Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Unusual Men – Mormon Part II

For five long bloody years the Nephites held the line. It appears that it was during this time that Mormon wrote a second letter to his son, Moroni (Moroin 8:1). In that letter He tells of the Lamanites capturing many Nephites, slaying the men and forcing the women and children to eat the flesh of their husbands and fathers.
    At the end of this battle, as before, a very large number of Nephite women and children were taken captive and sacrificed to the Lamanite gods. He then recounts how brutal and barbaric his own people had become, stating that their only desire was for blood in revenge.
He recounts how the Nephites in the city of Moriantum captured many Lamanite women and after depriving them of their chastity and virtue, tortured them to death (Moroni 8:7-10).
In this letter, Mormon offers up little hope that he himself will survive the terrible battles.
Nevertheless, He tells his son that he is laboring hard, using much sharpness of tongue, to get the Nephites to repent but they won't listen to his words anymore. Nevertheless, he still counsels his son not to be weary in preaching repentance unto the people.
    In 380 A.D. the Lamanites came at the Nephites with an overwhelming force of men. Although the Nephites fought boldly, it wasn't enough to stop the invasion. By sheer numbers, the Lamanites easily over ran the Nephite defenders and cut down their ranks to the right and left. Without any way or hope of protecting themselves, the Nephites fled in absolute terror for their lives. Their flight was so swift that it can only be described as a full fledge rout—with men racing as fast as they could, their only hope was to out run the Lamanite killing machine that pressed on their flanks and nipped continually at their heels.
Those who couldn't run quickly enough were cut down and destroyed (Mormon 5:7).
    As the Nephite army fled northward, they gathered their people from each town and village they passed through. Those who didn't join the army were destroyed with fire by the advancing Lamanites (Mormon 5:5). It appears that the invaders were implementing a scorched earth policy to make sure their enemies had nothing to return to should they win a battle or two. When Mormon saw this, and knowing the prophecies contained in the records, knew that the Lamanites would completely over run the land this time. While he still had the chance, he went to the hill Shim, gathered all the sacred records which Ammaron had hidden, and fled with them to the city of Jordan (Mormon 4:23).
    Even though he had made himself a promise to never lead his people in battle again, once in Jordan, at age 65, he relented and offered his services to them, despite knowing there was no hope of winning the war. Under his leadership the Nephites began to fortify not only the city of Jordan but all the other nearby cities as well, in an effort to form a straight defensive line from the east to the west. The purpose of this was to prevent the Lamanites from getting to the cities and towns, which laid further north (Mormon 5:4).
"It is impossible for the tongue to describe, or for man to write a perfect descrption of the horrible scene of the blood and carnage which was among the people, both of the Nephites and of the Lamanties, and every heart was hardened, so that they delighted in the shedding of blood continually" (Mormon 4:11)
    What had once been a very large nation was quickly being reduced in size to no more than a large tribe. So great was the massacre that Mormon stopped telling us the details of what happened during the next five years. We have no information of where they went during that time, if they tried to take a stand and defend themselves or any other specific aspects of what happened.
    By the end of 384 A.D., and at the age of 74, Mormon was able to resume his narrative and continue the record. At this point he was able to gather the remainder of his people in the land of Cumorah—a pitifully small fighting force of a once mighty army. All that remained were 23 regiments of 10,000 men each. At this point their total number was only 230,000, which included men, women and children. 
Knowing that there was no more hope, and tired of running and fighting, Mormon wrote to the King of the Lamanites and asked if he could have some time to prepare for one last battle. Surprisingly, the King consented to Mormon's request (Mormon 6:2-3). It was, after all, the Lamanite plan for centuries to wipe out the Nephites completely. No doubt this king saw this final likelihood after all these generations of having that one goal in mind.
    So how familiar are we with the life of Mormon, the man who abridged the scriptural record from King Benjamin to his own writing, with his son, Moroni, abridging the Jaredite record.
    We know that Mormon had at least one son, whom he named Moroni, after the famed Captain Moroni whose bravery as chief captain over the Nephites, and spiritual leadership, caused Mormon to write: “if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men” (Alma 48:17).
    Mormon was born in 310 A.D., in what the Nephites called the Land Northward. While he was named after his father, his father was named after the Land of Mormon mentioned in connection with the City of Nephi. After Mosiah was told to flee into the wilderness  (Omni 1:12) from the city Nephi, son of Lehi, founded (2 Nephi 5:5, 7-8), there were two groups of these Nephites who traveled back to the city of Nephi to reclaim their land of first inheritance (Mosiah 9:1). The first group did not bode well and most were killed in an internal struggle over power. The second group, led by a Nephite named Zeniff, fared better, making a treaty (“a covenant” Mosiah 9:6) with the Lamamite king Laman, and acquiring the city of Nephi as their home in the land they now called Lehi-Nephi, and in an adjacent land called Shilom (Mosiah 9:6).
A fountain of pure water, or a spring, from which the Waters of Mormon were fed. Left: A natural spring shooting up in to the air from a pressure hole in the rock beneath; Right: Two types of natural springs, one with multiple holes, the other with one large hole (called a geyser) 
    Near to the main city complex was a land called Mormon and a fountain of pure water called the Waters of Mormon, and also a thicket of small trees that could hide a man (Mosiah 18:5).
    The names were given by the king (Mosiah 18:4), but which king we are not told—it could have been one of Nephi’s descendants (Second Nephi, Third Nephi, etc.) who was king (Jacob 1:9, 11), or it could have been Zeniff, who became king, or his son king Noah, or it could have been the Lamanite king Laman from whom the treaty was obtained (or his earlier lineage). So how the name “Mormon” was chosen we are not told and cannot be inferred, so brief is the information, although we do know that in conjunction with the king naming the land “Mormon,” it was in the borders of the land having been infested, in times or at seasons, by wild beasts” (Mosiah 18:4).
    So what kind of man was Mormon? What kind of person? Where did he live? We know that Moroni was his son, but when and where was he and any other children born? Did Mormon die on Cumorah, or did he leave there, finish his record, bury the plates and then succumb to his wounds?
Even though Mormon's record doesn't give us many specific details, there is still much we can learn from a careful study of the scriptural record. Why, as an example, was Mormon’s father named after the land of Mormon, which was in the Land of Nephi in the Land Southward? In a land that had always been controlled by the Lamanites from about 225 B.C. onward, except for a few years with the three Nephite kings.
    Did his naming have to do with that land, which figured so prominently in the conversion, safety, and growth of Alma and the early Church before they were driven out and back to Zarahemla? The record on this point is silent, but we know that Mormon was one of the great Nephite prophets whom the Lord entrusted to abridge the record that was to come forth in a later day to not only provide us with the story of this people and the Land of Promise, but would be as a second witness of Jesus Christ. Surely, Mormon fulfilled one of the great and important roles of ancient manand did so with mighty zeal and greatness. He also showed us that one man, surrounded by evil and horrendous depredation that was beyond the imagination, stood valiantly for righteousness and never ceased to try and turn the tide and the people to the Lord.