Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Amazing Prophet Mormon and His Abridgement

The Prophet Mormon was an absolutely amazing individual—a child prodigy, a skilled military commander, a great historian, a powerful prophet, a man among men, and a loving father and son. He was neither crafty nor devious and had no guile, but consistently expressed empathy and compassion for his fellow man. He was surrounded all his days by wickedness and abominations, but in his writings, Mormon expresses an eternal outlook that made him cheerful, resilient and optimistic in the gospel.
Even when knowing the Nephites had passed their day of grace, both temporarily and spiritually because of their wickedness (Mormon 2:15), he still thought in some way in their deadly struggle for survival that he could gain an advantage over the Lamanites (Mormon 6:4). Despite their wickedness, he had led the Nephites many times in battle and delivered them out of the hands of their enemies (Mormon 3:12-13). Yet, despite his great love for his people, he stood aside and refused to lead them when the Lord commanded (Mormon 3:13). It was his greatness that allowed him to be chosen by the Lord to edit the writings of the Nephite prophets—a work that made staggering demands on him.
The Nephites held a massive number of voluminous records (Helaman 3:13), including the small and large plates of the Nephites, and were so extensive that four times Mormon felt compelled to declare that he could not write "the hundredth part of the things of my people" (WofM 1:5; Helaman 3:14; 3 Nephi 5:8; 26:6). Mormon had not only to choose what doctrines of the gospel to include in that hundredth part of history, but also to decide which historical episodes would best illustrate the Nephite’s relationship with God. The result is a dazzling spiritual treasure because its editor was a divinely inspired spiritual giant.
Mormon is amazing because of his production of The Book of Mormon, not only in his abridgement of thousands of records, but his insertion at times of further explanation, such as the legal system (Alma 11:1), monetary system (Alma 11:5-6), and Land of Promise geography (Alma 22:27-34). This work was the consecrated and successful mission of his life. While he labored all his days, from the age of 15 onward, to save the Nephites, both from Lamanite destruction and their own folly, his greatest labor of love was the editing of what he knew would be the scriptural record of the thousand years of the Nephite nation (3 Nephi 5:14-16) to be read by a far future people (3 Nephi 30:1-2).
    Any reader of the Book of Mormon today must be amazed by the choice of subject Mormon thought to include in his extensive abridgement. It also seems well worth our while to pay attention to those choices and try to fully comprehend what significance they had in Mormon’s time and for our time today. While the basis of the entire work is to be a second witness or testimony of Jesus Christ, it also contains doctrinal understandings and historical events that aid us in our understanding of our own age and problems--individually, collectively, as well as nationally (Helaman 5:2-3) and worldly.
    For those who have a desire to know of the geographical setting of the land in which Mormon lived, labored and fought, and the geographical setting of the entire Land of Promise, who better to glean information from than the one man that we know of who lived, walked and fought throughout the entire width and breadth of the land. After all, Mormon was born in the Land Northward, lived in the Land Southward (Mormon 1:6), knew of the land and how the Nephites had built numerous buildings all over the land (Mormon 1:7), and saw how the Nephites had spread over the land and “were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea.”
When Mormon was 15 years of age, there began to be a war again between the Nephites and the Lamanites. “And notwithstanding I being young, was large in stature; therefore the people of Nephi appointed me that I should be their leader, or the leader of their armies”
    Mormon led Nephite armies in battle from the waters of Sidon in the far south (Mormon 1:10) to the Land of Many Waters (Mormon 6:4) in the far north. He knew of the small or narrow neck of land since he led the Nephite armies in their retreat to this area, negotiated a treaty with the Lamanites for this area (Mormon 2:28-29), declared it the boundary of the Nephite lands and fought several battles around it (Mormon 3:5-7).
    Mormon included many descriptions of small, but important facts about that land, many of which have been written about in this blog several times over the past four years. He also inserted his own thoughts regarding the topography and layout of the land, and it is toward this end that this blog is generally pointed. Where was the Land of Promise and what scriptural evidence did Mormon leave us to show us the way to knowing that land has been the major topic of over 1500 posts during these past four years. In fact, there are so many such evidences or descriptions that Mormon provided us that finding the location of the Land of Promise is not as difficult as so many Theorists, bent on their own personal view, try to make it seem.
    However, we need to glean from these small, and often seemingly insignificant descriptions to see them in the light Mormon intended. That is not to say Mormon was trying to describe his land to us (except for Alma 22:27-34), but to place the events of which he wrote in the setting of his land he knew so well. Some of these comments or descriptions are quite illuminating. However, Mormon had to pick and choose what he wrote from the enormous material at hand, and often condensed such descriptions to simple and seemingly insignificant statements or asides.
In fact, when Mormon first introduces himself, he writes: “And there had many things transpired which, in the eyes of some, would be great and marvelous; nevertheless, they cannot all be written in this book; yea, this book cannot contain even a hundredth part of what was done among so many people," and also stated "But behold there are records which do contain all the proceedings of this people; and a shorter but true account was given by Nephi. Therefore I have made my record of these things according to the record of Nephi, which was engraven on the plates which were called the plates of Nephi. And behold, I do make the record on plates which I have made with mine own hands. And behold, I am called Mormon, being called after the land of Mormon, the land in which Alma did establish the church among the people, yea, the first church which was established among them after their transgression” (3 Nephi 5:8-12).
    Consequently, since he could write “this book cannot contain even a hundredth part” of what was written, we might want to consider those things he did mention and what there significance might be to our understanding this land upon which Mormon lived.
    Toward this goal the next several posts are dedicated—for us to read what Mormon wrote and picture his points in the land upon which he lived. One of these descriptions was covered earlier, regarding the roads and highways he wrote about that ran extensively throughout the Land of Promise (3 Nephi 6:8). However, others are not quite so obvious, and one must read the description and consider its meaning, such as the one we will discuss in the next post.
(See the next post regarding “Mormon’s Abridgement,” for one of the descriptions Mormon wrote about that can help us understand the location of the Land of Promise)

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