Mormon and his father Ammaron moved to Zarahemla in 322 A.D.  During the next several years, there was continual war between the Nephites and the Lamanites, and the Nephites had become as wicked as the Lamanites.  When Mormon turned 15 years old, he was visited by the Lord and came to "know of the goodness of Jesus." (Mormon 1:15) He wanted to rush into the streets and start preaching repentance to his fellow Nephites, but was forbidden by the Lord to do so.

The following year, the people of Zarahemla picked Mormon to be the leader of their army. Mormon "was large in stature", probably much like the Nephi of old, and had the character of a true leader. Despite the wickedness of the Nephites, they must have also known of Mormon's closeness to the Lord and probably felt better that a man of God was leading them to war.  Perhaps Mormon’s main calling in life was to eventually abridge the records of his people.  Yet most of what is known about Mormon is from the accounts about him as a commander of the Nephite army.

There was much war during the years that followed, and Mormon continued to preach repentance to his people, who were too wicked to heed his council. He was also instructed by his father regarding the record of his ancestors, where it was buried, and when to retrieve it.  When Mormon was 35 years old, the Lamanites came against the city of Joshua in great force and caused the Nephite army to flee north through the land of Bountiful, past a narrow neck of land and through the land of Desolation, even as far as the land of Jashon.  This happened to be convenient for Mormon because this place was near where his father had buried the Nephite records.

Mormon retrieved the records and made an account on the large plates of Nephi, describing the wickedness and abominations of his people. However, recording the full extent of the “continual scene of wickedness and abominations” was more than he could bear to write about.  One year later, the Lamanite army attacked Jashon and drove Mormon and his people north to the city of Shem.  Before their departure, Mormon re-hid the plates in the hill called Shim.

Mormon inspired his people with energy and passion to stand firm and fight for the lives of their women and children. Even though they were greatly outnumbered by the Lamanites, the Nephites pursued the fleeing Lamanites into the wilderness, slaughtering thousands, then boasting in their own strength and swearing vengeance for their dead.

After several years the fierce fighting had passed, the two nations entered into a treaty of peace.  Mormon spent the next ten years helping his people fortifying their cities. During these years, he exhausted himself in crying repentance, but for the most part his efforts were in vain. It was about this time that his son Moroni also began to preach repentance to the Nephites.

In the year 360 A.D., the Lamanite King sent a letter to Mormon, warning him that they would soon come upon them in battle and proposed to meet in the land of Desolation, a place in between the two nations.  It is interesting that the Lamanites did not immediately attack, but had possibly grown tired of chasing the Nephites across the country.  It is also interesting that Mormon accepted their proposal. The Nephites had become wicked and arrogant, and when the two armies met each other at the predestined location the following year, it was the Nephites that were victorious.  This was true for a similar battle the following year, and the Nephites developed a bad case of pride, and their arrogance led them to believe they were invincible.  They swore an oath to avenge their people of all the past bloodshed.  Mormon wanted no part in this because he could see they were no longer fighting for liberty, but for revenge.  And at the age of 52, despite aggressive pleas for him to remain, Mormon retired as commander of the Nephite army. (Mormon 3:16)

Many battles occurred during the next five years, and the Lamanites had captured a large number of Nephite women and children, sacrificing them to their gods. This outraged the Nephites with a wrath that drove the Lamanites deep into the South. There was no sign of a threat of war for eight years.  It is believed that Mormon used this time to abridge the records that had been passed down and recorded, since Lehi’s departure from Jerusalem.

In the year 375 A.D., the Lamanites returned with an attack of great vengeance.  The Lamanite army had grown immensely, and Mormon records that the Nephites “began to be swept off by them even as a dew before the sun.” (Mormon 4:18) In desperation, the Nephite army retreated, and again many of the Nephite women and children were capture and sacrificed.  As they moved northward, the army grew in numbers while passing through each town and village. Mormon could see the end of his people was near, and returned to the hill Shim to retrieve all the sacred records which his father had hidden. At the age of 65, he agreed to lead a desperate nation back into battle, and for five long years, despite many battles of blood and carnage, the Nephites managed to hold their position.

Mormon writes a letter to his son Moroni where he describes the atrocious acts of the Lamanites, capturing and slaying the Nephite men and forcing the women and children to eat the flesh of their husbands and fathers. He describes brutal and barbaric deeds of his own people, evolving into a bloodthirsty machine that cared only for carnage and revenge.  He recounts how the Nephites retaliate by capturing the city of Moriantum, raping Lamanite women, torturing them to death, only to devour their flesh. (Moroni 9:9-10) In this letter, Mormon expresses a desire to see Moroni one last time to deliver unto him the sacred records.

Mormon had a unique calling in life.  Not only was he the commander and chief of the Nephite army; he was also prophet of his time.  And unlike the prophets that proceeded him, he not only provided writings of his own, but had the arduous task of abridging the records that had been passed down through the generations of his people.  This record consisted of several sets of plates.  The main record of the Nephite history was known as the Plates of Nephi and was divided into two groups. The Small Plates were devoted to the ministry and teachings of the prophets.  The Large Plates represented a secular history of the people, containing an account of their kings, contentions, and wars.  The Plates of Brass contained the five books of Moses and also a record of the Jews from the beginning down to the reign of Zedikiah, king of Judah; also the prophesies of holy prophets, including Isaiah.  The Plates of Ether contained a history of the Jaredites, which was later abridged by Moroni, who inserted comments of his own, resulting in the “Book of Ether”.  Then there were the plates on which Mormon was making his abridged record.

In his own words, he talks about his abridgement, recorded in the book known as the "Words of Mormon":

“And now I, Mormon, being about to deliver up the record which I have been making into the hands of my son Moroni, behold I have witnessed almost all the destruction of my people, the Nephites.

…“I deliver these records into the hands of my son; and it supposeth me that he will witness the entire destruction of my people. But may God grant that he may survive them, that he may write somewhat concerning them, and somewhat concerning Christ, that perhaps some day it may profit them.

…”I had made an abridgment from the plates of Nephi…

“And the things which are upon these plates pleasing me, because of the prophecies of the coming of Christ…

“Wherefore, I chose these things, to finish my record upon them, which remainder of my record I shall take from the plates of Nephi…

“But behold, I shall take these plates, which contain these prophesyings and revelations, and put them with the remainder of my record, for they are choice unto me; and I know they will be choice unto my brethren.

“And now I, Mormon, proceed to finish out my record, which I take from the plates of Nephi; and I make it according to the knowledge and the understanding which God has given me.” (Words of Mormon 1:1-9)

When Mormon wrote this account, there were only 230,000 Nephites left, a small fraction of a previous nation.  In 385 A.D., the Lamanites came against the Nephite nation for one last battle.  The 74-year-old Mormon resumes his account, telling how he gathered the remainder of his people in the land of Cumorah for the last conflict.  The story that follows is called “Destruction of the Nephites”.
Written by Burke McConkie.

Click here "Words of Mormon 1:1-11" to read the actual account of this story from the Book of Mormon.


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