A Dictionary of the Book of Mormon/Lachoneus, the elder
LACHONEUS, THE ELDER. One of the greatest prophets and judges of the Nephites. We are not informed when he was elected to the judgment seat, but we are told that he occupied it at the time of the Redeemer's birth in Bethlehem. His reign was a long and troublous one; it was one of continued warfare with the Gadianton bands, who, year by year, grew in numbers and increased in audacity. The forces of both Nephites and Lamanites were unable to cope with them, and their leader, Giddianhi, had the effrontery to write an epistle to Lachoneus (A. C. 16), asserting the powers of the robbers, their undoubted ability to conquer all opposed to them, and suggesting that the people whom Lachoneus judged should surrender and affiliate with them, and become like them. This arrogant proposition was indignantly rejected. (See III Nephi, chap. 3.)
So great was the misery entailed by the invasions of the robbers, that Lachoneus at last determined to gather all the people into one place, and by a policy of masterly inactivity wear out or starve out the invaders. We can scarcely understand how terrible must have been the misery endured by the nation at this time, to cause the conception and execution of such a measure. Can we picture to ourselves the scenes that must have occurred as the people of two continents converged into one gathering place? From the shores of the great lakes in the north, from the stormy Atlantic seaboard, from the coast where the mild Pacific ebbs and flows, from the regions of the southern Andes, the migrating hosts flowed together to Zarahemla and Bountiful, the lands selected as the temporary gathering place. They came with their flocks and herds, their grain and provisions, leaving nothing that would help to sustain the robber bands while they continued to wage their unhallowed war. (A. C. 17.)
When the people reached the gathering place they fortified it so strongly that it became impregnable to their enemies. Under the instructions of Gidgiddoni, the Nephite commander-in-chief, they also made themselves strong armor and shields, as well as all kinds of weapons, so that they might be fully prepared for the day of battle. Lachoneus, in the meantime, preached to them in great power, so much so that they feared his denunciations, forsook all their sins, and turned to the Lord in great humility and devotion. The result was that when the robbers came against them, the attacking force was driven back with great slaughter.
Game soon became so scarce in the wilderness that the Gadiantons began to suffer for food while besieging the Nephite stronghold. In addition to this, the Nephites made frequent attacks upon them. Seeing his armies wasting away through famine and the sword, Zemnarihah, their commander, gave up all hope of success, withdrew from the siege, and formed the design of marching his followers to the most distant parts of the land northward.
To permit the Gadianton robbers to escape would have increased the difficulties under which the Nephites had so long suffered. Gidgiddoni, having learned of their purpose, and knowing their weakness for want of food and because of the great slaughter made among them through the successful attacks of his own troops, sent his armies to cut off their retreat. During the night they got beyond the robbers, who, when they began their march on the morrow, found themselves between the armies of the Nephites. Many thousands surrendered, and the remainder were slain. Zemnarihah was taken and hanged to the top of a tree; which, when he was dead, the Nephites cut down. They then greatly rejoiced and praised God for His mercies and blessings in delivering them; but it was not until five years later (A. C. 26), that the Nephites returned to and possessed their old homes.
The next year (A. C. 27), the laws were revised according to justice and equity. They had, doubtless, been greatly tampered with during the times that the Gadianton robbers held control of the administration and elected the officers. Good order now prevailed throughout the whole land. Soon new cities were founded and built, and many improvements made. Yet for all this, the peace was short lived. Iniquity and dissension soon began to again raise their hideous heads, and the prophets and servants of God were persecuted and illegally condemned to death.
We are not informed when Lachoneus died, but in A. C. 30, another Lachoneus, probably his son, filled the judgment seat.