As discussed in the previous chapter, the Nephites had been given the Lord’s law of war (see Alma 43:45–47; D&C 98:33–38). The law of war included their not taking the offensive in war. A chief captain named Gidgiddoni, in A.D. 16, had refused to take the offense against the Gadianton robbers lest the Lord deliver his army into their hands.
20 Now the people said unto Gidgiddoni: Pray unto the Lord, and let us go up upon the mountains and into the wilderness, that we may fall upon the robbers and destroy them in their own lands.
21 But Gidgiddoni saith unto them: The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands; therefore we will prepare ourselves in the center of our lands, and we will gather all our armies together, and we will not go against them, but we will wait till they shall come against us; therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this he will deliver them into our hands. [3 Nephi 3:20–21]
Mormon recognized that the Nephites had violated this principle, and that it was the cause of their defeat in the battle for the city of Desolation (Mormon 4:4). While some may argue that the Lamanites were as wicked as the Nephites, Mormon gives the answer to this question also. When a people under God’s law violate his commandments, his judgments will overtake the wicked (v. 5). It is a natural process. The power of God, or his Spirit, withdraws, and the people are left to their own strength (see Mormon 2:26). Usually the enemy is more powerful because of their numbers, therefore, the wicked are punished by the wicked. The wicked punishing the wicked is illustrated in the wicked Assyrians taking the wicked ten tribes into captivity (721 B.C.), and the wicked Babylonians taking the wicked Jews into captivity (607 B.C.)