Monday, July 09, 2007

Alma 51 & 52

King-men and Freemen

Ezra Taft Benson said the following:

"The only real peace—the one most of us think about when we use the term—is a peace with freedom. A nation that is not willing, if necessary, to face the rigors of war to defend its real peace-in-freedom is doomed to lose both its freedom and its peace! These are the hard facts of life. We may not like them, but until we live in a far better world than exists today, we must face up to them squarely and courageously.” (An Enemy Hath Done this, pp. 161-2 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 355)

The king-men did not want to take up arms. They wanted the power of the government, but not the responsibility to defend the people. The freemen, on the other hand, did not desire power, but they wanted their freedom and were willing to die for it.


In Alma 51, Teancum went over to the camp of the Lamanites in the middle of the night to kill Amalickiah. This happened after the Lamanites commenced their attack.

It is interesting to note the time, relative to the year, of the battle. In modern terms, it was New Year’s Eve when Teancum assassinated Amalickiah.

I can imagine Teancum resting and thinking after a long day of battle. He must have been thinking how he could somehow resolve the conflict. The thought of killing the source had to have crossed his mind. As Thoreau in Walden points out, that one swipe of the axe at the roots is equal to a thousand swipes at the branches – or something to that nature. Teancum then resolved to do something. He must have been so angry that he got up that night and went directly to the tent of Amalickiah and killed him. Later on, Teancum does the same thing to Ammoron, only the second time he did not return to his camp.

How do I liken this to my life? Every New Year’s eve, many make resolutions to change and be better, but how may keep those resolutions? Action is the difference between those who resolve and those who accomplish.

Seasonal Wars

Here is a bit of information that I learned about the Nephites' and Lamanites' ebb and flow of war.

"With remarkable consistency, the Nephite record reports a pattern of seasonality in Nephite warfare. Since wars in pretechnical societies are usually launched at opportune times of the year, the Nephite pattern of warfare tells us something about the seasons and their calendar.

“The beginning and ending of the Nephite year frequently falls around the time of major battles. For example, Alma 44 ends with the defeat of a Lamanite army and the return of Moroni's forces to their houses and their lands: ‘Thus ended the eighteenth year of the reign of the judges’ (Alma 44:24). When all such dates are tabulated, the distinct pattern emerges that most wars were fought in the eleventh through second months of the year…But virtually no battling took place in months six through ten. Instead, that period was when the mass of part-time soldiers were required to till the ground, ‘delivering their women and their children from famine and affliction, and providing food for their armies’ (Alma 53:7).

“When the seasons for cultivation and warring in Mesoamerica before the time of Columbus are studied, an equally sharp division is seen. (The schedule is essentially the same anywhere in tropical America, in fact.) The preparation and cultivation of farmlands and other domestic chores went on from about March through October, which constituted the rainy season. Wars began after the harvest and mainly went on during the hot, dry months, November through February. Of course, camping in the field was sensible at this time, and movement was least hampered by the swollen streams or boggy ground common in the other part of the year.

“Putting these two sets of information together, we see that the fighting season referred to in the annals of the wars in the books of Mosiah through Helaman—their months eleven through two—likely coincided approximately with November through February in our calendar. Moreover their new year's day is likely to have fallen near winter solstice (December 21/22), as with many other peoples of the ancient world.

“Interestingly, December was a hot season both in Mesoamerica and in the Book of Mormon, as we read in Alma 51:32-37 and 52:1. Recall that Teancum slew Amalickiah on the Nephite/Lamanite new year's eve as he slept deeply from fatigue ‘caused by the labors and heat of the day’ (Alma 51:33). In Joseph Smith's New England, of course, New Year's Eve would have been icy.

“If our equation is correct, the Nephite [calendar]…began near our December 22…” (John W. Welch, Reexploring The Book of Mormon, pp. 173-5)

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