Source:Rediscovering the Book of Mormon:Ch:22:8:Warfare: Religion and war

Ancient aspects of Book of Mormon warfare: Religion and Warfare

Ancient aspects of Book of Mormon warfare: Religion and Warfare

Nearly all ancient war was connected with religion and was carried out through a complex series of religious ritual, law, and beliefs. Although there were also other motives, premodern warfare was basically a sacred matter. By Joseph Smith's day, war had become mainly secular, arising from political, nationalist, racial, and economic factors. The close connection between religious ideology and warfare is one of the most obvious ancient elements in the Book of Mormon. In numerous details the Book of Mormon unintentionally reveals the close tie between war and religion. Activities such as consulting prophets before battle are mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Likewise, a strict purity code for warriors can be seen in the story of Helaman and the stripling warriors.

Many details of the Mosaic law concerning war are also apparent in the Book of Mormon. For instance, an example of the ritual destruction of apostate cities appears in the Book of Mormon (see Alma 16). The ideology of holy war among the Nephites parallels that of the Israelites. The Nephites also seem to have observed the principles of camp purity and certain ritual behavior before, during, and after battle. For the Nephites and the Lamanites (to a lesser but still crucial extent), warfare was a thoroughly religious matter.

The Book of Mormon manifests clear parallels to ancient patterns of military behavior. I have not mentioned all of them in this review due to space limits. There were also the martial implications of shifting populations, the exhange of written or oral challenges between leaders, and the centrality of war to the elite class of society, to name a few more areas. In so many ways, the Book of Mormon uniquely reflects its dual heritage of the ancient Near East and Mesoamerica.[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.