Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Greatness of Mormon – Part I

There are numerous attempts by members who want to champion a Land of Promise model that does not match all of the scriptural record and descriptions given us by Mormon, who, along with critics, want to discredit in one way or another the writings of that last, great prophet of the Nephite nation.
As an example, when Mormon writes about directions in Alma 22, he talks about a strip of wilderness running from the west to the east, about a land north of another (Alma 22:27); about three places on the west (Alma 22:28); he mentions east and northern, and from the east to the west, and on the north (Alma 22:29); and so far northward (Alma 22:30); he mentions south, northward, southward, and northward again (Alma 22:31); he states from the east to the west, northward and southward (Alma 22:32); from the east unto the west, south, north and northward (Alma 22:33). In those seven brief verses, Mormon mentioned north 3 times, northward 5 times, south 2 times, southward 2 times, east 5 times, and west 5 times, plus northern 1 time, for a total of 23 directions, and all very clear and consistent with one another—yet, Mesoamerianists from John L. Sorenson on down, claim that none of these 23 directions are correct! They claim that the Nephites, and all those who wrote about directions in the Book of Mormon were inaccurate, since the Nephites did not understand the correct cardinal points of the compass once arriving in the Land of Promise.
And this is only in those 7 verses. There are numerous other verses in the scriptural record that give directions, but these Theorists all claim that every direction given is skewed some 60º to 90º because the Nephites simply had a different understanding and orientation of directions than what we know today.
Now, to better understand this, perhaps we should look at the one man who basically wrote all those directions, though obtaining them from various other prophets who wrote them in the scriptural record, which he abridged.
Mormon, who was born in 310 A.D., starts off by telling us that he made “a record of the things which [he] had both seen and heard”(Mormon 1:1), and that by the time he reached ten years of age, a prophet told him about a buried record (Mormon 1:2), that when he was about age 24, he was to obtain this record and all those engravings of the Nephites (Mormon 1:3), and then write upon the plates of Nephi all that he had seen and heard (Mormon 1:4). The following year his father, also named Mormon and a descendant of Nephi, took Mormon to the Land of Zarahemla (Mormon 1:6), and a war took place between the Nephites and the Lamanites that year along the southern border of the Land of Zarahemla and the narrow strip of wilderness, by the headwaters of the River Sidon (Mormon 1:8, 10). There were numerous battles and the Nephites soundly defeated the Lamanites and the Lamanites withdrew back to their own lands (Mormon 1:11-12).
Following this war, peace settled over the land for four years (Mormon 1:12), but there was wickedness throughout the land and the Lord took away his disciples and the work of miracles and healings (Mormon 1:13), along with the gifts and the Holy Ghost (Mormon 1:14). Around the end of this time, Mormon now 15, was visited by the Lord and began to preach to the unrighteous Nephites, but the Lord commanded him not to do so (Mormon 1:16) because of the hardness of their hearts, which resulted in the land being cursed (Mormon 1:17). About this time the Gadianton Robbers among the Lamanites began infesting the Nephite lands (Mormon 1:18), and Satan was rampant in the land with sorceries, witchcraft and magic across all the face of the land (Mormon 1:19).
At the end of the four-year peace, another war broke out with the Lamanites, and the Nephites appointed Mormon, at the age of 15, to be the leader of their armies (Mormon 2:1), and he marched at their head (Mormon 2:2), but when the Lamanites attacked, Mormon’s army fled in fear toward the north countries (Mormon 2:3). At Angola, Mormon commanded the fortifying of the city, but it was in vain and the Nephites were driven out of Angola (Mormon 2:4), and then out of the land of David (Mormon 2:5), marching finally to the city of Joshua, which was on the west coast, gathering in as many people as they could (Mormon 2:6-7).
Mormon was plagued with the command of a people who would not repent, even in the face of such blood and carnage across the land during this revolution throughout the entire country (Mormon 2:8). At the age of 19, Mormon commanded a Nephite army of 42,000 men, and defeated a Lamanite army of 44,000 (Mormon 2:9), but still they did not repent, nearly breaking Mormon’s heart, for he desired with all his might that the Nephites would come to accept the goodness of God, and repent of their sins (Mormon 2:12), but instead they cursed God (Mormon 2:14). In all of this, Mormon saw “that the day of grace was passed with them, both temporally and spiritually,” seeing thousands of them hewn down in open rebellion against their God (Mormon 2:15).
At the age of 35, Mormon was able to stop the terrified Nephite retreat when they reached the city of Jason (Mormon 2:17) in the Land Northward. At this time, since they were near the hill Shim where Ammaron hid the records, Mormon retrieves the Plates of Nephi and records everything on them that he had seen and heard, including all the wickedness of the Nephites (Mormon 2:18), lamenting that “wo is me because of their wickedness; for my heart had been filled with sorrow because of their wickedness, all my days” (Mormon 2:19).
At this point in his life, Mormon injects his description of the Land of Promise as he abridges Alma’s record—a righteous man, a prophet of God, who had been struggling for 20 years to bring his people back to God, fighting their battles, suffering through their wickedness, but still clinging to the hope they would repent until finally he knew they had no hope. As he stated: “And upon the plates of Nephi I did make a full account of all the wickedness and abominations; but upon these plates I did forbear to make a full account of their wickedness and abominations, for behold, 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). Yet, despite the wickedness of the Nephites, Mormon loved them, arousing them with a stirring speech (Mormon 2:23), motivating his small army of 30,000 to defeat a Lamanite army of 50,000 (Mormon 2:25-26). Still, with broken heart over the wickedness of his people, Mormon led them against the Lamanites and Robbers until they had regained the lands of their inheritance in the Land Northward (Mormon 2:27), finally, at the age of 40, making a treaty with the Lamanites that divided the land between them, with the Nephites gaining all of the Land Northward, and the Lamanites the Land Southward (Mormon 2:28-29).
During the following ten years of peace, Mormon no doubt continued with his writing, bringing the Large Plates of Nephi up to date with his history of the Nephite nation. Ten years later, at the age of 50, the Lamanites gave warning that they would be attacking (Mormon 3:4). One can picture Mormon moving about, getting his people ready for such an attack, gathering everyone to the City of Desolation, placing his armies and fortifying the land (Mormon 3:5-6).
In the first battle, Mormon’s army defeated the Lamanites and they withdrew, returning to their own lands (Mormon 3:7), but in the following year, they were back, and again Mormon prevailed (Mormon 3:8), but the Nephites, boasting of their own strength, refusing to repent after being delivered and swearing by God that they would attack and destroy the Lamanites, ignored Mormon’s attempts to keep them from their design and what the Lord had commanded them not to do (Mormon 3:9-10). 
Mormon wrote: “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). And at this point, he “did utterly refuse form this time forth to be a commander and a leader of this people, because of their wickedness and abominations” (Mormon 2:11).
(See the next post, “The Greatness of Mormon – Part II,” for more on the greatness of this last Mormon prophet and how he has been maligned by many for various reasons)

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