Every Latter-day Saint knows that the Book of Mormon was brought forth, in part, so that we might learn from the successes and avoid the errors of the Nephites. In fact, the resemblances between events and situations in both eras, ours and theirs, are quite striking in many vital respects. A case in point is the conflict we confront at this very moment in our history.
The Gadianton robbers that plagued the Nephites were remarkably similar to the terrorists that confront us today. We read in Third Nephi that
… the ninety and third year did also pass away in peace, save it were for the Gadianton robbers, who dwelt upon the mountains, who did infest the land; for so strong were their holds and their secret places that the people could not overpower them; therefore they did commit many murders, and did do much slaughter among the people. (3 Nephi 1:27.)
Clearly, the Nephites did not know what to make of this new threat nor were they prepared to appropriately deal with it. Hence, they were indecisive.
As a result of the Nephites’ inaction, the threat grew to epic proportions.
And it came to pass in the thirteenth year there began to be wars and contentions throughout all the land; for the Gadianton robbers had become so numerous, and did slay so many of the people, and did lay waste so many cities, and did spread so much death and carnage throughout the land, that it became expedient that all the people, both the Nephites and the Lamanites, should take up arms against them. (3 Nephi 2:11.)
It also appears that the Lamanites were slow to engage in the conflict. Yet, events soon forced them to unite with the Nephites against this new, common enemy.
Therefore, all the Lamanites … did unite with their brethren, the Nephites, and were compelled, for the safety of their lives and their women and their children, to take up arms against those Gadianton robbers … (3 Nephi 2:11, 12.)
These events are stunningly akin to the progression of events in our time.
America’s initial reaction to terrorism was virtually identical. Emboldened by our inaction, our enemies extended the reach of their terror campaign. Our lack of response to the gathering threat eventually brought the battle to our very doors.
On September 11, 2001, terrorists struck at our heartland, “laying waste” to the World Trade Center and a substantial section of Lower Manhattan as well as part of the Pentagon. The “death and carnage” were almost beyond comprehension.
As a result, our president decided to “take up arms against them.”
In the initial American military response, many of our former allies — “brethren” — were reluctant to participate, and many remain so to this date.
Our other “brethren” or allies in Europe may also come to our aid in this war just as the Lamanites came to the Nephites’ aid once they, too, began to suffer at the hands of the Gadianton robbers.
We read that the Nephite armies enjoyed some early success.
And it came to pass in the commencement of the fourteenth year, the war between the robbers and the people of Nephi did continue and did become exceedingly sore; nevertheless, the people of Nephi did gain some advantage of the robbers, insomuch that they did drive them back out of their lands into their secret places. (3 Nephi 2:17.)
This is largely where we find ourselves today in relation to the Nephite timeline. After seeking out terrorists in Afghanistan and demolishing a rogue state in Iraq, we have driven the terrorists “into their secret places.”
Of course, some will say these similarities are superficial. Thus, any assumptions based on them must be rejected. Yet, the parallels between the two histories, Nephite and American, which began with our Second World War and continue right up to the present, are much too numerous to list in this brief summary. They are persuasive and not so easily dismissed.
The likeness between our world and the Nephite world allows certain fascinating comparisons and inferences about our near future. Re-read chapters three and four in Third Nephi to learn what might lie ahead for us.
The good news is that the parallels between the two histories strongly suggest we will overcome our terrorist problem, just as the Nephites overcame their Gadianton problem. The bad news is that the struggle will be long and difficult, just as it was for the Nephites.
This puts Latter-day Saints in the unique position of seeing today’s headlines through the prophetic vision of Mormon. Seen from this viewpoint, filled with striking connections between the two histories, passages from Third Nephi read like our late breaking news.
The political rhetoric we confront today can be overwhelming at times. Claims and counterclaims, charges and rebuttals fly back and forth, sometimes leaving us only more confused.
Yet, given the prophetic perspective that Mormon provides us in the Nephite record, we can clearly see those in our day who would thwart the efforts of good and just men in our time with political sophistry and doubletalk, misdirection and outright deceit. We can see the righteousness of our struggle to defeat terrorism, and we can trust that victory will be ours, as it was for our Nephite counterparts.
What a joy to know that we can turn to the Book of Mormon for guidance in today’s perplexing world. How comforting for Latter-day Saints to have the reassurance that the Lord has provided answers in modern revelation to the most disquieting questions of our time for those who will accept them.
© Anthony E. Larson, 2004