Evidence #182 | April 19, 2021

Prearranged Battles

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Scripture Central


The location and timing of several Nephite battles were planned in advance. Prearranged battles were also known in Mesoamerica during pre-Columbian times.

Set Times for Battle in the Book of Mormon

Mormon wrote that after a ten-year period of peace, “the king of the Lamanites sent an epistle unto me, which gave unto me to know that they were preparing to come again to battle against us” (Mormon 3:4). Years later, before the final engagement between the Nephites and the Lamanites, Mormon arranged a set time and place for battle.

And I, Mormon, wrote an epistle unto the king of the Lamanites, and desired of him that he would grant unto us that we might gather together our people unto the land of Cumorah, by a hill which was called Cumorah, and there we could give them battle. And it came to pass that the king of the Lamanites did grant unto me the thing which I desired (Mormon 6:2–3).

Some have dismissed the idea that actual armies would ever agree to such unsound military tactics.1 There is, however, evidence that Mesoamerican armies sometimes agreed to set times and places for battle.

Mormon Bids Farewell to a Once Great Nation by Arnold Friberg

Astronomical Considerations

Among the Aztecs, “the ideal was to announce the declaration of war both to the Aztec people and the new enemies, but this was not always done.”2 Among the Maya, certain dates appear to have been selected for war based upon astronomical events thought to be suitable for engaging in battle.

The Maya looked to the gods for the exact time to launch a war, and the gods expressed their will by the movements of the stars. The Long Count dates on Classic Period monuments demonstrate that war repeatedly coincided with certain positions of the stars. Priests, consulting their books, could predict the time of eclipses and the first nighttime appearance of planets such as Venus and mercury; such astronomical events were taken to represent the divine mandate to begin a war.3

John Sorenson suggests that certain battles in the Book of Mormon such as the Amlicite conflict (Alma 2:12–16), the battle with the Gadianton forces of Giddianhi (3 Nephi 3:8), and the battle at Cumorah (Mormon 6:2–3) may have been selected, at least in part, on the basis of astronomical calculations.4

Monolith of the Stone of the Sun, also named Aztec calendar stone (National Museum of Anthropology and History, Mexico City). Image and caption via Wikimedia Commons. 

Historical Precedents

The native historian Fernando Alva Ixtlilxochitl relates that the Toltecs sometimes agreed upon a set time of battle, even years in advance. In the final Toltec conflict,

Topiltzin [king of the Toltecs], seeing himself so oppressed and that there was no way out, asked for time, for it was the law among them that before a battle they would notify each other some years in advance so that on both sides they would be warned and prepared, that their descendants, at some future time could with just reason do the same, which custom was adhered to up to the time the Spaniards came to this land. They [the enemy kings] answered Topiltzin, telling him that they would give him ten years, and on the last of the ten years they would engage in a battle at Tultitlan.5

The account from Ixtlilxochitl is notable in that the enemy leaders are reported to have agreed to a set time and place for battle an entire decade in advance. This reminds us of Mormon’s account in which he requests from the Lamanite king, an opportunity to prepare and gather together his people for the conflict at Cumorah, a process which seems to have taken four years to complete (Mormon 5:6; 6:5).

According to Ixtlilxochitl, the enemy kings agreed to this also “because their army was suffering very great hunger.”6 Both leaders in the Book of Mormon likely saw advantages in agreeing to a set time and location of the battle. Each would have time to feed, build up, and prepare for one major engagement rather than spend years in protracted campaigns against scattered forces.


The practice of agreeing to a set time and place for battle, as found in the Book of Mormon, is consistent with evidence from ancient Mesoamerica. Reasons for this practice are understandable in light of how important astronomical calculations were to warfare. Certain dates and times were thought to be more appropriate for engaging in warfare than others. Additionally, the account of Ixtlilxochitl, which was not available in English at the time the Book of Mormon was translated, provides a significant corollary to Mormon’s agreement with the Lamanite king.

John L. Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex: An Ancient American Book (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for religious Scholarship, 2013), 399–400.

Brant A. Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2007), 6:71, 94–95.

Alma 2:12–163 Nephi 3:8Mormon 3:4 Mormon 6:2–3

Alma 2:12–16

3 Nephi 3:8

Mormon 3:4

Mormon 6:2–3

  • 1 “Imagine Kaiser Wilhelm making such a request of the Allies, or vice versa!!” William Edward Biederwolf, Mormonism Under the Searchlight (Chicago, IL: Glad Tidings, 1915), 19.
  • 2 Ross Hassig, Aztec Warfare: Imperial Expansion and Political Control (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988), 48.
  • 3 Lynn V. Foster, Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2002), 156.
  • 4 John L. Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex: An Ancient American Book (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2013), 399–400.
  • 5 Don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Obras Historicas, 2 vols., ed., Alfredo Chavero (Mexico: Editora Nacional, 1952), 1:51–52, emphasis added.
  • 6 Ixtlilxochitl, Obras Historicas, 1:52.
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