Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Introduction of "To Defend Them By Stratagem"

I thought I'd post the introduction to my new book To Defend Them By Strategem so you could get a sense of how I approached the topic and whether you might find this book helpful or not.


I have always loved the war chapters in the Book of Mormon. Growing up, when my family read the Book of Mormon around the dinner table, I listened with breathless interest to the stories of Captain Moroni, Teancum, and Helaman’s stripling warriors. I reveled in Captain Moroni’s cleverness, Teancum’s intrepidity, and the stripling warriors’ sheer heroism and courage. Every Nephite victory was cause for celebration; every Lamanite victory brought disappointment. 

Multiple reads through the Book of Mormon embedded these stories of victory and defeat deep in my consciousness, and as I grew older I started to wonder why Mormon had decided to write in such detail about the wars when the purpose of the whole book was to testify of Christ’s divinity.

Eventually, I began to understand how the Lord meant for us to learn from those battles. Just as Captain Moroni thought it no sin to defend the Nephites by stratagem, the Lord thought it no sin to use war stories in the scriptures to teach His people strategies to help them recognize and defend against the ugly temptations and sins of world, especially during times when temptations would abound in both blatant and subtle ways.

In the Church, we have a lot to say about the sterling character of Captain Moroni and the stripling warriors, but as a people, we have not yet collectively discovered the wonderful array of battle strategies presented throughout the whole Book of Mormon. So why is this? 

The Church’s Sunday School curriculum calls for the Book of Mormon war chapters, Alma 43-62, to be treated in the space of two lessons. Only 90 minutes every four years is spent to study 19 chapters spanning 52 pages, giving us less than two minutes per page. There is not enough time to cover the material in the manuals, and the manuals only cover a fraction of what could be discussed. The Church focuses on teaching fundamental gospel principles while trusting and encouraging members to learn more through focused individual study. 

Still, because of the cursory attention of the church manuals, it is tempting to treat the war stories lightly. Some members see the derring-do only as thrilling entertainment, while other particularly peace-loving members are disgusted with all the violence and struggle to find any redeeming qualities in the chapters beyond the heroes of Captain Moroni, Teancum, Helaman, and the stripling warriors.

While I know that sooner or later members of the Church will individually be led to understand the treasures hidden in the stories of war, I also believe that I can do a service by speeding up the process. The battle strategies are of key importance; they are a big part of what made the Book of Mormon heroes the mighty men they were, and unless we can learn to recognize and master the strategies they used and defend effectively against attacks the way they did, we can never hope to reach their stature.

The events of the war chapters in Alma 43-62 are filtered through the eyes of not just one prophet-general, but two—Helaman and Mormon. In his record, Helaman featured events he found important in his day, and then centuries later, Mormon made his abridgement from Helaman’s record. The years between Helaman and Mormon probably gave Mormon valuable perspective, allowing him to better interpret for our edification the events Helaman recorded.

Many have observed that we are not in a war of physical violence; we are in a spiritual war for souls in which no holds are barred. Satan has had all of human history to learn the most effective ways to attack. We need to make a tactical science of spiritual survival in these last days, and there is no better way to do it than to learn from history by studying the war strategies in the Book of Mormon. Every tactic and strategy of field warfare has its spiritual equivalent, so we don’t have to be a member of the military to apply them in life. 

In this book, you will learn about tactics that Satan uses against us. You will learn about tactics you can use to defend yourself. You also will learn strategies that will allow you to go on the offensive. 

You may begin this book with the notion that Nephite tactics are always good and Lamanite tactics are always bad. This notion is comforting, but it effectively halves the usefulness of the war accounts. We can easily compare how the Nephites defend themselves to how we should defend ourselves against Satan, but we can also examine how the Lamanites’ failed defenses show us where our weak spots are. Also, we are used to comparing Lamanite attacks to Satan’s attacks, but we also can learn how the Nephites’ successful attacks to regain cities might be similar to ways Satan attacks us today.

Structure of the book

We will begin where war starts to appear in the Book of Mormon record—at the Words of Mormon as Mormon describes some of the struggles of King Benjamin. The chapters are in the order that the stories and incidents appear in the Book of Mormon, so if you are fairly familiar with the sequence of events as you read from front to back in the Book of Mormon, you will be able to follow fairly well. 

This book is broken up into chapters, each of which talk about important strategies we can learn from war in the Book of Mormon. Some of them start out by examining features of battles or incidents that seem a bit puzzling or that don’t seem to make sense. Most of the chapters are fairly short and can be read quickly. The very last chapter is a longer, detailed examination of how the war chapters reveal ways we can defend ourselves against the increasing threat of pornography.

Assumptions and Speculation

There are some times when I will make assumptions or speculate about how things were in Book of Mormon times. It is my attempt to “fill in the holes,” so to speak. You will recognize that I have made some speculative assumptions when I say something “may have” or “probably” happened a certain way. In each case, I will explain how I arrived at each conclusion. Caveats and provisos aside, ONWARD, Christian soldiers! (Author waves sword above head)

Amazon paperback ($12.99)