“They Returned Again and Began to Establish Peace in the Land”

Brant Gardner

Alma’s soldiers returned to their homes (v. 1) and, presumably, have taken up their peacetime activities when they discover the second Lamanite army. This discovery apparently came with plenty of warning, while their discovery of the first army seemed almost accidental. These events suggest that even though the Nephite army had returned home, the government had remained on high alert, with sentries posted at the main pass. Thus, they had enough time to remobilize the army and meet the Lamanites in the land—not the city—of Zarahemla.

In this engagement, Alma, who was recuperating from a wound, did not lead the troops personally. The wound further strengthens the assumption that the leader was also the battle chieftain, since the source document and Mormon found it important to explain Alma’s absence.

Redaction: This description of the battle is much more abbreviated than the first one, although it seems unlikely that the victory was as quick or easy as Mormon’s account. Once again, this is because Mormon’s real interest in these battles is not the armed conflict between the two groups but the social and religious turmoil that erupted periodically into wars. His theme is not war per se, but the general dissolution of righteous society, which will end up in a culture that threatens and persecutes believers in only a few short years.

These wars presage the Messiah’s arrival. Nephi had prophesied: “But, behold, they shall have wars, and rumors of wars; and when the day cometh that the Only Begotten of the Father, yea, even the Father of heaven and of earth, shall manifest himself unto them in the flesh, behold, they will reject him, because of their iniquities, and the hardness of their hearts, and the stiffness of their necks” (2 Ne. 25:12). Nephi was speaking of the Jews in Jerusalem, but Mormon would have likened it to his people. War signals the Messiah’s coming. Thus, Mormon describes these wars with an underlying subtext of prophecy. They have their own historical importance, of course, but their real importance is that they fulfill Messianic prophecy.

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