Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Research Update: Buffet Style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Anonymous said...

Of those topics above, I'd find the discussion of slavery most interesting, particularly in light about the early teachings of Jacob about how the behavior of the Nephites toward their wives and children was so disheartening.

A second choice would be the relationship of the land northward to the Aztec development (presuming Nephites and Lamanites correspond to the Mayans.

Morgan Deane said...

Thanks for the input. A connection to the Aztecs would make my job far easier since warfare studies abound for them. I need to do much more research before I can even present a guess though.

Its interesting you mention Jacob's speech because I recently read an article in the Journal of BoM studies that discussed how Jacob tried to cast the Messiah as the "divine warrior" in Jacob 6-10. http://mi.byu.edu/publications/jbms/?vol=17&num=1&id=463&q=Jacob+speech Thus I feel there are many clues to the martial ideology of the Nephites that would also apply to later periods.
Thanks again for the comments.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the divine warrior reference. Some really good insights there into the interplay between Jacob and Isaiah with references to the Mosaic books of the OT and to the NT to back up the analysis.

Michael M. Hobby said...

If you read my book, The Mulekite Connection, the origin and persistence of the King Men will become very clear to you

Mormon Heretic said...


While warfare is not what I usually look for in the BoM, I find your insights fascinating. I'd love to see what else you can come up with on the slavery topic.

Morgan Deane said...

From the comments it seems I should do some research on slavery. This can be a very interesting war and society approach, and give us additional insight into the goals of the Gadianton robbers.
Thank you for the book recomendation Micheal. I will try to get a hold of a copy and see how it informs my ideas. And I will make a post about what I find. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...


My own blog is becomming operational, and my first post there discusses the need to bring multiple scientific disciplines to bear on questions of BofM historicity. I've specifically plugged military science as one of those disciplines and linked to your website. I hope I have permission to put up a regular link to your site in my blogroll (which is still being organized).

Morgan Deane said...

Thanks. I appreciate being added to your blog roll and you totally have my permission to do so. (I'm not sure you need it, but there you go). Thanks for the comments.