Book of Mormon Internal Evidence (6): Military Battles and Strategies

(Recommendation: You will better understand and appreciate the following battle strategies if you map them out on a diagram based on my description and the description in the Book of Mormon.)

The Battle of Jershon and Manti (Alma 43)

During the wars with the Lamanites, twenty-five-year-old Captain Moroni became the overall commander of the Nephite armies. Mormon, the Book of Mormon abridger, who was also a military leader, was so impressed with Captain Moroni that he named his son Moroni.

Prior to the Battle of Jershon, Captain Moroni introduced defensive armaments for the first time. While the Lamanites had offensive weapons, they had no protection. They were exposed and vulnerable. The outnumbered Nephites had helmets, shields, and breastplates. The Lamanites quickly realized the futility of going toe-to-toe with the armored Nephites, and so they fled from the Nephite land of Jershon.

Captain Moroni sent scouts and spies to follow the Lamanite army. This was another tactical innovation. Captain Moroni was conscious of the need for command and control, and so he used a team of swift messengers. Not relying on his scouts alone, Captain Moroni sent messengers to the prophet Alma to inquire of the Lord where the Nephites should position their armies. Alma informed Captain Moroni that the Lamanites were preparing to attack the city of Manti.

Captain Moroni left part of his army behind to protect the Jershon, just in case.  He then double-timed his main troops to Manti. Captain Moroni arrived in Manti before the Lamanites. He inspired and rallied the local populace to join his army. They were highly motivated. After all, they were defending the lives of their families. They were also defending their lands, rights, and liberties. 

When the Lamanites attacked, they were met by an entrenched and better prepared adversary. At a turning point in the battle, the outnumbered Nephites turned to the Lord.  “[T]hey cried with one voice unto the Lord their God, for their liberty and their freedom from bondage.  And they began to stand against the Lamanites with power; and in that selfsame hour they cried unto the Lord for their freedom, the Lamanites began to flee before them; and they fled even to the waters of [River] Sidon.” (Al. 43: 49-50)

Ambush at the Sidon River (Alma 43)

Captain Moroni set up an ambush for the massive Lamanite army as it traveled away from Manti down the east side of the Sidon River. Moroni divided his army unto thirds One third, led by Lehi, hid behind the hill Riplah on the east side of the river Sidon, which was directly in the Lamanite path. Another third was placed on the west side of the river, some distance from Sidon, to block the Lamanites from attacking the now unprotected city of Manti. Captain Moroni hid his army in a small valley on the west side of Sidon directly across the river from Lehi’s army.

 As the Lamanite army came down the east side of Sidon they passed the hill Riplah. As the Lamanites passed, Lehi’s army circled around the back side of the hill and attacked the Lamanites from the rear. This caught the Lamanites by surprise. The Lamanites were out of position. They stopped, turned, and counter-attacked Lehi’s army. Still without defensive armor, the Lamanites were being slaughtered. They had no option to but to retreat across to the west side of the river Sidon and safety.

As the Lamanite army crossed to the west side of the river, Moroni ambushed them. The slaughter continued. 

With only one corridor of retreat left, the Lamanites turned directly back toward the undefended city of Manti. They were headed off by the third army.

Now, the surrounded Lamanites were fighting for their very lives, and “fought like dragons.” But ultimately, the Nephite armies prevailed. The ambush was brilliantly planned and well executed.

The Battle of Antipharah (Alma 56)

During the wars, the Lamanite horde captured several Nephite cities. It is much easier to defend a fortified city than to re-take it. Re-taking the city of Antipharah required using the Helaman’s 2,000 stripling warriors as bait.

Previously, Helaman used his 2,000 warriors to reinforce the depleted army of Antipus.  Helaman was a religious leader, not an experienced military commander.

By now, the Lamanites had adopted the Nephite tactic of using scouts. The Nephites were aware of this. So, they decided to use Helaman’s 2,000 as bait

Helaman’s army pretended to be a vulnerable supply convoy carrying provisions. They marched close enough to the fortified city of Antipharah for the Lamanite scouts to spot them. When the Lamanite commanders learned of the bounty and the easy prey, their main army left the city Antipharah to attack the Nephite convoy. 

After the Lamanite army left its fortified city exposed, Antipus and main Nephite army tried to overtake the Lamanite army from behind. (A similar strategy was successful in the Battle to Re-take Mulek.)

Unfortunately, the Lamanite scouts spotted the Nephite army of Antipus to their rear. Knowing that they were cut off from Antipharah, the Lamanites decided to race ahead to overtake and defeat Helaman’s 2,000 before the main Nephite army could catch up. 

Seeing the Lamanites speeding up, Antipus put his army into “high gear” to try to save Helaman’s “supply convoy.” Helaman’s army also moved into “overdrive” to avoid being overtaken by the larger Lamanite army. 

Each army was moving faster and faster in a straight line. If Helaman or the Lamanites turned to either side, the army behind them would catch up. This chase last for several days.

After three days of chasing Helaman, with his young and fit 2,000 stripling warriors, the Lamanites realized that they would never catch up to them. Helaman’s 2,000 were younger and faster. So, the Lamanite large army stopped. They turned back to engage the army of Antipus. 

The Lamanites had assumed that Helaman’s “convoy” would continue to flee and would be out of the picture. Fortunately, when Helaman lost track of the pursuing Lamanites he was inspired to turn and race back. 

By the time the 2,000 spotted the Lamanite army, Antipus had been killed and the Nephite army was fleeing back the way they came. The Lamanites were now chasing them.  

The hunted became the hunters.

The 2,000 young warriors now raced after the Lamanite army which was now chasing the Nephite army back in the opposite direction. The faster 2,000 caught up to the Lamanite army and attacked them from behind.

 Suddenly, the entire Lamanite army stopped chasing the Nephite army. Instead, they turned around and attacked the outnumbered 2,000. 

Seeing this, the fleeing Nephite army stopped and turned back to attack the Lamanites from behind. 

With Helaman’s army in front of them, and the main Nephite army behind them, the Lamanites were surrounded. Finally, the Nephites prevailed. 

This was a great victory for the Nephites. They defeated the Lamanite army, and they were able to re-take the undefended city of Antipharah. Finally, they were ecstatic to learn that, while all of the 2,000 were wounded, none them were killed.

Helaman rejoiced; his “sons” had been preserved.  “And now, their preservation was astonishing to our whole army, yea, that they should be spared while there was a thousand of our brethren who were slain.  And we do justly ascribe it to the miraculous power of God, because of their exceeding faith in that which they had been taught to believe – that there was a just God, and whosoever did not doubt, that they should be preserved by his marvelous power.  Now this was the faith of these of whom I have spoken; they are young, and their minds are firm, and they do put their trust in God continually.” (Al. 57:26-27)

This is an interesting war story. It is almost comical when you visualize three armies chasing each other in a straight line in one direction, then turn around then chase each other in a straight line in the opposite direction.

Conclusion

These three battle accounts were clearly written by someone with military education, training, and experience. Joseph Smith had none of those. Remember, Joseph did not use notes. He had no charts. He had no diagrams.  He orally dictated the 500-page manuscript in 60-70 days.  To think that that Joseph Smith invented these battle strategies off the top of his head is ridiculous. Joseph Smith was the translator of the Book of Mormon, not the author.

(Since my study of the military tactics and strategies in the Book of Mormon in the 1970’s, several similar studies have been published. See: Warfare in the Book of Mormon, edited by Stephen D. Ricks and William J. Hamblin, BYU Neal A. Maxwell Institute, Deseret Book.)

Number 6 of 27 Articles.

(For other articles go to: http://www.londonedition.net)

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