Mormon Chapter 4
1 And now it came to pass that in the three hundred and sixty and third year the Nephites did go up with their armies to battle against the Lamanites, out of the land Desolation.
verse 1 The Nephite armies, as the aggressor, traveled through the narrow pass and entered the Lamanites' lands to do battle against them "out of," or south of the land Desolation.
2 And it came to pass that the armies of the Nephites were driven back again to the land of Desolation. And while they were yet weary, a fresh army of the Lamanites did come upon them; and they had a sore battle, insomuch that the Lamanites did take possession of the city Desolation, and did slay many of the Nephites, and did take many prisoners.
3 And the remainder did flee and join the inhabitants of the city Teancum. Now the city Teancum lay in the borders by the seashore; and it was also near the city Desolation.
verse 3 "Now the city Teancum lay in the borders by the seashore" Again, This phrase suggests that the city of Teancum was located in the mountains ("in the borders") by the seashore, likely the eastern seashore.
4 And it was because the armies of the Nephites went up unto the Lamanites that they began to be smitten; for were it not for that, the Lamanites could have had no power over them.
verse 4 The Nephites had been taught "never to give an offense" (Alma 48:14; Alma 43:46). This teaching had moral and spiritual value as well as tactical value. From a strategic point of view, if the Nephites had maintained a purely defensive strategy they would have been more difficult to defeat. When an army is defending its own land, families, and social structure, the soldiers are more highly motivated. If two opposing armies are evenly matched, the "economy of force" factor favors the defensive strategy. It requires fewer soldiers to man a defensive fortification than attack that same fortification (Warfare in the Book of Mormon, edited by Stephen D. Ricks and William J. Hamblin, 276-77).
5 But, behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed.
verse 5 "it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished" A wicked man is his own worst enemy. Not only does he bring upon himself the judgments of God, but by his wicked deeds he often brings upon himself the wrath of his fellow man and other punitive natural consequences. C. S. Lewis observed:
The possibility of pain is inherent in the very existence of a world where souls can meet. When souls become wicked they will certainly use this possibility to hurt one another; and this, perhaps, accounts for four-fifths of the suffering of men. It is men, not God, who have produced racks, whips, prisons, slavery, guns, bayonets, and bombs; it is by human avarice or human stupidity, not by the churlishness of nature, that we have poverty and overwork (The Problem of Pain, 89).
6 And it came to pass that the Lamanites did make preparations to come against the city Teancum.
7 And it came to pass in the three hundred and sixty and fourth year the Lamanites did come against the city Teancum, that they might take possession of the city Teancum also.
verse 7 One interesting Mesoamerican archaeological note is perhaps pertinent here. During this period in Mesoamerica there was great activity in trade beginning to develop. A major trade route was developing between what is now Mexico and the country of Guatemala. The Nephites were literally in the way of the only major trade route between these two trade centers, as the Nephites lived strategically near the isthmus of Tehuantepec. "Before an adequate trade relationship could be established with Mexico, the Lamanites in Guatemala [land of Nephi] needed to get rid of the tenacious Nephites" (Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, 396).
8 And it came to pass that they were repulsed and driven back by the Nephites. And when the Nephites saw that they had driven the Lamanites they did again boast of their own strength; and they went forth in their own might, and took possession again of the city Desolation.
9 And now all these things had been done, and there had been thousands slain on both sides, both the Nephites and the Lamanites.
10 And it came to pass that the three hundred and sixty and sixth year had passed away, and the Lamanites came again upon the Nephites to battle; and yet the Nephites repented not of the evil they had done, but persisted in their wickedness continually.
11 And it is impossible for the tongue to describe, or for man to write a perfect description of the horrible scene of the blood and carnage which was among the people, both of the Nephites and of the Lamanites; and every heart was hardened, so that they delighted in the shedding of blood continually.
verse 11 Taking pleasure in the shedding of another's blood, is probably the ultimate depth of spiritual depravity. Certainly these Nephites and Lamanites were "past feeling" (1 Nephi 17:45) and hopelessly, spiritually lost.
12 And there never had been so great wickedness among all the children of Lehi, nor even among all the house of Israel, according to the words of the Lord, as was among this people.
13 And it came to pass that the Lamanites did take possession of the city Desolation, and this because their number did exceed the number of the Nephites.
14 And they did also march forward against the city Teancum, and did drive the inhabitants forth out of her, and did take many prisoners both women and children, and did offer them up as sacrifices unto their idol gods.
verse 14 This is the first time human sacrifice is mentioned in the Book of Mormon. This heinous practice continued for the next 1,200 years. When the Spaniards arrived in the Mexico City Valley in AD 1519, they observed this diabolical practice being performed by the Aztecs. Bernal Diaz, a soldier in Cortez's army wrote: "When they sacrifice a wretched Indian they saw open the chest with stone knives and hasten to tear out the palpitating heart and blood, and offer it to their idols, in whose name the sacrifice is made. Then they cut off the thighs, arms, and head and eat the former at feasts and banquets, and the head they hang up on some beams, and the body of the man sacrificed is not eaten but given to these fierce animals" (Bernal Diaz, The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico-1517-1521. Translated by A.P. Maudslay, [Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York: The Noonday Press, 1972]; see also Mormon 4:15; Mormon 4:21 and Moroni 9:10). In addition, evidence for these heinous practices at about the same period of time have been revealed by archaeological excavations (see, for example, Sergio Gomez Chavez, "La funcion social del sacrificio humano en Teotihuacan: Un intento para formalizar su estudio e interpretation," in La epoca clasica: Nuevos Hallazgos, nuevas ideas, ed. Amalia Cardos de Mendez [Mexico: Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, 1990], 147-62; see also Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, 346).
In spite of the Lamanites' horrific practice of human sacrifice, Mormon will later admit, in a letter to his son Moroni, that the Lamanites were no more wicked than his own people (Moroni 9:7-10).
15 And it came to pass that in the three hundred and sixty and seventh year, the Nephites being angry because the Lamanites had sacrificed their women and their children, that they did go against the Lamanites with exceedingly great anger, insomuch that they did beat again the Lamanites, and drive them out of their lands.
verse 15 This would be the last victory the Nephites ever gained over the Lamanites.
16 And the Lamanites did not come again against the Nephites until the three hundred and seventy and fifth year.
17 And in this year they did come down against the Nephites with all their powers; and they were not numbered because of the greatness of their number.
verse 17 "they did come down against the Nephites" You likely have been noticing that the Nephites "go up" to attack the Lamanites, and the Lamanites "go down" or "come down" to attack the Nephites. It is obvious that the Lamanites, generally lived at a higher altitude than the Nephites.
18 And from this time forth did the Nephites gain no power over the Lamanites, but began to be swept off by them even as a dew before the sun.
19 And it came to pass that the Lamanites did come down against the city Desolation; and there was an exceedingly sore battle fought in the land Desolation, in the which they did beat the Nephites.
20 And they fled again from before them, and they came to the city Boaz; and there they did stand against the Lamanites with exceeding boldness, insomuch that the Lamanites did not beat them until they had come again the second time.
21 And when they had come the second time, the Nephites were driven and slaughtered with an exceedingly great slaughter; their women and their children were again sacrificed unto idols.
22 And it came to pass that the Nephites did again flee from before them, taking all the inhabitants with them, both in towns and villages.
23 And now I, Mormon, seeing that the Lamanites were about to overthrow the land, therefore I did go to the hill Shim, and did take up all the records which Ammaron had hid up unto the Lord.