The Evolution of Lamanite Warfare

The Amlicites distinguished themselves from the Nephites. They put a red mark on their forehead. Nevertheless, they did not follow the Lamanites in their custom of shaving their heads.

Marking Today

Labeling yourself is still around. Even marking in the forehead. Consider Hindus marking themselves with a red dot on the forehead. I wonder if that came from the ancient near east even before it began in India? The Jainists mark themselves with an orange dot on their forehead. Other religions mark themselves as well. The Jewish people with their phylacteries on their forehead. Marking yourself, of course, doesn’t have to be on the head.

Gangs may choose to distinguish themselves through shaving heads or a particular tattoo. In Revelation, it talks about people receiving the mark of the beast in their right hand or forehead. So many markings! What does it all mean? Well like verse four says (in Alma 3), marks are to distinguish people. I think that we, as Latter-Day Saints of the Church of Jesus Christ, don’t make ourselves outwardly, but inwardly. We don’t wear phylacteries, have dots, or marks of the beast on our hand or head. Nor tattoos or shaved heads. I think our mark is that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. With a sincere, humble desire to follow God. I’m not saying that people who outwardly mark themselves are evil. I’m just ruminating on markings.

How the Lamanites Conducted Warfare

I’ve always wondered why the Lamanites didn’t have as good armor or weapons as the Nephites. I’ve also wondered why the Lamanites lived the way they did. In verse 5, it describes the Lamanites. They had shaved heads. I’ll put it in list form, so it’s easier to read.

  • Shaved heads
  • Marks on their forehead
  • Naked except for loincloth and armor
  • Used bows and arrows
  • Used stones and slings
  • Skin was dark

This is the state of the Lamanites at this point in the scriptures. There are three cross references that I want to use to show an “evolution” if you will, of the fighting situation of the Lamanites.

One thing I want to note in Alma 3:5 description of the Lamanites before moving on. The Lamanites in Alma 3:5 have armor! This description is nearly 100 years after the Mosiah 10 description. I would like to think that Lamanite armor making had advanced enough to make some decent protection. But this was a confederate Nephite-Lamanite campaign. The Lamanites could very well have obtained the armor from the Amlicites. The lack of swords being mentioned doesn’t mean they weren’t utilized. The “and so forth” at the end of verse five could very well have included swords.

The Time of Enos

The first goes to Enos 1:20, then to Mosiah 10:8, and finally to Alma 43:20. We’ll start in Enos. I’ll copy it in and then list the qualities of the Lamanites

“And I bear record that the people of Nephi did seek diligently to restore the Lamanites unto the true faith in God, but our labors were vain; their hatred was fixed, and they were led by their evil nature and they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven; and their skill was in the bow, and the cimeter and the ax. And many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat; and they were continually seeking to destroy us.”

Now I’m going to list the attributes that are talked about in this verse:

  • Hatred was fixed
  • Led by evil nature
  • Wild
  • Ferocious
  • Blood-thirsty
  • Idolatrous
  • Filthy
  • Feeding upon beasts of prey
  • Dwelling in tents
  • Wanderers
  • Loincloths and shaven heads
  • Bows, cimeters, and axes
  • Eat raw meat
  • Continually seeking to destroy the Nephites

This verse is being written by Enos, so my guess of the date is closer to 544 BC than 421 BC. Remember, Enos is the son of Jacob, who was Nephi’s younger brother. As for the Lamanites, this isn’t too long (in the grand scheme of things) since the Nephites and Lamanites split up. Laman and Lemuel were wrong, with occasional spouts of good. Like wayward children that are only kept from spiritual destruction because of their other family members trying to help them. Once the Nephites and Lamanites come into existence (being separated I mean) the families of Laman and Lemuel were free to reject God without anything happening from their righteous siblings. Therefore, their state became worse than had they not known the truth. Hence these very barbarous Lamanites. Seems more like beasts than man.

At the Time of Mosiah

Now Mosiah 10:8. As with the last, I’ll copy the verse in and then list the attributes and then talk about it.

“And it came to pass that they came up upon the north of the land of Shilom, with their numerous hosts, men armed with bows, and with arrows, and with swords, and with cimeters, and with stones, and with slings, and they had their heads shaved that they were naked; and they were girded with a leather girdle about their loins.”


  • Bows and arrows
  • Swords
  • Cimeters
  • Stone and slings
  • Shaved heads
  • Loin cloths

This description of the Lamanite army is about 300-400 years after the description in Enos. Let’s compare and contrast what changes have happened since then. First, from the chapter heading in Mosiah 10, you can see the Lamanite king has passed away. Previously, the Lamanites were living in a hunter-gatherer clanship, dwelling in tents. Based off this, it seems like the Lamanites have settled down enough to set a monarchical government. And in the process, hopefully, have calmed down their beastly side a bit.

Similarities include using, for the most part, the same weapons, bows, arrows, cimeters, stone, and sling. However, the sword is a new addition. Probably as a result of a more agricultural lifestyle and the development of smithing among the Lamanites. Albeit not advanced enough to make armor. Notice how bows, arrows, cimeters, stone and slings are all very basic weapons. Having swords suggests some technological advancement.

It seems that through 300-400 years of experience hasn’t resulted in a wardrobe or hairstyle change. I’ve been wondering why they always wore loin cloths. I feel like they knew there was a better way. But as to why they continued the loincloth tradition, I don’t know. Maybe the Lamanites thought it gave them the advantage of speed? Are they going for aerodynamics rather than power? Maybe they thought they could outmaneuver the Nephites because of their lack of armor and then pick them off with their bows and slings. Notice, for the most part, the weapon loadout is focused on long-range warfare. Before, the only close combat weapons they had were cimeters. Now, with the addition of swords, it seems like they were trying to even out their strengths and improve their advantage when going against the Nephites.

At the Time of Captain Moroni

Skipping forward to Alma 43:20. This is when Chief Captain Moroni is fighting the army of Zarahemnah. To give a quick background on the composition of this army, there are native Lamanites, Zoramites, and Amalekites. The Zoramites and Amalekites are apostate Nephites that had recently joined themselves with the native Lamanites. According to verse 6 in chapter 43, the Amalekites were a MORE murderous and wicked disposition than the Lamanites. Therefore an Amalekite was appointed the leader over the Lamanites. His name was Zarahemnah. He appointed chief captains that either were Amalekites or Zoramites. They did this that the hatred towards the Nephites might be preserved. And that they might stir up the Lamanites to anger. Ok, now verse 20. It says that compared to Moroni’s army, they were not prepared. I’ll copy in verse 20:

“Now the army of Zarahemnah was not prepared with any such thing; they had only their swords and their cimeters, their bows and their arrows, their stones and slings; and they are naked, save it were a skin girded about their loins; yea, all were naked save it were the Zoramites and the Amalekites”

This verse has a few things. I won’t list what the Lamanites had this time because it is the same essentially minus the armor from Alma 3. This event with the Zarahemnah and Moroni takes place 13 years after the encounter with the Amlicites and Lamanites. The fact that the Lamanites didn’t have armor in this verse makes me wonder. First, did the Lamanites ever have the ability to make armor in the first place? I can’t imagine losing knowledge or armor making after 13 years. This verse seems to reinforce the fact that the Amalekites in Alma 3 gave their armor to the Lamanites when they joined forces. Or thirdly, and I think this could be the most likely answer, the knowledge of armor making was not widespread or general knowledge amongst the Lamanites. Just because the Lamanites of Alma 3 and Alma 43 fall under the same name, doesn’t mean they were the same people or city. Some cities of Lamanites could have figured it out after the encounter or joint campaign with the apostate Nephite groups. I think in the case of Zarahemnah and his cohorts, their friendship with the Lamanites was superficial and temporary. They didn’t have the numbers the Lamanites did. The Lamanites provided the army, the Zoramites and Amalekites had the technology, but they ended up not sharing, out of a lack of caring for the Lamanites and of the temporariness of their supposed “friendship.” I don’t know for sure, though. That’s just my opinion.

One last connection before I go back to Alma three. Zarahemnah chose chief captains to be over the army. Despite being Nephite, it seems like the Amalekites and Zoramites did not take a substantial knowledge of Nephite military structure with them. They got the names down, almost all of them at least. The Lamanites had a structure like this.

Diagram of the Lamanite military structure

I don’t know exactly how many chief captains there were, this is for example purposes. My point is that there isn’t the same structure the Nephites had. I believe the structure the Nephites used (and I’ll draw it out here in a second) were inspired of God. Whether it hailed from the time of Moses and that knowledge crossed the ocean with them, I don’t know. But I think the reason the Lamanites didn’t use the same chain of command was to centralize power. Meaning to give each member of the leadership staff more power. All because of pride. Just look at this diagram above. You can tell there are inequality and suppression of Lamanites. This is clearly an Amalekite and Zoramite campaign.

Looking back at chapter two of Alma, we get the layout for their army:

Diagram of Nephite Military structure

Sorry, this is squished together. I don’t think those numbers are accurate. But I believe the point is still made. There were a lot more layers in Nephite chain of command. This allows for the power and responsibility to be delegated. This enables you to fine-tune what exactly you want to do in the battle. Not only that but all the people in military leadership are Nephites!

In Summary

I guess to sum it all up, bring it all into something coherent to take away, the Lamanites had basic technology all throughout the Book of Mormon, at least, from Enos to Alma. It seems like there were little technological changes. I feel like the biggest change I saw was switching from a hunter-gatherer society to a more permanent residing. The apostate Nephite groups that did join campaigns with them were the most major advantage for them. The Nephites were far more advanced than the Lamanites, both in technology and in the knowledge of military warfare. The Nephites’ system was crisp and efficient, while the Lamanites were often disorganized or loosely united. I feel like the Nephite chain of command was inspired, and the Lamanite one was centered on pride and power.

What Can We Learn From This?

From reading this little section on the military, I learned just how much trouble the apostate Nephites caused for the Lamanites and Nephites. This was something I’ve always known, but It just hit me. The Lamanites were wicked, but that was because of the traditions of their fathers. That’s it. The apostate Nephites were the trouble makers.

If the Book of Mormon is a book for our day, and I believe it is, what is the lesson we are supposed to learn?

The thought that popped into my head was that destruction of civilization is from inside out. In the book of Mormon, you have Nephites dissenting and fighting their brethren. One of the general authorities or someone else ( I don’t remember exactly) said that the biggest trials the church has are not because of bad publicity or persecution or stuff like that but from inward conflicts. The Saints were doing things they aren’t supposed to. That slows down the church more than any outward thing. But just because that happens doesn’t mean the church won’t reach every tongue and people. I was just giving an example. Another example of destruction coming from within is the Jaredite nation. They allowed the secret combinations to grow so much that eventually it all fell and the Jaredites were destroyed. The final example is movies today. This is something I noticed before the mission. A majority of films have the traitor come from the good side, or the villain, whether an organization or person, is thought to be good. I have wondered to myself before if the prevalence of these types of plot lines are meant to desensitize us to the shock of an event like his so when it does happen, we don’t realize it till it’s too late. Just like in the movies. And, just like in the movies, requires a lot of bloodshed in order to fix it. By the time you fix it, though, you have to rebuild civilization.


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