East versus West in the Book of Mormon

One of the underlying themes in the Book of Mormon is the “two irreconcilable ideologies” as suggested by East versus West.1 Dr. Hugh W. Nibley wrote:

What we are to avoid in particular is that polarizing process that begins on the first page of the Book of Mormon and continues to the last. In the opening scene it is Egypt versus Babylon, West versus East, with Lehi’s people caught in the middle; and the book ends with the climactic confrontation at Cumorah, with Moroni caught between two wicked and warring peoples in a battle of annihilation.2

Although the Gadianton robbers played a prominent role in the downfall of that society, the practice of statecraft3 proved too enticing and ultimately led to the showdown at Cumorah.

For example, Dr. Nibley called these robbers “warlike hunting tribes” who had come from Asia thousands of years before. They occupied the land northward and weren’t discovered by the Nephites and Lamanites for over 500 years.4 And the ancient conflict between East versus West is perhaps best described in The Hierocentric State and Tenting, Toll, and Taxing that outline the ancient formation, as well as the continuation and conflicts, of states.5 Both articles point out that “Kings must be hunters” and trace the origin of state formation from the “nomads of the steppes.” In contrast, and as subtext throughout the Book of Mormon and other scripture, those who sought for and obtained the kingdom of God6 “were pilgrims and strangers” caught in between warring factions seeking for control over the “kingdoms of the world” while they themselves were allegiant to a kingdom “not of this world.”7

The process of polarization as described in the Book of Mormon started, as perhaps it always does, in families.8 Eventually it led to a great division between the people.9 A cursory reading of the chapter headings to Mormon’s writings recounts the horrific ending.

Since the book is a “type and a shadow” of the latter days, one of the questions it seems to demand of its readers is, “will this happen again?”

What do you think?


  1. Nibley, Hugh W. The Book of Mormon a Minimal Statement. 2010. Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. 23 Oct 2011; hereafter Minimal Statement.
  2. Polarization in the Book of Mormon.
  3. See the definition used in Ricks, Stephen D. Foreword. Hugh W. Nibley. The Ancient State. 1991. Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. 23 Oct 2011; hereafter Foreword.
  4. Minimal Statement; compare Helaman 3:3-16.
  5. Nibley, Hugh. The Ancient State. 1991. Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. 23 Oct 2011.
  6. Compare 3 Nephi 13:9-13 to Matthew 6:9-13.
  7. See Foreword.
  8. 4 Nephi 1:38.
  9. 4 Nephi 1:35.

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  1. Michael’s avatar

    I would submit that the polarization has already happened. Using just the USA as an example, we are a seriously divided country, politically, culturally, economically, etc. There is no need to produce a laundry list of the issues that divide significant portions of the populace, we all know what they are.

    As for Church members, we are also divided on many issues. We are about as far away from unity as you can be and still be called the Lord’s Church.

  2. Sharon Standley’s avatar

    I believe it has already started and it is world wide this time. From the time of the twin towers it has felt different than just another war. I remarked at the time it felt more like good and evil struggling and it continues to feel that way. Those in government power are trying for more power and we are caught between. There are more and more signs of persecution of those that believe in Christ.

  3. Greg’s avatar

    Michael – I agree. The process of polarization started long ago. As cited above, East vs. West has a very long history going back thousands of years.

  4. Greg’s avatar

    No doubt Sharon. This process is thousands of years old. The stakes are very high indeed.

  5. Deila’s avatar

    Yep, it is becoming more apparent, what has been will be.

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