The War Chapters

And a great sleep did come over the land; yea, verily, there was much dozing and nodding of heads in all of the sabbath schools.

Yes, folks, it’s that time again: the dreaded Book of Mormon war chapters are upon us. It’s time for our quadrennial effort to determine why on earth someone would go to so much effort to write the details of long-ago battles in a book that was written for our day.

Here’s my answer to that quandary:

No one can read the Book of Mormon without wondering why the war chapters are there. And the inevitable answer must include something along these lines: there must be more here than meets the eye. In other words, the war chapters force readers to assume that the scriptures must be read at a level other than literal and historical. The reader is primed to look for symbolism. And, of course, the symbolism in these chapters is fairly obvious as the eternal struggle between good and evil (link is only for the light-minded) is mapped on to the military struggle between two warring powers. Readers walk away from the text fairly content that they (1) recognized the need for a symbolic reading and (2) were able to massage some meaning from the symbols.

We can hope that readers will carry this scripture reading lesson with them to other texts, where they will feel both justified and empowered to read for something beyond the historical or literal level. We can hope that they might view Eve’s creation from a rib as more than an anatomy lesson, Noah’s ark as more than a disaster story, and Jesus changing water into wine as more than a mere historical event.

Which is not to say that the war chapters aren’t tedious, but rather to suggest that their very tedium is necessary to convey to the reader that they can’t cruise along as if reading a history book.

There’s more there.

46 comments for “The War Chapters

  1. The “War Chapters” contains about 8% of the entire Book of Mormon. Surely Mormon had a reason to put them in there.

    In fact, Mormon spends quite an inordinate amount of time in a very relatively short period. Out of the 500+ pages, he spends 300 pages on a period of 150 years, from King Benjamin to the coming of Christ. Out of a history going for 1000 years, that says something. Now, of course, we are missing the 116 pages of the story of Lehi. Who knows how far into the story of the Nephites those 116 pages actually went. We also don’t know if page 116 brings us to the Words of Mormon chronologically, or if there is more, but God told Joseph to skip forward a bit and restart translating with Nephi’s small plates. Maybe someone more knowledgeable can elaborate.

    One of the things that I find most interesting about the War Chapters is what happens at the end. The Book of Helaman begins the downfall of the people of Nephi, with the introduction of the secret combination group, the Gadianton Robbers. Just before Kishkumen’s murders, in the last chapters of Alma, we see that people left the land of Bountiful. Hagoth built his ships (going for Hawai’i one guesses). But also over 5000 men and their women and children leave, going to the north. That is a lot of people who leave. Mormon doesn’t explain why, but my hunch is that they had enough of the war with the Lamanites. Note also that Captain Moroni dies. He was a relatively young man as captain, and in just a few years he dies of natural causes. I think that war was really hard on the people. I think it destabilized the Nephites to such a degree that many just simply left, and the ones who didn’t leave were weary and unready to deal now with secret groups working their evil in darkness. I think, psychologically, the massive war just drained the people.

    I think that’s a good lesson for us to take from these war chapters. War is a negative sum game. All parties involved lose something.

  2. We learned long ago that the war chapters were put in for little boys. Those are among our family’s favorite chapters, and our heroes are Teancum, Helaman, Captain Moroni, and all those moms.

  3. For as many times as I’ve read the war chapters and slogged through the mud with those soldiers, I’ve never spent as much brain power analyzing what I was reading as either of you two, Julie and Dan. Thanks for the insights.

  4. I just taught the Army of Helaman lesson today to the adults. (My wife was a sub, but she had three other jobs to do today, so I offered to step in for her.) My first part of the lesson was to point out that the term “stripling warrior” does not exist in the Book of Mormon, and that “warrior” itself only occurs a handful of times in all of scripture. “Stripling” is simply an archaic word for “young man.”

    As I read through Alma 56, what stood out to me more than anything else was how often Helaman, in his epistle to Moroni, referred to the 2,060 soldiers as “young men,” “little army,” “little force,” “little sons,” “my sons.” I realized that these were not the bulging muscular brutes that you see portrayed in the popular paintings and action figures. This “little army” of “young men” consisted of teenagers — priest- and teacher- and perhaps even deacon-aged boys.

    In class we read all of chapter 56 together to emphasize that point. I read the last few verses, and when I hit verses 55 and 56, I choked up hard (something I was not counting on). Helaman, a prophet, high priest, and father of this “little army” was able to report back to Captain Moroni that all of his boys were safe. The sons of their friends, and the boys they likely looked after as children, had shown such incredible faith and valiance that they repelled the largest, most dangerous part of the Lamanite army. And they saved the lives of many of the Nephite men who had pledged to protect the families (the Anti-Nephi-Lehis) from which the 2,060 had come.

    Along the way, we discussed the intense importance of keeping oaths and covenants (drawing from Helaman’s real concern about the Anti-Nephi-Lehis potentially breaking theirs). We also talked about why the 2,060 sons were so strong in their faith (because of the stark, clear example of their formerly murderous parents who then changed so dramatically that they were willing to sacrifice their lives to save their souls). And of course I drew connections to how we, if we exercise the kind of faith and strict adherence to God that these boys did, can also be triumphant in our own unique temptations and struggles and battles.

    It turned out to be a more personal and moving discussion than I had intended, and I was glad, once again, to be able to step in and teach. I love the war chapters.


  5. I have heard this comment about war in the Book of Mormon before. At first blush, it seems possible that one would be able to make some correlations between the eternal struggle between good and evil and the military struggles in the Book of Mormon, but when you actually try to pin some down, it becomes difficult. I am actually pretty good at symbolism, but have been unable to come up with correlations between the violence in the Book of Mormon and our battle against sin. I wish I could. Perhaps someone could help out and give me an example.

    Stab someone in the chest when you are pretending to honor them as king?

    Vow to drink the blood of your enemy?

    Give the guards wine so they are drunk and you can sneak into their city?

    Can any of you figure out how these tactics can help the righteous to defeat evil?

  6. The war chapters have kept at least one young missionary sane in the dreadfully dull MTC.
    Maybe that’s why they’re there. :)

  7. @ #1 \”Surely Mormon had a reason to put them in there.\”

    He was a warrior. It\’s what he knew. (Not intending to be completely flippant).

  8. Perhaps its because, as Pres. Benson observed, the book is truly written for our day. Maybe the 150 year emphasis leading up to the coming of the Savior will have unmistakable parallels in our time: increasing wickedness, righteous minority, secret combinations, natural disasters, class warfare and political strife, church dissension. Does any of this ring a bell? Anyone? Anyone?

  9. #10 I’ve usually read those chapters thinking they will be more obviously relevant to people in the not so distant future. Nibley at one point commented: “Woe to the generation that understands the Book of Mormon.”

    People have from the beginning been attracted to building cities and doing politics and undertaking monumental civic projects in the manner of the Tower in Babel. I think we’re not through learning about the dangers of putting our faith in the city of man and lofty civic structures: Yes we can!

    When I was a kid I wondered about all the scriptures warning people about bloodshed and taking delight in murder, since no one I knew would consider killing anybody. Now, I know a few murderers first hand and hear blood lust glorified in the popular media regularly.

  10. This is my point of view.

    There appear to be three distinct “sections” or time periods in the Book of Mormon. I believe that, since the book was written for our day, there are specific foci for our day.

    The first, 1st Nephi to Words of Mormon, focuses on the establishment and defense of a new paradigm (the Nephite nation), which in our day corresponds to the establishment of the Church.

    From Mosiah through 3rd Nephi, the people are prepped for the coming of Christ. Hopefully as we are doing so today.

    4th Nephi through Moroni show the great wickedness that can come even after Christ has been here. Seems to correspond to the little season that Satan will be let loose.

    The war chapters are quite informative in that they develop these Book of Mormon characters as seen from the outside. We see the bravery, the wickedness, the humility, and the audacity it takes to hold a nation together in a time of great trials. We also see Alma’s aphorism in life: by small and simple things, great things are brought to pass (both for the wicked, like Amalikiah, and the righteous, like Helaman).

    Mormon was a sober boy called to be the prophet before he was a soldier–he knew what it takes to stay righteous when the world goes to pot. I believe this is probably one of the greatest reasons the war chapters are included.

    Sorry my comment jumps around a bit–y’all got me rambling :-D

  11. Actually, I think these chapters are where the Book of Mormon starts to get really interesting for the reader. All of the categories that have structured the narrative up to this point get broken down: Lamanites are no longer unambiguously bad, Nephites take turns at the grossest wickedness, the neat geographical boundaries are utterly transgressed, it turns out that keeping the covenants and traditions of your fathers isn’t necessarily expedient or in accordance with God’s will (2,000 striplings), the great Moroni (unlike, say, Nephi) loses his temper and we get to see it. All of a sudden there is no stable vantage point from which to draw reasonably simple lessons–the book moves from neat morality tale to messy, glorious human drama and the reader/spectator is allowed, even forced, to dive into the thicket and start trying to discern God’s will even when the narrator and actors miss it as, for instance, in the details Cheryl points out–God inspires treachery? hideous bloodthirsty kinds of vengeance? It can’t be; the reader has to bring something that the narrator hasn’t put in. Good times.

    My 12- and 13-year-olds, btw, got this almost instantly, every time we’d get a little bogged down in the details of troop movements or poison-testing strategies, one of them would start a comment with something like, “yeah, but what’s interesting about this part is…” or “who cares about that? waht matters is…” Nobody was sleeping in my class!

  12. Don Murphy is spot on. I can\’t help but be slack-jawed amazed at the parallels to the society we live in today! If one is truly likening the scriptures to themselves, it\’s impossible to miss! From our presidential election to the war in Iraq to our political corruption! It\’s all there! And it\’s not pretty! We\’re on that threshold referenced in Helaman 4 or 5 where the people have tipped the scales and the majority are choosing evil over good. The war chapters are a huge red flag being waved to those faithful who are studying their scriptures. Our American riches and lifestyles place as at the peak of the pride/nephite cycle… and the Book of Mormon cries from the dust a warning to those who listen as to what to do and how to prepare. Especially in light of the fact that the problems arose so often from WITHIN the body of saints.

  13. I think, to understand the War Chapters, you have to go to an earlier point in the Book of Mormon. Because the war between the Lamanites and Nephites was begun by a man (Amalickiah) who had attempted to gain power first within the Nephite system. Upon failing, he fled with a few of his loyalists and forced themselves upon the Lamanite leadership.

    Previous to the judicial semi-democratic system King Mosiah put in place, the Nephites were ruled by kings for four hundred years. That’s a very very long time. Let’s put that in perspective. Four hundred years ago was 1608. How much has happened in the last 400 years in setting our own culture here? For the Nephites, all they had known for 400 years was rule by a king. They apparently had a very good run with few, if any bad kings. (King Noah didn’t rule the Nephites as a whole, but a city-state). But then, we get to King Mosiah. He happens upon three kings that make him reconsider having a monarchy rule the Nephites.

    1. First and foremost, his eldest son, Aaron did not want to be king. He, instead, wanted to go off to preach to the Lamanites. None of his other sons wanted the rule either. King Mosiah considered the consequences of giving the kingship to someone else because he just read and was told of two other accounts where things hadn’t gone well with a monarchy rule.

    2. The people of Zeniff. They left the Nephites thinking, brashly, that they could inherit the land where Lehi first landed. Zeniff himself was a decent chap, but his son Noah was a terrible king, bringing all sorts of wickedness upon his people. It turned very poorly for the people thanks to the wickedness of one man. King Mosiah pondered on that, as well as…

    3. The record of Ether. This one, I think, had a more profound influence on King Mosiah. He read the entire record that Ether left (which we don’t have—Moroni merely summarized the main points throwing in a few quotes from the account), and it is clearly a troubling account for a monarchy rule.

    These three things are strongly evidenced in his reasoning that he gives to the Nephites why they should abandon a monarchial rule. In verses 6-7 he states:

    6 Now I declare unto you that he to whom the kingdom doth rightly belong has declined, and will not take upon him the kingdom.
    7 And now if there should be another appointed in his stead, behold I fear there would rise contentions among you. And who knoweth but what my son, to whom the kingdom doth belong, should turn to be angry and draw away a part of this people after him, which would cause wars and contentions among you, which would be the cause of shedding much blood and perverting the way of the Lord, yea, and destroy the souls of many people.

    He knew the people were well aware of what they just read together in the account of Ether. Those very things happened over and over and over in Ether.

    16 Now I say unto you, that because all men are not just it is not expedient that ye should have a king or kings to rule over you.
    17 For behold, how much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction!
    18 Yea, remember king Noah, his wickedness and his abominations, and also the wickedness and abominations of his people. Behold what great destruction did come upon them; and also because of their iniquities they were brought into bondage.

    Here he reminds them of King Noah, the one wicked king most of them could closely relate to. He proposed a wholly new system. He explains in some detail (at least what Mormon has decided to give us—Mormon explains after offering the following that Mosiah spent more time discussing with his people the travails of having a king vs having just judges):

    25 Therefore, choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given you by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord.
    26 Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.
    27 And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.
    28 And now if ye have judges, and they do not judge you according to the law which has been given, ye can cause that they may be judged of a higher judge.
    29 If your higher judges do not judge righteous judgments, ye shall cause that a small number of your lower judges should be gathered together, and they shall judge your higher judges, according to the voice of the people.

    Because Mormon doesn’t offer more, we don’t know if King Mosiah ever considered what to do with people (like Amalickiah) who weren’t happy with the system. Amalickiah wasn’t the only one who rebelled against the new judicial system.

    The reason I bring up this shift is because this shift to judges had a profound effect on the Nephites. I believe it to be a failed experiment. The Nephites were not ready, as a nation, to maintain and endure in, a system run by judges. Just look at the speed in which the system failed. Right from the getgo we see Nehor attempt to force a different system through violence. Then in Alma 2 we get Amlici. Just like that. Not even a few years and already they had one war over how to control the Nephites. The Book of Alma is replete with examples of challenges to the judicial system of governance over the Nephites. The culmination being Amalickiah’s hateful war. That war, in my opinion, fundamentally affected how the Nephites viewed their government or participation therein. Good people were harder to find to rule, leaving most judicial slots to the more wicked, and to those who belonged to a new group that found the vacuum open and ripe for the taking.

    The judicial system just simply did not work for the Nephites. King Mosiah made a fundamental mistake in switching from a kingship to a judicial system. His argument was, basically, that it was more risky to have the possibility of a wicked king than to have a judicial system, essentially run by more than one person. Unfortunately it was a more destabilized system and it sadly culminated in the destruction of the entire system by 3 Nephi. (I can’t speak for post-Christ Nephites as the record is very scarce).

  14. One of the things I find interesting is that while the parents covenant to be pacifists under all circumstances, even unto death…

    their sons covenant to fight in all circumstances. link A reversal, essentially.

  15. The kids in my class understood the war chapters and could follow along with what was happening to a much greater extent than the class I taught two years ago got the Old Testament. The Valiant manual spends a long time on the war chapters in part, I think, because the things that happen are things you can easily compare to regular life: the children in my classes knew about soldiers going to war and understood young men going far away from home for years at a time, and had at least heard about things like cities being destroyed in battle — not so much with voices like thunder echoing around a country devastated by earthquakes and volcanoes and angels descending to bless the little children. To say nothing of pillars of fire, thousands of people getting cured just by looking at something, or innocent men being put to death in a myriad of tortuous ways (the consensus amongst Central Ohio 8-year-olds appears to be that being burned to death is more unpleasant than being crucified, but both are worse than being eaten alive by vicious animals.)

    Similarly, the snore-inducing scriptures in seminary were always associated in some way with Isaiah. I really don’t see what the issue here is… though to be perfectly fair I was always a Sea Cadet/Army ROTC kind of girl anyway.

  16. I tend to think that the war chapters are there (to steal Bryce I.’s ideas) because it lends a richness to the text akin to details of whaling in Moby Dick. More than this, though, I believe that Mormon inserts them because as an editor he is inserting those things he personally finds most relevant and interesting. In any event, it’s great fun to teach, because I don’t believe the Book of Mormon teaches us anything consistent about warfare or pacifism outside of our ongoing duty to follow the Spirit in all things at all times.

    Alternatively, you could teach the war chapters as proof that Joseph didn’t write the BoM, because no author would deliberately be so boring.

  17. These are some of my favorite bits of the Book of Mormon. I subbed for the youth this week, adults last week, and really enjoyed teaching these, and the classes seemed responsive.

    There is such richness and intrigue, and layers upon layers of lessons about war, and about our personal battle against evil.

    Do most folks really find these to be “dreaded”?

  18. I’m fairly certain that my college application was the only one that institution ever received in which the essay question about what the applicant had learned from the last book s/he read focused on the war chapters of the Book of Mormon. There are specific chapters I like more, but those chapters are my favorite extended storyline in the entire book.

    Jon, “stripling soldiers” (53:22) and “stripling Ammonites” (56:57) are used, even though “stripling warriors” is not. I think that is an incredibly important distinction, and I am glad you brought it out in your lesson.

  19. I posted an alternate theory for the war chapters a few months ago (here.) I have never been satisfied by the idea that we should find some symbolic meaning in the war chapters.

  20. The system of judges Mosiah set up to replace the monarchy was robust enough to endure both the internal strife Dan mentioned, and repeated major wars with more numerous Lamanites for some 120 years, a respectable record when compared with the average royal dynasty. Mosiah can hardly be blamed for the ambition of later men who repeatedly imagined that they could hoodwink people into voting them into absolute power, and then resorted to force and alliances with the Lamanites when persuasion failed. Nor is he responsible for his people becoming complacent and allowing his system to be corrupted, subverted, and finally overthrown by criminal conspiracies a few generations after he was dead and gone.

    The US system of government, by comparison, was set up by wise men who had the benefit of over two thousand years of European experience with both monarchy and alternative systems (and were familiar with that history), and was specifically designed to prevent ambitious men from gaining too much power before they could be checked: Our own record of failed rebellions (except for the Civil War) is better than the Nephites. But we have not avoided the later problems, of abandonment of the founding principles by later generations, flourishing greed and moral corruption, and allowing the development of crimial conspiracies to gain influence in the government.

    Mormon devotes a large share of his record to chronicling the rise and fall of the Nephite system of elected rulers, almost certainly with the deliberate intent that future readers, including but not limited to ourselves, would profit by comparison. The situations of the Nephites and ourselves are certainly not identical, but there are recognizable similarities. We have been warned.

    As I have begun studying history in the past ten years or so, I am increasingly finding the books of Mosiah, Alma, and Helaman to be one of the most searching examinations of the relationships between political liberty, religion and morality, and commercial ethics from a Christian point of view to be found anywhere in world literature.

  21. Seriously, war is hell, anyone in the war zone will not receive their Maslovian needs. We need to all be frosty every minute of life as this gilded excrement of life is deceiving. We have the battle scriptures to have some kind of beacon and example to be able to stay sane. If we are not at this state mentally then we need to repent.

  22. I’m currently reading these chapters in depth, with colored pencils in hand. I might write about my thoughts if I can pull them together. To me, they are full of insights into the struggles of our day. (Sorry, Jacob J.)

    A simple example of an application was explored by SilverRain here.

  23. Not a bad approach, Julie. I still find most of them uninspiring, but there are portions that can be really inspiring.

  24. Alternatively, you could teach the war chapters as proof that Joseph didn’t write the BoM, because no author would deliberately be so boring.

    Are you sure? There seems to be a positive relationship between verbosity and style points among 19th century authors.

  25. But LLC, the war chapters are not boring because of verbosity as it is actually rather crisp in narrative. Rather, I think they are boring because of expectations for what constitutes scripture. Readers expect grand miracles or lengthy sermons to ponder, but instead get history lessons and war tactics. I tend to believe the war chapters exist because the end times are going to be messy and we need to understand that and recognize why. If there is one thing a study of history has taught me it is that names, places, political systems, and technology changes, but human nature doesn’t. I think Mormon’s message is as straight forward as his editorializing – no matter what it takes, don’t find yourself on the wrong side of righteousness because of pride, ambition, and greed.

  26. I’m with Coffinberry in #2.

    As a 12 year old kid, I found the war chapters exciting and fun. Much more interesting than the Isaiah chapters. These chapters are clearly to keep the interest of young males.

  27. What is with you people? Kristine in #13 is the only one who gets it, IMHO. Mormon’s Alma “war” chapters are among the most vital, real passages in all of Scripture. And they aren’t for kids — these chapters are among the most grown-up in the BoM. This isn’t idealized abstract doctrine or windy preaching. Here Mormon is grappling with the hardest case in mortal life — how do you maintain righteousness in the most horrific circumstances imaginable — war? And not just war from without. Here is treason and civil war, possibly even more vicious than dealing with a marauding invader. Here is a hero who isn’t a prophet, but a man of action, possibly with some serious anger management issues. In other words, here is a righteous hero who is presented (almost unintentionally perhaps) as a real fallible human being. Here are bad guys who are charming, clever, bold and eloquent. Here are tough “what would you do” scenarios presented from the bottom (the 2,000 teenage soldiers) and the top (constant tough choices Moroni faces) culminating in the magnificent Moroni – Pahoran episode in chapters 60 – 62. Show me any better case study of different personality and management types trying to constructuvely interact for the common good. As for the blood and guts and strategic detail, well what better way to make it all real? How do we righteously deal with conflict — real, serious, constant conflict — in the world, in nations, in workplaces, in Church, in families, in marriages? Using this episode from his national history, in these chapters Mormon offers us a real-life study in the application “in the trenches” of the fine doctrine he has set out in the preceding chapters of Alma.

  28. Jim, you’re really selling those chapters, but I’m not buying. They contribute invaluably to the whole of the book, but on their own? Zzzzz.

  29. I\’m new to this website/blog, but i really wanted to post.

    There is no mention in the post or in the comments to reading WITH the Spirit. Instead it seems like Mormon has been demoted to an “editor” rather than a prophet who truly saw our day and had a divine mandate from the Lord to prepare this book for all of us. It seems like we are categorizing the Book of Mormon – as if the Isaiah chapters quoted in 2 Nephi are meant for “adults” the “more mature audience” and the war chapters for “children” (as i write this, i’m reminded how Christ admonished us to be like children…)

    The Book of Mormon is written to all – “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD,” Mormon tells us this on the title page of the Book of Mormon. this is why he included the Isaiah chapters, the allegory of the olive Tree, the war chapters, the encounter between Christ and the Nephites – EVERYTHING in the Book of Mormon is contained therein to testify of the Divinity of Christ. That’s what we need to know.

    I do think that we are experiencing the “hell” of war – on many fronts – literally – as we have throughout history, and also in our minds, against pornography, against drugs, and against wickedness in general. How do we overcome these challenges? How do we stand up to the powers of Hell? …”Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be like unto Moroni, behold the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.” (Alma 48:17). This is not the only place for the right answer. We get this advice time and time again – from every prophet.

    Falling asleep through these chapters? Falling asleep through ANY chapter? My suggestion, is to wake up, and pray for the Spirit. Ponder. Receive the things written in the Book of mormon – with real intent, and with a sincere heart. We will receive what God will have us know.

  30. I must say I’m really surprised to find that some people consider the war chapters to be boring. As long as I can remember, I thought of them as the point where the Book of Mormon starts to get really good! As Julie stated in the opening comments, there’s a lot more to it than bloodshed and military strategies. Not that there’s anything wrong with that… :)

    The chapters at the end of Alma are as inspiring and interesting and heartbreaking and encouraging as anything else in the Book of Mormon. I’m just completely baffled that some people don’t see it that way. This is a real eye-opener for me.


  31. Who wrote the Book of Mormon?

    If you believe that it was a young genius Joseph Smith, then the war chapters make some sense. They might reflect his interest and maturity. (Although in Zion’s march, Joseph Smith did not demonstrate much taste for actual battle when he had the chance.)

    If you believe that an ancient individual named Mormon wrote these chapters, quoting Alma and Helaman and others extensively, then we might consider his background. And fortunately we are given a few little hints of Mormon’s biography:

    Mormon 1:2 Age 10. Education begins
    Mormon 1:6-7 Age 11. Moved to Zarahemla, beginning of a terminal civil war
    Mormon 1:15 Age 15 Visited of the Lord and preaches
    Mormon 2:2 Age 16 Head of the Nephite Army that was losing frightening battles

    Actually it says “in my 16th year” which may mean he was still only 15, depending on how they counted years. (And if they counted years the same way as some in the recent Olympics, he might still only have been about 10-12 years old.)

    One question I have considered is why would you put a 16 year old at the head of your army? Especially if you were losing? Those of us who have children of about that age are best able to answer this question. Certainly not because of long experience and wisdom. I can only think of one likely reason; because he was strong and probably big. (Think Yao Ming leading the Chinese Olympic team in the opening ceremony).

    When we consider these basic biographical events in the life of Mormon, the primary author of these long war chapters, then we realize that we are lucky that there are not more of them. It seems that people today want to make Mormon into a PhD in history from Oxford. At best he was home-schooled for 6 years. He was a barely literate bronze age warrior who fought almost continuously his entire life and he died on the battlefield at about 75-90* years of age. Oh, and a prophet, almost forgot about that. The Book of Mormon reflects this biography.

    Footnote: Ninety* years old? 4 Nephi 1:48 says that Amaron hid up the records in 320 AD and Mormon 1:2 says Amaron visited Mormon at age 10 about the same time. So Mormon was born about 310 AD, maybe 311 AD. The footnote for Mormon 1:6 when he was 11 years old says about 322 AD. Mormon 8:6 mentions that 400 years have pased away right after describing the death in battle of Mormon in 8:5. 400 minus 310 is 90.

    However many years you think silently passed away between Mormon 8:5 and 8:6 is how many years short of 90 that Mormon lived. At the most Mormon 6:5 mentions the preparations for the final battle at Cumorah in 384 AD when Mormon would have been age 73 years and describes himself as “began to be old.” He survived that holocaust long enough to count the tens of thousands of slain Nephites and anguish over them (Oh ye fair ones.) and give another stiff lecture with a call to repentance for future descendants in chapter 7 and then to be hunted down and killed after that. I image that hunting him down was no easy task, maybe like trying to catch Bin Laden.They didn’t catch his son Moroni for at least 30 years and they might have been together or using similar tactics. I favor an age closer to 90 than 73 years old for Mormon at his death.

  32. I think the war chapters were included so that little boys would pay attention while their mom is reading scriptures to them over breakfast. My seven-year-olds both love the war chapters!

  33. sorry, it cut me off. My seven-year-olds both LOVE the war chapters! Much better than the Isaiah chapters for them! :-)

  34. The war chapters are tedious? They make you sleepy? Wow… You and I have verrrrrrrrry different ideas about what is boring.

    Now, that difference doesn’t surprise me much. What surprises me is that it doesn’t seem to have occurred to you that such a difference would exist. I mean, I find the song “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” to be tedious in the extreme. But I am aware that not everyone shares that opinion, and I can understand why they might find the song to be inspiring or moving.

    So have you really never met people who (like me) find the war chapters to be fascinating? Or have I just totally misread your post?

  35. While looking for spiritual substance in the war chapters don’t overlook the lesson for us in Alma 47 when Lehonti fails to do that which is obviously correct and stay on the mountain, away from Amalickiah, but allows himself to be tempted, again and again, until he is beyond the point of no return. Note that his final demise is also “by degrees.”

  36. People see meaning in reading tea leaves also.

    However, if a person believes in BOM unquestionably, the fact that evil rises to the top of the state makes you wonder about President Bush and his NEO-CONS. I believe it took over 900 lies to get us involved in the second Iraq war. And yet Utah has had an intense love affair with the Bush family.

    Bush junior did get the holy nod from Pres. Hinckley after the 9-11 thing. No wonder Hinckley got an award for patriotism the next year.

  37. Usually, when we “liken the scriptures unto ourselves”, we look at the example of the Nephites and ask ourselves in what ways we are similar to them, for good or for evil.

    With the war chapters, and the way things have been going for the last few years, maybe it’s time we starting looking a little more closely at the Lamanites and how they went about stirring up the people to war, and likening ourselved unto them for a change.

    As was said above, it’s not a pretty picture.

  38. Dan, on #1, I think that the 116 pages ended with the first chapter or so of Mosiah. All the books of the BoM have colophons, except for Mosiah, suggesting that a portion of the book that included its colophon was among the 116 pages. The Words of Mormon were actually added by Mormon with the small plates to the back of the gold plates, as an explanation to why they were appended.

    As for the war chapters, I believe they can be very useful in teaching us how to manage the wars in our own lives. Some of the trials and troubles we go through can last forever (or so they seem), and we cannot help but plod through them one foot in front of the other.

    Of course, many valuable lessons come from these chapters: the importance of teaching our children, the importance of defending one’s home and nation, learning how to write letters with Moroni’s tactful skill (oops!), and relying on God even through tough times.

    We live in a time when many would sell their souls for a mess of pottage. I think it is therefore enlightening to see people who would give up their lives for their personal beliefs. Would each of us be willing to give our lives like Teancum, or would we be willing to be like the kingmen and negotiate some other treaty?

  39. “There is no mention in the post or in the comments to reading WITH the Spirit.”

    Welcome to the bloggernacle.


  40. Mormon said that what is contained is not even a one-onehundredth of what could have been written and we only have 1/3 whereas 2/3 is sealed. Mormon knew and more imporrtant the Lord knew what we would need in everyway. THerefore EVERY chapter, verse, and word was included for our benefit and learning.
    I taught the War chapters a couple weeks ago and I chose to take the approach of Amlickiah being a type of Satan and Captain Moroni being a type of Christ. I chose to look at this war and the cities being attacked and fortified as the the spiritual war here and the attack on the church, our homes, and souls. I chose to take things this direction due to Jon Bytheways point about Amalickiah resembling Satan so closely. If the Lord was trying to point this out to us then we will be able to look at the rest of the battle and see how Amlickiah fought the war and hopefully gain an understanding of how Satan will/is fighting this war for souls today (i.e. when Amlickiah convinced Lahonti to come down from the mount and then preceded to kill him by degrees is a great example).
    The scriptues are like an onion with many layers. I think they are meant to be understood literally, symbolically, and personally. This requires The Spirit, thinking outside the box, and a willing heart.
    Please dont disregard any of the scriptures for naught. Many of us would say we would love to see the sealed portion, but why would the Lord do so when we dont try to understand and take advantage of what we have.

  41. Has anyone ever read the BOM as a literary work, i.e., remove the verse, chapter, book markings like the early editions? It seems one could better understand the flow and emotion of the writings. From this standpoint, it seems the war chronicles pain, misery, and hopelessness. What better time to bring in Christ and his visit to the Nephites. A sort of catharsis after the deep, dark times they have just been through.

    And I think you see this in the Bible, also. Whereas the OT is full of wars, plagues, and the harsh Law of Moses, the tone of the NT abruptly changes to hope and redemption.

    I don’t believe that the wars in Alma can be used to justify the current situation in Iraq (like some in my SS class have suggested). If anything, it should serve as a call to compassion to those who may be misled. With free agency there will always be war and oppression, but God will always cause something good to come from trials, no matter how severe. I believe the appearance of Christ is the sun after the storm.

  42. A few weeks ago when I taught about Nephi telling of the murder of the latest chief judge I was a bit bothered about talking to my 9-yr-old Valiants about murder and Nephi’s prophetic detective work. My mother finds the war chapters violent and distressing. I don’t mind them, but there are big parts of the OT that I found impossible to read (even WITH the Spirit). Horrifying. I find it interesting that anyone would see the war chapters as validation for modern warfare. If anything it should teach us that war is to be avoided until absolutely impossible. There’s no Nephite preemptive doctrine of warfare.

    I have to say that this time through the BoM I was really struck by Aaron–Ammon gets all the PR with his arm-chopping, but Aaron’s the quieter, steady older brother who gave up all the glory to be a missionary. I think he’s my new hero and I’m looking forward to meeting him. I’m sure the line for his autograph will be shorter than Ammon’s anyway.

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