanted to move away from the bitter polemics that are often involved in apologetics I thought this would be a good transition post. It builds upon my previous posts which examine ancient military theory and tactics within the BoM by presenting common American Military thought at the time of its publication. It also references a paper concerning the principles of war, that I hope to link to when its finally posted. [I also added the reference to Weigley and corrected spelling and grammar in a couple places]

Thanks for your interest in my blog. Your question [concerning military theory and practice in 1830-1860 America] got me thinking for awhile. In order to answer it I will describe American military thought in the 19th century and the major theoreticians that influenced their behavior. And then I will compare it to events in the BoM.

After Napoleon two major theoreticians dominated military thought with the supposed lessons of warfare from the conflicts. Jomini and Clausewitz. Both writers started their works in the late 1820s and 1830s. Clausewitz was not even translated into English until after the civil war (I think), but he definitely was not translated, or even done writing by 1830. The writings of Jomini were more prevalent, but even then he was not taught extensively at West Point. West Point taught very few classes on military theory and leadership in that time, it was mainly a glorified engineering school (that's what Lee graduated in for example). It was not until the late 19th century that they added command and general staff schools on the model of German successes and they started using Clausewitz.

High Nibley has discussed the elements of Clausewitzean theory in the BoM. You can find it here:

I have also discussed Captain Moroni's leadership using the same author here:

In both cases the BoM definitely exhibits military thought and strategy far beyond what Joseph Smith had available to him. I also have done research that is accepted for publication (BCC E Journal) that describes principles of war taught to current army officers within the BoM. Again this is far beyond what J.S. displayed in his life and writings and even beyond common knowledge of military officers in that day. The principles of war were not explicated until the 1920s by a British army officer named J.F.C. Fuller.(Clausewitz gave some too but Fuller's are much better known) They are now drilled into U.S. Army officers to help them analyze information.

Within the BoM there is some Jominian thought. This was a post Napoleonic writer that was popular in America before the Civil War. The practice of Moroni having separate parts of his army pinch an enemy army between them does sound similar to his Jomini's main principle. (max the most amount of strength at a specific point) But the many ruses and stratagems employed by Moroni are common among ancient armies. A Roman writer named Frontinus wrote about many of these at about 75 BC, about the same time as Moroni.

With military theory you can use accepted principles and push them backwards, such as post Napoleonic writers. But you can also use contemporary writers to place BoM events within its expected time frames. In short: the BoM displays many correct military principles codified by writers Joseph Smith did not have access to. It is also corroborated by military writers that were contemporaries of BoM events, such as Frontinus and Caesar. Again, Smith did not have access to these either. (Unless we can believe that he read untranslated German military theory in the moonlight after working as a farmer all day and other nonsense)

So I hope that answers your question. Let me know if it does not. For further reading you can see "American Strategy from the Beginning to World War I" by Russell Weigley in The Makers of Modern Strategy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Great News

A few posts ago I mentioned how its been tough looking for jobs. Despite the sluggish economy I recently was hired as a teacher at Trine University (nationally ranked by the Princeton Review for all of you haters out there). This doesn't have all that much to do with warfare in the Book of Mormon, but it does impact this site. In preparation for my classes this fall I will have to research and create a couple syllabi, then start my preparation for the classes. (I am teaching undergraduate courses in The People of Japan and Contemporary Issues btw)

This signifies how people outside of Mormonism respect and value my research. My resume included two significant papers I have done concerning Book of Mormon research, my teaching experience as a missionary, my undergraduate education at a supposedly inferior school such as Southern Virginia University, and my time as a counselor at LDS themed youth camps. Yet despite all the clues that I was a "lying", "brainwashed" Mormon that produces "shoddy work", they still hired me. For people without prejudices against Mormons this doesn't seem a point worth mentioning and I apologize for laying it on thick, but many critics of the church contend that Mormon scholars are only accepted for their work outside of Mormonism and they proceed to scoff, ridicule, or disqualify anything and anybody that defends Mormonism. Again, I was hired by the strength of my thoroughly Mormon resume, you ignore me and other Mormon scholars at the cost of your academic reputation.

So you combine the preparation for class with the paper on premodern Chinese Naval theory that I am preparing for next year's Society for Military History conference, and the research into the Gadianton Insurgency that I described below, and I simply won't have a great deal of time to devote to indepth and exhaustively researched posts. But I still appreciate my loyal readers and I plan on offering small gems as I continue my regular study of the book.
Update: I've been informed through email that the comments are not working for at least one person. If everybody who reads this could try it out and let me know, I will do my best to fix the problem. Thank you for your patience.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Good Emperor

In this post I discussed how the editor, Mormon, went to great lengths to illustrate how the lifestyle of King Noah justified the withdraw of divine favor and his violent overthrow. Now I will show the opposite. Mormon inserted a lengthy speech from King Benjamin, who ruled at roughly the same time as King Noah. King Benjamin extensively details his righteousness, not to boast but to show why he has received God's favor and ultimately why his people have been blessed. I will show from ancient Chinese texts how a ruler had to qualify for the "Mandate of Heaven", and how the rulers mandate then blesses his people.

From the Six Secret Teaching by T'ai Kung we read:

King Wen inquired of the T'ai Kung: "The world is replete with a dazzling array of states-some full, others empty, some well ordered, others in chaos. How does it come to be thus? Is it that the moral qualities of these rulers are not the same?...
The T'ai Kung said: "If the ruler lacks moral worth, then the state will be in danger and the people in turbulence. If the ruler is a Worthy or a Sage, then the state will be at peace and the people well ordered. Fortune and misfortune like with the ruler, not with the seasons of Heaven."...
[King Wen then asks about a worthy ruler from history named Emperor Yao]
T'ai Kung: When Yao was king of the world he did not adorn himself with gold, silver, pearls, and jade. He did not wear brocaded, embroidered, or elegantly decorated clothes. He did not look at strange, odd, rare, or unusual things. He did not treasure items of amusement nor listen to licentious music. He did not whitewash the walls around the palace or the buildings nor decoratively carve the beams, square and round rafters, and pillars. He did not even trim the reeds that grew all about his courtyards. He used a deerskin robe to ward off the cold, while simple clothes covered his body. He ate coarse millet and unpolished grains and thick soups from rough vegetables. He did not, through the [untimely imposition of] labor service, inure the people's seasons for agriculture and sericulture. He reduced his desires and constrained his will, managing affairs by nonaction.
He honored the positions of the officials who were loyal, upright, and upheld the laws, and made generous the salaries of those who were pure and scrupulous and loved people. He loved and respected those among the people who were filial and compassionate, and he comforted and encouraged those who exhausted their strength in agriculture and sericulture....
He preserved and nurtured the widows, widowers, orphans, and solitary elderly and gave aid to the families who had suffered misfortune and loss...
What he allotted to himself was extremely meager, the taxes and services he required of the people were extremely few. Thus the myriad peoples were prosperous and happy and did not have the appearance of suffering from hunger and cold. The hundred surnames revered their ruler as if he were the sun and moon and gave their emotional allegiance as if he were their father and mother."
King Wen: "Great is the Worthy and Virtuous Ruler!"

We learn in this section that a ruler that seeks power must first gain heavenly favor. This ruler does this through a humble lifestlye that does not disturb the people. Emperor Yao was recognized as an example through 1: Not adorning himself with riches. 2: He avoided unrighteous and licentious behavior. 3: He did not overburden the people with excessive building projects. 4: He supported and protected the farmers and widows. 5: He kept taxes extremely low.

In the Book of Mosiah we read towards that beginning of King Benjamin's speech:

11 But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen by this people, and consecrated by my father, and was suffered by the hand of the Lord that I should be a ruler and a king over this people; and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me.
12 I say unto you that as I have been suffered to spend my days in your service, even up to this time, and have not sought gold nor silver nor any manner of riches of you;
13 Neither have I suffered that ye should be confined in dungeons, nor that ye should make slaves one of another, nor that ye should murder, or plunder, or steal, or commit adultery; nor even have I suffered that ye should commit any manner of wickedness, and have taught you that ye should keep the commandments of the Lord, in all things which he hath commanded you—
14 And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne—and of all these things which I have spoken, ye yourselves are witnesses this day.
15 Yet, my brethren, I have not done these things that I might boast, neither do I tell these things that thereby I might accuse you; but I tell you these things that ye may know that I can answer a clear conscience before God this day.
16 Behold, I say unto you that because I said unto you that I had spent my days in your service, I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God.
17 And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.
18 Behold, ye have called me your king; and if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another?...
31 And now, my brethren, I would that ye should do as ye have hitherto done. As ye have kept my commandments, and also the commandments of my father, and have prospered, and have been kept from falling into the hands of your enemies, even so if ye shall keep the commandments of my son, or the commandments of God which shall be delivered unto you by him, ye shall prosper in the land, and your enemies shall have no power over you

We read that King Benjamin did not seek riches. He suffered "in body" for his people, which could be similar to wearing a simple deerskin coat during the winter. He led by example in living a righteous life, and points out his and his people's avoidance of adultery and "all manner of wickedness". He labored with his own hands to avoid burdening the people with building projects and taxes. He spent his days serving his people. And he concludes by saying that he and his people have been blessed. After reading this I have to remark as King Wen did: Great is the Virtuous ruler!

In conclusion, just as the Book of Mormon matched an ancient editorial insertion in the description of the Bad Emperor, Mormon's inclusion of a Good Emperor's speech is verified by ancient record. This is not a silver bullet that seeks to prove the Book of Mormon's historicity. I don't think their is such a thing. This is one more example of a bulls eye verified by ancient record when we should expect nonsense if this were fiction.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Nephite Military Training

William Hamblin and A. Brent Merrill missed a point of significance in describing Nephite swords in Warfare in the Book of Mormon. Their intent was to mechanically describe what Nephite swords were like. They said that:

The second major incident involving swords is the story of Ammon and the brigands at the waters of Sebus (see Alma 17:26-39, ca. 90 B.C.). While defending the flocks of King Lamoni, Ammon was attacked by a band of brigands who had been marauding in the region..."they came forth with clubs to slay him. But behold, every man that lifted his club to smite Ammon, he smote off their arms with his sword; for he did withstand their blows by smiting their arms with the edge of his sword" (Alma 17:36-37)...

Ammon's sword technique deserves some attention. The text reads, "Every man that lifted his club to smite Ammon, he smote off their arms with his sword." Actually severing an enemy's forearm or hand with a sword is a difficult task. What will generally occur is that the sword will cut into the flesh until it reaches the bone, partially severing or cracking it. However, since the victim's arm is free to rotate at the shoulder, the sword will simply push the limb away in the direction of the blow rather than cut deeper into the limb. Thus, in most situations one would expect a sword to make a deep gash but not actually to sever the arm. In order to sever an arm with a sword, the sword must be extremely sharp, must be swung swiftly, and must strike against a limb that is either somehow fixed, or that is moving toward the sword blade.

Thus Ammon's sword technique makes perfect military sense. He waits for the enemy to attack him with his club. As the club is raised and brought down swiftly toward Ammon, Ammon swings his sword in a fast powerful blow aimed at the forearm. The combination of the attacker's swing toward Ammon and the force of Ammon's own swing is sufficient to sever the forearm. Thus, according to the Book of Mormon, Ammon waited for precisely the right moment to initiate his arm-severing sword technique with maximum efficacy against his enemy.

What is missing from Hamblin's analysis is a discussion of Nephite military training revealed in this passage. Ammon waited for the precisely correct moment for a disarming move. This implies significant military training. Normally, conscripts bring whatever implements they have available such as farming tools. Or they receive a weapon from a government armory and receive only rudimentary training at best before they enter combat. In either case they would hardly have the ability to perform a skilled maneuver in the heat of battle.

Relatively few people in ancient society had the time and equipment for significant military training. The cost of a sword in Ancient Japan or the land requirements to feed a mount in Medieval Europe limited the number of people that had the means to train. Most people engaged in full time labor subsisting as farmers. And you have to factor in the significant training time needed to become a talented Knight or Samurai (to use two well know examples). Thus only a son of King, like Ammon would have the means measured in free time and money for that training.

For people who study warfare this is not a startling revelation. But for people who expect the Book of Mormon to be a 19th century fiction it provides additional evidence for its ancient status as it conforms to other ancient societies.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Research Update: Missed Opportunities in published Gadianton studies

I haven't posted in awhile so I thought I would let my readers know what I have been working on. Mostly I have been looking for a job that utilizes my Masters Degree. With the job market what it is and only having an MA its been somewhat difficult to find a job that utilizes my skill set.

In between job searching I have been working on a current research project involving the Gadianton robbers as Guerrilla Warriors. Daniel Peterson wrote about the subject here. Since I have read much of the same material as him, and military thought is my specialty I thought everybody could gain from seeing what I had to say on the subject. So I read his article, another one from BYU Studies by Ray Hillam, and I am reading The Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung (which are quite long- I would hate to see his unabridged works), the writing of Clausewitz on the subject, an article from "Makers of Modern Strategy" (the seminal introductory book on military thought), and the writings of Lenin and Trotsky. I am not done researching but I have found a few important points that Peterson missed. As always, these are preliminary research notes that connote a need for further research and refinement and I invite constructive comments.

-Words matter in a revolutionary war. That's why the title "Gadianton Robbers" is so important. The rulers and record keepers of the Nephites thought they were illegitimate contenders for ruling so they labelled them as robbers and not a manner of "ites". (See this post)
-Peterson missed a chance to explicate the origin of Gadianton. Hugh Nibley made a strong case that Gadianton was a Jaredite name and probably a Jaredite descendant. (Lehi in the Desert, pg.245) This could mean that Gadianton was a supporter of a Nephite ruler that more closely matched his political persuasion. That may be why Paanchi lost (see Helaman 1), and adds a political dimension to something that Peterson simply described more as a guerrilla warfare. John Shy in Makers of Modern Strategy described how guerrilla warfare is a tactic used to obtain a larger, mainly political purpose.
-Mao's three phase model of insurgency is under utilized. The political preparation of the people for the revolution is under emphasized. The increasingly wickedness of Nephite society is an editorial indication that they were turning away from the Nephite political and religious rulers. Only an "insurgency" (using Hillam's words)by Nephi allowed them to regain the government.
-The second phase is to obtain local control over a limited area in preparation for a complete seizure of government. Peterson and Hillam mention this, but they fail to see the implications of a shift in Gadianton bases. Urban support is important, but as Lenin and Mao can tell you, a small island of urban support in a sea of rural hostility will not sustain the revolution. The shifting of the Gadianton Robbers from the urban to rural environments could signify their shifting base of support. Instead of a small vanguard of urban and probably landless elites such as lawyers, priests, and high judges (3 Nephi 6:23), they found their support in local rulers (the lower judges and perhaps semi autonomous local rulers mentioned in Alma 51), and the increasingly landless soldiers. Many modern writers such as Mao, Ho Chi Mingh, and Che Guevara disagreed as to the where the support of the insurgency should come from, a vanguard of urban elites or the sea of support among the rural population. This is a vital question that appears to have affected the strategy of the Gadianton robbers as well.
-At one point they gain "sole control" of the government (which is the goal of conventional third phase operations), but are then fully discredited and seemingly destroyed. Again, Mao discusses how the three phases are flexible. An insurgency may feel strong enough to obtain control of the government but then quickly loose control and revert back to stage one. Peterson and Hillam briefly mention this point if at all. And they fail to account for the political and social dimension of the Gadiantion insurgency. Peterson and Hillam both focus on strategy, while I love a good strategic read, I feel that focus misses on ideas that can inform us as to how the Nephites lived and conducted their politics.
-Peterson mentions the importation of labor. But I've already done research concerning the sociological implications of this practice. These verses denote an importation of labor (perhaps for arms industry), and imply a possible difference in social status as a cause of "runaway brides". Having words matter mean that these defections, of wives and citizens, were identified as being "captured" by "robbers" instead of defecting to an insurgency led by some disaffected elites from within Nephite society.
-The letter from Giddianhi is a vital primary source. As historians we are blessed to have a long letter from the "man" himself as to his motivations, tactics, and ideas. Above all, the leader of the Gadianton robbers is educated. He can read, and write a letter to the official Nephite leaders. He mentions his "rights and privileges" which are the same words that Paanchi used to start the Gadianton band some 50 years earlier. It took Mao 25 years to take power, and Ho Chi Mingh over 30 (1940 to 1975) to have a unified independent state. Thus we should not separate these events too much.
-Having a detailed study of insurgency operations and revolutionary warfare is a strong witness for the authenticity of the BoM. Except for a handful of pages from Clausewitz that had not been translated into English yet, there were no extant writings concerning the theory of revolutionary warfare in 1830. Yet the BoM contains enough detail to extensively document the Gadianton insurgency and compare it to writings that we have now.