Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2010, December 22

“Book of Mormon: What Do John Sorenson’s ‘War and Seasons’ Establish?” by grego

“Book of Mormon: What Do John Sorenson’s ‘War and Seasons’ Establish?”


About Sorenson and his warfare seasons… OK, lots of Lamanites lived in the wilderness and ate meat that they hunted. Well, ok, we only know that from the beginning, not after they took over the Nephite cities (in the time of Mosiah I). So at least some of them—the more ferocious part, and more likely the ones who would be involved in fighting wars—are not tied to harvesting–at least not as much as the Nephites seemed to be.

The Nephites cultivate and raise meat.

Any suggestions? That part just doesn’t make sense to me. Now, if you’re talking about lowland and highland, and rain and soggy land and tents, that might be something different…

Before going further, here’s a summary of the issue, found at:
Seasonality of Warfare
A fascinating issue on climate is the seasons of war described in the Book of Mormon, mostly between Alma 9 and Alma 47. Several examples provide specific months and days of the battle (e.g., Alma 16:1). Many others indicate the general time of year (e.g., Alma 44:22–24). In over 30 places, war action is described as taking place near the end or beginning of the year. Sorenson has compiled information from the text about the month of the year various military skirmishes are mentioned. Almost all occur between the 11th and 3rd months, with a small number reported in the 4th, 5th, and 10th months, and none mentioned in the 6th through 9th months.[1] Why this pattern?

Interestingly, the text also makes reference to cultivation of food a number of times in the 4th through 9th months. The problem of getting food to the troops is mentioned as a concern mainly in the twelfth through second months. Thus it seems that the harvest may have been in months 10 through 12. The Nephite “agricultural year” seems, then, to proceed like this:
* Cultivation of fields: months 4-9
* Main harvest: months 10-12
* Time of warfare: mainly months 11-3.

Warfare Insights from the Text
This leads to several insights:
* since the armies were largely made of ordinary citizens (like reservists) who were largely farmers, they were not available for warfare except after the harvest (see Alma 53:7);
* since an army moves on its stomach, fighting is most easily carried out when food supplies are most available, which would be after the harvest;
* the Book of Mormon shows remarkable accuracy (and internal consistency) in dealing with the ancient relationship between agriculture and warfare.

But how do Nephite months correspond to ours? In Mesoamerica, May though September is the best time for growing crops (heat and moisture are most available). October through April is fairly dry.
We also know that before Columbus, military campaigns in Central America occurred mainly between late October and February (again, farmers were then free of agricultural duties and food could be gathered—or seized as plunder).
Likewise, soggy land from heavy rains would be drier and more passable (and made living in tents easier).
These considerations lead Sorenson and others to conclude that the Nephite year may have begun in late December, perhaps with the winter solstice (Dec. 21/22), as did many other ancient peoples.[2]


Note that all wars were, of course, started by the Lamanites, and always consisted of the Lamanites attacking the Nephites in Nephite lands. So all the Nephite side of the equation in all this can be pretty much eliminated (unless the Lamanites had a strong desire to take the food as war spoils).

Strategy session–If you wanted to conquer a people, would you do it when they had food, or not?

Have food: attack during the “off” season, when the Nephites are loaded with just-harvested crops and supplies, and have nothing to do (except defend against the Lamanites); take the food as war spoils.
Don’t have food: attack sometime between plants coming up and before harvest—trample the fields, starve the Nephites and their families, lower morale, fight fewer and famished Nephites, make them weaker for further attack or leaving their lands (as in Mosiah 1). Then, when you conquer them, you take their food as war spoils—not once, but as long as they are under your servitude.


Anything in the text support either side of this argument?

In the story of Zeniff,the Lamanite king takes food spoils. Whoops—but that’s after the people are conquered).
The Lamanites trample much of the Nephite food (Alma 4:2).

When would the Lamanies hunt: spring and summer, fall, winter? During “main harvest” and “time of warfare” seasons.

Of course, this is all based on the big assumption of Mesoamerica being the Book of Mormon/ Nephite lands.

Conclusion? Inconclusive evidence.

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