“Smote His Arm That He Could Not Use It”

Brant Gardner

This personal combat between the over-king and Ammon is perplexing on the surface. First, it was a fight that was destined to be settled in Ammon’s favor even had he not been strengthened by the Lord. In verse 24 we see the over-king called “old,” and Ammon was certainly in his prime. Secondly, how is it that the over-king would be allowed to enter into armed combat with another man without the protection of those who must have traveled with him?

The answer must be found in the ethic of individual combat that is that hallmark of Mesoamerican warfare. Such personal conflicts were the essence of the warrior’s art, and it would not be surprising to find a king, even an aged one, participating in battle. An extreme example of an aged king engaged in warfare is found in the story of Itzamnaj B’alam II of Yaxchilan who is listed as taking a war captive when he was in his eighties (Martin and Grube, Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens. 2000, p. 124. Note that the authors do suggest that he was only the figurehead and the actual fighting might have been done by his vassals. However, that is a supposition just as his individual participation is a supposition).

If we see the conflict between Ammon and Lamoni’s father as a ritual individual battle in the Mesoamerican tradition, then we can better understand how the two were able to fight without any assistance or interference from others who were there.

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon