NOTE: This webpage taken entirely from mormonstudies
The Book of Mormon opens in the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, ten years before the fall of Jerusalem. Having established its roots in this historical moment, the Book of Mormon proceeds to create an entirely new history, weaving together biblical lore with material from an amazing variety of other sources. It is not possible to examine all of the similarities, but we will note how some of the book's characters and events parallel those of other worlds, both real and imaginary.
The Book of Mormon attributes a number of visions to Lehi -- a pillar of fire; God sitting on his throne, surrounded by angels -- which resemble the experiences of Moses, Isaiah, Daniel, Jeremiah and John. Lehi also saw a being descend from heaven, followed by twelve others, who gave Lehi a book, commanding him to read: "And he read, saying: Wo, wo, unto Jerusalem, for I have seen thine abominations! Yea, and many things did my father read concerning Jerusalem -- that it should be destroyed, and the inhabitants thereof" (1 Nephi 1:13). Lehi said that the luster of the first messenger from heaven "was above that of the sun at noon-day," while the brightness of the other twelve "did exceed that of the stars in the firmament" (1 Nephi 1:9-10). John wrote that he saw "one like unto the Son of man . . . . and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength" (Rev. 1:13, 16). Lehi's book recalls Ezekiel's vision: "And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein; and he spread it before me; and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, mourning, and woe" (Ezek. 2:9-10). John also beheld a vision of an angel with a book: "And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire: and he had in his hand a little book open . . . . And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel . . . . And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples" (Rev. 10:1-11).
After receiving his visions, Lehi began to prophesy among the people, chastening them for their wickedness and telling them of the coming destruction of Jerusalem. When the people became angry and sought to take away his life, the Lord spoke to Lehi in a dream, commanding him to take his family and go into the wilderness.
Lehi departed from Jerusalem with his wife and four sons -- Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi. After traveling for three days, they camped in a valley near a river. In a dream, the Lord told Lehi that his sons must return to Jerusalem to procure a set of brass plates, which contained a record of the Jews and a genealogy of Lehi's ancestors. These plates were in the possession of a man named Laban, who Lehi later learned was his kinsman. This story recalls the mission of the servant of Abraham to obtain Rebekah, as a wife for Isaac, from her brother Laban, as well as the attempts by Jacob to win Rachel from Laban. When Jacob left Laban, Rachel took her father's household gods, just as Nephi made off with Laban's brass plates. Laban and his kinsmen pursued Jacob and Rachel, as Laban's servants chased after Nephi and his brothers, after their second attempt to get the plates.
Laban was apparently a military man, but he also had control of a treasury, where he kept the brass plates. The treasury of Laban may have been suggested by 1 Chronicles 26:20-21, which refers to the sons of "Laadan" and a treasury of spoils of war dedicated to God. Nephi slew Laban in a scene which resembles the slaying of Holofernes by Judith. Nephi then persuaded Zoram, the servant of Laban, to accompany him back to Lehi's camp with the brass plates. This story may owe something to a tale concerning the Irish hero Finn mac Cumhal. Finn's father was chief of the Clan Bascna, but was killed by the Clan Morna. T. W. Rolleston relates: "Among the Clan Morna was a man named Lia, the lord of Luachar in Connacht, who was Treasurer of the Fianna, and who kept the Treasure Bag, a bag made of crane's skin and having in it magic weapons and jewels of great price that had come down from the days of the Danaans. And he became Treasurer to the Clan Morna, and still kept the bag at Rath Luachar" (Rolleston 1986, 255). When Finn grew up, he slew Lia and gave the treasure bag to his uncle and some other men, who had fled from the Clan Morna and were dwelling in the forests of Connacht. Seven years later, Conan, the son of Lia, entered into a covenant of service and fealty with Finn. In the same way, Nephi slew Laban, carrying the brass plates to his father's camp in the wilderness, and Zoram, Laban's servant, made an oath with Nephi that he would remain with him and his brothers.
Zoram also parallels Hobab, the son of Moses' father-in-law, who was a Midianite. As the Israelites traveled through the wilderness, Moses said to Hobab: "We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you: come thou with us, and we will do thee good" (Num. 10:29). Similarly, Nephi said to Zoram: "if thou wilt go down into the wilderness to my father thou shalt have place with us" (1 Nephi 4:34). The descendants of Moses' father-in-law were called the Kenites, who lived with the tribe of Judah. Zoram also traveled to the New World with Nephi, and his descendants lived among the Nephites.
After Nephi, his brothers, and Zoram had reassembled at the camp in the wilderness, the Lord spoke again to Lehi, saying that he must send his sons to Jerusalem one more time to persuade a man named Ishmael to join his party. Ishmael had five daughters and two sons; the daughters were to provide wives for Lehi's four sons and Zoram. Here again there are parallels with the Genesis account, not only the trips back to Haran to obtain wives for Isaac and Jacob, but also the fact that Ishmael was the name of Abraham's first son by Hagar.
The five daughters of Ishmael are certainly the five daughters of Zelophehad, who belonged to the tribe of Manasseh. When Zelophehad died, his five daughters approached Moses, seeking an inheritance along with other members of their tribe. After consulting the Lord, Moses declared that they should marry within their father's family (Num. 27:1-4; 36:1-12). Like Zelophehad, the Ishmael of our story dies before reaching the promised land.
It is not difficult to see a likeness between Nephi and Joseph, the son of Jacob. Like Joseph, Nephi was a younger brother and not well treated by his older siblings. Joseph related two dreams to his brothers, which seemed to place him in a position superior to them: "And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us?" (Gen. 37:8). Joseph's brothers cast him into a pit, where they intended to leave him, but then decided to sell him to a passing caravan headed for Egypt. Similarly, after the second attempt to get the brass plates from Laban had failed, Laman and Lemuel became angry with Nephi and beat him with a rod. An angel appeared to them and said, "know ye not that the Lord hath chosen him to be a ruler over you?" (1 Nephi 3:29). Again when Nephi and his brothers were returning from Jerusalem with Ishmael and his family, Laman and Lemuel bound Nephi with cords, intending to leave him to be devoured by wild beasts. However, after several members of the group pleaded with them, they repented and bowed down before Nephi and asked for his forgiveness. Joseph's brothers also bowed down to him as Pharaoh's administrator.
After the return of Nephi and Ishmael to Lehi's camp in the wilderness, the narrative in the Book of Mormon is interrupted by accounts of visions, which occupy chapters 8 through 15 of First Nephi. Lehi begins his dream, known as the vision of the tree of life, by saying:
methought I saw in my dream, a dark and dreary wilderness. And it came to pass that I saw a man, and he was dressed in a white robe; and he came and stood before me. And it came to pass that he spake unto me, and bade me follow him. And it came to pass that as I followed him I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste. And after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me . . . . And it came to pass after I had prayed unto the Lord I beheld a large and spacious field. And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy. (1 Nephi 8:4-10)
Lehi partook of the sweet, white fruit of the tree, and then looking to the head of a river which ran near the tree, he saw his wife Sariah with Sam and Nephi, "and they stood as if they knew not whither they should go" (1 Nephi 8:14). Lehi called to them, and they came and ate of the fruit of the tree. Looking to the head of the river again, Lehi saw Laman and Lemuel, but they would not come and partake of the fruit.
Along the bank of the river, Lehi beheld a rod of iron and a straight and narrow path, which passed by the head of the river to a large and spacious field. There he saw "numberless concourses of people," who sought the path which led to the tree, but a great mist of darkness arose and caused them to lose their way. Some, however, caught hold of the rod of iron and made their way to the tree.
And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed. And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth. And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit. (1 Nephi 8:25-27)
Nephi breaks off Lehi's account of his dream and ends by saying: "And he also saw other multitudes feeling their way towards that great and spacious building. And it came to pass that many were drowned in the depths of the fountain; and many were lost from his view, wandering in strange roads" (1 Nephi 8:31-32).
Lehi's vision seems to draw inspiration from Bede's account of the experience of a man who died and returned to life. Bede (A.D. 673-735), who was a monk at the monastery of St. Paul, relates in his A History of the English Church and People:
This was the account he used to give of his experience: 'A handsome man in a shining robe was my guide, and we walked in silence in what appeared to be a north-easterly direction. As we traveled onwards, we came to a very broad and deep valley of infinite length. . . .
'When he had led me gradually to the further end, . . . I saw the place suddenly begin to grow dim, and darkness concealed everything. As we entered it, this darkness gradually grew so dense that I could see nothing except it and the outline and robes of my guide. . . . When my guide had brought me to this place, he suddenly disappeared and left me alone in the midst of the darkness . . . .
'When I had stood there a long time terrified, not knowing what to do, where to turn, or what would happen to me, I suddenly heard behind me the sound of a most hideous and desperate lamentation, accompanied by harsh laughter, as though a rough mob were mocking captured enemies. As the noise increased and drew nearer, I saw a throng of wicked spirits dragging with them five human souls howling and lamenting into the depths of the darkness while the devils laughed and exulted. . . .
'The newcomer whose approach put them to flight was my former guide, who took a road to the right and began to lead me towards the south-east. He soon brought me out of darkness into an atmosphere of clear light, and as he led me forwards in bright light, I saw before us a tremendous wall which seemed to be of infinite length and height in all directions . . . . Within lay a very broad and pleasant meadow, so filled with the scent of spring flowers . . . . Such was the light flooding all this place that it seemed greater than the brightness of daylight or of the sun's rays at noon. In this meadow were innumerable companies of men in white robes, and many parties of happy people were sitting together.' (Bede 1968, 289-92)
Just as Bede's account contrasts the dense darkness of the valley with the brightly lit meadow where many happy people congregate, Lehi's vision leads from a dark and dreary waste to a large and spacious field, containing a tree "whose fruit was desirable to make one happy." In his dream, Lehi also had a guide, a man dressed in a white robe. In Bede's account, the man's guide left him, and he stood there "not knowing what to do, where to turn." Similarly, in Lehi's vision, Sariah, Sam, and Nephi "stood as if they knew not whither they should go." The man in Bede's account heard the harsh, mocking laughter of devils who were dragging souls into the depths of the darkness, as Lehi heard people mocking those who were eating of the fruit of the tree, causing some to fall into forbidden paths.
Lehi said that the great and spacious building filled with people mocking and pointing their fingers, "stood as it were in the air, high above the earth." This seems to be drawn from Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. After Gulliver had been set adrift by pirates and had landed on an island, he was astonished to behold another inhabited island floating above him in the air. He described this island: "I could see the sides of it, encompassed with several gradations of galleries and stairs . . . . I beheld a crowd gathered to that side which was most in my view. I found by their pointing towards me, and to each other, that they plainly discovered me" (Swift 1985, 147-48).
There are, of course, some biblical references which figure in Lehi's dream. Genesis 2:9-10 describes the Garden of Eden, which contained the tree of life and a river which flowed out of Eden and parted into four streams. John was shown in a vision "a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits" (Rev. 22:1-2).
Nephi also relates his own visions, which draw heavily upon John's Revelation. The Lord then spoke to Lehi, telling him that he and his party should be on their way. On the following morning, Lehi found on the ground in front of his tent "a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness" (1 Nephi 16:10). This brass ball is referred to in the Book of Mormon both as a "director" and as a "compass," and it was given the name Liahona. Critics have wondered how it was possible to see the spindles or pointers inside the ball, if the ball itself was made of brass. We may be able to clear up the mystery by again consulting Gulliver's Travels. When Gulliver found himself in the land of Lilliput, the Emperor of the tiny inhabitants sent two men to inventory the contents of Gulliver's pockets. Part of their report to the Emperor reads:
Out of the right fob hung a great silver chain, with a wonderful kind of engine at the bottom. We directed him to draw out whatever was fastened to that chain; which appeared to be a globe, half silver, and half of some transparent metal: for on the transparent side, we saw certain strange figures, circularly drawn, and thought we could touch them, till we found our fingers stopped by that lucid substance. . . . he seldom did anything without consulting it. He called it his oracle, and said it pointed out the time for every action of his life. (Swift 1985, 18-19)
The object which they were describing was, of course, a pocket watch, and the "transparent metal" was glass. A watch can be described as having "spindles" or pointers, as well as other strange figures around the circumference. Characters appeared on the pointers of Lehi's brass ball: "And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it" (1 Nephi 16:29). Just as Gulliver's silver globe acted as an oracle, pointing out the time for every action of his life, the brass ball acted as an oracle for Lehi's group, pointing out the way that they should go in the wilderness.
There is also a passage in Gulliver's Travels which probably served as inspiration for making the Liahona act as a compass. Gulliver later learned that the movement of the floating island was produced by a loadstone: "But the greatest curiosity, upon which the fate of the island depends, is a loadstone of a prodigious size, in shape resembling a weaver's shuttle. . . . This magnet is sustained by a very strong axle of adamant passing through its middle, upon which it plays, and is poised so exactly that the weakest hand can turn it. It is hooped round with a hollow cylinder of adamant" (Swift 1985, 158). The island would move up or down, depending upon whether the repulsive or attractive end of the loadstone was place towards the earth, and if the stone was placed in an oblique position, the island would move slant-wise. Swift borrowed his description from Plato's account of the Spindle of Necessity in Book X of the Republic, but it also sounds like a compass. When Lehi's group set sail for the New World, the Liahona was used to steer the ship on a correct course.
The Liahona, the brass plates, and the sword of Laban (which Nephi used to slay Laban) were revered and became national treasures, being transferred from one generation to another. The possession of these objects seemed to indicate the legitimacy of rulership. According to legend, the Tuatha de Daanan, who were one of the races which conquered Ireland, brought with them four treasures from four cities. These were the sword of Lugh, a magic spear, the cauldron of Dagda, and a stone called the Lia Fail. The Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny, has an interesting history. It was discovered at Tara by Conn, the chief King of Ireland. When he stepped on it, the stone shrieked, and after consulting Druids, it was determined that the number of shrieks indicated the number of rightful kings who would rule after Conn. The High Kings of Ireland were crowned standing on this stone, which would confirm their right to rule by crying out. The Lia Fail was supposedly sent to Scotland in the sixth century for the coronation of Fergus the Great, but it never returned to Ireland. It became the Stone of Scone, which was carried to England by Edward I in 1297 and became a part of the coronation chair in Westminster Abbey, upon which the rulers of Great Britain are crowned.
There were various theories about the origins of the Lia Fail. One of the more popular tales was that it was the very same stone which Jacob used as a pillow at Bethel, when he had a dream of angels ascending and descending a ladder which reached to heaven. In this dream, the Lord covenanted with Jacob that his posterity would inherit the land. When he awoke, Jacob set the stone up as a pillar and anointed it with oil (Gen. 28). James Bonwick quoted a version of the legend linking the Lia Fail with Jacob's pillow:
"whereof history relates that it is the stone whereon Jacob is said to have lain his head in the Plain of Luga; and that it was brought to Brigantia (Corunna) in the Kingdom of Spain, in which place Gathol, King of Scots, sat on it as his throne. Thence it was brought into Ireland by Simon Brec, first King of Scots, about 700 years before Christ's time, and from thence into Scotland about 300 years before Christ, and in A.D. 850 was placed in the Abbey Scone." (Bonwick  1986, 318)
It certainly seems to be more than coincidence that Lehi's brass ball is called "Liahona," while Jacob's stone pillow became known as the "Lia Fail." The Liahona was carried from Palestine to the New World, as the Lia Fail traveled from Bethel to Ireland. The appearance of writing on the Liahona recalls the Arthurian romances, in which inscriptions frequently and miraculously appear on all sorts of objects, including stones, swords, ships, and the Siege Perilous. In addition, the sword of Laban seems to be of the same type as the mighty swords of Arthurian legends, and it of course parallels the sword of Goliath, which David used to cut off Goliath's head.
A few years after the departure of Lehi and his family, another group of people left Jerusalem and eventually arrived in the New World, where they were discovered by descendants of Nephi. The Book of Mormon gives us only fragments of information about the people of Zarahemla, as they are called. Most of our information comes from Amaleki's small record, which says: "Behold, it came to pass that Mosiah discovered that the people of Zarahemla came out from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon" (Omni 1:15). This does not tell us who either Zarahemla or his people were, but later the Book of Mosiah states: "Now there were not so many . . . of those who were descendants of Nephi, as there were of the people of Zarahemla, who was a descendant of Mulek, and those who came with him into the wilderness" (Mosiah 25:2). From this we learn that Zarahemla was a descendant of Mulek, but who was Mulek? The answer to this question is given much later in a very offhanded manner in the book of Helaman, and we are greatly surprised to find that Mulek was one of the sons of king Zedekiah: "And now will you dispute that Jerusalem was destroyed? Will ye say that the sons of Zedekiah were not slain, all except it were Mulek? Yea, and do ye not behold that the seed of Zedekiah are with us, and they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem?" (Helaman 8:21). The Old Testament tells us that Zedekiah witnessed the slaying of his sons by Nebuchadnezzar's men at Riblah, before he was carried captive to Babylon (2 Kings 25:7). However, the Book of Mormon claims that Mulek, one of Zedekiah's sons, managed to escape.
Amaleki tells us further that when Mosiah discovered the people of Zarahemla, "their language had become corrupted; and they had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator; and Mosiah, nor the people of Mosiah, could understand them" (Omni 1:17).
Although the Bible states that the sons of Zedekiah were slain, the story of Mulek seems to draw upon Jeremiah. Before the destruction of Jerusalem, the Lord said to Jeremiah, "Verily it shall be well with thy remnant . . . . And I will make thee to pass with thine enemies into a land which thou knowest not" (Jer. 15:11, 14). After Nebuchadnezzar carried off many of the inhabitants of Judah, he made Gedaliah governor over those who remained. But Gedaliah was killed by Ishmael, who carried away the remnant of the people, among whom were Jeremiah, Baruch and "the king's daughters" (Jer. 41:10). Presumably, the king's daughters were the daughters of Zedekiah. After Johanan came to the rescue of the captives and drove off Ishmael, he asked Jeremiah to seek the Lord's advice on what they should do next. The Lord specifically told them to remain where they were, for if they went to Egypt, they would be destroyed. But Johanan and his men would not listen and they carried the remnant of Judah to Egypt. It is easy to speculate that if Zedekiah's daughters had escaped from Nebuchadnezzar, along with Jeremiah and Baruch, that possibly one of Zedekiah's sons had also survived. In fact, the Bible seems almost to demand that this be true, for when Jacob blessed Judah, he declared, "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come" (Gen. 49:10). Therefore, the reign of the kings of Judah could not end with Zedekiah; it had to continue through one of Zedekiah's sons, at least until the time of Christ. Thus Mulek and his people represent that remnant designated by the Lord, which would pass "into a land which thou knowest not."
Another biblical story suggests the fate of Mulek. Joab, the captain of David's army, slew every male in Edom, except Hadad, who was the son of the king of Edom: ". . . Hadad fled, he and certain Edomites of his father's servants with him, to go into Egypt; Hadad being yet a little child. And they arose out of Midian, and came to Paran: and they took men with them out of Paran, and they came to Egypt, unto Pharaoh king of Egypt; which gave him an house, and appointed him victuals, and gave him land. And Hadad found great favour in the sight of Pharaoh, so that he gave him to wife the sister of his own wife, the sister of Tahpenes the queen" (1 Kings 11:17-19). The history of Mulek probably followed similar lines: as a child, he and others fled from Nebuchadnezzar, he was received by the ruler of another land, he grew up and married and then migrated to the New World.
There are two other tales that we should take note of in connection with Mulek. One concerns the Moors, who inhabited northern Africa. Moorish tribes trace their ancestry to Meleck Yarfrick, king of Arabia Felix, who led the Sabians to Libya and gave it the name of Africa. The name Meleck suggests that of Mulek, and there was also a city in the land of Zarahemla named Melek. The second story concerns a Jewish tribe called the Falasha of Ethiopia: "The opinion of the Abyssinians, which is partly shared also by the Falashas, is that these Jews came from Palestine to Ethiopia in the time of King Solomon and his alleged son Menilek I. The Ethiopian chronicle relates that the queen of Sheba, during her visit to him at Jerusalem, conceived a son whose father was Solomon; that the son was named Menilek or Ibn al-Hakim, that is to say, the son of the sage, and that he became the founder of the royal dynasty of Abyssinia" (Ausubel 1948, 535). According to the legend, Menilek was raised and educated at the court of Solomon, but was later sent to Ethiopia with a number of other people, where he was crowned as king. If a son named Menilek could be attributed to Solomon, certainly the Book of Mormon could also produce an unknown son of Zedekiah named Mulek.
Compared with the people of Zarahemla, the Book of Mormon provides a greater amount of information about the Jaredites, but the record is still greatly abbreviated. The Jaredites were a race of people who lived in Babylon long before Lehi and Mulek. Although the Book of Ether, which relates their history, never calls the Jaredites giants, it refers to the large stature of a number of men (Ether 1:34; 14:10; 13:15; 15:26). These passages suggest that the Jaredites were a race of giants. Genesis 6:4 says: "There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown." When Moses sent men to spy out the land around Hebron, they reported: "And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants" (Num. 13:33). According to Deuteronomy 2, the land of the Moabites had been the possession in times past of another race of giants called Emim, while the Horim had lived in Seir and the Zamzummim had occupied the territory of the Ammonites. David and his men also fought four men in Philistine territory who are described as descendants of the giants (2 Sam. 21:16-22). Josephus says that when the Israelites took possession of the land of Canaan, "There were till then left the race of giants, who had bodies so large, and countenances so entirely different from other men, that they were surprising to the sight, and terrible to the hearing. The bones of these men are still shown to this very day, unlike to any creditable relations of other men" (Josephus 1974, 2:307).
After leaving the tower of Babel, the Jaredites traveled a great distance to the sea, where they built eight small, light barges, in which they set sail for the promised land. Their voyage lasted 344 days. The Jaredite civilization flourished in the New World for many centuries, but after a long period of civil warfare, the opposing forces gathered at the hill Ramah, where the Jaredites perished in a great battle. The sole survivor of the Jaredites, a man named Coriantumr, was discovered by the people of Zarahemla, who had apparently only recently arrived in the New World.
The people of Zarahemla were later joined by a group of Nephites, descendants of Lehi's party, who were fleeing from the murderous Lamanites. The Nephites established their capital at the city of Zarahemla, and the nation prospered for hundreds of years, until it was extinguished by the Lamanites. The demise of the Nephites followed the same pattern as that of the Jaredites. The Nephites were pursued by the Lamanites, until they were granted their request to gather at the hill Cumorah, where the last great struggle took place. Cumorah was, in fact, the very same hill Ramah where the Jaredites perished.
The Book of Mormon resembles Irish legends, which tell of the conquest of Ireland by a succession of invaders. The first inhabitants of Ireland after the Flood were the Formorians. Later, a group of twenty-four males and twenty-four females led by Partholan arrived from the west. They fought against the Formorians and drove them out. The Partholanians, however, were struck by an epidemic, and after gathering on a plain, they all perished. But there was one survivor, Tuan mac Carell.
After Ireland lay uninhabited for thirty years, "the Nemedians sailed for Ireland in a fleet of thirty-two barks, in each bark thirty persons. They went astray on the seas for a year and a half, and most of them perished of hunger and thirst or of shipwreck. Nine only escaped - Nemed himself, with four men and four women" (Rolleston 1986, 99). Again, the Nemedians fought against the Formorians, who had returned, and again an epidemic wiped out a large part of the population, including Nemed. The Nemedians then became vassals of the Fomorians, until they rose in revolt and killed Conann, a Formorian chief. The Formorians, however, routed the Nemedians and slew all but thirty, who left Ireland.
Richard Stout has pointed out to me another important parallel that I was unaware of. One of Nemed's four sons was actually named Alma, a name shared by two of the principal male characters (father and son) in the Book of Mormon. This name is especially noteworthy because it is usually considered to be a female name. References to Alma, son of Nemed, can be found in the Irish Book of Invasions. In this record, there is also an account of the tower of Conann, which recalls Mormon's letter describing events at the tower of Sherrizah (Moroni 9).
The next group to arrive in Ireland were the Fir Bolg. According to one legend, they sailed from Greece, after making boats or coracles out of leather bags. The Fir Bolg were soon challenged by another group, the Tuatha de Danaan. After joining in battle on the plain of Moytura, it was agreed that the Fir Bolg would take the province of Connacht, while the Tuatha became rulers of the rest of Ireland, building their capital at Tara. But once again, the Formorians oppressed the island until, after seven years of preparation, they fought the Tuatha in a second battle at Moytura and were defeated.
The last race to invade Ireland was the Milesians, named after Miled or Mil. It is said that Ith, the grandfather of Mil, sighted Ireland from a tower and sailed there, but was killed by the Tuatha. The Milesians decided to attack Ireland in revenge and set out in thirty-six ships, defeating the Tuatha in a great battle.
Some of the accounts of the invaders of Ireland ascribed their origins to Noah. Ignatius Donnelly wrote: "According to the ancient books of Ireland the race known as 'Partholan's people,' the Nemedians, the Firbolgs, the Tuatha-de-Danaans, and the Milesians were all descended from two brothers, sons of Magog, son of Japheth, son of Noah" (Donnelly  1949, 253).
It is easy to find similarities between the Irish annals and the Book of Mormon. The Formorians arrived in Ireland after the time of Noah; the Jaredites set out at the time of the tower of Babel. After gathering on a plain, the Partholanians all perished, with the exception of one survivor; after gathering to the hill Ramah, all of the Jaredites were killed, except Coriantumr. The Nemedians sailed to Ireland in thirty-two barks, sailing for a year and a half; the Jaredites built eight barges, and their voyage lasted nearly a year. Ireland was divided between the Fir Bolg and the Tuatha, and the Tuatha later defeated the Formorians in a battle on the plain of Moytura; the Nephites, along with the descendants of Mulek, occupied the land of Zarahemla, while the Lamanites inhabited the land of Nephi, but the Nephites were later killed by the Lamanites at the hill Cumorah. The Milesians lived first in Egypt, then settled in Africa for 250 years, before migrating to Ireland; Mulek apparently went first to Egypt, then perhaps traveled across north Africa, before sailing to the New World.
Let us return now to Lehi's group. After the group left their camp, they traveled south-southeast and then turned east. Their sojourn in the wilderness lasted eight years. At last they reached a land which they called Bountiful, near a sea, which they named Irreantum. Nephi was commanded by the Lord to go to the top of a mountain, just as Moses was called to the top of Mount Sinai. There Nephi received instructions for the building of a ship, as Moses was taught by the Lord how to construct the ark and tabernacle. After the group set sail, they encountered a storm at sea, a story which follows closely a similar incident in Virgil's Aeneid. In fact, there are a number of resemblances between the Book of Mormon and the Aeneid. When the Greeks had succeeded in entering the city of Troy, Aeneas gathered together his father Anchises and his wife and son, and they fled outside the city walls: "We the exiled survivors were forced by divine command to search the world for a home in some uninhabited land. So we started to build ships below Antandros, the city by the foothills of Phrygian Ida, with no idea where Destiny would take us or where we should be allowed to settle" (Virgil 1958, 75). Aeneas and his group came first to Crete, but the Trojan gods appeared to Aeneas in a dream and commanded him to sail on to "the Western Land," or Italy. However, Aeneas's ships were overtaken by a great storm and were driven off course. Palinurus, the helmsman, was unable to plot a course, and the ships wandered blindly for three days and nights. On the fourth day, they sighted an island, the home of the Harpies, but sailed on towards Italy.
Thus, Aeneas fled a city about to be destroyed, as Lehi led his family from Jerusalem into the wilderness. Aeneas built ships by Mount Ida near the shore of the Aegean Sea, as Nephi constructed a ship, after consulting with the Lord on the top of a mountain near a sea called Irreantum. Aeneas sought the Western Land at the bidding of his gods, just as Lehi's group sailed towards the promised land, led by the Lord. Aeneas encountered a storm, and his helmsman could not plot a course, just as Nephi's brothers did not know how to steer the ship when the compass stopped working and a storm arose. In both the Aeneid and the Book of Mormon, the ships are driven off course by a storm which lasts three days, but abates on the fourth day, after which both groups sail on towards their destinations. When Aeneas landed on Sicily, still short of his goal, we are told that seven years had already elapsed. Lehi's group had spent eight years in the wilderness, before they set sail.
Aeneas founded the city of Lavinium, where his son Ascanius was born. When he was older, Ascanius left Lavinium and established a new town, which was called Alba Longa. Ascanius was succeeded by his son Silvius, whose name was retained by the kings of Alba, just as the later emperors of Rome were called Caesar after Julius Caesar. Similarly, Nephi, the son of Lehi, left the original settlement in the New World and founded the city of Nephi. When Nephi grew old, he anointed a man as his successor: "Wherefore, the people were desirous to retain in remembrance his name. And whoso should reign in his stead were called by the people, second Nephi, third Nephi, and so forth, according to the reigns of the kings; and thus they were called by the people, let them be of whatever name they would" (Jacob 1:11). Thus, the Nephite kings retained the name of Nephi, just as the Romans commemorated the memories of Silvius and Caesar.
The building of Rome by Romulus, a descendant of Aeneas, was preceded by a quarrel with his brother Remus, as Nephi quarreled with his brothers before leaving them to found the city of Nephi. At his new site, Nephi built a temple and consecrated his brothers Jacob and Joseph to be priests and teachers. Romulus also dedicated a plot of ground for a temple of Jupiter, and king Numa later established the priesthood and religious rites of the early Romans.
When Nephi left the original settlement, he took with him the brass plates, which contained scriptures and genealogies. He also made other sets of plates, upon which the history of his people was inscribed for hundreds of years. Mormon tells us that his abridgment is only a hundreth part of all of the records which the Nephites kept. The brass plates of Laban recall the Twelve Tables of Roman law, which were inscribed on bronze tablets. And Seutonius says that when Rome burned in the first century A.D., Vespasian "undertook to replace the 3,000 bronze tablets which had been lost in the fire, hunting high and low for copies of the inscriptions engraved on them. Those ancient, beautifully phrased records . . . dated back almost to the foundation of Rome" (Suetonius 1979, 285).
The Book of Mormon contrasts the highly civilized Nephites with the wild Lamanites. The Lamanites wore animal skins and quickly became "an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey" (2 Nephi 5:24). The Nephites, on the other hand, constructed buildings, tilled the ground, worked with precious metals and made tools out of iron, copper, brass, and steel. There was almost constant enmity between the Nephites and the Lamanites, and the Lamnaites could be ferocious in battle. The Nephites wore thick clothing with breastplates and carried shields, but the Lamanites wore only animal skins around their loins, which left them exposed to attack. The civilized Romans too were often pitted against babaric tribes, such as the Gauls and Germans. Caesar says that the Germans moved about frequently and spent much of their time hunting; they were also respected by the Romans as ferocious warriors. The German tribes had a practice of "wearing only animal skins, so scanty that they leave a large part of the body naked" (Caesar 1985, 73). In addition, Plutarch says that Crassus commanded a cavalry composed of Gauls in a battle against the Parthians: "The small light spears of his Gauls came up against tough breastplates of raw hide or of steel, whereas they, with their unprotected and lightly armoured bodies, had to face the thrusts of long pikes" (Plutarch 1972, 145).
The Nephites were skilled in making all types of weapons, and the word "machinery" is used at Jarom 1:8, which is probably meant to assure us that the Nephites had attained the same level of skill as the famous military machines invented by Archimedes, which are referred to in the works of Polybius, Livy, and Plutarch. One of the crops which the Nephites cultivated was called "neas." It is mentioned along with corn, wheat, and barley, but is not otherwise identified. However, it is suggested by this passage from Herodotus: "other men live on wheat and barley, but any Egyptian who does so is blamed for it, their bread being made from spelt, or Zea as some call it" (Herodotus 1972, 143).
The Lamanites became increasingly wild and ferocious, and the wars which they fought with the Nephites resulted in the destruction of all but a few righteous Nephites. A group of the survivors, led by Mosiah, fled into the wilderness and found another people living in Zarahemla. After joining with the people of Zarahemla, Mosiah became the king of the land. The destruction of the wicked Nephites in the land of Nephi corresponds to the fall of the kingdom of Judah and the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. The group which Mosiah led to Zarahemla represents the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar carried to Babylon. Mosiah corresponds to Daniel, one of the young exiles educated by Nebuchadnezzar, whom Darius appointed to be president over the princes of his kingdom. Mosiah translated strange Jaredite characters engraved on a large stone, as Daniel interpreted the writing which appeared on the wall of Belshazzar's palace.
Mosiah was succeeded by his son Benjamin. A speech delivered by king Benjamin, before consecrating his son Mosiah II, resembles the words which Numa spoke, when the kingship was offered to him. Numa stated, "My birth was mortal; I was reared and instructed by men that are known to you. The very points of my character that are most commended mark me as unfit to reign . . a passion . . . for the society of men . . . whose lives in general are spent upon their farms and their pastures." His father took him aside and encouraged him to accept the kingship: "you will consider that government itself is a service of God" (Plutarch n.d., 78). Similarly, Benjamin said to the multitude, "I have not commanded you to come up hither that ye should fear me, or that ye should think that I of myself am more than a mortal man. But I am like as yourselves . . . . And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you . . . . when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God" (Mosiah 2:10-17). The text says further that Mosiah also tilled the earth (Mosiah 6:7). Thus Benjamin and Mosiah are patterned after Numa; they did not claim to be more than mortal men, they had a love for working the earth, and they looked upon kingship as service to God. Another model for Benjamin and Mosiah is Cincinnatus. Livy says that when Cincinnatus was approached by a delegation to accept the title of Dictator, he was working on his three-acre farm.. The Nephite kings who ruled the land of Zarahemla resemble Numa in another respect, for they were essentially foreigners, and Numa was a Sabine rather than a Roman. Furthermore, the two Mosiahs were seers and king Benjamin spoke with an angel, while Numa claimed that he was guided by the goddess Egeria in establishing religious rites and appointing priests.
A group of people led by Zeniff set out to reclaim territory in the land of Nephi. When the king of the Lamanites handed over the lands of Lehi-Nephi and Shilom, the people immediately began to repair the walls of the cities. Similarly, Cyrus allowed a group of exiles to return to Jerusalem with Sheshbazzar, a prince of Judah. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua, the people started to repair the walls of the city. Nehemiah arrived later, with the permission of Artaxerxes, and became governor over the land. Nehemiah is partially represented by Ammon, who went in search of the Zeniff colony, at the command of Mosiah II. When Ammon arrived in Lehi-Nephi, Limhi complained that "we are in bondage to the Lamanites, and are taxed with a tax which is grievous to be borne" (Mosiah 7:15). When Nehemiah reached Jerusalem, he also found that the governors who preceeded him had laid heavy burdens upon the people, and some had cried that "we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already" (Neh. 5:5).
Noah, the son of Zeniff, was a wicked king. He took many wives and concubines, taxed the people, appointed new priests to replace those consecrated by his father, and undertook an ambitious program of constructing elegant buildings and ornamenting the walls of the temple. Much of this reflects the story of Solomon, who was famous both for his many wives and concubines and for the magnificent temple and palace which he built. After Solomon died, the people complained bitterly to Rehoboam of the heavy yoke which his father had put upon them. And when Jeroboam replaced Rehoboam, he appointed priests who were not Levites. Noah made special seats for the high priests: "And the seats which were set apart for the high priests, which were above all the other seats, he did ornament with pure gold; and he caused a breastwork to be built before them, that they might rest their bodies and their arms upon" (Mosiah 11:11). This description is suggested by Solomon's throne: "Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with the best gold. The throne had six steps and the top of the throne was round behind: and there were stays on either side on the place of the seat, and two lions stood beside the stays. . . . there was not the like made in any kingdom" (1 Kings 10:18-20).
King Noah also constructed towers: "he built a tower near the temple; yea, a very high tower, even so high that he could stand upon the top thereof and overlook the land of Shilom, and also the land of Shemlon, which was possessed by the Lamanites; and he could even look over all the land round about. And it came to pass that he caused many buildings to be built in the land Shilom; and he caused a great tower to be built on the hill north of the land Shilom" (Mosiah 11:12-13). Moses went to the top of Pisgah, where the Lord showed him all the land from Gilead to Naphtali, south to Zoar, and as far west as the sea. King Noah also reflects Uzziah, who built towers on the walls of Jerusalem and in the wilderness. Josephus tells us that on the third wall of Jerusalem was the tower Psephinus, which was seventy cubits high: "it both afforded a prospect of Arabia at sun-rising, as well as it did of the utmost limits of the Hebrew possessions at the sea westward" (Josephus 1974, 1:369). Three other large towers were built by king Herod.
Abinadi appeared among the people of Noah and prophesied that they would be brought into bondage because of their iniquity: "and the vultures of the air, and the dogs, yea, and the wild beasts, shall devour their flesh" (Mosiah 12:2). Abinadi has several biblical parallels. Ahijah prophesied the destruction of the house of Jeroboam: "Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat" (1 Kings 14:11). Elijah delivered an almost identical warning against Ahab and Jezebel. Noah cast Abinadi into prison and then summoned him before his priests, who questioned Abinadi in the interpretation of the scriptures. Ahab also threw Micaiah into prison for prophesying his defeat in battle, and Abinadi's confrontation with the priests recalls the scribes and priests who questioned Jesus.
When his people revolted against him, king Noah fled to the tower near the temple. He was about to be slain by a man named Gideon, when he saw from the tower that a Lamanite army was invading the land; therefore, Gideon allowed him to escape. Similarly, when Jehu came with a company of men to Jezreel to kill king Joram, a watchman on the tower saw them approaching. In addition, Saul and his men were about to capture David, when a messenger informed Saul that the Philistines were making a raid on the land, and Saul gave up his pursuit of David.
Noah commanded his men to flee into the wilderness with their women and children: "And it came to pass that the Lamanites did pursue them, and did overtake them, and began to slay them. Now it came to pass that the king commanded them that all the men should leave their wives and their children, and flee before the Lamanites. Now there were many that would not leave them, but had rather stay and perish with them. And the rest left their wives and their children and fled" (Mosiah 19:10-12). Josephus relates a similar incident in The Jewish War. When John of Gischala fled from the Romans, he took a considerable number of men with him, together with their families.
And indeed, though the man was making haste to get away, and was tormented with fears of being a captive, or of losing his life, yet did he prevail with himself to take out of the city along with him a multitude of women and children, as far as twenty furlongs; but there he left them as he proceeded farther on his journey, where those that were left behind made sad lamentations . . . . And indeed there was a miserable destruction made of the women and children; while some of them took courage to call their husbands and kinsmen back, and to beseech them with the bitterest lamentations, to stay for them; but John's exhortation, who cried out to them to save themselves, and fly away, prevailed. (Josephus 1974, 1:289-90)
The people who remained in the city, after John fled, pleaded with Titus and the Romans to spare them, as the people whom Noah left behind sought mercy from the Lamanites. Titus sent horsemen to pursue after John, as Gideon sent men to search for Noah and his men. Those of Noah's people who had fled swore "that they would return to the land of Nephi, and if their wives and their children were slain . . . that they would seek revenge, and also perish with them" (Mosiah 19:19). John also said "that if the Romans should seize upon those whom they left behind, they would be revenged on them for it" (Josephus 1974, 1:290).
Noah's priests went into hiding and captured some young Lamanite women at a place where they had gathered to sing, dance, and make merry. This incident has parallels in both the Bible and Roman history. In the Book of Judges, men from the tribe of Benjamin were told that in order to obtain wives they should go to a place near Shiloh and lie in wait for young women to come into the vineyards to dance (Judg. 21:21). Similarly, after Romulus founded the city of Rome, he realized that there were not enough women among the inhabitants, and other cities rejected his suggestion of intermarriage. Accordingly, Romulus invited the neighboring communities to a festival, to give his men an opportunity to abduct young Sabine women to be their wives.
When Noah's people were attacked, they sent out their daughters to plead with the Lamanites. The Lamanites were charmed by the women and allowed the people to repossess their land. When the Romans were attacked by the Sabines, their Sabine wives pleaded with the combatants to stop killing each other. A peace was concluded, and the two states were united.
Limhi, who became king of the Zeniff colony, had sent forty-three men into the wilderness to find the land of Zarahemla. They became lost and instead discovered the land of the Jaredites, where they found the bones of men and beasts and the ruins of buildings. They brought back with them twenty-four gold plates filled with engravings. Here again there is a reference to Numa. A number of ancient writers related versions of a legend concerning Numa. Pliny the Elder wrote:
Cassius Hemina, a historian of many years ago states, in his Annals, IV, that Gnaeus Terentius, a clerk, when digging his land on the Janiculum, unearthed a chest that held the body of Numa, king of Rome, and some books of his. This happened 535 years after Numa's reign. . . .It should be noted that Joseph Smith described the plates that he discovered as resting on two stones lying "crossways" in the bottom of a stone box, while Oliver Cowdery said that the plates were placed on three small pillars of cement inside the box.
. . . In the middle of the chest there had been a square stone bound all round with cords covered in wax, and the three books had been placed on this stone. . . . The books in question contained the philosophical doctrines of Pythagoras. Hemina also says that the books had been burnt by the praetor Quintus Petilius because of their contents.
Piso the censor records the same story in his Commentaries, I, but he says there were seven volumes of pontifical law and the same number relating to Pythagorean philosophy. Tuditanus in his Book XIII states that there were twelve volumes of Antiquities of Man, and Antias says in his Book II that there were twelve volumes on Pontifical Matters in Latin, and the same number in Greek comprising Doctrines of Philosopohy. Antias also mentions in his Book III a resolution of the Senate to the effect that these volumes should be burnt. (Pliny 1991, 179)
According to Plutarch, king Numa ordered that when he died, his body should be placed in one stone coffin and his sacred books in another.
Valerius Antias writes that the books which were buried in the aforesaid chest or coffin of stone were twelve volumes of holy writ and twelve others of Greek philosophy, and that about four hundred years afterwards . . . in a time of heavy rains, a violent torrent washed away the earth, and dislodged the chests of stone; and, their covers falling off, one of them was found wholly empty, without the least relic of any human body; in the other were the books before mentioned . . . . (Plutarch n.d., 92)
Thus the discovery of the twenty-four gold plates parallels the finding of the twenty-four volumes of Numa's sacred writings.
Mosiah II translated the gold plates, which Limhi's men found, and made the record public. This provides another parallel with the sacred writings of Numa, for Livy relates, concerning Ancus Marcius, the grandson of Numa: "In the belief, therefore, that nothing was more important than the restoration of the national religion in the form established by Numa, he instructed the pontifex to copy out from his commentaries the details of all the various ceremonies and to display the document in public" (Livy 1960, 69).
The gold plates also gave information about the secret oaths and covenants of the Jaredites, which Alma later instructed his son Helaman to withhold from public knowledge, so that the people would not fall into darkness. Plutarch says that when the praetor Petilius read Numa's books, he believed that "it was not fit for their contents to be made public to the people; whereupon the volumes were all carried to the Comitium, and there burnt" (Plutarch n.d., 92). Augustine, quoting Varro, says that Numa's books were accidentally unearthed by a ploughman, who showed them to the praetor. The praetor reported the find to the senate, which ordered that the books be burned. Augustine speculates that
Numa Pompilius himself, led on by an unlawful curiosity, had discovered certain secrets of the demons which he himself committed to writing to assist his memory. . . . he did not venture to pass on the information to anyone; and yet he could not bring himself to suppress it by erasing or destroying the manuscript in some way. He did not want anyone to know, for he shrank from passing on a lesson in corruption . . . . The senate . . . feared that human curiosity would be all the more keen to search for something of which a glimpse had now been afforded. And so they ordered the outrageous documents to be consigned to the flames . . . . (Augustine 1984, 295).
The finding of the gold plates in the time of Mosiah has several biblical parallels. Hilkiah the high priest discovered the book of the law, which had been lost, and showed it to Shaphan the scribe, who read it to king Josiah. Josiah desired verification of the book and sent a group of men to Huldah the prophetess. She declared that the kingdom of Judah would become a desolation and a curse, because the people had forsaken God. Mosiah was himself a seer, and the gold plates which he translated told of another land which became a desolation and a curse, because of the iniquity of the people.
At a later time Ezra brought forth the book of the law, after the Jews had returned to Jerusalem from the Babylonian captivity. It is said that Ezra reproduced the book through the inspiration of the Lord, because it had again been lost. Both Josiah and Ezra read the book to a gathering of the people, and these events are very similar to a gathering summoned by king Benjamin. The inhabitants of Zarahemla were instructed to assemble at the temple.
And it came to pass that when they came up to the temple, they pitched their tents round about . . . . every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple, that thereby they might remain in their tents and hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them; for the multitude being so great that king Benjamin could not teach them all within the walls of the temple, therefore he caused a tower to be erected, that thereby his people might hear the words which he should speak unto them. (Mosiah 2:5-7)
Benjamin and the people entered into a covenant to obey the commandments of God and to take upon themselves the name of Christ. Similarly, Josiah and all of the inhabitants of Jerusalem gathered to the house of the Lord, where Josiah read the book of the covenant to them, and they then all assented to keep the commandments that were written in the book (2 Kings 23:3).
Ezra also read the book of the law to a congregation of men and women, and just as king Benjamin had a tower constructed, Ezra too "stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose" (Neh. 8:4). On the second day, the people found written in the law a description of the feast of booths, and they made themselves booths on the roofs of their houses and in the courts of the temple. Benjamin's people had set up tents around the temple.
Alma, who had been one of king Noah's priests, fled to the waters of Mormon, where he gathered a number of followers, baptized, and ordained priests. The record of Alma is patterned after the story of David. Alma fled from king Noah, just as David fled from king Saul. David went to Ahimelech, the priest at Nob and later escaped to the cave of Adullam, where about 400 men gathered to him. The people who gathered to Alma at the waters of Mormon numbered about 450. David joined Samuel at Ramah, and they both went to Naioth, where there was a company of prophets, and the Spirit of God came upon them. There was also in the area the great well of Sechu. Similarly, when Alma baptized his follwers and ordained priests at the waters of Mormon, where there was a fountain of pure water, the Spirit of the Lord was poured out upon them.
Alma's baptism of a man named Helam parallels Philip's baptism of an Ethiopian eunuch. Alma said to the people:
Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God . . . what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord . . . . And now it came to pass that Alma took Helam, he being one of the first, and went and stood forth in the water . . . . both Alma and Helam were buried in the water; and they arose and came forth out of the water rejoicing, being filled with the Spirit. (Mosiah 18:8-14)
Philip found the Ethiopian on the way to Gaza:
And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. . . . and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:36-39)
After Mosiah II sent Ammon to find the Zeniff colony, Limhi and his people escaped from the Lamanites and traveled to Zarahemla. And after the city of Helam was taken over by the priests of Noah, Alma also led a group of his people to Zarahemla. Alma and his people were able to escape from Helam, because "the Lord caused a deep sleep to come upon the Lamanites" (Mosiah 24:19). Similarly, when David encountered Saul and his men in the wilderness of Ziph, he was able to get away undetected, "for they were all asleep; because a deep sleep from the Lord was fallen upon them" (1 Sam. 26:12). Alma represents Ezra, who received permission from Artaxerxes to lead a group of Jews to Jerusalem. Ezra took Levite priests with him and held the position of scribe in Jerusalem. Alma, who had been the high priest in Helam, was also appointed as high priest in Zarahemla.
After Alma arrived in Zarahemla, he established churches throughout the land, which were seven in number. Then there arose a group of dissenters, who persecuted the believers. This recalls the Revelation of John, which is addressed to the seven churches and refers to the heresy of the Nicolaitans. The persecution in Zarahemla became so severe that Mosiah II issued a decree, "that there should not any unbeliever persecute any of those who belonged to the church of God. And there was a strict command throughout all the churches that there should be no persecutions among them, that there should be an equality among all men" (Mosiah 27:2-3). Christians suffered persecution under the Roman emperors Diocletian and Maximin, until Constantine gained power and issued an imperial ordinance which granted religious liberty and equality: "No one whatever was to be denied the right to follow and choose the Christian observance or form of worship . . . . so that every man may have permission to choose and practise whatever religion he wishes" (Eusebius 1965, 402).
The four sons of Mosiah II and Alma, the son of Alma, were wicked and sought to lead people astray, much like the sons of Eli and Samuel. Alma II is patterned after Paul, who was a leader in the persecution of the Christians. Alma and the sons of Mosiah experienced a conversion similar to that of Paul. An angel appeared to them:
And so great was their astonishment, that they fell to the earth, and understood not the words which he spake unto them. Nevertheless he cried again, saying: Alma, arise and stand forth, for why persecutest thou the church of God? . . . And now Alma and those that were with him fell again to the earth, for great was their astonishment . . . . And now the astonishment of Alma was so great that he became dumb, that he could not open his mouth; yea, and he became weak, even that he could not move his hands, therefore he was taken by those that were with him, and carried helpless, even until he was laid before his father. . . . And it came to pass after they had fasted and prayed for the space of two days and two nights, the limbs of Alma received their strength, and he stood up and began to speak unto them . . . . (Mosiah 27:12-23)
Acts gives this account of Paul's conversion:
And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? . . . And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. . . . And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. (Acts 9:3-18)
Like Paul, Alma and the sons of Mosiah became powerful preachers and successful missionaries, and like Paul and the other apostles, Alma and Amulek faced trials and imprisonment.
About 475 years after Lehi's group reached the New World, Mosiah II persuaded his people to abolish the office of king and to choose, by the voice of the people, wise judges to administer the law. Alma II became the first chief judge, but he later chose another man to fill the office, while he retained the position of high priest. The Romans were ruled by kings for 244 years, until Tarquin was overthrown by Brutus. The Romans then instituted the procedure of popularly electing two consuls, who ruled by the authority of law. Brutus became the first consul to hold the rods, the symbol of power: "His first act was to make the people, while the taste of liberty was still fresh upon their tongues, swear a solemn oath never to allow any man to be king in Rome" (Livy 1960, 106). Alma encouraged the people of Helam to make a similar commitment, saying, "And now as ye have been delivered by the power of God out of these bonds . . . even so I desire that ye should stand fast in this liberty wherewith ye have been made free, and that ye trust no man to be a king over you" (Mosiah 23:13).
Mosiah's speech, urging the reign of the judges, bears similarities to the words of Otanes, recorded by Herodotus, when he argued for the establishment of democratic government in Persia. Mosiah also espoused a doctrine which seems to be a marvelous anticipation of the political theory of Rousseau: "Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law - to do your business by the voice of the people" (Mosiah 29:26). Rousseau distinguished between the general will and the will of all.
It follows from what has gone before that the general will is always right and tends to the public advantage; but it does not follow that the deliberations of the people are always equally correct. . . . the people is never corrupted, but it is often deceived, and on such occasions only does it seem to will what is bad.
There is often a great deal of difference between the will of all and the general will; the latter considers only the common interest, while the former takes private interest into account, and is no more than a sum of particular wills . . . . (Rousseau 1960, 338)
Thus Mosiah's "voice of the people" corresponds to Rousseau's "general will," while "the lesser part of the people" would be "a sum of particular wills."
According to the Book of Mormon, the Nephites had a well developed legal system, including "lawyers, who were hired or appointed by the people to administer the law at their times of trials, or at the trials of the crimes of the people before the judges" (Alma 10:14). The Romans were, of course, noted for their jurists and achievements in the realm of law. The famous compilation of laws commissioned by Justinian formed the basis for many modern legal systems. The laws instituted by Mosiah provided for the payment of judges, and the Book of Mormon outlines a monetary system based upon standard measures of gold and silver. However, these measures were also comparable to measures of grain, for the text says: "A senum of silver was equal to a senine of gold, and either for a measure of barley, and also for a measure of every kind of grain" (Alma 11:7). Xenophon described a similar system, when grain was purchased for Cyrus's army: "one could get a capithe of wheat flour or pearl barley for four sigli. The siglus is worth seven and a half Attic obols, and the capithe is equal to three pints" (Xenophon 1972, 76). Caesar also describes the monetary system of the Britons: "for money they use bronze or gold coins, or iron ingots of fixed standard weights" (Caesar 1985, 93).
The deaths of Alma I and Mosiah II correspond to the passing of Samuel and Saul. Both Mosiah II and Saul instituted changes in government, but of opposite kinds.
Although two of the most important characters in the Book of Mormon are called Alma, this is a very unusual name. The Hebrew word "almah" means a young woman, but no one in the Bible is named Alma. The Spanish word "alma" means soul. However, in addition to Alma, son of Nemed, in Irish legend, there is another occurrence of the name in Spenser's Faerie Queene. King Mosiah gave Alma II custody of the brass plates, the plates of Nephi, the twenty-four gold plates, and the interpreters. These plates contained genealogies and scriptures, a history of the Jaredites, and the records kept by the Nephites. Similarly, in the Faerie Queene, Prince Arthur and Sir Guyon reach the House of Temperance, which is presided over by a woman named Alma. Within the rooms of this building lived three wise men, who acted as counselors to Alma. The first could see the future, the second advised about the present, and the third recorded his visions of the past. The chamber of the third was filled with ancient books and parchment scrolls. Among these records, Arthur and Guyon found two books called Briton Monuments and Antiquities of Faerie Land. The first contained a history of Britain, including a legend about Brute, a descendant of Aeneas, and a group of Trojans who sailed to Britain. It also contained an account of the introduction of Christianity into Britain by Joseph of Arimathea, who traveled there, carrying the Holy Grail with him. The second book contained a record of the elves, including Elfin, who was king over India and America.
When a man named Korihor asked Alma for a sign of God's existence, he was struck dumb and had to communicate in writing. This mirrors the account of Zechariah, who asked Gabriel how he could know that Elizabeth would bear a son. Gabriel told him that he would become dumb, and Zechariah had to communicate by means of a writing tablet. Korihor was cast out and went to the Zoramites in Antionum, "and as he went forth amongst them, behold, he was run upon and trodden down, even until he was dead" (Alma 30:59). A man who offended Elisha met a similar fate: "and the people trode upon him in the gate, and he died, as the man of God had said" (2 Kings 7:17).
After Alma became chief judge, a man named Amlici gained a number of followers, who wanted to establish him as king over the land. Amlici was rejected by the majority of the people, but his supporters made him their ruler. The Amlicites then took up arms against the Nephites and met them in battle at the hill Amnihu near the valley of Gideon. Similarly, after the death of Saul, David was anointed as king over Judah, but Abner took Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, to Mahanaim and made him king over Israel. The two factions met at the pool of Gibeon, where a fierce battle ensued. Abner was defeated and was pursued by Joab and Abishai until the setting of the sun, when they reached the hill Ammah near the wilderness of Gibeon. Alma's men pursued the Amlicites all day from the hill Amnihu, until they reached the valley of Gideon, where they pitched their tents for the night.
Alma went to Ammonihah to preach, but the people reviled him, spit upon him, and cast him out of the city. As Alma was journeying toward Aaron, an angel appeared to him and told him to return and preach in Ammonihah. Similarly, Sarah, Abraham's wife, dealt so harshly with Hagar that she fled into the wilderness, but an angel appeared to Hagar and told her to return. 1 Kings 13 provides another parallel in the story of a man of God who traveled to Bethel. There he prophesied, "Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name" (1 Kings 13:2). In Gideon, Alma had foretold that the Son of God "shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers" (Alma 7:10). The man of God left Bethel: "So he went another way, and returned not by the way that he came to Bethel" (1 Kings 13:10). When Alma returned to Ammonihah, "he entered the city by another way, yea, by the way which is on the south of the city of Ammonihah" (Alma 8:18). As he entered the city, Alma met a man named Amulek and requested something to eat. Amulek replied, "I am a Nephite, and I know that thou art a holy prophet of God, for thou art the man whom an angel said in a vision: Thou shalt receive. Therefore, go with me into my house and I will impart unto thee of my food" (Alma 8:20). Similarly, an old prophet who lived in Bethel set out after the man of God. When he found the man, he said, "I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water" (1 Kings 13:18).
Alma and Amulek preached together in Ammonihah, where they met with a great deal of opposition. This recalls Paul and Barnabas, who had to flee from Iconium and Lystra, because the people tried to stone them. Alma and Amulek werre questioned by Antionah, a chief ruler in Ammonihah, about their beliefs concerning the resurrection. The people seized Alma and Amulek, bound them, and took them before the chief judge. Similarly, when Paul was dragged out of the temple in Jerusalem, he was placed under arrest by a Roman tribune and was brought before the chief priests and council. Paul claimed that he was being put on trial for his hope in the resurrection. The high priest Ananias commanded that Paul be struck on the mouth, just as the chief judge smote Alma and Amulek on the cheeks. Alma and Amulek were forced to witness the martyrdom of people who believed in their teachings, as Paul was present at the stoning of Stephen.
Three days after Alma and Amulek were cast into prison, many lawyers, judges, priests and teachers came in to question them. Later they were again visited by the chief judge, together with many teachers and lawyers, who mocked at and struck them. Then the Lord gave Alma and Amulek strength to break their bonds, and an earthquake caused the walls of the prison to fall, killing many people, including the chief judge. Similarly, Peter and John were arrested by priests, the captain of the temple, and Sadducees. The following day they were questioned by the rulers, elders, and scribes and Annas the high priest. Later they were again arrested by the high priest and Sadducees and were put into prison, but an angel opened the prison doors and brought them out. Paul and Silas were also imprisoned in Phillippi, but there was a great earthquake, which shook the foundations of the prison, and their bands were loosed. At another time Peter was thrown into prison by Herod, but again an angel appeared, and the chains fell off of Peter's hands. An angel smote Herod, and he died.
While preaching in Ammonihah, Amulek encountered a man named Zeezrom, who is evidently patterned after Simon the magician. Zeezrom offered Amulek a quantity of silver to deny the existence of God. Simon also offered money to Peter and John, if they would grant him the power to confer the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. Zeezrom lay sick with a burning fever and was visited and healed by Alma: "Zeezrom leaped upon his feet, and began to walk; and this was done to the great astonishment of all the people" (Alma 15:11). Similarly, Peter healed a lame man: "And he leaping up stood, and walked . . . walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking . . . and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him" (Acts 3:8-10). Zeezrom was converted and baptized, just as Simon believed and was baptized.
Peace in Zarahemla was shattered by a Lamanite attack. The city of Ammonihah was completely destroyed and inhabitants of the neighboring city of Noah were taken captive by the Lamanite army. A man named Zoram consulted Alma, who inquired of the Lord and told Zoram, "Behold, the Lamanites will cross the river Sidon in the south wilderness, away up beyond the borders of the land of Manti. And behold there shall ye meet them, on the east of the river Sidon, and there the Lord will deliver unto thee thy brethren who have been taken captive by the Lamanites" (Alma 16:6). Similarly, the men of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir gathered together to oppose Jehoshaphat, who sought the guidance of the Lord. The Spirit fell upon Jahaziel, who said, "To morrow go ye down against them: behold, they come up by the cliff of Ziz; and ye shall find them at the end of the brook, before the wilderness of Jeruel" (2 Chron. 20:16). In addition, David found that Ziklag had been burned by the Amalekites and all of its inhabitants had been taken captive. David inquired of the Lord by means of the ephod, and the Lord answered, "Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all" (1 Sam. 30:8). The Book of Mormon says that after the inhabitants of Ammonihah were killed, their dead bodies were heaped up upon the earth. The men of Ammon and Moab completely destroyed the inhabitants of Seir and then killed each other; Jehoshaphat found the ground covered with dead bodies.
Ammonihah is portrayed in the Book of Mormon as a proud and sinful city, a center for a heretical religion known as the order of Nehor. After Ammonihah was destroyed, it remained desolate. Ammonihah and Noah parallel the cities of Capua and Nola in Italy. Capua figured prominently in the Roman war with Hannibal. Livy says, "Capua was a city of great wealth and luxury, and had long prospered as the favourite of fortune; but there was general corruption there, due, more than to anything else, to the licence of the common people, who enjoyed unlimited freedom" (Livy 1965, 168). After the city of Capua went over to the side of Hannibal, Hannibal marched on Nola, but was turned away by a Roman army, which came to the aid of the city. Similarly, a Nephite army pursued the Lamanites, after they passed by Noah, and freed the captives. After Capua fell to the Romans, the Romans considered destroying it completely, but decided to reserve it merely for farming, just as Ammonihah remained desolate for a number of years. The attack on Ammonihah and Noah also parallels the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the revenge which Gideon took upon the cities of Succoth and Penuel.
Ammon and the other three sons of Mosiah set out on a mission to the Lamanites in the land of Nephi. Similarly, Jehoshaphat sent princes and Levite priests to teach in the cities of Judah. As Ammon and his brethren traveled through the wilderness toward Lamanite territory, they began to lose their courage, for "they had undertaken to preach the word of God to a wild and a hardened and a ferocious people" (Alma 17:14). After they had fasted and prayed, the Lord sent his Spirit to comfort them and give them courage to continue their mission. This resembles Bede's account of Augustine's mission to Britain. Augustine traveled with serveral other monks: "Having undertaken this task in obedience to the Pope's command and progressed a short distance on their journey, they became afraid, and began to consider returning home. For they were appalled at the idea of going to a barbarous, fierce, and pagan nation" (Bede 1968, 66). However, after Pope Gregory sent them a letter, urging them to continue, Augustine and his companions gained courage and proceeded to Britain.
After reaching the borders of Lamanite lands, Ammon and his brothers separated to go to different cities. When Ammon arrived in Ishmael, he was taken to king Lamoni, who asked Ammon if he wanted to dwell with his people and take one of Lamoni's daughters as a wife. Ammon declined taking a wife and asked only to be a servant. He was given the duty of driving the king's flocks to the watering place, but one day the animals were scattered by a group of Lamanites. Ammon slew some of the men and drove off the rest, and he and the other servants returned to king Lamoni. Similarly, when Moses fled from Pharaoh, he went to Midian and sat by a well, where the daughters of the priest came to draw water for their father's flock. Some shepherds attempted to drive them away, but Moses came to their aid. Moses lived with the priest and took one of his daughters as a wife.
Lamoni and his servants were so impressed by Ammon's seeming invincibility that they thought that he must be the Great Spirit. Similarly, when Paul healed a man in Lystra, the people thought that he and Barnabas must be the gods Zeus and Hermes in the likeness of men.
When Ammon questioned Lamoni about God, he discovered that Lamoni did not know what "God" meant. His instructions, leading to Lamoni's conversion, resemble passages in Robinson Crusoe:
And Ammon began to speak unto him with boldness, and said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God? And he answered, and said unto him: I do not know what that meaneth. And then Ammon said: Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit? And he said, Yea. And Ammon said: This is God. And Ammon said unto him again: Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things, which are in heaven and in the earth? And he said: Yea, I believe that he created all things which are in the earth; but I do not know the heavens. And Ammon said unto him: The heavens is a place where God dwells and all his holy angels. And King Lamoni said: Is it above the earth? And Ammon said: Yea, and he looketh down upon all the children of men . . . . (Alma 18:24-32)Following this exchange, Ammon taught Lamoni about the fall of man and the plan of redemption through Christ. Robinson Crusoe had a similar conversation with Friday:
. . . I was not wanting to lay a foundation of religious knowledge in his mind; particularly, I asked him one time, who made him. The poor creature did not understand me at all, but thought I had asked who was his father; but I took it by another handle, and asked him who made the sea, the ground we walked on, and the hills and woods; he told me it was one old Benamuckee, that lived beyond all. He could describe nothing of this great person but that he was very old . . . . I asked him if the people who die in his country went away anywhere; he said yes, they all went to Benamuckee . . . .Crusoe also instructed Friday about the Devil, the Fall, and the redemption of man through the Saviour. Thus Ammon seems to have found Lamoni in much the same spiritual state as Friday.
From these things I began to instruct him in the knowledge of the true God. I told him that the great Maker of all things lived up there, pointing up towards Heaven. . . . He listened with great attention, and received with pleasure the notion of Jesus Christ being sent to redeem us . . . he told me one day that if our God could hear us up beyond the sun, He must needs be a greater God than their Benamuckee, who lived but a little way off . . . . (Defoe 1980, 212-13)
Ammon and king Lamoni departed for Middoni to deliver Aaron and his brethren from prison, but met the father of Lamoni, who was king over all the land. He said to Lamoni, "Why did ye not come to the feast on that great day when I made a feast unto my sons, and unto my people?" (Alma 20:9). He commanded Lamoni to slay Ammon, and when Lamoni refused, he attempted to kill Ammon himself. Similarly, Saul told his son Jonathan and his servants to kill David, but Jonathan came to David's defence. Later Saul tried to kill David by throwing his spear at him. After David went into hiding, Saul discovered that he was not coming to the feast at the new moon, and he asked Jonathan, "Wherefore cometh not the son of Jesse to meat, neither yesterday, nor to day?" (1 Sam. 20:27). When Saul saw that Jonathan was lying to him, he called Jonathan "Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman," and he told him that neither he nor his kingdom would be established. Similarly, Lamoni's father called Ammon "one of the children of a liar," and Ammon made the king promise that Lamoni would retain his kingdom.
After Aaron succeeded in converting the king of the land of Nephi, the king sent a decree throughout the whole land, which granted to Ammon and his brethren free access to the synagogues, temples, and sanctuaries, where they were allowed to preach without being harmed. Similarly, Bede reports that Augustine was received hospitably by king Ethelbert, who gave Augustine and his companions freedom to preach. After the king was himself converted, he gave them even greater freedom, not only to preach, but to build churches, as Ammon and his brethren established churches throughout the land of Nephi.
Alma and his son Corianton went on a mission to the Zoramites in Antionum; howerver, Corianton wandered off to a place called Siron. Alma chides him, saying, "thou didst go on unto boasting in thy strength and thy wisdom. And this is not all, my son. Thou didst do that which was grievous unto me; for thou didst forsake the ministry, and did go over into the land of Siron among the borders of the Lamanites, after the harlot Isabel" (Alma 39:2-3). This is an obvious reference to Samson, who also boasted of his strength, and against the wishes of his parents, sought a Philistine wife and fell in love with Delilah, who lived in the valley of Sorek.
The Book of Alma draws heavily upon the Gallic War of Julius Caesar and Livy's histories. For example, the sons of Mosiah converted many people, who became known as the Anti-Nephi-Lehies. The Amalekites began to persecute and destroy the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, who therefore resolved to journey to the land of Zarahemla. Ammon led them into the wilderness and then continued on to Zarahemla, where he consulted with the chief judge. The chief judge sent a proclamation throughout the land, asking the people if they were willing to admit the Anti-Nephi-Lehies into the land. They responded that they would give up the land of Jershon for Ammon's people to dwell in. Similarly, Caesar says that two German tribes, the Usipetes and the Tencteri, had been harassed for several years by attacks from the Suebi and therefore crossed the Rhine in large numbers. The Germans sent envoys to Caesar with this message: "'we came to Gaul not from choice, but because we were driven out of our homes. If you Romans wish to be on friendly terms with us . . . assign to us land to live in . . . .' I told them they could, if they wished, settle in the country of the Ubii, whose envoys were then in our camp" (Caesar 1985, 75).
At the age of 25, Moroni assumed the position of chief captain over the Nephite armies. The name Moroni is of interest, because Caesar frequently refers to the Morini, a tribe living on the northeast coast of France, who were sometimes enemies and sometimes allies of the Romans. When Caesar began his campaign against Britain, he launched his ships from the territory of the Morini. The Morini are also mentioned in Tacitus's Histories, in the Aeneid, and in Bede's History of the English Church and People.
The first of Moroni's major engagements involved a Lamanite force, under the leadership of Zerahemnah, which had penetrated as far as the borders of Jershon. However, Moroni's forces were so well armed that the Lamanites retreated and turned toward Manti. When Moroni learned from Alma that the Lamanites were headed toward Manti, he took a more direct course and arrived in Manti ahead of the Lamanites. Similarly, when some of the leading men of Nola sent word to Marcellus that Hannibal was approaching the city, he covered the distance from Cales to Suessula in one day and in the same night sent an army to Nola, which arrived before Hannibal.
At Manti, Moroni ordered all of the people in that part of the land to gather together to battle the Lamanites. He then deployed his men in a valley to the west of the river Sidon and south of the hill Riplah on the east bank of the river, where they waited for the Lamanites to arrive. Caesar's battle with the Nervii provides a parallel. In this case, it was the Nervian forces which had taken up a position on the upper slope of a hill near the river Sambre and awaited the arrival of the Romans. When the Lamanites passed the hill Riplah and started to cross the river, a Nephite force led by Lehi came out of its concealed position and attacked the Lamanites in the rear. The Lamanites turned about to fight, but many were killed, and the rest fled toward the river. When they crossed the river, they were met on the other side by Moroni's army, which began to slay them. Caesar says that part of his army crossed the river Sambre and started to battle the main army of the Nervii, but were driven back. When the Nervii tried to cross the river, large numbers were killed by the main body of Caesar's army.
The Lamanites began to fight with greater resolve: "when the men of Moroni saw the fierceness and the anger of the Lamanites, they were about to shrink and flee from them. And Moroni, perceiving their intent, sent forth and inspired their hearts with these thoughts . . . . And they began to stand against the Lamanites with power" (Alma 43:48, 50). Caesar's Twelfth and Seventh legions were out-flanked by the Nervii, and many of them were killed or were intent on fleeing: "I recognized that this was a crisis . . . . I called out to all the centurions by name and shouted encouragement to the rest of the men. . . . My arrival gave the troops fresh hope; their determination was restored" (Caesar 1985, 53).
Zerahemnah's men were finally surrounded by the armies of Lehi and Moroni and were struck with terror. However, Moroni was merciful and commanded his men to stop slaying the Lamanites. He then said to Zerahemnah, "deliver up your weapons of war unto us, and we will seek not your blood, but we will spare your lives, if ye will go your way and come not again to war against us" (Alma 44:6). The Romans nearly wiped out the Nervii, but Caesar too was generous in victory: "Wishing it to be seen that I treated unfortunate suppliants mercifully, I took the greatest care to keep them safe. I told them to keep their lands and oppida, and I gave orders to the neighbouring tribes to refrain from doing them any damage or injury" (Caesar 1985, 54).
Moroni said to Zerahemnah, "ye shall not depart except ye depart with an oath that ye will not return again against us to war." Many of Zerahemnah's men "came forth and threw down their weapons of war at the feet of Moroni, and entered into a covenant of peace. And as many as entered into a covenant they suffered to depart into the wilderness" (Alma 44:11,15). However, Zerahemnah again attacked the Nephites with the remainder of his men. Although the Lamanites fought valiantly, they were cut down by the Nephites. Seeing that they were all about to be destroyed, Zerahemnah's men surrendered their weapons. Similarly, Caesar told the Aduatuci, the allies of the Nervii, "that there would be no question of my accepting their surrender unless they handed over their weapons. I would do for them what I had done for the Nervii and forbid the neighbouring tribes to do them any harm once they had surrendered to Rome." The Aduatuci complied: "They threw a great number of weapons down from the wall into the ditch in front of their oppidum" (Caesar 1985, 56). However, some of them kept back their weapons and then attacked the Romans; after 4,000 of them were killed, they submitted to the Romans.
The Book of Alma records that "the number of their dead was not numbered because of the greatness of the number; yea, the number of their dead was exceedingly great" (Alma 44:21). Caesar says that the Nervii were nearly exterminated; out of a fighting force of 60,000, only 500 survived.
Before Zerahemnah surrendered, he rushed toward Moroni with his sword raised, but a soldier knocked it to the ground and cut off part of Zerahemnah's scalp. This is similar to an incident related by Plutarch about Alexander the Great, when he fought with two Persian commanders: "While he was engaged with Rhoesaces, Spithridates rode up on the other side, and rising in his stirrups brought down a barbarian battle-axe with all his strength upon Alexander's head. The stroke split the crest of his helmet, sheared away one of his plumes, and all but cleft the head-piece, in fact the edge of the axe penetrated it and grazed the hair on the top of Alexander's head. But just as Spithridates raised his arm for another blow, 'Black' Cleitus, as he was called, struck first and ran him through with a spear . . . ." (Plutarch 1973, 269). There is also a biblical parallel. When David fought the Philistines, he was saved by Abishai: "And Ishbibenob . . . he being girded with a new sword, thought to have slain David. But Abishai the son of Zeruiah succoured him, and smote the Philistine, and killed him" (2 Sam. 21:16-17).
Following the defeat of Zerahemnah, there arose among the Nephites a man named Amalickiah, who wanted to become king and gained many followers through flattery. Helaman and his brethren tried to counter this dissension, but to no avail. Caesar describes a rebellion among the Gauls, which was led by a young Arvenian named Vercingetorix. Vercingetorix collected together a large band of armed men, who proclaimed him king, despite the efforts of his uncle and other leading men of the tribe, who tried to keep his plan from being put into action.
When Moroni heard of Amalickiah's plans to make himself king, "he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it - In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children - and he fastened it upon the end of a pole. And he fastened on his headplate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren . . . ." (Alma 46:12-13). Moroni's title of liberty is obviously patterned after the Roman triumph, which was instituted by Romulus. Livy says that after Romulus killed the prince of Caenina, whose men had invaded Roman territory, "he took the armour which he had stripped from the body of the enemy commander, fixed it on a frame made for the purpose, and carried it in his own hands up to the Capitol, where, by an oak which the shepherds regarded as a sacred tree, he laid it down as an offering to Jupiter. At the same time he determined on the site of a plot of ground to be consecrated to the God" (Livy 1960, 45). Plutarch, describing this same event, says that Romulus "cut down a tall oak which he saw growing in the camp, which he trimmed to the shape of a trophy, and fastened on it Acron's whole suit of armour disposed in proper form; then he himself, girding his clothes about him . . . carried the trophy resting erect upon his right shoulder" (Plutarch n.d., 35). Roman military commanders were permitted to celebrate victories in battle by leading a triumph through the city of Rome.
For a biblical parallel, we have the story of Jeroboam, an ambitious young man. When the prophet Ahijah met Jeroboam in a field, he rent Jeroboam's new garment into twelve pieces, signifying the rending of Solomon's kingdom, just as Moroni rent his coat, when the unity of the land of Zarahemla was threatened by Amalickiah.
Moroni called upon the people to maintain the title of liberty.
And it came to pass that when Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together with their armor girded about their loins, rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God . . . . Now this was the covenant which they made, and they cast their garments at the feet of Moroni, saying: We covenant with our God, that we shall be destroyed, even as our brethren in the land northward, if we shall fall into transgression; yea, he may cast us at the feet of our enemies, even as we have cast our garments at thy feet to be trodden under foot, if we shall fall into transgression. (Alma 46:21-22)
Asa and the people of Judah entered into a similar covenant, after the defeat of Zerah the Ethiopian.
And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and the strangers with them out of Ephraim and Manasseh, and out of Simeon: for they fell to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw that the Lord his God was with him. . . . And they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul; that whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. And they sware unto the Lord with a loud voice . . . . (2 Chronicles 15:9-14)
After fleeing to the land of Nephi, Amalickiah gained favor with the king of the Lamanites, who ordered his people to prepare to fight the Nephites. Part of the Lamanites, who feared the Nephites and did not want to fight, fled to a place called Onidah and gathered together on the top of mount Antipas, with their leader, Lehonti. Three times Amalickiah sent messages to Lehonti, bidding him to come down to the foot of the mount, but Lehonti refused. The fourth time, Lehonti came down, and Amalickiah proposed to deliver his men into Lehonti's hands, if he would make Amalickiah second in command over the whole army. Lehonti brought his men down during the night and surrounded Amalickiah's men. When they awoke, they pleaded with Amalickiah to surrender them to Lehonti. Amalickiah later poisoned Lehonti, thereby becoming the chief commander.
The primary sources for this story are two incidents in Josephus's The Jewish War. Aristobulus made himself king, although Hyrcanus was the rightful heir. Hyrcanus fled to Petra, the royal seat of the king of Arabia, where Aretas agreed to give Hyrcanus an army to help him regain his kingdom. Aristobulus defeated Hyrcanus, who sought the aid of Pompey. Pompey pursued Aristobulus "to Alexandrium, which is a stronghold, fortified with the utmost magnificence, and situated upon a high mountain, and he sent to him, and commanded him to come down" (Josephus 1974, 1:27). Aristobulus came down a number of times to consult with Pompey, but returned to the mountain, until Pompey commanded him to order his men to leave the stronghold. Aristobulus returned to Jerusalem, and when Pompey followed, Aristobulus "promised him money, and that he would deliver up both himself and the city into his disposal" (Josephus 1974, 1:28). However, Aristobulus reneged on his promise, and later he was poisoned by some of Pompey's supporters.
In the second passage from Josephus, Simon, who had separated himself from a group of Jews who had taken control of the fortress of Masada, started to attack the Idumeans.
Now, there was one of their commanders, named Jacob, who offered to serve them readily upon that occasion, but had it in his mind to betray them. He went therefore from the village Alurus, wherein the army of the Idumeans were gotten together, and came to Simon, and at the very first he agreed to betray his country to him, and took assurances upon oath from him that he should always have him in esteem, and then promised him that he would assist him in subduing all Idumea under him . . . and when he was returned to his own men, he at first belied the army of Simon, and said it was manifold more in number than what it was; after which, he dexterously persuaded the commanders, and by degrees the whole multitude, to receive Simon, and to surrender the whole government up to him without fighting . . . . (Josephus 1974, 1:335)
Amalickiah became commander of the combined forces of the Lamanites and then made himself king, after having the king murdered: "yea, having been made king over the Lamanites, he sought also to reign over all the land, yea, and all the people who were in the land, the Nephites as well as the Lamanites" (Alma 48:2). Caesar says that Vercingetorix was accused of treachery and of conspiring with Caesar to have the kingship of Gaul conferred upon him as a reward. He acquitted himself, but his designs were as ambitious as those of Amalickiah: "By his own efforts he would win over the tribes that were not yet in agreement with their aims. Then he would create a single policy for the whole of Gaul, and had already almost brought this about. With Gaul thus united, the whole world could not stand against them" (Caesar 1985, 147).
The Book of Mormon says that "as soon as Amalickiah had obtained the kingdom he began to inspire the hearts of the Lamanites against the people of Nephi; yea, he did appoint men to speak unto the Lamanites from their towers" (Alma 48:1). Caesar states that Vercingetorix used "every means he could think of to bring the other tribes into the alliance, even trying to seduce them with bribes and promises. For this job he chose men who were particularly suited and likely to succeed either because they had a subtle way with words or because they were friends of the tribes concerned" (Caesar 1985, 148).
Moroni strengthened his armies and erected fortifications. The Lamanites were astonished, because the Nephites "were prepared for them, in a manner which never had been known among the children of Lehi" (Alma 49:8). Caesar reports that the Gauls were alarmed by the Roman siege-towers, "which had never been seen or heard of in Gaul before" (Caesar 1985, 48).
Speaking of the city of Noah, the Book of Mormon says that "the Lamanites could not get into their forts of security by any other way save by the entrance, because of the highness of the bank which had been thrown up, and the depth of the ditch which had been dug round about, save it were by the entrance" (Alma 49:18). The combination of high bank and deep ditch was a common Roman tactic, as is attested to by Caesar, when he writes, "the Nervii surrounded our camp with a rampart nine feet high and a ditch 15 feet wide. They had learned how to do this by watching our methods in previous years" (Caesar 1985, 107).
When the Lamanites approached the entrance to the Nephite fort, many of them were slain by stones and arrows: "Now when they found that they could not obtain power over the Nephites by the pass, they began to dig down their banks of earth that they might obtain a pass to their armies . . . but behold, in these attempts they were swept off by the stones and arrows which were thrown at them; and instead of filling up their ditches by pulling down the banks of earth, they were filled up in a measure with their dead and wounded bodies" (Alma 49:22). Caesar says that the Gauls "hurled missiles from all sides into our fortifications . . . . thinking they could not break through the gates of our camp because these were blocked . . . they began to break down the rampart with their hands and fill the ditches with earth. At that point, our troops burst out from all the gates . . . . We killed great numbers of them" (Caesar 1985, 110).
The Book of Mormon gives a particularly detailed description of the fortifications which Moroni ordered to be built. In accordance with Moroni's instructions, his armies commenced "digging up heaps of earth roundabout all the cities . . . . And upon the top of these ridges of earth he caused that there should be timbers, yea, works of timbers built up to the height of a man . . . . And he caused that upon those works of timbers there should be a frame of pickets built upon the timbers round about; and they were strong and high. And he caused towers to be erected that overlooked those works of pickets" (Alma 50:1-4). Moroni's fortification is patterned after a similar siege work which was constructed under Caesar's supervision. Caesar first had trenches dug: "Behind these trenches, I erected a rampart and palisade 12 feet high. To this I added a breastwork with battlements, with large forked branches projecting at the point where the breastwork joined the rampart . . . . Finally, I had turrets erected at intervals of about 80 feet along the entire circuit of our fortifications" (Caesar 1985, 165). The Book of Mormon adds another feature; it says that Moroni "caused places of security to be built upon those towers, that the stones and the arrows of the Lamanites could not hurt them" (Alma 50:4). This again appears to be derived from Caesar. In the Civil War, Caesar says that Roman legionaries decided to build "a tower of brickwork there close up against the wall as a sort of fort and place of refuge . . . . it could be extremely useful if this tower was built up high" (Caesar 1976, 83). The tower was built especially to protect the men from javelins and blows form catapults.
A land dispute arose between the cities of Lehi and Morianton. When Moroni gave protection to the inhabitants of Lehi, Morianton and his followers decided to leave their territory and take possession of the land northward. Caesar tells the story of Orgetorix, who wanted to become king of the Helvetii. The Helvetii felt that their territory was too small, so Orgetorix "started a conspiracy among the nobles of the tribe and persuaded the people to move out of their territory, taking all their forces with them. His argument was that it would be easy for them, the bravest of the Gauls, to get control of the whole country" (Caesar 1985, 17).
Moroni feared that the inhabitants of Bountiful "would hearken to the words of Morianton and unite with his people" (Alma 50:32). Similarly, the Helvetii persuaded neighboring tribes to set off with them. Moroni sent an army to stop the flight of Morianton's followers: "And it came to pass that they did not head them until they had come to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward" (Alma 50:34). Caesar traveled speedily to Geneva, where he succeeded in blocking the march of the Helvetii across the Rhone river: "There remained only the road through the territory of the Sequani, which could not be used without their consent because it was so narrow" (Caesar 1985, 20). The Sequani were persuaded to allow the Helvetii to go through the pass, and Caesar once more had to pursue them.
A fresh contention arose among the Nephites. Twenty-five years earlier, they had abolished the monarchy and were now being ruled by a chief judge and governor. However, one party wanted to change the law, and when Pahoran, the chief judge, refused to accept their petitions, they became angry: "those who were desirous that Pahoran should be dethroned from the judgment-seat were called king-men, for they were desirous that the law should be altered in a manner to overthrow the free government and to establish a king over the land" (Alma 51:5). In early Roman history, the sons of king Ancus were cheated out of their right to the kingship by a man named Tarquin, who gained popular support and was elected to succeed Ancus. To strengthen his position, Tarquin added 100 members to the Senate: "owing their promotion to the king, these new members naturally constituted a party of 'king's men', supporting him in everything" (Livy 1960, 74). However, Tarquin had only two successors, before the reign of the Roman kings was ended by rebellion and the office of consul was instituted.
After Amalickiah was killed by Teancum and replaced by his brother Ammoron, the Lamanites retreated into the city of Mulek. Teancum set about strengthening his position "by casting up walls round about and preparing places of resort" (Alma 52:6). Caesar says that after Sabinus was killed, a man named Ambiroix gained influence among the Gauls, and they attacked Cicero: "During the night, using the timber that had been collected for the fortifications and working with incredible speed, Cicero's men built about 120 towers and made good any parts of the defences that seemed inadequate" (Caesar 1985, 106).
Moroni sent a large number of men to buttress Teancum's army and wrote a letter, ordering Teancum to retain all Lamanite prisoners. However, Moroni wrote, "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). Similarly, when Caesar learned that Cicero's men were in danger, he sent messages to Gaius Fabius and Labienus, asking them to move their legions toward enemy territory, while he left Crassus in charge of hostages in Amiens. However, Labienus wrote back, saying that the armies of the Treveri were moving against him and that he therefore would not be able to go to the aid of Cicero.
Moroni and Teancum wanted the Lamanites to come out onto the plains between Bountiful and Mulek, so they sent messengers to Jacob, the leader of the Lamanites, but Jacob "would not come out with his army to meeet them upon the plains" (Alma 52:20). Similarly, Sanballat and Geshem sent word to Nehemiah five times, saying that they wanted him to come out of Jerusalem and meet them in the plain of Ono, but Nehemiah refused. The Book of Mormon says: "Moroni, having no hopes of meeting them upon fair grounds, therefore, he resolved upon a plan that he might decoy the Lamanites out of their strongholds" (Alma 52:21). The plan was for Teancum to take a small number of men and march near Mulek. When the Lamanites saw him, they came out to attack, and Teancum pretended to retreat to draw them away, while Moroni's army marched into the city. Caesar says that on his way to rescue Cicero, he met a large number of the enemy in a valley: "Since my force was so small, it would have been very risky to fight on unfavourable ground . . . . I was hoping that if we made a pretence of being afraid, we could entice the Gauls onto our own ground and so engage them in battle on our side of the valley in front of our camp. . . . the men were told to run about as much as possible and give the impression that they were afraid. All this induced the Gauls to bring their troops across the valley and form them up on unfavourable ground" (Caesar 1985, 110). Joshua used tactics almost identical to those of Moroni to take the city of Ai (Joshua 8), as did the men of Israel against the city of Gibeah (Judges 20).
The Lamanites pursued Teancum to Bountiful, but were met by the army of Lehi, which had been left there to protect the city. The Lamanites fled in confusion, "for they were wearied because of their march, and the men of Lehi were fresh" (Alma 52:28). Caesar reports that Galba's camp was attacked by the Gauls: "What got the better of them was that when the enemy withdrew from the battle exhausted by prolonged fighting, fresh troops filled their places" (Caesar 1985, 59). As the Lamanites retreated, they met Moroni's army approaching from the rear, and again the text says that the men of Moroni and Lehi "were fresh and full of strength; but the Lamanites were wearied because of their long march" (Alma 52:31). The Lamanites were surrounded and Jacob, their commander, resolved upon a desperate tactic: "therefore Jacob was determined to slay them and cut his way through to the city of Mulek" (Alma 52:34). Caesar says that when Galba's men were being besieged by the Gauls, a tribune "ran up to Galba and told him that they must now resort to the emergency plan: their only hope of getting away safely was to break through the enemy's lines" (Caesar 1985, 59).
The Lamanites surrendered, and the Nephites marched the prisoners back to Bountiful: "and Teancum, by the orders of Moroni, caused that they should commence laboring in digging a ditch round about the land, or the city, Bountiful. And he caused that they should build a breastwork of timbers upon the inner bank of the ditch; and they cast up dirt out of the ditch against the breastwork of timbers; and thus they did cause the Lamanites to labor until they had encircled the city of Bountiful round about with a strong wall of timbers and earth, to an exceeding height" (Alma 53:3-4). Similarly, Caesar states that Roman prisoners instructed the Nervii in their methods of constructing ramparts and towers. However, the breastwork of timbers, which was built around Bountiful, seems to be different from the fortifications described earlier. Caesar also says that he decided to add to the siege works of Alesia.
And so tree trunks or very strong branches were cut down, and the ends of these were stripped of bark and sharpened. Long trenches were dug, five-feet deep, and the stakes were sunk into them with just the top parts projecting; they were fastened at the bottom so that they could not be pulled out. There were five rows in each trench, fastened together and interlaced . . . . In front of these, pits were dug . . . . Smooth stakes as thick as a man's thigh, with sharpened ends and hardened in the fire, were set into these pits . . . . To keep them firmly in position, earth was thrown into the bottom of the pits and trodden down . . . . (Caesar 1985, 165-66)
Caesar says further that the siege works which the Romans constructed near Alesia formed a circuit of eleven miles.
In the southwest, Helaman was in charge of the campaign against Ammoron's forces. The people of Ammon sent 2,000 of their young men to give support to the Nephites. Helaman's band of 2,000 were exceedingly valiant and greatly distinguished themselves in battle. Although they received wounds, they seemed to be nearly immortal. They had entered into a covenant "that they never would give up their liberty, but they would fight in all cases to protect the Nephites and themselves from bondage" (Alma 53:17). They were instrumental in recapturing the cities of Antiparah, Cumeni, Zeezrom, and Manti from Ammoron's armies. This band of fighting men corresponds to the army of slaves commanded by Gracchus. They were inspired by their desire to obtain their freedom, which Gracchus promised that they would have, if Hannibal was defeated. Each man acted "as a tower of defence for his friends and as a terror to his enemies. This army of slaves snatched Cumae, Beneventum, and other towns from the very jaws of Hannibal and restored them to Rome" (Livy 1965, 357). When these slaves won their freedom, they were permitted to wear "the cap of liberty or white woolen headbands," which recalls Moroni's "title of liberty."
The brothers Amalickiah and Ammoron have another parallel in the brothers Blaedla and Attila. Bede says that when the Britons appealed to the Roman consul Aetius for help, their plea went unanswered, because Aetius was battling the Huns. Blaedla (like Amalickiah) was killed, but Attila (like Ammoron) went on destroying cities. Geoffrey of Monmouth states in his history that after the Britons' appeal to Aetius failed, Guethelin, the archbishop of London, sought help from Aldroen, king of Armorica. Aldroen replied, "I do commit unto thy charge my brother Constantine and two thousand men, who, if God so will, may free the land from the inroads of the barbarians" (Geoffrey 1963, 115). Constantine's band of two thousand men was victorious, as was Helaman's.
Ammoron sent word to Moroni, saying that he was willing to exchange prisoners. Moroni wrote back to Ammoron, demanding that for each prisoner exchanged, Ammoron must release the man's wife and children. This is an obvious imitation of the letters sent between Darius and Alexander. Alexander had managed to capture the mother, wife, and children of Darius, and Darius sent envoys to Alexander with a letter, asking for their release. Alexander wrote back, demanding that Darius acknowledge him as the victor and ask for the release of his mother, wife, and children in person. Caesar also exchanged letters with Ariovistus, king of the Germans, to demand that he release children who were being held as hostages.
Moroni found among his men a Lamanite, whom he sent to Gid, where Nephite prisoners were being held, and the Lamanite told the guards that he had escaped. Caesar relates two similar stories: Sabinus selected a Gaul from his troops, who was sent to the enemy, pretending to be a deserter, and Cicero similarly sent a Gaul through enemy lines to Caesar. Moroni's spy carried strong wine to the Lamanite guards, who drank freely, until they fell into a drunken stupor. While they were in a deep sleep, Moroni's men surrounded the city and threw weapons in to the prisoners. Similarly, in the Trojan War, the Greeks advanced towards Troy, while inside the walls of the city, armed men were hidden inside the wooden horse. Virgil writes: "They marched on a city buried in a sleep deepened by wine." In another passage, Nisus says of the Turtulians, "The wine has overpowered them; they have sunk to the earth asleep and silence spreads over their wide camping-ground" (Virgil 1958, 59, 231). The Lamanites tried to use the same ruse on the Nephites, using both wine and poison: "And many times did they attempt to administer of their wine to the Nephites, that they might destroy them with poison or with drunkenness" (Alma 55:30). Livy reports that some of the senators of Capua tried to kill themselves by drinking wine and taking poison, before the Romans entered the city.
Moroni marched to Nephihah to liberate the city and found that the Lamanites were all asleep: "And now Moroni returned to his army, and caused that they should prepare in haste strong cords and ladders, to be let down from the top of the wall into the inner part of the wall. And it came to pass that Moroni caused that his men should march forth and come upon the top of the wall, and let themselves down into that part of the city, yea, even on the west, where the Lamanites did not camp with their armies" (Alma 62:21-22). Fabius used a similar tactic against the city of Arpi, where many of the sentries had been put to sleep by the sound of the rain: "his orders were that . . . they should carry ladders to the spot indicated. There was a low, narrow gate there, leading to an unfrequented street through a more or less deserted part of the town. Their task was first to get over the wall by means of the ladders and open the gate from inside" (Livy 1965, 287). The Romans also used ladders to enter the town of Locri: "The expedition left Rhegium carrying ladders specially made for what they had been told was the height of the citadel . . . . They, in their turn, all ready and on the watch, let down specially prepared ladders of their own; up went the Roman soldiers in several places simultaneously, and, before a warning cry could be raised, fell upon the Carthaginian sentries, who, suspecting no such danger, were of course asleep" (Livy 1965, 574).
Teancum, along with a servant, had already succeeded in stealing into Amalickiah's camp, thrusting a javelin into the king's heart, without awakening the king's servants, and had returned to the Nephite camp. He now resolved to do the same to Ammoron. He let himself down over the wall of the camp with a cord and wounded the king, but "the king did awaken his servants before he died, insomuch that they did pursue Teancum, and slew him" (Alma 62:36). This story has parallels in the Iliad and the Aeneid. In the Iliad, Diomedes and Odysseus entered the Thracian camp, killed the king, and returned safely to their own camp. But in the Aeneid, Eurylaus and Nisus were less fortunate. They stole into the camp of the Rutulians and slew the king, but were hunted down and killed in a forest, before they could get back to the Trojan camp. Also, after the Philistines marched to Michmash, Jonathan and his armorbearer stole into the Philistine garrison and slew a number of men.
After the armies of Ammoron were defeated and peace was restored to the land, a man named Hagoth built a large ship, which took many people northward. The following year, he built more ships: "And the first ship did also return, and many more people did enter into it; and they also took much provisions, and set out again to the land northward. And it came to pass that they were never heard of more. And we suppose that they were drowned in the depths of the sea. And it came to pass that one other ship also did sail forth; and whither she did go we know not" (Alma 63:7-8). Caesar ordered the construction of many ships to carry his men and supplies to Britain. Sixty of his ships "had been driven off course by a storm and had returned to their starting point" (Caesar 1985, 89). Of the return voyage, Caesar says: "It happened that out of such a fleet of ships, making so many voyages both in that and the previous year, not a single one with troops on board was lost. But of those sent back to me empty from the continent (that is, those on their way back from Gaul after disembarking our first contingent, and the 60 that Labienus had had built after the start of the expedition), very few reached their destination, almost all the rest being driven back. I waited some time for these ships, but in vain" (Caesar 1985, 97).
When Pahoran, the chief judge and governor in the land of Zarahemla, died, his three sons vied with each other to succeed him. Pahoran was chosen, and his brother Pacumeni gave him his support. But the third brother, named Paanchi, rebelled, along with his followers. After Paanchi was tried and condemned to death, his supporters sent a man named Kishkumen to kill Pahoran as he sat upon the judgment-seat. Pahoran was succeeded by Pacumeni.
Tubaloth, who was now king of the Lamanites, appointed a man named Coriantumr to lead his armies against the Nephites. He headed for the city of Zarahemla in the heart of the land. Meeting with no resistance, he quickly captured the city and killed many of its inhabitants, including Pacumeni. This must have been as great a shock to the Nephites as was the sack of Rome by the Gauls, under the command of Brennus. When Brennus approached the gates of the city, he found no guards and his men went on a rampage, killing and pillaging. In addition, Hannibal was seized by the impulse "to make straight for the centre of things and march on Rome" (Livy 1965, 363). In order to draw the Romans away from the siege of Capua, he marched along the Latin Way, but was stopped about three miles from Rome. Coriantumr also marched "through the center of the land" from Zarahemla toward Bountiful, but was turned back by Lehi and Moronihah.
Helaman became chief judge, but "Kishkumen, who had murdered Pahoran, did lay wait to destroy Helaman also; and he was upheld by his band, who had entered into a covenant that no one should know his wickedness" (Helaman 2:3). However, Helaman's servant discovered the plot, and while pretending to lead Kishkumen to the judgment-seat, he stabbed and killed Kishkumen. Similarly, a number of Jews banded together and plotted to kill Paul, when he was being brought to the council for questioning. Paul's nephew learned about the conspiracy and told the chief captain, who was holding Paul: "for there lie in wait for him of them more than forty men, which have bound themselves with an oath, that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him . . . . So the chief captain then let the young man depart, and charged him, See thou tell no man that thou hast shewed these things to me" (Acts 23:21-22). When the conspirators learned that Kishkumen was dead, Gadianton led them "out of the land, by a secret way, into the wilderness" (Helaman 2:11). Roman centurions also secretly conducted Paul to Antipatris during the night.
Josephus supplies further material for this story. According to The Jewish War, Herod had three sons, who wished to succeed him as king. Two of his sons, Alexander and Aristobulus, were opposed by a third son named Antipater. They became bitter enemies, and Antipater did everything within his power to turn Herod against his other sons. Alexander falsely confessed to being involved in a conspiracy against Herod with his uncle Pheroras. Alexander's father-in-law, Archelaus, came to his aid and managed to reconcile matters for a time. As a reward, Herod gave him a concubine named Pannychis. Later a barber claimed that he had made a deal with Alexander to cut Herod's throat; Herod had both the barber and his two sons killed. Still later, Antipater was also accused of plotting against Herod and was put to death. In addition, Herod had given the high-priesthood to Mariamne's brother, Aristobulus, but then, after Aristobulus had officiated at the altar during a festival, Herod ordered that he be taken away and drowned in a pool.
Paanchi, who rebelled against his brothers, represents Antipater, and his name is probably derived from Pannychis, the concubine who was given to Archelaus. The conspiracy to murder Pahoran and Helaman reflects the slaying of Mariamne's brother, as well as the accusations of plots against Herod by Alexander and Antipater.
Before Kishkumen was killed, his band of conspirators was joined by a man named Gadianton, "who was exceedingly expert in many words, and also in his craft, to carry on the secret work of murder and of robbery; therefore he became the leader of the band of Kishkumen" (Helaman 2:4). Gadianton promised that if he were placed on the judgment-seat, he would give other members of the band positions of power and authority. After Kishkumen was killed, Helaman ordered the arrest of the band, but Gadianton and his men fled into the wilderness. The band secretly established itself in many parts of the land and were responsible for the murder of several chief judges, until they obtained complete control of the Nephite government. A war followed, in which the Gadianton band was defeated, but it was later revived, and the band lived in the mountains. Another major war followed, in which the Nephites were besieged by the robbers, under the leadership of Zemnarihah. However, Zemnarihah was forced to withdraw and attempted to lead his people into the land northward. He was intercepted by a Nephite army and was killed.
These events are based upon the famous Catiline conspiracy. According to Plutarch, Lucius Catiline fomented revolt not only among the young men of Rome, but throughout Etruria as well. Catiline decided to stand for the consulship, but was rejected in favor of Cicero. He was supported by some soldiers, who longed to engage in robbing and looting. Catiline planned to stand for the consulship again and to kill Cicero on election day. Word of the plot got out, and Catiline was again rejected. He left the city under orders from Cicero, but he gathered together an army. Meanwhile, conspirators remained in Rome, led by Lentulus, who planned to kill the entire senate. He was also joined by the Allobroges, who were ready to revolt. Cicero's agents among the conspirators told him about the plot, and a messenger carrying letters to Catiline was ambushed at night. Lentulus was convicted and imprisoned. When word reached Catiline, he marched his men through the mountains toward Gaul, but was intercepted by the Romans and was killed in battle.
The Gadianton band had secret signs, words, and oaths, and members entered into a covenant not to reveal their secret acts of murder and robbery. According to Sallust, "There was a rumour current at the time that when Catiline, on the conclusion of his speech, called on the associates of his plot to swear an oath, he passed round bowls of human blood mixed with wine; and when all had tasted of it after invoking a curse upon themselves if they broke faith, in accordance with the usual practice at such solemn ceremonies, he revealed the details of his scheme" (Sallust 1963, 191).
The Gadianton robbers bear a very strong resemblance to certain groups of Jews, who rebelled against Roman rule in the time of Vespasian. Josephus refers to these groups as robbers, and they included the Sicarii and Zealots, who murdered men in broad daylight. Josephus says that the Sicarii slew Jonathan, the high priest, and speaking of both the Sicarii and Zealots, he says that they "cut the throats of the high-priests, that so no part of a religious regard to God might be preserved; they thence proceeded to destroy utterly the least remains of a political government" (Josephus 1974, 1:502).
Josephus relates Herod's attempts to rid Galilee of robbers. Herod led an army against the robbers, who had overrun a great part of the country and were hiding in caves. He succeeded in destroying many of them, but there were others who remained concealed in caves. The Roman procurator Festus also tried to eradicate the robbers, but his successor, Albinus, was in league with the robbers and allowed their activities to continue.
In the meantime, there were mass migrations from Zarahemla into the land northward, which was almost devoid of trees: "And there being but little timber upon the face of the land, nevertheless the people who went forth became exceedingly expert in the working of cement; therefore they did build houses of cement, in the which they did dwell" (Helaman 3:7). This absence of timber and the skill in working with cement seem to match the barrenness of Egypt and the expertise of the Egyptians in stone-masonry. Julius Caesar noted that "Alexandria is almost entirely secure against fire; the buildings have no carpentry or timber, and are composed of masonry" (Caesar 1976, 167).
A combination of dissenters and Lamanites pushed the remaining Nephites northward to the land Bountiful: "And there they did fortify against the Lamanites, from the west sea, even unto the east; it being a day's journey for a Nephite, on the line which they had fortified and stationed their armies to defend their north country" (Helaman 4:7). An earlier passage describes this narrow neck of land: "And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward" (Alma 22:32). The fortifying of this narrow neck of land has many parallels. Plutarch says that after Spartacus started his rebellion in the peninsula of Rhegium, Crassus "began to build fortifications right across the isthmus. . . . A ditch, nearly forty miles long and fifteen feet wide, was carried across the neck of land from sea to sea; and above the ditch he constructed a wall which was astonishingly high and strong" (Plutarch 1972, 125). Tacitus also describes the isthmus in Britain which Agricola defended: "The Clyde and the Forth, carried inland to a great depth on the tides of opposite seas, are separated only by a narrow neck of land. This isthmus was now firmly held by garrisons, and the whole expanse of country to the south was safely in our hands. The enemy had been pushed into what was virtually another island" (Tacitus 1970, 74). Hadrian later built a wall from the Tyne to the Solway, and Antoninus Pius constructed a wall between the Forth and the Clyde. Plutarch says further that when Xerxes descended on Greece, the Greeks decided to defend the Peloponnesus "and resolved to gather all their forces together within the Isthmus, and to build a wall from sea to sea in that narrow neck of land" (Plutarch n.d., 139).
Lehi and Nephi, the sons of Helaman, went on a mission to the land of Nephi, where they were cast into prison. Many days later, some Lamanite soldiers were sent to take Lehi and Nephi out of the prison and kill them. Nephi and Lehi were encircled by fire: "Nevertheless, Nephi and Lehi were not burned; and they were as standing in the midst of fire and were not burned. . . . the Lamanites durst not lay their hands upon them; neither durst they come near unto them, but stood as if they were struck dumb with amazement" (Helaman 5:23-25). When Lehi and Nephi spoke, the earth and prison walls shook. Everyone in the prison was overshadowed by a cloud of darkness, and they heard a voice above the cloud. A man named Aminadab looked "and behold, he saw through the cloud of darkness the faces of Nephi and Lehi; and behold, they did shine exceedingly, even as the faces of angels. And he beheld that they did lift their eyes to heaven; and they were in the attitude as if talking or lifting their voices to some being whom they beheld" (Helaman 5:36). This account mirrors the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were ordered to be thrown into a fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar. The fire was so hot that it killed the soldiers who threw the three men into the furnace. When Nebuchadnezzar looked into the furnace, he saw "four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God" (Daniel 3:25). When the three men emerged from the furnace, everyone was amazed to find that the fire had had no effect upon them. In addition, when Moses reached Sinai, the Lord descended on the mount in fire "and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly" (Exodus 19:18). When Moses came down from mount Sinai the second time, the skin of his face shone, and people were afraid to come near him. The dark cloud which overshadowed the people in the prison also recalls Josephus's account of what occurred when Solomon dedicated his temple: "Now, as soon as the priests had put all things in order about the ark, and were gone out, there came down a thick cloud, and stood there; and spread itself, after a gentle manner, into the temple . . . . This cloud so darkened the place, that one priest could not discern another; but it afforded to the minds of all a visible image and glorious appearance of God's having descended into this temple" (Josephus 1974, 2:502).
The voice which the people in the prison heard "was not a voice of thunder, . . . it was a still voice of perfect mildness" (Helaman 5:30). When Elijah went to a cave in mount Horeb, the Lord passed by, followed by a strong wind, an earthquake, and fire, and then Elijah heard "a still small voice" (1 Kings 19:12).
When Nephi returned from a mission to the land northward, he found that the Gadianton robbers had taken control of the government. He ascended a tower in his garden to pray, and when some men saw him, a multitude gathered to hear him speak. This recalls Acts 10, which states that when Peter went up upon the housetop of Simon the tanner and beheld a vision, three men sent by Cornelius arrived. They conducted Peter to Cornelius, who called together his kinsmen and friends to hear Peter speak. The speech which Nephi delivers in Helaman 8 bears some resemblances to Stephen's speech in Acts 7.
The voice of God came to Nephi, saying, "Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Helaman 10:7). This is a variation of the words which Jesus spoke to Peter: "whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mat. 16:19). Nephi was also transported by the Spirit: "for he was taken by the Spirit and conveyed away out of the midst of them. And it came to pass that thus he did go forth in the Spirit, from multitude to multitude, declaring the word of God" (Helaman 10:16-17). Philip was similarly carried away by the Spirit: "And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea" (Acts 8:39-40).
After the secret band of robbers had waged a war among the Nephites for two years, Nephi called down a famine upon the land. The earth dried up and thousands of people died. When the chief judges pleaded with Nephi, he asked the Lord to send rain. Similarly, Elijah prophesied to Ahab that rain would cease to fall, and there was a severe famine in Samaria. But after Elijah defeated the priests of Baal, a great rain began to fall. The Nephites repented because of the famine and swept away the band of Gadianton "and they have concealed their secret plans in the earth" (Helaman 11:10). Similarly, after Paul preached and performed miracles in Ephesus, the people repented of their evil practices: "Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men" (Acts 19:19). Nephi later departed out of the land and disappeared, just as men looked for Elijah, but could not find him, after he had been carried away in a chariot of fire.
The righteous Lamanites and Nephites united to battle the Gadianton robbers, but they were forced to withdraw from their lands and take up a fortified position in the center of the land, with a seven-year supply of provisions. The Nephites beat back the robbers during a ferocious battle, but Zemnarihah, the robber leader, laid siege to the Nephite fortification.
This Nephite fortification corresponds to the stronghold of Masada. Josephus tells us that Herod fled to Masada to escape a plot against him. He left his family there, and while he journeyed to Rome, they were besieged by Antigonus; however, Herod returned and freed them. Herod later fortified Masada and built storage chambers for food and provisions. The Sicarii obtained control of Masada from the Romans: "Afterward when they had carried everything out of their houses, and had seized upon all the fruits that were in a flourishing condition, they brought them into Masada. And indeed these men laid all the villages that were about the fortress waste, and made the whole country desolate; while there came to them every day from all parts, not a few men as corrupt as themselves" (Josephus 1974, 1:323). Similarly, the Book of Mormon says that thousands of people, with their provisions, gathered to the fortified position of the Nephites: "And the robbers could not exist save it were in the wilderness, for the want of food; for the Nephites had left their lands desolate, and had gathered their flocks and their herds and all their substance, and they were in one body" (3 Nephi 4:3).
The Nephites succeeded in destroying the Gadianton robbers, but about eight years later, there was once again a secret combination in the land, which murdered the chief judge. Although the secret combination destroyed the government and appointed a man named Jacob to be their king, they could not gain any support from the people. Therefore, Jacob "commanded his people that they should take their flight into the northernmost part of the land, and there build up unto themselves a kingdom" (3 Nephi 7:12). Josephus tells us that a man named Simon joined the robbers who had seized Masada, "yet when he persuaded them to undertake greater things, he could not prevail with them so to do . . . but he, affecting to tyrannize, and being fond of greatness . . . left them, and went into the mountainous part of the country . . . and got together a set of wicked men from all quarters." Josephus says further that "a great many of the populace were obedient to him as to their king" (Josephus 1974, 1:333-34).
After a period of great political upheaval, the central government ceased to exist, and the Nephite nation was broken up into tribes. Then at the crucifixion of Jesus, the land was racked by terrible earthquakes and tempests. The Book of Mormon lists fifteen cities which were destroyed. The city of Moroni sank into the sea, Moronihah was buried under the earth, and a great mountain rose up in its place; other cities, including Zarahemla, were burned, while others were inundated by water; and hills and valleys appeared where cities had been. Tactitus says that "twelve famous cities in the province of Asia were overwhelmed by an earthquake. . . . Open ground -- the usual refuge on such occasions -- afforded no escape, because the earth parted and swallowed the fugitives. There are stories of big mountains subsiding, of flat ground rising high in the air, of conflagrations bursting out among the debris" (Tacitus 1971, 101). Thucydides also reports that there were earthquakes in the area of the Isthmus of Corinth: "During this same period when earthquakes were happening so frequently . . . the sea subsided from what was then the shore and afterwards swept up again in a huge wave, which covered part of the city and left some of it still under water when the wave retreated, so that what was once land is now sea" (Thucydides 1972, 247).
Following this devastation, the people at Bountiful heard the voice of God. According to Livy, a party was sent to investigate a shower of stones on the Alban Mount: "At the same time a great voice seemed to issue from the grove on the top of the hill, bidding the Albans return to the religion of their fathers which they had allowed to fall into abeyance" (Livy 1960, 68).
The voice of God at Bountiful introduced the Son, who appeared and taught the people, as he had done in Palestine. For two hundred years following Jesus' appearance, the people lived as one and enjoyed continual peace. Similarly, in Eclogue IV, Virgil hails Augustus almost as a god and his reign as the dawn of a glorious, new golden age. The two hundred years after Augustus came to be known as the Pax Romana or Roman Peace, during which the Roman Empire was relatively undisturbed by war.
When Jesus appeared on the American continent, he performed many of the same miracles as are recorded in the Bible: he healed the sick and lame, cured the blind, deaf, and dumb, and raised a man from the dead. He preached many of the same words and chose twelve disciples. He instituted the sacrament of the Lord's Supper and also performed the miracle of feeding the multitude, by producing bread and wine out of nothing.
After Jesus blessed some children, angels descended, "and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them" (3 Nephi 17:24). This occurred before the Holy Ghost fell upon Jesus' twelve disciples, which is described as follows: "And it came to pass when they were all baptized and had come up out of the water, the Holy Ghost did fall upon them, and they were filled with the Holy Ghost and with fire. And behold, they were encircled about as if it were by fire" (3 Nephi 19:13-14). Both of these events mirror the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost fell upon the twelve apostles: "And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:3-4).
Since Jesus was a resurrected being, he obviously could not go through another transfiguration; therefore, the Book of Mormon substitutes three Nephite disciples, who were granted their wish that they would never taste of death: "And behold, the heavens were opened, and they were caught up into heaven, and saw and heard unspeakable things. And it was forbidden them that they should utter . . . and whether they were in the body or out of the body, they could not tell; for it did seem unto them like a transfiguration of them, that they were changed from this body of flesh into an immortal state, that they could behold the things of God" (3 Nephi 28:13-15). This parallels Paul's account of being caught up into heaven: "I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter" (2 Cor. 12:2-4). The three disciples chosen to undergo this experience in the Book of Mormon reflect the fact that when Jesus was transfigured, he took Peter, James, and John with him, who therefore formed a triad, along with Jesus, Moses, and Elias.
Two hundred and sixty years after Christ, the secret combinations of Gadianton were revived, and the Nephites became exceedingly wicked. The Book of Mormon states, "And behold, in the end of this book ye shall see that this Gadianton did prove the overthrow, yea, almost the entire destruction of the people of Nephi" (Helaman 2:13). Similarly, Procopius laid much of the blame for the degeneration of the Roman Empire on Justinian. He portrayed Justinian as a demon in human form, and said, "he brought on the Romans disasters which surely surpassed both in gravity and in number all that had ever been heard of at any period of history. For without the slightest hesitation he used to embark on the inexcusable murdering of his fellow-men and the plundering of other people's property" (Procopius 1966, 70). Procopius states further that Justinian attached himself to a faction known as the Blues, who collected together in gangs and committed robbery and murder, as the Gadianton robbers did.
The Book of Mormon says that it was the devil who put the secret oaths and covenants into the heart of Gadianton. According to Procopius, Justinian's own mother told some of her close friends that Justinian was the offspring of a demon, which visited her one night. Procopius also adds: "Some of those who were in the Emperor's company late at night . . . thought that they saw a strange demonic form in his place" (Procopius 1966, 103). In addition, Mormon states: "And it came to pass that there were sorceries, and witchcrafts, and magics; and the power of the evil one was wrought upon all the face of the land" (Mormon 1:19). Procopius also portrays Theodora, the wife of Justinian, as an utterly ruthless person who believed in magic: "For from her earliest years she had herself consorted with magicians and sorcerers, as her whole way of life led her in that direction, and to the very end she put her trust in these arts" (Procopius 1966, 151).
The final years of the Nephites were a period of great upheaval. They were continually pursued and attacked by the Lamanites and Gadianton robbers, who drove them out of their cities in the land of Zarahemla and forced them to retreat northward. This state of affairs again parallels the condition of the Roman Empire in the days of Justinian. There were huge movements of people, and the empire was attacked on all sides: "the Medes and Saracens had ravaged the greater part of Asia, and the Huns, Slavs, and Antae the whole of Europe; they had razed some of the cities to the ground, and compelled others to pay up almost to the last penny; they had carried off the population into slavery with all their possessions, and had emptied every district of its inhabitants by their daily raids" (Procopius 1966, 155).
The Nephites did score some successes, but Mormon was so offended by the boasting of the Nephites, after they defeated the Lamanites at the city of Desolation, that he refused to be their commander any longer. However, after the Nephites suffered serious reverses, Mormon repented of his oath and was again given command of the army. Thus Mormon behaved much like Achilles, who in the Iliad was so insulted by the actions of Agamemnon that he resolved to sit out the Trojan war, but entered the battle again when the Achaians were nearly defeated.
The retreat of the Nephites from Zarahemla, across the narrow neck of land into the land northward, brings to mind the Anabasis of Xenophon, which records the long march of the Ten Thousand, those Greeks who had been in the service of Cyrus, until his defeat. In order to return home, they had to march through Armenia and Paphlagonia to the Hellespont and Thrace. They were forced to fight a number of battles, as they passed through hostile territory, just as the Nephites continually fought the Lamanites as they retreated northward.
After the Nephites had been beaten back for many years, Mormon sent a letter to the king of the Lamanites, requesting that he allow the Nephites to gather to the hill Cumorah. The Lamanites also marched toward Cumorah with an enormous army, which filled the Nephites with terror. This recalls Xerxes, who spent four years gathering troops for his attack on the Greeks. The hill Cumorah reflects Mt. Athos, the point from which Xerxes launched his army. Herodotus estimated the number of Xerxes's men as 1,700,000. The soldiers were counted in groups of ten thousand, and Herodotus lists each of the contingents which made up the army. Mormon also says that the Nephite army was divided into groups of ten thousand, and he lists the names of the commanders of each ten thousand. The Nephite army was almost completely wiped out at Cumorah, and the war with Xerxes was also a great disaster for the Persian forces.
At the battle of Cumorah, the civilization of the Nephites was finally brought to an end, and the savage Lamanites, a dark and loathsome people, ranged over the land, killing the remnants of the Nephites. The battle of Cumorah parallels the capture of Rome in A.D. 410 by Alaric, the Visigoth. In the remaining years of the century, Italy was invaded by the Vandals and other Germanic tribes, until the Roman Empire passed completely under the domination of barbarians, and the darkness of the Middle Ages followed.
Mormon wrote his record before the battle of Cumorah, using the plates of Nephi. Before his death, he gave his abridgment to his son Moroni, who made some additional writings: "Behold I, Moroni, do finish the record of my father, Mormon" (Mormon 8:1). Caesar's Gallic War provides a parallel, for it too was finished by another man, named Aulus Hirtius, who writes at the beginning of Book VIII, " I have continued the commentaries our friend Caesar wrote" (Caesar 1985, 177).
Moroni added an abridgment of the Book of Ether, containing the history of the Jaredites, to the record of Mormon. The book begins with a genealogy stretching back thirty generations from Ether to Jared and his brother, who lived after the Flood, when the confusion of tongues occurred. This recalls the genealogies of Genesis, in particular that of the descendants of Shem, which included Eber: "And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided; and his brother's name was Joktan" (Gen. 10:25).
After obtaining a promise from the Lord that he would not confound the language of Jared and his friends, the Lord commanded the brother of Jared (who is never named) to "gather together thy flocks, both male and female, of every kind; and also of the seed of the earth of every kind . . . . I will go before thee into a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth. And there will I bless thee and thy seed . . . . And there shall be none greater than the nation which I will raise up unto me of thy seed, upon all the face of the earth" (Ether 1:41-43). This, of course, recalls the Lord's commandment to Noah to preserve male and female specimens of every living thing. The Lord also made a special covenant with Abraham: "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house unto a land that I will shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great" (Gen. 12:1-2). Jared and his followers journeyed northward to the valley of Nimrod and crossed many waters in barges until they came to a great sea. They remained for four years on the shore of the sea in a place which they called Moriancumer.
Before sailing to the New World, the Jaredites built eight small, lightweight barges: "And they were built after a manner that they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish; and the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the sides therof were tight like unto a dish; and the ends thereof were peaked; and the top thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the length thereof was the length of a tree; and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish" (Ether 2:17). Apparently, these barges were more or less disposable, because the Jaredites had built barges during the course of their journey to the great sea, but at the sea they built new barges, rather than use the ones that they had already constructed. The design of the barges may have been inspired by Herodotus's description of Babylonian boats.
I will next describe the thing which surprised me most of all in this country, after Babylon itself: I mean the boats which ply down the Euphrates to the city. These boats are circular in shape and made of hide; they build them in Armenia to the northward of Assyria, where they cut withies to make the frames and then stretch skins taut on the under side for the body of the craft; they are not fined-off or tapered in any way at bow or stern, but quite round like a shield. . . . The boats vary a great deal in size; some are very big, the biggest of all having a capacity of some fourteen tons. Every boat carries a live donkey - the larger ones several - and when they reach Babylon and the cargoes have been offered for sale, the boats are broken up, the frames and straw sold and the hides loaded on the donkeys' backs for the return journey overland to Armenia. . . . Back in Armenia with their donkeys, the men build another lot of boats to the same design. (Herodotus 1972, 119-20)
The barges were so tight that the brother of Jared asked the Lord how they were going to have air to breathe: "And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: Behold, thou shalt make a hole in the top, and also in the bottom; and when thou shalt suffer for air thou shalt unstop the hole and receive air. And if it be so that the water come in upon thee, behold, ye shall stop the hole, that ye may not perish in the flood" (Ether 2:20). Here we have another parallel in Gulliver's Travels. When Gulliver became the prisoner of giants in the land of Brobdingnag, he was carried around in a traveling box: "On the roof of my closet, just over the middle of the hammock, I ordered the joiner to cut out a hole of a foot square, to give me air in hot weather, as I slept; which hole I shut, at pleasure, with a board that drew backwards and forwards through a groove" (Swift 1985, 130). This box, with Gulliver in it, was picked up by an eagle and dropped into the sea: "Every joint of it was well grooved; and the door did not move on hinges, but up and down like a sash, which kept my closet so tight that very little water came in. I got with much difficulty out of my hammock, having first ventured to draw back the slip-board on the roof already mentioned, contrived on purpose to let in air, for want of which I found myself almost stifled" (Swift 1985, 132).
The next concern of the brother of Jared was how to provide light in the barges. Accordingly, he went to mount Shelem, where he "did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass; and he did carry them in his hands upon the top of the mount" (Ether 3:1). Upon his request, the Lord touched the stones with his finger, which caused them to shine forth. Similarly, Moses cut two tables out of stone and carried them to the top of mount Sinai, where the Lord wrote upon them with his finger. When Moses came down from the mount, his face shone. The purpose of the brother of Jared was to put two of the stones in each of the eight barges to provide light. This is probably derived from Jewish legends about a stone which was carried in Noah's ark: "Rabbinical tradition tells of a wonderful luminous stone placed by Noah in the Ark. This stone shone more brilliantly by day than by night, and served to distinguish the day from the night when, during the flood, neither sun nor moon could be seen" (Kunz  1971, 161).
While the brother of Jared was upon mount Shelem, the Lord showed him visions of the past and future inhabitants of the earth. The Lord commanded him to write down the visions and seal them up, along with two stones which would provide the means for translating the writings. It is not clear whether the brother of Jared carried the record with him across the ocean or hid it along the shore of the great sea. This may have reference to another Jewish myth. It is said that before Noah built the ark, the angel Raphael gave him a holy book, which had been in the possession of Adam. From this book Noah gained much wisdom and learned how to construct the ark. Some versions of the tale say that Noah hid the book before entering the ark and then received another book after the ark had landed on mount Ararat, while others say that Noah carried the book into the ark and that the sapphires with which it was covered provided light during the voyage (Rappoport 1987, 1:222; Graves 1983, 113). This book was later passed down from Shem to Solomon.
Moroni states, concerning the visions of the brother of Jared: "they were forbidden to come unto the children of men until after that he [Christ] should be lifted up upon the cross; and for this cause did king Mosiah keep them, that they should not come unto the world until after Christ should show himself unto his people. And after Christ truly had showed himself unto his people he commanded that they should be made manifest" (Ether 4:1-2). These writings were kept by Alma and his descendants, apparently until Christ's appearance, although the Book of Mormon makes no mention of them during Jesus' ministry. In a similar story, Plutarch relates that a woman in Pontus bore a child named Silenus, who she maintained was the son of Apollo: "Another report, also, was procured from Delphi and circulated in Sparta, that there were some very old oracles which were kept by the priests in private writings; and they were not to be meddled with, neither was it lawful to read them, till one in aftertimes should come, descended from Apollo, and, on giving some known token to the keepers, should take the books in which the oracles were" (Plutarch n.d., 542).
After the Jaredites arrived at the promised land and multiplied, they desired to have a king. The brother of Jared opposed the idea, but Orihah, the son of Jared, agreed to become the first king. He was succeeded by his son Kib. Corihor, Kib's son, rebelled, went to live in the land of Nehor, gathered together an army, and took Kib captive in Moron, but Kib was later restored by his son Shule. The text says that Shule "came to the hill Ephraim, and he did molten out of the hill, and made swords out of steel for those whom he had drawn away with him; and after he had armed them with swords he returned to the city Nehor, and gave battle unto his brother Corihor, by which means he obtained the kingdom and restored it unto his father Kib" (Ether 7:9). This is patterned after the Book of Judges, which states that Eglon, the king of Moab, defeated the Israelites and forced them to serve him for eighteen years. But the Lord raised up Ehud, and "Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length" (Judges 3:16). With this dagger, Ehud killed Eglon and escaped to mount Ephraim, where he roused the people and led them to victory against the Moabites. Shule had also gone to the hill Ephraim to make swords, before defeating Corihor.
Shule succeeded Kib as king, but two sons of Corihor, named Noah and Cohor, rebelled and took Shule captive in Moron. However, the sons of Shule stole into the house of Noah at night, slew him, and once again placed Shule upon the throne. Similarly, Jabin, the king of Hazor, and Sisera, his military commander, oppressed the Israelites for twenty years. Then Deborah and Barak raised an army and went to battle against Sisera. Sisera sought refuge in the tent of Jael, but as he slept, she hammered a nail through his temples.
Shule was succeeded by his son Omer, but Omer's son Jared rebelled and went to live in the land of Heth. After gaining half of the kingdom, Jared took Omer captive. However, the sons of Omer defeated Jared and restored their father. Similarly, 1 Kings 16:21-22 says: "Then were the people of Israel divided into two parts: half of the people followed Tibni the son of Ginath to make him king; and half followed Omri. But the people that followed Omri prevailed against the people that followed Tibni the son of Ginath: so Tibni died, and Omri reigned."
The daughter of Jared wished to help her father regain the kingdom and said to him, "let my father send for Akish, the son of Kimnor; and behold, I am fair, and I will dance before him, and I will please him, that he will desire me to wife; wherefore if he shall desire of thee that ye shall give unto him me to wife, then shall ye say: I will give her if ye will bring unto me the head of my father, the king" (Ether 8:10). After Herod imprisoned John the Baptist, the daughter of Herodias danced before Herod on his birthday and pleased him so much that he swore that he would give her whatever she asked. She asked for the head of John the Baptist. Jared was himself later beheaded by the followers of Akish, as he sat upon the throne.
Omer was warned by the Lord in a dream to depart out of the land, and he fled to a place called Ablom. This recalls Joseph, who was warned by an angel in a dream to flee with Mary and Jesus to Egypt. When Akish became king, he imprisoned one of his sons, who died. Another son named Nimrah fled and joined Omer at Ablom. However, other sons of Akish warred against their father until almost all of the people were killed, after which Omer was restored. Ablom probably refers to Geshur, to which Absalom, the son of David, fled after killing Amnon, his brother. Omer was joined by Nimrah at Ablom, just as David, who had fled from Saul, was joined by Abiathar, who escaped the destruction of the city of Nob. Jonathan also visited David at Horesh. The wars between Akish and his sons may reflect the fact that although Achish the Philistine gave Ziklag to David, David slew a great many of the people who inhabited the surrounding land. Absalom and David also battled each other when Absalom tried to wrest the kingdom from David.
The Book of Ether says that in the days of Heth there was a "great dearth" on the land, and people started to die in great numbers. In addition, "there came forth poisonous serpents also upon the face of the land, and did poison many people. And it came to pass that their flocks began to flee before the poisonous serpents, towards the land southward, which was called by the Nephites Zarahemla. And it came to pass that there were many of them which did perish by the way . . . . And it came to pass that the people did follow the course of the beasts, and did devour the carcasses of them which fell by the way" (Ether 9:31-34). Sallust says that Marius was presented with the challenge of crossing a desert to Capsa, "for, except the immediate neighbourhood of the town, the whole district is desolate, uncultivated, waterless, and infested by deadly serpents, which like all wild animals are made fiercer by scarcity of food, and especially by thirst" (Sallust 1963, 124-25). Furthermore, there had been a "dearth of corn," because the fields were parched. Marius therefore drove cattle ahead of his army and each day distributed a ration of cattle to his men, who made water containers out of the hides, after eating the animals. In this way he was able to reach Capsa. In addition, Herodotus says that at one time snakes swarmed into the suburbs of Sardis, and that the Neuri "were forced to quit their country by snakes, which appeared all over the place in great numbers, while still more invaded them from the uninhabited region to the north, until life became so unendurable that there was nothing for it but to move out" (Herodotus 1972, 72, 305).
In the days of Lib, the poisonous serpents were destroyed, and men "did go into the land southward, to hunt food for the people of the land, for the land was covered with animals of the forest. . . . And they did preserve the land southward for a wilderness, to get game" (Ether 10:19, 21). According to Polybius, the royal family of Macedon was devoted to hunting, "and the Macedonians had set aside the most suitable parts of the country for the breeding of game. During the war against Rome these districts had been as carefully maintained as ever before, but because of the succession of national crises they had never been hunted, with the consequence that there was an abundance of big game of every kind" (Polybius 1979, 533). The Book of Ether says that Lib became a great hunter (as Nimrod is called a mighty hunter in Gen. 10), and Polybius states that Scipio devoted all of his time to hunting, while he was in Macedonia, and became quite skilled in the sport.
A curious passage in the Book of Ether suggests a derivation from Caesar. Ether 9:19 says that the Jaredites "had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms." The Book of Mormon does not describe these animals, and Mormon scholars have speculated about their identity. However, Casesar writes, concerning the Hercynian forest in German territory, "It is known that there are in the forest many kinds of wild animals not seen elsewhere; some of these seem worth mentioning because they are very different from those found in other parts of the world" (Caesar 1985, 126). He describes three types of creatures: one is an ox shaped like a deer, with a horn growing from the middle of its forehead; the second is called an elk, but resembles a goat, and its legs have no joints; the third is called an auroch and is slightly smaller than an elephant, but can move swiftly. It is probable that the cureloms, cumoms, and elephants of the Book of Ether are Caesar's ox, elk, and auroch.
Riplakish, the son of Shez, took many wives and concubines, laid a heavy tax upon the people, constructed many buildings, including "an exceedingly beautiful throne," and forced people to labor. The people rose up in rebellion and killed Riplakish. Morianton then made himself king, eased the burdens of the people and built many cities, but was cut off from the Lord because of his sins. This description is certainly derived from the account of Solomon, who also took many wives and concubines, constructed a temple, and laid a heavy burden upon the people. After Solomon died, the people rebelled against his son Rehoboam and made Jeroboam king. He built the cities of Shechem and Penuel, but sinned in setting up two golden calves for the people to worship.
Morianton was succeeded by his son Kim, an unrighteous king, who was taken captive by his brother. Kim's son Levi won the kingdom and served righteously, as did the two succeeding kings, Corom and Kish. The captivity of Kim parallels the raid of Shishak, king of Egypt, upon Jerusalem, during the reign of Rehoboam. Rehoboam's son Abijam was an unrighteous king, but he was followed by Asa and Jehoshaphat, who did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.
Kish was succeeded by Lib, but the kingdom was taken away from Hearthom, the son of Lib (the text does not say by whom). Hearthom spent the remainder of his days in captivity, as did the succeeding four generations, consisting of Heth, Aaron, Amnigaddah, and Coriantum. These five kings correspond to Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, Hoshea, and Hezekiah. During Menahem's reign, the kingdom of Israel was attacked by Pul, king of Assyria. When Pekah became king, Tiglath-pileser captured many cities of Israel and also took Damascus. Hoshea became a vassal of Shalmaneser; when Hoshea tried to rebel, Shalmaneser imprisoned him, besieged Samaria, and carried the Israelites off to Assyria. Hezekiah also attempted to rebel against Assyria, but Sennacherib captured many cities of Judah, and Hezekiah had to pay a tribute. Thus the captivity of Hearthom and his descendants parallels the repeated attacks of Assyria and the captivity of the inhabitants of Israel.
Com, the son of Coriantum, gained control over half of the kingdom, and then after battling a king named Amgid, he obtained the whole kingdom. Similarly, when David was anointed as king over Judah, Abner declared Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, to be king over Israel, but when Abner and Ishbosheth were killed by David's men, David was made king over both Judah and Israel.
In the days of Com, many prophets began prophesying the destruction of the people, unless they repented. This angered the people, and the prophets had to seek protection from Com. But when Shiblom succeeded Com, he ordered that the prophets be put to death. Following this, a great many people perished because of wars, famine, and pestilence, "insomuch that there was a great destruction, such an one as never had been known upon the face of the earth" (Ether 11:7). Similarly, when Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, cut off the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah hid a hundred of them in a cave. Then Elijah began prophesying the complete destruction of the house of Ahab. Elisha, the successor of Elijah, sent a prophet to anoint Jehu as king of Israel, and Jehu fulfilled the prophecy of Elijah by killing Jezebel and all that remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel and Samaria.
After Shiblom was slain, Seth reigned, but he was brought into captivity. Seth represents Josiah, who battled Pharaoh Neco at Megiddo and was killed. Seth was succeeded by two wicked kings, Ahah, the son of Seth, and Ethem, a descendant of Ahah. These two kings correspond to the wicked kings Manasseh and Amon, who preceded the reign of Josiah.
When Moron, the son of Ethem, became king, the people were led to rebel by a secret combination, and a mighty man (who is unnamed) seized half of the kingdom. Some years later Moron was able to regain the lost portion of his kingdom, but another mighty man (who is also unnamed) took control of the entire kingdom and placed Moron in captivity, where Moron begat a son named Coriantor. Moron represents both Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim. Jehoahaz succeeded Josiah, but Pharaoh Neco put him in bonds and carried him to Egypt, while placing his son Jehoiakim on the throne of Judah. Jehoiakim was made the vassal of the king of Babylon, and when he rebelled, Nebuchadnezzar seized all of that part of Palestine which had belonged to the king of Egypt. When Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, Jehoiakim gave himself up, and he, along with about ten thousand others, was carried captive to Babylon. The mighty men who battled Moron parallel Neco and Nebuchadnezzar. Coriantor corresponds to Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim, who became king of Judah. Coriantor lived all of his days in captivity and begat a son named Ether.
Coriantor was succeeded by Coriantumr. Ether became a prophet and started warning the people that if they did not repent, they would be destroyed. Coriantumr corresponds to Zedekiah, and Ether represents Jeremiah, who also warned Zedekiah and the inhabitants of Judah that if they did not repent, the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed.
The people rejected the warnings of Ether, "and he hid himself in the cavity of a rock by day, and by night he went forth viewing the things which should come upon the people" (Ether 13:13). Similarly, Josephus hid himself from the Romans in a deep pit with a large den: "So in the day-time he hid himself from the enemy . . . and in the night-time he got up out of the den, and looked about" (Josephus 1974, 1:256).
A great war commenced between Coriantumr and Shared. After Shared was killed, his brother Gilead took his place, slew a part of Coriantumr's army and then placed himself upon the throne in Moron. Meanwhile, Coriantumr lived in the wilderness for two years and gathered together more men. Parts of this story recall the account of David and Absalom. Absalom secretly gained supporters, proclaimed himself king, and entered Jerusalem, forcing David to flee. Thus both Gilead and Absalom usurped the position of the king, while both Coriantumr and David lived in the wilderness.
Gilead was murdered by his high priest, who was himself killed in a secret pass by a man named Lib. Coriantumr marched against Lib and killed him in battle. Lib's brother Shiz pursued Coriantumr, "and he did overthrow many cities, and he did slay both women and children, and he did burn the cities" (Ether 14:17). The war spread throughout the land: "the people began to flock together in armies, throughout all the face of the land. . . . And so great and lasting had been the war . . . that the whole face of the land was covered with the bodies of the dead" (Ether 14:19-21). Similarly, David was pursued by Absalom across the Jordan to Mahanaim: "So the people went out into the field against Israel: and the battle was in the wood of Ephraim; where the people of Israel were slain before the servants of David, and there was there a great slaughter that day of twenty thousand men. For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country" (2 Sam. 18:6-8). The path of destruction cut by Shiz also reflects the march of Moses and the Israelites toward the land of Canaan, after leaving mount Seir near the Red Sea. They turned northward and came into conflict with Sihon, king of Heshbon: "And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain" (Deut. 2:34). They dealt a similar fate to Og, king of Bashan, destroying many cities and their inhabitants. They then pitched camp on the plains of Moab: "And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel" (Num. 22:3). Similarly, the Book of Ether states: "And there went a fear of Shiz throughout all the land; yea, a cry went forth throughout the land -- Who can stand before the army of Shiz? Behold, he sweepeth the earth before him!" (Ether 14:18).
The army of Shiz pursued Coriantumr to an area near the seashore: "And they pitched their tents in the valley of Corihor; and Coriantumr pitched his tents in the valley of Shurr. Now the valley of Shurr was near the hill Comnor; wherefore, Coriantumr did gather his armies together upon the hill Comnor" (Ether 14:27-28). During the civil war between Caesar and Pompey, Pompey marched to Dyrrachium, near the sea, and built a camp on a height called Petra, while Caesar's men occupied several high hills near Pompey's camp. In battles around the hill Comnor, the armies of Shiz were driven back twice, but the third time, Coriantumr was deeply wounded. However, since so many people had been killed, Shiz commanded his men to return to camp, instead of pursuing the enemy. Caesar and Pompey fought a series of battles around Dyrrachium, but Pompey got the upper hand, and Caesar's men fled. Plutarch says that Pompey, "instead of putting the finishing stroke to his great success, retired as soon as he had driven the routed enemy inside their camp" (Plutarch 1972, 283).
Once again the armies of Shiz and Coriantumr met in battle, but when Coriantumr saw that he was about to be defeated, he fled to the waters of Ripliancum. There he was successful against the armies of Shiz, and Shiz fled southward to Ogath. Coriantumr followed and pitched camp near the hill Ramah. Similarly, after being routed by Pompey, Caesar retreated eastward into Thessaly, but defeated Pompey's forces at the battle of Pharsalia. Pompey fled to the sea coast and set sail for Pelusium in Egypt, and Caesar followed. In Egypt another civil war was raging between Ptolemy and his sister Cleopatra, whom Ptolemy had driven from the throne. Caesar fought battles with the Egyptians around the Pharos tower, and Pompey was killed and beheaded by Ptolemy's men.
It was no longer a matter of armies fighting each other; the whole populace was armed, including women and children. During the day, battles raged around the hill Ramah: "when it was night they were weary, and retired to their camps; and after they had retired to their camps they took up a howling and a lamentation for the loss of the slain of their people; and so great were their cries, their howlings and lamentations, that they did rend the air exceedingly" (Ether 15:16). According to Plutarch, when Marius pursued the Ambrones into their camp, the women fell upon them with swords and axes: "After killing great numbers of the Ambrones the Romans withdrew and night fell. . . . from this huge host all through the night there arose and echoed among the mountains and over the valley a cry of lamentation -- not a cry that sounded like the wailing and mourning of human beings, but something which, while expressing imprecations, menaces, and complaints, was more like the howling of wild animals. As the awful noise filled the whole plain, so were the Romans filled with terror" (Plutarch 1972, 33).
The people fought for seven days, until only a handful on each side survived. On the eighth day, all were killed except Shiz and Coriantumr. Shiz passed out from loss of blood, and Coriantumr took the opportunity to cut off his head. The Book of Ether gives this description of the death of Shiz: "when Coriantumr had leaned upon his sword, that he rested a little, he smote off the head of Shiz. And it came to pass that after he had smitten off the head of Shiz, that Shiz raised up on his hands and fell; and after that he had struggled for breath, he died" (Ether 15:30-31). Critics have wondered how Shiz could have struggled for breath, after Coriantumr had already cut off his head. But it is perhaps no more confusing than Aeneas' description of the death of Priam: "'His tall body was left lying headless on the shore, and by it the head hacked from his shoulders: a corpse without a name. Then for the first time a wild horror gripped me. When I saw King Priam breathing out his life with that ghastly wound . . . .'"(Virgil 1958, 67).
The mortal battle between Shiz and Coriantumr also recalls the story of Saul: "And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem: and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa. And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled" (1 Sam. 28:4-5). The Philistines slaughtered the men of Israel on mount Gilboa and killed three of Saul's sons. The Bible is ambiguous about the death of Saul. 1 Samuel 31 says that after being sorely wounded, Saul fell on his own sword, but in 2 Samuel 1, a young Amalekite, who survived the battle at Gilboa, tells David that he found Saul leaning upon his spear and that Saul asked him to slay him. In any case, when the Philistines found Saul's body, they cut off his head. Coriantumr lived long enough to be discovered by the people of Zarahemla, just as the young Amalekite survived to reach the camp of David.
Parts of the story of Coriantumr parallel the life of Alexander the Great. During the battle in the valley of Gilgal, "Shared wounded Coriantumr in his thigh, that he did not go to battle again for the space of two years" (Ether 13:31). When Coriantumr marched to the land of Moron, "Lib did smite upon his arm that he was wounded" (Ether 14:12). At the hill Comnor, "Shiz smote upon Coriantumr that he gave him many deep wounds; and Coriantumr, having lost his blood, fainted, and was carried away as though he were dead" (Ether 14:30). At the waters of Ripliancum, "Coriantumr was wounded again, and he fainted with the loss of blood" (Ether 15:9). Alexander was also wounded many times in battle. According to Arrian, when Alexander besieged Gaza, he received a serious wound when a missile from a catapult penetrated his shoulder. In a battle near the Tanais river, Alexander was shot through the leg by an arrow, which broke his fibula. At other times, Alexander received a violent blow on the head and neck by a stone, and was again wounded in the shoulder and thigh. While preparing to meet Darius, Alexander had become so sick that he had to delay any military activity for many months. Alexander received his most serious wounds during his campaign in India, when he attacked the fortress of a tribe called the Malli. After leaping down inside the fortress from the wall, Alexander was surrounded by Mallians, one of whom shot an arrow at him.
The shaft was so well aimed and struck him with such force that it pierced his breastplate and lodged in his chest between the ribs. The impact was so violent that Alexander staggered back and sank to his knees . . . . he was wounded over and over again, and at last received a blow on the neck from a club which forced him to lean against the wall . . . . At this moment the Macedonians swarmed round him, snatched him up as he lost consciousness, and carried him to his tent. Immediately the rumour ran through the camp that he had been killed. Meanwhile his attendants with great difficulty sawed off the wooden shaft of the arrow and thus succeeded in removing his breastplate; they then had to cut out the arrow-head, which was embedded between his ribs . . . . When it was extracted the king fainted away and came very near to death, but finally he recovered. (Plutarch 1973, 320-21)
There seem to be correspondences between Plutarch's account and the description of the battle between Shiz and Coriantumr at the hill Comnor. In addition, the book of Ether emphasizes the fact that "Lib was a man of great stature, more than any other man among all the people" (Ether 14:10). Arrian and Plutarch also say that Porus, an Indian who battled Alexander, was a huge man.
We should also note a stylistic parallel. The Book of Mormon frequently uses the word "did" with verbs to form the past tense. For example, the Book of Alma says: "they did receive all the poor of the Zoramites that came over unto them; and they did nourish them, and did clothe them, and did give unto them lands for their inheritance; and they did administer unto them according to their wants. Now this did stir up the Zoramites to anger" (Alma 35:9-10). This use of "did" is characteristic of the style of some old documents, as for example, this passage from the Rites of Durham: "finding the chest that he did lie in very strongly bound with iron, then the goldsmith did take a great fore hammer of a smith and did break the said chest open . . . then when the goldsmith did perceive that he had broken one of his legs when he did break up the chest, he was very sorry for it" (Laing & Laing 1982, 145-46).
Isaac Hale, Emma Smith's father, said that Joseph Smith pretended to interpret the characters by placing a stone in his hat, covering his face with the hat. Emma said that Joseph used the Urim and Thummim to translate, until Martin Harris lost the manuscript, and then he continued by using a small, dark colored stone placed in his hat, with his face buried in the hat. In 1829 Martin Harris told a newspaper: "By placing the spectacles in a hat and looking into it, Smith interprets the characters into the English language" (Quinn 1987, 145). Harris was interviewed in 1882, and an account of his statement was published in the Millennial Star (6 Feb. 1882): "By aid of the seer stone, sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin, and when finished he would say, 'Written,' and if correctly written that sentence would disappear and another appear in its place, but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraven on the plates, precisely in the language then used" (Whalen 1967, 31). David Whitmer gave several accounts of the translation process. One which appeared in the Deseret Evening News (24 December 1885) stated: "After affixing the magical spectacles to his eyes, Smith would take the plates and translate the characters one at a time. The graven characters would appear in succession to the seer, and directly under the character, when viewed through the glasses, would be the translation in English" (Lamb 1887, 241). However, in another 1885 interview, Whitmer told the same story as Emma about replacing the Urim and Thummim with a stone. In 1887 Whitmer published a pamphlet entitled An Address to All Believers in Christ, in which he gave this account: "Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear" (Whitmer 1887, 12).
In Alma 37, Alma transfers the twenty-four Jaredite plates and the interpreters to his son Helaman, and states: "And the Lord said: I will prepare unto my servant Gazelem, a stone, which shall shine forth in darkness unto light, that I may discover unto my people who serve me, that I may discover unto them the works of their brethren, yea, their secret works, their works of darkness, and their wickedness and abominations" (Alma 37:23). Following this, Alma again refers to "these interpreters," and says that their function was the same as the stone of Gazelem, to "bring forth out of darkness unto light all their secret works and their abominations" (Alma 37:25). The Book of Mormon does not give us any further information about Gazelem or his stone. Was Gazelem the brother of Jared (who is never named in the Book of Mormon), or was his stone distinct from the interpreters? In any case, Wilford Woodruff claimed that Joseph Smith's stone was this very same stone of Gazelem, which Joseph discovered when he was assisting Willard Chase to dig a well in 1822. Chase said that as soon as Joseph discovered it, he placed it in his hat and put his face into the hat. Willard Stafford made this statement about the Smith family: "They would say, also, that nearly all the hills in this part of New York, were thrown up by human hands, and in them were large caves, which Joseph, Jr., could see, by placing a stone of singular appearance in his hat, in such a manner as to exclude all light; at which time they pretended he could see all things within and under the earth, -- that he could see within the above mentioned caves, large gold bars and silver plates -- that he could also discover the spirits in whose charge these treasures were, clothed in ancient dress" (Howe 1834, 237-38).
The importance of the interpreters can be better understood if we examine the sources from which the concept is derived. Although the Book of Mormon never refers to the interpreters as the Urim and Thummim, this term was repeatedly used by Joseph Smith and others. We do not know exactly what the Urim and Thummim were, or how they functioned; the Bible never gives a description of them. We do know that they were placed in the breastplate which Aaron wore when he officiated in the priest's office. The breastplate was made of linen and was part of the holy garments which the Lord commanded Moses to make, which included an ephod, girdle, robe, and mitre. The assumption that the Urim and Thummim were stones is derived from the description of the stones which adorned the ephod and breastplate. Upon the shoulders of the ephod were two onyx stones set in gold; upon each stone was engraved the names of six of the tribes of Israel. The breastplate had four rows of precious stones, three stones to a row, making twelve in all, with the name of one of the tribes engraved on each stone; these stones were also set in gold. The ephod and the breastplate were fastened together by means of rings and chains made of gold. The priest also wore a mitre, on the front of which was placed a plate of pure gold with the words HOLINESS TO THE LORD engraved on it.
Questions could be asked of the Urim and Thummim, but the Bible does not state explicitly how they gave an answer. Numbers says that Joshua "shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord" (Num. 27:21). The Urim and Thummim would not always give a reply, however. Twice they refused to give an answer, when Saul sought counsel before battles with the Philistines. Although the Urim and Thummim were entrusted into the care of the tribe of Levi, Ezra 3:63 and Nehemiah 7:65 indicate that when the Hebrews returned from the Babylonian captivity, none of their priests possessed the Urim and Thummim.
Lucy Mack Smith gave a detailed description of both the interpreters and the breastplate. She said that the interpreters "consisted of two smooth three-cornered diamonds set in glass, and the glasses were set in silver bows, which were connected with each other in much the same way as old fashioned spectacles." Lucy also said that the breastplate was made of glistening metal: "It was concave on one side, and convex on the other, and extended from the neck downwards, as far as the centre of the stomach of a man of extraordinary size. It had four straps of the same material, for the purpose of fastening it to the breast, two of which ran back to go over the shoulders, and the other two were designed to fasten to the hips" (Lucy Smith 1880, 107, 113-114). Lucy's description of the breastplate suggests that it was the type worn in battle, rather than the linen breastplate of the high priest.
The interpreters seem to be related, at least in part, to the Grail romances. In his poem Parzival, Wolfram von Eschenbach stated that he learned about the secrets of the Grail from a man named Kyot: "The famous Master Kyot found the prime version of this tale in heathenish script lying all neglected in a corner of Toledo. He had had to learn the characters' A B C beforehand without the art of necromancy" (Von Eschenbach 1980, 232). According to Wolfram, the Grail was not a platter or chalice, but a stone. In his story, Parzival is directed to a hermit, from whom he receives information about the Grail. He learns that the stone is entrusted to the care of certain people: "'As to those who are appointed to the Gral, hear how they are made known. Under the top edge of the Stone an Inscription announces the name and lineage of the one summoned to make the glad journey. Whether it concern girls or boys, there is no need to erase their names, for as soon as a name has been read it vanishes from sight!'" (Von Eschenbach 1980, 240). Martin Harris and David Whitmer also stated that after the words which appeared on the seer stone were correctly read and recorded, they would vanish and new words would appear.
Joseph and Lucy Smith, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer all referred to the interpreters as spectacles. Although there are many references to magic stones in stories and legends, there seem to be only a few literary sources which suggest Joseph's spectacles. One of these is John Donne's Prologue to A Meeting in Hell. Donne begins by saying that he was in a state of ecstasy, and his soul was at liberty to wander through the heavens and survey the planets and stars. Then suddenly, he found himself in Hell: "In the twinkling of an eye, I saw all the rooms in Hell open to my sight. And by the benefit of certain spectacles, I know not of what making, . . . I saw all the channels in the bowels of the Earth; and all the inhabitants of all nations, and of all ages were suddenly made familiar to me" (Donne 1980, 40). We should recall that according to the testimony of William Stafford, Joseph claimed that with the aid of his stone "he could see all things within and under the earth, . . . that he could also discover the spirits in whose charge these treasures were, clothed in ancient dress."
Thus Joseph's interpreters seem to be an amalgam of Donne's spectacles, the Urim and Thummim, and Wolfram's Grail. This would account for the ambiguity in the descriptions of the manner in which the interpreters worked. If the interpreters could be used both for translating and for receiving visions, it is because they were a fanciful blending of different objects which functioned in different ways.
Another story about the discovery of a book and its translation by means of spectacles deserves our attention. In Gargantua and Pantagruel, Rabelais relates the discovery of a chronicle, which gave an account of the giants, who were the ancestors of Pantagruel and his father Gargantua.
It was found by Jean Audeau, in a meadow of his near the arch Gualeau, below l'Olive, on the way to Narsay. Here, as they were cleaning the ditches, the diggers struck with their picks against a great tomb of bronze . . . . Opening this tomb at a certain place which was sealed on the top with the sign of a goblet, around which was inscribed in Etruscan letters, HIC BIBITUR, they found nine flagons . . . and beneath the middle flagon lay a great, greasy, grand, grey, pretty, little, mouldy book . . . . In this book was found the said genealogy, written out at length in a chancery hand, not on paper, nor on parchment, nor on wax, but on elm-bark, so worn however by old age that scarcely three letters could be read. Unworthy though I am, I was called in to inspect it and, with much help from my spectacles, following that art by which letters can be read that are not apparent -- as Aristotle teaches -- I translated it . . . . (Rabelais 1955, 42)
Here we have a tale about the discovery of an ancient book containing the history of giants, which was translated with the aid of spectacles. We should recall that Martin Harris told Charles Anthon that the spectacles, which had been unearthed with the gold plates, were enormous, and Lucy Smith also said that the breastplate would fit a man of extraordinary size. These statements suggest that the spectacles and breastplate were originally in the possession of giants.
Lucy Smith's description of the stones comprising the interpreters is also of interest. She said that they were "two smooth three-cornered diamonds set in glass, and the glasses were set in silver bows." This description resembles another famous stone known as the Alfred Jewel. It was found in 1693 in Somerset, England, and was given to the University of Oxford in 1718. It is believed that the jewel was commissioned by King Alfred the Great in the ninth century. Simon Keynes and Michael Lapidge give this description of the Alfred Jewel:
The jewel . . . comprises a pear-shaped gold frame enclosing a transparent piece of rock crystal superimposed on a figurative design in cloisonné enamel; a plate of gold is fixed at the back, with a plant- or tree-like design and basket-work hatching incised upon it; a gold extension in the form of an animal head is attached to the narrower end of the frame, and a short hollow tube or socket protrudes from the animal's mouth; a gold rivet passes through the socket. There is an inscription in openwork lettering around the edge of the frame, which reads: +AELFRED MEC HEHT GEWYRCAN ('Alfred ordered me to be made'). The enamel design represents, against a blue background, a half-length or seated male figure wearing a green sleeveless tunic and holding, one in each hand, the stems of objects that terminate with what appear to be flowers. (Keynes and Lapidge 1983, 203)
This pear-shaped rock crystal enclosed in a gold frame is similar to Lucy's three-cornered diamond set in glass and a silver bow. The inscription around the edge of the frame suggests the appearance of writing on the interpreters. The male figure showing through the crystal is suggestive of seeing a vision within the stone.
Keynes and Lapidge say further: "The rivet which passes through the socket protruding from the animal's mouth suggests that the jewel was originally fixed on the end of a thin rod . . . this rod may itself have been attached to something more substantial" (Keynes and Lapidge 1983, 204-205). According to Joseph Smith, the interpreters were supposed to be attached to a breastplate, although he never described the manner in which they were connected.
Some people have tried to identify Joseph's seer stone with the stone of Gazelem, and this stone too seems to have a biblical parallel. The purpose of the stone of Gazelem was to discover secret works, works of darkness, wickedness, and abominations. In Revelation 2:17, a white stone is referred to: "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." In the verses preceding and following this, Revelation attacks those who call themselves apostles but are not, those who are the synagogue of Satan, those who hold the doctrine of Balaam and the teachings of the Nicolaitanes, and a woman named Jezebel, "which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols" (Rev. 2:20). The reference to the white stone and the context within which it appears are certainly suggestive of the stone of Gazelem.
Our study has revealed a wealth of information about the sources of the Book of Mormon and its author. The author made a conscious attempt to create a sacred history for the Indians, in imitation of the Bible. He not only had a very thorough knowledge of the Bible, but he also relied upon the histories of Josephus, Bede, and Geoffrey of Monmouth, and the writings of Augustine. The author was certainly an enthusiastic student of Roman history and was familiar with the writings of Livy, Caesar, and Plutarch. In addition, he used the works of such writers as Tacitus, Procopius, and Sallust, as well as Herodotus and Virgil. Also he seems to have known Irish and Jewish myths and consulted miscellaneous books, such as Gulliver's Travels, and the Faerie Queene. The military commanders of the Book of Mormon are modeled after such heroes as Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, and they employ tactics and build fortifications very similar to those of the Romans. The Book of Mormon is an extremely complex work, and it must have required a number of years for the author to weave together all of his material into a coherent history.
Ausubel, Nathan, ed. 1948. A Treasury of Jewish Folklore. New York: Crown Publishers.
Bede. 1968. A History of the English Church and People. Rev. ed. Translated by Leo Sherley-Price. Revised by R. E. Latham. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
Bonwick, James. 1894. Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions. Reprint. N.p.: Dorset Press, 1986.
Caesar, Julius. 1976. The Civil War. Translated by Jane F. Gardner. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
-------. 1985. The Battle for Gaul. Translated by Anne and Peter Wiseman. Boston: David R. Godine.
Cheesman, Paul R. 1978. The World of the Book of Mormon. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company.
Defoe, Daniel. 1980. Robinson Crusoe. New York: New American Library, Signet Classic.
Donne, John. 1980. A Meeting in Hell. In The Portable Elizabethan Reader, edited by Hiram Haydn. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
Donnelly, Ignatius. 1882. Atlantis: The Antediluvian World. Reprint. Rev. ed. Edited by Egerton Sykes. New York: Gramercy Publishing Company, 1949.
Eusebius. 1965. The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine. Translated by G. A. Williamson. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
Florian, M. 1916. The Moors in Spain. N.p.: The Superior Printing Company.
Geoffrey of Monmouth. 1963. History of the Kings of Britain. Rev. ed. Translated by Sebastian Evans. Revised by Charles W. Dunn. London: J. M. Dent & Sons, Everyman's Library.
Graves, Robert and Raphael Patai. 1983. Hebrew Myths:The Book of Genesis. New York: Greenwich House.
Herodotus. 1972. Herodotus: The Histories. Translated by Aubrey de Sélincourt. Revised by A. R. Burn. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
Howe, E. D. 1834. Mormonism Unvailed. Reprint. Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, n.d.
Josephus, Flavius. 1974. The Works of Flavius Josephus. 4 vols. Translated by William Whiston. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.
Keynes, Simon and Michael Lapidge, trans. 1983. Alfred the Great. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
Kunz, George Frederick. 1913. The Curious Lore of Precious Stones. Reprint. New York: Dover Publications, 1971.
Laing, Lloyd and Jennifer Laing. 1982. Anglo-Saxon England. London: Paladin Grafton Books.
Lamb, M. T. 1887. The Golden Bible, or, The Book of Mormon; Is it from God? New York: Ward & Drummond.
Livy. 1960. The Early History of Rome. Translated by Aubrey de Sélincourt. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
-------. 1965. The War with Hannibal. Translated by Aubrey de Sélincourt. Edited by Betty Radice. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
-------. 1982. Rome and Italy. Translated by Betty Radice. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
Pliny the Elder. 1991. Natural History: A Selection. Translated by John F. Healy. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
Plutarch. The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans. Translated by John Dryden. Revised by Arthur Hugh Clough. New York: Modern Library, n.d.
-------. 1972. Fall of the Roman Republic: Six Lives by Plutarch. Translated by Rex Warner. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
-------. 1973. The Age of Alexander: Nine Greek Lives by Plutarch. Translated by Ian Scott-Kilvert. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
Polybius. 1979. The Rise of the Roman Empire. Translated by Ian Scott-Kilvert. Selected with an introduction by F. W. Walbank. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
Procopius. 1966. The Secret History. Translated by G. A. Williamson. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
Quinn, D. Michael. 1987. Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. Salt Lake City: Signature Books.
Rabelais, Francois. 1955. The Histories of Gargantua and Pantagruel. Translated by J. M. Cohen. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
Rappoport, Angelo S. 1987. Ancient Israel: Myths and Legends. 3 vols. in 1. New York: Bonanza Books.
Rolleston, T. W. 1986. Celtic. Myths and Legends Series. New York: Avenel Books.
Rousseau, Jean Jacques. 1960. The Social Contract, or Principles of Political Right. Translated by G. D. H. Cole. In The European Philosophers from Descartes to Nietzsche. Edited by Monroe C. Beardsley. New York: The Modern Library.
Sallust. 1963. The Jugurthine War; The Conspiracy of Catiline. Translated by S. A. Handford. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
Suetonius. 1979. The Twelve Caesars. Translated by Robert Graves. Revised by Michael Grant. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
Smith, Joseph. 1984. The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith. Compiled and edited by Dean C. Jessee. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company.
Smith, Lucy. 1880. Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, the Prophet and his Progenitors for Many Generations. Plano, Illinois: Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Spenser, Edmund. 1970. Spenser: Poetical Works. Edited by J. C. Smith and E. de Sélincourt. London: Oxford University Press.
Swift, Jonathan. 1985. Gulliver's Travels. New York: Avenel Books.
Tacitus. 1970. The Agricola and the Germania. Rev. ed. Translated by H. Mattingly and S. A. Handford. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
-------. 1971. The Annals of Imperial Rome. Rev. ed. Translated by Michael Grant. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
-------. 1972. The Histories. Translated by Kenneth Wellesley. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
Thucydides. 1972. History of the Peloponnesian War. Rev. ed. Translated by Rex Warner. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
Virgil. 1958. The Aeneid. Translated by W. F. Jackson Knight. Harmondsworth, Middlesex. England: Penguin Books.
Von Eschenbach, Wolfram. 1980. Parzival. Translated by A. T. Hatto. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
Whalen, William J. 1967. The Latter-day Saints in the Modern Day World: An Account of Contemporary Mormonism. Rev. ed. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press.
Whitmer, David. 1887. An Address to All Believers in Christ. Richmond, Missouri. Reprint. Concord, California: Pacific Publishing Company, 1959.
Xenophon. 1972. The Persian Expedition. Translated by Rex Warner. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.