Mormon 1:1 And now I, Mormon, make a record of the things which I have both seen and heard
Before we discuss Mormon's personal record, we should note that this verse marks an important transition from Mormon's role as abridger to personal historian. Mormon's greatest accomplishment was that he had abridged the Large Plates of Nephi from the days of Lehi to his own (WofM 1:3,9). The portion of this record that we have today (Mosiah to 4 Nephi) spans a time period of over 450 years. For his prophetic condensing, editorializing, and admonishing, we will always be grateful. Apparently, this great work was accomplished prior to writing his own history as evidenced by the smooth transition from 4 Nephi to Mormon.
Furthermore, we learn from the Words of Mormon that Mormon's work on the abridgement and his personal history took place just before the final battle of 385 AD (See Mormon 6:6 and WofM 1:1). This places his age over 70 and demonstrates his perspective as he abridges the record. Mormon is writing the words we know as the Book of Mormon after collecting all the wisdom of age and experience. He commonly includes stories of the Gadiantons because he has already seen the role the Gadiantons played in the final destruction of his people (Mormon 1:18). He is fatalistic about the Nephites, not just because he knows of prophecies concerning their destruction, but because he has already witnessed almost all of their destruction. We found the same pattern in the life of Nephi, who began writing the record we know as 1 and 2 Nephi long after many events had already transpired-as late as 569 BC (2 Ne 5:28-30).
Jeffrey R. Holland
"In one of the loneliest scenes in scriptural history, a silent, war-weary soldier looked out across time and the unspeakable tragedy his family and followers faced. Mormon, the man destined before the world was formed to abridge and summarize the Nephite story-and in so doing to have his name forever immortalized with this additional testament of Jesus Christ-surveyed the casualties of a nation that had turned from the Lord. As sobering as the account is, it does not give a full account of all the sin and sadness Mormon had seen. Indeed, such an account probably would have been impossible to record." (Christ and the New Covenant, p. 317)
Mormon 1:2 I perceive that thou art a sober child
Ammaron's spiritual perceptiveness is amazing. While others saw in Mormon a ten-year old boy, Ammoron saw a future prophet and guardian of the plates. While others may have discounted him, Ammaron acknowledged him as a sober child, quick to observe-a youth whose pre-mortal intelligence was already evident.
Jeffrey R. Holland
"We know that 'every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose' in his premortal existence. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 365.) Perhaps that call has an effect on those men even in their earliest mortal years, for Mormon was recognized by his predecessor Ammaron as being 'a sober child' and one 'quick to observe.' (Morm. 1:2.)" (Ensign, Mar. 1978, "Mormon: The Man & The Book")
Gordon B. Hinckley
"The book which we have today, this sacred and marvelous testament of Christ, resulted from Mormon's faithfulness in meeting that assignment...Never discount the importance of a 10-year-old." (Church News, 10/22/88)
Mormon 1:3 a hill which shall be called Shim
The hill Shim was located in the land northward. Hugh Nibley taught that Shim means north or the land northward (Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Lecture 104, p. 192). It was in the area the Nephites referred to as Desolation, or the area that the Jaredites had inhabited (Alma 22:30). Although the hill Shim and the hill Cumorah are not the same, Moroni tells us that these two famous hills were not too far apart, wherefore Omer departed out of the land with his family, and traveled many days, and came over and passed by the hill of Shim, and came over by the place where the Nephites were destroyed (Ether 9:3).
Mormon 1:4 ye shall engrave on the plates of Nephi all the things that ye have observed concerning this people
Mormon did as he was commanded. At the age of 24 he retrieved the plates of Nephi and began to record in great detail the wickedness and destruction of his people. This is according to the pattern established long ago-that the record on the Large Plates of Nephi would be extensive, including both secular and ecclesiastical history. Accordingly, Mormon wrote an extensive history. What we have now (Mormon 1-7) is a condensed version of this more complete record This we learn from the following, behold I had gone according to the word of Ammaron, and taken the plates of Nephi, and did make a record according to the words of Ammaron. And upon the plates of Nephi I did make a full account of all the wickedness and abominations; but upon these plates I did forbear to make a full account of their wickedness and abominations, for behold, a continual scene of wickedness and abominations has been before mine eyes ever since I have been sufficient to behold the ways of man (Mormon 2:17-8, italics added). In essence, Mormon spares all the gory details, but he has recorded them in a larger record on the plates of Nephi.
Mormon 1:6-7 I, being eleven years old, was carried by my father into...the land of Zarahemla
"He was eleven years old, and he was taken by his father to a land southward to Zarahemla-the big city, the big capital. He was impressed as a little kid, he says. The land was covered with buildings, and he [had] never seen anything like that. 'The people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea.' Now this is important for the Book of Mormon, you see. We talk about such vast numbers-well, we'll see what vast numbers are. When they gather all their forces for a big war down here, how many do they have in the army? Thirty thousand-that's just one division (v. 11). In our army 27,000 would make a division. He calls that as numerous as the sands of the sea. Well, as an eleven-year-old, he's impressed. You'd be impressed with these things. So we have to be very careful and not be simplistic when we read the Book of Mormon. When this kid tells us that people in Zarahemla were as numerous as the sands of the sea, how many hundred trillion people are there? It doesn't mean that at all. It's a metaphor here, as it were the sands of the sea." (Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Lecture 104, p. 192-3)
Mormon 1:14 there were no gifts from the Lord, and the Holy Ghost did not come upon any
Mormon must have been thinking about this time period when he included the following in an epistle to Moroni:
'...have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them?...if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief and all is vain....then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man' (Moroni 7:36-8).
"It is not surprising that their personal experience of things led both Mormon and his son to embrace a completely pessimistic view of the world...True, 'awful is the state of man' only if 'faith has ceased'-but faith has ceased! If men insist that there is no redemption, then, sure enough, 'they are as though there had been no redemption made' (Moroni 7:38-39). 'If these things have ceased,' says Moroni speaking of gifts of the Spirit (Moroni 7:37), 'wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.' This is no mere figure of speech; if faith fulfills its own prophecies so does unbelief, and those who insist that all is vain are quite right; if men reject the gospel they will find everywhere powerful confirmation for their unbelief, and undeniable evidence to support their contention that the human predicament is hopeless." (Since Cumorah, p. 401)
"Have not the pride, high-mindedness, and unbelief of the Gentiles, provoked the Holy One of Israel to withdraw His Holy Spirit from them, and send forth His judgments to scourge them for their wickedness? This is certainly the case...The Lord declared to His servants, some eighteen months since [the Church was organized], that He was then withdrawing His Spirit from the earth (See DC 1); and we can see that such is the fact, for not only the churches are dwindling away, but there are no conversions, or but very few: and this is not all, the governments of the earth are thrown into confusion and division; and Destruction, to the eye of the spiritual beholder, seems to be written by the finger of an invisible hand, in large capitals, upon almost every thing we behold." (History of the Church, 1:314)
Mormon 1:15 being fifteen years of age...I was visited of the Lord
Mormon had his own Sacred Grove experience. At the age of fifteen, the Lord made it clear to him that he was no ordinary teenager. This is according to the Lord's pattern. He often calls prophets while in their youth. Such was the case with Joseph Smith, Nephi, Jacob, Enoch, Samuel, and others (see JS-H 1:7, 1 Ne 2:16, 2 Ne 2:4, Moses 6:31, and 1 Sam 3:1-10). One can only imagine how such an experience would have molded the behavior and broadened the perspective of an already sober youth.
"There must be something significant . . . concerning the stage of life one goes through at the age of about 14. Mormon's awakening to spiritual matters at about this age foreshadows a similar awakening at a similar age by the young Joseph Smith, who would translate Mormon's record. . . . Similarly, through modern-day prophets, the Lord has specified 12 as the age when worthy young men of His Church can receive the Aaronic Priesthood. What all of this seems to suggest is a heightened spiritual sense experienced at about this age - something that conscientious parents of young teenagers would do well to keep in mind." (E.D. Clark & R. S. Clark, Fathers and Sons in the Book of Mormon, as taken from Church News, 10/24/92)
Mormon 1:16 I did endeavor to preach unto this people, but my mouth was shut
Jeffrey R. Holland
"The maturing Mormon, by then fifteen years of age, stood beyond the sinfulness around him and rose above the despair of his time. Consequently, he 'was visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus,' trying valiantly to preach to his people. But as God occasionally does when those with so much light reject it, Mormon literally had his mouth shut. He was forbidden to preach to a nation that had wilfully rebelled against their God. These people had rejected the miracles and messages delivered them by the three translated Nephite disciples, who had now also been silenced in their ministry and been taken from the nation to whom they had been sent.
"Remaining among those people but silenced in his testimony." (Christ And The New Covenant, p. 318)
Sterling W. Sill
"Mormon had to be restrained in his desire to preach the gospel...Most of us have to be coaxed and begged and reminded to do our duty. Mormon had to be held back." (quoted in Daniel Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 298)