Thursday, October 31, 2019

Mormon, the Prophet and Commander of the Nephite Armies

Mormon, after whom the Book of Mormon is called, and his father, also named Mormon (Mormon 1:5), were descendants of Nephi, son of Lehi. The only other recording we have of the name “Mormon” is in the land near what would become the Land of Nephi, in an area not far from what would become the city of Nephi (Lehi-Nephi), and referred to as the Land of Mormon, the Forest of Mormon, and the Waters of Mormon—an area given its name by the king and having been infested at certain times and during certain seasons with wild beasts (Mosiah 18:4).
The Waters of Mormon, where Alma later baptized more than two hundred converts
We are not told in the scriptural record what the purpose or meaning is of the name; however, according to Joseph Smith, the name “was not derived from the Greek word mormo, for there was no Greek or Latin upon the plates from which I, through the grace of God, translated the Book of Mormon. Let the language of that book speak for itself. On the 523d page, of the fourth edition, it reads: And now behold we have written this record according to our knowledge in the characters which are called among us the Reformed Egyptian ... none other people knoweth our language; therefore [God] hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof."
    Joseph went on to say, [The] Bible in its widest sense, means good; for the Savior says according to the gospel of John, "I am the good shepherd" and it will not be beyond the common use of terms, to say that good is among the most important in use, and though known by various names in different languages, still its meaning is the same, and is ever in opposition to bad. We say from the Saxon, good; the Dane, god; the Goth, goda; the German, gut; the Dutch, goed; the Latin, bonus; the Greek, kalos; the Hebrew, tob; and the Egyptian, mon.
    Hence, with the addition of more, or the contraction, mor, we have the word MOR-MON; which means, literally, more good” (Correspondence, Times and Seasons, Nauvoo, Illinois, vol 4, no 13, May 15,1843, p194; Teacings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 1938,p299-300).
The Prophet Mormon as (left) a Warrior and leader of the Nephite armies; and (right) as the recorder and abridger of the Book of Mormon

As for the Prophet Mormon, it is of interest to find that his youth from the time he was fifteen years old onward, had been involved in military matters and the defense of his people. It would be interesting to know what experiences he had in those first fifteen years of his life. We know he was brought up in the far reaches of the Land Northward until he was about 10 years old—“being a mature and sober youth” (Mormon 1:2), was told by, Ammon, the last prophet of his day where the sacred records were deposited and that he was to obtain them in 14 years from then from their location in the hill Shim (Mormon 1:3), and that he was to record on the plates of Nephi all that he had observed among the Nephites during his first 24 years of life (Mormon 1:4). In the following year, at age 11, his father “carried him into the Land Southward, even to the Land of Zarahemla” (Mormon 1:6).

When Mormon was 15, he was visited by Jesus and he learned about the savior and his goodness (Mormon 1:15)
There is some speculation that Mormon’s father was involved in the military, and may have been serving on an outpost in the far north or engaged in some type of military endeavors, like mapping the country, etc. For why else would he be called back to Zarahemla, to the capital of the nation, especially since there were rumors of war on the horizon with the Lamanites that broke out in open conflict in the year they arrived in Zarahemla—why else would Mormon bring his son from their home in then north to Zarahemla with a war ready to break out? And while we know nothing of Mormon’s family, or that of his father’s, since there is no mention of their coming to Zarahemla with Mormon, might they have been left at home in then ancestral home in the north for their safety?
    While that is speculation, we know that Mormon the elder brought his son, Mormon the younger, into Zarahemla from the safety of the Land Northward at the same time a war was breaking out in the borders of Zarahemla near the Waters of Sidon. And within four years, Mormon the younger is appointed the Commander-in-Chief of the Nephite army at the age of 15 (Mormon 2:1).
    During that first year of arrival, the Nephites “gathered together a great number of men even to exceed the number of thirty thousand…and had a number of battles, in which the Nephites did beat the Lamanites and did slay many of them” (Mormon 1:11). While there is no confirmation that a connection existed between Mormon’s father and the military campaign of the Nephites to defend themselves against the Lamanites, the two events seem far more connected than the scriptural record tells us. For why else would a beleaguered army of 30,000 men, just having defeated the Lamanites in a series of battles appoint a fifteen-year-old to be their military leader?
Since it has always been the Nephite practice to appoint a prophet as their military leader, and as we see in this period of time that it was typical of the son to take over the father’s military leadership: Moronihah took over for Moroni; Nephihah took over for Nephi, etc. It stands to reason that Mormon took over for his father, Mormon, who might have been killed in this series of battles during those four years, or severely wounded that he could not continue in command.
    Again, this is speculation, and what happened to his father after arriving in the Land of Zarahemla, is not mentioned in the record, only that Mormon the younger was not only a sober youth, but a man large in stature and a man of God (Mormon 1:15-16), and may well have been appointed to replace his father as commander of the army. However, the fact is that he was appointed at the age of 15 to be the commander (Mormon 2:2) and lead the army against the Lamanite horde that was brandishing their swords in the south once again, suggests the Nephite armies’ faith in this young, sober lad.
    But despite whatever faith the armies had in Mormon, his appointment and presence did not instill them with much courage, for as the Lamanites approached that next year, their powerful numbers frightened the Nephites so much that they retreated toward the north countries (Mormon 2:3).
    From the beginning, Mormon understood that their strength lay in assembling their people, the Nephites, and gathering them into one body (Mormon 2:7). In addition to the attacking Lamanites, “the land was filled with robbers and with Lamanites; and notwithstanding the great destruction which hung over my people, they did not repent of their evil doings; therefore there was blood and carnage spread throughout all the face of the land, both on the part of the Nephites and also on the part of the Lamanites; and it was one complete revolution throughout all the face of the land” (Mormon 2:8).
By 330 A.D., the numbers had increased and Aaron, the Lamanite king, had assembled an army of 44,000 against Mormon’s army of 42,000, and Mormon prevailed with Aaron fleeing with his army (Mormon 2:9). This brought about a national attitude of repentance among the Nephites, but the prophecies of Samuel the Lamanite began to establish themselves “for behold, no man could keep that which was his own, for the thieves, and the robbers, and the murderers, and the magic art, and the witchcraft which was in the land” (Mormon 2:10).
    Unfortunately, the repentance of the Nephites and the expression of their mourning and a lamentation in all the land was not truly repentance because of these things, and more especially among the people of Nephi, for as Mormon wrote: “for their sorrowing was not unto repentance, because of the goodness of God; but it was rather the sorrowing of the damned, because the Lord would not always suffer them to take happiness in sin, And they did not come unto Jesus with broken hearts and contrite spirits, but they did curse God, and wish to die. Nevertheless they would struggle with the sword for their lives. And it came to pass that my sorrow did return unto me again, and I saw that the day of grace was passed with them, both temporally and spiritually; for I saw thousands of them hewn down in open rebellion against their God, and heaped up as dung upon the face of the land. And thus three hundred and forty and four years had passed away” (Mormon 2:13).
Shortly after, Mormon led his beleaguered army to Cumorah to face the last, final tragedy of their failure to repent and seek their God as their fathers had always, ultimately done. In that failure, the Lamanite army prevailed and Mormon, the epitome of a prophet-leader, was mortally wounded, and the Nephites fell to the last man, a final testimony to their fall from grace as Mormon had years earlier stated.

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