Mormon, the abridger of the largest portion of the Book of Mormon, has an important context. He abridged the entire collection of prophetic and historic source materials. From Lehi to the time of King Benjamin, however, the abridgment was translated by Joseph Smith and then lost. That work was replaced by the Small Plates of Nephi, which he did not abridge.
Beginning with Mosiah and concluding with his own book, his abridgment remained intact. We now have that in the current Book of Mormon. His son completed the book, adding his (Moroni’s) abridgment and translation of the record of Ether. Then he added his record.
Who was Mormon? What were the circumstances under which he compiled and abridged this lengthy volume of scripture? What things motivated his work?
Mormon was only 10 years old when he learned about the tradition of record keeping among his people. The records were handed down generation to generation. In his day, the previous record-keeper came to him and asked him to continue the work.
Mormon was chosen at 10 years old because he stood out. He was a “sober” minded child. Meaning he could contemplate serious matters in a mature way. He was also “quick to observe,” meaning he would both understand what was needed and be willing to do it. (Mormon 1: 2.) Society, at the time the hand-off to Mormon took place, was undergoing collapse. They were violent and “exceedingly wicked.” There were so few left who would respect the old religion it had essentially vanished from the earth. (4 Ne. 1: 45-46.)
Mormon’s immediate predecessor (Ammaron) is referred to in only three verses before Mormon’s record begins. (4 Ne. 1: 47-49.) Ammaron was inspired to hide the records from the people. He was then inspired to choose Mormon as the new record-keeper because of the qualifications set out above.
Mormon was told to get the records when he was twenty-four years old. (Mormon 1: 3.)
When he was 11, his people fought a war and many died. (Mormon 1: 6, 8.) War only hardened the Nephites, and the Lord withdrew the resident angels so they ministered no more among Mormon’s people. (Mormon 1: 13.) When they withdrew, miracles ceased. When the angels left and the gifts ended, the Holy Ghost also withdrew from the people. (Mormon 1: 13-14.)
In contrast to the damned people all around him, Mormon was “visited of the Lord” and therefore he “tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus.” (Mormon 1: 15.) Like Joseph Smith, Mormon tasted the fruit of the tree of life while still a teenager. He “knew” Jesus and therefore, despite the fact that the people were in darkness, Mormon stood in the light. Darkness among a larger population never hinders an individual from coming into the light.
When Mormon tried to preach to the people, the Lord stopped him. They had willfully rebelled, and were consigned to destruction. (Mormon 1: 16.) If the Lord had permitted him to preach, it would have been an indication the Lord would still allow them to repent. Once the Lord forbid Mormon from preaching, the people were left to their destruction.
Mormon’s people were filled with mischief, looking for power from the wrong source. When the Holy Ghost withdrew from them, they craved its presence and resorted to conjuring and witchcrafts to invoke the only spirits that would give heed to them. (Mormon 1: 19.)
Mormon was only 16 when he was asked to lead the people into war. He knew Jesus, was prevented from preaching the truth about Christ, and he was living a life of violence and warfare. (Mormon 2: 1-2.) The war was bloody, the losses were great, and the people Mormon led were humbled by their losses. Mormon saw this terrible downfall and destruction as vindication of Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecies against the rebellious Nephites. (Mormon 2: 10.)
When the people cried out in anguish from the burdens imposed on them by their awful circumstances, Mormon thought their cries were a hopeful sign. He supposed that perhaps the Lord would forgive them and reclaim them. (Mormon 2: 12.) But these people were not repentant, merely self-pitying because God would not support them in their wickedness. (Mormon 2: 13.)
There is a limit on the Lord’s forgiveness. When people claim they understand the Gospel, have the fullness, and therefore deliberately rebel against God’s messengers, driving the Holy Ghost out from among them, then the day of grace has passed.
Mormon was the great abridger of the Book of Mormon. But his life was lived in a society that was corrupt, vile, violent and void of the Holy Ghost. Yet he lived with God’s grace, as well as knowledge from Christ. These wicked and corrupt contemporaries were unable to even feel the Lord’s grace, but Mormon lived as one of the Lord’s friends.
From this, we can see just how little the social decay of a population affects the lives of the Lord’s followers. An entire nation can be blind, but that does not prevent disciples from seeing. Neither religions, traditions nor governments keep an individual from repenting.
Mormon was the perfect candidate to abridge the book. He lived at a time in where it was possible for him to understand us perfectly. He explained: “Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing. And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envyings, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.” (Mormon 8: 35-36.)
I’ve received complaints from several people, including Symons Ryder, pointing out Mormon 8 was written by Mormon’s son, Moroni.