Alma 52

Alma 52:1 the Lamanites awoke on the first morning of the first month

"With remarkable consistency, the Nephite record reports a pattern of seasonality in Nephite warfare. Since wars in pretechnical societies are usually launched at opportune times of the year, the Nephite pattern of warfare tells us something about the seasons and their calendar.

"The beginning and ending of the Nephite year frequently falls around the time of major battles. For example, Alma 44 ends with the defeat of a Lamanite army and the return of Moroni's forces to their houses and their lands: 'Thus ended the eighteenth year of the reign of the judges' (Alma 44:24). When all such dates are tabulated, the distinct pattern emerges that most wars were fought in the eleventh through second months of the year...But virtually no battling took place in months six through ten. Instead, that period was when the mass of part-time soldiers were required to till the ground, 'delivering their women and their children from famine and affliction, and providing food for their armies' (Alma 53:7).

"When the seasons for cultivation and warring in Mesoamerica before the time of Columbus are studied, an equally sharp division is seen. (The schedule is essentially the same anywhere in tropical America, in fact.) The preparation and cultivation of farmlands and other domestic chores went on from about March through October, which constituted the rainy season. Wars began after the harvest and mainly went on during the hot, dry months, November through February. Of course, camping in the field was sensible at this time, and movement was least hampered by the swollen streams or boggy ground common in the other part of the year.

"Putting these two sets of information together, we see that the fighting season referred to in the annals of the wars in the books of Mosiah through Helaman-their months eleven through two-likely coincided approximately with November through February in our calendar. Moreover their new year's day is likely to have fallen near winter solstice (December 21/22), as with many other peoples of the ancient world.

"Interestingly, December was a hot season both in Mesoamerica and in the Book of Mormon, as we read in Alma 51:32-37 and 52:1. Recall that Teancum slew Amalickiah on the Nephite/Lamanite new year's eve as he slept deeply from fatigue 'caused by the labors and heat of the day' (Alma 51:33). In Joseph Smith's New England, of course, New Year's Eve would have been icy.

"If our equation is correct, the Nephite [calendar]...began near our December 22..." (John W. Welch, Reexploring The Book of Mormon, pp. 173-5)

Alma 52:2 when the Lamanites saw this they were affrighted

"There is evidence that the Lamanites also recognized the importance of the New Year in the renewal of kingship. To the Lamanites, the Nephites in the land to the north would have been considered evil adversaries, ripe for destruction. Divinely sanctioned wars were a prominent part of Mayan theology and were often tied to astronomical events or appropriate dates on the ancient calendar...It is therefore no accident that the Lamanite king Amalickiah chose New Year's to engage the Nephites in battle (Alma 51:32-52:1). The Nephite general Teancum took advantage of the situation by slaying Amalickiah on New Year's Eve, precisely when the underworld lords would have been believed to be their strongest. When the Lamanites awoke the following morning, expecting a divinely sanctioned victory, they found instead their king and protector dead. It is no wonder, then, that they fled in terror." (Allen J. Christenson, FARMS: Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 3, 1991, p. 30)

Alma 52:11-14 the Lamanites are upon us in the borders of the land by the west sea

Hugh Nibley

"The Nephites with their inferior numbers were being forced to fight that kind of a war that all commanders dread-a war on two fronts...Things looked very bad indeed for Moroni 'in those dangerous circumstances' (Alma 52:14); here was a situation that would test his skill to the utmost, and he rose to the occasion. First he ordered Teancum to sit tight on his sector while harassing the Lamanites as much as possible and keeping a sharp lookout for any chance opportunity or opening to do them real damage (Alma 52:10)." (Since Cumorah, p. 31)

Alma 52:19 the chief captains held a council of war

Hugh Nibley

"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 set 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 (Alma 52:19-20). 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 (Alma 52:22-25)." (Since Cumorah, p. 314)

 Alma 52:37 If ye will bring forth your weapons of war...we will forbear shedding your blood

Hugh Nibley

"Moroni was especially keen to watch for any slightest tendency of the enemy to give up; he was hypersensitive to that moment in the battle when the enemy falters, and the instant that came, when he sensed they were weakening, he would propose a stop to the fighting to talk things over (Alma 52:37-38). 'We do not desire to be men of blood' (Alma 44:1), he tells them on the battlefield; 'ye are in our hands, yet we do not desire to slay you. . . . We have not come . . . that we might shed your blood for power' (Alma 44:1-3). 'We would not shed the blood of the Lamanites, if they would stay in their own land...' (Alma 60:10-12)." (The Prophetic Book of Mormon, p. 523)