The two armies book it back to Zarahemla as fast as they can. However, in the process of crossing the river Sidon, the Amlicite-Lamanite army, which is as numerous as the sands of the sea, falls upon them.
The River Sidon
In a book I have called, “Exploring the Book of Mormon in America’s Heartland,” it talks about the crossing of the river Sidon. Since it seems the river is prominent in the scripture and a landmark, the books suggests that the river Sidon is the Mississippi River. A River that big, wide and deep would take a long time for an army of thousands to cross. However, there is one bend of the river, the Des Moines rapids, where at certain times of the year, is extremely shallow. Shallow enough that you could quickly walk across the river on foot, no problem. Not far from that bend is the modern city of Montrose, Iowa. That area however, does not become shallow due to locks that have since been built on the river. Check out the book for more info, I highly recommend it. That could be the place where the Nephites and Lamanites fought!
As Numerous as the Sands of the Sea
Look at the footnote for numerous as the sands of the sea. The cross reference takes you to Jarom 1:6. This verse gives you a glimpse into the state of the Lamanites at this time. It says that the Lamanites were exceedingly more numerous than the Nephites and were murderers and drank the blood of animals. If I’m not mistaken, this is the first time you hear of the Lamanites since Alma frees his people from them. After king Mosiah I leaves the wicked Nephites, we hear little of what happened to the Lamanites and wicked Nephites. The only accounts we have are of King Limhi’s people who were subject to them and when Alma and his people became subject to them as well. Then you have the missions of the sons of Mosiah. This gives a glimpse into Lamanite civilization at this time. It seems for the most part, they have kept to themselves. Of course, hating the Nephites but not enough to come up and destroy. This combination of Lamanites and Amlicites is the first time in a long time, at least in the Book of Mormon, that the Lamanites have had a direct conflict with the Nephites. After this conflict is finished, it isn’t until the Anti-Nephi-Lehis come that another Nephite-Lamanite conflict comes. After that, it isn’t until the apostate Nephites join the Lamanites in Alma 43 that the conflict between Nephite and Lamanite really kicks off. Up until that point though, the skirmishes had been scattered, few and far between.
The Battle Isn’t Over Yet
Back to the main story. The Amlicites join up with the murderous, blood drinking Lamanites and attack. The reason I think they joined up was probably because of Amlici. He probably imparted of armor and weapons (if they had any extra) and promised with increased number, they (the Lamanites) could finally bestow the revenge they had desired all these years. Amlici had lost his advantage with armor and comparable weapons. Now he just wanted to win by brute force and sheer numbers. He didn’t care about the Lamanites at all, he wanted no alliance. He just wanted to destroy the Nephites and establish himself as king. Being a Nephite and seeing this giant army, hearing their battle cries must have been a little intimidating at first. I would compare it to the feeling the power rangers had when the enemy they had just defeated mutates, comes back to life as a bigger, more powerful monster. Or the feeling Hercules had after he just “killed” the hydra but then realizes it grows 10 more heads and he is back at square one. But the Nephites don’t falter. They were strengthened mightily by the Lord because they had prayed to the Lord that they would be delivered out of the hands of the Lamanites. Having done that, they turned and fought. As verse 28 says, the Amlicites did fall before them. Cross reference Deuteronomy 31:6. This is perhaps what God told the Nephites. Be strong and of a good courage. God is with us and will not fail nor forsake. I believe this promise that God gave to the Nephites , and originally to Moses and Joshua, still applies today when we have to go fight our spiritual or physical battles. The Lord promises us that he will not forsake us, nor fail us.
The Nephites are indeed strengthened by the hand of the Lord and the Amlicites did, “fall before them.” In very plain language, the Lord fulfilled his promise and heard their prayers. You can see there were immediate results.
Alma Vs Amlici
Now for the cool part. Alma the younger fights Amlici with the sword, face to face, contending mightily with one another. I guess it isn’t cool. It’s war, people are dying. There is something epic about the two leaders locked in mortal combat. Alma is probably in his early 40s by this time (see earlier in this notebook for calculations) or late 30s. Just been a boss ever since he was converted. Everyone knows the story of Alma then you have this Nephite dissenter, Amlici, who is proving to be this troublesome man, leading the Nephites in a civil war. It’s just epic. If it was a movie, this would be a good scene to film. Alma, being a man of God, exercised his faith and called upon God to strengthen him and preserve him that he might be an instrument and further His work. Upon saying this, Alma gains enough strength to slay Amlici. Amlici was probably younger, stronger and faster than Alma. If that was the case, this is just a testament that it doesn’t matter your physical attributes, calling down the powers of Heaven make physical limitations negligible. If God needs you to get something done, you can get it done.
Alma and His Guards Vs The Lamanite King and His Guards
After killing Amlici, Alma and his guards contend with the Lamanite king and his guards. The Lamanite king withdraws (probably once realizing that Alma had just killed Almici) and sends his guards to contend on his behalf. The guards maybe didn’t realize that the king was probably abandoning them. I wonder what it would have taken to be a body guard for either Alma or the Lamanite king. The following is pure speculation. I think both sides chose men they trusted, were skilled in fighting and who were physically strong. I think another factor though in the Nephite qualifications would have had to have been faith. Faith in God that was right up there with Alma’s because you would need it to protect him and the people of this land.
Clearing the West Bank
It looks like Alma was at the head of his troops because it says that he cleared the West bank of the river so that the rest of his army could cross and fight the Amlicites and Lamanites. How intense do you think this battle would be? How motivating would it be to be fighting right alongside the people of God and governor of the Land? I think for me, it would be inspiring and motivating. Especially seeing that the West bank had been cleared and the army was free to advance and try to obtain the upper hand despite being drastically outnumbered. It would be one of those times where you have so much adrenaline pumping through your body, you wouldn’t even have time to think how tired or hurt you were. Because once you thought of that, you could lose focus and die. I’m just trying to imagine what this would be like. I’m doing a pretty good job in my head.
Once the entire Nephite army crosses the river, the combined force of the Lamanite-Amlicite flee. I don’t blame them. Not only do they have the Lord to fight their battles but Alma and his body guards just cleared the West bank. If a few men can do that, imagine what an entire Nephite army could do! At least, that’s probably the thought process that was going through the Lamanite and Amlicite brains. The Nephite army pursues with all their zeal and continue to work death among them. Until the army is driven into the wilderness called Hermounts. There, many Lamanites and Amlicites died from wounds or the wild and ravenous beasts that inhabited that part of the land. Their bones have been found and heaped upon the earth.
Brain blast! I was just thinking about that last part. Their bones have been found and heaped upon the earth. Then something came to me. Because I was wondering why they would heap bones upon the earth. Why not let the bodies rot away and let the bones be? In my mind just now I thought it was some law of Moses that prohibited bodies, rather corpses, to be left lying around. But I am unable to find that in the institute manual anywhere. The thought that led me to a brain blast though was that they used burial mounds! Their bones were heaped upon the earth. For some reason, that just said burial mounds to me. Maybe it’s because when I was reading the Book of Mormon earlier today, it was describing fortifications Moroni made during a time of war. How he heaped earth into banks along the city. Heaped to me means making something into a hill or pile that is not normally upon the earth. I could be wrong though. But it’s a new day, so new thoughts come. As I was reading through the Old Testament manual part 2 for institute, I found evidence to back up perhaps why they gathered up the bones. Not only did I find the book saying this in two different spots but all from pages I hadn’t read yet! Pretty cool huh? It said that the most tragic way to die, according to Hebrew tradition, was without proper burial. The ancient Americans, being of Hebrew descent, probably took this belief with them and tried to follow it, even in battle.
Verse 1 of chapter 3 confirms that they did indeed bury their dead. And did not return home till they had finished.
The Cost of War
Verse 2 and 3 describe the destruction that had taken place due to this schism. It says that many women and children had been slain, flocks and herds decimated, and crops and fields ravished. The Amlicites and Lamanites that were killed on the banks by the river Sidon were tossed into the river to float downstream to the sea. There were many of those. Just a quick thought. Say you are a Lamanite living south of the Lamanites that had gone to battle. You live right next to the river Sidon. One day you are out fishing and then you just see a huge trail of bodies floating down the river. How traumatizing would that be? Probably had chopped off limbs or arrows sticking out of their backs. Scary scene for sure. If I was one of those Lamanites I would wonder what in the world was going on up North.
That’s it! See ya for the next installment!