Helaman 1


 



MDC Contents

 

 

 Helaman 1:1

1  And now behold, it came to pass in the commencement of the fortieth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, there began to be a serious difficulty among the people of the Nephites.

 

In Alma 63:15 we learned that an army of dissenters had come down against Moronihah and were beaten back. In spite of this military action in the previous year, we have the almost sardonic comment that in the beginning of the fortieth year there began to be serious difficulty among the Nephites. The pressures have been steadily mounting internally as well as externally. The defeated invasion of Moronihah was an external problem, the real serious difficulties will now come as the problems become internal.

 

Chronological: The fortieth year of the reign of the judges translates to approximately 54 BC in the correlation used in this commentary.

 

Textual: This verse introduces a completely new book. This is not just a chapter change, but a shift in the naming of the entire text. The shift also occurs with no fanfare, no notification. It is possible that the original record would have had some type of colophon to identify the writer and to validate the shift in the naming of the books, but we are missing that information because Mormon elected not to write it. Mormon is in the middle of a terrible story, and the events in the book of Helaman are very certainly continuations of the conflicts we have already seen at the end of the book of Alma. It is therefore quite natural from Mormon’s narrative perspective to begin this new book much as he would have begun a new chapter. He continues to abbreviate the historical situation so that we will know the context of the times.

 

This leaves us, however, without a specific reason for the changing of the books. We know that the name of the book changes, but there is no narrative function in the change. If we were to accept the idea that Joseph Smith was the sole author of the text, we would be left with the rather serious question of why he would elect to name a new book when there was no significant change occurring.

 

When we remember that this is a translation of an ancient document, however, the fact of the change is apparent. What we need to understand is not why Mormon elected to start a new book, because it was not his decision. Mormon has a new book because his source was a new book. Now our question is why that source changed the name on the book.

 

The answer must be deduced. The important pieces of information come from the previous chapter and the next. In Alma 63:11 we learn that the plates have been given to Helaman the son of Helaman. In Helaman 2:2 we learn that Helaman is appointed to sit as chief judge. It is this appointment as chief judge that occasions the change in the name. The record of Alma began with Alma the Younger as a chief judge and as the religious leader. As the beginning point of a new dynasty, his name was appended to the record. While the record began in the hands of a political leader, Alma the Younger abdicated that responsibility to concentrate on his religious duties, but he retained the plates. When he passes on the plates, he does so to his own lineage, but a lineage that is not enthroned. When Helaman the son of Helaman receives the plates, he is not part of the political tradition. Therefore, when he receives the plates he writes in them as part of the dynasty following Alma.

 

In the book of Helaman, however, we have Helaman as an enthroned chief judge. As the political leader, he now begins a new political dynasty, and it is the political dynasties that have dictated the book-name changes in the large plate tradition. Therefore, Helaman should receive his own book, and does. The reasons for the shift in the text are completely logical with the internal logic of the nature of the textual transmission, even when they are not logical with the narration as Mormon conceived it.

 

Helaman 1:2

2  For behold, Pahoran had died, and gone the way of all the earth; therefore there began to be a serious contention concerning who should have the judgment-seat among the brethren, who were the sons of Pahoran.

Helaman 1:3

3  Now these are their names who did contend for the judgment-seat, who did also cause the people to contend: Pahoran, Paanchi, and Pacumeni.

Helaman 1:4

4  Now these are not all the sons of Pahoran (for he had many), but these are they who did contend for the judgment-seat; therefore, they did cause three divisions among the people.

Helaman 1:5

5  Nevertheless, it came to pass that Pahoran was appointed by the voice of the people to be chief judge and a governor over the people of Nephi.

 

One of the historically most fragile times in complex societies was at the death of the ruler. One of the advantages of kingship was the provision for a very clear successor, whereby contention over the one with the right to reign were reduced. Even then, however, ambitions dictated dark dealings in the world, and many a legal successor died mysteriously. Among the Nephites a similar fragile point comes at the death of Pahoran. Not only was the death of the chief judge time of transition, it came at a time when there were increasing internal divisions among the Nephites for many reasons. The death of Pahoran was simply a catalyst that ignited the flames of the divisions that had already been fomenting.

 

To set the stage for this conflict, Mormon gives us the essential information. There were three sons of Pahoran who contended for the judgment seat. We note that these were his sons, and that the issue of continuation of rule fell to the sons, and not to some outsider. As we continue to note, the chief judgeship does not pass through a democratic process, but rather a lineal one.

 

The resolution of the conflict comes through the application of the voice of the people. However, that “voice” was polled, the result was the seating of Pahoran. We are not told the birth order of the sons of Pahoran, but with the seated son having the same name as his father, we might expect that Pahoran was the eldest, and that he was the choice of the voice of the people because it was his right to sit on the throne. We do not have enough information to understand why the other two brothers had legitimate enough claims that they were able to pursue them.

 

Variant: Where extant, the original manuscript gives the spelling of Pahoron instead of our Pahoran. This includes the occasions where the name refers to the son rather than the father. The current spelling first appears in the printed edition, and has been consistently  retained. (Book of Mormon critical text, 3:908 and following).

 

Helaman 1:6

6  And it came to pass that Pacumeni, when he saw that he could not obtain the judgment-seat, he did unite with the voice of the people.

 

The process of defeat by the “voice of the people” does not require any particular action. It is assumed that one simply accepts the voice of the people, as Pacumeni does. Pacumeni is not banished, nor is he put to death as has happened too many times in the history of the transfer of power in the world. Pacumeni accepts the voice of the people as law, and conforms to it.

 

Helaman 1:7

7  But behold, Paanchi, and that part of the people that were desirous that he should be their governor, was exceedingly wroth; therefore, he was about to flatter away those people to rise up in rebellion against their brethren.

 

Paanchi is the contrast to Pacumeni. Where Pacumeni accepted the voice of the people, Paanchi does not. He has his own supporters, and while they were not sufficiently numerous to hold the day, they are nevertheless numerous enough that they are able to form a significant body. Paanchi uses his influence over this body of people to “rise up in rebellion.” This is a process that we have seen several times in the last fifty years of Nephite history. We have had several cases where internal divisions have arisen, and either resulted in defection to the Lamanites, attempted departure to the north, or armed internal rebellion. Paanchi is following in that trend, and certainly has the following to press his case.

 

Helaman 1:8

8  And it came to pass as he was about to do this, behold, he was taken, and was tried according to the voice of the people, and condemned unto death; for he had raised up in rebellion and sought to destroy the liberty of the people.

 

Moroni had been given the power to put to death traitors to the Nephite government. This right of law was continued in some form in the governing body even after the person of Moroni was no longer on the scene. It is under this power that Paanchi is tried. He is just as traitorous as those who had captured Zarahemla when Moroni had to join with Pahoran to rout them from that city. He is tried, and he is convicted. As a convicted traitor, his sentence was death.

 

Helaman 1:9

9  Now when those people who were desirous that he should be their governor saw that he was condemned unto death, therefore they were angry, and behold, they sent forth one Kishkumen, even to the judgment-seat of Pahoran, and murdered Pahoran as he sat upon the judgment-seat.

Helaman 1:10

10  And he was pursued by the servants of Pahoran; but behold, so speedy was  the flight of Kishkumen that no man could overtake him.

 

Kishkumen is a follower of Paanchi. To preserve the life of his preferred leader, Kishkumen assassinates Pahoran. This is intended to throw the government into chaos and allow the uprising. In the turmoil, Paanchi would be able to be freed. The death of Pahoran would not have directly freed Paanchi, but a successful rebellion would. This is therefore them more probable cause of the death of Pahoran rather than an attack on those guarding Paanchi.

 

Variant: The original manuscript spells Kishkumen Kishcumen. The change to the “k” came in the printer’s manuscript.

 

Helaman 1:11

11  And he went unto those that sent him, and they all entered into a covenant, yea, swearing by their everlasting Maker, that they would tell no man that Kishkumen had murdered Pahoran.

Helaman 1:12

12  Therefore, Kishkumen was not known among the people of Nephi, for he was in disguise at the time that he murdered Pahoran.  And Kishkumen and his band, who had covenanted with him, did mingle themselves among the people, in a manner that they all could not be found; but as many as were found were condemned unto death.

 

It is not surprising that Kishkumen would have been able to avoid detection after his initial escape. The ancient world did not have photographs, did not have newspapers, and one would be known only by acquaintances. If Kishkumen were not a frequent visitor to the chief judge’s judgment seat, there would be no one who would recognize him. By making a covenant with those who did know him, they mutually assured his anonymity from his action.

 

In this verse it is the act of the oath that will be the most important. This covenant to achieve their desires by illicit means creates the beginnings of the Gadianton robbers and their secret covenants and actions.

 

Helaman 1:13

13  And now behold, Pacumeni was appointed, according to the voice of the people, to be a chief judge and a governor over the people, to reign in the stead of his brother Pahoran; and it was according to his right.  And all this was done in the fortieth year of the reign of the judges; and it had an end.

 

Pacumeni is the next in line. Of course Paanchi could not be seated as he was condemned to death.

 

Narrative: Mormon does not tell us about the probable attempt at an uprising. It was most assuredly attempted, and most assuredly controlled, as we hear nothing about it. Mormon does not tell us, even though we may be fairly certain that it took place. All of the evidence we have about the conditions suggest that this was the perfect opportunity for unrest. We do not hear of it because it was not important to Mormon’s story. A rebellion that was suppressed was not interesting, but the covenant of the protectors of Kishkumen was very important to the remainder of the story he wants to tell.

 

Helaman 1:14

14  And it came to pass in the forty and first year of the reign of the judges, that the Lamanites had gathered together an innumerable army of men, and armed them with swords, and with cimeters and with bows, and with arrows, and with head-plates, and with breastplates, and with all manner of shields of every kind.

 

Moroni’s innovations at defense did not take long to become standard. Most likely from this time on there was little serious warfare without defensive armaments as well as offensive weapons. Once the value of the innovation was understood, it was widely adopted, and became a standard part of warfare. The Nephites loose their technological advantage, and the theoretical advantage now shifts to other things.

 

Helaman 1:15

15  And they came down again that they might pitch battle against the Nephites.  And they were led by a man whose name was Coriantumr; and he was a descendant of Zarahemla; and he was a dissenter from among the Nephites; and he was a large and a mighty man.

 

Coriantumr is a name that we have seen before, belonging to the last Jaredite king who lived for a while in Zarahemla with the Mulekites (Omni 1:21). We may therefore understand that Coraintumr is a name of Jaredite extraction. It is quite probable that there is no mistake in the probable lineal and cultural heritage that leads us to a man with a Jaredite name dissenting from the Nephites. The end of the Jaredite world was also accompanied by apostasy, and the Jaredite influence on the people of Mulek while they sojourned in Jaredite lands no doubt led to the loss of their language and religion. Thus this Jaredite tradition among the Nephites is at least representative if not causative of the cultural tensions that are leading to conflict and rebellion in the land of Zarahemla.

 

Narrative: As Mormon begins to tell the story of this military conflict he makes sure that we understand that it was lead by a Nephite dissenter. One of Mormon’s themes is the internal divisions among the Nephites. Mormon makes much of the fact that not only the internal contentions, but also the external wars, come at the hands of dissenters. As Mormon constructs his message, he emphasizes the foundational promise of the Nephites, that they would be protected in the land if they were faithful. Mormon does not bring up the promise at every opportunity, but nevertheless shows through his examples that the difficulties of the Nephites are their own fault. Their wars and contentions come from their own collective faithlessness. Even though there are those that remain true to the Nephite ideals, there is a significant portion of the Nephite society who rebels, and this leads directly to the wars and contentions. Mormon highlights this theme historically, but it would have been painfully present to him as he wrote, for he was seeing the very same thing. As Mormon watches the Nephites be destroyed because they had lost the faith, he writes of the historical contexts in which the very same tendencies occurred.

 

What will happen in this section of Mormon’s narrative is the setup of the contrast between the wars and contentions stemming from those who departed from the Nephite faith and the faithful people who remained after the destructions to meet their Atoning Messiah, and usher in a long period of peace that would further prove the validity of that foundational promise.

 

Helaman 1:16

16  Therefore, the king of the Lamanites, whose name was Tubaloth, who was the son of Ammoron, supposing that Coriantumr, being a mighty man, could stand against the Nephites, with his strength and also with his great wisdom, insomuch that by sending him forth he should gain power over the Nephites—

Helaman 1:17

17  Therefore he did stir them up to anger, and he did gather together his armies, and he did appoint Coriantumr to be their leader, and did cause that they should march down to the land of Zarahemla to battle against the Nephites.

 

The king of the Lamanites is a continuation of the dissenter Nephite dynasty begun by Tubaloth’s uncle. Amalickiah was the founder of the dynasty who attained the throne of the Lamanite hegemony by deception, described in Alma 47:18-19. Upon the death of Amalickiah, the throne passed to his brother Ammoron, and with the death of Ammoron to the son of Ammoron, Tubaloth.

 

Tubaloth has had a father and uncle die at the hands of the Nephites, from whom they had apostasized and against whom they had already developed strong negative feelings. Tubaloth was fated to have the same, and perhaps have those negative feelings intensified by the deaths of his father an uncle. It is no surprise that he wanted to find a way to go to war against the Nephites.

 

Variant: In both manuscripts and the 1830 edition, there is an additional phrase in verse 16. The original read:

 

“Therefore the king of the Lamanites whose name was Tubaloth, who was the son of Ammoron, now Tubaloth supposing that…”

 

The phrase “now Tubaloth” was removed from the 1837 edition to make the sentence read more smoothly. It would have been preferable to remove the initial “therefore.” Those are the two phrases in conflict, and the concept would have been clearer with a declarative sentence of Tubaloth’s position and genealogy, and then the comment about his actions rather than having the entire phrase try to be linked with the causal “therefore.” The phrase after the “not Tubaloth” provides the meaning for “therefore."

 

Helaman 1:18

18  And it came to pass that because of so much contention and so much difficulty in the government, that they had not kept sufficient guards in the land of Zarahemla; for they had supposed that the Lamanites durst not come into the heart of their lands to attack that great city Zarahemla.

 

Narrative: Mormon inserts information about the Nephites into the discussion of Tulaboth and Coraintumr. Zarahemla will be the place where Coriantumr strikes, and Mormon prepares us ahead of time for the capture of that city. For Mormon, the internal contentions have weakened the seat of the Nephite government. What he does not tell us here, but we will learn below, is that the presumed direction of Lamanite attack was on the periphery, not directly into Zarahemla. When the Nephites assumed that the Lamanites would not attack Zarahemla, they redistributed their forces to the outlying areas presuming that they would there be on the front lines of a Lamanite attack.

 

Helaman 1:19

19  But it came to pass that Coriantumr did march forth at the head of his numerous host, and came upon the inhabitants of the city, and their march was with such exceedingly great speed that there was no time for the Nephites to gather together their armies.

Helaman 1:20

20  Therefore Coriantumr did cut down the watch by the entrance of the city, and did march forth with his whole army into the city, and they did slay every one who did oppose them, insomuch that they did take possession of the whole city.

Helaman 1:21

21  And it came to pass that Pacumeni, who was the chief judge, did flee before Coriantumr, even to the walls of the city.  And it came to pass that  Coriantumr did smite him against the wall, insomuch that he died.  And thus ended the days of Pacumeni.

 

Coriantumr does the unexpected, he makes a rapid strike into Zarahemla. We are not told the path of his approace, but the most direct would have taken him past the typical defensive positions of the Manti line. The speed of his march is probably the most important part of this bold move, and in order to have an army move quickly, Coriantumr would need to take the most direct route. This suggests that he simply passed by Manti and the other defensive cities and drove straight for Zarahemla.

 

This was a very bold move, because it put a Nephite army at his back. Had Zarahemla been unattainable, Coriantumr’s force would be in very dire straits, with no defensive city available to them, and the Nephite army bearing down from the rear. As it was, the weakened state of Zarahemla made it vulnerable, and Coriantumr’s possession of it gave him resources and a strong defensive position should the Nephites come against him. In addition, the loss of the central city and the chief judge would have severely disrupted the government and resulted in some disorder in the Nephite ranks, and perhaps delayed the arrival of any assistance. Coriantumr has employed the blitzkrieg tactic to good advantage.

 

Verse 19 reminds us that Zarahemla had no time to assemble its armies. The danger of Lamanite attack required some standing military in the land of Zarahemla, but most of that army was on the periphery. The bulk of Mesoamerican armies, and certainly that of Zarahemla, was made up of the men of the hegemony who responded to the call to arms. Since Coriantum’s attack was so rapid, there was no time to assemble the men in from the various fields and outlying cities and towns, and therefore Coriantumr not only faced a reduced number of defenders, but the majority of the well-trained Nephite force was far from his location.

 

Helaman 1:22

22  And now when Coriantumr saw that he was in possession of the city of Zarahemla, and saw that the Nephites had fled before them, and were slain, and were taken, and were cast into prison, and that he had obtained the possession of the strongest hold in all the land, his heart took courage insomuch that he was about to go forth against all the land.

Helaman 1:23

23  And now he did not tarry in the land of Zarahemla, but he did march forth with a large army, even towards the city of Bountiful; for it was his determination to go forth and cut his way through with the sword, that he might obtain the north parts of the land.

Helaman 1:24

24  And, supposing that their greatest strength was in the center of the land, therefore he did march forth, giving them no time to assemble themselves together save it were in small bodies; and in this manner they did fall upon them and cut them down to the earth.

 

The success of this gambit against Zarahemla encouraged Coriantumr to continue. He thinks to run a line from Zarahemla down the Sidon valley, and on to Bountiful. Capturing this central corridor would split the Nephite forces that were on the east and western peripheries, and rip out the heart of the land from them – quite literally. Coriantumr likely planned to deny the outlying Nephite armies the provisions that might have come from the supposedly well protected interior. With the army split, and the main support system destroyed, Coriantumr would be able to so weaken the Nephites that their government would collapse. At least this is the probable thinking that drives Coriantumr’s next actions.

 

He takes his force and continues the blitzkrieg down the valley. The Nephites have still been unable to get the word around to call the men to arms, and so Coriantumr is still fighting light and perhaps unorganized resistance in his march down the valley.

 

Helaman 1:25

25  But behold, this march of Coriantumr through the center of the land gave Moronihah great advantage over them, notwithstanding the greatness of the number of the Nephites who were slain.

Helaman 1:26

26  For behold, Moronihah had supposed that the Lamanites durst not come into the center of the land, but that they would attack the cities round about in the borders as they had hitherto done; therefore Moronihah had caused that their strong armies should maintain those parts round about by the borders.

 

Narrative: Verse 25 sets up the ultimate victory of Moronihah. Mormon tells us that while the lighting attack on Zarahemla had succeeded, that Coriantumr had miscalculated when he took his army on the continued rapid advance down the river valley. Before he tells us why, however, he describes the reason that Moronihah is out of position. Moronihah had been fooled into placing his troops in the borderlands, assuming that those areas would bear the brunt of a Lamanite attack. Moronihah’s men were therefore out of position and unable to assist Zarahemla in their attempt at resistance.

 

Moronihah is close to the action now, and even though Coriantumr is continuing rapid progress against the less organized and less numerous forces that might be pulled together at the very last and desperate moment, Moronihah nevertheless understands that Coriantumr had made a tactical error that Moronihah can exploit.

 

Helaman 1:27

27  But behold, the Lamanites were not frightened according to his desire, but they had come into the center of the land, and had taken the capital city which was the city of Zarahemla, and were marching through the most capital parts of the land, slaying the people with a great slaughter, both men, women, and children, taking possession of many cities and of many strongholds.

 

Narrative: Mormon is still setting up the scene. At this point he is continuing to note the overall beginning of the problem. Morohihah had expected the Lamanites on the borders, but the “Lamanites were not frightened according to his desire, but they had come into the center of the land.” Coriantumr did the unexpected, and Moronihah’s careful planning had been temporarily thwarted.

 

Helaman 1:28

28  But when Moronihah had discovered this, he immediately sent forth Lehi with an army round about to head them before they should come to the land Bountiful.

Helaman 1:29

29  And thus he did; and he did head them before they came to the land Bountiful, and gave unto them battle, insomuch that they began to retreat back towards the land of Zarahemla.

 

Moronihah does have trained and able troops, they simply were not stationed in the heartland. Moronihah hears of the fall of Zarahemla and the subsequent march of Coriantumr and he has a quick-march of his own ordered for the forces commanded by Lehi. Lehi’s force is already located in the north, probably in the fortified city of Mulek (Alma 53:2), which would be one of the next cities east of Bountiful. Thus Lehi was already in position to protect Bountiful, and Morohihah has him ready for the encounter when Coriantumr arrives.

 

At this point we have a fairly fresh and well-trained force of Lehi meeting Coriantumr’s force that has been on a rapid march, and doing some fighting along the way. Coriantumr’s men would have been tired from their march and efforts, and perhaps over-confident from the easy time they had to that point. When they met the organized and effective resistance of Lehi’s men, Coriantumr begins a retreat back up the valley. He likely intends to reach Zarahemla and use that defensive position to regroup.

 

Helaman 1:30

30  And it came to pass that Moronihah did head them in their retreat, and did give unto them battle, insomuch that it became an exceedingly bloody battle; yea, many were slain, and among the number who were slain Coriantumr was also found.

Helaman 1:31

31  And now, behold, the Lamanites could not retreat either way, neither on the north, nor on the south, nor on the east, nor on the west, for they were surrounded on every hand by the Nephites.

 

We do not have any particular hints as to where Moronihah was stationed, but it would be logical that he was at Manti and that his force was the one bypassed when Coriantumr entered the land of Zarahemla so quickly. Having an army from Manti at his rear was always the danger in Coriantumr’s tactic, and it appears that this time the danger was realized to terrible devastation of Coriantumr’s army. Moronihah is clearly cutting off the retreat up the valley, and to have been able to come down the valley it is most probable that he came from the head of the valley, which is the location of Manti.

 

Verse 31 tells us that the Lamanites could no longer retreat in any direction because they were surrounded on all sides. We know of the armies of Lehi and Morianton on two of those sides, what was on the other sides? Coriantumr had led his army down a river valley, and therefore there is elevation on the two sides, and certainly a river on one side that made retreat difficult. In addition, there were those other Nephites who were in the land but had not been able to be called into action who would nevertheless be able to slow down a disorganized retreat through the more difficult terrain over the mountains of the valleys. In this way, Coriantumr was surrounded by the land as well as by the armies of the Nephites.

 

Helaman 1:32

32  And thus had Coriantumr plunged the Lamanites into the midst of the Nephites, insomuch that they were in the power of the Nephites, and he himself was slain, and the Lamanites did yield themselves into the hands of the  Nephites.

Helaman 1:33

33  And it came to pass that Moronihah took possession of the city of Zarahemla again, and caused that the Lamanites who had been taken prisoners should depart out of the land in peace.

Helaman 1:34

34  And thus ended the forty and first year of the reign of the judges.

 

Narrative: The Lamanite army is defeated, and Moronihah retakes Zarahemla. Mormon is interested in this particular threat, but he condenses the aftermath. What has been important is not so much the winning of the war, but the fact of the war, and the danger inherent in the fact of that war. Mormon’s purpose in writing about the battles differs greatly from the purpose of war-relations in the typical writings of the acts of the leaders of a people. Contrast Mormon’s descriptions of this battle with two typical battle-records from the Old World. The following are texts from two different records carved in stone commemorating battles of Shalmaneser III, between 853-841 BC:

 

“…They came directly toward me in close battle, (but) with the superior aid which Ashur the lord had given, and with the mighty weapons which Nergal, my leader, had gifted me, I fought with them. From Qarqar to Gilzau I defeated them. I smote 14,000 of their men with weapons, falling upon them like Adad pouring down a hailstorm. I flung their bodies about, filling the plain with their scattered soldiery.

 

In my eighteenth regnal year I crossed the River Euphrates for the sixteenth time. Hazael of Aram put his trust in the numerical strength of his army and called out his army in great numbers. He made Sanir, a mountain-peak which stands out in front of the Lebanon, his strong position, (but) I fought with him and defeated him, smiting with weapons 16,000 of his experienced troops. I snatched away from him1,121 of his chariots and 470 of his cavalry-horses together with his baggage train. He went off to save his life, (but) I followed after him and surrounded him in Damascus, his capital city. I cut down his plantations (and then) marched as far as the mountains of the Hauran. I destroyed, tore down, and burnt with fire numberless villages, carrying away innumerable spoil from them. I marched as far as the mountains of Ba'ali-ra'si, a headland by the sea, and put up on it a representation of my royal person. At that time I received the tribute of the people of Tyre, Sidon, and of Jehu, son of Omri.” (The Kurkh Stele and a Black Obelisk. Documents from Shalmaneser III, 853-841 BC. Documents from Old Testament Times. Ed. D. Winton Thomas. Harper Torchbooks, New York 1958, pp. 47-8)

 

In Shalmaneser’s record the emphasis is on the victory, not the setup of the war. Even when specific events are discussed, such as the second inscriptions discussion of Hazael of Aram’s stand at Sanir, the emphasis is on the victory, not on the details of the battle. There is nothing at all of the reasons for the war in either of these texts.

 

The typical method of writing about the wars of the kings in the Old World is to exalt the deads of the kings. The reasons for wars are unnecessary, for only the obvious justification of the victorious king counted. In the New World, we have more terse accounts of the deeds of the kings, and not surprisingly, we hear more of their victories than their defeats.

 

It is against this backdrop of the expected that we should see the very unusual reporting of Mormon. Against all ancient logic, Mormon dwells on the causes and the problems, and tends to move quickly over the victories. This should tell us that Mormon has a very different agenda, and that his agenda has to do with the problems rather than the victories. Mormon includes the battles because the show the difficulties that arise out of the Nephites internal divisions away from the pure Nephite ideal. Their own rejection of their tradition means that the foundational promise no longer applies. They are susceptible.

 

Textual: Mormon continues to organize his text along year lines. Even when he does not elect to use the year change to mark a new chapter, the year change becomes the structural element that defines a unit of thought. This incident is contained inside the bounds of a year structure. The first event listed is the murder of Pacumeni and the introduction of the Gadiantons. This event is bounded by the fortieth year. In the forty first year we have this battle against Coriantumr. Of course those events occurred within those years, but the point here is that Mormon is using the year structures to structure his text, even internal to a chapter. There is no chapter break at this point, even though there is a year-ending.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Brant Gardner. Copyright 2002