In "the twenty and sixth year" (Alma 52:1), Moroni lamented in a letter to Teancum (who was "in the land Bountiful"--see Alma 52:9) that, "I could come unto you, but behold, the Lamanites are upon us in the borders of the land by the west sea; and behold, I go against them, therefore I cannot come unto you" (Alma 52:11). As a fulfillment of Moroni's words, Mormon records that,
in the twenty and seventh year . . . Moroni . . . had established armies to protect the south and the west borders of the land, and had begun his march towards the land Bountiful, that he might assist Teancum with his men in retaking the cities which they had lost-- (Alma 52:15)
This chronological information might seem at odds with the information in Alma 56:9 and Alma 52:22. There we find that,
. . . in the twenty and sixth year, I, Helaman, did march at the head of these two thousand young men to the city of Judea, to assist Antipus, whom ye had appointed a leader over the people of that part of the land . . . And now it came to pass that Helaman did march at the head of his two thousand stripling soldiers, to the support of the people in the borders of the land on the south by the west sea. (Alma 56:9; 52:22)
Apparently Helaman and the 2000 marched on the west coast in the 26th year. Yet in Helaman's epistle to Moroni (which Moroni received "in the commencement of the thirtieth year"--Alma 56:1), Helaman writes as if Moroni had no personal knowledge of his situation on the west coast (see Alma 56:2).
One might wonder if a chronological error has entered into the Nephite record. However, I believe that an adequate explanation can be presented for this seemingly mixed-up chronology.
The first thing to be considered in trying to understand this chronological situation is the location from which Moroni sent his message to Teancum (see Alma 52:11). Was it sent from the embattled cities in the east wilderness? or from "the borders of the land by the west sea"? or from somewhere else? Contrary to what it might seem (that it was sent from either the eastern cities or the land by the west sea), I believe that Moroni sent his epistle to Teancum from the central land of Zarahemla for reasons stated by Moroni himself. In a letter written some years later to the chief judge Pahoran when failure to send men and provisions cost the Nephite armies dearly, Moroni will write:
Behold, I direct mine epistle to Pahoran, in the city of Zarahemla, who is the chief judge and the governor over the land, and also to all those who have been chosen by this people to govern and manage the affairs of this war.
For behold, I have somewhat to say unto them by the way of condemnation; for behold, ye yourselves know that ye have been appointed to gather together men, and arm them with swords, and with cimeters, and all manner of weapons of war of every kind, and send forth against the Lamanites, in whatsoever parts they should come into our land . . . But behold, great has been the slaughter among our people; yea, thousands have fallen by the sword, while it might have otherwise been if ye had rendered unto our armies sufficient strength and succor for them. Yea, great has been your neglect towards us. (Alma 60:1,2,5)
Thus, it was apparently the responsibility of the central government to furnish men and supplies to any of chief commander Moroni's armies (which includes both the armies of Teancum and the armies on the borders of the west sea). Therefore, Moroni would have probably sought the counsel of the central governmental leaders before embarking on any campaign with Teancum or against the west coast. The route that Moroni took in the 26th year to reach these governmental Nephite leaders and at the same time protect against the armies of Ammoron was probably the same route that he took earlier in his military career against Zerahemnah (see Alma 43,44). In that march, Moroni traveled from the eastern lands of Antionum and Jershon through the southern boundaries of the central land of Zarahemla in order to eventually stop Zerahemnah on the west at Manti. Now in the 26th year, Ammoron was circling around in the same way to attack Manti, and thus Moroni would counter that offensive by putting his army between Manti and the central land of Zarahemla much like before.
Whether Moroni was personally and physically involved in the establishment of armies on the western front during the middle part of the 26th year is not mentioned specifically, but even if he was, it might not have had a bearing on the records of either Mormon or Helaman. To clarify, I will refer the reader to Appendix A. Mormon records just after the ending of the 26th year:
But behold, it came to pass in the twenty and seventh year of the reign of the judges, that. . . Moroni, who had established armies to protect the south and the west borders of the land, . . . had begun his march towards the land Bountiful, that he might assist Teancum with his men in retaking the cities which they had lost. (Alma 52:15)
What is important to understand chronologically is that in the last part of the 26th year, Moroni would have had to have finished with the establishment of armies to protect the west and begun his march toward Teancum in the land Bountiful a little before Helaman began his march toward Antipus in Judea, which is entirely possible. Mormon apparently could have been satisfied or assured by the leaders in Zarahemla that reinforcements and provisions to the west were going to be taken care of by the officials in the local land of Zarahemla so that in the latter part of the 26th year, he departed from the local land of Zarahemla.
Nevertheless, the western front at this time presented a dilemma to the leaders in Zarahemla responsible for supplies and men because within those western boundaries resided the people of Ammon (Alma 8:3, 35:13). These former Lamanites had taken an oath years before never to take up arms (Alma 56:6). Because of this, as Helaman relates, "in the twenty and sixth year" the young men of these people of Ammon stepped forward and volunteered to fight, not having ever taken the oath. Thus Helaman "did march at the head of these two thousand young men to the city of Judea, to assist Antipus" (Alma 56:9). It is important for the reader to notice that Helaman does not say what part of the "twenty and sixth year" that his march took place in. Therefore, I propose that it is entirely plausible that his march took place in the latter part of the twenty and sixth year. It is also important for the reader to notice that the specific march of Moroni to assist Teancum in Bountiful "had begun" sometime "in the twenty and seventh year," but not necessarily in the commencement of the 27th year. Thus, Moroni could have started his march towards the land Bountiful in the latter part of the 26th year, a little before the time Helaman started his march toward the west coast.
One final consideration might be to establish the route that Moroni took in his march towards the land Bountiful in order to assist Teancum in the 27th year. This journey apparently consumed a good part of a year (Alma 52:15, 18), which is too much time for a direct march from the local land of Zarahemla (or from the west coast). A plausible reason for the delay might be that Mormon took time to revisit the established army sites along the southern border of the general land of Zarahemla in order to assure himself of their readiness. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Appendix A--Chronology]