Buried Words: Recovering the Nonviolent Message of the Book of Mormon
Part of our Contemporary Studies in Scripture series
At face value the Book of Mormon offers complex and often competing perspectives on war and violence. On one hand you have the Anti-Nephi-Lehites who buried their weapons and covenanted to never again engage in violence; on the other you have the Nephite captain, Moroni, who actively proclaims a form of just war theory and is praised by the warrior-prophet Mormon. While the former is often admired but looked-over as an idealized but impractical approach, it is the latter—the heroic Captain Moroni—who is repeatedly made the exemplar of righteous militarism in the Latter-day Saint tradition.
In Buried Words: Recovering the Nonviolent Message of the Book of Mormon, Joshua Madson argues that the record of the Nephites should not be read as a collection of proof-text-ready passages and isolated moral narratives, but that it should instead be read as an entire epic narrative that acts as a warning to those who would put their trust in violence. Madson shows how the Nephites’ own self-understanding is one built on a foundation of bloodshed—a self-understanding that continually perpetuates itself until it results in their ultimate demise. Rather than a justification for participating in violence, Madson argues that, as a whole, the Book of Mormon acts as a voice and warning against warfare and pleads for all its readers to seek peace without bloodshed.