Source:Rediscovering the Book of Mormon:Ch:22:6:Warfare: Descriptions of battles

Ancient aspects of Book of Mormon warfare: Descriptions of Battles

Ancient aspects of Book of Mormon warfare: Descriptions of Battles

Preparations for battle anciently were complex. Soldiers had to be trained, equipped, and organized into units for marching and fighting. Then they were mobilized at central points to begin operations. Leaders commonly used distinctive banners to summon and identify their troops (like Moroni's title of liberty; see Alma 46:12-22). A wide range of camp followers were usually required to supply the troops with food and equipment. Barracks, arsenals, fortifications, and other base facilities needed to be prepared and maintained. Also, some type of standing army, usually royal guardsmen, was needed in peacetime. When war threatened, getting troops and supplies to key spots could involve extensive marching and maneuvering. Any reader of the Book of Mormon will recall the seemingly endless accounts of marches and countermarches. They may be boring to many, but they reflect the realities of maintaining ancient armies.

Not all conflict involved formal set battles. Much of it was closer to what in modern times we call guerilla war. This style of fighting is clearly described in the Book of Mormon, especially in the account of the Gadianton robbers. Actual battles took only a small part of the time of a campaign, but the battle was of course the most important moment. Battle plans were generally made shortly before meeting the enemy. Frequently a council of officers and veterans would discuss the situation and offer suggestions, which is what Moroni does to prepare for battle (see Alma 52:19). Information from spies was crucial to forming battle plans. Knowledge of the enemy sometimes depended solely upon reports from spies. The Book of Mormon too shows how crucial spying was in its battles.

Battles often began with an exchange of missiles (stones, arrows, spears) to wound and demoralize the enemy. Only when the missiles were spent did the two sides close in for hand-to-hand combat. The battle described in Alma 49 describes such an archery duel preceding a hand-to-hand melee. If panic began to spread in the ranks, a complete and sudden collapse could result. The death of the king or commander could lead to such a collapse, as happened in Alma 49:25. Most casualties occurred during the flight and pursuit, after the main units had broken up. Battles in the Book of Mormon often end with just such rout, flight, and destruction of an army (see Alma 52:28; 62:31).[1]


  1. William J. Hamblin, "Warfare in the Book of Mormon," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, edited by John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991), Chapter 22.
[[[Category:Book of Mormon/Anthropology/Warfare|Warfare]]