BMGD #43: Mormon 1-6 and Moroni 9

November 12, 2012 | 7 comments
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CHAPTER 1

1 AND now I, Mormon, make a record of the things which I have both seen and heard, and call it the Book of Mormon.

What’s up with “seen” AND “heard”?

I think this is the only time that the title of a book is mentioned in the text.  (Am I forgetting anything?)  Why does Mormon tell us the title in the text here?  Is the title significant?

2 And about the time that Ammaron hid up the records unto the Lord, he came unto me, (I being about ten years of age, and I began to be learned somewhat after the manner of the learning of my people) and Ammaron said unto me: I perceive that thou art a sober child, and art quick to observe;

What does “unto the Lord” mean here?  Just that he wanted/expected the Lord to protect the record, or something else?

Can you glean anything from this verse about Nephite education?

What is the relationship (if any) between Ammaron and Mormon?

Why does Mormon give us his age and educational background?  How should those two data points impact how we understand what is happening in this verse?

Mormon’s age and educational background would have fit more logically into verse one (where they would not have interrupted the text and would have been more like Nephi’s having been born of goodly parents) than here, where they are parenthetical and somewhat awkwardly interrupt the train of thought.  Was this just a writing mishap or is there something significant about the placement of these details?

What does the “somewhat” do?  Tell us that he was a shoddy student?  Tell us that he was only at the beginning of his education because of his age?  Something else?

Does “manner” refer to pedagogy or content or what?

What does “sober” mean here?  Here are the other uses of sober in the BoM.  Here’s the Webster 1828 definition:

1. Temperate in the use of spiritous liquors; habitually temperate; as a sober man.

2. Not intoxicated or overpowered by spiritous liquors; not drunken.

3. Not mad or insane; not wild, visionary or heated with passion; having the regular exercise of cool dispassionate reason.

4. Regular; calm; not under the influence of passion; as sober judgment; a man in his sober senses.

5. Serious; solemn; grave; as the sober livery of autumn.

Looking at that definition, I have to admit that if someone called me “sober,” I’d feel damned with faint praise.  Unless the issue is that he is sober for a ten-year-old . . .

Is “quick to observe” a restatement of sober or a different characteristic?

Do you think “quick to observe” means obedient (=observe the commandments) or that Mormon has good observation skills (and therefore would be a good recordkeeper because he pays attention to what is going on around him)?  I think v3′s “that ye have observed” suggests the latter.)

Does this verse imply that Ammaron chose Mormon for his soberness and observation skills?  (If so, that is super-interesting because those are not exactly your classic Christian virtues . . . wouldn’t we have expected him to be chosen for his faith or whatever?)

Mormon gives two characteristics of himself in this verse (ten, somewhat learned) and Ammaron gives two characteristics of Mormon in this verse (sober, quick to observe).  How do these characteristics relate to each other?  What might we conclude from the fact that the two men describe him differently?

Brant Gardner:

We do not have any information on the circumstances that caused Ammaron to bury the plates, but we have speculated that it was the result of a coup that ousted his family from rule. If this is correct, then we would not expect Mromon to be a close kin, or else he would have been too closely watched as a potential claimant to the throne. Whatever danger Ammaron saw in keeping the plates himself would then have pointed directly at Mormon. Citation

3 Therefore, when ye are about twenty and four years old I would that ye should remember the things that ye have observed concerning this people; and when ye are of that age go to the land Antum, unto a hill which shall be called Shim; and there have I deposited unto the Lord all the sacred engravings concerning this people.

So why does Ammaron go to him 14 years in advance?

Why does Ammaron pick “about” 24 as the age to do this?

It is kind of weird that Ammaron is asking him to keep the record as an oral tradition of sorts for 14 years.  Why might he have done that?  Did Mormon not know how to write yet?  Were materials not available?  Conditions too grim?  Something else?

Apparently Ammaron wasn’t worried that Mormon would go early to get the plates . . .

Brant Gardner:

What must Joseph Smith have thought as he translated this passage? Mormon received the commission to work with sacred records when he was young, but had to wait a number of years before he could assume the task. The records he was to work with were buried in a hill. By the time Joseph wrote this passage, he had lived through the parallel events. While there are certainly differences in the experiences of Mormon and Joseph Smith, it is doubtful that Joseph would have missed the parallels. Citation

4 And behold, ye shall take the plates of Nephi unto yourself, and the remainder shall ye leave in the place where they are; and ye shall engrave on the plates of Nephi all the things that ye have observed concerning this people.

Again, I find it weird that in a book obsessed with accurate recordkeeping, Mormon is tasked with remembering stuff for 14 years before he writes it down.  (Of course, I think there is reason to suspect that other writers wrote long after the fact, such as the first Nephi, so this may not be that big of an aberration from standard operating procedure–just weird because we know about it and because it seems that it could have been avoided by Ammaron giving Mormon the records at this point.

Which raises the question:  Why do the records spend 14 years in the ground while Mormon is forced to remember everything instead of Ammaron just giving Mormon the record when he’s ten?

Which raises the question:  Why is all of this material about the record included in our record?  Why did Mormon think that we should know this?

“Unto yourself” feels unnecessary; why was it included?

“All” feels obviously hyperbolic here, no?

It almost feels like Mormon is being tasked to be a secular historian (as we would think of one today).  He’s chosen for his soberness and good observational skills (not any spiritual virtues–none of which are mentioned in the text up to this point) and his job is write what he observes (not what the Lord tells him to write, not those things that would increase faith, etc.).  What’s going on here?

It almost sounds as if Mormon is forbidden to touch/read anything but the plates of Nephi–why might this be?

Note how non-religious this sounds:  nothing about God’s role in the transmission of the plates, nothing about keeping the record for a spiritual purpose.

5 And I, Mormon, being a descendant of Nephi, (and my father’s name was Mormon) I remembered the things which Ammaron commanded me.

Is “being a descendant of Nephi” an oddly-placed detail, or does it somehow relate to the fact that he was able to remember Ammaron’s command?

This is a rather bizarre genealogy for Mormon:  first, which Nephi is he talking about?  Second, why  not give us enough info to form a real genealogy for him?  (Was it unknown to him?  Does that mean that people didn’t keep records?  Was it not relevant?  Embarrassing?)

Does this verse imply that Mormon was  just a random kid (by which I mean–that his dad wasn’t a religious leader or political leader or whatever) that Ammaron more or less plucked off the street because of his personal virtues?

The whole verse is weird–of course he’d remember, right?

6 And it came to pass that I, being *eleven years old, was carried by my father into the land southward, even to the land of Zarahemla.

Interesting that he doesn’t really tell us where he (or presumably Ammaron, or how Ammaron met him if they didn’t live in the same place) lived before this . . .

Why “southward, even to . . . Zarahemla”?

7 The whole face of the land had become covered with buildings, and the people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea.

Is this just factual, or are we supposed to be seeing the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the sands of the sea through this choice of words?

Notice how the verse makes a parallel between the buildings and the people . . . is that just factual or is it symbolic in some way?  Why mention the buildings at all?

8 And it came to pass in this year there began to be a war between the Nephites, who consisted of the Nephites and the Jacobites and the Josephites and the Zoramites; and this war was between the Nephites, and the Lamanites and the Lemuelites and the Ishmaelites.

So . . . why did Mormon the Elder take him to a place where there was a war going on?  (Or, does the war start unexpectedly after they get there?  Or does it mean that things were even worse where they had been living?)

Why do you think the Nephites had subdivisions among them?

Do you think these groups reflect their actual, literal, genealogy, or do you think they adopted them for symbolic reasons?  Or maybe some other reason for affiliation?

9 Now the Lamanites and the Lemuelites and the Ishmaelites were called Lamanites, and the two parties were Nephites and Lamanites.

Why do you think Mormon included all of these details about the composition of these groups in the record if he’s just going to call them Nephites and Lamanites?  (I wonder if we might read it as a hint to the idea that he is frequently going to simplify things in order to tell a coherent story of reasonable length . . .)

Tell me whether you think this is a fair statement:  as long as Nephites and Lamanites exist, there will be war between them; the only way to avoid war is for there to be no Nephites or Lamanites.  If you think that is correct, how is it relevant to us today?  If you think it is incorrect, why do you think that?

10 And it came to pass that the war began to be among them in the borders of Zarahemla, by the waters of Sidon.

Factual detail or significant?

11 And it came to pass that the Nephites had gathered together a great number of men, even to exceed the number of thirty thousand. And it came to pass that they did have in this same year a number of battles, in which the Nephites did beat the Lamanites and did slay many of them.

What do Nephite battle victories usually signify?

General thought:  Why doesn’t Mormon tell us what they were fighting over?

12 And it came to pass that the Lamanites withdrew their design, and there was peace settled in the land; and peace did remain for the space of about four years, that there was no bloodshed.

What does the image of peace “settling” suggest to you?  Or does it just mean that their disagreements were settled?

It seems that really all you can say about this war is that it was big and the Nephites kicked butt and the Lamanites gave up.  So why did Mormon include it in the record?  What are we to learn from it?  The usual justifications for including war stuff (so we learn from the strategy, because we are in a spiritual state of war today) don’t seem to fit the sparse details of this narrative.  (Don’t you love it how I kvetch that there is too much detail in the war chapters and then I kvetch here that there is not enough detail?)

13 But wickedness did prevail upon the face of the whole land, insomuch that the Lord did take away his beloved disciples, and the work of miracles and of healing did cease because of the iniquity of the people.

Interesting–the Nephite military victory might have led us to think that he would say that the Nephites prevailed but instead he says that wickedness prevailed.

Does “beloved disciples” mean the twelve (who, obviously, would have changed over the years, so maybe I should say the office of the twelve or the organization of the church or priesthood authority) or does it mean the Three Nephites (in which case, why doesn’t Mormon call them by a title we are familiar with and did Mormon know at the time about them [which is all sorts of interesting--especially that he doesn't give us details about them] or is he importing later knowledge into the text)?

This account is laconic, but if we remember that the three were _not_ taken away when they were thrown into prisons, to beasts, etc., then we get a feel for how bad things must be now.

General:  Why assign record-keeping to a ten-year-old when you have three sort-of immortal practically-apostles in the area?

Why is removal of the disciples an appropriate result of wickedness?

What do you learn about miracles and healing from this verse?

Are “miracles” and “healing” two ways of saying the same thing or two different things?

(How) is the wickedness related to the war?

Why does wickedness prevail “on the land”?  (I think the more natural thing to have said would have been “in the hearts of the people” or whatever.)

Don’t you need beloved disciples on the ground even more when people are wicked?  So why remove them?  Does this imply that the disciples have a Holy Spirit-like role in that they can only be present when people are worthy?  (See also the next verse on this.)

Are “iniquity” and “wickedness” two different things or two ways of saying the same thing?

14 And there were no gifts from the Lord, and the Holy Ghost did not come upon any, because of their wickedness and unbelief.

Are “gifts from the Lord” the same thing as miracles and healing in the last verse?  Or the same thing as the presence of the beloved disciples?  Or some thing else?

Is Mormon included in this group of people who don’t have gifts or the Holy Ghost?  (I think the next verse would argue against this.) If so, then that is super-interesting. If not, then note that “any” is necessarily hyperbole.

Note “wickedness and unbelief.”  Why introduce “unbelief” into the discussion at this point?  (He hasn’t mentioned it before.)  Does this phrase suggest anything about the relationship of faith and works?

15 And I, *being fifteen years of age and being somewhat of a sober mind, therefore I was visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus.

Why is Mormon using his own age (as opposed to the typical year-count from either living Jrsm or Jesus’ birth) to organize this text?

Does “somewhat” mean that his soberness had decreased in the last five years?  Or is it just modesty?  Or what?

Does this verse imply a relationship between the “somewhat sober mind” and the visit from the Lord?

What does the word “tasted” suggest to you?

Interesting that his main result (at least as included in the record) of a divine visit is that he knows of the goodness of Jesus.  This seems odd:  why do you think that was his take-home lesson from that experience?

It is worth remembering that even in the midst of the wickedness of the society as a whole, individuals who were righteous were still being visited by the Lord.

16 And I did endeavor to preach unto this people, but my mouth was shut, and I was forbidden that I should preach unto them; for behold they had wilfully rebelled against their God; and the beloved disciples were taken away out of the land, because of their iniquity.

Are “my mouth was shut” and “I was forbidden” two different things or two ways of saying the same thing?

Interesting–he wants to do something but the Lord is forbidding him.  And not just telling him “no,” but physically preventing him.  Interesting comparison to the end of 3 Nephi where he wants to share the names of the Three Nephites but the Lord just tells him “no.”  What might we learn from the contrast?

Brant Gardner suggests that the reason that Mormon was forbidden was because they would have killed him.  (Think about what they had done to the Three Nephites.)  Do you think that the prohibition is for Mormon’s benefit (and if so, why didn’t Abinadi get this same benefit?) or because the people were (1) beyond the point of repentance or (2) too wicked to merit a preacher or something else?  (V17 might seem to answer these questions with “because of the hardness of their hearts,” but that explanation is consistent with all of the options on the table here.)

Is it fair to say that his agency was violated here by the shutting of his mouth?  If not, what does that suggest to us about how agency works?

What does this verse suggest to you about his spiritual maturity at this point?

The idea of God preventing someone from preaching to the wicked is pretty interesting . . . how would this compare with Noah, Jonah, Lehi, and the many others who were specifically commanded _to_ preach to the wicked?  Is the key to the difference in the word “wilfully”?  More generally, what does “wilfully” mean in this verse and how is that relevant to us?

Compare to v13–why is Mormon repeating the bit about the beloved disciples?

I’m sure the ambiguity here in “because of their iniquity” was not intentional–while technically it seems to refer to the beloved disciples, I’m pretty sure it means “the people.”

Does this verse imply that if you “wilfully” rebel you may not have preachers sent to you?

17 But I did remain among them, but I was forbidden to preach unto them, because of the hardness of their hearts; and because of the hardness of their hearts the land was cursed for their sake.

So . . . why does the Lord take the beloved disciples away but leave Mormon there?  Does that suggest anything about the roles of disciples versus record keeper?  And does the first phrase of this verse suggest some emotion on Mormon’s part about this and, if so, what emotion?

It seems that this chapter does portray Mormon as something new:  a record keeper forbidden to preach, not called for his Christian virtues or his heritage but rather his record-keeping ability.  What might we learn from this?

Does “but I did remain among them” suggest that Mormon had a choice in the matter or not?

I’m not clear on the thrust of “but I did remain.”  Does it mean that he skirted the line of the commandment because he cared about them so much?  Does it mean that he’s there as a silent witness?  Something else?

Isn’t hard-heartedness all the more reason to have a preacher among them?  What does this prohibition on preaching tell us about how the Lord works?  How might this be relevant today?

What is the relationship between their hearts and the land?  What does it mean for the land to be cursed?  Does the same thing happen today?

“Land cursed for their sakes” is reminiscent of the land being cursed for Adam’s sake after the Fall, but it feels like that was a rather different situation.  How do these two stories compare? I’m wondering if “for their sakes” is a false echo of the creation story and means something like “because of them” and not “for their benefit.”  Or  perhaps it was to their benefit if it would motivate them to repent.

18 And these Gadianton robbers, who were among the Lamanites, did infest the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof began to hide up their treasures in the earth; and they became slippery, because the Lord had cursed the land, that they could not hold them, nor retain them again.

It sort of feels like the G. robbers come out of nowhere–was that Mormon’s intention here? (I suspect that the arrival of the G. robbers is tied to the end of the land being cursed at the end of the last verse.)

Does this verse imply that that there were no G. robbers among the Nephites?

What does the word “infest” suggest to you?

Does this verse imply that they wouldn’t have hid their treasures if there had been no G. robbers?

There’s an odd overlap between these hidden treasures and the records that Ammaron has hidden up . . .

What does the word “slippery” suggest to you?

What does it mean for the Lord to curse the land?  Why would cursed land make treasures hidden in it “slippery”?

Do “hold” and “retain” mean the same thing, or is this two different things?

19 And it came to pass that there were sorceries, and witchcrafts, and magics; and the power of the evil one was wrought upon all the face of the land, even unto the fulfilling of all the words of Abinadi, and also Samuel the Lamanite.

You don’t hear a lot about sorcery, witchcraft, or magic in the BoM . . .

Why highlight Abinadi and Sam here, as opposed to any other prophets?

You have to feel bad for Mormon, surrounded by this kind of wickedness, fairly young, and without even the other disciples to hang out with . . .

There is no chapter break here in the original BoM.

CHAPTER 2

1 And it came to pass in that same year 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.

What does it tell us about the Nephites that they appointed a 15/16 yo to lead their armies?

Why is it OK for Mormon to lead their armies but not to preach to them?

Are you surprised that the Lord doesn’t forbid Mormon to lead their armies, either because they are wicked or because Mormon is supposed to be the record keeper?

Of the three tasks Mormon has encountered to this point (record-keeper, preacher, and army leader), two have been at the instigation of others (record-keeper by Ammaron and army leader by wicked Nephites) and he has accepted them and one he came up with on his own (preacher) but the Lord forbid it.  Are we supposed to draw any conclusions from this?

2 Therefore it came to pass that *in my sixteenth year I did go forth at the head of an army of the Nephites, against the Lamanites; therefore three hundred and twenty and six years had passed away.

What does the second “therefore” in the verse tell you about the relationship of the two halves of this verse?

3 And it came to pass that in the three hundred and twenty and seventh year the Lamanites did come upon us with exceedingly great power, insomuch that they did frighten my armies; therefore they would not fight, and they began to retreat towards the north countries.

Does this verse point to Mormon’s weakness as a leader?

Think about the Lamanites’ power in this verse:  what is it and where does it come from?

Is it fair to say that the Nephites are cowards?

4 And it came to pass that we did come to the city of Angola, and we did take possession of the city, and make preparations to defend ourselves against the Lamanites. And it came to pass that we did fortify the city with our might; but notwithstanding all our fortifications the Lamanites did come upon us and did drive us out of the city.

What accounts for the change from the disaster in the last verse to the success in this verse?

What does it mean to fortify a city “with your might”?

Does this verse point to Mormon’s weakness?  The impossibility of his situation?  Something else?   W

Why is nothing said about God’s role in all of this?  Should we assume that a people too wicked for preaching will necessarily lose in battle?  If so, why was it (apparently) OK with God for Mormon to lead their army?

5 And they did also drive us forth out of the land of David.

6 And we marched forth and came to the land of Joshua, which was in the borders west by the seashore.

Any significance to the place names here?

7 And it came to pass that we did gather in our people as fast as it were possible, that we might get them together in one body.

Is this just literal detail, or is this symbolic?

8 But behold, 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.

Are these G. robbers or something else?

Does this verse imply that they would have had more military success had they been more righteous?  (If so, is this a universal principle?)

What does “revolution” mean here?  (I don’t think the normal meaning works in this context.)

Again, it kind of bothers me that we don’t even know what they were fighting about.  (Maybe Mormon’s point is that it doesn’t matter what they were fighting about.)

9 And now, the Lamanites had a king, and his name was Aaron; and he came against us with an army of forty and four thousand. And behold, I withstood him with forty and two thousand. And it came to pass that I beat him with my army that he fled before me. And behold, all this was done, and *three hundred and thirty years had passed away.

How literally do you read the numbers here?  (Brant Gardner suggests that they are symbolic.  I think he might be right.)

Normally, we’d attribute the success of a smaller group against a larger group in the scriptures as divine intervention.  Is that the case here?

10 And it came to pass that the Nephites began to repent of their iniquity, and began to cry even as had been prophesied by Samuel the prophet; 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.

Why did they begin to repent and, even more importantly, why doesn’t Mormon tell us why they began to repent?  The last thing that happened is that they won a battle; is that what caused them to repent?  (But they have won before without repenting.)  If it is, isn’t that kind of  backwards–we’d expect them to repent and then to be successful.  What, if anything, should we be learning from this?

Does this verse imply that they began to repent because of the difficulty of keeping their stuff?  The logic of the verse seems to suggest that, but it is kind of ugly (or is it just accurate?) to suggest that they only repented so they could keep their stuff, as if they thought of God as a sort of watchdog.  Do your reasons for repenting matter?

Does “began to repent” imply that they didn’t fully repent?

Why call attention to Sam’s prophecies here?

It is easy to see they thieves and robbers would make it hard for people to keep their own stuff, but why would magic arts and witchcraft make it difficult?

I find it ironic that the problem here is phrased as their inability to keep “what which was his own,” when at the height of their righteousness, they willingly gave up everything which was their own to live with everything in common.

11 Thus there began to be a mourning and a lamentation in all the land because of these things, and more especially among the people of Nephi.

We can see how the loss of their stuff would relate to mourning, but how does it relate to repentance?

Is it a good thing or a bad thing that they are mourning over physical wealth?  (See v13 for more on this.)

Or is the mourning related to the repentance–are they mourning for their sins?

Why do the Nephites mourn more?  Does this verse imply that the Lamanites mourned as well?

Are mourning and lamentation two ways of saying the same thing or two different things?

12 And it came to pass that when I, Mormon, saw their lamentation and their mourning and their sorrow before the Lord, my heart did begin to rejoice within me, knowing the mercies and the long-suffering of the Lord, therefore supposing that he would be merciful unto them that they would again become a righteous people.

Skousen reads “sorrowing” instead of “sorrow” here.

Why does Mormon add “sorrow” to the mourning and lamentation mentioned in the last verse?  Is this a new thing, a stylistic difference only, or what?

Ironic that their mourning leads to Mormon’s joy.

Is Mormon wrong for rejoicing in their mourning?

Interesting to talk about the mercy of the Lord when he has recently had the experiences of the disciples being removed and him being forbidden to preach.  What evidence did he have of the mercy of the Lord?

Are “mercy” and “long-suffering” two different things or two ways of saying the same thing?

Was Mormon right or wrong to assume that the Lord would be merciful?  (Does “supposing” indicate a lack of certainty?)

What does this verse teach you about righteousness?

13 But behold this my joy was vain, 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.

Wait–didn’t Mormon just tell us that they had begun to repent?  How does that statement relate to what is happening in this verse?

Does this verse imply that “real” repentance is “because of the goodness of God”?  If so, how should that impact how you think about repentance?

So does this verse mean that Mormon was wrong in the last verse to presume that the Lord would be merciful unto them?  If so (and I think it does), then what is the message about the Lord’s mercy?  Why wasn’t the Lord merciful unto them when they had, in fact, begun to repent?

What happiness did they want to take from sin?  The only thing mentioned in the text is that they wanted their stuff not to get stolen–how might that relate to wanting to be happy in sin?

What does this verse teach you about sin?

Now that you’ve read this verse, re-read v12 and note how wrong Mormon was.  Interesting moment of fallibility there, and great humility shown in his willingness to record it.

Are we ever allowed to be happy in sin?

Neal A. Maxwell:

After recognition, real remorse floods the soul. This is a “godly sorrow,” not merely the “sorrow of the world” nor the “sorrowing of the damned,” when we can no longer “take happiness in sin.” (2 Cor. 7:10Morm. 2:13.) False remorse instead is like “fondling our failings.” In ritual regret, we mourn our mistakes but without mending them.

There can be no real repentance without personal suffering and the passage of sufficient time for the needed cleansing and turning. This is much more than merely waiting until feelings of remorse subside. Misery, like adversity, can have its special uses. No wonder chastening is often needed until the turning is really under way! Oct 91 GC

14 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.

Is there a parallel here between broken hearts vs. curse God and contrite spirits vs. wish to die?  If so, what might you learn from it?

Who curses God?  Why?  How literally do you read this?  How might this happen today?

Why would they want to die?  (How would that have solved their problems?)

Mormon seems very interested in the irony (or hypocrisy?) or wishing to die but fighting for life.  Why might this have interested him?

15 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.

Isn’t this the first reference to his sorrow or am I forgetting soemthing?

What does it mean for the “day of grace” to be passed?  Does it mean they had committed unpardonable sins?  (Would it have been possible theoretically for someone to do proxy work for them later?)

What is “both temporally and spiritually” doing here?  It seems to imply a temporal day of grace; what might that mean?  (Or maybe it means that grace can be shown in temporal things?)

Does “for I saw” mean that their deaths were evidence that the “day of grace” had passed?  If so, what are the implications of this?

Do we assume that they died in battle?  Was the battle itself some sort of open rebellion against God?  (What would that mean?) Or what?

Sorry, Mormon, but I’m not OK with you comparing dead bodies to dung, even if they were wicked.  They were still make in God’s image.  Rewrite this section, please.

16 And it came to pass that in the three hundred and forty and fifth year the Nephites did begin to flee before the Lamanites; and they were pursued until they came even to the land of Jashon, before it was possible to stop them in their retreat.

How does this compare to the last time they fled?

17 And now, the city of Jashon was near the land where Ammaron had deposited the records unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed. And behold I had gone according to the word of Ammaron, and taken the plates of Nephi, and did make a record according to the words of Ammaron.

I wonder if the whole point of (1) Mormon being a military leader and (2) Mormon telling this story and (3) the way that the battle turned out was just to place Mormon in the right place at the right time to get the plates.  Is that the best way to read this story?

Note that this is the first time that we are told _why_ Ammaron buried the plates–so they wouldn’t be destroyed.  (We might have assumed this earlier,  but we weren’t told it outright.)

Interesting contrast between the Nephites kvetching that burying things wouldn’t keep them safe and Ammaron (successfully) burying the plates to keep them safe.  What might we conclude from this?

Was Ammaron right to think that the plates would have been destroyed if they had not been buried?  (What is interesting about this is that we might have assumed that Mormon would have had the plates during this time; why would they have been destroyed if in his possession.  And what happened to Ammaron anyway; why aren’t we told about his death?)

18 And upon the plates of Nephi I did make a full account of all the wickedness and abominations; but upon these plates I did forbear to make a full account of their wickedness and abominations, for behold, a continual scene of wickedness and abominations has been before mine eyes ever since I have been sufficient to behold the ways of man.

Why does Mormon phrase the record as one of “wickedness and abominations”?

What does “forbear” suggest to you about what he would have liked to have written?

Note that the record we have does _not_ record all of their wickedness.

Why did Mormon record all of the wickedness?  (Will this be used for judgement?)

The last line of this verse is very personal, very moving, and very sad.  It makes me think of the intrusive images that people with PTSD have.

19 And wo is me because of their wickedness; for my heart has been filled with sorrow because of their wickedness, all my days; nevertheless, I know that I shall be lifted up at the last day.

Does “wo is me” make him a whiner?  Why or why not?

How does this verse relate to his brief joy when he thought that they were repenting?

Is Mormon right to be so personally and emotionally affected by their wickedness?  Should our emotional states today be shaped by the wickedness and/or righteousness of those around us?  (I want to say no to those questions–that we should focus on the good in the world, etc., etc., but it is also true that God sorrows for the sins of the world, so . . .)

I’m interested in the not-obvious inverse parallel between “filled with sorrow” and “I know that I shall be lifted up”?

Why do you think Mormon chose “lifted up” as his way to describe his hopes of the afterlife?

You know, there is a certain tone of voice you can use to read this verse that makes it sound really snotty.

20 And it came to pass that in this year the people of Nephi again were hunted and driven. And it came to pass that we were driven forth until we had come northward to the land which was called Shem.

What does “hunted” suggest to you?

Notice the shift from the third-person “people of Nephi” to the first person “we.”  Is this significant?  (Also note that the first sentence has “hunted and driven” but the second just “driven.”)

21 And it came to pass that we did fortify the city of Shem, and we did gather in our people as much as it were possible, that perhaps we might save them from destruction.

Notice that this is the first time that Mormon says “we.”  Who is the “we” here?

Interesting that he would call these people who are past the day of grace “our people” still.

Why is Mormon interested in saving them from destruction is the temporal day of grace has passed for them?  What might we learn from this?  (Honestly, I think this might be the point of the story.)

Why does Mormon come off as more merciful to these people than the Lord is?

22 And it came to pass in the *three hundred and forty and sixth year they began to come upon us again.

Why has Mormon shifted to the traditional dating scheme instead of dating it by his age?  (My guess is that he went by his age before he had the plates and was just remembering things but he switches when he is writing on the plates.)

23 And it came to pass that I did speak unto my people, and did urge them with great energy, that they would stand boldly before the Lamanites and fight for their wives, and their children, and their houses, and their homes.

Is this “preaching” (and if so does it mean that his preaching ban has expired)?

Why does Mormon expend so much energy on a lost people?

Are houses and homes the same thing in this verse?

Does this verse imply that these people still had positive feelings towards their family and/or a sense of duty to protect them?  If so, how is it that they were past the day of grace?

24 And my words did arouse them somewhat to vigor, insomuch that they did not flee from before the Lamanites, but did stand with boldness against them.

“Somewhat to vigor” seems contradictory to me.

25 And it came to pass that we did contend with an army of thirty thousand against an army of fifty thousand. And it came to pass that we did stand before them with such firmness that they did flee from before us.

Again, wouldn’t we normally take the success of a smaller force as evidence of divine intervention?  (Contrast the next verse.)

26 And it came to pass that when they had fled we did pursue them with our armies, and did meet them again, and did beat them; nevertheless the strength of the Lord was not with us; yea, we were left to ourselves, that the Spirit of the Lord did not abide in us; therefore we had become weak like unto our brethren.

Isn’t it kind of weird that Mormon would be leading efforts that didn’t merit the strength of the Lord?

Jim F.:  ” Notice that though Book of Mormon prophets have taken Nephite defeat as a sign of Nephite wickedness, Mormon does not take Nephite victory as a sign of Nephite righteousness. Does this tell us anything about our own situation?”

Notice that they win even without the strength of the Lord.  That’s . . . a little off message.

27 And my heart did sorrow because of this the great calamity of my people, because of their wickedness and their abominations. But behold, we did go forth against the Lamanites and the robbers of Gadianton, until we had again taken possession of the lands of our inheritance.

Again, notice the emphasis on emotions in the BoM.

I sense some tension between v26 and v27:  how is it that they are able to win in this verse if, as v26 told us, they didn’t have the strength of the Lord with them?  (And if they are, then what does that say about the strength of the Lord?)

I think one message that we might take from this section is that it would be wrong to assume that every military victory represented the will of (or help of or plan of) the Lord.  (And if you think that that is a patently obvious observation, then you obviously haven’t spent enough time looking at some of the history education materials used by some Christians.)

28 And the *three hundred and forty and ninth year had passed away. And in the three hundred and fiftieth year we made a treaty with the Lamanites and the robbers of Gadianton, in which we did get the lands of our inheritance divided.

Is it a good  or bad idea to make treaties with political enemies?

29 And the Lamanites did give unto us the land northward, yea, even to the narrow passage which led into the land southward. And we did give unto the Lamanites all the land southward.

There was originally no chapter break here.

CHAPTER 3

1 And it came to pass that the Lamanites did not come to battle again *until ten years more had passed away. And behold, I had employed my people, the Nephites, in preparing their lands and their arms against the time of battle.

Does the ten-years-without-battle mean that the treaty was or was not a useful thing?

What moral lessons, if any, are hiding in this verse?

Does the military build-up indicate that Mormon lacked faith in the treaty?

2 And it came to pass that the Lord did say unto me: Cry unto this people—Repent ye, and come unto me, and be ye baptized, and build up again my church, and ye shall be spared.

So apparently the preaching ban is off now.  Why?  What changed?

How is it possible that Mormon is told to preach when the “day of grace” was over for these people?  (Or was that hyperbole?)  (Or were we misunderstanding what “day of grace” meant?)

What does “spared” mean in this verse?  (The immediate context if eternal but the context in light of v1 is military.)  (Does the next verse help you answer this question?)

Are “repenting” and “coming unto me” the same thing or two different things?

What does it mean to build up the church?

3 And I did cry unto this people, but it was in vain; and they did not realize that it was the Lord that had spared them, and granted unto them a chance for repentance. And behold they did harden their hearts against the Lord their God.

Did the Lord know that beforehand that the preaching would be in vain? However you answer that question, what are the implications of your answer?

Note that the key issue here is whether they realized that the Lord had spared them.  What should we learn from that?

How does “the Lord that had spared them” relate to “ye will be spared” in the last verse?  (Seems like there must be a link, but the tenses are off.)

Is it true that the Lord had spared them?  I thought the last chapter made it sound as if the Lord had not been too involved.

Does “spared” mean the same thing in this verse that it meant in the last verse?

Does this mean that the day of grace had not passed from these people?  How can these messages be reconciled?

It seems like additional heart-hardening is being described here.  What would have caused this to happen?

4 And it came to pass that after this tenth year had passed away, making, in the whole, three hundred and sixty years from the coming of Christ, the king of the Lamanites sent an epistle unto me, which gave unto me to know that they were preparing to come again to battle against us.

Why would a king give them warning of battle?  (Especially given what happens in the next verse.)

5 And it came to pass that I did cause my people that they should gather themselves together at the land Desolation, to a city which was in the borders, by the narrow pass which led into the land southward.

6 And there we did place our armies, that we might stop the armies of the Lamanites, that they might not get possession of any of our lands; therefore we did fortify against them with all our force.

Again, why is Mormon busting his butt to help wicked people?

7 And it came to pass that in the three hundred and sixty and first year the Lamanites did come down to the city of Desolation to battle against us; and it came to pass that in that year we did beat them, insomuch that they did return to their own lands again.

Again, does their victory here call into question the belief that the Lord grants victory to the righteous?  Or that victory is a sign of the Lord’s favor?

8 And in the *three hundred and sixty and second year they did come down again to battle. And we did beat them again, and did slay a great number of them, and their dead were cast into the sea.

Why did Mormon include the detail that the dead were cast into the sea?

9 And now, because of this great thing which my people, the Nephites, had done, they began to boast in their own strength, and began to swear before the heavens that they would avenge themselves of the blood of their brethren who had been slain by their enemies.

Ooops. Does Mormon have any culpability in this?  (In other words, if you lead wicked people to victory and then they gloat, isn’t that sin kinda partially your fault?)

10 And they did swear by the heavens, and also by the throne of God, that they would go up to battle against their enemies, and would cut them off from the face of the land.

Why, in v9 and v10, does Mormon give us so much detail about what they did?

11 And it came to pass that I, Mormon, did utterly refuse from this time forth to be a commander and a leader of this people, because of their wickedness and abomination.

Why does Mormon repeat his name here?

Interesting that general refusal to repent wasn’t enough to make Mormon quit, but the antics described in v9 and v10 were.  What might we learn from this?  What precisely is the line that Mormon wouldn’t cross and how is that relevant to us today?

Is his refusal to lead them militarily related to his (relatively) new job preaching to them?

12 Behold, I had led them, notwithstanding their wickedness I had 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.

What did Mormon find to love in these people?

What work is “according to the  . . . which was in me” doing in this verse?  What does it teach us about Mormon’s ability to love these people?

Why doesn’t Mormon tell us about his prayers until after the fact?

Is Mormon saying that he prayed without faith?  What does that mean:  faith in God or faith in the people?  Why would he have prayed if it was without faith?  What, if anything, should this teach us about prayer?

Mormon says that he loved his people.  Yet he refuses to lead them.  And they were very wicked.  So what does this verse teach you about love?

13 And thrice have I delivered them out of the hands of their enemies, and they have repented not of their sins.

Is this verse implying that he delivered them so they would repent?

Is the point of this verse that he gave them three chances before he gave up on them?  (Perhaps he had even planned this from the beginning?)  Does this mean that he failed?

14 And when they had sworn by all that had been forbidden them by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that they would go up unto their enemies to battle, and avenge themselves of the blood of their brethren, behold the voice of the Lord came unto me, saying:

What work is “behold” doing here?

15 Vengeance is mine, and I will repay; and because this people repented not after I had delivered them, behold, they shall be cut off from the face of the earth.

Compare v13: who delivered them?  (Is Mormon getting smacked down here?)

16 And it came to pass that I utterly refused to go up against mine enemies; and I did even as the Lord had commanded me; and I did stand as an idle witness to manifest unto the world the things which I saw and heard, according to the manifestations of the Spirit which had testified of things to come.

Notice how the first line is phrased:  is it wrong to refuse to go against your enemies?

Is it ever a good idea to “stand as an idle witness”?  How might we do that today?

Note that this is the first time we get a hint of inspiration in Mormon’s recordkeeping.

Does this verse imply that the Lord commanded him not to lead the army anymore?  If that is the case, then the story is told in kind of a weird way,  because it made it sound as if it was Mormon’s independent decision not to lead them anymore.  (Or is the Lord commanding him to “stand as an idle witness”?)

See 5:1–Mormon will soon repent of this oath.  That’s weird, because I think this verse is saying that the Lord commanded him to refuse to lead them.  What am I missing here?  Did Mormon misunderstand the Lord’s direction to him or what?  Also interesting that 5:1 describes it as an “oath.”  I wouldn’t have thought this was an oath.  (Maybe a temper tantrum, but not an oath.)

Neal A. Maxwell:

Irony may involve not only unexpected suffering but also undeserved suffering. We feel we deserved better, and yet we fared worse. We had other plans, even commendable plans. Did they not count? A physician, laboriously trained to help the sick, now, because of his own illness, cannot do so. For a period, a diligent prophet of the Lord was an “idle witness.” (Morm. 3:16.) Frustrating conditions keep more than a few of us from making our appointed rounds. Apr 89 GC

17 Therefore I write unto you, Gentiles, and also unto you, house of Israel, when the work shall commence, that ye shall be about to prepare to return to the land of your inheritance;

Notice how as soon as Mormon stops being a military leader, he starts talking to us.  It is as if his energies have shifted from life in the present to speaking to the future.

If you are going to say the same thing to both groups, then why separately identify the Gentiles and the house of Israel?

What does “the work” mean here?

How literally do  you read the references to land of inheritance?

18 Yea, behold, I write unto all the ends of the earth; yea, unto you, twelve tribes of Israel, who shall be judged according to your works by the twelve whom Jesus chose to be his disciples in the land of Jerusalem.

Does Mormon think that the twelve do the judging?  (Compare v20.)  Is this true?

19 And I write also unto the remnant of this people, who shall also be judged by the twelve whom Jesus chose in this land; and they shall be judged by the other twelve whom Jesus chose in the land of Jerusalem.

20 And these things doth the Spirit manifest unto me; therefore I write unto you all. And for this cause I write unto you, that ye may know that ye must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, yea, every soul who belongs to the whole human family of Adam; and ye must stand to be judged of your works, whether they be good or evil;

Does Mormon think that we are judged only by our works?  (Does the next verse walk this back?) Is this true?

21 And also that ye may believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, which ye shall have among you; and also that the Jews, the covenant people of the Lord, shall have other witness besides him whom they saw and heard, that Jesus, whom they slew, was the very Christ and the very God.

Who is the witness that the Jews have besides “him whom they saw and heard”?

Who is “him who they saw and heard”?  If it is Jesus, why not just say that?

22 And I would that I could persuade all ye ends of the earth to repent and prepare to stand before the judgment-seat of Christ.

Poor Mormon.  He couldn’t even persuade the people right near him.

Does he sin in his wish?  (Compare Alma 29:2-3.)

CHAPTER 4

1 And now it came to pass that in the *three hundred and sixty and third year the Nephites did go up with their armies to battle against the Lamanites, out of the land Desolation.

Note how ominous this feels when we know that neither the Lord nor Mormon is with them . . .

2 And it came to pass that the armies of the Nephites were driven back again to the land of Desolation. And while they were yet weary, a fresh army of the Lamanites did come upon them; and they had a sore battle, insomuch that the Lamanites did take possession of the city Desolation, and did slay many of the Nephites, and did take many prisoners.

Brant Gardner:

Rather than fight defensively, as Mormon had been doing, these Mormon-less Nephites take the attack to their Lamanite/Gadianton enemies. The result is that they are defeated, and when they retreat, they are in a sufficiently weakened state that they lose the city of Desolation. The descriptions of the results of war have shifted in these last wars from the previous wars. Citation

3 And the remainder did flee and join the inhabitants of the city Teancum. Now the city Teancum lay in the borders by the seashore; and it was also near the city Desolation.

4 And it was because the armies of the Nephites went up unto the Lamanites that they began to be smitten; for were it not for that, the Lamanites could have had no power over them.

Is there a moral here?  (Is the point that Mormon would never have led them into this?)

Is it universally true that the Lamanites could have no power over them if the Nephites avoided offensive wars?  If so, how does that mesh with the idea that the Lord isn’t on their side–does it mean that the Lord would still defend them anyway or what?

5 But, behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed.

Notice the “but” and the “behold”–how does this verse relate to the one before it?

What does “overtake” suggest to you?

Is it universally true that the wicked are punished by the wicked?  On the one hand, that’s nice because it leaves God out of the punishing business; on the other hand, it is a little icky in that it implies a necessary role for the wicked.  I think it also implies that the default setting is that God protects you from bad stuff.

Is there any role for Satan in this verse?

6 And it came to pass that the Lamanites did make preparations to come against the city Teancum.

7 And it came to pass in the three hundred and sixty and fourth year the Lamanites did come against the city Teancum, that they might take possession of the city Teancum also.

8 And it came to pass that they were repulsed and driven back by the Nephites. And when the Nephites saw that they had driven the Lamanites they did again boast of their own strength; and they went forth in their own might, and took possession again of the city Desolation.

Why do the Nephites have success here?

The Nephites are slow learners, no?

9 And now all these things had been done, and there had been thousands slain on both sides, both the Nephites and the Lamanites.

10 And it came to pass that the three hundred and sixty and sixth year had passed away, and the Lamanites came again upon the Nephites to battle; and yet the Nephites repented not of the evil they had done, but persisted in their wickedness continually.

11 And it is impossible for the tongue to describe, or for man to write a perfect description of the horrible scene of the blood and carnage which was among the people, both of the Nephites and of the Lamanites; and every heart was hardened, so that they delighted in the shedding of blood continually.

Notice the link between hard hearts and carnage.

Is there anything in this verse that should inform our thinking about violence and/or depictions of violence?

Is it possible for a human to ever write a “perfect description” of anything?

12 And there never had been so great wickedness among all the children of Lehi, nor even among all the house of Israel, according to the words of the Lord, as was among this people.

Is this hyperbole?  How do you know?

13 And it came to pass that the Lamanites did take possession of the city Desolation, and this because their number did exceed the number of the Nephites.

Are we supposed to learn something from the note that they won because they had greater numbers?

14 And they did also march forward against the city Teancum, and did drive the inhabitants forth out of her, and did take many prisoners both women and children, and did offer them up as sacrifices unto their idol gods.

Why mention the women and children here?

Not much about idol worship in the BoM–why here?

15 And it came to pass that in the three hundred and sixty and seventh year, the Nephites being angry because the Lamanites had sacrificed their women and their children, that they did go against the Lamanites with exceedingly great anger, insomuch that they did beat again the Lamanites, and drive them out of their lands.

Why did they only sacrifice the women and children?  Does this suggest something about their religious beliefs?

What does this verse suggest to you about anger?

I think we want to read (and, to an extent, Mormon encourages us to read) Nephite battle loss or success as the result of righteousness.  But then you get a verse like this that basically says, “they won–they were still wicked, but it was because they were really ticked off this time.”

16 And the Lamanites did not come again against the Nephites until the three hundred and seventy and fifth year.

17 And in this year they did come down against the Nephites with all their powers; and they were not numbered because of the greatness of their number.

Do you think the Lamanite army had increased (and, if so, why?) or was he just being dramatic here (=portraying their size as if it were infinite) or what?

18 And from this time forth did the Nephites gain no power over the Lamanites, but began to be swept off by them even as a dew before the sun.

Why do you think Mormon included the women-and-children sacrifice in the record?  Are there moral lessons from this bit of history and who wins and loses which battles?  Why else might it have been included?

Why the simile about the dew and the sun?  (It’s an odd bit of loveliness in this ugly account.)

19 And it came to pass that the Lamanites did come down against the city Desolation; and there was an exceedingly sore battle fought in the land Desolation, in the which they did beat the Nephites.

20 And they fled again from before them, and they came to the city Boaz; and there they did stand against the Lamanites with exceeding boldness, insomuch that the Lamanites did not beat them until they had come again the second time.

21 And when they had come the second time, the Nephites were driven and slaughtered with an exceedingly great slaughter; their women and their children were again sacrificed unto idols.

22 And it came to pass that the Nephites did again flee from before them, taking all the inhabitants with them, both in towns and villages.

23 And now I, Mormon, seeing that the Lamanites were about to overthrow the land, therefore I did go to the hill Shim, and did take up all the records which Ammaron had hid up unto the Lord.

Interesting that Mormon doesn’t record his personal reaction to the sacrifice of the women and the children.  (I doubt he had any, but still.)

CHAPTER 5

1 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.

Interesting–does the fact that he “repented of his oath” suggest that he shouldn’t have refused to continue leading them?  I don’t know how else to read that, but then the implication is that he _should_ have been leading wicked people and to refuse to lead them was a sin; I’m not sure what to make of that.

Maybe “repent” has its (sometimes) OT meaning of “changed my mind” and doesn’t have a moral dimension here.

Were they right or wrong to think that Mormon could deliver them?

Can you determine what changed his mind re leading the people?  (I didn’t really see any clues in ch4.)

Do you think that I am over-reading to suggest that they recognize Mormon’s righteousness?  And maybe they think that if he is leading them, God will have to let them win?

2 But behold, I was without hope, for I knew the judgments of the Lord which should come upon them; for they repented not of their iniquities, but did struggle for their lives without calling upon that Being who created them.

Skousen reads “hopes” instead of “hope” here.

Is it ever good to be without hope?  Was he right to be without hope?  Why would you do something if you were without hope?

Does this verse imply that these people couldn’t repent?  Is that true?

3 And it came to pass that the Lamanites did come against us as we had fled to the city of Jordan; but behold, they were driven back that they did not take the city at that time.

Note that some of the Nephites might have assumed that all was well (and they didn’t really need to repent) because of the success that they had here.  I think we might look sometimes to only the short-term results of our actions and miss the larger picture.

4 And it came to pass that they came against us again, and we did maintain the city. And there were also other cities which were maintained by the Nephites, which strongholds did cut them off that they could not get into the country which lay before us, to destroy the inhabitants of our land.

5 But it came to pass that whatsoever lands we had passed by, and the inhabitants thereof were not gathered in, were destroyed by the Lamanites, and their towns, and villages, and cities were burned with fire; and thus three hundred and seventy and nine years passed away.

This verse points to “gathering in” as a key to military success.  Might this also be metaphorical?  How might it be relevant to us?

It is a little awkward perhaps that they are shown as having military success when they are wicked because of their good use of strategy.  What might we learn from this?

So do v4-5 imply that Mormon was wrong when he lacked hope?

6 And it came to pass that in the three hundred and eightieth year the Lamanites did come again against us to battle, and we did stand against them boldly; but it was all in vain, for so great were their numbers that they did tread the people of the Nephites under their feet.

I think one of the undercurrents of this section is that battles are usually decided by who has the greater number unless you have the Lord on your side.  (Or, looking at the next verse, decided by physical factors in general.)

Think about all the references to the wicked treading God under their feet . . . is this payback?

7 And it came to pass that we did again take to flight, and those whose flight was swifter than the Lamanites’ did escape, and those whose flight did not exceed the Lamanites’ were swept down and destroyed.

8 And now behold, I, Mormon, do not desire to harrow up the souls of men in casting before them such an awful scene of blood and carnage as was laid before mine eyes; but I, knowing that these things must surely be made known, and that all things which are hid must be revealed upon the house-tops—

How does this verse compare with 4:11?

Why does Mormon state his name here?

What does this verse suggest to you about violence and/or depictions of violence?

How do you think these scenes affected Mormon?

What’s Mormon’s message here about the necessity of sharing ugliness with people? (See also the next verse for the conclusion of the thought.)

Is Mormon saying the violence in his day was “hidden”?  If so, in what way?

9 And also that a knowledge of these things must come unto the remnant of these people, and also unto the Gentiles, who the Lord hath said should scatter this people, and this people should be counted as naught among them—therefore I write a small abridgment, daring not to give a full account of the things which I have seen, because of the commandment which I have received, and also that ye might not have too great sorrow because of the wickedness of this people.

What exactly was he commanded (not) to do here?

Is protecting people from sorrow a good thing?  (Remember that God, and the Three Nephites, sorrow for sin.)

What is “too great” sorrow?

10 And now behold, this I speak unto their seed, and also to the Gentiles who have care for the house of Israel, that realize and know from whence their blessings come.

It seems that whenever Mormon gives up on the people around him, he shifts to talking to us.

What does he mean when he talks about Gentiles who “have care for the house of Israel”?

Interesting that he says he is only speaking to people who know where their blessings come from . . .

Do “realize” and “know” mean the same thing in this verse?

11 For I know that such will sorrow for the calamity of the house of Israel; yea, they will sorrow for the destruction of this people; they will sorrow that this people had not repented that they might have been clasped in the arms of Jesus.

Do you spend much time sorrowing for other people’s sins?  Should you?

“Clasped in the arms of Jesus” is an interesting phrase–why do you think he used it?  What does it suggest to you?

This is interesting because this verse describes other people experiencing exactly what Mormon is experiencing . . .  he knows it will happen to others because it happened to him.

12 Now these things are written unto the remnant of the house of Jacob; and they are written after this manner, because it is known of God that wickedness will not bring them forth unto them; and they are to be hid up unto the Lord that they may come forth in his own due time.

What does “after this manner” mean in this verse?  Does it refer to Mormon’s decision to spare us the gore, or to something else?

Pretty unusual for such a specific reason for a record to be given in the scriptures; do you read these chapters differently now that you know this?

I am not sure what “wickedness will not bring them forth unto them” means.  (Too many pronouns to sort out.)  I think it means that the record won’t be brought forth to the wicked?  Or by the wicked?  Or something.

13 And this is the commandment which I have received; and behold, they shall come forth according to the commandment of the Lord, when he shall see fit, in his wisdom.

Notice the repetition from the previous verse; what function does it serve?

14 And behold, they shall go unto the unbelieving of the Jews; and for this intent shall they go—that they may be persuaded that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; that the Father may bring about, through his most Beloved, his great and eternal purpose, in restoring the Jews, or all the house of Israel, to the land of their inheritance, which the Lord their God hath given them, unto the fulfilling of his covenant;

15 And also that the seed of this people may more fully believe his gospel, which shall go forth unto them from the Gentiles; for this people shall be scattered, and shall become a dark, a filthy, and a loathsome people, beyond the description of that which ever hath been amongst us, yea, even that which hath been among the Lamanites, and this because of their unbelief and idolatry.

 

Thinking about v14-15, do you read the BoM differently if you think about these purposes?  In what ways does it fulfill these purposes?

What does “dark” mean in this verse?  Is “filthy” literal and/or physical or something else?  How does your interpretation of “filthy” inform your interpretation of dark?

Why is idolatry in particular mentioned?

Aren’t they already dark/filthy/loathsome?

So today, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable with the prophet calling anyone filthy or loathsome.  (Child molesters?  Maybe.)

Do you take his “beyond . . . that which has ever been amongst us” literally, or is this just boiler plate?

16 For behold, the Spirit of the Lord hath already ceased to strive with their fathers; and they are without Christ and God in the world; and they are driven about as chaff before the wind.

Is having the Spirit cease to strive with you the same as or different from being without Christ and God?

What does the image of chaff in the wind suggest to you?

What does it mean for the Spirit to strive with you?

Notice that this verse is about _their fathers_.  Why is that relevant?

Is without Christ AND God significant?  (In other words, is this verse implying that you can have one without the other?)

Webster 1828 “strive”:

1. To make efforts; to use exertions; to endeavor with earnestness; to labor hard; applicable to exertions of body or mind.
2. To contend; to contest; to struggle in opposition to another; to be in contention or dispute; followed by against or with before the person or thing opposed; as, strive against temptation; strive for the truth.
3. To oppose by contrariety of qualities.
4. To vie; to be comparable to; to emulate; to contend in excellence.

17 They were once a delightsome people, and they had Christ for their shepherd; yea, they were led even by God the Father.

What does the image of Christ as a shepherd suggest?

What does it mean to be led by God the Father?  Is that the same as or different from having Christ as your shepherd?

What does this verse suggest about the relationship between and also the roles of Christ and the Father?

18 But now, behold, they are led about by Satan, even as chaff is driven before the wind, or as a vessel is tossed about upon the waves, without sail or anchor, or without anything wherewith to steer her; and even as she is, so are they.

(Interesting that the Jaredites’ boat will have no sail, anchor, or way to steer.)

Why all of these metaphors for their condition?

There seems to be some tension in this verse between suggesting that Satan is their leader and suggesting that they have no guide. What is going on here?

Why does he repeat the chaff/wind line from the previous verse?

Brant Gardner:

Joseph Smith’s cultural assumptions arise in his translation of Mormon’s lament. While it is quite certain that the intent of these passages was what Mormon attempted to communicate, it is equally certain that the specific phrases come from the modern context rather than the ancient ones. From a Mesoamerican standpoint, none of the items used to create the imagery used in this last sentence [=chaff, rudder] were part of Mesoamerican culture at the time that Mormon was writing. Citation

19 And behold, the Lord hath reserved their blessings, which they might have received in the land, for the Gentiles who shall possess the land.

“Reserved” is so interesting–what does it suggest to you about blessings?  (Especially the idea that the verse develops that the blessings are given to someone else.)  Does the verse imply that the blessings are tied to the land?

20 But behold, it shall come to pass that they shall be driven and scattered by the Gentiles; and after they have been driven and scattered by the Gentiles, behold, then will the Lord remember the covenant which he made unto Abraham and unto all the house of Israel.

Why does the Lord allow them to be driven and scattered before the Lord remembers them?  (Does the next verse answer this question?)

21 And also the Lord will remember the prayers of the righteous, which have been put up unto him for them.

What does this verse suggest to you about prayer?

22 And then, O ye Gentiles, how can ye stand before the power of God, except ye shall repent and turn from your evil ways?

Don’t we usually talk about standing before God?  Why does this verse say “stand before the power of God”?

Do repent and turn mean the same thing?

23 Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God? Know ye not that he hath all power, and at his great command the earth shall be rolled together as a scroll?

Why does Mormon ask questions here and in v22?  What effect should they have on the reader?

What does the image of God’s hands (and the reader being in them) suggest?

What does it mean to say that the earth will be rolled together as a scroll?

24 Therefore, repent ye, and humble yourselves before him, lest he shall come out in justice against you—lest a remnant of the seed of Jacob shall go forth among you as a lion, and tear you in pieces, and there is none to deliver.

What impact does the attacking lion image have on you?

CHAPTER 6

1 And now I finish my record concerning the destruction of my people, the Nephites. And it came to pass that we did march forth before the Lamanites.

Why does Mormon tell us that he is finishing his record?  (Is this a spoiler?)

Note that Mormon isn’t much for building suspense:  he just told us that this story ends with the Nephites being destroyed.  What might have motivated him to tell us how the story ends before telling us the story?

2 And I, Mormon, wrote an epistle unto the king of the Lamanites, and desired of him that he would grant unto us that we might gather together our people unto the land of Cumorah, by a hill which was called Cumorah, and there we could give them battle.

Again, why does Mormon restate his name here?

This is weird–since when do you send a letter to the enemy king suggesting a little get-together for a battle?  Why did he do this?  What does it teach us about Mormon?  (Note that the Lamanite king had sent him a letter before the last battle, so I wonder if this was a customary thing.)

Does this verse violate the usual rules about offensives warfare in the BoM?

3 And it came to pass that the king of the Lamanites did grant unto me the thing which I desired.

Still weird:  does this verse imply that Mormon desired the battle (v2)?

4 And it came to pass that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents round about the hill Cumorah; and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains; and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites.

Given that the Lamanites agreed to this, were they wrong to think that they would have an advantage over the Lamanites here?

5 And *when three hundred and eighty and four years had passed away, we had gathered in all the remainder of our people unto the land of Cumorah.

Is this just factual background or is there something significant about the idea of gathering here?

Did he gather everyone (even women and children) here?  (I think v7 confirms that he did.) Why would he do that if this was battle prep?

They spent four years preparing for this battle . . .

6 And it came to pass that when we had gathered in all our people in one to the land of Cumorah, behold I, Mormon, began to be old; and knowing it to be the last struggle of my people, and having been commanded of the Lord that I should not suffer the records which had been handed down by our fathers, which were sacred, to fall into the hands of the Lamanites, (for the Lamanites would destroy them) therefore I made this record out of the plates of Nephi, and hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord, save it were these few plates which I gave unto my son Moroni.

What parallels and differences are there between Ammaron’s handing off the record to Mormon and Mormon’s handing it off to Moroni?

Do you think he knew it was the “last struggle” because of revelation or just the facts on the ground?  (Did he know it would be the last struggle when he sent the Lamanite king a letter inviting him to a battle?)

What does the phrase “struggle” suggest to you about this war?

It kind of sounds like Mormon is more concerned about the records than the lives of the people at this point.  Is that a fair or unfair observation?

7 And it came to pass that my people, with their wives and their children, did now behold the armies of the Lamanites marching towards them; and with that awful fear of death which fills the breasts of all the wicked, did they await to receive them.

 

Boo hiss for not counting the wives and children as part of “my people.”

Do all the wicked fear death?  (Do the righteous fear death?)

This looks like Mormon gathered men, women, and children for a final battle that he caused (by proposing it to the Lamanite king).  Is that the best way to read this section?

Does this verse imply that the women and children were at the battle site?

8 And it came to pass that they came to battle against us, and every soul was filled with terror because of the greatness of their numbers.

Did Mormon put his people deliberately into a situation where they would be terrified?

9 And it came to pass that they did fall upon my people with the sword, and with the bow, and with the arrow, and with the ax, and with all manner of weapons of war.

Why do we get the catalog of weapons here?

10 And it came to pass that my men were hewn down, yea, even my ten thousand who were with me, and I fell wounded in the midst; and they passed by me that they did not put an end to my life.

What’s the message here–that Mormon wanted them to put him out of his misery but they didn’t?  (Was that maybe standard operating procedure to kill the wounded?  Or maybe the “they” refers to the Lamanites who didn’t kill Mormon because they thought he was either already dead or going to die anyway?)

11 And when they had gone through and hewn down all my people save it were twenty and four of us, (among whom was my son Moroni) and we having survived the dead of our people, did behold on the morrow, when the Lamanites had returned unto their camps, from the top of the hill Cumorah, the ten thousand of my people who were hewn down, being led in the front by me.

Is the number 24 significant here or just coincidental?  (Note that Mormon was 24 when he got the record; also see here.)

Wait–the dead (“hewn down”) were led in front of him?  What does that mean?  That their corpses were moved?  Or does hewn down mean wounded?  Or captured?

Kind of interesting that we don’t really know for sure that his son is in battle with him until we read this aside . . .

12 And we also beheld the ten thousand of my people who were led by my son Moroni.

13 And behold, the ten thousand of Gidgiddonah had fallen, and he also in the midst.

14 And Lamah had fallen with his ten thousand; and Gilgal had fallen with his ten thousand; and Limhah had fallen with his ten thousand; and Jeneum had fallen with his ten thousand; and Cumenihah, and Moronihah, and Antionum, and Shiblom, and Shem, and Josh, had fallen with their ten thousand each.

15 And it came to pass that there were ten more who did fall by the sword, with their ten thousand each; yea, even all my people, save it were those twenty and four who were with me, and also a few who had escaped into the south countries, and a few who had deserted over unto the Lamanites, had fallen; and their flesh, and bones, and blood lay upon the face of the earth, being left by the hands of those who slew them to molder upon the land, and to crumble and to return to their mother earth.

What’s up with “mother earth”?

Why does Mormon give us this casualty listing here?

Brant Gardner:

If we are to accept Mormon’s numbers at face value, we have 250,000 (including the 10,000 from the previous verse) who were slaughtered on that terrible day. While this might not be out of the question, there is every probability that this is an exaggerated number due to the nature of the “ten thousand” number as a probable marker of military units rather than specific counts.  Citation

16 And my soul was rent with anguish, because of the slain of my people, and I cried:

When Jesus dies, the veil of the temple is rent.  It was traditional in the OT/NT for people to rend their clothes as a sign of mourning.  Is that relevant to the rent soul here?

Wait . . . didn’t he just lead them into a situation where they were likely to be slain?  So what’s he so upset about now?

17 O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you!

Usually, “fair” is used in the BoM to describe the righteous.  What does it mean here?  (If it does mean righteous, then why is Mormon calling them that?)

What effect does the picture of Jesus’ open arms have on you?

Interesting speculation of use of “fair ones” here.

18 Behold, if ye had not done this, ye would not have fallen. But behold, ye are fallen, and I mourn your loss.

So is the issue that they are dead, or that they didn’t repent, or what here?

Does this verse suggest that Mormon did not think that these people would have another chance to accept the gospel on the other side of the veil?

19 O ye fair sons and daughters, ye fathers and mothers, ye husbands and wives, ye fair ones, how is it that ye could have fallen!

Why does he call attention to the family relationships here?

Interesting that this verse is one of the very few places in the BoM where women are shown acting as agents unto themselves.

20 But behold, ye are gone, and my sorrows cannot bring your return.

Is this verse just a poetic flourish, or is there something we are supposed to be learning about the power/rule of sorrow here?

21 And the day soon cometh that your mortal must put on immortality, and these bodies which are now moldering in corruption must soon become incorruptible bodies; and then ye must stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, to be judged according to your works; and if it so be that ye are righteous, then are ye blessed with your fathers who have gone before you.

Interesting that he’s talking about the immortality and incorruptibility of the wicked.

What does “putting on” suggest to you about the nature of immortality?  (Is it like a coat?)

What effect does “moldering” have on the reader?  (Er, the word.  Not to imply that the reader herself is moldering.)

Does the “if it so be” actually mean that some of them were righteous, or is he speaking just hypothetically, or what?

Does this verse imply that you need to be immortal and incorruptible to be judged?  If so, what are the implications of that?

Is “judgement-seat” a metaphor of sorts?  If so, what does it suggest?  (I think most people picture thrones, on the basis of medieval courts, but I doubt that’s right.  Imagine your surprise when Jesus is kicked back on a leather couch or reclining on a cloud. . .)

Does this verse picture any role for faith and/or mercy in the judgment?  (But see the next verse.)

Why the reference to fathers (parents?) here?

22 O that ye had repented before this great destruction had come upon you. But behold, ye are gone, and the Father, yea, the Eternal Father of heaven, knoweth your state; and he doeth with you according to his justice and mercy.

Is the shift from Christ in the last verse to the Father in this verse significant?

What does “gone” mean in this verse?

Why did Mormon feel the need to explain to us who the Father is (“yea, the Eternal Father of heaven”) in this verse?

What does “state” mean here?

Note the paradox of “justice and mercy.”

MORONI 9

1 My beloved son, I write unto you again that ye may know that I am yet alive; but I write somewhat of that which is grievous.

Do you think this statement, which I’d call a summary of the letter, was perhaps a Nephite letter-writing convention?

2 For behold, I have had a sore battle with the Lamanites, in which we did not conquer; and Archeantus has fallen by the sword, and also Luram and Emron; yea, and we have lost a great number of our choice men.

“In which we did not conquer.”  Haunting, sad, understated.  He can’t even say they got their trash kicked.

I like the names in this verse–it humanizes and personalizes the otherwise corporate, statistical account we got above.

3 And now behold, my son, I fear lest the Lamanites shall destroy this people; for they do not repent, and Satan stirreth them up continually to anger one with another.

What is the antecedent of “them”?  (Lamanites?  Nephites?  Both?)

What does “stirreth” suggest to you about what Satan does?

What does this verse teach about anger?  How might that be relevant to us?

How does this verse mesh with the facts that (1) Mormon freely chose to be their military leader and (2) Mormon invited the Lamanite king to a final battle?  (In other words, I sense almost some culpability on Mormon’s part for these events–he was not a bystander.)

4 Behold, I am laboring with them continually; and when I speak the word of God with sharpness they tremble and anger against me; and when I use no sharpness they harden their hearts against it; wherefore, I fear lest the Spirit of the Lord hath ceased striving with them.

What does “sharpness” mean here?  Why does its (lack of) presence change the effect that Mormon’s preaching has on the audience?  In other words, why would lack of sharpness make them harden their hearts and sharpness make them mad?  Does it mean that they are just reacting to the form and not the content of the message or what?  And note v3–does the anger come from Satan?  If so, why would Satan’s input be different according to whether the preaching was with or without sharpness?

This verse almost feels like Mormon did an experiment on preaching styles to see what would work best.

Does the trembling indicate anger or some other emotion?

In what ways today might Satan make us feel angry at the message of church leaders?

What does “striving” mean in this verse?

5 For so exceedingly do they anger that it seemeth me that they have no fear of death; and they have lost their love, one towards another; and they thirst after blood and revenge continually.

Does the anger here imply that Mormon decided to teach with sharpness, or is this something else?  (Remember that v3 pointed to Satan’s role in their anger.

What is the relationship postulated here between anger, fear, and love?  How might that be relevant today?

What does “thirst” suggest to you about their experience?

“Blood” and “revenge” seem an odd pair–one a concrete noun and the other abstract.  (I suppose blood could be abstract as well.)

Compare the use of continually here with its use in v4–what do you conclude?

6 And now, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God.

Why does he repeat “beloved son” from v1?

What does Mormon see as the goal of his labor?  Does he think that he can overcome their hardness?  How does your answer to that question affect how you understand the meaning/purpose of the condemnation that he doesn’t want to be under?

Why “tabernacle of clay”?  Just a poetic way to refer to having  a body, or an allusion to the OT tabernacle and/or creation of Adam from clay/dirt or what?

What does this verse imply about the concept of “conquering” Satan?  Is that a useful concept for us to think about today?

What does “rest” mean in this verse?

Is there a contrast between “tabernacle of clay” and “souls” in this verse?  If so, what might we learn from it?

7 And now I write somewhat concerning the sufferings of this people. For according to the knowledge which I have received from Amoron, behold, the Lamanites have many prisoners, which they took from the tower of Sherrizah; and there were men, women, and children.

Why did Mormon decide to tell his son about the suffering of the people?

Why do you think Mormon shared the source of his info (=Amoron) here?

8 And the husbands and fathers of those women and children they have slain; and they feed the women upon the flesh of their husbands, and the children upon the flesh of their fathers; and no water, save a little, do they give unto them.

Ew.

9 And notwithstanding this great abomination of the Lamanites, it doth not exceed that of our people in Moriantum. For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue—

“It doth not exceed that of our people” : ouch.  That’s . . . bad.  Tell me again why Mormon was leading these people?  Explain to me why he would have been under condemnation for not laboring among them?

Is it actually possible to take someone’s chastity and virtue away from them through rape?  (Hint:  no.)  I think Mormon must be using somewhat different definitions than we normally use.

Is chastity literally more precious than all things?

Do “dear” and “precious” mean the same thing?

Do “chastity” and “virtue” mean the same thing?

Is the dear/precious and chastity/virtue parterning a significant pattern?

10 And after they had done this thing, they did murder them in a most cruel manner, torturing their bodies even unto death; and after they have done this, they devour their flesh like unto wild beasts, because of the hardness of their hearts; and they do it for a token of bravery.

Ew.

Some people feel that the scriptures are too violent to read to small children.  Do you agree?  Perhaps another  way to put that:  Does the inclusion of material such as this in the scriptures have any bearing on standards for our media choices, or is it an exception?  How and why?

11 O my beloved son, how can a people like this, that are without civilization—

Note again the repetition of “beloved son.”  Is this significant?

What does “civilization” mean in this verse?  The only other scriptural use of “civilization” is Alma 51:22 (” Behold, it came to pass that while Moroni was thus breaking down the wars and contentions among his own people, and subjecting them to peace and civilization, and making regulations to prepare for war against the Lamanites, behold, the Lamanites had come into the land of Moroni, which was in the borders by the seashore.”).

12 (And only a few years have passed away, and they were a civil and a delightsome people)

Does “civil” here relate to “civilization” in the last verse?

What’s the point of this verse:  the quickness of the change?  The totality of the change?  Both?  What is the lesson for us?

13 But O my son, how can a people like this, whose delight is in so much abomination—

Notice how he interrupts his train of thought from v11.

Is it significant that this is the first time “beloved” drops out in his address to his son?

Is there a relationship between “delight” in this verse and “delightsome” in the previous verse?

In what ways might we be tempted to delight in abomination?

14 How can we expect that God will stay his hand in judgment against us?

Is Mormon asking a rhetorical question in v11-14?  Does he think his son can actually answer this question?  Or what?

Is Mormon saying that he did expect God to stay his hand?  If not, what is the point of this verse?

To some extent, isn’t the Christian answer to this question, “well, we might expect God to stay the hand because of mercy”?

What does “staying the hand” as a metaphor suggest to you about the nature of judgment?

How literally do you read the “us” in this verse?  (I think my first response is to think that Mormon is excluding himself and his son, but I wonder if it is related to the condemnation he thinks he would be under for not laboring and perhaps that is compounded by a worry that the lack of results can be read backwards to imply a lack of adequate labor.  Or maybe not.)

Brant Gardner says v11-14 are a string of sentence fragments that reflect Mormon’s inability to form coherent thoughts in the face of the torture and rape he has just described.

15 Behold, my heart cries: Wo unto this people. Come out in judgment, O God, and hide their sins, and wickedness, and abominations from before thy face!

Remember that Mormon is writing to his son, not addressing the people or God directly.  Why, then, did he include this verse in his letter?

Is it kind of weird to ask God to judge people?

What does “hide their sins” mean?  Normally, we’d think of that as a bad thing, but I think the idea is that he is asking for the people to be removed from God’s presence.  (Side thought:  perhaps that’s the problem with hiding your own sins–it is like taking on the role of God.)

Do sins, wickedness, and abomination all mean the same thing in this verse?

General question:  Is there anything you see in this passage that helps you understand how/why an omnipotent and loving God allows such evil to persist?

16 And again, my son, there are many widows and their daughters who remain in Sherrizah; and that part of the provisions which the Lamanites did not carry away, behold, the army of Zenephi has carried away, and left them to wander whithersoever they can for food; and many old women do faint by the way and die.

This is more info about women than we’ve gotten in 300 pages.  Why here?  Is there anything useful we can say about the status of women from this verse?  Why wasn’t the fate of women mentioned in any of the war chapters?

Does the phrase “widows and daughters” suggest anything to you about how Mormon thought about women and their roles?

17 And the army which is with me is weak; and the armies of the Lamanites are betwixt Sherrizah and me; and as many as have fled to the army of Aaron have fallen victims to their awful brutality.

“Betwixt” is one of the best words ever.

18 O the depravity of my people! They are without order and without mercy. Behold, I am but a man, and I have but the strength of a man, and I cannot any longer enforce my commands.

Is Mormon implying that the definition of “not depraved” is “order + mercy”?

“Order” seems like a really odd word to use here (I would have expected faith or compassion or justice or something.).  Why do you think Mormon chose it?

Could Mormon ever have enforced his commands?

Remember that he’s writing to his son–why do you think Mormon tells him this?  Why this little introspective jag?

What emotion do you think Mormon is reflecting as he writes this?

19 And they have become strong in their perversion; and they are alike brutal, sparing none, neither old nor young; and they delight in everything save that which is good; and the suffering of our women and our children upon all the face of this land doth exceed everything; yea, tongue cannot tell, neither can it be written.

I’m fascinated by the message about strength in v18 and v19 . . .

What does “alike” do here?  (Does it mean they were all equally brutal, or what?)

Didn’t he just write about their suffering?

Is it fair to read this verse as implying that the suffering of the Nephite women is due to the wickedness of the Nephite men?  If so, what are the implications of that position?

20 And now, my son, I dwell no longer upon this horrible scene. Behold, thou knowest the wickedness of this people; thou knowest that they are without principle, and past feeling; and their wickedness doth exceed that of the Lamanites.

“Past feeling” is really interesting.  What should we take from this?

What are the implications of the idea that the Nephites are more wicked than the Lamanites?

21 Behold, my son, I cannot recommend them unto God lest he should smite me.

Does this verse imply that he was tempted to recommend them unto God?

Is recommending people to God a real thing, or is he just being poetic?

What is the lesson in this verse about culpability?

22 But behold, my son, I recommend thee unto God, and I trust in Christ that thou wilt be saved; and I pray unto God that he will spare thy life, to witness the return of his people unto him, or their utter destruction; for I know that they must perish except they repent and return unto him.

Does Mormon imply that his son’s election has been made sure, or is this just a hope?

Is it weird that Mormon wants his son’s life spared not because he loves him but because he wants him to be a witness to history?

Does this verse imply that Mormon thought there was a real chance that the people would return to God?

Note the references to God, Christ, and then God in this verse.  Is that significant?

23 And if they perish it will be like unto the Jaredites, because of the wilfulness of their hearts, seeking for blood and revenge.

I think we could take this verse as a hint that we are supposed to read the Jaredite and Nephite stories as two iterations of the same pattern.

References to the Jaredites are pretty rare in the BoM; why do we get one here?

Why is “wilfulness” the thing Mormon focuses on here?  How might this be relevant to us?

What is the relationship implied here about wilfulness and seeking blood and revenge?

24 And if it so be that they perish, we know that many of our brethren have deserted over unto the Lamanites, and many more will also desert over unto them; wherefore, write somewhat a few things, if thou art spared and I shall perish and not see thee; but I trust that I may see thee soon; for I have sacred records that I would deliver up unto thee.

Skousen reads “dissented” instead of “deserted” here (and then “dissent” instead of “desert”).

I don’t get how “and if it so be that they perish” relate to the idea of Nephite deserters.

How does Mormon know (or does he really know) that many more will desert?

25 My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever.

Does Mormon think it is possible that his son would not be weighed down by these things?  Really?

I like the contrast of weigh/death and lift up/Christ.

I like the mention of Christ’s sufferings/death contrasted to the (unnecessary) suffering and death all around them.

Do mercy and long-suffering mean the same thing?  Do glory and eternal life mean the same thing?  Does the verse imply a relationship between mercy/glory and long-suffering/eternal life?

What does it mean for something to rest in your mind?  (Usually, rest refers to resting in the kingdom of God.)

I see this verse as saying “don’t focus on the ugly stuff.”  Good advice to be sure, but a little weird coming at the end of a letter full of ugly stuff, no?

26 And may the grace of God the Father, whose throne is high in the heavens, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who sitteth on the right hand of his power, until all things shall become subject unto him, be, and abide with you forever. Amen.

What does the metaphor of a throne (you don’t read that literally, do you?) suggest to you about God?

What does the image of sitting on the right hand of power imply?

General question about this chapter:  do you see anything in this letter that we might use as a template for better understanding fatherhood/parenthood?

 General thoughts:

(1) The curriculum cmte made the decision to group Moroni 9 with this lesson.   Why do you think they did that?  What are the disadvantages of grouping the material this way?  What are the advantages?  How does this arrangement of material impact how you perceive it?

(2) This article considers Mormon’s writings as “survivor literature” and is, I think, helpful for us in interpreting what Mormon is doing here.

(3) Gordon B. Hinckley:

More than fifty years ago, when I was a missionary in England, I said to one of my associates, “How can we get people, including our own members, to speak of the Church by its proper name?”

He replied, “You can’t. The word Mormon is too deeply ingrained and too easy to say.” He went on, “I’ve quit trying. While I’m thankful for the privilege of being a follower of Jesus Christ and a member of the Church which bears His name, I am not ashamed of the nickname Mormon.”

“Look,” he went on to say, “if there is any name that is totally honorable in its derivation, it is the name Mormon. And so, when someone asks me about it and what it means, I quietly say—‘Mormon means more good.’” (The Prophet Joseph Smith first said this in 1843; see Times and Seasons, 4:194; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 299–300.)

His statement intrigued me—Mormon means “more good.” I knew, of course, that “more good” was not a derivative of the word Mormon. I had studied both Latin and Greek, and I knew that English is derived in some measure from those two languages and that the words more good are not a cognate of the word Mormon. But his was a positive attitude based on an interesting perception. And, as we all know, our lives are guided in large measure by our perceptions. Ever since, when I have seen the word Mormon used in the media to describe us—in a newspaper or a magazine or book or whatever—there flashes into my mind his statement, which has become my motto: Mormon means “more good.”

We may not be able to change the nickname, but we can make it shine with added luster.

After all, it is the name of a man who was a great prophet who struggled to save his nation, and also the name of a book which is a mighty testament of eternal truth, a veritable witness of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

May I remind you for a moment of the greatness and of the goodness of this man Mormon. He lived on this American continent in the fourth century after Christ. When he was a boy of ten the historian of the people, whose name was Ammaron, described Mormon as “a sober child, and … quick to observe.” (Morm. 1:2.) Ammaron gave him a charge that when he reached the age of twenty-four, he was to take custody of the records of the generations who had preceded him.

The years that followed Mormon’s childhood were years of terrible bloodshed for his nation, the result of a long and vicious and terrible war between those who were called Nephites and those who were called Lamanites.

Mormon later became the leader of the armies of the Nephites and witnessed the carnage of his people, making it plain to them that their repeated defeats came because they forsook the Lord and He in turn abandoned them. His nation was destroyed with the slaughter of hundreds of thousands. He was one of only twenty-four who survived. As he looked upon the moldering remains of what once had been legions, he cried:

“O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you!” (Morm. 6:17.)

He wrote to our generation with words of warning and pleading, proclaiming with eloquence his testimony of the resurrected Christ. He warned of calamities to come if we should forsake the ways of the Lord as his own people had done.

Knowing that his own life would soon be brought to an end, as his enemies hunted the survivors, he pleaded for our generation to walk with faith, hope, and charity, declaring: “Charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” (Moro. 7:47.)

Such was the goodness, the strength, the power, the faith, the prophetic heart of the prophet-leader Mormon.

He was the chief compiler of the book which is called after his name and which has come forth in this period of the world’s history as a voice speaking from the dust in testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It has touched for good the lives of millions who have prayerfully read it and pondered its language. Oct 90 GC

(4) One thing that struck me in this section is how much love, attention, anguish, and hope Mormon directs toward deeply evil people.  I think today we tend to avoid, or be disgusted by, or write off people for much smaller sins.

(5) Nice article here and here by Elder Holland about Mormon.

7 Responses to BMGD #43: Mormon 1-6 and Moroni 9

  1. Kevin Barney on November 14, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Question: Mormon 1:3 says Mormon should go get the plates when he is about 24.

    Mormon 1:15 has Mormon at age 15.

    The next correlation with the larger calendar is in Mormon 1:22, which correlates this with 326.

    Just before Mormon gets the records in Mormon 2:17, we’re given a date of 345 in v. 16.

    That’s 19 years later. 15 + 19 = 34, not 24. So it appears that Mormon doesn’t get the plates until a decade after Ammoron had instructed. Was this just the press of war? Is there any significance to this ten-year delay?

  2. Julie M. Smith on November 14, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Interesting . . .

  3. Cameron on November 16, 2012 at 1:32 am

    “(4) One thing that struck me in this section is how much love, attention, anguish, and hope Mormon directs toward deeply evil people. I think today we tend to avoid, or be disgusted by, or write off people for much smaller sins.”

    Well said Julie. Thank you again for this treasure and for sharing your insights and study efforts.

  4. Todd on November 19, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Is there a missing link in General Thought #2? Or am I not seeing something?

  5. Julie M. Smith on November 19, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Sorry, Todd. My mistake. Should be fixed now. Thanks for pointing it out.

  6. Todd on November 19, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Perfect, thanks. And thanks for doing this. I’m sure it is a lot of work, but some of us need others to ask the questions in order to kick-start the kind of analysis that produces the best learning experience.

  7. Alison Moore Smith on December 2, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    In 6:21 I read the “incorruptible” body to mean not decayed, not spoiled, as in not subject to age, sickness. Do you think that fits?

    Ditto what Todd said.

WELCOME

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