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.

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.


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.