“A Strict Law Among the People of the Church”

Brant Gardner

Redaction: Mormon clearly sympathizes with church-men. Despite their general obedience to avoid persecuting (or resisting) the non-church-men, at least some lost their tempers and resorted to fisticuffs. Mormon presents this normal human reaction in such a way that the blame lies with the non-church-men, not the church-men. Mormon wants the reader to understand that church-men were retaliating, not initiating a counter-persecution. There is not enough information, however, for us to determine whether Mormon is drawing his own interpretation from the source plates or transmitting the sympathy of the original record-keeper. Still, because of Mormon’s editing, we give the Nephites the benefit of the doubt, much as we read nineteenth-century Mormon history in which even acts of retaliation leave the Saints relatively blameless and certainly not as committing the first offense. Yet it is possible, just as in LDS history, that there were times when the church-men were not entirely excusable.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 4