Source:Rediscovering the Book of Mormon:Ch:22:7:Warfare: Laws of war

Ancient aspects of Book of Mormon warfare: Laws of War

Ancient aspects of Book of Mormon warfare: Laws of War

Laws and customs in ancient societies often controlled international relations and diplomacy. Perhaps the custom that strikes modern readers as strangest is the use of personal oaths. The Book of Mormon's emphasis on oaths of loyalty from troops and oaths of surrender from prisoners shows ancient concepts at work. Once an oath had been made, it had all the power (and more) that a written contract would have among us today. The Book of Mormon also presents a complex pattern of international relations, treaties, and diplomacy consistent with ancient Near Eastern practices.

Most ancient societies also treated robbers as brigands, not thieves. Whereas thieves would be imprisoned or punished short of death, robbers usually were tried as traitors or murderers and executed. So the treatment of robbers in the Book of Mormon reflects ancient law. Another parallel pattern involves prisoners. The taking of prisoners posed problems for ancient armies. Their maintenance depleted the already strained resources needed to support the army. So prisoners were frequently either killed or traded. The Lamanite practice of killing prisoners and the Nephite practice of exchanging them were consistent with the ancient milieu.

The burial of the dead in the Book of Mormon also shows the problems and practices of past societies. One case in particular—the dead from Ammonihah were buried in shallow graves, which caused the area to become desolate—mirrors what happened elsewhere in the past. Another ancient practice mentioned in the Book of Mormon concerns the capture and imprisonment of kings in Jaredite history. The treatment of captive kings is similar to that in Mesoamerican societies as old as the Jaredites.

There is also the parallel of human sacrifice, which nations around Israel and in Mesoamerica practiced. Though strictly forbidden by the Mosaic law, Israelites still fell into that practice several times during their history. The occasions of human sacrifice in the Book of Mormon echo an all too distressing pattern in the Near East and Mesoamerica. In the above-mentioned ways, the Book of Mormon faithfully reflects the ancient laws and customs that dictated what should or should not be done during war.[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.