Book of Mormon Lesson 43 (Mormon 1–6)
October 16-22

After the Nephites had enjoyed a Zion society for nearly two hundred years, their return to wickedness signaled total rebellion against the Lord. (4 Nephi 1:38). Therefore, after about AD 345, the Lord completely withdrew his spirit from both camps, leaving them to sink to depths of depravity without parallel in their history.

Mormon was charged by the Lord to take all the records passed down by his people, abridge them, and give those that would be most important to future generations to his son Moroni. He painstakingly engraved the entire contents of his book character by character on metal plates. Mormon did not allow the coarsening, grisly work of war to lead him away from the Lord or what the Lord had commanded him to do.


The Meaning of the word “Mormon”  (Mormon 1:1)
The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote in a letter to the editor of the Times and Seasons that “The word Mormon, means literally, ‘more good.’”1

Mormon Was an Obedient and Sober Boy
— He was born in AD 310 or 311—he was about ten years of age in AD 321 (Mormon 1:2).
— He was born in the land northward. (Mormon 1:2, 6).
— He was a descendant of Nephi. (Mormon 1:5).
— His father’s name was Mormon, named after the land of Mormon. (Mormon 1:5,  3 Nephi 5:12).
— At age 10 Mormon was given responsibility for the sacred records (Mormon 1:1–2).
— Even at 10, he was “learned,” a “sober child,” and “quick to observe” (Mormon 1:2).
— At age 11 his father took him into the land southward, near Zarahemla (Mormon 1:6–7).
— At age 15 he was “visited of the Lord” (Mormon 1:15).
— At age 15–16 he was appointed leader of the Nephite armies (Mormon 2:2).
— At age 24 he went to the Hill Shim to get the records and begin writing (Mormon 1:3–5).

The Spiritual State of the Nephites
The Nephites were very numerous (Mormon 1:7). The whole face of the land around Zarahemla “had become covered with buildings, and the people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea” (v. 7). The various ethnic groups were grouped into two parties—the “Nephites” and the “Lamanites” (Mormon 1:8–9).  These divisions were not racial.  All of the people were, by this time, of the same mixed-blood heritage.

There were no miracles or healing “because of the iniquity of the people,” and the “beloved disciples” were taken from among them (Mormon 1:13–14). Their society was full of greed, secret combinations, and sorceries (Mormon 1:18–19). Though he was willing to do so, Mormon was forbidden by the Lord to preach repentance unto the people (Mormon 1:16–17).

A Witness of Jesus Christ
At age 15, despite wickedness and unbelief all around him, Mormon was visited by “the Lord and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus” (Mormon 1:15).

Other 15–year olds called by the Lord have included:
— Enoch (Moses 6:31)
— Abraham.2
— Joseph (Genesis 37:2).
— Samuel (1 Samuel 2:18; 3:1).
— Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:6).
— Nephi (1 Nephi 2:16).
— Captain Moroni (Alma 43:17).
— Mormon (Mormon 1:2).
— Joseph Smith (JS-History 1:14).

General of the Nephite Armies
At age 15–16, Mormon was appointed leader of the Nephite armies (Mormon 2:1–2). This was not just because he was “large in stature,” but also because he was a remarkable leader in many aspects of his life.

There was “revolution throughout all the face of the land,” which was “filled with robbers and with Lamanites,” resulting in blood and carnage everywhere (Mormon 2:8). Under the pressure of vicious attacks from the Lamanites, the Nephites began to mourn and lament (Mormon 2:9–11).

Mormon was pleased by their mourning, which he hoped would bring sincere repentance (Mormon 2:12–14).  But his “joy was vain” because their sorrowing was not unto repentance, but the “sorrowing of the damned.” Their “day of grace was passed,” and their wickedness and rebellion made their temporal and spiritual destruction sure (Mormon 2:15).

Writer of the Book of Mormon
By the time that Mormon came on the scene, a man named Ammaron had kept the Nephite records for seventeen years (4 Nephi 1:48). At the end of his ministry, he buried the records in the Hill Shim for safe-keeping. He also spoke to the young 10–year-old boy Mormon in 320–321 AD, charging him to take the records out of the hill when he became 24 years old and write what he had observed among the people during the intervening years (Mormon 1:2–4). In obedience to these instructions, Mormon went in 345 AD to the Hill Shim and removed the records, then wrote upon them his observations of his people (Mormon 2:16–18).

Mormon’s calling and election had been made sure (Mormon 2:19).  He knew he would be exalted at the last day, which kept him from becoming overcome with sorrow and discouragement over so much wickedness and hopelessness among the Nephites. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that this privilege of having one’s calling and election made sure comes only after “the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards.”3

Mormon was able to arouse the Nephites “somewhat to vigor” to defend their families and homes (Mormon 2:20–27). But they were not able to defeat the Lamanites.

In 350 AD, the Nephites, Lamanites, and Gadianton terrorists all made a treaty under which the lands they occupied were divided among them. The Nephites were given all the lands north of the “narrow pass” (Mormon 2:28–29), which lay north of the narrow neck of land. The Lamanites received all the land south of that point. The land which the Nephites received was known as the “land of desolation” because of its treeless condition and also because it was the place where the Jaredites had lived and been utterly destroyed. Now, the Nephites were essentially being exiled to this land of desolation.


Mormon Refuses to Lead the Nephite Armies
After 10 years, the Lamanites again attacked the Nephites (Mormon 3:1–8). In response, the Nephites waged an offensive war driven by a thirst for blood (Mormon 3:9–10).
— They “began to boast in their own strength.” (v. 9)
— They swore to avenge themselves of the blood of their brethren (v. 9)
— This was evil in the Lord’s eyes, who says “vengeance is mine” (v. 15).
— They went off to battle without the sanction of the Lord (Mormon 4:4).
— Mormon called them to repentance, but they hardened their hearts toward God and would not listen to him (vv. 2–3)
— Mormon resigned as general of the Nephite armies after nearly 30 years of leading them (Mormon 3:10–16).

Mormon Speaks to Us Concerning the Record He Kept
Mormon then spoke directly to the readers of his record (including us) and stated his reasons for keeping the record (Mormon 3:17–22).
— To show “that ye must all stand before . . . Christ . . . to be judged” (v. 20).
— “That ye may believe the gospel of Jesus Christ” (v. 21).
— To show “that Jesus [is] the very Christ and the very God” (v. 21).
— To “persuade all ye ends of the earth to repent” (v. 22).
— Compare this list to the reasons on the Title Page of the Book of Mormon

The Nephites are Utterly Destroyed
Mormon described how the wicked are punished (Mormon 4:4–5).  The Lord withdraws his Spirit and leaves the wicked to punish one another (Mormon 2:26). Nephite and Lamanite soldiers became so bloodthirsty they became obsessed with the desire to kill (Mormon 4:10–12). Horrible scenes of carnage followed (Mormon 4:14–22).

Mormon Abridges the Book of Mormon
Seeing the Nephites being destroyed by the Lamanites, Mormon returned to the Hill Shim and removed all the records hidden there (Mormon 4:23). Then, for the next 13 years, 362–375 AD, he abridged the records of the descendants of Lehi into the Book of Mormon that we have today.


Mormon Again Leads the Nephite Armies
At this point, Mormon was about 65 years old. Though he knew it will be fruitless, Mormon agreed once again to lead the Nephite armies (Mormon 5:1–2). The fleeing Nephites were swept down and destroyed (Mormon 5:3–7). Mormon recoiled at having to describe the wickedness and carnage of the Nephites (Mormon 5:8–9).

Mormon then directly addressed us—those for whom his record was intended—and urged us to remember where our blessings come from (Mormon 5:10–13).

He also identified the primary audiences for the Book of Mormon (Mormon 5:14–15).

—“The unbelieving of the Jews. . .that they may be persuaded that Jesus is the Christ” and “that the Father may bring about, through his most Beloved, his great and eternal purpose, in restoring the Jews, or all the house of Israel, to the land of their inheritance” (v. 14).

—“The seed of this people” that they “may more fully believe [Christ’s] gospel”, which “shall go forth unto them from the Gentiles” (v. 15).

He prophesied that the Lamanites would become “a dark, a filthy, and a loathsome people” (Mormon 5:15). This is an apt and accurate description of the people whom Cortez and his armies found when they came here—a people full of idolatry who would rip the still-beating hearts out of their sacrificial victims, and who, despite their great cities and other accomplishments, were grossly pagan and godless. They became an atheistic people, aimlessly driven about by Satan (Mormon 5:16–18). Mormon said “the Spirit of the Lord hath already ceased to strive with [his people]; and they are without Christ and God in the world [atheists]” (v. 16).

The Final Great Battle at Cumorah
About this time, Mormon wrote a letter to the king of the Lamanites asking that he be permitted to gather his people to meet the Lamanites for one decisive battle near the Hill Cumorah. The Lamanite king agreed. They met for the battle at the Hill Cumorah (Mormon 6:1–5).

Mormon said the land of Cumorah “was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains” (Mormon 6:4). Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “It is known that the Hill Cumorah where the Nephites were destroyed is the hill where the Jaredites were also destroyed. This hill was known to the Jaredites as Ramah. It was approximately near to the waters of Ripliancum, which the Book of Ether says, ‘by interpretation, is large, or to exceed all.’”4

— This would suggest that Cumorah was located somewhere near the ocean.

— There are many theories about precisely where the land of Cumorah was located, and those who advocate each view are very sure about it. Every one of them has a quote or two from an Apostle or prophet in support of their claims.

— But when it comes to Book of Mormon geography, the only official statements that have been made by Church authorities say that we do not know.

— Even the Prophet Joseph Smith had contradictory views over time. He is reported by his mother to have said that the hill near Palmyra, New York, was called “Cumorah.”5 Yet, on a later occasion, he said: “[The Nephites] lived about the narrow neck of land, which now embraces Central America, with all the cities that can be found. Central America, or Guatemala, is situated north of the Isthmus of Darien [the Panama Canal], and once embraced several hundred miles of territory from north to south. . . . The city of Zarahemla stood upon this land.”6

— What are we to make of such contradictory statements over time on this topic?  The only logical conclusion is that what they are telling us is their opinion at that time (to which they were entitled), but their statements on this topic are not revealed doctrine.  If the answer to this question is revealed in the future, we will hear it from the heads of the Church in an official manner. This has not yet happened.

Mormon re-buried the plates in the Hill Cumorah (Mormon 6:6).  He “began to be old’ [now about 75 years old]; and knew that his people would soon be destroyed. As part of his description of these events, Mormon provided two very interesting details about the records. (1) He “made this record out of the plates of Nephi,” and (2) he did not bury up all the records at that time, but kept a few of them which he describes as “these few plates which I gave unto my son Moroni.” If this is true, then we can assume that many more plates lay buried in the hill where Mormon deposited them.

They fought a terrible battle, leaving only 24 Nephites alive (with the exception of a few who had escaped into the south and a few who had joined the Lamanites) (Mormon 6:7–15). Mormon then recorded the number of the dead.  Of an original army of 230,000 Nephites. . . .only 24 survived (v. 11).

“O Ye Fair Ones”:  Mormon’s anguished cry to the Lord described this great prophet’s devotion to his people and his grief at their lack of repentance (Mormon 6:16–22). With this painful soul-cry, the great prophet Mormon concluded his record. He did not die immediately, we know, because he continued to communicate through letters to his son Moroni for a time (Moroni 9). But eventually, he too was killed by his enemies (Mormon 8:1–3).

A Letter from the Battlefield
We are blessed to have one more chapter of his words in the form of a letter to his son. Moroni inserted this letter into his own record after his father’s death. It describes the final great battle at Cumorah (Mormon 8), and sadly describes more of the awful condition of both the Nephites and Lamanites. We discuss it here because it contains the words of Mormon.

The Spirit ceased to strive with the Nephites, and they “thirst[ed] after blood and revenge continually” (Moroni 9:1–5). Mormon reported cannibalism and the most cruel forms of torture for men, women and children, among both the Lamanites and the Nephites (Moroni 9:7–10). Mormon lamented how far the Nephites had fallen (Moroni 9:11–15), and he called them brutal, without order or civility, and “past feeling” (Moroni 9:16–21).

Mormon then admonished his son, Moroni, to “be faithful in Christ” in a final farewell at the end of his letter (Moroni 9:22–26).

1.  History of the Church, 5:399–400.
2.  Mark E. Petersen, Abraham: Friend of God [1979], 72).
3.  Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 150.
4.  Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:233–234.
5.  Smith, Lucy Mack, History of the Prophet Joseph Smith [1954, 1901], 100.
6.  Times and Seasons, March 1844, 914–915.

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