The Prophet Joseph Smith once said that the word Mormon means “more good.” Today I will be speaking about the prophet Mormon and the good he did for the Nephite People.
Elder Holland quoted Joseph Smith, who said that “every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose” in his premortal existence. He continued by saying, “Perhaps that call has an effect on those men even in their earliest mortal years, for Mormon was recognized by his predecessor Ammaron as being “a sober child” and one “quick to observe.”
You may remember that sober was a word also used to describe the Stripling Warriors. Elder James J. Hamula explained that “Being sober means being earnest and serious in assessing your circumstances and careful and circumspect in weighing the consequences of your actions. Soberness therefore yields good judgment, as well as measured conduct.”
Ammaron instructed 10-year-old Mormon to be observant throughout his life, and then at age 24, to remove the plates of Nephi from the ground and write about his people. We always think of Mormon fondly because he was the one to not only write about the current state of his people, but also to abridge and compile the Nephite records into what we know as the Book of Mormon. Today, though, I will be focusing on Mormon as the final leader of the Nephite army.
Mormon was raised during a time when the Nephites and Lamanites alike lived lives of wickedness, hate, and bloodshed. The Lord even removed his disciples from the land, ending the work of miracles and healing. The power of Satan was everywhere in the form of sorcery, witchcraft, and magic. Mormon said that “a continual scene of wickedness and abominations has been before mine eyes ever since I have been sufficient to behold the ways of man” (Mormon 2:18).
Hundreds of years earlier, Alma the Younger prophesied of this day to his son, Helaman (the same Helaman who led the Stripling Warriors.) He said: Behold, I perceive that… the Nephites,…in four hundred years from the time that Jesus Christ shall manifest himself unto them, shall dwindle in unbelief. Yea, and then shall they see wars and pestilences, yea, famines and bloodshed, even until the people of Nephi shall become extinct—Yea, and this because they shall dwindle in unbelief and fall into the works of darkness, and lasciviousness, and all manner of iniquities; yea…they shall sin against so great light and knowledge, yea…from that day, even the fourth generation shall not all pass away before this great iniquity shall come. (Alma 45:10-12).
This is sadly the time in which young Mormon lived, but he did not give into the temptations before him. Elder Holland said, “Maintaining his integrity and faithful independence amidst such evil practice, Mormon was, at approximately the same age as the young prophet Joseph Smith, ‘visited of the Lord.’” Yes, at only 15 years of age, Mormon tasted of the sweetness and goodness of Jesus. Strengthened by this powerful visitation, Mormon wanted to preach to his people, but God shut his mouth. It wasn’t the right time.
Even though he couldn’t preach, Mormon stood by his people, who had wilfully rebelled against God. The land was even cursed because of their wickedness. Then, in his 16th year, because he was large in stature, he became the leader of the Nephite army.
About three years into the war, during a time when the land was so cursed, nobody could hold onto their belongings, Mormon thought his people were repenting. He said:
And it came to pass that when I, Mormon, saw their lamentation and their amourning and their sorrow before the Lord, my heart did begin to rejoice within me, knowing the mercies and the long-suffering of the Lord, therefore supposing that he would be merciful unto them that they would bagain become a righteous people. But behold this my joy was vain, for their asorrowing was not unto repentance, because of the goodness of God; but it was rather the bsorrowing of the cdamned, because the Lord would not always suffer them to take dhappiness in sin. And they did not come unto Jesus with broken ahearts and contrite spirits, but they did bcurse God, and wish to die. Nevertheless they would struggle with the sword for their lives. And it came to pass that my sorrow did return unto me again, and I saw that the aday of bgrace cwas passed with them, both temporally and spiritually; for I saw thousands of them hewn down in open drebellion against their God, and heaped up as edung upon the face of the land. (Mormon 1:12-15)
How did Mormon avoid feeling just like the Nephite army – wanting to die in the midst of so much carnage? Well, in one of his letters to his son, Moroni, he counseled: My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto adeath; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and blong-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your cmind forever (Moroni 9:25).
Mormon found strength in Christ’s atonement and in the hope of eternal life. With this strength, he continued to love, support, and hope for his brethren. His love for them was often manifested through sorrow on their behalf. He cried, “And wo is me because of their wickedness; for my heart has been filled with sorrow because of their wickedness, all my days; nevertheless, I know that I shall be lifted up at the last day (Mormon 2:19).
About 9 years after Mormon started leading the Nephite army, Mormon found himself where the sacred records lay buried. He dug them up and began writing about his people, just as Ammaron had instructed him to do. All the while, he still led the Nephite army.
During a particular scary time, when the Nephites were considering fleeing from the Lamanites, Mormon spoke patriotically to invigorate and embolden them to stand firm against the Lamanites. He “did urge them with great energy, that they would stand boldly before the Lamanites and fight for their wives, and their children, and their houses, and their homes” (Mormon 2:23.)
Mormon’s inspirational words were not the same as Captain Moroni’s Title of Liberty hundreds of years before, but Mormon knew the Nephites would not listen to a call to remember God, religion, and freedom. But because at that time the Nephites still loved their families and homes, that is what Mormon focused on. He met them where they were. This is something Jesus Christ does for all of us, and something we should do for each other too. We should teach the way others are ready to be taught, talk about what others are ready to hear, look for the good, and seek common ground.
Mormon continued to lead his people with great courage and strength, so much so that they were able to take back their lands and even make a treaty with the Lamanites, dividing the lands fairly. At this point Mormon had been leading the Nephite army for 24 years. Talk about patience and long-suffering! This diligence led to 10 years of peace in which Mormon helped his people prepare and fortify their lands for future battles.
This time of peace was over three decades after the Lord commanded Mormon not to preach, and now was finally the time to open his mouth. Mormon wrote: And it came to pass that the Lord did say unto me: Cry unto this people—Repent ye, and come unto me, and be ye baptized, and build up again my church, and ye shall be spared. And I did cry unto this people, but it was in vain; and they did not realize that it was the Lord that had spared them, and granted unto them a chance for repentance. And behold they did harden their hearts against the Lord their God (Mormon 3:2-3).
Mormon spoke more about these experience of preaching with his son, Moroni. He wrote in a letter:
Behold, I am laboring with them continually; and when I speak the word of God with asharpness they tremble and anger against me; and when I use no sharpness they bharden their hearts against it; wherefore, I fear lest the Spirit of the Lord hath ceased cstriving with them. For so exceedingly do they anger that it seemeth me that they have no fear of death; and they have lost their love, one towards another; and they athirst after blood and revenge continually. And now, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor adiligently; for if we should cease to blabor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God. (Moroni 9:4-6).
Consider this for a moment. Mormon tried everything to help his people change their hearts and repent. They not only didn’t listen, they got even angrier and lost all of their love. All they cared about was revenge. But what did he teach his son? To continue to labor diligently.
Soon the Lamanites notified the Nephites they would be coming to battle again. The Nephites were victorious in many battles and started boasting in their own strength, refusing to see the hand of God. They also swore to bring the Lamanites to extinction. They wanted blood, not peace.
At this point, Mormon was tired. He just couldn’t do it anymore. He had spent most of his life leading the Nephite army. He had done everything he could to help them physically and spiritually, but they just wouldn’t turn away from their wickedness. So, he decided from that time forth to stop being their commander.
But even with all this heartache and frustration. Mormon still loved his people. He said: Behold, I had led them, notwithstanding their wickedness I had led them many times to battle, and had loved them, according to the love of God which was in me, with all my heart; and my soul had been poured out in prayer unto my God all the day long for them; nevertheless, it was without faith, because of the hardness of their hearts (Mormon 3:12).
Mormon knew that no matter how many times he prayed for the Nephites, he couldn’t change their fate – that was up to them. And yet, he still did it as an expression of his love for them. He also taught his son, Moroni to pray for them. He said, “Pray for them, my son, that repentance may come unto them. (Moroni 8:18).
Presiding Bishop Glenn L. Pace said, “This prophet had Christlike love for a fallen people. Can we be content with loving less?”
At this time, Mormon concentrated his love for his people in another way. Instead of leading the Nephites into battle, Mormon focused on writing all that he saw and heard with the Holy Spirit as his guide. He boldly wrote to all who would read his words, including us, with a warning that we will all be judged according to our works, whether good or evil. He gave a commission to all people to repent and prepare to stand before the judgment seat of Christ. He knew he could not save his people, but he wanted to do all he could to help save those who would come after and read his words.
Meanwhile the wickedness of the Nephites only intensified. Mormon wrote: And it is impossible for the tongue to describe, or for man to write a perfect description of the horrible scene of the blood and carnage which was among the people, both of the Nephites and of the Lamanites; and every heart was hardened, so that they adelighted in the shedding of blood continually. And there never had been so great awickedness among all the children of Lehi, nor even among all the house of Israel, according to the words of the Lord, as was among this people. (Mormon 4:11-12)
It had been about 12 years since Mormon had stopped leading the Nephites. But when he saw that the Lamanites were about to overthrow the Nephite lands for good, he knew he had to take action. He first dug up the rest of the records that Ammaron had buried.
Then, as Elder Holland described: “at such moments of disappointment and frustration we learn something special about the heart and hunger of this man Mormon. His faith, his hope, and his charity were irrepressible. He could not abandon his own people. Notwithstanding their wickedness, he agreed once more to lead them.
Mormon said: And it came to pass that I did go forth among the Nephites, and did repent of the oath which I had made that I would no more assist them; and they gave me command again of their armies, for they looked upon me as though I could deliver them from their afflictions (Mormon 5:1).
Mormon saw that the Nephites needed him, and he would do more good standing with them. He let his love for his people outweigh his sorrow and frustration for their sins.
The Nephites took Mormon back willingly and looked to him to deliver them – something Mormon knew he could not ultimately do. But, he never left their sides again.
Battle after battle commenced, with the Nephites maintaining some lands while others were destroyed. During this period of destruction, Mormon took time to write to those of our day. He was hesitant to describe the entirety of the blood and carnage that he saw because he didn’t want us to sorrow too much. He wrote of the future readers of the Book of Mormon, “they will sorrow that this people had not repented that they might have been clasped in the arms of Jesus.” (Mormon 5:11)
He knew that his writings would not be seen by the people he saw shedding blood before him. But he knew that his words would be read in God’s wisdom and time. Mormon’s desire was to help persuade the unbelieving that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; 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 dland of their inheritance, which the Lord their God hath given them, unto the fulfilling of his ecovenant…” (Mormon 5:14). He prophesied much about the descendants of the house of Israel and then that the Gentiles would bring them the gospel again someday. And he implored the Gentiles to repent and be humble.
It’s amazing to me how Mormon, in the midst of so much carnage, would have the time, energy and peace of mind to write such beautiful prophetic words to those who would read the Book of Mormon.
When Mormon was about 73 years old, he buried most of the Nephite records in the hill Cumorah and then led the final battle of the Nephites and Lamanites. Keep in mind that was about 46 years of being the commander of the Nephite army, when you take into account the years he didn’t lead them.
As the Lamanites approached, Mormon wrote: And it came to pass that they came to battle against us, and every soul was filled with terror because of the greatness of their numbers. (Mormon 6:8)
Throughout all these years, and during these moments, Mormon was able to keep a level head and not allow his fears to overtake him. How did he do this? Well, in one of his writings he said, “I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear. I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love.” (Mormon 8:16-17)
In this battle, almost all of the remaining Nephites were slain – 230,000 in a single day. Mormon himself was wounded, but even in this state, Mormon still loved the Nephites. He mourned their downfall with all of his soul. He said “And my soul was rent with anguish, because of the slain of my people, and I cried: O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you! Behold, if ye had not done this, ye would not have fallen. But behold, ye are fallen, and I mourn your loss. O ye fair sons and daughters, ye fathers and mothers, ye husbands and wives, ye fair ones, how is it that ye could have fallen! But behold, ye are gone, and my sorrows cannot bring your return” (Mormon 6:17-20).
Other than Christ himself, Mormon was the perfect example of someone who loved with all of his heart without condition. He never stopped caring about his people, even during the times he didn’t lead them, and these were the most wicked people on earth. Yet, he never gave up on them until the end. He didn’t turn his back. He didn’t wish them harm. He didn’t curse their existence.
Most likely none of us will be in his situation where almost 100% of the people around us are so evil the Holy Ghost has left them for good. We won’t get even close to that situation. If Mormon can love with his whole soul, why can’t we? I would ask us all to think. Have we ever given up, turned our backs, and decided to stop caring about the well-being of someone we once loved? Sometimes, as Mormon demonstrated, it’s important to take a step back and get some space. But Mormon still prayed for his people and thought of the future generations and their salvation. I would ask us all to consider relationships that need to be mended and to pray to be more like Mormon.
Full of sorrow and wounded, Mormon still did not stop laboring. Using his spiritual gift of writing, he spoke to the future descendants of the Lamanites. His final written words were: And ye will also know that ye are a aremnant of the seed of Jacob; therefore ye are numbered among the people of the first covenant; and if it so be that ye believe in Christ, and are baptized, first bwith water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the cexample of our Savior, according to that which he hath commanded us, it shall be well with you in the day of judgment. Amen. (Mormon 7:10)
Mormon died with his people, leaving his son, Moroni behind to complete the records.
As I studied Mormon’s life, I found myself wondering how he stayed righteous when his family was one of the only righteous families left and there were no holy places to stand in other than their own home. We know that Mormon met the resurrected Lord when he was 15, and we also know that he and Moroni met the 3 Nephites, who ministered to them. But what else? I found this verse in Moroni 8:26. Moroni wrote his father’s words, which read: And the remission of sins bringeth ameekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the bHoly Ghost, which cComforter dfilleth with hope and perfect elove, which love endureth by fdiligence unto gprayer, until the end shall come, when all the hsaints shall dwell with God.
Because Mormon was continuously penitent, his heart remained soft, and the Holy Ghost was able to fill his heart with hope and perfect love. That love remained with him because of diligent prayer, and he looked forward with hope for a sweet reunion with God.
Mormon was the perfect person to lead the Nephite armies and people through their final years. He was foreordained to live at that time and fulfil a great work. The Nephites needed Mormon, who was gentle, humble, thoughtful, and full of love, who exercised careful and righteous judgment, to care about their well-being, earnestly pray for them, and hope for their repentance. The descendants of the Nephites and Lamanites also needed him to care about their salvation and help them find peace and salvation in Jesus Christ.
Mormon’s teaching that we quote the most is about faith, hope, and charity. He truly possessed all three characteristics. His words mean more knowing that he emulated what he taught.
I want to end with these powerful words from Mormon in Moroni 7:46-48:Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—But acharity is the pure blove of Christ, and it endureth cforever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, apray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true bfollowers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall cbe like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be dpurified even as he is pure. Amen.