They Take Up the Sword
The Great Open Spaces1
My dear Professor F.:
If my insistent harping on central Asia annoys you, let me remind you again that the book of Ether gives us no choice. It never lets us forget that what the Jaredite kings did was a conscious imitation and unbroken continuation of the ways of “the ancients,” of “them of old” on the other side of the water. This, incidentally, is another indication that we are not to regard the Jaredite migration as taking place immediately after the flood, for the fall of the tower saw the destruction of an ancient and established order. The Jaredites left their homeland driving great herds of cattle before them in the immemorial Asiatic manner, and even if they had never been nomads before, they certainly lived the life of the steppes during those many years before they set sail (Ether 3:3), and when they embarked, they crammed all they could of their beasts into their small boats, “flocks and herds” and other beasts (Ether 6:4), and upon reaching the New World continued to cultivate “all manner of cattle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep” just as their ancestors had in the old country (Ether 9:18). Nothing could be better calculated to keep the Old World ways alive than those notoriously conservative secret societies which Ether always traces back to “the oaths of the ancients” and which at all times have exerted a fatal attraction on the men of Asia. We have already noted that such secret abominations are the necessary product of society in which social ties may be easily broken. The political history of the Jaredites clearly betrays in all its aspects the ways of the “space people.”
Jaredite history in the New World was formally inaugurated by a general assembly and census of the entire nation (Ether 6:19), a thoroughly Asiatic practice which goes back to the days of prehistoric hunters and which lies at the root of all ancient political organization, as I have demonstrated in a number of articles.2 Strictly in accordance with the ancient pattern, this assembly was the occasion for the choosing of a king, and the establishment of a dynasty, which as the brother of Jared clearly foresaw, could only lead straight to the slough of Old World intrigue and turmoil from which the Jaredites had already been once delivered (Ether 6:23). He was right, for presently one Corihor “rebelled against his father, and went over and dwelt in the land of Nehor; . . . and . . . drew away many people after him” (Ether 7:4). Then he went back to the land of Moron and captured his father, but was subdued by his righteous brother Shule who achieved an ambition of every Asiatic monarch to “spread his kingdom upon all the face of the land” (Ether 7:11).3 Shule then gave his capable brother and erstwhile rival “power in his kingdom” (Ether 7:13), a surprising but quite authentic touch, from which it appears that emirs shared in the immense task of ruling the empire, as in Asia. Shule’s grandson “rebelled against his father, and came and dwelt in the land of Heth,” drawing people away until he had gained half the kingdom (Ether 8:2). His deposed father “departed out of the land with his family, and traveled many days” to reach the place where later the Nephites were to be destroyed; from there he continued eastward until he reached the sea (Ether 9:3), where he lived in tents and was joined in time by other refugees from his distracted kingdom (Ether 9:9), where civil war had reduced the population almost to zero—another Asiatic touch as we shall see. Years later, when the royal brothers Shared and Coriantumr fought for the kingdom, the latter beat his brother, “did pursue him to the wilderness of Akish,” where the two armies raided each other by night and “did lay siege to the wilderness,” until Coriantumr emerged victor, chased his brother’s successor to the seashore only to be beaten in turn and pursued back to the wilderness of Akish, taking “all the people with him as he fled before Lib” (Ether 14:15). More battles and another pursuit to the coast (Ether 14:26), thence to the waters of Ripliancum, then southward to camp in Ogath, thence to the Hill Ramah for the showdown.
This sampling should give you a picture of the peculiar warfare of the Jaredites, a war of motion with no set frontiers, great armies sweeping over the continent in flight or pursuit, making the most of space by continually falling back on this or that “wilderness,” setting up rival camps for a period of a year or two, while dissenting groups or individuals join themselves to one army or another. It is Asia all over again, and it calls for a geographical note.
The North American continent is a rough copy of the Asiatic, with tundra and forest in the north giving way to open grasslands, deserts, and finally tropical jungles in the south. The main difference is that in Asia everything is bigger: the forests and plains seem never ending; the deserts are wider, hotter and drier; the mountains far higher and more forbidding; the jungles deeper and more dangerous; the rivers wider and deeper. And yet these formidable barriers have not prevented the rapid and ceaseless marches and countermarches of mighty armies in every age. One of the earliest of Aryan texts is the prayer: “May we go smoothly along the roads, find good pathways in the mountains, run easily through the forests, and cross happily the rivers!”4 During one campaign, we are told, the army of Juji “was separated by only about 1200 miles” from the main body of Mongols.5 That should give some idea of the distances covered by these hordes that would winter in the plains of France or Hungary and make their summer camps in the Altai or on the Onon River almost within sight of the North Pacific. It was not all flat plains, either, for the kings of the steppes extended their rule time and again to China, India, Persia, Asia Minor, Europe, and Siberia, which meant regularly traversing the greatest deserts, highest mountains, and widest rivers on earth.
The Asiatic state consists of two main elements, on the one hand a sedentary populace living in oasis-cities and bringing the arts, industry, and agriculture to sometimes astonishing peaks of perfection, and on the other hand a migratory ruler, moving at the head of his warlike host—a tribal army of conquerors with his own tribe and family as its nucleus—ever marching from city to city and from castle to castle over burning wastes or freezing mountain passes to overawe the world, stifle rebellion, and above all curtail the ambitions of any possible rival to world dominion.6 This army is a moving nation, with its wives and children—the Mongols when they left their families behind inaugurated a radical change in steppe warfare, achieving a speed and mobility that quickly paralyzed the slower-moving hordes of their rivals, who still observed the old-fashioned custom of marching with their families and household effects. The Hyksos in the eighteenth century B.C., and the People of the Sea 500 years later were just such nations on the march—a devastating army, but an army carrying all their goods and families along with them as they sought new lands to settle, sweeping “off the inhabitants of the land, all who would not join with them,” exactly in the Jaredite manner (Ether 14:27).7 At all times among the people of the steppes “the nation and the army are one and the same; the lord of the clan or rex becoming duke or vovoid” in battle.8 This is certainly the case with the Jaredites, whose kings are before everything leaders in the field, and who go to battle “with their wives and their children—both men, women, and children being armed with weapons of war, having shields, and breastplates, and being clothed after the manner of war” (Ether 15:15). The armor deserves mention, since it is now known that armor is another central Asiatic invention of great antiquity, borrowed in later times by Europe and the Far East, but reaching a high state of perfection on the steppes in prehistoric times.9
Since the Jaredite kings with their migratory armies were constantly on the move in the best Asiatic manner, is there any reason why they should not have covered Asiatic distances? Then why all the fuss about Cumorah? From the Narrow Neck of Land to New York state is a distance that staggers us, but for Juji or Timur it would be a milk-run. Because we think of journeys in terms of hours or days at the most, we are liable to forget that people who never stop moving think of space not in terms of time but of stages, and that when it is broken down into stages the longest route on earth becomes negotiable even to the most primitive means of transportation—in a word, distance is no object. A glance at the map will show that the vast extent of territory possibly covered by the Jaredites is really rather moderate by Asiatic standards. The Brigham Young Academy Expedition of 1900 went from Provo to Panama in a remarkably short time, though poorly equipped by any standards.10
When King Omer was overthrown by his son Jared he had to travel “many days” before he was beyond the reach of the usurper who had seized a kingdom that was “spread upon all the face of the land” (Ether 9:3; 7:11). In fact he fled as far as he possibly could, to regions which were to become the classic hiding and fighting grounds of the latest Jaredites. It is in the field that we must seek the bones and burial mounds of the Jaredites, but not in their cities. Just as the great structures of the Mongols, among the noblest buildings on earth, are to be found in the south and west, far from the primordial hunting and fighting grounds of the tribes, so the great monuments of Jaredite civilization abound in the lands of the south that they first settled rather than in the wilderness of the last great battles. One of the strange paradoxes of history is that the nomads of the steppes were perhaps the greatest builders of all time, though their normal type of “city” was “more suggestive of an ordo-like tent-city than a town in the usual sense.”11 In the lands that the Mongol conquers he builds Taj Mahals and Jehols, but in his own lands the “winds clean up the place which he has soiled, the pastures which his flocks have cropped grow greener than ever, and Nature promptly repairs all the mischief he has done to her clean orderliness,”12 and so “mighty nomad empires rose and vanished into the unknown” without a trace.13 The thing to note is that in the Asiatic pattern camp culture, which leaves no mark behind, and city culture have been characteristically sponsored by the same tribes and rulers since the beginning of history. That people should live as nomads and yet build great cities is no more contradictory than that they should be both hunters and farmers or both herdsmen and merchants at one and the same time. But from the first men have preferred to practise hunting, grazing, and farming in special areas set aside for the purpose, a custom duly observed by the Jaredites, as we have seen (Ether 10:19—21).14 A study of the old Asiatic system will provide a ready explanation for any apparent difficulties in locating Cumorah in lands far from the Jaredite center.
The normal life of Asia is one of chaos, violence, and insecurity produced by constant warring between the tribes and rivalry among ambitious men within them. From time to time a super-man appears who, first gaining complete control of one tribe, ruthlessly crushes his neighbors one by one, forcing the survivors to make common cause against him and form a great coalition; a final showdown in which this coalition is either destroyed or victorious in a great “battle of the nations” decides the fate of the world for generations to come. If the great man wins, the world knows a period of enforced peace and unity under the absolute sway of one iron will. At any moment in his career the world-conqueror has to face one particular rival, his most dangerous rival of the hour, against whom his whole attention is directed with passionate personal hatred and dedicated fury. This can be shown from almost any page of the life of any would-be cosmocrat from Sargon to Hitler. It is the leitmotif of Jaredite history as well, which whenever it becomes coherent crystallizes about the person of some dreadful but competent warrior pitted against an equally alarming rival. While “Coriantumr dwelt with his army in the wilderness for the space of two years, in which he did receive strength to his army,” his opponent Shared “also received strength to his army” through the operation of “secret combination.” Later Coriantumr pitched his tents by the Hill Ramah and spent four years “gathering together the people” (Ether 14:7—8; 15:11—14). Just so Jenghiz Khan hid out in the wilderness for two years recruiting an army against his relative Wang Khan, who was doing the same thing, and later devoted four years to building up an army to meet the emperor of Khwarizm, who worked feverishly to build up his army, each doing everything in his power to “draw off” his enemy’s supporters to his own side.15
This system of “drawing off” is, as we have noted before, very ancient in Asia. There is even a special Arabic word for it—jadhab. “From whom shall I take away . . . the awful sovereignty?” asks Mithra in the Avesta, which is full of legendary heroes who draw off each other’s followers.16 The gathering of rival forces is regularly accompanied, as in the Book of Mormon, by exchange of personal letters between the chiefs and the sending of formal challenges: “Let the Shanyu come to the south and either meet the emperor in open battle or else become a subject and pay reverence to the Imperial throne” is a typical example.17 Jealousy and ambition, says Xenophon, are the essence of Asiatic kingship, which is an intensely personal thing; he describes how Croesus and Cyrus each devoted every ounce of energy and treasure gathering together huge conglomerate armies to fight it out for the rule of all Asia.18 How intensely personal this rivalry was has been recounted in the unforgettable pages of Herodotus. In the Egyptian annals Pharaoh alone is the only victor and the only hero, and the issue of every war is simply his personal argument with the opposing monarch.19 Every king of Babylonia or Assyria performs all of his tremendous feats single-handed, as the monuments explain, and makes it a point to report that his majesty personally dispatched the rival king: “In the midst of that battle my own hand captured Kashtilash, the Kassite king.” “Against [the king] himself, at the point of the spear, unto the setting of the sun I waged battle.” 20 This last vividly recalls the Book of Mormon picture of Shiz and Coriantumr hacking away at each other until nightfall (Ether 15:20—29). The actual exploits of a Sargon, Cyrus, Thothmes III, or Rameses II, moreover, give us to understand that the personal combat between kings was no mere hollow boast but actually took place.
Since every war was a personal combat between two kings, it was customary for them to challenge each other to single combat. The king of the Scythians sent his challenge to the king of the Massagetae and also to the great Darius, whose father exchanged challenges with an earlier queen of the Massagetae; the king of the Visigoths challenged the Emperor Honorius to single combat as King Lazarus of Servia did Amurath the Turk, and so on.21 I need not point out at this date that the whole system of chivalric etiquette originates on the steppes of Asia. The Great Khans when their rivals were captured in battle would personally behead them, as Chinese generals still do other Chinese generals. 22 Queen Tomyris not only beheaded Cyrus, according to the legend, but mad with hatred sloshed his head around in a skin filled with blood.23 It was common among the rulers of the steppes to convert the skull of a personal enemy into a drinking cup, as the emperor of the Bulgars did with the skull of the Emperor Nicephorus, and the king of the Hiung-nu did of the top-piece of the ruler of Iran. The ancient Ukrainians would take their oaths by drinking blood from such vessels.24 The Assyrian rulers collect the skins of rival monarchs, as the Ja Lama did in our own day.25
We have dwelt at unsavory length on these gory details because it is necessary to explain what the book of Ether is about. The grim ferocity with which the rulers of Asia concentrate all their wrath against the person of a rival king belongs to the Jaredite tradition: “And it came to pass that Coriantumr was exceedingly angry with Shared, and he went against him . . . to battle; and they did meet in great anger” (Ether 13:27). And “when Shiz had received his epistle, he wrote an epistle unto Coriantumr, that if he would give himself up, that he might slay him with his own sword, that he would spare the lives of the people” (Ether 15:5). During the battle that ensued, “Shiz arose, and also his men, and he swore in his wrath that he would slay Coriantumr, or he would perish by the sword” (Ether 15:28). What these men seek before everything else is not power or victory but a settlement with a personal rival.
Wars of Extermination
Both Shiz and Coriantumr as they moved about on their endless campaigns “swept off the inhabitants before them, all they that would not join them” (Ether 14:17). This is the classic Asiatic method of forced recruiting: “If the neighbouring province to that which they invade will not aid them,” says an eyewitness of the Tartar technique, “they waste it, and with the inhabitants, whom they take with them, they proceed to fight against the other province. They place their captives in the front of the battle, and if they fight not courageously put them to the sword.”26 In such a way the Asiatic war-lords from the beginning “[swept] the earth before [them]” like Shiz (Ether 14:18), and like the Communist hordes of our day, forcing all that lay in their path to become part of them. “I counted them among my people,” says the Assyrian conqueror of one nation after another, and this ancient formula would seem to go back to our old friend Nimrod, whom popular superstition saw reincarnated in Jenghiz Khan as he “became a mighty hunter,” according to Carpini. “He learned to steal men, and to take them for prey. He ranged into other countries taking as many captives as he could, and joining them to himself,” as Nimrod had done by awful oaths.27 This system of “sweeping the earth” explains how it was possible for small and obscure Asiatic tribes to rise very quickly to be conquerors of all Asia and most of Europe: The tribe that gave its name to the conquering hordes was merely the nucleus of an army which snowballed into a world-army by forced recruiting of all it met.
A great deal has been written about the calculated Schrecklichkeit of the great conquerors, especially Jenghiz Khan, whose practices have been condoned by recent biographers on the grounds that there is no better weapon than terror to soften up opposition, provoke early surrender, and thus save lives. Certainly terror is the keynote of Asiatic warfare in which its “contempt for human life,”28 and the boast of an Assyrian king might be echoed by many an ancient and modern successor: “I marched victoriously, like a mad dog, spreading terror, and I met no conqueror.”29 Being a mad dog seems to us a poor thing to boast of, but the terror was carefully calculated. Shiz would have understood, as in his pursuit of Coriantumr “he did slay both women and children, and he did burn the cities. And there went a fear of Shiz throughout all the land; yea, a cry went forth throughout the land—Who can stand before the army of Shiz? Behold, he sweepeth the earth before him!” (Ether 14:17—18). When Coriantumr gained a victory, it was his turn to be the terror of the earth, and “the people began to be frightened, and began to flee before the armies of Coriantumr” (Ether 14:27).
An important by-product of the Asiatic-Jaredite system of rallying armies and absorbing nations is an efflorescence of robber bands on all the face of the land. All who will not join the great armies are put to death, as we have seen, but what of those who escape? They are naturally outlaws, having no allegiance to any king and hence no rights or claims to protection. To survive, these people band themselves together, and since all are deserters whose heads are forfeit, their behavior becomes very dangerous. Asia has at all times swarmed with robber bands, exactly as did this continent under the Jaredites, and from time to time these robber bands have formed coalitions strong enough to ruin states and overturn thrones. After wars between the Mongols and Mamlukes had exhausted all their resources and brought ruin to many lands, soldiers from both sides banded together in robber armies, gathered up the outcasts in the deserts and mountains, and came near to conquering all of western Asia.30 The pages of Bar Hebraeus swarm with these robber bands and good descriptions of how they operate. Whenever central governments became weakened by wars and corruption, bands of robbers would appear as if out of the earth, as when early in the ninth century the robber Omar became the terror of all the Near East and joining forces with the robber chief Nasir in the north “began to destroy the world.”31
Just as robber bands often formed the nucleus of world-conquering armies (some Chinese emperors had whole armies composed of “bad young men”), so those world armies, once beaten, promptly broke up into robber bands again, while their leader, lately a world ruler, would find himself again nothing but a bandit chief.32 The years during which Justinian and Chosroes were locked in deadly rivalry for the rule of the world saw the rise in western Asia of a motley array of robber gangs numbering 12,000 men, who brought complete ruin upon a large part of the civilized world; in this time of panic and insecurity “great schism fell upon the Arabs (i.e., the inhabitants) and in every quarter a man rose up who did not agree with his companion.”33 This typical and recurrent state of things vividly recalls the awful days of the Jaredite robbers, when every man slept on his sword to guard his property from every other man—and still had it stolen (Ether 14:1—2). We need not dwell on the pathological aspects of Asiatic warfare—the hideous disguises, the bloody oaths, the insane yells, the pyramids of heads and all that. In Taras Bulba, Gogol describes the Kazakh hordes as going quite insane in battle or, as Ether puts it (Ether 15:22): “They were drunken with anger, even as a man who is drunken with wine.” One unpleasant aspect of the business worthy of mention is the universal custom of scalp collecting, at all times practised with zeal on the steppes of Asia as in America.34 It was actually the custom for Asiatic conquerors at all times to pose as incarnations of the devil.35
The insane wars of the Jaredite chiefs ended in the complete annihilation of both sides, with the kings the last to go. The same thing had almost happened earlier in the days of Akish, when a civil war between him and his sons reduced the population to thirty (Ether 9:12). This all seems improbable to us, but two circumstances peculiar to Asiatic warfare explain why the phenomenon is by no means without parallel: (1) Since every war is strictly a personal contest between kings, the battle must continue until one of the kings falls or is taken. (2) And yet things are so arranged that the king must be very last to fall, the whole army existing for the sole purpose of defending his person. This is clearly seen in the game of chess, in which all pieces are expendable except the king, who can never be taken. “The shah in chess,” writes M. E. Moghadam, “is not killed and does not die. The game is terminated when the shah is pressed to a position from which he cannot escape. This is in line with all good traditions of chess playing, and back of it the tradition of capturing the king in war rather than slaying him whenever this could be accomplished.”36 You will recall the many instances in the book of Ether in which kings were kept in prison for many years but not killed. In the code of medieval chivalry, taken over from central Asia, the person of the king is sacred, and all others must perish in his defense. After the battle the victor may do what he will with his rival—and infinitely ingenious tortures were sometimes devised for the final reckoning—but as long as the war went on, the king could not die, for whenever he did die, the war was over, no matter how strong his surviving forces. Even so, Shiz was willing to spare all of Coriantumr’s subjects if he could only behead Coriantumr with his own sword. In that case, of course, the subjects would become his own. The circle of warriors, “large and mighty men as to the strength of men” (Ether 15:26) that fought around their kings to the last man, represent that same ancient institution, the sacred “shieldwall,” which our own Norse ancestors took over from Asia and which meets us again and again in the wars of the tribes, in which on more than one occasion the king actually was the last to perish. So let no one think the final chapter of Ether is at all fanciful or overdrawn. Wars of extermination are a standard institution in the history of Asia.
To cite a few examples, when Jenghiz Khan overcame the great Merkit nation he left only one man alive—the brother of his favorite wife.37 The Assyrian kings would systematically annihilate every living thing in the lands they conquered, sowing fields with salt, like the Romans, and flooding the sites of cities they destroyed to convert them into uninhabitable wastelands. 38 In cities of a million inhabitants the Mongols left not a dog or a cat alive, and they converted vast provinces into complete deserts.39 The great island of Cyprus was an uninhabited waste for seven years after the Turkomans took it.40 The Goths in a single battle entirely exterminated the Sciri41 as the Huns did the Scythians and Alans, and as the Mongols did the Tartars. 42 The Mongols themselves met retribution in 1732 when their own kinsmen, the Manchus, wiped out nine-tenths of the Oret Mongols in a Chinese-inspired project aimed at the complete obliteration of both sides.43 Such mutual suicides of nations were not uncommon: the Kin and the Hsia Hsia, the two greatest empires of their day and as closely related in blood as were the people of Shiz and Coriantumr, engaged in fifteen years of warfare that wiped out eighteen million people—a figure that makes Ether’s two million (Ether 15:2) look rather paltry. Incidentally, the wars of Jenghiz Khan cost China alone forty million lives!44 The Hunnish Jao Dynasty of the North and the Dsin Empire of the South almost achieved mutual quietus during a civil war in which “neither side was willing to make peace until the other was completely crushed.” In the first century B.C. the Huns divided to follow two brothers, Jiji and Huhansie. Twenty years of war followed, and the deadlock was only broken when in 43 B.C. Jiji’s people in despair finally fled west in the best Jaredite manner, leaving “vast stretches of land bare and deserted” behind them.45
This sort of history should convince the most skeptical that the book of Ether is not exaggerating in what it tells us either of what happened or of the scale of events. The whole picture is a conservative one by Asiatic standards, but by the same standards completely authentic.
What the Jaredites left behind was a land littered with bones, for “so swift and speedy was the war,” that “the whole face of the land was covered with the bodies of the dead” (Ether 14:21), and a generation later “their bones lay scattered in the land northward” (Omni 1:22). A medieval traveler, passing Kiev years after the great wars between the Mongol and Russian hordes, reports: “When we were traveling through this country, we found an innumerable multitude of dead men’s skulls and bones lying upon the earth.” Far away, in Commania and Cangle, “we found many skulls and bones lying upon the ground like cattle-dung.” All the living inhabitants, he notes, were reduced to slavery.46 Where burial was at all possible after these great battles, the only practical procedure was to heap up the bodies in great piles and cover them up with earth, “erecting great tumuli over them.” The entire Naiman nation was thus buried after its destruction. 47 Joinville, traveling a whole year through Asia to reach the court of “the cham of Tartary,” saw all along the road of Tartar conquest “large mounds of bones.”48 A careful comparison of the prehistoric mounds of Asia and America is in order, but not very likely for years to come.
The first rule of historical criticism in dealing with the Book of Mormon or any other ancient text is, never oversimplify. For all its simple and straightforward narrative style, this history is packed as few others are with a staggering wealth of detail that completely escapes the casual reader. The whole Book of Mormon is a condensation, and a masterly one; it will take years simply to unravel the thousands of cunning inferences and implications that are wound around its most matter-of-fact statements. Only laziness and vanity lead the student to the early conviction that he has the final answers on what the Book of Mormon contains. “It is the constitutional disposition of mankind,” said Joseph Smith, “to set up stakes and set bounds to the works and ways of the Almighty. . . . Why be so certain that you comprehend the things of God, when all things with you are so uncertain?”50 These words apply equally to the wildest revivalist and the ablest scientist. Tertullian taught that anything which is not specifically stated in the Bible to have occurred in the past must actually be assumed not to have happened at all. Even the most opinionated Bible student today would not limit himself so strictly; but granted that we may go farther than Tertullian, how far may we go? Nothing in the restored gospel was more offensive to the Christian world than its insistence on going much too far to suit the Christian world, and daring to speak of doctrines and events not mentioned in the Bible at all.
For example, Brigham Young states, in the face of long centuries of misinterpretation of Genesis 1:14: “How long the starry heavens have been in existence we cannot say; how long they will continue to be we cannot say. How long there will be air, water, earth; how long the elements will endure, in their present combinations it is not for us to say. Our religion teaches us that there never was a time when they (the physical elements) were not, and there never will be a time when they will cease to be; they are here and will be hereafter.” 51 Obviously the implications of such statements are highly offensive to many good Christians. Six months before his death the Prophet Joseph Smith declared: “I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions.”52 Of what traditions is he speaking? Not infant damnation, or baptism by sprinkling, or Neoplatonic ideas about God, for such things the Saints had left behind. The traditionalism to which he refers is clear from another address given by the Prophet at about the same time, when he said, “I suppose I am not allowed to go into an investigation of anything that is not contained in the Bible. If I do, I think there are so many over-wise men here, that they would cry ‘treason’ and put me to death. So I will go to the old Bible and turn commentator today.” 53 Notice that good members of the Church are charged with two follies: (1) taking the Bible as the only possible source of knowledge, and (2) interpreting the Bible strictly in the light of their own limited experience.
Turning to the Book of Mormon, is it not possible there also to fall into the old sectarian vice of oversimplifying? Are there not many Latter-day Saints who will insist that every American of pre-Columbian descent must be a Lamanite because, forsooth, there were once Nephites and Lamanites, and the Nephites were destroyed? Yet the Book of Mormon itself makes such an interpretation impossible. The Nephites were destroyed, we are told, but it is pertinent to the case of the Jaredites to ask, what does the Book of Mormon mean by “destroyed”? The word is to be taken, as are so many other key words in the book, in its primary and original sense: “to unbuild; to separate violently into its constituent parts; to break up the structure.” To destroy is to wreck the structure, not to annihilate the parts. Thus in 1 Nephi 17:31 we read of Israel in Moses’ day that, “According to his word he did destroy them; and according to his word he did lead them,” bringing them together after they had been “destroyed,” i.e., scattered, and needed a leader. “As one generation hath been destroyed among the Jews,” according to 2 Nephi 25:9, “even so they have been destroyed from generation to generation according to their iniquities.” A complete slaughter of any one generation would of course be the end of their history altogether, but that is not what “destroyed” means. Of the Jews at Jerusalem Nephi says (1 Nephi 17:43), “I know that the day must shortly come that they must be destroyed, save only a few.” Later, “after the Messiah hath arisen from the dead . . . behold, Jerusalem shall be destroyed again” (2 Nephi 25:14). In these two cases what actually happened was that the Jews were all scattered “save a few only” that remained in the land. The Israelites upon entering the Promised Land, we are told, drove out “the children of the land, yea, unto the scattering them to destruction” (1 Nephi 17:32). Here it is plainly stated that the destruction of the Canaanites was their scattering—as is known to have been the case. Likewise of the Nephites: “and after thy seed shall be destroyed, and dwindle in unbelief, and also the seed of thy brethren, behold these things shall be hid up” (1 Nephi 13:35), where both Nephites and Lamanites dwindle in unbelief after they have been destroyed.
Only once in the Book of Mormon do we read of a case of annihilation, when we are specifically told that “every living soul of the Ammonihahites was destroyed” (Alma 16:9), where not only the social structure but each individual is undone. In other instances the Lord promises that he will not utterly destroy the descendants of Lehi’s youngest son, Joseph (2 Nephi 3:3), or of Lemuel (2 Nephi 4:9), and even Nephi is told that God “will not suffer that the Gentiles will utterly destroy the mixture of thy seed which are among thy brethren” (1 Nephi 13:30), even though the promise and fulfillment were that the Nephites should be “destroyed” (Ether 8:21), and even though Moroni can say: “there is none, save it be Lamanites” (Ether 4:3).
So when we read that the Jaredites “were destroyed by the hand of the Lord upon the face of this north country” in the very first verse of Ether, we are to understand that the nation was smashed and dispersed, but not that the catastrophic final battle was necessarily the whole story. The first thing that occurs to King Mosiah on the discovery of the twenty-four gold plates was, “perhaps they will give us a knowledge of the remnants of the people who have been destroyed, from whence this record came” (Mosiah 8:12), showing that whether anyone survived or not, for Mosiah at least it was perfectly possible for remnants of a people to exist after that people had been “destroyed.” But did not Ether prophesy that “every soul should be destroyed save it were only Coriantumr?” (Ether 13:21). Every soul of what? Specifically of “his kingdom . . . and all his household.” Ether himself, hiding out in a cave, was not included in the number, and neither were other inhabitants of the continent—Nephites, Lamanites, and Mulekites that were actually living here at the time of the Jaredite destruction. Neither were renegade Jaredites, wandering far and wide beyond the confines of the kingdom. That there were such renegades will appear from a number of things.
1. Part 8 of “The World of the Jaredites,” IE 55 (April 1952): 236—38, 258, 260—65, began at this point.
2. Hugh W. Nibley, “The Hierocentric State,” WPQ 4 (1951):238—44.
3. Ibid., 226—30.
4. James Darmesteter, The Zend Avesta, 3 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1880—87), 2:265 (Din Yast 1:3).
5. Michael Prawdin, The Mongol Empire (London: Allen & Unwin, 1940), 162.
6. The earliest kings are always described as perpetually “going the round.” Thus Pharaoh in the Pyramid Texts “goes the rounds” of the Two Regions as of the skies, and the Babylonian gods move from shrine to shrine, i.e., from castle to castle, as Apollo, Iliad I, 37—42, and Poseidon, e.g., Odyssey V, 381, do in the beginning.
7. Anton Jirku, “Aufsteig und Untergang der Hyksos,” JPOS 12 (1932): 51—61; William F. Albright, “Egypt and the Early History of the Negeb,” JPOS 4 (1924): 134; Eduard Meyer, Geschicte des Altertums, 2nd ed. (Stuttgart: Cotta, 1928), vol. 2, pt. 1, pg. 72. For dates see William F. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine (Baltimore: Penguin, 1960), 84—85, 108—9.
8. Moritz Hoernes, Natur- und Urgeschichte des Menschen, 2 vols. (Vienna: Hartleben, 1909), 2:396.
9. E. A. Speiser, “On Some Articles of Armor and Their Names,” JAOS 70 (1950): 47—49; Hurrian words for armor indicate central Asian origins, ibid., 49.
10. See Appendix 2.
11. Karl A. Wittfogel and FÃªng Chia-ShÃªng, “History of Chinese Society Liao,” TAPS 36 (1946): 663; Henning Haslund, Men and Gods in Mongolia (New York: Dutton, 1935), 236—37.
12. Mildred Cable, The Gobi Desert (New York: Macmillan, 1945), 264.
13. E. Nelson Fell, Russian and Nomad (New York: Duffield, 1916), 9—10.
14. The whole question is treated in my two articles, Hugh W. Nibley, “The Hierocentric State,” WPQ 4 (1951): 226—53; and “The Arrow, the Hunter, and the State,” WPQ 2 (1949): 328—44.
15. F. E. A. Krause, Cingis Han (Heidelberg: Winter, 1922), 14—27; Prawdin, The Mongol Empire, 147—50.
16. Darmesteter, Zend-Avesta, 2:148 (Yasts 27:111). A description of the technique of “drawing off” another’s supporters is in Al-Fakhri’s Al-Adab al-Sultaniah wal-Dawla-l-Islamiyah (Cairo), 5.
17. William M. McGovern, The Early Empires of Central Asia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1939), 143; cf. Nibley, “Hierocentric State,” 244—47.
18. Xenophon, Cyropaedeia IV, 2.
19. Max Pieper, Die Ägyptische Literatur (Wildpark-Potsdam: Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft Athenaion, 1927), 74.
20. David D. Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, 2 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1926—27), 1:57, 60, 40; cf. 2:124; “I seized him alive with my (own) hands,” etc., speaking of the rival king.
21. Herodotus, Histories IV, 11, 126; Jordanes, in C. C. Mierow, The Gothic History of Jordanes (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1915), 93—95; ch. 30; E. S. Creasy, History of the Ottoman Turks, 2 vols. (London: Bentley, 1854—56), 1:46.
22. Krause, Cingis Han, 26; Haslund, Men and Gods in Mongolia, 155.
23. Herodotus, Histories I, 214.
24. George Vernadsky, Ancient Russia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1943), 298—99; G. N. Roerich, Trails to Inmost Asia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1931), 368; C. R. Beazley, The Dawn of Modern Geography, 2 vols. (London: Murray, 1901), 2:267.
25. Bruno Meissner, Babylonien und Asyrien, 2 vols. (Heidelberg: Winter, 1926), 1:112; Haslund, Men and Gods in Mongolia, 155.
26. Carpini, ch. 16, in Manuel Komroff, ed. Contemporaries of Marco Polo (New York: Liveright, 1928), 26.
27. Carpini, ch. 6, in ibid., 12.
28. R. Grousset, L’asie orientale des origines au XVe siÃ¨cle (Paris: Presses Universitaires, 1941), 304—5, 307; quote on 305.
29. Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, 2:99.
30. E. A. Wallis Budge, The Chronography of Bar Hebraeus, 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1932), 1:465.
31. Ibid., 1:124.
32. This is well-nigh the leitmotiv of Arabshah’s Life of Timur, Kitāb cAjā’ib al-Maqdur (Cairo, A. H. 1335); princes when defeated regularly become highway robbers according to Chinese annals, Krause, Cingis Han, 24. Attila’s descendants became leaders of robber bands though heirs to world empire, e.g., Jordanes, in Mierow, The Gothic History of Jordanes, 137—38; ch. 58. That this is the primordial state of things appears from Darmesteter, Zend-Avesta 2:171.
33. Budge, Chronography of Bar Hebraeus, 1:103, 111.
34. Herodotus, Histories IV, 64, 66, 70; Pliny, Natural History VII, 2, 10; Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum XXXI, 2, 14 and 2, 22; Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, 2:396 (No. 1050); Budge, Chronography of Bar Hebraeus, 1:465; McGovern, The Early Empires of Central Asia, 54.
35. Arabshah, 4—6, lists great world conquerors who propagated the belief that they were devils.
36. M. E. Moghadam, “A Note on the Etymology of the Word Checkmate,” JAOS 58 (1938): 662; cf. L. Thorndike, “All the World’s a Chessboard,” Speculum 6 (1931): 461—65.
37. Krause, Cingis Han, 26; Grousset, L’asie orientale des origines au XVe siÃ¨cle, 291.
38. Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia 2:310—11 (No. 811); 152 (No. 340).
39. Prawdin, The Mongol Empire, 191—93, 469, 472.
40. Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De Administrando Imperio 47, in PG 113:365.
41. Jordanes, in Mierow, The Gothic History of Jordanes, 131; ch. 53.
42. Eunapius, De Legationibus Gentium ad Romanos 6, in PG 113:656—57; McGovern, The Early Empires of Central Asia, 366.
43. Haslund, Men and Gods in Mongolia, 206—7.
44. Prawdin, The Mongol Empire, 221, 329.
45. McGovern, The Early Empires of Central Asia, 335—36, 189—91.
46. Carpini, chs. 13, 21, in Komroff, Contemporaries of Marco Polo, 22, 37.
47. Krause, Cingis Han, 17.
48. Lord John of Joinville, Memories of Louis IX. King of France, in Lord John of Joinville, Chronicles of the Crusades (London: Bohn, 1848), 476.
49. Part 9 of “The World of the Jaredites,” IE 55 (May 1952): 316—18, 340, 342, 344, 346, began at this point.
50. Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1938), 320.
51. Quoted in N. B. Lundwall, Temples of the Most High (Salt Lake City: Lundwall, 1941), 301, from Journal of Discourses 3:367-68.
52. Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 331.
53. Ibid., 348.