The Lord Redeems His Covenant Children
Alma 1 -- Alma 44
Alma 43:1 And the Sons of Alma Did Go Forth . . . to Declare the Word:
In Alma 30:6 the chronological footnote pegs "the latter end of the seventeenth year" to "B.C. 74." In Alma 35:12-16 we find that "the seventeenth year [74 B.C.] of the reign of the judges" ended. . . . "And Alma, and Ammon, and their brethren, and also the two sons of Alma returned to the land of Zarahemla." . . . and Alma "caused that his sons should be gathered together, that he might give unto them every one his charge, separately, concerning the things pertaining unto righteousness. And we have an account of his commandments, which he gave unto them according to his own record."
We then have a number of chapters wherein Alma gives counsel to his sons -- Helaman (Alma 36-37), Shiblon (Alma 38), Corianton (Alma 39-42).
Now with this chronology in mind, the reader should note that the chronological footnote at the bottom of the page for Alma 43:3--"And now I return to an account of the wars between the Nephites and the Lamanites in the eighteenth year of the reign of the judges"-- reads " ABOUT 74 B.C." This is one year PREVIOUS to the war mentioned. Why is this dated like it is? Is the chronological footnote a mistake? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Appendix A--Chronology] [See the commentary by Skousen on Alma 36-42]
Alma 43:1 The Sons of Alma Did Go Forth among the People, to Declare the Word:
After recording Alma's blessings and admonition to his sons, Mormon adds that "the sons of Alma did go forth among the people to declare the word unto them" (Alma 43:1) According to Brant Gardner, what is striking about this statement is that we have just seen Corianton called to this effort, and we have no indication that he is to be excluded. We must conclude, therefore, that Corianton was truly repentant, and that he did follow his father's admonitions, and did accept his call to the ministry. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," at http://www.frontpage2k.nmia.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/Alma43.htm, p. 1]
Alma 43:1 And Alma, Also, Himself, Could Not Rest, and He Also Went Forth:
In addition to learning that Alma's sons begin to preach to the people, we find that "Alma, also, himself, could not rest, and he also went forth" (Alma 43:1). According to Brant Gardner, we do not learn the reason that Mormon specifically says that Alma "could not rest." However, the fact that he had recently concluded his blessing and admonitions to his sons suggests that he had some cognizance that the end of his time was approaching. There is nothing in the character of Alma as we know him that suggests he would have retired to a life of luxury, yet he still would have felt the effects of his age. Although we can only approximate Alma's age, we know that his father would have been approximately 83 when he died. We might expect that Alma the Younger had been his first born son, with a logical birth date in his father's early twenties if not late teens. If we use twenty years as a plausible age for Alma the Elder when Alma the Younger was born, we have Alma the Younger being 77 years old at this point in time. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," at http://www.frontpage2k.nmia.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/Alma43.htm, p. 1]
Alma 43:2,3 Now We Shall Say No More . . . and Now I Return to an Account of the Wars:
In the statement, "Now we shall say no more . . . and now I return to an account of the wars . . ." (Alma 43:2,3), the word "I" seems to refer to Mormon. But if so, then who is the "we"? Is Mormon referring to himself and the other historian (Alma) as "we"? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 43:3 And Now I Return to an Account of the Wars Between the Nephites and the Lamanites:
Brant Gardner notes that Mormon's "return" to the wars between the Lamanites and the Nephites in his record (Alma 43:3) will be an all-inclusive theme through the end of the book of Alma. While we have had various descriptions of these military conflicts before, this particular discussion of war and tactics will comprise the largest stretch of such nearly pure historical material we find in the text that Mormon has edited. It becomes a legitimate question as to why we have this much war, and why it appears at this time in Mormon's text. John W. Welch reminds us:
Actually, when we closely examine the subject, we may all wonder why there isn't more war in the Book of Mormon. For many readers, encountering so much war in so sublime and sacred a volume is something of a culture shock. But this is our problem, not the book's. On this issue, if we put aside our cultural predilections and attempt to understand the Book of Mormon as a Nephite or a Lamanite might have understood it, then these events play much different, more religious roles in the book, and they become spiritually more meaningful to us. (John W. Welch, "Why Study Warfare in the Book of Mormon?" in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, p. 20)
Still, the fact of the presence of the material on war does not explain the reason for it. It is true that we may wonder what it is doing in the text and it is to that question that we turn. R. Douglas Phillips attempted an answer to the question in this way:
Mormon was also acutely aware that the final Lamanite wars . . . in which he himself played a leading military role, were the fulfillment of the prophecies . . . and a testimony that the principle of divine [covenant] retribution was in full operation (see Helaman 13:5-11; Mormon 1:19; 2:10-15). . . . Like the Greek historian Thucydides, he was not only a general, but he was also destined to be the historian who had to account for his nation's defeat in terrible war. . . . He saw as one of the main purposes of his life the tragic task of writing the "record concerning the destruction of [his] people, the Nephites" (Mormon 6:1).
Mormon devotes most of his interest in military accounts and wars to the period 75 B.C.-A.D. 25, and in particular to the fourteen years of Lamanite wars at the time of Moroni. His account of that one period fills some seventy pages in the book of Alma.
Inevitably, Mormon should have been attracted to Moroni--the brilliant, energetic, selfless, patriotic, and God-fearing hero who had been instrumental in preserving the Nephite nation. So great was Mormon's admiration for him that he named his son after him. In Mormon's eyes, the peaceful days under Moroni were a golden age in Nephite history (see Alma 50:23). But the military exploits of Moroni seem to have interested Mormon particularly. With great care, he recounted Moroni's courage and patriotism in the desperate military and political state of affairs arising from Lamanite invasion from without and sedition from within, his efforts in mobilization and defense, his own and his lieutenants' brilliant tactics, their sharply fought battles with frightful losses, and their miraculous victories. But throughout his account, we perceive the hand of God making use of devout and just military leaders and statesmen to preserve the righteous and punish the wicked (see Alma 48:11-13, Mormon's eulogy of Moroni). (R. Douglas Philips, "Why Is So Much of the Book of Mormon Given Over to Military Accounts?' Warfare in the Book of Mormon, p. 26.)
What we must understand, then, is not why there is so much war, but why there is so much emphasis on only some of the wars, wars that fall into a particular time period four hundred years before Mormon's time. The answer to that, of course has to do with the particular years, and the particular event to which they are leading. Mormon's story is a story of the expectation of, arrival of, and aftermath of, the [covenant] mission of the Atoning Messiah. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," at http://www.frontpage2k.nmia.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/ Alma43.htm, pp. 2-4]
Note* It is worth noting that at the conclusion of these wars, Mormon notes that "they had had wars, and bloodsheds . . . for the space of many years . . . nevertheless for the righteous' sake, yea, because of the prayers of the righteous, they were spared" (Alma 62:39-40). That is, in a covenant Lord-servant relationship, the Lord will honor the petitions of his covenant obedient servant leaders, even if all of his people are not so obedient. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 43:3 And Now I Return to an Account of the Wars:
[See the commentary on Alma 35:13]
Alma 43:3 Wars . . . in the Eighteenth Year of the Reign of the Judges:
Brant Gardner writes that the "eighteenth year of the reign of the judges" (Alma 43:3) falls in what is called the late Preclassic in Mesoamerican archaeology (200 B.C. to A.D. 200). The Maya portion of the Mesoamerican world at this time appears to point towards an increase in militarism. Our best information for Maya militarism will come later in the Classic, but the seeds of the Classic are firmly sown at the end of the Preclassic, and the wars of the Nephities and Lamanites may fit into general pressures that are visible from that time period. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," at http://www.frontpage2k.nmia. com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/ Alma43.htm, p. 5]
Alma 43:4 The Zoramites Became Lamanites:
In Alma 43:4 we find that "the Zoramites became Lamanites." One might wonder just how often a portion of the Nephites became Lamanites. Did this change result in the shifting of Nephite borders? And how often did Nephite or Lamanite borders shift? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 43:4 The Zoramites Became Lamanites:
According to Brant Gardner, we have the very simple yet very informative statement that the Zoramites became Lamanites. This should put to rest all presumptions that the term Lamanite has anything to do with genetics at this point in the Book of Mormon. The only way that the Zoramites could become Lamanites was to shift their political alliances. Surely they did no more. Surely they did not alter their genetic makeup. What they did was alter an allegiance. Lamanite is clearly a political term here.
The next point is subtler because it is not stated at all. It concerns the curse on the Lamanites--the dark skins. Here we have an entire city who became Lamanites, and as Lamanites, they were subject to the curse, but there is certainly no indication of any consternation on the part of these people or reference to the fact that they awoke one morning to find that all of them had changed the skin color. As has been noted before, the skin of blackness is symbolic, not physiological. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," at http://www.frontpage2k.nmia.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/ Alma43.htm, p. 6]
Note* It is Ironic here that the Zoramites (Nephites who had become Lamanites) lived in a land which bordered the land of Jershon, a land given as an inheritance to the people of Ammon--Lamanites who had become Nephites. This is another subtle part of the story line that Joseph Smith, had he been the author of the Book of Mormon, would have had to weave together. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 43:4 The Zoramites Became Lamanites; Therefore:
Brant Gardner notes that in Alma 43:4 we have the remarkable statement that once the Zoramites became Lamanties, therefore they were at war with the Nephites. This not only suggests ongoing tensions between the Nephties and the Lamanites, but also the definition that Jacob gave: "But I, Jacob . . . shall call them Lamanites that seek to destroy the people of Nephi" (Jacob 1:14). It would appear that one of the fundamental aspects of the conceptual usage of the term Lamanite was that they should "seek to destroy the people of Nephi." [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," at http://www.frontpage2k. nmia.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/ Alma43.htm, p. 6]
Alma 43:5 The Lamanites Came With Their Thousands; and They Came into the Land of Antionum, Which Is the Land of the Zoramites:
In Alma 43:5 we find that "the Lamanites came with their thousands; and they came into the land of Antionum, which is the land of the Zoramites." Brant Gardner notes that this is not simply a rebellion of Zoramites in Antionum, but the war will encompass part of the military might of the Lamanites. This process of combining forces with those of another city state was a common practice in Mesoamerican warfare. Indeed, part of the continued success of a large hegemony of city states was the ability to muster armies from a much larger land than that of the central city which was politically dominant. This became particularly true of the Aztec empire. The larger they became, the more difficult it was to overthrow them because of their ability to muster and provision large armies at distant locations.
It is interesting to note here that the presence of the Lamanites in Antionum is precisely the fear which led Alma to begin preaching to the Zoramites in the first place (see Alma 31:3-6). Antionum held a very strategic position on the eastern flank of the land of Zarahemla, and opening Antionum as a support base for Lamanite military action opened a major breach in the geographic defenses of Zarahemla. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," at http://www.frontpage2k.nmia.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/ Alma43.htm, pp. 7-8]
Alma 43:5 Zerahemnah:
Brant Gardner notes that in Alma 43:5 we have the name of the military commander of the Lamanite forces, "Zerahemna." Up to this point in the Book of Mormon we have rarely seen the names of the commanders of the opposing forces, but we now see them with much greater frequency. The leader of an army in Mesoamerica was frequently either the king or a man who was close to the king.152 Rulers become the de facto representative of not only their polity, but the ideology of their polity. By presenting us with named people, Mormon can bring into higher focus the issues that are being addressed above and beyond the particular objective of each campaign. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," at http://www.frontpage2k.nmia.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/ Alma43.htm, p. 8]
Note* As in previous instances, this proper name--Zerahemna--could be a subtle clue to what is going on culturally. The name "Zerahemnah" is very similar to Zerahemla, the Mulekite leader who was found by Mosiah1 around 200 B.C. As has been discussed previously, these Mulekites descended from the tribe of Judah and had probably existed in a Jaredite culture for almost 400 years. Part of what brought that culture down was the desire for kingship and secret societies. These cultural ideas were a continuing sore spot between the people of Zerahemla and the people of Mosiah, Benjamin, and Alma.
The name "Zoramites" implies a descendancy from Zoram, a name associated not only with military prowess, but with a Jewish servant of Laban. The reader should not be surprised then when this military account involves a leader named Zerahemna, who uses as his leaders the Amalekites (people of the order of Nehor--note the Jaredite name connection and secret society implication) and that the Nephites are internally plagued with a divisive struggle between kingmen and freemen. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 43:6 Zerahemnah Appointed [the Amalekites and Zoramites] Chief Captains over the Lamanites
Brant Gardner notes that we first meet the Amalekites in Alma 21:1-4. We find them in Lamanite country, but distinguished among the Lamanites by a different name. The uniqueness of their name does not owe to a city, because their city (along with the Amulonites) was called Jerusalem. This tells us that they were a distinct body of people that had some uniting factor that wasn't the city to which the belonged. We also learn that they were of the order of Nehor, which appears to be a religion that specifically derived from Nephite lands. There is much more in this battle than simply a desire for territory or tribute. There is a class of ideas, a class of perceived rights, and the unique hatred that seems to come when one actively turns against an old way. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," at http://www. frontpage2k. nmia.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/ Alma43.htm, p. 1]
Note* The Nephite lands which supported this order of Nehor seem to be located geographically and apparently culturally close to the former Jaredite lands. The people seemed to be of Mulekite heritage. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 43:9 That They Might Preserve . . . Their Liberty:
According to Thomas Valletta, first-time readers of the Book of Mormon are often surprised at the number of references to "freedom" and "liberty." Actually, "freedom" appears 26 times in Alma, all between chapters 43 and 63. There are only three other direct references in the entire Book of Mormon. The term "liberty" or its derivative appears thirty-three times in these same Alma chapters, more than the rest of the Book of Mormon put together. . . . Both "freedom" and "liberty" (Hebrew: deror and hopsi) have their Hebrew roots in emancipation from slavery. As is true of [Moroni] as an individual and [the Nephites] as a nation, freedom and liberty came because of making and keeping covenants with God. [Thomas R. Valletta, "The Captain and the Covenant," in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of the Word, pp. 236-237]
Alma 43:17 He [Moroni] Took All the Command, and the Government of Their Wars:
There are few detailed accounts of the wars and conflicts between the Nephites and the Lamanites in the Book of Mormon. Usually the accounts are summarized and note the outcome without the details. However, there is a more detailed account contained in Alma, Chapter 43, describing the battle on the river Sidon and containing explicit references to the strategy and tactics of General Moroni, a Nephite. According to Retired Colonel Ernest F. Boyer, these references indicate that both General Moroni, who led the Nephite armies, and the prophet Mormon, who abridged the record, knew enough about war to address most, if not all, of the principles of war which have been adapted from Clausewitz's theories in On War and which are currently used and taught as standards in military schools and war colleges throughout the United States.
Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clauswitz, a Prussian general and philosopher on war, was born June 1, 1780. He joined the army at age 12, studied at the war college in Berlin, and took part in the Napoleonic wars. He fought in the Prussian army at Waterloo (1815). Clauswitz wrote his book On War during the period 1832-34 (Translated into English: 1908) based on his extensive experience in war, identifying the nine most common principles of war: Unity of Command, Security, Economy of Force, Mass, Simplicity, Objective, Surprise, Offensive, and Maneuver.
1. Unity of Command: The chain of command must ultimately lead to a single command authority who must clearly have the cooperation of all military forces involved:
Now the leader of the Nephites, or the man who had been appointed to be the chief captain over the Nephites--now the chief captain took the command of all the armies of the Nephites-- and his name was Moroni. And Moroni took all the command, and the government of their wars. And he was only twenty and five years old when he was appointed Chief Captain over the armies of the Nephties. (Alma 43:16-17)
2. Security: The principle of security can be logically extended to include all measures taken to protect friendly forces and the individual soldier. But, in the larger context of controlling armies, security consists mainly of assuring protection of the entire force against being surprised or losing the possibility of surprising the enemy:
And it came to pass that he [Moroni] met the Lamanites in the borders of Jershon, and his people were armed with cimiters, and all manner of weapons of war. And when the armies of the Lamanites saw that . . . Moroni had prepared his people with breastplates and with arm-shields, yea, and also shields to defend their heads, and also they were dressed with thick clothing--Now the army of Zerahemnah [the Lamanite general] was not prepared with any such thing; they had only their swords and their cimeters, their bows and their arrows, their stones and their slings; and they were naked, save it were a skin which was girded about their loins; . . . But they were not armed with breastplates, nor shields--therefore, they were afraid of the armies of the Nephites because of their armor, notwithstanding their number being so much greater than the Nephites . . . But it came to pass, as soon as they [the Lamanites] had departed into the wilderness, Moroni sent spies into the wilderness to watch their camp; and Moroni, also, knowing of the prophesies of Alma sent certain men unto him that he should inquire of the Lord whither the armies of the Nephites should go to defend themselves against the Lamanites . . . [And] the word of the Lord came unto Alma, and Alma informed the messengers of Moroni that the armies of the Lamanites were marching round about in the wilderness, that they might come over into the land of Manti, that they might commence an attack upon the weaker part of the people. And those messengers went and delivered the message unto Moroni . . . And Moroni placed spies round about, that he might know when the camp of the Lamanites should come. And now, as Moroni knew the intention of the Lamanites . . . therefore, he found by his spies which course the Lamanites were to take. (Alma 43:18-21, 23-24, 28-30)
3 & 4. Economy of Force and Mass: Economy of Force is the skillful use by the commander to achieve maximum effectiveness with the minimum possible force, i.e. to use all forces effectively. It is the corollary of Mass which is to concentrate a superior force at a critical point:
Now Moroni, leaving a part of his army in the land of Jershon, lest by any means a part of the Lamanties should come into that land and take possession of the city, took the remaining part of his army and marched over into the land of Manti. And he caused that all the people in that quarter of the land should gather themselves together to battle against the Lamanites . . . Therefore, he divided his army and brought a part over into the valley . . . and the remainder he concealed in the west valley, on the west of the river Sidon, and so down into the borders of the land Manti . . . Therefore the armies of Moroni encircled them about, yea, even on both sides of the river . . . (Alma 43:25-26, 31-32, 52)
5. Simplicity: Military missions and objectives are achieved with plans and operations. All must be simplified to the maximum extent possible to avoid misunderstanding and error, i.e. they must be "soldier proofed." In primitive and modern war, conflict is lethal by intent. War is not a game to be played solely for personal growth and improved understanding. Victory is life and choice. Defeat is loss of choice and, quite possibly, death. Therefore, a thorough comprehension of national objectives, military missions, and of tactical plans and operations is vital to everyone's interest and is achieved by the commander who wisely uses the principle of simplicity:
And he caused that all the people . . . should gather themselves together to battle . . . to defend their lands and their country, their rights and their liberties; . . . And he [Moroni] also knowing that it was the only desire of the Nephites to preserve their lands, and their liberty, and their church, therefore he thought it no sin that he should defend them by stratagem; . . . Nevertheless the Nephties were inspired by a better, cause, for they were not fighting for monarchy nor power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church. (Alma 43:26, 30, 45) (Note*** Moroni's application of the principle of Simplicity in the battle of the river Sidon is illustrated in the references for the principles of Offensive and Maneuver.)
6. Objective: Military forces, whether large or small-scale, must have a clear objective that focuses the efforts of the combatant forces. However, only offensive operations allow the choice of specific terrain objectives, i.e. vital terrain features selected in such a way as to require the accomplishment of all secondary, but necessary combat tasks. Defensive operations, such as those chosen by Moroni in the battle on the river Sidon, would have less specific objectives, e.g. protection of vital areas and destruction of the enemy's offensive capabilities, including enemy command posts, lines of communication, personnel and equipment. Therefore, the principle of objective was generally applied and focused on the protection of Nephite lands and disruption of the Lamanites lines of communication and retreat. It was not Moroni's intent to destroy the Lamanite force:
And he [Moroni] caused that all the people . . . should gather themselves together to battle against the Lamanites, to defend their lands and their country, . . . therefore they were prepared against the time of the coming of the Lamanites . . . Therefore for this cause were the Nephites contending with the Lamanties, to defend themselves, and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion . . . And thus having placed his army according to his desire he [Moroni] was prepared to meet them . . . Now Moroni, when he saw their terror, commanded his men that they should stop shedding their [the Lamanites'] blood. (Alma 43:26, 47, 33, 54) (See also the following discussion of Offensive)
7. Surprise: The principle of surprise is based on secrecy and is achieved, in part, through stealth and deception using camouflage and concealment:
And it came to pass that Moroni caused that his army should be secreted in the valley which was near the bank of the river Sidon, which was on the west of the river Sidon in the wilderness . . . Therefore, he divided his army and brought a part over into the valley, and concealed them on the east, and on the south of the hill Riplah; And the remainder he concealed in the west valley, on the west of the river Sidon, and so down into the borders of the land Manti. (Alma 43:27, 31-32)
8 & 9. Offensive and Maneuver: Even in defensive operations it is necessary to take the tactical offensive, i.e. to seize and exploit the initiative, in order to guarantee a successful battle outcome. Maneuver consists of the various ways that forces can be moved and deployed to obtain the offensive. Maneuver is also a means to obtain surprise, economy of force, and mass. "New technology and weapons have not drastically altered some of the classical types of offensive maneuver: penetration, envelopment, defensive-offensive maneuvers, and turning movements."153 The account of the battle on the river Sidon (Alma 43) is probably best described as an envelopment, i.e. "a maneuver in which a secondary attack attempts to hold the enemy's center while one (single envelopment) or both flanks (double envelopment) of the enemy are attacked or overlapped in a push to the enemy's rear in order to threaten the enemy's lines of communications or lines of retreat. This forces the enemy to fight in several directions and possibly be destroyed in position." 154 (Note*** There is a commonly accepted defensive advantage of approximately 3 or 4 to 1. In other words, to assure probable success the offensive element must have 3 or 4 times the capability of the defensive element.)
Therefore, he [Moroni] divided his army and brought a part over into the valley, and concealed them on the east, and on the south of the hill Riplah; And the remainder he concealed in the west valley, on the west of the river Sidon, and so down into the borders of the land Manti. And thus having placed his army according to his desire, he was prepared to meet them [the Lamanites] . . . And as the Lamanties had passed the hill Riplah (on the north), and came into the valley, and began to cross the river Sidon, the army [commanded by Lehi] which was concealed on the south side of the hill . . . encircled the Lamanites about on the east of in their rear . . . the Lamanites, when they saw the Nephites coming upon them in their rear, turned them about and began to contend with the army of Lehi. And the work of death commenced on both sides, but it was more dreadful on the part of the Lamanties, for their nakedness was exposed to the heavy blows of the Nephites . . . the Lamanites became frightened, because of the great destruction among them, even until they began to flee towards the river Sidon. And they were pursued by Lehi and his men; and they were driven by Lehi into the waters of Sidon, and they crossed the waters of Sidon. And Lehi retained his armies upon the bank of the river Sidon that they should not cross. [Then] . . . Moroni and his army met the Lamanties in the valley, on the other side of the river Sidon, and began to fall on them and to slay them. And the Lamanites did flee again before them, towards the land of Manti; and they were met again by the [other] armies of Moroni . . . Now, the Lamanites were more numerous, yea, by more than double the number of the Nephites; nevertheless, they were driven insomuch that they were gathered together in one body in the valley, upon the bank by the river Sidon. Therefore, the armies of Moroni encircled them about, yea, even on both sides of the river, for behold on the east were the men of Lehi. (Alma 43:31-33, 35-37, 39-42, 51-52)
(Note: A word of caution is in order here. A commander should not feel that all principles should be adapted to all situations. A careful consideration of the principles by the commander and his staff should reveal those that apply to the situation at hand and those that do not apply.) [Ernest F. Boyer, "General Moroni and the Battle on the River Sidon. Modern Principles of War in the Book of Mormon, Alma Chapter 43," pp. 1-8] [See the commentary on Alma 44:6; Alma 44:10; 3 Nephi 3:10]
Alma 43:17 Moroni . . . was appointed chief captain over the armies of the Nephites (Major Nephite Leaders) [Illustration]: The Major Leaders During Nephite History. [Church Educational System, Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122, 1989, p. 160]
Alma 43:17 [Moroni] Was Only Twenty and Five Years Old When He Was Appointed Chief Captain over the Armies of the Nephites:
According to an article by John Tvedtnes, typically Mesoamerican peoples had six basic classes or occupations: peasants, merchants, warriors, priests, judges, and government officials. Among the Aztecs, all of these were directly involved in war. For example, the merchants formed, when necessary, their own military units. Warriors and priests replenished the ranks of the judges and other government officials and most priests began their service for a time in special military units. Aztec boys destined for a military career were dedicated for the task at birth by their parents and trained at an early age. This fact of Mesoamerican life is reflected in the youth of the Nephite chief captains. It would explain how a 25 year old Moroni and later a sixteen year old Mormon came to command the Nephite armies at what we would consider in our culture to be an extremely young age.
Also of significance was the fact that the Aztec war lord, though elected to his position, was generally a blood relative of the Chief Speaker (king). Among the Maya, the town governor (batab) was a hereditary office with judicial and military functions, much like those exercised by the earlier Moroni in the Book of Mormon. There was also a war captain (nacom) who was elected for three years, but during all-out war, the batab was expected to lead the army. Though not identical to the Nephite military organization, there are obvious similarities. [John A. Tvedtnes, "Book of Mormon Tribal Affiliation and Military Castes," in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 318]
Alma 43:17 [Moroni] Was Only Twenty and Five Years Old When He Was Appointed Chief Captain:
According to Cleon Skousen, we should pause for a moment to mention that Alma 43:17 raises an important question. Mormon tells us that Moroni was only 25 when he was appointed chief captain. But when was that? Many scholars have used this present verse as the basis for assuming that Moroni was only 25 in 74 B.C., when the war with Zerahemna broke out. However, subsequent events would clearly suggest that this is not realistic. For example, just 14 years later (in 60 B.C.) Moroni turned over the military leadership to a son who was old enough and sufficiently seasoned to become chief captain (Alma 62:43). Four years after that, Moroni died (Alma 63:3). Now if Moroni were only 25 (74 B.C.) he would have retired at 39 and died at 43. Obviously, this does not appear reasonable, and we must therefore conclude that Moroni had been appointed chief captain several years before this war with Zerahemnah in 74 B.C. In fact, when we trace back the military history of this period, we find that the last identified commander prior to Moroni was a man named Zoram. He had charge of the Nephite armies as of 81 B.C. (Alma 16:5). There was another war in 77 B.C. when the Lamanites came down against the people of Ammon (Alma, chapter 28), but the name of the chief captain is not given. It is believed that sometime between 81 B.C. and 77 B.C., Moroni became the chief captain of the Nephites.
If we assume Moroni became chief captain in 81 B.C. (shortly after the war in which Zoram was commander), then Moroni would have been 32 in 74 B.C. when the war with Zerahemna broke out. Fourteen years later when he resigned he would have been 46--which would have allowed time for his son Moronihah to mature and replace him. This would mean that when he died four years later he would have reached the age of fifty. Considering all the circumstances, this seems to be a relative approximation of the chronology of Moroni's life. [W. Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 3, p. 3087]
Note* Could the change in military leadership from Zoram to Moroni have any thing to do with the rebellion of the Zoramites? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Appendix A]
Alma 43:17 He Was Appointed Chief [Commander] over the Armies of the Nephites:
According to Shirley Heater, the Printer's Manuscript of the Book of Mormon differs somewhat from the Original Manuscript. . . . At present in the 1981 LDS edition, Alma 43:17 reads, "And Moroni took all the command, and the government of their wars. And he was only twenty and five years old when he was appointed chief captain over the armies of the Nephites." The Original Manuscript says that "he was appointed chief commander over the armies of the Nephites." Apparently this word on the Original Manuscript was copied incorrectly on the Printer's Manuscript and carried forward. [Shirley R. Heater, "Variances Between the Original and Printer's Manuscripts," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, pp. 80, 87]
Note* The reader should be aware, however, that there are multiple other references to the position of "chief captain" over the Nephite armies (for example: Alma 2:13; 16:5; 43:16). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 43:17 [Moroni] was appointed chief captain over the armies of the Nephites (Illustration): Moroni Instructs Generals [Gary Kapp, Verse Markers, Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 2]
Alma 43:18 His [Moroni's] People Were Armed with . . . All Manner of Weapons of War:
According to Daniel Ludlow, one should notice the new and surprising military strategy and techniques used by Moroni in this military campaign. Moroni prepared his people with "all manner of weapons of war" (Alma 43:18), with breast plates, arm-shields, thick clothing, and shields to protect their heads (Alma 43:19). Also he fortified the Nephite cities by having the people cast up "heaps of earth round about all the cities . . . and upon the top of these ridges of earth he caused that there should be timbers . . . built up to the height of a man . . . and he caused that upon these works of timbers there should be a frame of pickets built . . . and they were strong and high. And he caused towers to be erected that overlooked those works of pickets, and he caused places of security to be built upon those towers" (Alma 50:1-4). In actual battle, Moroni often used decoy and encircling tactics to confuse and defeat the enemy (Alma 43:27-35).
Moroni may have obtained some of his new ideas on warfare from Mosiah's translation of the 24 Gold Plates of Ether which contained an account of the wars and contentions of the people of Jared (see Alma 37:29). If so, this may have given him an advantage over the Lamanites because they did not have access to this record. [Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, pp. 231-232]
Alma 43:18 His [Moroni's] People Were Armed . . . with All Manner of Weapons of War:
In Alma 43:18 it says that Moroni's people were armed "with all manner of weapons of war." According to Hunter and Ferguson, when the Tultecas [an ancient Mesoamerican people] fought . . . they used long lances, and others which were thrown, and clubs garnished with iron. They wore morions and helmets of brass and gold, and some used the rodelas, particularly those who had clubs. [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas S. Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, pp. 274-275]
Alma 43:19 Breastplates:
"Breastplates" are mentioned as part of the Nephite military defensive armor in Alma 43:19. Breastplates are the most common type of armor mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Most passages simply mention the use of breastplates and therefore offer no details as to their structure or material. Breastplates were said to protect the wearers from enemy weapons, but they could nonetheless be penetrated --"they did pierce many of their breastplates (Alma 43:44).
According to William Hamblin, although the Nephites were not the Maya, the Nephite breastplate perhaps can be equated with Maya pectoral breastplates, which were hung around the neck and covered the middle chest. . . . The basic patterns of Maya, Toltec, and Aztec kingship and warfare remained unchanged from late Book of Mormon times until the end of the Classic period. . . . It is difficult to examine any Maya sculpture or painting without finding examples of these breastplates. They were generally made of wood, bone, shells, jade, and other stones, as well as various pieces of metal. They were frequently elaborately carved with decorations of gods, hieroglyphs, animals, and human skulls. Most depictions of Maya warriors show them wearing such breastplates; however one must bear in mind that most Maya art depicts royalty and that the . . . armor of the average Maya would have been much simpler. [William J. Hamblin, "Armor in the Book of Mormon," in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 406-413]
According to Hunter and Ferguson, many of the ancient Maya warriors depicted on the stone shafts of Chichen Itza, Yucatan, are seen to wear breastplates. A gold breastplate was recovered from Tomb 7 at Monte Alban in Oaxaca, Mexico. [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, p. 276]
Alma 43:19 Shields, Arm-Shields:
In Alma 43:19 mention is made of "shields" and "arm-shields" as part of the Nephite armor. According to William Hamblin, although the Nephites were not the Maya, the Nephite shields and arm-shields perhaps can be equated with Maya armor. There are numerous types of shields depicted in Maya art. One was a large, square fabric shield, probably used mainly as a defense against missiles. The second was a smaller round shield that was made of woven reeds or that was a wooden frame covered with animal skin and often profusely decorated with paint and feathers. De Landa describes them like this: "For defense they had shields made of split and woven reeds and covered with deer hide." The small round shield strapped to the forearm corresponds nicely with the "arm-shield" mentioned in the Book of Mormon. [William J. Hamblin, "Armor in the Book of Mormon," in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 414-415]
Alma 43:19 Moroni Had Prepared . . . Shields to Defend Their Heads:
In Alma 43:19 it says that "Moroni had prepared his people with . . . shields to defend their heads." According to Hunter and Ferguson, Father Sahagun, speaking of the Tultecs [an ancient Mesoamerican people], says some of the noble lords of that nation "used to wear in war a kind of gold helmet . . . They also used another kind of silver helmet. [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas S. Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, p. 276]
Alma 43:19 Shields to defend their heads (Illustration): Armor - Quilted Cap - Quilted cap with chinguard from the ancient Maya ruins near the present town of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and The Book of Mormon, p. 276]
Alma 43:19 Shields, Arm-Shields (Illustration): Maya arm-shield, from Stela 17, Dos Pilas, Tetexbatun, Guatemala [William J. Hamblin, "Armor in the Book of Mormon," in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 415]
Alma 43:19 Thick Clothing:
As part of the Nephite armor listed in Alma 43:19, mention is made of "thick clothing." According to the Works of Ixtlilxochitl, when the Tultecas fought they would put on some sort of long tunics down to the heels, of a thousand colors, embroidered, and very closely woven and thick, so that no matter how hard they would hit each other with the lances -- for these (lances) were what they most used -- they could not pass them (cut them through). [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas S. Ferguson, Ancient America and The Book of Mormon, pp. 274-275]
According to John Sorenson, the "thick clothing" worn defensively by the Nephites seems related to the suits of quilted armor (ichcauipilli) used by the Aztecs and their neighbors. Salt or some such substance was placed between layers of cloth and the combination quilted loosely. This garment could withstand a direct arrow impact, yet it was so light and cheap that the Spaniards themselves adopted it. [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, p. 262]
Alma 43:19 Thick Clothing:
Brant Gardner notes that the "thick clothing" (Alma 43:19) is plausibly a description of a type of body armor best known from Aztec times:
Quilted cotton armor (ichcahuipilliI) was a common element of battle attire in Mesoamerica. It was constructed of unspun cotton tightly stitched between two layers of cloth and sewn to a leather border. The belief that the cotton was soaked in coarse salt to strengthen it derives from de Landa; but this account is unsubstantiated elsewhere, and Gates thinks this is a misinterpretation of taab, "to tie," for tab, "salt," and that the cotton was tied or quilted, not salted.
The ichcahuipilli was so thick (one and a half to two fingers) that neither an arrow nor an atlatl dart could penetrate it. It was made in several styles: a type of jacket that tied at the back, a sleeveless jacket that tied in the front, a sleeveless pullover that hugged the body and reached to the top of the thigh, and a sleeveless pullover that flared and reached to midthigh. (Ross Hassig. Aztec Warfare, p. 88)155
This style of protective armor may also be painted on a Maya pot. Reents-Budet describes the scene on this particular pot:
Lord Kan Xib Ahaw takes captives in battle. The victorious warriors are identified by their short-sleeved shirts, three of which are made from jaguar pelts. Perhaps these jaguar tops are a type of body protection stuffed with cotton or reinforced in some other manner similar to the effective armor worn by the later Aztecs and adopted by the invading Spanish in the sixteenth century. (Dorie Reents-Budet. Painting the Maya Universe: Royal Ceramics of the Classic Period, p. 259).156
While it would be too precipitous to suggest that the Nephites invented this type of armor, we are certainly witnessing a time period before it had been widely accepted, and thus could be a distinguishing difference between the Nephite and Lamanite forces. [Brant Gardner, Book of Mormon Commentary, http://www.highfiber.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/Alma43.htm, pp. 14-15]
Alma 43:19 They were dressed with thick clothing (Illustration): Armor -- Quilted Clothing -- Heavily armed spearman of ancient Chichen Itza, Yucatan. Note the thick quilted clothing, spear and shield. In his headdress are feathers of the sacred Quetzal bird, one of the symbols of the Messiah. [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, p. 275]
Alma 43:20 Their Slings:
Brant Gardner notes that slings were an important part of the Mesoamerican offensive weapon set:
Completing the projectile triad were maguey fiber slings (tematlatl) used to hurl stones at an enemy. The stones thrown by the slings were not casually collected at the battle site but were hand-shaped rounded stones stockpiled in advance, and these also were sent to Tenochtitlan as tribute.
Comparative data indicate that slings have a range in excess of 200 meters (660 feet) with randomly selected stones, exceeding 400 meters (1320 feet) with lead pellets in ancient Greece; slingers in the imperial Roman army could pierce chain mail at 500 paces. As with arrows, standardizing the pellet shape and size increases velocity, distance, and accuracy, and such pellets could be lethal against even armored targets. Diaz del Castillo admired the Indian's use of bows, lances, and swords, but he commented that the sling stones were even more damaging, the hail of stones being so furious that even well-armored Spanish soldiers were wounded. Slings were sufficiently effective that the slinger and the archer were essentially equals; when both were used, they were complementary and usually served close together. (Ross Hassig. Aztec Warfare, p. 80)157
[Brant Gardner, Book of Mormon Commentary, http://www.highfiber.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/ Alma43.htm, pp. 13-14]
Alma 43:20 [The Lamanites] had only their swords and their cimeters, their bows and their arrows, their stones and their slings (Illustration): Weapons and Armor. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 130]
Alma 43:20 Their slings (Illustration): A figurine of Late Pre-Classic age (the late centuries B.C. to A.D. 300) from west Mexico pictures a man preparing to use his sling to cast a stone. Of course the sling was spun in a circle over the warrior's head before one side of the leather holder was released to allow the projectile to sail toward its mark. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 131]
Alma 43:21 They Were Exceedingly Afraid of the Armies of the Nephites Because of Their Armor:
According to Brant Gardner, the extant artistic representations of Mesoamerican warfare suggest that the visual presentation of the army may have been an important aspect of warfare, and specifically designed for intimidation. While the intimidation of the Lamanites was created by a difference in armor, intimidation in later years was attempted by visual displays in addition to the armor.
The most exciting visual display of this visually impressive armor/intimidation is found in the manner warriors are shown in elaborate headdresses and body clothing/armor made of jaguar skins.158 The importance of military presentation and intimidation reached a pinnacle among the Aztec warriors. Tributary states were required to supply military "suits" which can be seen in all of their impressive glory in the Codex Mendoza folios 19-41 and others.159
In later times the modes of intimidation increased, including the sounding of trumpets to increase the noise, and probably to invoke the sounds of the divine. The jaguar costumes that we see so often in Maya paintings were certainly used to invoke the power of the jaguar in behalf of the warriors. This short scene in the Book of Mormon is quite at home in the Mesoamerican location. [Brant Gardner, Book of Mormon Commentary, http://www.highfiber.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/Alma43.htm, pp. 15-16]
Alma 43:21 Armor:
The term "armor" appears in Alma 43:21 as part of the Nephite defensive strategy. There are eight distinct terms for armor mentioned in the Book of Mormon: breastplate (11 times), shields (10 times), armor (9 times), head-plates (7 times), arm-shields (2 times), animal skins (2 times), thick clothing (2 times), and bucklers (1 time). . . . According to William Hamblin, if Joseph Smith used the Bible as a major source for plagiarism when inventing the Book of Mormon, as many critics claim, we would expect the major terms for armor in the King James Bible to appear also in the Book of Mormon. In fact, this is not the case. Rather, Book of Mormon armor terminology differs from that of the King James Bible in precisely the terms for which Mesoamerican armor has no counterpart. We find that three biblical armor terms are not used in the Book of Mormon: coat of mail, greave, and helmet/helm. Likewise, three Book of Mormon armor terms are not found in the Bible: arm-shield, head-plate, and thick clothing.
The KJV coat of mail is a mistranslation of the Hebrew which should properly be rendered as coat of scales: a leather jacket on which are sewn numerous small plates of metal. Such armor was in widespread use in the Near East in the seventh century B.C., but was unknown in ancient Mesoamerica. Coat of mail is the King James Version term used to describe the armor of Goliath in what is undoubtedly the best-known combat story of the Bible (see 1 Samuel 17:5). As such, the term would have been quite familiar to Joseph Smith, yet it never appears in the Book of Mormon.
The greave, was a special type of leg armor used to defend the shins of the lower legs. Although the Maya did wear a type of anklet that could be considered a greave, most Maya artwork clearly shows the legs as essentially unarmored.
Maya head armor could, of course, be called a helmet, as is done by most archaeologists. On the other hand, the structural differences between a Near Eastern helmet, which was a single piece of metal formed to rest on the head, and the Maya headgear, which consisted of many small plates mounted on cloth or wood, should be enough to justify the difference in terminology. [William J. Hamblin, "Armor in the Book of Mormon," in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 404, 416-418]
Alma 43:21 Armor (Illustration): Comparison of Biblical and Book of Mormon Armor Terminology [William J. Hamblin, "Armor in the Book of Mormon," in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 417]
Alma 43:22 The Lamanites Departed out of the Land of Antionum into the Wilderness and Took Their Journey Round about in the Wilderness, Away by the Head of the River Sidon, That They Might Come into the Land of Manti:
In Alma 43:22 it says that "the Lamanites departed out of the land of Antionum into the wilderness and took their journey round about in the wilderness, away by the head of the river Sidon, that they might come into the land of Manti." According to John Sorenson, from the land of Antionum to the land of Manti, a long distance is indicated by the elapsed time. While the Lamanites went "round about," indicating a curved route, there was time: (1) for Moroni to have spies follow them to determine their course (Alma 43:23); (2) for the spies to return to Moroni's camp in Jershon; (3) for Moroni to send men from Jershon to Zarahemla to get guidance from Alma (Alma 43:23); (4) for the men to return to Jershon (Alma 43:24); (5) for Moroni and part of his army to travel "over into" the land of Manti (Alma 43:25); and (6) for Moroni to set an ambush and wait a certain period of time. [John L. Sorenson, The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 256-257]
According to John Sorenson's Mesoamerican setting, two routes were available to the Lamanites between the land of Antionum and the land of Manti; they could have traveled over either. One slices through the vast Chiapas rain forest wilderness via a network of jungle valleys. The other way skirts the rough country, going all the way to the Usumacinta River and following it upstream. The second is much longer but more sensible to travel, for there would have been settlements along the way to supply food, and the route was sure. The wilderness way, while feasible, went through some of the toughest country in all Mesoamerica, which was mainly unpopulated throughout the period we are talking about. The heart of this mountainous section is still called "el desierto de los Lacandon" (the wilderness of the Lacandon Indians). Either route taken by the Lamanite army would have allowed Moroni's forces time enough to reach Manti first. [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting For the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 256]
Alma 43:24 That They Might Commence an Attack upon the Weaker Part of the People (Nephites):
It is noted in Alma 43:24 that the Lamanites departed out of the land of Antionum "that they might commence an attack upon the weaker part of the people." The defensive weakness of the people in the land of Manti is also made apparent by Mormon's comment that Moroni "caused that all the people in that quarter of the land should gather themselves together to battle against the Lamanites" (Alma 43:26).
Alma 43:26 [Moroni] Caused That All the People in That Quarter of the Land Should Gather Themselves Together to Battle Against the Lamanites:
Brant Gardner notes that Moroni is captain of an army that has already been assembled in the east wilderness. When he arrives in Manti he requests another army. He requests that the people "in that quarter of the land" participate in their own defense and "gather themselves together to battle against the Lamanites" (Alma 43:26)
This is a very standard means of raising an army in Mesoamerica. There may have been those who were trained militarily, but the larger part of the army was raised from the people of the land. This description of the recruitment of a local militia is quite appropriate for the Mesoamerican context in which we are placing the Book of Mormon. [Brant Gardner, Book of Mormon Commentary, http://www.highfiber.com/ ~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/Alma43.htm, p. 17]
Alma 43:26 That Quarter of the Land:
As part of Moroni's defensive scheme, the Nephite lands were apparently viewed as being divided into quarters. There are two distinct phrases used overwhelmingly during the tenure of Moroni as chief commander of the Nephites. The first phrase is "that quarter of the land" (see Alma 43:26; 52:10; 56:1; 58:30; 58:35). The second phrase is "that part of the land" (see Alma 23:14; 49:15; 50:26; 52:13; 53:8; 56:2,9; 59:3,6; 61:6,15; 62:12). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Alma 52:10]
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 43:25 Nephites Go to Land of Manti (18th Year)
Alma 43:31 Riplah:
According to John Tvedtnes' phonemic analysis of Book of Mormon names, in only one instance does the phenome /p/ occur in Nephite names after a vowel. This is in the name "Riplah" (Alma 43:31). This is unlike different Jaredite names such as Riplakish and Ripliancum. Thus it appears that the name "Riplah" appears to be a Jaredite borrowing. [John A. Tvedtnes, "A Phonemic Analysis of Nephite and Jaredite Proper Names," Newsletter and Proceedings of the S.E.H.A., 141 (December 1977), p. 6]
Alma 43:32 [Moroni Concealed the Army] down into the Borders of the Land Manti:
As part of Moroni's military strategy, he concealed his army "down into the borders of the land Manti" (Alma 43:32). Assuming a Mesoamerican setting, and according to the geographical theory of David Palmer, going down into the headwaters of the Grijalva River, the largest ruins in the area are called "La Libertad," and are located between several branches of the headwaters. They were inhabited as early as 600 B.C. (Chiapa III time period). Ceramic affiliations continued to be with the Central Depression of Chiapas, but in the period from 300 B.C. to 50 B.C. there were other influences. Just as would be expected based on Book of Mormon descriptions of movements between Nephi and Zarahemla, there are also cultural affiliations with Kaminaljuyu. (Warren, 1978:57) La Libertad was abandoned during the Chiapa VI Phase, sometime between 50 B.C. and A.D. 100. All indications point to La Libertad having been the city of Manti, which was located at the head of the River Sidon. . . . In fact, a Lamanite retreat towards Nephite territory of Manti can be explained by the fact that the Lamanites were trapped in a box canyon at the base of the divide, by forces of Moroni and Lehi. The fact that Manti is never mentioned subsequent to the battles in 62 B.C. is completely consistent with the archaeological record. Although the site is only seven kilometers from the Pan American Highway, it is unfortunately very difficult to reach. An unusual feature of the mounds themselves is the large amount of obsidian and pottery exposed on the surface. While the town was functioning the people must have been particularly active. Perhaps it was abandoned because it was in such a vulnerable position, being right on the frontier. [David A. Palmer, In Search of Cumorah, pp. 184-185]
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 43:27-32 The Nephites Divide & Conceal Themselves (18th Year)
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 43:34-35 The Lamanites Come into the Valley & Are Encircled (18th Year)
Alma 43:37 Their swords and their cimeters, which brought death at every stroke (Illustration): (91) Replica of one type of cimeter used by the Maya and surrounding peoples. Photo by Studio J. [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, p. 190]
Alma 43:38 Head-plates:
The term "head-plates" is mentioned in Alma 43:38. According to William Hamblin, although the Nephites were not the Maya, the Nephite head-plate perhaps can be equated with Maya armor. Headgear among the Maya was used to demonstrate status and could therefore be extremely elaborate. When examining Maya headgear as depicted in art, one ought to bear in mind that nearly all figures in Maya art represent royalty and the elites. The ordinary defensive armor for heads of commoners would have been much simpler. Nonetheless, we can clearly see the basic pattern. At the simplest level, "both men and women used headbands to hold their long hair away from their faces. Made of leather or cloth, these bands were often mounted with ornate carved jade plaques," which could also be called plates.
The next level of complexity in headgear was to create a wooden or cloth hat upon which were mounted small plates of jade, shell, or metal. "Ornate headdresses were constructed on wooden frames and tied under the chin with straps. . . . The headdresses of kings and warriors . . . [were] made of jade or shell plaques mounted on a wooden or mat armature". Finally, elite Maya would add numerous types of decoration, including carvings, glyphs, feathers, and cloth. Though Maya defensive and ritual headgear was complex, it centered around defensive "plate" of stone, wood, or metal that were either mounted on pieces of cloth tied to the head or mounted on frames of wood. Such headgear could certainly be accurately described as a system of defensive "head-plates." [William J. Hamblin, "Armor in the Book of Mormon," in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 413-414]
Alma 43:44 They Did Fight Like Dragons:
Some might perceive that in using the term "dragons," Joseph Smith exposed himself as the "fairy-tale" author of the Book of Mormon. However, the reader will see that "dragons" might be the unique term which clues the reader in to the real motivation behind the wars in this section of the book of Alma.
According to Bruce R. McConkie, a dragon belongs to the serpent family; they are fabulous monsters, often represented as winged serpents breathing fire. Traditionally fierce and relentless in combat, it is possible that later-age concepts of them grew from memories of the pre-flood dinosaurs. In any event, the term dragon was applied with great propriety by John to Satan (Revelation 12; 13:2-4; 16:13; 20:2). As the fiercest and most dreaded of serpents, the name is certainly appropriate for the most fierce and relentlessly wicked of all beings. [Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 208]
Note* In other words, as communicated by Tom Cherrington, the true doctrine of Christ in His many roles might have been what was really at the core of these battles in the book of Alma. (Personal Communication)
Zerahemnah (notice a possible Mulekite name) had "appointed chief captains over the Lamanites, and they were all Amalekites and Zoramites" (Alma 43:6). The Lamanites were "a compound of Laman and Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael, and all those who had dissented from the Nephites, who were Amalekites and Zoramites, and the descendants of the priests of Noah" (Alma 43:13). The Amalekites "were of a more wicked and murderous disposition than the Lamanites were, in and of themselves" (Alma 43:6). One might ask, Why were Nephite dissenters more intense in their hatred? Had they given their souls over to Satan? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 43:44 They did fight like dragons (Illustration): The massive, armored crocodile, or cayman, thrives in certain areas of the Mesoamerican lowlands. Known as cipactli among the Aztec and the imix earth monster in Mayan iconography, this symbol conveys the sense of the interior of the earth and underworld.160 . . . [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 186]
Alma 43:44 They Did Smite in Two Many of Their Head-Plates:
The reader should notice the apparent spiritual symbolism in the effectiveness of the dissenters or "Lamanites" against the Nephites. First of all, they did fight like "dragons," an allusion to Satan. Next, they "did smite in two many of their head-plates" (Alma 43:44). The head-plate (or helmet) is symbolically termed "the helmet of salvation" in the sixth chapter of Ephesians The dissenters "did pierce many of their breastplates." The breastplate is symbolically termed "the breastplate of righteousness." The dissenters "did smite off many of their arms." The arm is a symbol of one's power. Quoting from Ephesians:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds; that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:10-20)
[Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 43:39-40 The Lamanites Are Driven to the Sidon River (18th Year)
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 43: 41 Moroni Meets the Lamanites on the Other Side of the Sidon (18th Year)
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 43:42 The Lamanites Flee towards the Land of Manti (18th Year)
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 43:50 The Lamanites Flee Even to the Waters of Sidon (18th Year)
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 43:51 Nephite Armies Encircle the Lamanites (18th Year)
Alma 43:52 On Both Sides of the River, . . . on the East Were the Men of Lehi:
[See the commentary on Alma 43:31]