Thursday, May 14, 2020

Mormon the Valiant and Unique Prophet – Part I

Different from the Book of Mormon has a whole, the last part of the Book of Alma—containing more than one-tenth of the overall work—contains fewer examples of what we usually think of as “scriptural” material—basically, no sermons, visions, and little prophesying. It includes very little discussion of theological principles, and initially seems to be one long, detailed record of wars that destroyed thousands of lives during battles that raged back and forth through numerous cities and lands.
    In this part of the record, Mormon writes about kings and captains with the same purpose and interest as he gives to prophets and teachers elsewhere. He also covers treachery and bloodshed in the same accuracy and important manner he earlier covered preaching and miracles.
    In this section of the overall work, Mormon uses Nephite history to teach us powerful religious lessons, such as the value of liberty and freedom, God’s role in preserving it, the moral justifications for waging war to uphold freedom, and the moral limitations on bloodshed, even for freedom’s sake. To better understand this description of freedom, the reader must understand Mormon, himself.
Mormon carried to the Land of Zarahemla by his father when Mormon was 11 years old

First of all, we do not know where Mormon was born, though we do know that he was in the Land Northward as a child until the age of eleven when his father brought him to the Land of Zarahemlam (Mormon 1:6). During this trip he saw, likely for the first time, the extensive spread of the population across the land and the vast numbers of buildings constructed (Mormon 1:7). However, we not only know that Mormon’s father was also called Mormon (Mormon 1:5), but that the name Mormon was given to the land on the borders of the Land of Nephi
    Thus, it might be that Mormon was named for the land when he was born in the Land Southward, which name he passed on to his son, the Mormon who eventually abridged the Plates upon which so many prophets had engraven. If this was the case, then we might also assume that for some reasons the elder Mormon traveled to the Land Northward to settle or live. This, then places him in that land when Mormon the prophet was born and grew up until taken to the Land of Zarahemla as a child.
    During his growing years in that land, Mormon must have been a special child, and no doubt a very spiritual child, for when he was ten year sold, the Prophet Ammaron came to him and gave him a charge regarding the sacred records (Mormon1:2-4). And later, at age 15, Mormon was visited by an angel (Mormon 1:15), and began to preach among the people (Mormon 1:16).
    The question that should be asked, but seldom is, would be: “Why was a 15-year-old put in charge of the Nephite armies?” (Mormon 2:1).
It should be noted here that the word “Armies” means all of the Nephite military forces, not just a small number. Earlier in Nephite history, Moroni was placed in charge of the all the Nephite armies at the age of twenty-five (Alma 43:16). At the time he was considered very young as is shown by the term “he was only twenty and five years old when he was appointed chief captain over the armies of the Nephites” (Alma 43:17).
    One can only wonder at being appointed to such an important post at the age of 15. In fact, before his 16th birthday, he went “at the head of an army of the Nephites, against the Lamanites; therefore three hundred and twenty and six years had passed away” (Mormon 2:2).
    One possibility is that Mormon’s father was an important Captain in the army and had been called back to the Land of Zarahemla because of the pending war with the Lamanites. It is also possible that since the father is not mentioned again by Mormon because he was killed in battle, that the son was appointed. If so, this might be the reason Mormon’s son was thought of so highly as to be appointed leader over the armies.
    In any event, while why Mormon was appointed leader over the Nephite armies at the age of 15 is not known, the event took place and the reason behind it must have been significant.
    It should be noted that from the time of being a child to developing into an adult, Mormon, from the time he was fifteen, had been involved in military matters. Consequently, he was prepared as few Nephites were to appreciate the exemplary skill of Moroni’s earlier generalship. Righteous himself, Mormon also must have responded deeply to Moroni’s own righteousness. Through the ancient record, he followed Moroni’s example of rigorous, self-sacrificing service both to preserve his people’s liberty by combat and also, by teaching and example, to help make his people worthy of God’s help.
From this we can see why Mormon, while abridging the record, or at least having read it and connecting the earlier Moroni to great deeds and valor, it was probably the reason Mormon named his son Moroni, after that earlier great leader of the Nephites.
    And Mormon, like that earlier great leader, he was never identified by the title “general” in the Book of Mormon; nevertheless, both were commanders over the Nephite armies—chief captains over chief captains—and had the authority of what we would today call the rank of general.
    The great spiritual giant, Mormon, is seen in the example of when his army was set upon breaking the commands of the Lord, Mormon removed himself from leadership in the armies, and observed their great wickedness.
    Yet, as the Lamanites continued to prevail in the war, Mormon relented. “And it came to pass that I did go forth among the Nephites, and did repent of the oath which I had made that I would no more assist them; and they gave me command again of their armies, for they looked upon me as though I could deliver them from their afflictions (Mormon 3:11).
    Yet, in spite of the wickedness of the people Mormon “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).
    In addition, the strength of this great prophet is shown in the fact that he refused to let the long, desperate fighting lead him to bloodthirstiness; instead, as the Lord directed him, he resigned his command to stand by “as an idle witness” when their wickedness led them to fight in a spirit of vengeance. Again, this tells us much why Mormon named his own son Moroni.
    In short, our key to understanding those last twenty-one chapters of Alma lies in Mormon’s assessment of Moroni, man and military leader. That assessment is a valuable one for all of us, who, like Mormon, look for models to guide our lives through the conflicts of the present world.
(See the next post, “Mormon the Valiant and Unique Prophet – Part II,” for further insight into Mormon’s view of Moroni and how the ancient had an effect on Mormon’s life).

No comments:

Post a Comment