Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Unusual Men – Mormon PtI

In looking at Mormon’s contribution to this time frame, it was in 345 A.D., when he was 35 years old, the Lamanites came against the city of Joshua in such numbers that the Nephite army fled from before them. But this time they did not just flee to the next northern city in a temporary escape. 
    Instead they fled many miles in a circuitous route from a position west by the seashore to somewhere near the hill to the east seashore to the city of Jashon, that is, they retreated through the land of Bountiful, through the narrow neck of land, through the land of Desolation and all the way to the land of Jashon, which was near where Ammaron had buried the Nephite records (Mormon 2:16).
Although Ammaron had instructed Mormon to come to this spot when he was 24 years old, which he had done earlier (Mormon 2:17), at this point in time, the Nephites were sore-pressed by the attacking Lamanites and it wasn’t until they reached this spot that the Nephite retreat could be halted (Mormon 2:16).
    Amidst this terror and bloodshed that was so full of wickedness and abominations that Mormon refused to write a full account on the plates because “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). Now, at the age of 35, Mormon unearths the plates once again and during the remainder of that year, he used the time to make a full account of the wickedness and abominations of his people up to that time upon the large plates of Nephi which Ammaron had buried (Mormon 2:17,18).
    By the beginning of the next year, 346 A.D. the Lamanite army attacked Jashon and Mormon and his people were driven from the city and fled north to the city of Shem. However, Mormon did not take the Plates of Nephi with him. Instead, he re-hid them in the hill Ramah before leaving the area.
Once in Shem, Mormon spoke to his people with great energy and passion, inspiring them to stand firm and fight for the lives of their women and children. For once, his words found a place in their hearts, because when the Lamanites attacked the city of Shem, the Nephites fought back with fierce determination rather than running. In fact, they fought so hard, that their 30,000-man army put to flight the 50,000-man army of the Lamanites. Encouraged by their success, the Nephites pursued the Lamanites and were victorious a second time in forcing their enemies to flee further south.
    For another four years the fierce fighting continued until, in 350 A.D., the two nations entered into a truce agreement at the narrow passage, what had earlier been called the narrow neck of land. The Nephites were allowed to occupy everything from the point of the narrow passage of land north, while the Lamanites kept possession of all the area south of there. That meant that the land of Desolation was now the southern most boundary of the Nephite kingdom (Mormon 2:29). Zarahemla and the land Bountiful were now permanently part of the Lamanite territory.
    During the next ten years, Mormon kept his people busy fortifying their cities and preparing their lands and themselves against the time when the Lamanites might some day attack them. As part of that preparation, Mormon cried repentance unto his people continually, admonishing them that if they would build up the Church of Christ they would be spared, but most of the people would not soften their hearts nor heed his message (Mormon 3:2,3). However, Mormon must have had some success, because his son Moroni later recorded an address his father gave to a small group of Nephites who belonged to "the church that are the peaceable followers of Christ" (Moroni 7:3).
    It also appears that during this time, Moroni himself was called to the ministry. Since the true teachings of Christ had fallen into apostasy, Moroni erroneously began preaching the need for child baptism. No sooner did his father find out about this than he wrote his son a letter, explaining why children don't need to be baptized (Moroni 8)
    In 360 A.D. the king of the Lamanites sent a letter to Mormon stating that they were preparing to do battle against the Nephites and suggested that they meet in the land of Desolation. Why the king sent this letter rather than just attacking without warning can only be surmised. Perhaps he thought that they were strong enough to wipe out the entire Nephite army in one major battle rather than chase them from city to city.
    But whatever the reasoning, Mormon accepted the offer. The next year the two armies met each other in mortal combat in the land of Desolation. However, it was the Lamanites who were defeated and retreated southward to their land. Despite this loss, the following year, they again tried to conquer the Nephite army, but as before they were soundly defeated and suffered an extremely large number of casualties. There were so many bodies on the battlefield that the Nephites threw the dead into the sea rather than burying them.
    Because of their great victory, the Nephites began to boast in their own strength and were certain that their military might had become superior to that of the Lamanites. With an exalted opinion of themselves, they felt they could defeat their enemy anywhere at any time. So confident were they that they swore an oath by God and His heaven that they would avenge the blood of their people. This time, however, it wasn't merely a matter of preserving their lives and their liberties. Now they lusted for blood.
When Mormon saw their attitude, he would have no part in it. When they persisted in their desire, Mormon refused to join with them. If they were going to war as an act of revenge, he would not be with them, either in command or as a participant. As such, in 362 A.D., after leading his people in battle for nearly 36 years, the 52 year old Mormon retired from military life (Mormon 3:16).
    During the next five years the two armies fought many times. Twice the Nephites lost the city Desolation and once they lost the city of Teancum, but were able to recapture both.
However, during that time, the Lamanites had captured a great number of women and children and sacrificed them to their gods. Finally, in 367 A.D. the Nephites were so outraged over this atrocity, that in a blind rage of fury, they drove the Lamanites back into their own lands. So great was this destruction that the Lamanites didn't attack the Nephites for another eight years.
    From 362 to 375, Mormon was an observer of life. There is no account of what he did during this 13 year period, but it's safe to say that he continued to cry repentance unto his people and also used the time to began his work of abridgment. But exactly when and how he received the inspiration to do an abridgment of the records in his care is unknown. 
However, it's safe to say that before beginning his abridgement, he must have spent considerable time reading and digesting all the records that had been entrusted to his care. It is also clear that Mormon had the original records at his disposal as he wrote his abridgement because he quotes extensively from them. Furthermore, the inserted comments he occasionally makes in his record further shows that he had a complete understanding of the entire history of his people before ever starting his abridgment. How long all of this work took him is unknown, but we know that by 375 A.D. he still had not finished his project.
    It was in that year that the Lamanites came back with a vengeance. By then their army was so large that their numbers couldn't be counted. In fact, Mormon records that from this time forward, the Nephites could no longer win any battles against them and they were swept from the earth as the dew before the sun (Mormon 4:18).
    At the city of Desolation, the Nephites fought hard and lost many men as they valiantly struggled to preserve their land, but, when it became clear they could no longer withstand the Lamanite onslaught, they fled north to the city of Boaz. Once there they were able to repel the Lamanite's first attack, but were defeated during the second assault.
(See the next post, "The Unusual Men - Mormon Pt II," for the full story of this valiant and spiritual man who almost single-handedly kept the Lamanite army at bay and preserved the Nephite Nation all his life, finally giving that life in the final battle of his people)

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