This is the manual’s stated objective for this lesson: “To help class members see the importance of living according to gospel principles despite the increasing wickedness in the world.” To do that I am going to focus on the life and times of Mormon, the man. His personal righteousness allowed him to survive spiritually unscathed in a culture that was more wicked than any Israelite culture that had ever existed up to that time (Mormon 4:12).
Reading Assignment: Mormon 1-6;9
Let’s look at where the people came from. Christ had come to the people in the Americas after his resurrection. They were all converted and lived peacefully and extremely prosperously for more than 200 hundred years. Eventually, people started to be vain and greedy about their material possessions. I find it interesting that we are told their obsession was over the wearing of pearls. Weird. They began to be possessive of their personal wealth and refused to share with others. So they no longer had things in common.
This meant that some became richer and others poorer. This stratified the people into social classes. It was the usual downward spiral we see throughout the Book of Mormon. But this time everyone was rebelling deliberately against the light of the gospel they had been raised with and taught from birth. It was an open rebellion against the Lord and his commandments. Matthew 12:43-45 tells us that when we have rejected evil, if we choose to let it back into our lives we will be far more evil afterwards than in the beginning.
As they began to reject the commandments of the Lord they split into Lamanites and Nephites again. They weren’t races, they were parties (Mormon 1:9), like political parties. They were people who held different beliefs about the world. They lived with each other in the same communities, just with different views on life. Thy were self-identified Lamanites/Nephites. Unfortunately, the time came when even the Nephites became wicked, yet not quite in the same way as those who called themselves Lamanites.
By the time Mormon was 11 years of age, and his father had taken him to live in Zarahemla, a war broke out between the Nephites and the Lamanites. There was just the one war followed with four years of peace. At the age of 11 Mormon was approached by Ammaron, the keeper of the plates, and was charged by Ammaron to watch carefully the doings of the people until he was 24 years old. At that time he was to go to the hill where the plates were hidden and was to make a record of all that had taken place among the people.
Mormon must have been an obvious standout to be singled out at the tender age of 11 for being the keeper of the Nephite records. Mormon was so righteous that he was visited by Christ himself at the age of 15. During this time the three Nephites were taken from among the people because of the people’s lack of faith. There were no more healing, miracles, or gifts of the Spirit (Mormon 1:13-14).
Mormon loved his people, but was not blind to their iniquities. He knew that they had willfully rebelled against their God. Because of the hardness of their hearts the Lord did curse the land for their sakes. But it didn’t seem to matter what the Lord did for them, they rejected him outright on all accounts. The Gandianton robbers were one of the features of those who called themselves Lamanites. He says they “did infest the land.” It got so bad that people began to bury their treasures to keep them safe, but their treasures became slippery and could not be recovered.
Their behavior and the resulting slipperiness of their treasures had been prophesied by both Abinadi and Samuel the Lamanite. They had rejected the Lord’s priesthood and had embraced Satan’s priesthoods. There were magics, sorceries, and witchcrafts throughout the land. The “power of the evil one was wrought upon all the face of the land.”
With such wickedness among the people the peace could not last long. When Mormon was 15 war broke out again, and because of his character, and his size, he was drafted to lead the Nephite armies. The Lord had forbidden him from preaching to the people, so he served them in the only way he could, he lead their armies for them.
The people could no longer be constrained by laws. As a result there was open rebellion throughout the land (Mormon 2:8). There was blood and carnage everywhere, not just where there was organized war. Do you see this trend happening in the world today? In most countries we see people taking the law into their own hands, even attacking those who are supposed to be enforcing the law. Lawlessness is becoming the new norm in today’s society.
The Lamanites finally created their own leader, a king. They still lived among the Nephites, but now the government was split between the two opposing factions. The Nephites fought the Lamanites and lost, and the Nephites began to mourn over their losses. At first this gave Mormon hope that perhaps they were going to repent, but he quickly discovered that their sorrow was not unto repentance, but was the sorrowing of the damned. They were only sorry that they could no longer find happiness in their iniquity (Mormon 2:13-14).
By the time Mormon was about 34 years of age he could see that his people had passed the day of grace, both physically and spiritually. The Spirit no longer strived to save the people because they had so completely rejected the Lord. He had to watch as their bodies were heaped up in piles, like dung on the earth. His only comfort was that he knew that at the last day he would be lifted up. He knew that he was secure in his position with the Lord.
By the end of Chapter 2 of Mormon the Lamanites and the Nephites have made a treaty with each other. The Lamanites moved south, below the narrow neck of land, and the Nephites took the north. Interesting that they took possession of the ancient lands of their adopted forefathers. Mormon was now about 39 years of age. He had been serving his people as their military leader for almost 25 years. That job is all he ever knew.
The treaty lasted for ten years, during which time the Nephites spent their days fortifying their cities and preparing for war that was sure to come. Can you imagine having to spend 10 whole years just preparing for the war you know is going to come? That gives you a lot to look forward to, doesn’t it?
Finally, the Lord gave Mormon the command to cry repentance to the people one last time. If they would repent and turn to Him, he would spare their lives. Mormon’s uplifted voice was in vain. The people could no longer conceive that it was the Lord who had protected them thus far. They would not repent. The Lamanites announced they were coming for them, so the Nephites moved their armies to the narrow neck of land where they could best protect themselves.
This point in the story is where an important lesson is taught. Hopefully we will learn the lesson, because the Nephites certainly didn’t. As long as they had their armies blocking the narrow neck of land the Lamanite armies could have no power over them. Now it had become the custom of the Lamanites to take the captives they got from the Nephites and offer them as sacrifices to their idols.
This is when the Nephites committed what Mormon called “their wickedness and abomination.” They swore by everything they had been specifically commanded by the Savior not to swear by. And then they sought vengeance for the blood of their fallen kin (Mormon 3:9-11). Mormon finally refused from this time forth to be their leader. The Lord had said that vengeance was his prerogative alone (Mormon 3:15).
They had the Lord’s protection as long as they were only defending themselves, wicked or not. But when they decided to become the aggressors, the Lord withdrew his protective power and they were left to their own strength. From this day forward they began to be smitten (Mormon 4:4).
It is in Mormon 4:5 that we learn this lesson:
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.
The reason the Lord punishes the wicked with others who are wicked is because it is only the wicked who stir people up to shed the blood of others.
The Lord unifies us. He brings us together and teaches us how to find happiness in working together as one. By putting the needs of others before our own petty cares, we learn to love and desire to bless others. Satan seeks to destroy us. He urges the wicked to seek that which they ought not, namely revenge which leads to bloodshed and murder. The only way to guarantee we leave mortality in a state of wickedness, so that our punishment will be just, is to take us all out while we are in a state of rebellion. That prevents any chance of us repenting before we die.
The end state of any society that follows Satan is destruction. It has always been so, especially when that society has had the light of the gospel among them first. Do we see this same pattern in our own society? Is the world heading in that direction? It starts with personal rejection of the truth, which leads to a sense of entitlement and lawlessness, which then leads to seeking revenge for wrongs done whether real or imagined. It always ends the same way, with death – both physically and spiritually.
Mormon shows us throughout his life that personal choice is what makes the difference. He lived in the most wicked batch of Israelites ever to live, yet he kept his integrity and his spiritual connection with the Lord in tact. His fate was not determined by the behavior of the society in which he lived. He chose righteousness because he could see that happiness only comes through obedience. He didn’t buy into the lies about riches, fame, worldly acclaim, or anything else his society taught. He stuck to the scriptures, prayed, and sought to please his God above all else.
Our society is dissolving into a version of Mormon’s society. We just haven’t reached the end of the road quite yet. But make no mistake, that is where the world is headed. The personal righteousness that we acquire through obedience to the commandments is the only thing that will save us at the last day. But to achieve that salvation we must be willing to part ways with the world and take our own course. This will not be popular nor easy, but what other choice do we have?
Mormon spent a good 60 years serving his country as a military leader. At the Hill Cumorah he was among the last 24 people to survive. He was then hunted down and murdered along with everyone else, except his son, Moroni. He lived for the welfare of his people, and he died a sad death fighting for the welfare of his people. To his dying day he loved them, despite their choice to reject their God. He mourned their choices and taught his son, Moroni that they didn’t have to die this way. They could have repented and returned to the Lord, and the Lord would have protected them and made them a happy people once again.
As we enter a new age in this world, an age of anger and vengeance, remember that we don’t have to play that game. We can find personal peace and happiness through choosing to be obedient and keeping the laws our God has given us that create that happiness. We can look forward to that day when we will be resurrected and raised up in glory to live in joy forever with Him because of our wise choices here in mortality. We don’t have to accept the path the world is on when the Lord has shown us a higher and happier path to take.