The Book of Mormon and a Gospel View of War

The Book of Mormon and a Gospel View of War April 28, 2023


David Palmer's candidate for Cumorah
This hill, Cerro La Vigia, near the town of Catemaco, in the Municipio de Santiago Tuxtla, Veracruz, México, has been proposed by some adherents of a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon as the location of the final Jaredite and Nephite battles. I think they may be right. If so, the Nephites knew it as “Cumorah,” and the Jaredites knew it as “Ramah.”
(Wikimedia Commons public domain photograph)


Two new articles have appeared on the website of the Interpreter Foundation:

““In the Cause … of their God”: Clarifying Some Issues Regarding the Book of Mormon and a Gospel View of War,” written by Duane Boyce

Abstract: A recent effort to think about war concludes that the Book of Mormon displays two righteous approaches to conflict: a violent approach that is justified and therefore “blessed;” and a nonviolent approach that is higher than this and therefore “more blessed” (an approach that is also said to be effective in ending conflict). This effort, however, turns out to be unsuccessful for multiple reasons. Attending to these reasons can be valuable, since doing so can help clarify several important issues about the Book of Mormon and a gospel view of war.

“Interpreting Interpreter: Just Wars,” written by Kyler Rasmussen

This post is a summary of the article ““In the Cause … of their God”: Clarifying Some Issues Regarding the Book of Mormon and a Gospel View of War” by Duane Boyce in Volume 56 of Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship. An introduction to the Interpreting Interpreter series is available at

The Takeaway:  Boyce counters the perspective that pacifism is always the most effective and righteous option when faced with aggression from neighboring nations, arguing that war is sometimes necessary and at times directly commanded by God. Book of Mormon narratives that seem to unequivocally support non-violence are more nuanced when examined in detail.

Also:  I’m afraid that I’m very late in calling this to your attention; somehow, I missed it until this morning:  Brigham Young University’s New Testament Commentary project — in my opinion, an important landmark in Latter-day Saint intellectual history — is convening a conference tomorrow, Saturday, 29 April 2023.  If conditions are favorable, I hope to be there for some or all of it, and I hope that some of you can make it, as well:

Conference: April 29, 2023:  “Celebrating the New Testament and Its Commentaries”

And, if you live in Utah or intend to pass through Utah in the next little while, please don’t fail to take advantage of this opportunity for yourself, your family, your friends, and your quorum or ward.  It won’t last forever:

“Tabernacle of the Old Testament”


The Interpreter Radio Tower stands directly next to the multi-colored Interpreter Studio Complex, which is located on the beautiful eastern shore of fabled Utah Lake.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain photo)


And here’s a note of friendly warning:  Barring some unforeseen event, I plan to be on the Interpreter Radio Show this coming Sunday evening at 7 PM, Utah time.  I haven’t been on the show very often in recent months, largely because I’ve frequently been on the road and haven’t been able to work it into my schedule.  But I’m going to try to help out a bit more in the future, if I can.  I’ve been very grateful for all of the rotating volunteer hosts who have made the show work, and I feel that I ought to do my little part, as well..

The Interpreter Radio Show can be heard regularly on Sunday evenings from 7 to 9 PM (MDT), on K-TALK, AM 1640, or — and this is especially helpful for those who live outside of the Valley of the Great Salt Lake — you can listen live via the Internet at  My understanding is that I’ll be on with Martin Tanner and Terry Hutchinson.  It should be fun, and I’m looking forward to it.


Artwork at El Mirador
At El Mirador, in the Guatemalan Petén   (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


Incredible as it may seem, disorderly mobs screaming their outrage and indignation aren’t always the best companions  for orderly reflection or the most reliable guides to the truth.  That may well be a problem in this story, from the Los Angeles Times, which was kindly brought to my attention by Nancy Roper Hymas:  “Protesters disrupt talk by archaeologist Richard Hansen at L.A. Times Festival of Books.”  As it happens — though, as far as I’m aware, it plays no role in the protest or the Times article — Dr. Hansen is not only a prominent Mesoamerican archaeologist but a Latter-day Saint.

I’ve met Richard Hansen just once, I think.  It was many years ago, down (if I’m not misremembering) in his apartment in Guatemala City.  He’s accomplished some very impressive things.    About six years ago, by the way, the sadly now-defunct neoconservative magazine The Weekly Standard ran an interesting profile of him that is still accessible online and that I commend to your notice:  “King of the Jungle: The Mayan Empire of Archaeologist Richard Hansen.”


Looking southward across BYU
A south-looking view of part of the campus of Brigham Young University, from the BYU website


I close with a trio of items from the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File™ that will absolutely make your skin crawl with deliciously righteous fury:

“‘Clean Water Is a Gift:’ Church Helps With Water Projects in Rwanda: The Church and Water for People work together to help people have access to safe water in their communities”

“They’re the Happiest People in America. We Called Them to Ask Why.  Only 12% of respondents in a recent WSJ poll said they were ‘very happy.’ We called to ask what makes them different.”  [Here’s a hint from the link summary itself:  “The Happiest People in America are Older, Female and Believe in God: WSJ Poll”]

And, finally, I share with you a genuinely chilling report from the Hitchens File that concerns the hellish conditions to be found on the Provo and Idaho campuses of Brigham Young University:  “A Sobering Reality: We Already Have the Answer to College Sexual Assault: Discover how BYU’s unconventional strategies dramatically reduce sexual assault rates on campus, challenging the status quo and offering insights for other universities to follow.”



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