Friday, August 19, 2016

Some thoughts on Lehi’s army shielding and attacking

35 And as the Lamanites had passed the hill Riplah, and came into the valley, and began to cross the river Sidon, the army which was concealed on the south of the hill, which was led by a man whose name was Lehi, and he led his army forth and encircled the Lamanites about on the east in their rear.
36 And it came to pass that the Lamanites, when they saw the Nephites coming upon them in their rear, turned them about and began to contend with the army of Lehi.
37 And the work of death commenced on both sides, but it was more dreadful on the part of the Lamanites, for their nakedness was exposed to the heavy blows of the Nephites with their swords and their cimeters, which brought death almost at every stroke.
38 While on the other hand, there was now and then a man fell among the Nephites, by their swords and the loss of blood, they being shielded from the more vital parts of the body, or the more vital parts of the body being shielded from the strokes of the Lamanites, by their breastplates, and their armshields, and their head-plates; and thus the Nephites did carry on the work of death among the Lamanites. (Ama 43:35-38)
In these verses is described how the army leader Lehi encircled the invading Lamanites in the rear, which forced them to turn and fight, and how the unarmored Lamanites were killed at almost every stroke while the armored Nephites only occasionally fell from the loss of blood.

It hit me that there are several strategies used here that are often missed.

First, Lehi’s men attacked the rear of the Lamanite army. It is possible the Lamanites front-loaded their greatest and most confident warriors and put the weakest at the back. If so, then attacking their rear gave Lehi’s men an advantage and not just that of surprise.

Second, it says the Lamanites were exposed and nearly every Nephite blow brought death, but the Nephites only fell every once in a while because the more vital parts of their bodies were shielded by armor.   Now, I don’t know about you, but this gives me a peculiar-but-impressive idea of what a clash between Nephite and Lamanite looked like. They approach, they swing at each other, the Nephite sword connects once, and the Lamanite falls. This is different from our perhaps cinema-informed ideas of combat in which swords clash against each other, one attacking, another parrying, causing it to take time and effort to push through the opponents guard. 

If the Nephite can kill a Lamanite almost with every stroke, then the Lamanite swords aren’t stopping the Nephite swords.  And if the Lamanite swords aren’t stopping the attack, then the Lamanites are either incompetent at defense, or they are trying to do something different.  Perhaps making their own attack.

This suggests a different way of doing battle than we might be used to. Perhaps the Nephites did not parry or block their opponents’ weapons. Perhaps when they raised their swords, they avoided the Lamanite swords and went straight for the kill-strike at the same time that the Lamanites were trying to hit them back.  It may even be that they allowed the Lamanites to hit them and trusted the armor to protect them. While the Lamanites struck, they struck the Lamanites. Since the Lamanites had no armor, every blow was guaranteed to do damage.  (Swords in Mesoamerica consisted of many obsidian blades struck along both edges of a club. One swipe across the neck with one of those babies shreds open your enemy’s jugular vein and death comes quickly.)

This teaches us about the importance of putting on the armor of God. Otherwise, every temptation that hits us, we will give in, and that brings spiritual death.  The odd way the Nephites fought also says something about how to hit back at the temptations.  If temptations entice with a twisted combination of truth and lie, strike directly at the lie. Hit it hard with the truth you know. (And if you don’t know what the lie is, pray hard for revelation and power to resist and for discernment. The Spirit will eventually show you where the lie is.)