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Amazon Women in the Book of Mormon!

Don - November 3, 2005

I was watching a special on the History on Amazon Women. The Amazon river is South America is named for them. The early explorers mistook the long haired native warriors with no chest hair or facial hair for women. That night I was reading Alma 54 and it got me thinking.

Ammoron the Lamanite king offers to exchange prisoners with Moroni. Moroni notes that the Lamanites have men women and children as prisoners, while the Nephites only have men as prisoners. After telling Ammoron how wicked he and the Lamanites are and how righteous the Nephites are (which you can tell Ammoron was happy to hear) Moroni agrees to exchange prisoners on the basis of a man, his wife and their children for one Lamanite.

Ammoron is a bit upset by Moroni’s epistle and tells him the rightness of the Lamanite’s position and reason for war (which you can tell Moroni was happy to hear). Moroni is so upset that he decides not to exchange prisoners after all, he sends some Nephites out and gets the Lamanite guards drunk. The Nephites then “cast in weapons of war unto the prisoners, insomuch that they were all armed: Yea, even to their women, and all those of their children…”

Ok, here comes the questions with my personal observations and comments: Why would the Lamanites be so stupid as to take women and children as prisoners? They had limited food, and the larger the prisoner group the more men it would take to guard them. Why would the Nephites cast weapons to the women and children who were prisoners. They certainly didn’t have enough time to train on how to use them, that night before the Lamanites awoke the next morning.

My thoughts: The Nephite women and some children in fact fought in the battles. They were trained as soldiers, and they were taken captive in battle by the Lamanites. The Lamanites had to take them captive or they would have continued to fight. If they weren’t soldiers they could have just sent the women and children home and saved their food and resources. They were obviously familiar enough with weapons that they posed a big threat to the Lamanites in the prisoner escape. They were obviously familiar enough with weapons that the Nephites knew they could be counted on to fight and that’s why they gave them the weapons.

Am I making any sense here? Maybe the Nephite women really were Amazons.


  1. Don, I like this theory. It gives women a lot more protagonism in the Book of Mormon narrative than the text is generally willing to grant them! Hence I conclude it must be true!!!

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — November 3, 2005 @ 3:55 pm

  2. I don’t doubt that the Nephite women were as tough as nails. I know many Mormon women that fit that definition. And I don’t doubt that they we very dangerous with a sword or spear in hand (especially to drunk or hung over prison guards). But I don’ think the text supports the idea that they were regular soldiers in the armies. If I remember correctly they were captured when entire villages were invaded by the intruding Lamanite armies. All I know is that if Kristen had a spear in hand and our kids were being threatened by enemy soldiers… well shish kabobs come to mind (with no extensive training required)…

    Comment by Geoff J — November 3, 2005 @ 4:42 pm

  3. Kinda reminds me of the Zena Lesbo Princess series my kids used to watch.

    Comment by Steve EM — November 3, 2005 @ 5:56 pm

  4. The concept of women as warriors (almost always on the enemy side) goes back even further than the Conquest. There’s something about women who fight being the antithesis of “civilization,” I suppose, that continues to pop up in place after place.

    That’s not to say that women can’t or didn’t historically fight. Just that the “Amazon”–or whatever term is applied to the concept–is a pretty common trope, often deployed to justify/rationalize the “civilization” of other peoples.

    As to this specific instance, I’m probably with Geoff–in times of duress, if there are extra weapons, and the need to use them, why not hand them out to whoever’s on your side? Maybe it was a situation like you see in Old West movies, where the women load the guns and hand them to the men. (Again, most definitely NOT asserting that the women were incapable, weak, or in any way deficient…)

    Also, given ancient Israel’s at least occasional willingness to utterly waste their opponents, it’s not particularly difficult to see why Lamanites might have taken women and children as prisoners.

    Comment by Justin H — November 3, 2005 @ 8:24 pm

  5. Cool post, by the way!

    Comment by Justin H — November 3, 2005 @ 8:25 pm

  6. Interesting idea, but I think you’re grasping at straws here. I go with Geoff and Justin’s thoughts here. Anyway, if you’re cruel, you’ll take the women and children, they don’t eat as much, can be put to work and are less likely to rebel and/or escape. They make for a good hostage too, especially when their husbands are attacking your city.
    Again, interesting but I doubt it. Anyway, this isn’t nearly as fun as my theory that Michael Jordan is Cain>8)

    Comment by Bret — November 3, 2005 @ 8:51 pm

  7. Hey! I think this is a very interesting theory. I’m kind of on the fence with this one.

    While I think they probably weren’t regular warriors this post has got me thinking that the women would still have some training in weaponry. Living in the times they did I would think that everyone would know the basics in sword fighting skills and the like.

    They just brought us girls out when they needed some serious butt-kicking!

    Comment by kristen j — November 4, 2005 @ 12:40 am

  8. Interesting theory, but I’m not convinced. In addition to the comments already made, if the women and children really were trained soldiers, then that deflates Moroni’s argument about trading one Lamanite for an entire Nephite family. Doesn’t seem fair, unless Moroni is trying to catch Ammoron by ‘guile’. Then again, maybe that’s why Ammoron didn’t fall for Moroni’s proposal, even though he didn’t mention that as a reason.

    Comment by Matt Jacobsen — November 4, 2005 @ 12:18 pm

  9. Side point: Moroni armed the children as well as the women. How young were the sons of Helaman? Date wise it looks like they could have been as young as 12-15. How old was Helaman at this time? To call these kids his “sons” he’d need to be 35-40?
    What about children fighting, when were they old enough to fight?

    Comment by don — November 4, 2005 @ 1:26 pm

  10. Don,
    Are those ages verifiable? Where do we get a source on something like that?
    Anyway, haven’t you seen the painting? They’ve got to be at least 20 or so from the looks of that>;p Plus they must have bred some dang good horses to be that large!

    Comment by Bret — November 4, 2005 @ 6:14 pm

  11. My source on age…bottom of the page dates, subtract one date from the other.
    You’re right nice horses!

    Comment by don — November 5, 2005 @ 1:32 pm

  12. I’m not sure if you just refrained from mentioning this in your post or if you didn’t notice it, but in Alma 54:12 Moroni explicitly threatens to arm the women and children if there is no exchange of a Nephite family for each Lamanite prisoner:

    “And behold, if ye do not this, I will come against you with my armies; yea, even I will arm my women and my children, and I will come against you, and I will follow you even into your own land, which is the land of our first inheritance; yea, and it shall be blood for blood, yea, life for life; and I will give you battle even until you are destroyed from off the face of the earth.”

    I’m thinking maybe this is kind of like “If you are going to treat our women and children as if they are a threat, as if they are warriors, then maybe we will show you what a threat they are.” Maybe it is an insult, (i.e. even our children can take you out). Whatever it is, this comment is clearly meant to be shocking and provocative, which would indicate that arming women and children is something not usually done. So I’d be surprised if the women were really formally trained as warriors, but who knows? Its not entirely out of the question.

    Also, maybe the reason the Lamanites would hold the women and children prisoner is because they were trying to bring the Nephites into subjection/slavery. Maybe these prisoners were the beginnings of such enslavement. Women probably had many desirable work skills which the men did not have. And if you have families they will breed future generations of slaves for you. There are two separate situations described in the Book of Mosiah where Nephites are enslaved by Lamanites, so there is a precedent for slavery as well. The Lamanite tradition was always that they were the rightful rulers of the people.

    Comment by josue — November 7, 2005 @ 12:28 am

  13. Josue,
    Maybe the threat to arm the women and children shows that they were in fact a threat. They knew how to fight, they were warriors. Was Moroni talking about arming the prisoners? I don’t think so, I think he was referring to raising even more warriors to fight against the Lamanites. I don’t think he had his plan for getting the guards drunk and all that at the time of this first epistle. He didn’t get mad and devise the plan until after Ammoron wrote back.

    Comment by don — November 7, 2005 @ 1:10 pm

  14. Yeah, I don’t think he is talking about arming the prisoners here, either, but about raising more warriors. But I also think the statement is kind of a bluff.

    Comment by josue — November 7, 2005 @ 7:17 pm

  15. Mainly I just like it because it is one example of Moroni saying bold, crazy things when he gets angry. Things that enraged people or inspired people, depending on their perspective.

    Comment by Josue — November 7, 2005 @ 7:20 pm

  16. Josue, it does show a lot about Moroni’s personality. Something that I think “proves” the BOM is all the little things like this. Moroni, the big hero, actually gets mad, agrees to exchange prisoners, then doesn’t like Ammoron’s reply gets mad and changes his mind and then justifies changing it…who can make these things up…it’s true!

    Comment by don — November 8, 2005 @ 12:29 am

  17. A whole other post could be written on “Moroni the propagndist” and/or on how much Moroni’s handling of the army and government would fit into our Constitutional rights.

    Comment by Bret — November 8, 2005 @ 11:26 pm

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