Although Mormon is a nickname for a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the name actually refers to a prophet who lived in ancient America and who played a vital role in recording the scriptural history of his time, revealed in our day.
More specifically, Mormon was a prophet, military leader, and record keeper in the Book of Mormon. He lived between the years AD 311–385. The reason the Book of Mormon has his name in the title, is because Mormon was the divinely designated person who took all the records of his people and combined and abridged them into a smaller, more readable, record.
The purpose of Mormon’s abridgment was not to give a full account of his people, but to help turn people to God. Mormon illustrates the contrast of outcomes between those who follow the Lord, his prophets, and his words, and those who reject the same. He emphasizes that those who follow God are blessed while those who turn away from Him suffer. In The Words of Mormon, a small book written by Mormon, he further explains his purposes and the reasons why he is making an abridgement of the records of his people (see Words of Mormon 1:1–11) Mormon knew he was writing for the benefit of the people of our day. In several instances, he speaks to us as if he were writing a personal letter to a future generation (see Mormon 3:16–22).
To understand better the important role that Mormon played in the Book of Mormon, an overview of his life may be helpful. Mormon was born in AD 311 and named after his father. He was a descendant of Nephi who was the first leader of the Nephites. Mormon manifested intelligence, righteousness, and leadership ability at a very young age. When Mormon was ten years old, Ammaron, the man who was in charge of the Nephite records, met Mormon and transferred the records to his care. He told Mormon that he had hid the records in a hill to preserve them and that when Mormon turned 24 years old, he should go to the hill, get the plates of Nephi, and write in them a record of what happened to the Nephites.
A year later, when Mormon was eleven, war began between the Nephites and the Lamanites (a group of different peoples who were enemies of the Nephites). Peace was restored when the Nephites fought the Lamanites and forced them to retreat. Mormon watched in despair, as his people, the Nephites, who had been a righteous people, became wicked and Jesus Christ’s Church was taken away from them. At 15, Mormon tried to preach to the people and get them to repent, but God told him to stop because the people had known the truth and had willfully turned away from Him. In this same year, Mormon was appointed the military leader of the Nephites.
Mormon continued leading the army for much of his life. As Ammaron had instructed, Mormon went to the hill and retrieved the plates of Nephi when he was 24 and began keeping a record of all that happened to his people. A long war ensued with the Lamanites, and the Nephites were pushed out of much of their land. In approximately AD 350, when Mormon was 39, a peace treaty was made with the Lamanites and their land was divided. There was peace for ten years; during this time, Mormon preached repentance and prepared the people for war. The people would not repent.
At the end of the ten years, fighting began again. The Nephites fought the Lamanites and once again forced them to retreat. The Nephites began to be proud of their own strength and swore oaths to destroy the Lamanites. This happened in about the year AD 362, when Mormon was 51. When the people began to desire to destroy the Lamanites and not just defend their lands and people, Mormon refused to lead them because of their wickedness. By this time, Mormon had been leading the armies of the Nephites for 36 years. The Lord told Mormon that he should be a witness of what was happening to the Nephites because of their wickedness.
When Mormon was 64 years old, he saw that the Lamanites were about to take over the land where the records were still hidden. He knew the Lamanites would destroy the records if they found them, so he retrieved them and hid them all in the hill Cumorah which was the only territory where the Nephites still had a stronghold. The people asked Mormon to lead their armies again, and Mormon reluctantly accepted.
In AD 385, when Mormon was 74, he realized that his people would not survive the next battle. He gathered all the people to Cumorah and put his son Moroni in charge of the records. A large battle was fought between the Nephites and the Lamanites. Mormon was injured, but not killed. All of the Nephites—except for 24 men, including a son of Mormon—were slaughtered during this battle. From the Book of Mormon it is estimated that about 230,000 men were killed. This number does not include women and children. The remaining Nephites were either hunted down or they joined the Lamanites. Eventually, the Lamanites found Mormon and killed him. The only Nephite who survived was Moroni, Mormon's son, who was left to finish the record of his people and hide it in the hill Cumorah with the rest of the records.
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- Mormon Prophets
|Nephite Record Keepers|
|Life and writings
Words of Mormon