Book of Mormon Warfare: More Than Meets the Eye
by Raymond C. Treat
Have you heard people say that they don't study the Book of Mormon because they're turned off by all the warfare? One response to this statement is to tell these people not to become offendedat anything in the word of God because this is one way Satan. steals the word of God from us and makes it of no use in our lives (Mark 4:15).
What is a type? A type is a pattern from the past which illustrates principles or future events. Alma gives a good example of a type in his counsel to his son Helaman (Alma 17:78-80 [37:43-45]). He tells him that the compass (liahona) that Lehi and his group relied upon to guide them through the wilderness to the promised land is a type or pattern for the words of Christ which will guide us, if we follow them, through the spiritual wilderness to our land of promise (Zion).
In a sense, a type once discovered may become a prophecy. Some propose that most, if not all, stories in the Bible and the Book of Mormon have been preserved for the purpose of revealing a portion of the plan of God and events in the last days. Therefore, an historic account of warfare in scripture may be viewed as a type for future physical warfare or as a type to illustrate principles of spiritual warfare in all ages.
It is important for us to realize that physical warfare is a type or pattern for spiritual warfare. Through this understanding, the Lord is telling us that now is the time for us to become familiar with the principles of spiritual warfarebecause they will be increasingly needed as we enter into the very last days when the greatest spiritual battles ever will occur. In his tremendous vision of our day, Nephi saw there would be on only two churches--one of God and one of the devil. In other words, an all-out battle with no more middle ground. In the same vein, Section 1 of the Doctrine and Covenants states that in the days just ahead of us Jesus will have power over his own and the devil will have power over his own. This will be the time of the endowment and therefore, a time of great spiritual warfare.
The story of Lachoneus in Third Nephi chapter two is an outstanding example of a type for spiritual warfare, as well as a prophecy of future events. Lachoneus, like chief captain Moroni, is a type for Jesus Christ. The Gaddianton leader, Giddianhi, is a type for Satan. Giddianhi threatens to destroy the Nephites unless they will unite with the robbers. His followers are a type for those who have made a covenant to follow Satan. Those under the leadership of Lachoneus, both Nephites and Lamanites, are a type for those who have made a covenant to follow God. The response of Lachoneus to the Gaddianton threat is to gather all those who are not robbers into one place with provision for seven years (year 16, 3 Nephi 2:1[3:1]). We read in verse 21 [3:16]:
And so great and marvelous were the
words and prophecies of
Lachoneus that they did cause
fear to come upon all the people
And they did exert themselves in
their might to do according to the
words of Lachoneus
The fear in this verse is the fear of the Lord. Most people do not understand the phrase "fear of the Lord," but if you have this kind of fear or reverence for God you also have a covenant with him. All those who have a covenant, and are therefore part of the house of Israel in the last days, will be gathered.
The robbers were forced to attack the people of God "for there was no way that they could subsist, save it were to plunder and rob and murder (v. 46 [4:5]). The same pattern is described in John 10:10: "The thief [Satan] cometh not but for to steal, and to kill and to destroy..."
The Gaddianton robbers were beaten in the greatest battle in the history of the Nephite nation (v. 56 [4:11]). Mormon notes that this battle occurred in the nineteenth year and the sixth month (vv. 49, 55 [4:7, 10]), which places it at the halfway point of the seven-year sequence, which began in year 16. The fact that this specific year is given is unusual in light of the fact that so few dates are given throughout the Nephite history. It is even more unusual that the exact month is given not once but twice.
The greatest battle in the history of the Nephite nation which occurs at the midpoint of a seven-year period and which was preceded by a gathering of all believers to stand against the forces of Satan (the Gaddianton robbers) is no doubt a type or prophecy of end-time events.
The Gaddiantons were finally defeated for good in the seventh year. All of the robbers who would not enter into a covenant to murder no more were killed (vv. 87-88 [5:45], see also Alma 21:70 [46:35]). The forces of Satan were completely removed, which is also a prophecy or type for end times.
This end-time type or prophecy teaches the necessity of making a covenant with God and gathering together with those who have also made their covenant with God.
The Book of Mormon has many more examples of spiritual warfare. As you read the passages containing warfare, ask the Lord to enlarge your understanding of principles of spiritual warfare as well as types which are prophetic for our day. There are many types waiting to be discovered and shared.
This article taken from the Zarahemla Record, issue 65 Jan/Feb 1993