Thoughts on Gospel Doctrine Lesson 44

Final Advice from a Dying Prophet, General, and Historian

After briefly recording the outcome of the battle (Morm. 6:1-15), Mormon lamented the insane destruction of his people. They simply refused to repent and to obey God's laws: "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! Behold, if ye had not done this, ye would not have fallen. But behold, ye are fallen, and I mourn your loss." (Morm. 6:17- 18.) As he proceeded, he referred to the last judgment, and this thought turned him to address his future audience directly. Whereas Mormon occasionally imbedded comments in his abridgment (as at 3 Ne. 30:1-2) and also composed an entire chapter on his approach to history (Hel. 12), we may view Mormon 7 as his final plea and loving advice to a civilization that would experience many of the same destructive forces that played out on the Americas anciently. This chapter warrants our careful and complete attention.

Speaking to the remnant of the house of Israel (that is, the descendants of the Lehi-Mulekite civilizations and others from among the Gentile nations who would read this record), Mormon proclaimed the following:

1. "Know ye that ye are of the house of Israel." (Morm. 7:2.) A correct sense of identity is essential to proper behavior. Pride in one's heritage and future, as prophesied in the scriptures, includes the blessings promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Until you know who you are, you can never reach your potential. In positing this as his first instruction, Mormon combined the insight of the prophet with that of the historian. As long as people are oriented in time, with a historical perspective, they have a sense of identity; and Mormon, as other prophets in the Book of Mormon, always hearkened back to the religious origins of the house of Israel and its prophetic future.

2. "Know ye that ye must come unto repentance, or ye cannot be saved." (Morm. 7:3.) Through his account of Nephite history and through his own efforts with his contemporaries, Mormon always put matters into correct perspective: Put your life in order and be forgiven for sins through the atonement, or else all other accomplishments in life are transitory and vain.

3. "Know ye that ye must lay down your weapons of war, and delight no more in the shedding of blood, and take them not again, save it be that God shall command you." (Morm. 7:4.) This injunction is stunning. First, it is specific and immediately follows the prophet-historian's call to repentance and his exhortation to understand our true identity. Second, it comes from one who was a military commander for fifty years. Nevertheless, he advocated a position not unlike that of the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi; and certainly his hero Moroni also used restraint and took a defensive stance unless God directed otherwise. For a world with hundredfold overkill capability, what better message, what more apt charge could be written? This injunction is not the fanatical rambling of a demented, antisocial radical; rather it came from an active politician- general of many years. His historical and prophetic perspective also allowed him to deliver to our generation what we need desperately to know.

4. "Know ye that ye must come to the knowledge of your fathers, and repent of all your sins and iniquities, and believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God, and that . . . he hath risen again; . . . and he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead, whereby man must be raised to stand before his judgment-seat." (Morm. 7:5-6.) In a sense this repeats the first two points and joins to them Mormon's lament to the slain of his people. (Morm. 6:16-22.) We should live so that we will not be ashamed on judgment day; that is, we should repent and be forgiven for past misdeeds, then be inspired to do good in the future. By focusing on the final judgment, Mormon sought to motivate us to view life from an eternal perspective, the very thing the Nephites had lost.

5. "And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom . . . in a state of happiness which hath no end." (Morm. 7:7.) With his reaffirmation of the reality of the atonement and of the possibility of endless happiness following the brief period of trial in our mortal existence, Mormon tied back to the most important of the promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: that the Redeemer of the world would come from their posterity and perform the expiatory sacrifice for all, bringing about a universal resurrection, with individual rewards conditional upon faith, repentance, and obedience.

6. "Therefore repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus, and lay hold upon the gospel of Christ, which shall be set before you, not only in this record but also in the record which shall come unto the Gentiles from the Jews, which record shall come from the Gentiles unto you. For behold, this is written for the intent that ye may believe that; and if ye believe that ye will believe this also; and if ye believe this ye will know concerning your fathers, and also the marvelous works which were wrought by the power of God among them." (Morm. 7:8-9.) With the injunction to repent and be baptized, Mormon linked his message to his previous thought. Once acquired, an understanding of the principles of the gospel and of God's concern for his children is best reinforced by continual pondering of the scriptures. Mormon knew well that in our day, two major records, the Bible and the Book of Mormon, would corroborate each other and mutually support the restoration of the true gospel on the earth.

7. "And ye will also know that ye are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; therefore ye are numbered among the people of the first covenant; and if it so be that ye believe in Christ, and are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior, according to that which he hath commanded us, it shall be well with you in the day of judgment." (Morm. 7:10.) Mormon now returned to his first injunction—to know and appreciate what it means to belong to the house of Israel. The historical anchor of personal and group identity not only has strong religious implications, but it is also a psychologically sound principle. By including the specific steps to take to abide by the gospel covenant, Mormon unified and summarized his statement: faith in Christ, baptism of water and of spirit, and constant obedience will lead to happiness when we are finally judged, as we will all surely be.

A Son Completes his Father's Work

As he sensed his life was coming to an end, Mormon gave his records to his son Moroni and directed him to complete the book. (Morm. 6:6; 8:1, 3; Moro. 9:24.) How was it not complete? The historical record after the visit of the Savior is extremely brief, by both choice and commandment. (Morm. 5:9; cf. 3 Ne. 26:6-12 [especially 11].) More significantly, when Mormon summarized the Jaredite record that Mosiah had translated, a record preserved for us in Moroni's abridgment under the name of Ether, he said, "This account shall be written hereafter; for behold, it is expedient that all people should know the things which are written in this account." (Mosiah 28:19.) This was one task he marked out for himself that he had not finished, and he perhaps spoke of this with Moroni. At least what Mormon mentioned in his epistle (Moro. 9:23) seems to be contemporary with the last year of the Nephite-Lamanite war, A.D. 384. (Or perhaps Moroni, while reading his father's record, came across the passage quoted above and, with filial devotion, did not want his father's promise to be unfulfilled.)

Moroni did continue his father's record. The trials and difficulties of his solitary existence are poignantly portrayed in Mormon 8:2-11, where even Moroni for some time seemed not to have been visited by the three Nephite disciples, who were translated and who had ministered among the Nephites and Lamanites until the wickedness of the people made it impossible to continue. Moroni dearly wanted his future readers to accept his record without being critical and negative, for he knew of his human weaknesses and failings. (Morm. 8:12-13, 17; cf. Ether 12:23-29, 35-36, 40.) Nevertheless, the record is true. It is divinely inspired. Perhaps he completed his first brief statement at Mormon 8:13 ("I make an end of speaking concerning this people. I am the son of Mormon, and my father was a descendant of Nephi"), for the next verse is almost another colophon that introduces the writer: "I am the same who hideth up this record unto the Lord" (Morm. 8:14). But our verse and chapter divisions are artificial and modern, not ancient, and so it seems that Mormon 8:13-14 is one continuous and unbroken statement. And Moroni's abridgment of Ether (that is, the twenty-four gold plates of the Jaredite record given by Limhi to the seer and king Mosiah, son of Benjamin) was probably accomplished at the same time as Mormon 8-9. However, to judge from Moroni 1:1, some time, perhaps as much as twenty years (Moro. 10:1), passed before Moroni composed the book that bears his name. As his father did, Moroni turned to his future audience and addressed them as though present, a voice crying from the dust. (Morm. 8:13-14.) His description of our days is precise and pointed, for he knew us through the spirit of prophecy. His concern was simple: as a civilization, we are following the same path as the Jaredites and Nephites, so he offered us a strong word of warning.

Just as his father prophesied how the Bible and the Book of Mormon would corroborate each other, Moroni made clear that no desire of personal fame or wealth and no intimidating threat will mar the appearance of the Nephite record in the last days. (Morm. 8:14-22.) But the book will be brought to a civilization where "miracles are done away" (Morm. 8:26) and where there are "secret combinations" (i.e., Gadianton-type groups; Morm. 8:27). Also, the social ills will pervade even the churches; corruption, rampant materialism, selfishness, and pride characterize the people. (Morm. 8:28-41.) Hence, because of social and spiritual problems left unattended, "the sword of vengeance hangeth over you." (Morm. 8:41.)

In the final chapter of Mormon, Moroni wrote with an apocalyptic view to the future. Though his audience was centuries removed, he addressed them directly. His message, echoing his father's warnings, emphasized the reality of the final judgment (Morm. 9:1-6), and Moroni linked together fall, atonement, resurrection, and judgment (Morm. 9:12-14). Disbelief in continuing revelation, miracles, and other religious matters is inconsistent with scriptural accounts of God's dealings with humanity. (Morm. 9:7-18.) For if God, who does not change, did miracles in the past, only a lack of faith can cause miracles to cease. Moroni then cited the Lord's injunction to his Nephite disciples or apostles (Morm. 9:22-25), a passage parallel to Mark 16:15-18. 8 Thus a cessation of miracles marks out the people as needing to change, to accept the gospel, and to look to the judgment. (Morm. 9:26-30.)

In an aside, Moroni referred to the language of the Nephites as "reformed Egyptian," and he also observed that the Nephites knew Hebrew—but in an altered form. (Morm. 9:32-34.) Since Nephite "reformed Egyptian" had been modified "according to our manner of speech," this was probably their primary written language. It was apparently also the primary language of the brass plates: "He [Lehi] having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings." (Mosiah 1:4.) As we noted above, Moroni was a very self-conscious writer. He wanted people to read and to receive his message without worrying about minute details, for this book was to restore the gospel and its covenants to the house of Israel, particularly the latter-day remnant of Lehi's expedition. (Morm. 9:34-37.) He remained in harmony with his father's general scheme and purpose. Moroni dutifully completed what Mormon had undertaken.

Kent P. Jackson, Studies in Scripture, Vol. 8: Alma 30 to Moroni, 237-242.

Mormon as Father

In the midst of devastation and depravity, a loving and intimate portrait of a father and son is revealed in the books of Mormon and Moroni. The glaring contrast between the world in which Mormon and Moroni lived and their own lives and relationship with each other is a fitting end to the Book of Mormon. Of course, it was in the end a team effort that allowed the modern reader to have the sacred record at all. The pattern set by Lehi and Nephi at the beginning of the record is followed and repeated at the end of the book by a righteous son following his father. Mormon and Moroni's love, respect and tenderness towards each other is made all the more poignant by the fact that they lived in such a brutal and wicked society.

The legacy of this father-and-son relationship is shown by a careful reading of the closing pages of the sacred record they were so instrumental in preserving and preparing to come forth in our day. Upon careful examination of Moroni's introduction to his own writing found in Mormon 8, we discover a son longing for his father. It should be noted that Moroni was himself already a capable leader, having led an army of 10,000 men into battle. We later learn that he had also already had a ministry in the Church. Moroni was well-seasoned by the time his father died. As one of the last survivors of the Nephite civilization, Moroni took up his father's record. In summarizing for the modern reader the events that had overtaken his people, he revealed his deep sense of loss for his father and his acute loneliness. In Mormon 8 he tells us twice that his father had been killed and adds additional insights to his relationship with him:

Behold I, Moroni, do finish the record of my father, Mormon. Behold, I have but few things to write, which things I have been commanded by my father. And now it came to pass that after the great and tremendous battle at Cumorah, behold, the Nephites who had escaped into the country southward were hunted by the Lamanites, until they were all destroyed. And my father also was killed by them, and I even remain alone to write the sad tale of the destruction of my people. But behold, they are gone, and I fulfil the commandment of my father. (Mormon 8:1-3; emphasis added)

Mormon and Moroni's combined efforts in preserving and preparing the record for us are no better evidenced than in the Jaredite record. In abridging the entire span of Nephite history up through his own day, Mormon promises that an account of the earlier inhabitants would be "written hereafter; for behold, it is expedient that all people should know the things which are written in this account" (Mosiah 28:19). Mormon's death prevented him from fulfilling this promise, but his son faithfully filled in for him and abridged the book of Ether.

Moroni seems to exhibit a deep sense of love and admiration for his father. The inclusion of two letters and a sermon by his father in his own record shows this respect and admiration. He is also fiercely loyal to the charge his father gave him concerning the record, as already noted.

Moroni was also an articulate writer. It is obvious from Ether 12 that he could compose doctrinal discourses, yet, surprisingly, he quotes his father in Moroni 7. I believe Moroni could have written Moroni 7 himself, but chose not to. This is not to say that Moroni was not a great doctrinal writer like his father, it is only to say that he recognized his father's significant contributions.

All in all, the letters provide more evidence of a powerful parental bond between father and son as Mormon honors his son by addressing him, "my beloved son" (see Moroni 8:1, 9). In this letter, Mormon addresses Moroni six times as "my son" (see vv 6, 24, 27-30).

In a second letter, Mormon again addresses Moroni as "my beloved son" three times (Moroni 9:1, 6, 11). In this last letter, he encourages his son to "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" (Moroni 9:25). Mormon's teachings and example inspired his son to be faithful to the end.

Mormon as Prophetic Type

If Mormon was a type, then his life and mission may have represented other prophets' lives and missions, including the life of Jesus Christ. While translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith must have been impressed with the life and mission of Nephi and of Mormon. He may have felt an immediate affinity between himself and these two historical personalities, as he would have had with other Book of Mormon prophets. But these two men seem to have had particular experiences that relate to Joseph Smith.

Both Nephi and Mormon led similar lives. Possibly even Mormon was aware of this pattern and similarity. Both Mormon and Nephi were young when they were visited by the Lord. Both young men were large in stature. Each was entrusted with sacred plates. Each was called by the Lord to be the spiritual and temporal leader of their people. Each wrote important doctrinal and historical pieces themselves and each bore witness of the divinity of Jesus Christ.

Young Joseph Smith may have seen this common thread within their lives; a thread he could see being woven into his own life's fabric. We may never know what lessons Joseph was discovering about his own prophetic career while learning about Nephi and Mormon as he worked on the translation of the Book of Mormon.

Both Mormon and Joseph were named after their fathers. Both had a vision of the Lord as teenagers. Both Mormon and Joseph Smith rejected the wickedness of their day. As young men, both Joseph and Mormon were chosen to receive the ancient plates of the Nephites. Both of them wrote of their struggles in proclaiming the word during their ministry among the people. Both were apostles and prophets of the Lord. Whatever parallels the Prophet Joseph noticed during the translation period may have been heightened as the Prophet matured at the close of his ministry in Nauvoo, where he became the temporal leader of the people when he was elected city mayor. He had already been nominated and commissioned a general in the Nauvoo Legion by the Illinois state governor earlier. Like Nephi and Mormon before, Joseph was the spiritual and temporal leader of the people.

The way Joseph Smith's life may have been patterned after Mormon's is seen in one final detail. Dramatically, Joseph's life paralleled Mormon's life even in death. Both died for their religion and in defense of their people's rights; one while imprisoned and the other on the battlefield, yet both as martyrs. This approach doesn't assume, of course, that the younger was a carbon copy of the older man: Mormon had the best education his culture could furnish, whereas Joseph Smith was raised in frontier poverty without training beyond basic skills. But in spite of that personal difference, there are dramatic common denominators. It matters little that one spoke English and the other the language of the Nephites, provided they both spoke as inspired by the Holy Ghost. Ultimately, we can not be sure that these parallels have any significance. We have no evidence to suggest that Joseph Smith noticed them. If these parallels were not coincidental, however, then Mormon's influence may be more significant for Joseph Smith than has otherwise been noted before. 2

Monte S. Nyman, Charles D. Tate, Fourth Nephi through Moroni: From Zion to Destruction, 126-129.

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