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How would Joseph Smith have been educated on ancient warfare, including military exemptions?

In times of war in the Book of Mormon it seems quite odd that a whole group of able-bodied men would be granted exemption from taking up arms. This is contrary to ancient traditions in which all able-bodied men would be considered part of the army.

However there are several points which make the exemption of the Ammonites consistent with Jewish law:

  1. Deuteronomy 20:1–2 only requires a duty of war when fighting enemies, whereas the Ammonites were fighting “their brethren” in Alma 24:6
  2. Deuteronomy 20:8 allows exemptions for those who are afraid because of the transgressions they had committed. This is applicable to the Ammonites in Alma 27:23
  3. Those exempt from war (according to the Talmud) must support and maintain the army. This is shown in Alma 27:24 when the exemption is on the condition that “they will give us a portion of their substance to assist us that we may maintain our armies.”

How would Joseph Smith know requirements for military exemption and make this part of the storyline consistent with ancient Israelite law?


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