Alma Chapter 52
Alma 52 Captain Moroni and Teancum win an important battle over a powerful Lamanite army led by a Zoramite Captain named Jacob-they decoy him out of his stronghold in the city of Mulek.
1 And now, it came to pass in the twenty and sixth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, behold, when the Lamanites awoke on the first morning of the first month, behold, they found Amalickiah was dead in his own tent; and they also saw that Teancum was ready to give them battle on that day.
verse 1 Obviously the charismatic Amalickiah had held together this Lamanite army by the force of his personality. His death led to immediate demoralization and despair, and panic began to spread among his troops. Regarding the technique of leadership of the Lamanite rulers, it has been observed: "They seem to have depended more on charisma or compulsion than on shared tradition or ideals" (John L. Sorenson, "Book of Mormon Peoples." Encyclopedia of Mormonism, volume 1).
2 And now, when the Lamanites saw this they were affrighted; and they abandoned their design in marching into the land northward, and retreated with all their army into the city of Mulek, and sought protection in their fortifications.
3 And it came to pass that the brother of Amalickiah was appointed king over the people; and his name was Ammoron; thus king Ammoron, the brother of king Amalickiah, was appointed to reign in his stead.
4 And it came to pass that he did command that his people should maintain those cities, which they had taken by the shedding of blood; for they had not taken any cities save they had lost much blood.
5 And now, Teancum saw that the Lamanites were determined to maintain those cities which they had taken, and those parts of the land which they had obtained possession of; and also seeing the enormity of their number, Teancum thought it was not expedient that he should attempt to attack them in their forts.
6 But he kept his men round about, as if making preparations for war; yea, and truly he was preparing to defend himself against them, by casting up walls round about and preparing places of resort.
verse 6 "places of resort" In this context, a place of resort is a defensive retreat, somewhere the people might go for safety and security.
7 And it came to pass that he kept thus preparing for war until Moroni had sent a large number of men to strengthen his army.
8 And Moroni also sent orders unto him that he should retain all the prisoners who fell into his hands; for as the Lamanites had taken many prisoners, that he should retain all the prisoners of the Lamanites as a ransom for those whom the Lamanites had taken.
verse 8 Part of the strength of the Lamanite army lay in the vast numbers of troops. On the other hand the Nephite armies were smaller and more efficient. Thus each individual soldier was more vital to the Nephite army than was each man to the Lamanite army.
9 And he also sent orders unto him that he should fortify the land Bountiful, and secure the narrow pass which led into the land northward, lest the Lamanites should obtain that point and should have power to harass them on every side.
verse 9 Keep in mind the previously emphasized vital nature of the city of Bountiful as a fortification of the northeastern border of Nephite territory. Its purpose was to restrict access to the land northward and to keep the Nephites from becoming boxed in by the Lamanites (Alma 22:29; Alma 22:33; Alma 50:32-34; Alma 51:28-32; Alma 52:9; Helaman 1:23; Helaman 1:28; Helaman 4:6-7).
For a discussion of the "narrow pass" see the commentary for Alma 50:34.
10 And Moroni also sent unto him, desiring him that he would be faithful in maintaining that quarter of the land, and that he would seek every opportunity to scourge the Lamanites in that quarter, as much as was in his power, that perhaps he might take again by stratagem or some other way those cities which had been taken out of their hands; and that he also would fortify and strengthen the cities round about, which had not fallen into the hands of the Lamanites.
verse 10 To "scourge" is to punish or inflict injury upon. Moroni commanded Teancum to look for opportunities to harass the Lamanites as much as possible and perhaps even a chance to damage them significantly.
"in that quarter" Apparently during this period the greater land of Zarahemla was divided into quarters. Teancum would now be working in the Bountiful quarter or northeast quarter (see also Alma 52:13; Alma 53:8; Alma 58:35). We also have reference to a Manti quarter or southwest quarter (Alma 43:25-26; Alma 56:1-2; Alma 56:9; Alma 58:30). Moroni was in another "part" of the land (Alma 59:5-6), and may well have been their way of referring to the southeast quarter. We have no particular reference to the northwestern quarter though we might speculate that it might have been referred to as the Ammonihah or Noah quarter.
11 And he also said unto him, 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.
12 Now, the king (Ammoron) had departed out of the land of Zarahemla, and had made known unto the queen concerning the death of his brother, and had gathered together a large number of men, and had marched forth against the Nephites on the borders by the west sea.
verse 12 Apparently Ammoron had been present in the land Bountiful when his brother was killed. He then immediately left to return to the land of Nephi and inform the queen, Amalickiah's widow, of the king's death. Once there, Ammoron gathered a powerful Lamanite army and advanced upon the southwest quadrant of the land of Zarahemla. Obviously Ammoron's strategy was to undermine the Nephite effectiveness in battle by forcing them to fight on two fronts.
13 And thus he was endeavoring to harass the Nephites, and to draw away a part of their forces to that part of the land, while he had commanded those whom he had left to possess the cities which he had taken, that they should also harass the Nephites on the borders by the east sea, and should take possession of their lands as much as it was in their power, according to the power of their armies.
verse 13 "to draw away a part of their forces to that part of the land" Ammoron's strategy was to draw part of the Nephite army away from the eastern territories into the southwest quadrant.
"he had commanded those whom he had left to possess the cities which he had taken" Ammoron had left his forces in the area near the east sea in order to return to the land of Nephi. He desired these forces to harass those Nephite easterners and continue to take over and hold their lands as they were able.
14 And thus were the Nephites in those dangerous circumstances in the ending of the twenty and sixth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi.
verse 14 The "dangerous circumstances" were created by the Nephites' having to fight on two separate fronts.
15 But behold, it came to pass in the twenty and seventh year of the reign of the judges, that Teancum, by the command of Moroni-who had established armies to protect the south and the west borders of the land, and had begun his march towards the land Bountiful, that he might assist Teancum with his men in retaking the cities which they had lost-
16 And it came to pass that Teancum had received orders to make an attack upon the city of Mulek, and retake it if it were possible.
17 And it came to pass that Teancum made preparations to make an attack upon the city of Mulek, and march forth with his army against the Lamanites; but he saw that it was impossible that he could overpower them while they were in their fortifications; therefore he abandoned his designs and returned again to the city Bountiful, to wait for the coming of Moroni, that he might receive strength to his army.
18 And it came to pass that Moroni did arrive with his army at the land of Bountiful, in the latter end of the twenty and seventh year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi.
19 And in the commencement of the twenty and eighth year, Moroni and Teancum and many of the chief captains held a council of war-what they should do to cause the Lamanites to come out against them to battle; or that they might by some means flatter them out of their strongholds, that they might gain advantage over them and take again the city of Mulek.
verse 19 William J. Hamblin provides insight on this verse: "Actual battlefield operations usually represented only a small portion of a campaign. Scouts and spies reconnoitered for food, trails, and the location of enemy troops. Battle plans were generally made shortly before the enemy was encountered and frequently took the form of a council, as Moroni held in Alma 52:19" ("Book of Mormon, History of Warfare" In, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, volume 1).
20 And it came to pass they sent embassies to the army of the Lamanites, which protected the city of Mulek, to their leader, whose name was Jacob, desiring him that he would come out with his armies to meet them upon the plains between the two cities. But behold, Jacob, who was a Zoramite, would not come out with his army to meet them upon the plains.
verse 20 Hugh Nibley provides helpful insight into this verse and those which follow:
But how was a major city, superbly fortified by Moroni's own foresight, to be taken? The first step was a logical one. It was the ancient custom of warfare to invite the occupants of a city to come out on the open plain and engage in a fair contest, or, as the Nephites put it, "upon fair grounds"; the Nephite commanders in issuing such an invitation to the comfortably ensconced opposition hardly expected the Lamanites to comply with a request so disadvantageous to themselves, but they thought it was worth a try and at any rate it was the conventional thing to do. Their next move was to try a decoy trick. Teancum allowed the Lamanites to discover a task-force of his moving along the coast and to give it chase; Moroni then slipped into the city behind them and overpowered the defenders, characteristically sparing all who yielded up their arms (verses 22-25). Then he too took the coast route on the heels of the Lamanites who were chasing Teancum. As a secondary diversion a small Nephite force under the [feared commander] Lehi had issued out of the main base at Bountiful and met the Lamanites head on (verse 27). Confused by this new development, the Lamanites sought counsel in safety by returning to Mulek, even as it occurred to them with a shock that in dashing forth they had left that city only lightly defended; and so their return to Mulek turned into a wild race with the Nephites to see who would get there first (verse 27-28). Bent only on reaching home-base in safety, the exhausted Lamanites with Lehi hot behind them ran smack into Moroni's army coming up behind them. That was the last straw (verses 28-32) (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, volume 7, 314-15).
21 And it came to pass that 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.
22 Therefore he caused that Teancum should take a small number of men and march down near the seashore; and Moroni and his army, by night, marched in the wilderness, on the west of the city Mulek; and thus, on the morrow, when the guards of the Lamanites had discovered Teancum, they ran and told it unto Jacob, their leader.
23 And it came to pass that the armies of the Lamanites did march forth against Teancum, supposing by their numbers to overpower Teancum because of the smallness of his numbers. And as Teancum saw the armies of the Lamanites coming out against him he began to retreat down by the seashore, northward.
24 And it came to pass that when the Lamanites saw that he began to flee, they took courage and pursued them with vigor. And while Teancum was thus leading away the Lamanites who were pursuing them in vain, behold, Moroni commanded that a part of his army who were with him should march forth into the city, and take possession of it.
25 And thus they did, and slew all those who had been left to protect the city, yea, all those who would not yield up their weapons of war.
26 And thus Moroni had obtained possession of the city Mulek with a part of his army, while he marched with the remainder to meet the Lamanites when they should return from the pursuit of Teancum.
27 And it came to pass that the Lamanites did pursue Teancum until they came near the city Bountiful, and then they were met by Lehi and a small army, which had been left to protect the city Bountiful.
28 And now behold, when the chief captains of the Lamanites had beheld Lehi with his army coming against them, they fled in much confusion, lest perhaps they should not obtain the city Mulek before Lehi should overtake them; for they were wearied because of their march, and the men of Lehi were fresh.
29 Now the Lamanites did not know that Moroni had been in their rear with his army; and all they feared was Lehi and his men.
30 Now Lehi was not desirous to overtake them till they should meet Moroni and his army.
31 And it came to pass that before the Lamanites had retreated far they were surrounded by the Nephites, by the men of Moroni on one hand, and the men of Lehi on the other, all of whom were fresh and full of strength; but the Lamanites were wearied because of their long march.
32 And Moroni commanded his men that they should fall upon them until they had given up their weapons of war.
verse 32 Here is further running commentary from Hugh Nibley on this verse and the few which follow:
With his usual forbearance, Moroni waived total victory and spared all the Lamanites who would stop fighting him. But their leader was Jacob, a Zoramite who hated the Nephites as only a dissenter could hate; with an elite guard he tried to fight his way out of the sack but died in the attempt (verses 34-35). Moroni immediately offered the usual easy terms to his followers: "Now Moroni seeing their confusion, he said unto them: If ye will bring forth your weapons of war and deliver them up, behold we will forbear shedding your blood" (verse 37). Even so, those who would not surrender were not killed but disarmed, bound, and marched off to the great central prison compound at Bountiful (verse 39). The prisoner of war problem was now becoming a very serious one for the Nephites. Their best solution was to put their prisoners to work, apparently because it was easy to guard them while at their labor, and because the Nephites were frightfully short of manpower (Alma 53:1). The work was mainly the conversion of Bountiful into a very strong "stalag" [a military camp established to manage prisoners of war], with ditch and breastwork, more of Moroni's ingenuity (Alma 53:3-5) (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, volume 7, 315).
33 And it came to pass that Jacob, being their leader, being also a Zoramite, and having an unconquerable spirit, he led the Lamanites forth to battle with exceeding fury against Moroni.
34 Moroni being in their course of march, therefore Jacob was determined to slay them and cut his way through to the city of Mulek. But behold, Moroni and his men were more powerful; therefore they did not give way before the Lamanites.
verse 34 Obviously Jacob was almost desperate to get back to the safety and security of Mulek with his weary troops. Moroni and his army stood in the way.
35 And it came to pass that they fought on both hands with exceeding fury; and there were many slain on both sides; yea, and Moroni was wounded and Jacob was killed.
36 And Lehi pressed upon their rear with such fury with his strong men, that the Lamanites in the rear delivered up their weapons of war; and the remainder of them, being much confused, knew not whither to go or to strike.
verse 36 "knew not whither to go or to strike" These Lamanites, in their confusion, could not decide whether to retreat or to stay and fight.
37 Now Moroni seeing their confusion, he said unto them: If ye will bring forth your weapons of war and deliver them up, behold we will forbear shedding your blood.
38 And it came to pass that when the Lamanites had heard these words, their chief captains, all those who were not slain, came forth and threw down their weapons of war at the feet of Moroni, and also commanded their men that they should do the same.
39 But behold, there were many that would not; and those who would not deliver up their swords were taken and bound, and their weapons of war were taken from them, and they were compelled to march with their brethren forth into the land Bountiful.
verse 39 Those who would not surrender were not killed but disarmed, bound, and marched off to the Nephites' central prison camp at Bountiful.
40 And now the number of prisoners who were taken exceeded more than the number of those who had been slain, yea, more than those who had been slain on both sides.