Friday, December 31, 2010

Book Review: Gettysburg to Great Salt Lake

Gettysburg to Great Salt Lake: George R. Maxwell, Civil War Hero and Federal Marshall among the Mormons
By John Gary Maxwell

Gettysburg to Great Salt Lake by John Maxwell strives to provide a biographical account of George Maxwell and a “different voice” in studying of 19th century Utah history.(p. 27) John Maxwell does this through primary sources and the best of secondary scholarship. While he does provide a detailed biography of George Maxwell’s life, his “different voice” suffers from an extremely biased analysis and several analytical lapses.

The first section describes George Maxwell’s service during the American Civil War. Using Civil War historians and major biographers John Maxwell provided an excellent narrative of his service. But while he did point out the devastating human cost of war, the majority of his account provided a near hagiographic treatment of George Maxwell’s career. Throughout the account George Maxwell is bravely attacking, defending, regrouping, and withstanding multiple injuries. While bravery in facing enemy fire is a worthy trait, it would have been more useful to John Maxwell’s study if he asked whether this Civil War veteran had emotional scars that equaled his many physical wounds.

This is especially pertinent as we examine George Maxwell’s career among the Mormons in Salt Lake City. In order for his “different voice” to work, John Maxwell must cast the Mormons as implacable religious terrorists. George Maxwell in turn becomes the dedicated, outnumbered lawman who charges into the problem as bravely and nobly as his cavalry charges from the Civil War. But this narrative is as one sided as the account presented in John Maxwell’s fifth chapter. This is an important part of the book where John Maxwell describes the competing narratives in Utah history. These both take the same events but presents alternative narratives from the Mormon and anti Mormon camp. Unfortunately, John Maxwell then moves away from the two sided view and presents his one sided analysis of events.

For example, John Maxwell mentions George Maxwell’s participation in the “Gentile League”. This was a semi secret and semi militant society designed to counter the power of the Mormon Church. Yet John Maxwell often portrayed the Mormons in sinister terms due to their supposed secret and nefarious murders inspired by the Mormon hierarchy; and he negatively mentioned the Mormons supposed secret police, the Danites, and the former bodyguards of Joseph Smith. This double standard extended to his presentation of primary sources. Where those from the explicitly anti Mormon Salt Lake Tribune are presented without comment, and he often included a negative modifier when he introduced a quote from the pro Mormon Daily Herald.

This bias came to a head in chapter 12 where it took this reader almost the entire chapter to figure out that George Maxwell had been charged and convicted of embezzlement leading to his removal as marshal. This was so hard to determine because John Maxwell spent the entire chapter in a vast apologia for Maxwell from such unimpeachable (to the author) sources as the Salt Lake Tribune. And the author spent the chapter praising George Maxwell and condemning his accusers. In the final chapter John Maxwell again blames Mormon hyperbole for the friction with the marshal, yet it was the Justice Department and Attorney General of the United States that prompted his removal.

Biographical history is difficult and John Maxwell did a valiant job of presenting George Maxwell the man. While the primary and secondary sources were excellent, I believe in many cases they were improperly used and the narrative suffered due to the bias of the author. After an excellent discussion of the dangers of doing Mormon history, I was especially disappointed at the apparent bias in outlining George Maxwell’s career. It is possible to describe George Maxwell as a bitter, angry, and implacable foe of the Mormon church with his difficulties arising from the unresolved emotional trauma of the Civil War and the insular nature of the Mormon church. Instead, one side wore the white hats and the other wore the black hats, and the almost hagiographic treatment of George Maxwell continued. Despite those flaws, a cautious reader will still find a great deal of value and find this an important book for 19th century Utah history.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Nephite Politics

I came across an interesting verse in my studies. In Helaman 11:8-9 we read:

8 And the people began to plead with their chief judges and their leaders, that they would say unto Nephi: Behold, we know that thou art a man of God, and therefore cry unto the Lord our God that he turn away from us this famine, lest all the words which thou hast spoken concerning our destruction be fulfilled.
9 And it came to pass that the judges did say unto Nephi, according to the words which had been desired. And it came to pass that when Nephi saw that the people had repented and did humble themselves in sackcloth, he cried again unto the Lord, saying...


But I have several questions. Why did the people have to plead with Nephi through intermediaries, "their Chief Judges"? Wasn't Nephi preaching among them? Couldn't the people have talked to Nephi themselves?

Mesoamerica often consisted of rival city states somewhat similar to ancient Greece. For example, Sorenson describes a King with "powers limited at best". The King still had to personally visit another King to gain an individuals release. Even a strong ruler often relied upon what is called the "hegemonic" style of government. Where the stronger power relies upon trusted local leaders to assert their control.[2]

Thus, based on both Mesoamerican politics and previous incidents in The Book of Mormon I believe that Nephi was in a city that was only nominally aligned with the central government. Since at one point the Gadianton Robbers gained "sole managment" of the government,[3] Nephi's message was not accepted, [4] and a previous governor established his government outside of Zarahemla, [5]I believe that Nephi was in a city with a righteous population and governor. Much like King Lamoni, if one ruler needed the subject of another ruler then he had to personally appeal to that person's King.

This reading gains strength when we read how the people "could not take him and cast him into prison" for he was conveyed by the "spirit".[6] In some cases supernatural explanations are provided for what otherwise is a rational explanation. In this case I believe it was due to his protection (body guard?) from a powerful ruler. And it was only through the allowance of that benefactor that Nephi could be reached.


I've often said that many criticisms of The Book of Mormon result in a shallow reading of it. In this case, carefully reading this verse suggests that the Nephites were not a nation as powerful and long lasting as the Roman Empire. But their dominance was rather transitory. And its possible that during this time the Nephites were not only an ethnic minority but often out of power as well.

Thanks for reading.

***Sources***
1. It looks like there is no # 1 but I'm too lazy to go back and change all of my footnotes.
2. John Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting For The Book of Mormon (Provo, Deseret Book 1985), 227-229.
3. Helaman 6:39
4. Helaman chapter 9
5. Alma 61:5
6. Helaman 10: 15-16

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thanksgiving

I particularly enjoy 3rd Nephi 4:31-33. It reads:

31 And it came to pass that they did break forth, all as one, in singing, and praising their God for the great thing which he had done for them, in preserving them from falling into the hands of their enemies.
32 Yea, they did cry: Hosanna to the Most High God. And they did cry: Blessed be the name of the Lord God Almighty, the Most High God.
33 And their hearts were swollen with joy, unto the gushing out of many tears, because of the great goodness of God in delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; and they knew it was because of their repentance and their humility that they had been delivered from an everlasting destruction.


I have much to be grateful for. I teach military history at American Public University. I am training to teach American History at BYU-I and DeVry. I have a presentation at Claremount's School of Religion dealing with warfare and The Book of Mormon . I work as a door to door salesmen to bring in some extra money. I get free books to review from Oklahoma University Press; but that also means I have a heavy reading load. And I'm still learning Chinese so I can enter a PhD program.

I have my daughter every other week. I have lots of good pictures on facebook. Each of them is a treasured memory for which I am extremely grateful. And I'm feeling like I can move past my personal problems as well. Unfortunately, with all these activities my blog is not as active as I would like. So I will keep trying and I'm thankful for your taking the time to read this blog. Have a Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Book Review: We'll Find the Place

We’ll Find the Place: The Mormon Exodus, 1846-1848
Richard E. Bennett

We’ll Find the Place by Richard Bennett seeks to describe the Mormon exodus as a seminal event in the survival of the church. (xv) He provides context by citing scholars and events known to American historians and most Americans while he also details the compelling drama and succession crisis that followed Joseph Smith’s death and Brigham Young’s claim to leadership. He succeeds in this endeavor through a combination of secondary sources, pictures, and primary sources.

Bennett does an excellent job of describing the condition of the “despised religionists” after the murder of Joseph Smith. Physically they were scattered with various claimants vying for leadership. The modern LDS church smoothly transitions between leaders. But in this period what modern members would view as the traditional leader, Brigham Young, only led as the first among equals. Bennett details in compelling fashion how the physical gathering and salvation of the church solidified his leadership and saved the church from fractioning with various usurpers.

In addition to the uniquely Mormon dynamic, Bennett integrates them into a larger American context. This is done through a repeated pattern. Bennett introduces the Mormon narrative through primary sources, then provides context with vivid non Mormon contemporaries and the best of secondary scholarship. Finally he moves back to the Mormon event where even mundane actions seem livelier.

The book has engaging prose, an impressive bibliography and a short historigraphic essay. Combined with the compelling contextualization of the Mormon experience crossing the plains and the background of the Mormon succession crisis this book is useful for Latter Day Saints interested in church history and for the non LDS audience interested in the pioneers along the Oregon Trail.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Moroni as a Type of Christ

Micheala has an excellent post about Captain Moroni over at her blog, you can find the post here.

Go add your comments to that excellent post!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Army of Alma Chapter Two

Alma 2 contains an account of a rebellion against the Nephite nation. What I found interesting was the Nephite armies limited capability in Alma 2:25-

And they are upon our brethren in that land; and they are fleeing before them with their flocks, and their wives, and their children, towards our city; and except we make haste they obtain possession of our city, and our fathers, and our wives, and our children be slain.

In later accounts we read of multiple armies stationed far from the capital city of Zarahemla. That's why I was surprised to read that one army had to fight the Amlicites North of the city and then fight the combined armies East of the city. Not only did one army have to maneuver in defense of the city. But the city itself could not field any additional forces to defend themselves.

This highlights the transformation of Nephite society between Alma 1 and Helaman 1. The former had a single army personally led by the Chief Judge, stationed in the capital, with duels between army leaders, Alma 2:29, 33. The latter army was led by a separate military figure. The Chief Judge died trying to flee the city and no duels are recorded between rival leaders.

Its important to recognize the nature of ancient historians. They were often ethno centric and more concerned with moral messages than writing objective history. This results in a narrative that makes the ethnic group appear more powerful than they really are. Or as historian William Hamblin once said, you will never find a monument built by a Pharaoh to commemorate his defeat. Hence the shallow reader and over eager critic argue that the Nephites were a nation equal in size, strength, and longevity as the Roman Empire. But as he have seen, and as I will show in the future, a careful reading of The Book of Mormon suggests otherwise. That is also one reason why I believe Elder Nelson said that The Book of Mormon is not a history book.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Book Review: The Nauvoo Legion in Illinois

The Nauvoo Legion in Illinois: A History of the Mormon Militia, 1841-1846
Richard E. Bennett, Susan Easton Black, Donald Q. Cannon
39.95 Cloth
978-0-87062-382-0
440 Pages, 6.125 x 9.25
25 B&W Illus., 5 Tables
Religion/Western History

The Nauvoo Legion in Illinois by Richard Bennett, Susan Easton Black, and Donald Cannon represents an important entry into the field of Mormon history. The authors attempt to provide an American context for a militia, an Illinois context for this state militia, and the immediate Mormon history in Missouri that drove them to seek defense in a militia. While the authors succeed in each of their aims some arguments were vastly understated to the point where the author’s claims seemed little more than strings of primary sources with scant analysis. While the authors may have been trying to avoid a polemic piece that directly engages anti Mormon claims, they do themselves a disservice by failing to profit from their excellent research.

In chapters 1 through 3 the authors present the British, American, and state contexts for the creation of the Nauvoo Legion. This takes the reader from the Anglo Saxon levy in the middle ages, to the minute men of George Washington, to the National and State regulations for armed forces, the Mormon troubles in Missouri, finally to the rather pathetic condition of militia in 1840 Illinois. These chapters beautifully succeed in capturing the rather unique and hybrid nature of the Legion. The abuses committed by extreme and unchecked Mormons in combination with the abuses by the organized and established Missouri militia resulted in a mutually beneficial agreement upon the Mormons entering Illinois.

The authors repeatedly state the concerns of non Mormons in the area concerning the scary combination of military might and religious enthusiasm. But they understate the Mormon case for creating a militia. The militia was designed to prevent the abuses inflicted in Missouri from happening again. Yet the militia was disbanded (or neutered) at precisely the time that Smith was killed by a mob and the mobs drove the Mormons from the state. It seems decisively obvious that the militia’s stated aim of defending Mormon’s life and liberty was valid and the critics claim equally specious. Yet the authors fail to explicitly point this out. They ironically recall how the militia was ordered to stand down when Smith was arrested, and they relate in compelling detail the “Battle of Nauvoo” (chapter 11) before those not already dispersed were ordered to disband. So the authors’ failure to note the compelling evidence in the Mormon’s need for self defense is confusing at the very least.

Chapters 4 through 9 present a social history of the Nauvoo Legion. The authors commendably use a variety of previously unavailable primary sources. But some chapters devolve into little more than strings of primary quotes with little original analysis from the authors. Chapter 9 is a particular egregious example of this trend. In chapter 9, “perception and fears” the authors list a collection of local sources and then put a fear in bold and follow it with a quote from one of those sources.

Chapters 10 through 12 detail the end of the Nauvoo Legion and summarize their insights. In particular the authors did an excellent job of merging the Legion into Mormon history. While every Latter Day Saint knows the basic narrative leading to Smith’s martyrdom, this account weaves the tense political issues surrounding the Legion into the account as well. This and other issues are again summarized in chapter 12. This chapter presents both the strength and weaknesses of the book as it details its conclusions, but offers them in largely qualified terms that do not match the strength of their case. When it came time to address the supposed militancy of represented by the Mormon Legion they offer a paragraph mentioning the legal requirements to join a militia. Its position in the book offers it as almost a parenthetical thought, and they again fail to directly mention the aggression against Latter Day Saints in Illinois which substantiated the raison d’ etre of the Nauvoo Legion.

Overall, the book presented clear and succinct summaries of each chapter that did an excellent job of keeping the “so whats” apparent for the reader. These summaries are good for both the non specialist and non Mormon. While the detailed use of primary sources and extensive appendices provide resources for the specialists and those who wish to pursue further study. The book is best in providing historical context- American, Mormon, and state. Yet the authors seem weakest when they understate or equivocate on arguments that have polemic and religious overtones. They authors also seem engrossed in primary source material to such a point that many chapters are little more than strings of quotes.

Despite the book’s weaknesses it still fills a much needed hole in Mormon and United States History. The authors present a vast deal of material that puts the Legion within a variety of contexts. They include several extensive appendices to aid in further study. And they continually summarize the “so whats” for the novice and historian alike. The Nauvoo Legion in Illinois should hold a place in every Latter Day Saint and Western historian’s library.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Good News

My paper was recently accepted for the upcoming conference at Claremont University. You can find my abstract here. This is a very exciting time for my career as I continue to make a name for myself (hopefully a good one) and learn from more established scholars. Additionally, the conference is 29 miles away from Disneyland. I ~suppose~ I'll take my daughter with me.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Is the Book of Mormon Anti War?

So asks the Salt Lake Tribune. I think one's answer depends in large part on what perceptions you bring to the table. The article itself doesn't give much detail concerning the person's argument. But there are several scriptures that strongly point towards a "no". For starters we have Alma 61:11-14; Alma 43:30; and Alma 43:47. Now these scriptures place limits on what wars are just, but to say The Book of Mormon is anti war is not accurate. You can also look at this post here, where I argue for an interventionist foreign policy based on the text of The Book of Mormon. I have to get ready for church but I will try to expound on the above scriptures at a later time.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Review: A Dragon's Head and Serpent's Tail

A Dragons Head and a Serpent’s Tail:
Ming China and the First Great East Asian War, 1592-1598
Kenneth Swope
Norman Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009.
34.95 hardcover
978-0-8061-4056-8
432 pages, 31 B&W Illus., 12 maps
Volume 20 in the Campaign and Commanders Series


This is a new series of reviews I am doing for Oklahoma University Press about various military and Mormon themed books. While these are not explicitly connected to warfare in The Book of Mormon, I'm confident you can extract the necessary material for your personal study.


A Dragon’s Head and a Serpent’s Tail by Kenneth Swope seeks to introduce this lesser known conflict from East Asian history to a “broad academic community” and dispel the largely Japanese created concept of a weak and decadent Chinese ruler.(p.xi) His book presents a detailed narrative surrounding the origins, conduct, and aftermath of the war. As a professor of History at Ball State and active member of the Chinese Military History Society, his narrative takes advantage of his extensive use of current scholarship from multiple languages and widespread analysis of primary sources. He also adds depth and color to his narrative with frequent use of vivid details (like a mound of severed ears) and translated poetry from eyewitnesses. The ability of Chinese logisticians to move and supply an army in Korea far away on short notice and with other pressing threats is Swope’s main argument revising the opinion of the Emperor Wanli. While “broader academic community” can be a loose term, outside of comparative gunpowder revolution and less experienced historians, Swope superbly fulfills this goal.

Chapters 1 and 2 provide a broader commentary of the East Asian world on the eve of the war, and explain the tributary system and recent political relations between Korea, Japan, and China. Swope’s discussion of Japan’s motivation for starting the war displays his impressive use of secondary scholarship as he evaluates each theory. However, Swope’s extensive listing of theories from secondary research dilutes the two reasons that he presents.

Chapters 3 and 4 describe the events of the first phase of the war. His account moves swiftly through those events and again displays an impressive use of primary sources. He starts with the initial advance of Japanese forces to the Chinese border to guerrilla warriors, to the Korean naval victories, to the Ming response and finally back to the advancing Japanese land forces. Each topic represents an important contribution to Sinologists’ study of warfare and is impressively illustrated with primary sources.

Chapter 5 details the extended period of negotiation between Chinese and Japanese officials. As with previous chapters, Swope does an excellent job of weaving primary sources and secondary scholarship into his analysis. He also sprinkles his account with vivid details that describes how each of the three parties felt about the negotiations. Swope’s detail is commendable, however with Swope’s goal of providing a broader context for the non specialists I would have liked to have seen a greater connection between the details of his analysis and the larger picture of East Asian tributary relations and historiographic topics that enthusiasts and novices may not recognize.

Chapter 6 continues to the end of the war in 1598. In particular I commend Swope for his vivid account of the siege of Ulsan. The account highlights a little known battle outside of a select group of specialists and does so in both a scholarly and incredibly entertaining manner.

Chapter 7 examines the aftermath of the conflict. In particular he examines the resumption of trade between Korea and Japan and the reintegration of Japan into the Chinese world order. He then discusses the political issues that this war left in the participating countries. This has special poignancy since many of the biggest legacies of the war, such as the atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers and the reassertion of Chinese power in Korea and Vietnam, still have meaning today.

The book is strongest with it focuses on a chronological narrative and connects these events to larger issues. The narrative is based on copious amounts of primary sources and well used secondary scholarship. To date, he provides the most thorough, well rounded, and well written account of the war. He provides a list of important people, Chinese characters and a detailed index to help those that are new to the field or who wish to pursue further research.

There are several minor flaws that could be more like a wish list. He fails to provide enough maps to adequately accompany his narrative. He explains how his study adds an important tactical dimension to an account of the war,(p.xii) and he mentions several pivotal battles but he only provides one tactical map of a secondary battle. (p.122) Swope also provides several references to contemporary European armies, but those looking for detailed comparisons will have to make their own. Finally, as said above the amateurs in the field may not appreciate the full extent of Swope’s analysis.

Those wishes notwithstanding, this book provides an excellent introduction the First Great East Asian War. The author’s exceptional use primary sources, secondary scholarship and his often times vibrant prose commend this work to Sinologists and those from other fields as well as those from non academic backgrounds looking for a detailed narrative of the war. With this strong entry from Kenneth Swope and Oklahoma University Press students, scholars, and enthusiasts will have excellent resource for beginning and further study of this war.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Insight from Chinese "Robbers"

In reading about Chinese history from the 1st Century A.D. I came across an interesting passage:[1]

Almost from the beginning everything seemed to conspire against [the ruler] Wang Mang, even nature. Aberrations in the weather produced a series of poor harvests; perennial dough settled on the Shensi basin, in which the capital was located; and what was worse, a series of breaks in the Yellow River dikes culminated in A.D. 11 in a vast inundation of the eastern part of the northern plain, with the result that the Yellow River changed its course...Uncounted thousands of people were drowned or made homeless refugees. Famine became endemic, state welfare schemes proved inadequate, and food prices skyrocketed. Vagrants swarmed over China and in desperation formed robber bands. By A.D. 18 a great rebellious group called the Red Eyebrows had formed, and by A.D. 22 several Liu-family claimants [to the throne] were in the field. In A.D. 23 rebels broke into the imperial palace and murdered Wang Mang.

This highlights several important points:

It adds insights into the choices facing the Nephite people. Due to their wickedness the Nephites were cursed with famine (Helaman 11:4). The Nephites could repent of their sins and turn to God, or turn to a worldly solution such as forming robber bands. Even though many Nephites did repent, the Gadianton robbers swelled in size (Helaman 11:25).

This not only has historical precedent from Chinese history cited above, but it has spiritual importance as well. Many addicts seeking recover face a critical choice. They can cope with their fears and negative emotions through worldly measures such as drugs, alcohol, or pornography. Or they can turn to God for their answers through the Atonement and His Power accessed through activities such as the 12 Step program.

The passage from Chinese history also recalls the eventual cataclysmic battle recorded in 3 Nephi 4. The end of Helaman 11 to 3 Nephi 4 is 9 chapters of spiritual material that barely mentions societal developments. Yet these 20 years follow the same course of the rebellions against Wang Mang. In both cases famine and natural disaster prompted a rise of robbers. Robbers from both cases retreated to wild and uninhabited areas.[2] The disasters prompted a question in the legitimacy of the governments (3 Nephi 3:10). And resulted in an existential threat to the government. In Wang Mangs case the "robbers" were successful. But the Nephites were inspired to repent and were saved.

This again reinforces the spiritual purpose of the text. Turning to worldly solutions, like a powerful band of robbers proves futile.[3] But turning to God saves you. This reinforces the nature of The Book of Mormon ss a text that describes historical events that are intended to convey specific moral messages. It also represents the added insights we receive from comparing the text of The Book of Mormon to other episodes in history. Thanks for reading.

*****Sources******
1. Charles O. Hucker. China's Imperial Past: An Introduction to Chinese History and Culture (Standford: Standford University Press, 1975) 128-129.
2. Compare David Graff. Medieval Chinese Warfare: 300-900 (New York: Routledge Press, 2002) 161. And 3 Nephi 4:1.
3. This is in reference to the account in The Book of Mormon, not the successfull removal of Wang Mang.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Some Perspectives On Preparing For War

The term “preparing for war” is often included in the descriptions of Nephite warfare. This post briefly describes the different uses of the term.

-Arming. We see this explicitly in Alma 2:12. It’s also implied in both Helaman 1 and Alma 16:3. In both cases the Nephites did not have time to equip an army.

-Gathering. The Nephites also did not have time to gather their soldiers. In Helaman 1:24 we read that the Lamanites marched with such speed “giving [the Nephites] no time to assemble themselves together save it were in small bodies; and in this manner [the Lamanites] did fall upon them and cut them down to the earth.” Combining both arming and gathering, we see the Lamanites gathering to “the place of arms” in Alma 47:5. Sorenson suggests this is a hill zone of obsidian near Kaminaljuyu where the Lamanites could hammer out the details before starting their campaign.[1]

-Building. This refers to the fortifications that the Nephites built in Alma 52:6-7; 49:9 and 50:1. In the future I plan on examining the phrase “places of resort”.

-Regulations. In Alma 51:22 we read that Moroni prepared the people by making regulations. This refers to many of the King Men and their cities that refused to support the war. I suggest this refers to a quota of men and supplies required of subject or allied city states in support of the Nephite cause. This is also typical of Mesoamerican warfare, where the central power would supply their soldiers by marching through subject cities during their campaign.[2]

-Logistics. This is related to the regulations, but also refers to Alma 53:7 where the army itself was deployed to “deliver the people from famine”. In a pre modern society the bulk of the army would consist of farmers tied to the land. Thus the army would be hard pressed to fight during their harvest.

-Training. Helaman 4:4 the Lamanites spent “all that year” preparing for war. While the bulk of this time could refer to the gathering of food required for the campaign I feel it also refers to training.[3] Premodern armies largely consisted of fulltime farmers conscripted for short term service. Thus they needed training and at least one ancient society had a rotation system where frontier soldiers would serve in the capital for short periods of time.[4] This would inculcate loyalty to the central government, weaken the ability of local commanders to form private armies, and increase the proficiency and élan of local militias. This “diligent” (Alma 51:9) system could be fruitfully applied warfare in The Book of Mormon.

-Making covenants. Spiritual preparation is connected to physical preparation in Alma 48:7-8. Mesoamerican warfare often consisted of cosmological drama, where the battles are only the second act following dedicatory rituals (seen in the Title of Liberty episode of Alma 46), and post battle desecration rituals.[5] While marching armies and arming soldiers are visible, I think the covenant making and public drama of warfare allowed Limhi to observe the Lamanite preparations for war in Mosiah 20:8.

-“As if”. In Alma 52:6-7 we read that the Nephites were “round about as if making preparations for war”. It seems separate from the actual preparations of fortifying and seems to imply a sort of psychological warfare. The writings of Frontinus and Sunzi (Sun-Tzu) attest to importance of mental preparation and tactical ruses in premodern warfare. This includes Sunzi’s famous dictum that “warfare is the way of deception”. [6]

Thus we see there are a number of ways we can understand preparation. They are normally specified in the text, but they also hint at many more ideas. In every case they are consistent with the norms of ancient warfare and in covenants making, they specifically mimic current concepts of ritual in Mesoamerican war making. Thanks for reading.

****Sources*****
1. John Sorenson. An Ancient American Setting for The Book of Mormon (Provo, Salt Lake City: FARMS and Deseret Book, 1985) 252.
2. Ross Hassig. Aztec Warfare: Imperial Expansion and Control (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995).
3. For an example of the extensive preparations required, see David Graff. Medieval Chinese Warfare: 300-900 (New York: Routledge Press, 2002) 146-147.
4. Ibid., 190-191.
5. Payson Sheets. “Warfare in Ancient Mesoamerica: A Summary View” in Ancient Mesoamerican Warfare M Kathryn Brown and Travis Stanton Eds. (New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2003), 295.
6. Ralph Sawyer Trans. “The Art of War” in The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China (New York: Westview Press, 1993) 158.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Lessons From Alma 43

Micheala has some good insights at in her new post on Alma 43.

I would add that Alma 43 exhibits what the Sunzi described as "fatal terrain": Throw [soldiers] into a place where there is nowhere to go and they will die rather than flee. When they are facing death, how can one not obtain the utmost strength from the officers and men? When soldiers have fallen in deep they have no fear.

So as Micheala points out, the inspiration of God and love of family can motivate a soldier just as much as "fear". Great points Micheala.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What I'm Doing

Since I haven't posted in awhile I thought I should update everybody on what I'm doing.

Editing for publication

I've already posted previews of my analysis of the Jaredite Civil War. I have been carefully working through this paper to get it ready for publication. If no journal wants to publish this piece (and there aren't that many publishing outlets for Mormon themed articles), I will save it for the book for which I am working towards.

This paper has special meaning for me, as I started it the day before my personal life fell apart. So finishing this (and getting it published) has a been a personal goal for the last six months. To give you a little perspective, when I was semi homeless earlier this year I still carried the notes for this paper in my pocket.

A Book You Say?

Yes. There were many publishers at the recent Society for Military History Conference. After looking at some of their books I thought to myself, "I can write something better than this crap." While that may not have been the most charitable reaction to the works I read, it did make me believe that despite the challenges associated with publication I have what it takes. So I've been working on an outline and how to have a coherent piece on warfare in The Book of Mormon that addresses relevant historiographic topics while engaging a wider academic audience.

Xuexi Hanzi Hanyu

I have been studying Chinese diligently. This is in pursuit an eventual Phd. My personal problems sidetracked this goal, but I have been using a method of associating primitives in characters with stories that become a mnemonic device. For example, there is a pictograph of a women next to the pictograph for few. Since few women are wonderful, this makes the character for wonderful easy to remember. I plan on emailing a couple of the contacts I made as the SMH conference to see how much of this I need to pass a graduate language exam.


Babies, Houses, and a Life

The rest of my time is spent in personal pursuits. I have started a new blog called "The DL", which stands for Daddy and my daughter Lorraine. I intend to post pictures of me and my baby girl and describe what I'm doing in my personal life. I also have several jobs teaching online. This has boosted my income to the point where I feel able to rent my own place. Since I have moved across the country to be closer to my daughter, I thought this met my needs in several areas. In so many figurative ways I have to rebuild my life and family, so this is a rather literal representation of that. If my income picks up further and I can pay down some debt I hope to buy a small home in the next year or so.

Finally, I'm involved with the local Institute of Religion. One of my friends mentioned how that scene can often feel like the special Olympics. But since I'm in a new town and I'm getting off the worst experience of my life it still meets my needs.


Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Paper Abstract: The Narrow Strip of Wilderness in the Modern Age

This is a rough draft of a paper I would like to present at the Claremont Conference for the Study of War and Peace. Please let me know what you think, and if you would like to organize a panel with me.

THE NARROW STRIP OF WILDERNESS IN THE MODERN AGE
STRATEGIC LESSONS FROM THE BOOK OF MORMON


The Book of Mormon records how God commanded the Nephites to assume a defensive posture. Relying upon the “narrow strip of wilderness” the Nephites reacted to Lamanite aggression to defend themselves. This and their few disastrous offensives provide support for an isolationist foreign policy. Most recently, this position has been vigorously used against U.S. action in Iraq. But as we more closely examine the Nephite decisions dictated by terrain and technology and compare them to the modern challenges we see that this neo isolationist foreign policy is not only dangerous, but an incorrect application of lessons learned from The Book of Mormon. This paper will argue that a careful reading of The Book of Mormon provides evidence that supports an active defense and interventionist foreign policy. Historiographically, this paper examines the resources with which Mormons can make decisions regarding current events, and the necessity of armed force.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Call for Papers: War and Peace in Our Time

Call for Papers

War and Peace in Our Time:
Mormon Perspectives

A conference sponsored by the Latter-day Saint Council on Mormon Studies, and
the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame
Held at Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA
March 18-19, 2011


In a world pervaded with religious fervor and seemingly perpetual war, it has become essential for religious believers to consider the realities of violent conflict and the possibilities for a more peaceful world. Adherents and scholars of the world’s largest religious bodies have had long and often contentious debates over what their sacred sources and traditions teach them about how and when, if ever, it is justifiable and even righteous to engage in violence. While some contend that religion is inherently violent, others maintain that the core message of all religions is peaceful coexistence and compassion for one’s neighbor; meanwhile, nuanced scholarly treatments suggest that in fact “the ambivalence of the sacred” on questions of war and peace is common to all faith traditions.


As a relatively young religion, Mormonism has not yet fully grappled with the many complicated questions of peace and war in the modern world, with all of their theological, social, and political ramifications, but the time is ripe to do so. Accordingly, this conference seeks to examine not only Mormonism’s history in relation to issues of war and peace, but also the resources within the tradition that provide a foundation for constructive discussion and dialogue about how individual Latter-day Saints and the broader church orient themselves in a world of violence.


We are soliciting papers reflecting on all aspects of Mormon perspectives on war and peace, from historical-social scientific, theological, and normative standpoints. Professional scholars, students, and members of the community at large, both LDS and non-LDS, are welcome to submit papers and to attend the conference; all sessions will be open to the public. The conference aims to be exploratory and deliberative, seeking to include and represent voices from across the spectrum and engage multiple perspectives in respectful dialogue.


The deadline for proposals, which should include a paper abstract of no more than 500 words and a brief CV of the presenter, is September 1, 2010. Proposals should be submitted by e-mail to ldswarpeace@gmail.com. Questions may be directed to one of the conference co-chairs, Richard Bushman (rlb7@columbia.edu) or Patrick Mason (pmason1@nd.edu).


[I'm very interested in submitting a panel for this. Please let me know if you are interested.]

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Old School Values of Captain Moroni

I came across an interesting article on Captain Moroni. This post by Robert C. interacts with Grant Hardy's new book on The Book of Mormon. If you can get past his admitted jealousy over Captain Moroni he makes some excellent points about the values that he represents contrasted with those of modern Western society.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Helaman 1...in Medieval China

So I got stuck at the airport for a long time on my way back from the SMH conference. I ran across this interesting sequence of events that recall the major events in Helaman 1. As you remember, Helaman details a brief power struggle between Nephite leaders followed by a quick strike from the Lamanites at the heart of the nation. This is then followed by a swift counter attack by strong Nephite armies on the frontiers surrounding the capital.

On page 227 of Medieval Chinese Warfare by David Graff we read:

In November of 763, scarcely a year after the termination of the great rebellion [of An Lunshan], a large Tibetan army suddenly advanced against the Tang capital of Chang'an. Descending rapidly into the Wei River valley from the northwest, the Tibetans defeated an inferior Tang force at Zhouzhi, about thirty miles west of the capital, on November 12. The very next day the emperor...decamped for the relatively safe haven of Shanzhou, on the road to Luoyang [to the east]. On November 18 the Tibetans entered the city and installed an elderly cousin of Daizong on the imperial throne. They proceeded to plunder the palace and the city, setting fires as they went. Dispersed Tang troops took the opportunity to join in the looting, while much of the populace sought refuge in the hills to the south of the city. The Tibetans were not, however, in a position that was tenable for the long term. Recalled from retirement to deal with the crisis, the great loyalist general Guo Ziyi rallied Tang troops at Shangzhou and moved on Chang'an from the southeast by way of the Wu Pass, while other Tang commanders brought their troops down from the prefectures immediately to the north of the Wei River valley. With Tang forces gathering around them, the Tibetans evacuated the city on November 30, dragging a large number of women, scholars, and craftsmen into captivity, but abandoning their puppet emperor of twelve days to his fate. The capital was secure by Tang troops in December, and Daizong returned to his palace early in 764.

We also read several interesting details in this account that have bearing on The Book of Mormon. The Tang Emperor had to recall the famous former general, Guo Ziyi, from retirement. While The Book of Mormon records how the son of a hero, Moronihah, was vital in defeating the enemy forces. This Chinese account also adds detail to the probable sacking of Zarahemla seen in Helaman 1:22. The Lamanites, probably like the Tibetans, took women, fine goods, and scholars with them. Kidnapping women occurs in both Alma 60:17 and Helaman 11:33, so this suggestion has weight. The Lamanites probably marched directly north along the Sidon river valley like the Tibetans along the Wei. Plus given the fractured nature of Nephite politics in Helaman chapter 1 which continued until the the nation's disintigration by 3rd Nephi 8, its completely plausible that some portions of Nephite soldiers took part in the plundering against the government of their rivals. This idea gains additional weight when we remember that both the leader of the Lamanite nation, and their leading general were recent dissenters from the Nephites as well. Finally, the capture of the capital, and the subsequent maneuvers, battles and looting all occurred within a single year of time, just as this incident from Chinese history.

Now there are several major differences. The speed of the Tibetans was made possible by their extensive cavalry forces. And there are about 700 years and significant cultural differences between the two nations. Yet despite those differences I think the two examples reinforce each other concerning the relative universal nature of power politics in pre modern times. Add this provides one more example in the historicity of events within The Book of Mormon.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Reviewers Needed

I am reaching the conclusion of my paper analyzing the Jaredite Civil War. I've already shown previews on this site and I would like more formal and extensive reviews. Much like preaching the gospel all you need is desire and I would love to send you a copy. If you have history experience and a knowledge of proper grammar that would help even more. And a knowledge of The Book of Mormon, military history, and Chinese history would help out even more. But again, any help is appreciated. Thanks!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Society For Military History Conference

Many people are discussing their attendance at upcoming religious and Mormon history conferences. But I couldn't attend because I am off to the yearly SMH conference. The Society For Military History is the premier academic body in the study of military history and I am honored to present at this years conference. You can find the homepage here, and the presentation list here.

Of course this doesn't have any direct relation to warfare in The Book of Mormon. But this does speak to my general competence in the field. It also undermines the common anti mormon trope that I'm not respected in my field due to my research into The Book of Mormon. In fact, one of my fellow presenters has expressed favorable interest in my research. What follows is the prospectus of my paper:

MILITARY THEORY AND PRACTICE IN THE SINO-JAPANESE KOREAN WAR (1592-1598): THE CONTINUING RELEVANCE OF THE SEVEN MILITARY CLASSICS DURING THE “GUNPOWDER REVOLUTION”

The Gunpowder Revolution is dominant in the description of Early Modern European warfare. This concept colors historians perception of non Western, and particularly Chinese adoption of gunpowder weapons and its effect on military theory. But a detailed study of Chinese general Li Rusong’s campaign during The Sino-Japanese Korean War (1592-1598) reveals a surprisingly close adherence to classic military principles espoused in books such as Sun Tzu’s Art of War. The use of these principles by Li Rusong argues for a less revolutionary approach to the adoption of gunpowder weapons. Instead, using Li as an example, this paper will argue that the theory within The Seven Military Classics remained as instructional and relevant after the dominance of gunpowder weapons as before it.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Offensive and Preemptive Warfare in The Book of Mormon

The provocative title is a direct response to those that espouse an isolationist foreign policy using The Book of Mormon as support. This is not only a dangerous position to take in the modern world, but incorrectly applies strategic lessons from The Book of Mormon. This post will briefly address Nephite strategic choices based on technological and geographic considerations contrasted with geographic and technological challenges we face today.

Now the Nephites were commanded to never go on the offensive against their enemies. (Alma 48:18) In the several instances where the Nephites disobeyed this command they were soundly defeated: Helaman 11:28-29, Mormon 3:10-11; 4:18. So case closed, the Bush doctrine is evil and America must repent of its Imperial ways right? Not so fast.

As I described earlier, once Nephite lands were invaded, they felt it was "no sin" to resort to offensive maneuvers and stratagems to defeat their enemies (Alma 43:30). Thus the Nephite strategy could be better described as the "offensive-defensive", where they don't seek offensive maneuvers until a clear and present danger presents itself. Moroni's action against the King Men, where he presumptively "cut off" Amalickiah before he could join the Lamanites (Alma 46:30) is one example.

Now Moroni's preemption operated on a much smaller scale. Premodern battle consisted of face to face encounters. The armies that travelled to these battles were limited by the primitive logistics of the age. (They didn't get a Burger King in Kabul back then.) Their logistical limits are compound by the apparent lack of wheeled transport in pre Colombian Mesoamerica. But even with an army's damage limited to what they can personally smash or kill, and a nation's limitations in supplying them, the Lamanites could quickly desolate some cities before the Nephites "could raise a sufficient army"(Alma 16:2-3). In Helaman 1:19 the Lamanites marched "with such great speed" that they captured the capital city. And ultimately they completed their genocide with their primitive means.

Today battlefields stretch over many miles. The personal weapon of an infantrymen, the M-16, has an effective range of roughly a third of a mile. Jet fighters, stealth bombers, and cruise missiles can launch from one location and strike 6,000 miles away. And Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles can truly live up to their name and strike from continents away.

World wide airline and naval travel easily transport dangerous people and material. The Nephites must have been surprised at how narrow their strip of wilderness could be at times, our protection is just as thin if we do not set proper guards (Hel 1:18) or be "up and doing" in defense of our liberty(Alma 60:24).

During the Cold War we could nominally count on the international order to restrain the actions of our enemy. But even this existence led to the Cuban Missile Crisis and Krushchev threatening to "swat America's ass" with the weapons he inserted there. Now we face regimes that explicitly reject that world order, support terrorism as an arm of foreign policy, and seek the most devastating weapons known to man.

The threat is just as real and apparent as the Lamanites marching on Zarahemla. Yet if we wait for the launch of nuclear missiles, or a terrorist attack using the same, we will be lamenting the desolation of Ammonihah instead. Arguing for a neo isolationist foreign policy based on The Book of Mormon ignores the strategic realities that both nations faced as a result of geography and technology. The nature of modern technology, the connection of rogue regimes with terrorist organizations, the precedent re enforced by 9/11, and the shrinking world of globalization demand that pursue an "offensive defensive" like the Nephites of old.

Monday, April 19, 2010

An Analysis of the Jaredite Civil War, Part III

What follows is the last section I was able to work on. Again, this a rough draft that is without notes which I am hoping to receive feedback about. Thanks for reading:

Practice of War
We read in that same verse that Coriantumr was studied in “all the arts of war” as well. We don’t have many details from the text what this art is. Based on several stratagems used later in the Jaredite Civil War, the immediate application of both the arts in cunning in “giving battle” to his enemies we can appropriately use the example of the General Zhang Fang from The War of the Eight Princes.

Zhang Fang was the leading general from one of the Eight Princes who led his troops with energy and vigor. Early in the war he led a surprise attack on the enemy forces. A short time later, trapped, he led a successful and daring night operation to supply his army. Later in the war he argued for a decisive military attack using the language of classic Chinese theorists. And subsequent historians blamed his “cruel and violent” behavior as one of the sources for China’s endemic conflict. Final, rival leaders “collaborated in a conspiracy to murder Zhang Fang, then sent his head as part of a peace offering to [a rival leader], who kept the head and kept on fighting.”

Zhang Fang’s career during The War of Eight Princes calls attention to the nature of military practice included within the “art of war”. This practice included a heavy use of stratagem and ruses to psychologically undo their opponent. Military practice was also intimately linked to both contemporary political strife and subsequent moralizing from historians.

We see this connection in Jaredite political society as well. The “arts of war” are explicitly forbidden from being explicated according to religious leaders in The Book of Mormon. In Ether chapter 8 the daughter of Jared suggests they consult the “secret plans” to “obtain kingdoms and great glory.” This includes a use of sexual temptation obtain power. Later, a contender in the civil war that guts the Jaredite kingdom increased the strength of his army due to his secret combination. And another contender for the throne assassinated the current ruler to obtain the throne.

The military practices are no less subversive than the political practices that precede them. At the start of the civil war we are informed that “every man with his own band” fought for they desired. The brother of Shared led a night attack in his fight for the throne.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Heroes of the Fallen

I've been honored to have read an advanced copy of Heroes of the Fallen, a new historical fiction novel by David West. I am further honored by having a part of my advanced review included on the back/inside cover and the Amazon page. So if you are looking for a new exciting read for yourself or a good early Christmas gift, I highly recommend his book. You can find it on Amazon here. Congratulations David. I've been blessed to get a few days of visitation with my daughter so I have to run.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

An Analysis of the Jaredite Civil War, Part II

What follows is the second part of a rough draft on which I am working. Footnotes are incomplete and the prose is still turgid but I am hoping to get some feedback on this and provide you with sorely needed original content.


Leading to War
The war leading to the destruction of the Jaredites begins in Ether 13:15 where we read that “there began to be a great war among the people” and many might men “sought to destroy [the king] Coriantumr”. But the latter half of the verse gives “wickedness” as the cause of the rebellion. The start of the war is also sandwiched between the expulsion of the prophet Ether, and his final warning to Coriantumr. This corresponds to the didactic purpose for many ancient histories including the Imperial history of The War of the Eight Princes. The Chinese Imperial historians often adopted the stereotype of the “bad last emperor” that would forfeit the right to rule through his cruel and sinful behavior. Coriantumr was “cunning” and obviously power hungry as he played the same role in the Ether’s morality tale as the “bad last emperor” (Ether 13:16).

Immediately after failing to repent, Coriantumr losing the Kingdom in “the third year”. By the “fourth year” the sons of Coriantumr regained the kingdom for his father. As a consequence of the chaos at the top there “began to be war upon the face of the land, every man with his band fighting for that which he desired”. (Ether 13:25)

The text doesn’t clarify how the Jaredites numbered their years. I suggest that the “third year” refers to the year of his reign given as numbered by the historian Ether. If this suggestion is accurate it points towards a very weak rule by Coriantumr. Less than four years into his reign he was deposed but quickly reinstated. Yet still could not restrain power centrifugal forces from various strongmen.

The War of the Eight Princes both corresponds to the salient points described in Ether and adds intriguing details to aid in our analysis. The Jin Dynasty was only a recent victor from the civil war that had lasted since the end of the Han Dynasty 100 years before. “However, the newly reunified empire was very far from being a faithful reconstruction of the glorious Han.” Centralized power was weak and the vigorous monetary economy had stagnated. With a strong center the Jin ruler could control the power frontier commanders next to the capital. These commanders had both civil and military control (another departure from the Han’s civil supremacy over the military) and guarded pivotal river valleys, mountain passes, and rich provinces. But with a weak and corrupt prince ruling in the center of the realm the regional leaders deposed him. After the Imperial Princes exerted their control over the center it threw the realm “into the abyss… An era in which power struggles were settled by palace coups and the façade of central authority was preserved more or less intact now gave way to a period of warlordism and civil war…”

It’s possible to find strong men with powerful regional bases like unto the Imperial Princes within the Book of Ether. [I am planning on explicating various verses of Ether in this section, but as they say, "its still under construction"]


Thanks for reading, I look forward to your comments.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Captain Moroni’s Psychological Warfare in Alma 54

I found an excellent post by Michaela analyzing the letter sent from Captain Moroni in Alma 54. You can copy and paste the following link into your browser, or click on her blog in the link on the left side of your screen.

http://scriptoriumblogorium.blogspot.com/2010/03/captain-moronis-psychological-warfare.html

Thursday, March 4, 2010

An Analysis of the Jaredite Civil War, Part I

This is a sneak peak at an article I've been working on. Its still in the rough draft phase, so both grammar and citations are incomplete. I also would have worked on it more but I was about half way through when my wife left me, so please forgive its current condition. As always I look forward to your comments.

BLEACHED BONES COVERED THE FIELD
AN ANALYSIS OF THE JAREDITE CIVIL WAR USING THE ‘WAR OF THE EIGHT PRINCES’




MORGAN DEANE
January 1, 2010

Students and critics of The Book of Mormon often cite the lack of detailed narratives within the text as a barrier to its study. For critics, this lack of verifiable detail helps prove it’s a work of fiction as worthy of serious study as The Lord of the Rings. For those that believe in its historicity the lack of details often prove frustrating to correlate with a relatively slim amount of material concerning Ancient America. In particular, the Civil War that ends the Book of Ether covers a sanguine conflict that ended a nation and killed millions in a little over three chapters. And a significant chunk of these chapters are concerned with detailing prophecies of the recording historians (Ether and Moroni). But there are detailed and largely verified accounts of destructive civil wars from other ancient societies. One of these, The War of the Eight Princes (Bawang zhi Zhan), details the end of the Western Jin Dynasty of early Medieval China. The historicity of the events recorded in the last chapters of Ether increase when compared with The War of the Eight Princes and we can use the latter conflict to compensate for the lack of detailed narrative and help us better understand the political and military decisions and social climate that accompanied the end of the Jaredite nation.


I will advance thematically in rough chronological order through the account found in the Book of Ether and illuminate the text with examples from The War of the Eight Princes. This is rather easy since the accounts are similar in the larger details. This does not mean to imply any cultural dependence between the two texts. But instead I will simply use an example with greater historicity to support a text with less. While I acknowledge a vast amount of difference between Ancient American and Medieval Chinese society, there still exist a great deal of agreement between the two accounts. In the political and economic structure leading to the war, the duration of the conflict, its intensity, its causalities, the specific prosecution of the hostilities, and the historian’s vivid language describing the war both the Jaredite dénouement and The War of the Eight Princes contain striking and compelling similarities.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pacifists In the Book of Mormon?

This blog is starting to look like a webisode of "As the World Turns", so I thought it necessary to provide some real content again. The most recent edition of The Journal of Book of Mormon Studies is a good place to start and has an excellent article on pacifism in The Book of Mormon. You can cut and paste this link into your browser to read it: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/?vol=18&num=1&id=476
I hope you enjoy the article.


And just in case you miss the soap drama:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The End...But Not Of This Blog

I am sorry to say that me and my wife are getting a divorce. But at least notionally we have agreed to joint physical custody of my daughter. I am in the hiring process with Kaplan University and I look forward to bringing you some new and fascinating posts. Thank you for all of your prayers.

Update, 2/19: Well it looks like I spoke too soon. Shannon still wants a divorce but she is not ready for it. If anybody can tell me what the hell that means I will donate a body part to you. As usual I remain committed to the marriage and very, very confused as to what my future holds.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Good, But Not That Good News

Greetings everyone. I'm sorry I haven't been able to post in awhile, I have been busy with the problems I already detailed. On that front, Shannon hasn't filed for divorce yet but all of her problems with me remain. My love for her remains strong and I will travel to Las Vegas on Tuesday to see her and my daughter. Hopefully this will help improve matters.

In other news, I have been hired by American Public University to teach American history. And my paper on Military Theory and Practice in the Late Ming Dynasty has been accepted for the annual Society for Military History Conference. For members of the church, this is equivalent to being invited to speak at General Conference. Both these developments are a huge boost for my budding career, but seem incredibly empty without my family here to enjoy it with me.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Toughest Battle and Most Powerful "Weapon"

I've got some good news and bad news and I think some more good news. I got a new job teaching at Central Virginia Community College. I understand its not the most prestigious institution, but it certainly beats being homeless! If that were my only problem I would feel pretty good right now. But my wife left me on Sunday morning and she took my daughter with her.

That is the bad news. But the good news is that I have been extremely blessed by the Lord. Through his power and grace the large amounts of anger and resentment that I feel is largely controlled. Leaving is bad enough, but the circumstances of her departure make it worse. This is the "toughest battle" part of the title. She tends to make irrational decisions when depressed, and this is the worst manifestation of that tendency.

But, the additional good news is that the most powerful "weapon" is the love of God and the perfect brightness of hope that still dwells in my heart, lessens the pain, and gives me a belief, however faint, that my marriage can still be saved. I put weapons in quotations because the true possessor of charity would not use it for selfish gain. But in this case, the charity and hope placed in my heart by the Lord is a very effective and blessed tool for keeping my despair and heartache manageable. The love of God in my heart helps my realize that an untreated mental illness is largely to blame and helps me care for well being her even more. It also provides the hope that I will be a happy and successful single or married man and father.

Please pray for me and my wife. I will continue to post here as my mental health and energy permit.