Steel Swords

2 Nephi 5:14. Nephite Steel Swords

The Book of Mormon claims that the Nephites had swords of steel (2 Nephi 5:14), yet no such implements have ever been found by archaeologists in the New World.

Ammon Defend Sheep Lamoni MormonIn 2 Nephi 5:14, we read “And I, Nephi, did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many swords, lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites should come upon us and destroy us; for I knew their hatred towards me and my children and those who were called my people.” From 1 Nephi 4:9, we know that Laban’s sword had a blade made “of the most precious steel.” Such metal swords were known in the Old World, but the ones found in the New World are comprised mostly of wood, often with sharp pieces of bitumen imbedded as blades.

Nephi used Laban’s sword for a pattern, but he may not have used the same materials. Even if he did make metal swords, due to the small size of his group and the fact that a single man produced these weapons, they were probably not very numerous. Indeed, 2 Nephi 5:14 is the only passage that suggests that Laban’s sword was used as a pattern for other weapons.  In subsequent passages, only the king wields the sword of Laban in battle, and it was passed down as a prized relic, indicating its uniqueness (Jacob 1:10; Words of Mormon 1:13; Mosiah 1:16; D&C 17:1).[i]

[i] A number of articles have been published about this aspect of Laban’s sword in various issues of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. See also the articles on swords in Stephen D. Ricks and William J. Hamblin (eds.), Warfare in the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret and FARMS, 1990).