This week I read something in The Book of Mormon has given me cause to take pause.
In the Book of Helaman, chapter 4, Mormon is giving us the summary and commentary of how the Nephite nation is doing about 60 B.C. Mormon tells us that that the once-God-fearing Nephite nation had begun to suffer discord in their government and great losses in war. Mormon gave us a list of changes that have come over the Nephites and led to these conditions and their loss of favor with God. I read this and took pause as I considered how many of these attributes are common in our current day. (Most of these are from verse 12, unless otherwise stated)
- the pride of their hearts
- oppression to the poor
- withholding food from the hungry
- withholding clothing from the naked
- smiting humble brethren upon the cheek
- making a mock of that which was sacred
- denying the spirit of prophecy and of revelation
- committing adultery
- rising up in great contentions
- deserters of country
- they had altered and trampled under their feet the laws. (verse 22)
- Mormon added that these changes had taken root in the people “in the space of not many years.” (verse 26)
So much of that still happens today. The consequences for that behavior will still be the same.
Now, if you are not familiar with The Book of Mormon (and I’m talking about the book, not the Broadway show), here is a quick primer. Mormon was the primary writer. He wrote it from source material that had been handed down by the religious and government leaders, beginning about 600 B.C. when the first family came to the American continent.
Nephi was the prophet and spiritual leader of the original group, not because he choose that path but because God choose to work through him. But Nephi was also the youngest brother. Oldest brother Laman was none too happy about the attention that members of the family gave to Nephi for the spirit of prophecy and his ability to teach by the Spirit and perform miracles. After all, as the oldest brother, Laman believed it was his right to be the leader and ruler. The family soon broke up and some followed Nephi (their people being known as the Nephites) while the rest followed Laman and became known as the Lamanites.
When Nephi left, he took with him the religious artifacts and the scriptures. Laman used that act as evidence that Nephi was up to no good, as he had stolen both the physical family treasures and the right of government. The two groups were continually at war with each other from that time forward.
Through their history, the Nephites struggled and went through ebb and flow to remain a faithful religious nation. The Nephites had to move further North a couple of times to escape the Laminates. On one of these moves, they met and joined forces with another nation, led by a man named Zarahemla. The Nephite nation now became a blended nation, which surely brought with it its own societal challenges.
Anyway, we know all of this from Mormon’s record. For some of the book, Mormon just dropped in entire unedited narratives from Nephi and others. However, in much of the book Mormon acted as the narrator of the story and gave us quotes and commentary as he highlighted the big religious and government events in their history.
Mormon explained (and later his son Moroni agreed) that he put together the book as best they could, based on revelation to know what would be most beneficial to us in our day. He knew that nobody in his time was going to read it. This was a guidebook for future generations.