Sunday, July 16, 2017

Understanding the Nephite/Lamanite War

Yesterday I tried to lay out the chronology of the major events of the wars covered in the latter part of the book of Alma.  It was a useful exercise and a couple things became much clearer to me about what happened.  One of those was an understanding of the length of time of the various parts of the war.  Amalickiah had his army attack first in the 19th year (1st phase of the war), and after their colossal defeat, they didn’t come again until the 25th year (2nd phase of the war).  We don’t have many details about what he did for more than five years, but Amalickiah must have been preparing intensely for war and gathering an innumerable army of Lamanites to fight.  And when they came back it was a catastrophe for the Nephites as numerous cities were captured almost immediately, and then the Nephites spent the next six years trying to recapture what they had lost and kick the Lamanites out of their land.  For the majority of those six years the Lamanites were led by Ammoron, and not Amalickiah.  Amalickiah was slain by Teancum at the end of the first year of that second phase of the war, and Ammoron led the Lamanites for the remainder of the time. 

               Another thing that became clearer to me as I tried to study the span of all of the events of the war is the distinction between the two different fronts of the war.  When the Lamanites attacked in the 25th year, they took at least seven cities on the east side.  Teancum finally headed them off, and he spent the remaining years of the war working to regain cities in the east like Mulek and Gid.  It appears that shortly after the Lamanites took all of these cities in the east, they also attacked on the west and took over numerous cities there as well.  We don’t have as much information about that, but Moroni hinted at it in his letter to Teancum the year after the Lamanites took those seven cities in the east: “I would come unto you, but behold, the Lamanites are upon us in the borders of the land by the west sea; and behold, I go against them, therefore I cannot come unto you” (Alma 52:11).  So while Teancum was at a standstill in the east, Moroni was in serious difficulty in the west with his army.  We understand the extend of that difficulty by what Helaman said in his letter to Moroni several years later: “Now these are the cities of which the Lamanites have obtained possession by the shedding of the blood of so many of our valiant men: The land of Manti, or the city of Manti, and the city of Zeezrom, and the city of Cumeni, and the city of Antiparah” (Alma 56:13-14).  The Lamanites had possession of these four cities by the end of the 26th year, which means that in just over a year after the Lamanites first attacked in the second phase of the war they had gained at least eleven cities.
               Helaman and his 2000 stripling warriors joined up with Antipus at the end of the 26th year on the western side.  Moroni was also still on the western front and stayed there until the end of the next year, but it appears that Moroni and Helaman fought in different locations on the western side.  Helaman was initially near the city of Antiparah that had already been taken by the Lamanites, and it’s likely that Moroni was working feverishly to prevent any new cities from being taken by the Lamanites in the west.  He must have felt things were stabilized enough on that side to leave and go join Teancum in the 27th year.  Helaman stayed near the west sea and by the 30th year he and his men had retaken at least three of the cities the Lamanites had taken: Antiparah, Cumeni, and Manti.  On the eastern front Teancum and Moroni were able to eventually retake Mulek and Gid.  Despite the progress, the Nephites then lost Nephihah which led Moroni to learn of the factions in the government.  After returning to Zarahemla and cleansing the inner vessel, one last push in the east caused a final blow to the Lamanites and they were pushed out of the land in the 31st year.  

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