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How Do the Events of Mormon’s Life Shape the Entire Book of Mormon?
BMC Team's picture
Post contributed by BMC Team
October 27, 2020
KnoWhy #582
El Guardian by Jorge Cocco.
El Guardian by Jorge Cocco.
“And now I, Mormon, make a record of the things which I have both seen and heard, and call it the Book of Mormon”

Mormon 1:1

The Know

As readers traverse the Book of Mormon, they encounter pervasive but subtle traces of its editor Mormon. Thankfully, in Mormon’s own record about his life, readers are able to get more fully acquainted with him as a character. Careful study of Mormon’s autobiographical account can help readers better understand the inspiring and also tragic events that influenced his life’s legacy and work, the Book of Mormon (see appendix for a full chronology of Mormon’s life).

Mormon was no ordinary person. At the age of ten (ca. AD 321), he was appointed to become the steward of the sacred Nephite records (Mormon 1:2). At age fifteen he was “visited of the Lord” (v. 15). And in his sixteenth year Mormon was made a leader over a Nephite army (Mormon 2:1–2). “Apparently, Ammaron, the Lord, and Mormon’s people all saw something extraordinary in his capacity and character as a young man.”1 These three significant events—his calling as a historian and recordkeeper, his installment as a military leader, and the visitation of the Savior—likely influenced much of his editing and telling of the Nephite story.

First, Mormon’s training as a historian taught him to keenly identify and make connections in the Nephite records. An example of this can be seen in the careful attention that Mormon paid to the fulfillment of prophecies, some of which he saw fulfilled during his own lifetime.2 For instance, as his people grew in wickedness, Mormon observed that the curses and destruction that were coming upon them were “even unto the fulfilling of all the words of Abinadi, and also Samuel the Lamanite” (Mormon 1:19). When backtracking through the prophecies of Samuel and Abinadi, readers will discover that several of them applied specifically to Mormon’s day, or at least as well to his day as to earlier periods of Nephite history.

Samuel had prophesied that the people would lament to the Lord that their treasures had become slippery in the earth (Helaman 13:30–35). In Mormon 2:10–11 that specific prophecy was fulfilled when the Nephites “began to repent of their iniquity, and began to cry even as had been prophesied by Samuel the prophet.” Abinadi had prophesied, among many other unwritten prophecies, that the Nephites would be utterly destroyed (Mosiah 12:8). This prophecy came to pass in the fateful annihilation of the Nephite civilization in Mormon 6:8–20.3 This possibly explains why Mormon took significant space—six chapters to tell the story of Abinadi and four chapters to tell the story of Samuel—when recording the ministries of these prophets.

Second, Mormon’s military training and experience gave him additional insight into many of the Nephite accounts of wars and conflict. Mormon knew firsthand the strategies, resources, and morale needed to bring an army to victory in righteousness. Mormon may have included so many war chapters because it was a topic of deep, personal interest to him.4 In addition, Mormon lamentably witnessed his people’s tragic collapse through conflict of bloodshed and war. Being familiar with the Jaredites’ tragic tale of complete annihilation, Mormon would have been keenly aware that his people were now approaching a similar fate. In the anguish of his soul, he may have included frequent allusions to the Jaredite narrative in the hope that future generations would avoid destruction by serving the Lord their God.5

Finally, and crucially, Mormon’s personal relationship with the Savior provided him with special knowledge of Christ’s identity, role, and purpose. Mormon 1:15 says, “I was visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus.”6 Through his encounters with Jesus Christ, Mormon would have known exactly what the most important information and principles would be for future disciples to come to know the Savior as he had. Mormon’s personal knowledge of Jesus Christ’s goodness may have inspired him to include “the fulfillment of inspired forecasts about the coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, Redeemer, and Son of God.”7

The Why

Studying the life of the Book of Mormon’s primary abridger and editor can help readers appreciate how the Lord prepared and called Mormon as an exceptional person to complete God’s work. If the Book of Mormon had been edited by someone else among the people of Lehi, it may have turned out quite differently. What stories might have been included or omitted had someone else been given the task of compiling this sacred book?

Mormon was specially prepared by the Lord and, like Nephi, was inspired to select only those things that were “of worth unto the children of men” (1 Nephi 6:6). Through the help of Mormon’s guiding editorial hand, we can learn countless lessons from the victories and losses of the Nephite war chapters; we can treasure sacred prophecies of Christ from hundreds of years before his coming; and we are forewarned of the great destruction and calamities that await societies who forget the Lord their God.

Furthermore, by studying Mormon’s life we can turn inward and reflect upon how the Lord is preparing each of us as individuals. The Lord has a magnificent plan for each of His children. He wants us to succeed and has prepared a way for each of us to do so, even if, like Mormon, we face tragic or trying circumstances. As followers of Christ turn to the Lord, He can direct and guide them through excruciating, but refining experiences that can lead them to accomplish great and marvelous works for the Lord (D&C 7:1–4).

Elder Richard G. Scott taught,

May the Lord strengthen your resolve, your exercise of faith, and your growing character so that you may be the instrument of good He wants you to be. I testify that He lives. As you worthily seek His help, He will guide you in your life. I testify of that with every capacity I possess. Jesus Christ lives. He guides His work on earth.8

Like Mormon, Elder Scott declared that he had sacred experiences with the divine that allowed him to bear special witness of Jesus Christ’s power. He had experiences that prepared him for his apostleship and prepared him to testify of God’s plan for his children. As we individually come unto Christ and taste and know of His goodness, just as Mormon did, we can similarly feel God’s influence in our lives, directing us to use our talents, capacities, and unique individual experiences to fulfill His divine purposes.

Further Reading

John W. Welch, John W. Welch Notes (Springville, UT, Book of Mormon Central, 2020), 1037–1068.

Book of Mormon Central, “What Do We Know about Mormon’s Upbringing? (Mormon 1:2),” KnoWhy 226 (November 8, 2016).

Marilyn Arnold, “Mormon2,” in Book of Mormon Reference Companion, ed. Dennis L. Largey (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2003), 547–551.

Appendix: Chronology of Mormon’s Life

Year

Event

311

Mormon is born

321

Ammaron commissions Mormon to retrieve sacred records when 24 years old (1:2–4)

322

Mormon, at age 11, goes with his father to the land southward and Zarahemla (1:6)

322

War breaks out between Nephites and Lamanites (1:8)

323–326

Four years of peace (1:12)

326

Mormon, age 15, is visited by the Lord and knows the goodness of Jesus (1:15)

327

Mormon, age 16, is appointed to lead the army (2:2)

328

Lamanites attack (2:3)

330

Mormon defeats Aaron (2:9)

331?

Mormon marries at age 20?

331

Outbreak of hostilities

333?

Moroni is born?

335

Mormon remembers Ammaron telling him to go to Antum at age 24 (1:3)

335

Mormon goes and obtains the records

344

People curse God and wish to die; day of grace was passed (2:14–15)

345

Nephites flee to Jashon, where the records were (2:16–17)

345

Mormon finishes the large plates of Nephi by adding information up to his time (2:18)

345

Nephites fortify city of Shem (2:21)

346

Lamanites attack Shem (2:22)

348–349

Mormon describes the feelings and conditions of this time (2:19–27)

349

Mormon, age 38, has not yet made a complete record on the Plates of Mormon (2:18)

350

Nephites and Lamanites enter into ten-year peace treaty (2:28)

350–360

Ten years of peace; Mormon and Moroni work on the Plates of Mormon (2:28)

359?

Mormon preaches repentance and baptism (3:2); was Moroni 7 spoken about then?

360

The king of the Lamanites sends a letter that they will attack (3:4)

360

Nephites move to Desolation, by “the narrow pass into land southward” (3:5, 8)

361

Lamanites attack and are defeated (3:7)

362

Lamanites attack again and are defeated, dead thrown into the sea, Nephite boasting (3:8)

362

Mormon, age 51, refuses to lead the Nephite army any longer (3:11, 16)

362?

Moroni, age 29, called to the ministry (Moroni 8:1), given copy of Moroni 7?

362

Conditions are described in Mormon 3:11–15

362?

Mormon writes to Moroni (Moroni 8?); this letter’s conditions match Mormon 3:3–15

363

Nephites go on the offensive (4:1)

364

Lamanites attack Teancum and are driven back (4:7–8)

366

Blood on both sides, Teancum taken, idols, women and children sacrifice (4:10–13)

367

Nephites attack back in great anger, drive Lamanites out (4:15)

367?

Mormon writes Moroni 9 to Moroni; its words and conditions match Mormon 4

368–374

Hiatus in warfare, little information given, Mormon may have worked further on the records

375

Lamanites attack, great slaughter, women and children sacrificed (4:17–22)

378?

Mormon (age 67) repents of his oath and was given again command of the army (5:1)

379

Lamanites attack the city of Jordan and other strongholds and were driven back; Nephites who would not gather in were destroyed (5:3, 5)

380

Lamanites attack again in great numbers, and the Nephites are defeated; only the swift could outrun the Lamanites (5:6–7)

384

Mormon writes to the Lamanite king to set a final battle at Cumorah (6:2)

385

Mormon, age 74, dies (killed in last battle)

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