Article and Photos by Ryan Fisher
The phrase “Armor of God,” has been ingrained into the Mormon culture ever since I was a deacon and it probably goes back many generations. With all the wars found in the Book of Mormon, battle armor provides the perfect analogy for protecting ones self from the spiritual darts of the adversary. But, what if you had the chance to put on the literal armor of the Nephites? How cool would that be?
Well, I got that chance while attending a fireside discussion on Book of Mormon geography in Nauvoo, IL. In attendance was Daniel Lawson who brought with him a box of artifacts he had recently found in the area. Daniel moved to the area a year earlier and during his free time he walks the creekbeds, forests and farmlands around Nauvoo searching for artifacts. It should come as no surprise that this area is a treasure trove of ancient artifacts considering the revelation given to Joseph Smith:
3 Let them build up a city unto my name upon the land opposite the city of Nauvoo, and let the name of Zarahemla be named upon it. (D&C 125:3)
If this is in fact the area opposite of Zarahemla, it was once the capital of the Nephite nation and as such was the site for many bloody battles over the centuries. Battles that included the use of iron and copper among other ores.
- 8 And we multiplied exceedingly, and spread upon the face of the land, and became exceedingly rich in gold, and in silver, and in precious things, and in fine workmanship of wood, in buildings, and in machinery, and also in iron and copper, and brass and steel, making all manner of tools of every kind to till the ground, and weapons of war—yea, the sharp pointed arrow, and the quiver, and the dart, and the javelin, and all preparations for war.Jarom 1:8
Daniel’s wanderings have found these artifacts that support what you’d expect to find in the land of Zarahemla.
In the above photo: iron implements, iron pins, hooks, chisels, iron arrowhead or spear point, an iron axe and other items we have not yet identified. He also found this iron knife or short sword. It was bent probably from being struck multiple times by a farme’s plow:
But, the most compelling artifact is this copper arm band he found laying in a creek bed.
This copper armband was used to protect one’s forearm from blows from a sword. It is a tapered scroll joined by some sort of welding even though most of it is cold hammered. It is joined by this weld near the wrist, but the rest is open and probably had a strap to cinch it on the fleshy part of the forearm so it would be secure during the struggle. The weld seam is clearly visible demonstrating technology that surpasses that of the common Native American and fits the description found in the Book of Mormon:
- 26…And Gidgiddoni did cause that they should make weapons of war of every kind, and they should be strong with armor, and with shields, and with bucklers, after the manner of his instruction. (3 Nephi 3:26 0
Daniel had the copper tested and it is Michigan copper. This is significant because it is believed that the Nephites and Jeradites both got much of their copper from the over 5,000 ancient copper mines that have been found on the Keweenaw peninsula in upper Michigan. The archeological record of these ancient copper mines fits right in line with the Book of Mormon timeline providing another parallel with the Book of Mormon for these artifacts. Google “Ancient copper mines of Michigan” or “Keweenaw peninsula” to find many independent articles on the mysterious vanished races of the copper miners. The copper mines of upper Michigan fit the description found in Ether:
- 23 And they did work in all manner of ore, and they did make gold, and silver, and iron, and brass, and all manner of metals; and they did dig it out of the earth; wherefore, they did cast up mighty heaps of earth to get ore, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of copper. And they did work all manner of fine work. Ether 10:23
Unfortunatly there wasn’t an inscription on it anywhere that said, “made in Zarahemla.” However, the evidence in this case, or the parallels with the accounts found in the Book of Mormon, are enough to put it into the plausible category. We can surmise that this probably belonged to a Nephite warrior instead of a Lamanite because in most cases the Nephites wore armor while the Lamanites did not:
- 21 But they were not armed with breastplates, nor shields—therefore, they were exceedingly afraid of the armies of the Nephites because of their armor, notwithstanding their number being so much greater than the Nephites. Alma 43:21
- 18 But behold, their naked skins and their bare heads were exposed to the sharp swords of the Nephites; yea, behold they were pierced and smitten, yea, and did fall exceedingly fast before the swords of the Nephites; and they began to be swept down, even as the soldier of Moroni had prophesied. Alma 44:18
The armband was not designed for a large person. I am 5’11” 175 lbs and it fit me perfectly. It’s mind blowing to think that I am one of the first to wear this piece of Nephite armor in over 2,000 years. There are many accounts of the Nephite warriors being large set. I am not large set so it leads me to believe that this armband was fashioned for a smaller or possibly younger person. And, that leads me to speculate on the possibility (however remote) of this armband belonging to one of the stripling warriors. I know this is a stretch to say the least, but just the possibility is really exciting.
The other thoughts that came to my mind as I put on this armor is the account of Captain Moroni found in Alma chapter 46 when Moroni raised the title of Liberty as the Lamanites gathered against them to war:
- 13 And he fastened on his head-plate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land—
- 21 And it came to pass that when Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together with their armor girded about their loins, rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God; or, in other words, if they should transgress the commandments of God, or fall into transgression, and be ashamed to take upon them the name of Christ, the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments.
This account challenges us to put on the armor of God and defend the cause of Jesus Christ just as the Nephites put on their armor in defense of their liberty. This copper arm band, this piece of Nephite armor, is a testimony that the fight is real and has been waging for thousands of years. A fight that is both spiritual and temporal. That the Nephites we’re blessed with the technology needed to protect them from their enemies. And, it is a reminder to me, that if we are righteous, we too will be blessed with the protection we need to uphold our liberty.
For me, the phrase, “putting on the armor of God,” has taken on new meaning and become more personal than ever before.
This artifact along with others will be on display at a new museum opening up in Nauvoo this coming spring. Thanks to Daniel Lawson for sharing these exciting finds.