Mormon 5:1 I...did repent of the oath which I had made
Thirteen years prior, Mormon had given up on his wicked armies. They had become proud and boastful, going on the offensive for the sake of revenge (Mormon 3:9-11). Now, the situation is different. The Nephites cannot go on the offensive. Mormon knows that his armies will remain on the defensive until they are ultimately destroyed. Undoubtedly, his change of heart was because of the greatness of his heart. He was full of compassion, even for his wicked people, and the greatness of his soul would allow him to stand as an idle witness no longer.
"In this crucible of wickedness the true greatness of Mormon shines like a star as he calls his son to action, telling him that no matter how bad things are, we must never stop trying to do what we can to improve matters, 'for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay' (Moroni 9:6). In this spirit Mormon took over command of the army even when he knew that all was lost, 'for they looked upon me as though I could deliver them from their afflictions. But behold, I was without hope' (Mormon 5:1-2). His is the predicament of the true tragic hero: 'I had led them, notwithstanding their wickedness, . . . and had loved them . . . with all my heart; and my soul had been poured out in prayer unto my God all the day long for them; nevertheless, it was without faith, because of the hardness of their hearts' (Mormon 3:12)." (Since Cumorah, p. 400)
Mormon 5:5 their towns, and villages, and cities were burned with fire
"The next verse is very revealing. 'But it came to pass that whatsoever lands we had passed by, and the inhabitants thereof were not gathered in, were destroyed by the Lamanites, and their towns, and villages, and cities were burned with fire' (Mormon 5:5). Here you have a clear picture of Nephite society. Separate 'lands' living their own lives, now in this last crisis terribly reluctant to move and join the swelling host in the retreat to the north. Those who refused to pull up stakes were one by one completely wiped out by the Lamanites. This was no planned migration but a forced evacuation, like dozens of such we read about in the grim and terrible times of the 'Invasion of the Barbarians' that destroyed the classic civilizations of the Old World. In this case Mormon's people were only part of the general and gradual evacuation of the whole land. The Nephites lost a general battle in the next year and resumed their headlong flight, 'and those whose flight was swifter than the Lamanites' did escape,' says Mormon, not mincing words, while the rest 'were swept down and destroyed' (Mormon 5:7). The fitful but continual falling back of the Nephites towards the north, which had now been going on for fifty-three years, became something like a rout, with speed the only hope of survival." (An Approach to the Book of Mormon, p. 267)
Mormon 5:8 I, Mormon, do not desire to harrow up the souls of men
Jeffrey R. Holland wrote, "As Mormon increasingly looked beyond the tragedy before him to a generation he hoped would profit from their mistakes, the destruction continued unabated. Mormon was torn not only by what he saw but also by what he must-and must not-write." (Christ And The New Covenant, p. 320) The harrowing scenes of Mormon's life, if depicted, would have to be rated "R" for graphic violence. Yet, amidst such carnage, he had the spiritual sensitivity to be concerned about how his descriptions would affect us. He was concerned that we might not have too great sorrow because of the wickedness of [his] people (v. 9). Accordingly, he does not go into much detail about their wickedness.
However, in an epistle to his son Moroni, he tells it like it is. The Nephite women and children are fed the flesh of their husbands and fathers, and the Lamanite women are raped, tortured, murdered, and eaten for a token of bravery (Moroni 9:7-20). These are just some of the atrocities that Mormon wanted to spare us. His concern for us, again, shows his great charity, for he knew that at the last day, we would watch these scenes on the Lord's big-screen TV, when all things which are hid must be revealed upon the house-tops.
Mormon 5:9 therefore I write a small abridgment, daring not to give a full account
Even Mormon's book (Mormon 1-7) is an abridgment. He was the author of a much fuller account which he described in Mormon 2:18 (see commentary). These seven chapters, then, are written with us in mind. As Hugh Nibley reminds us, "The main point is this: if we ignore the lessons of history, we're doomed to repeat them. These things must be made known. Why should these awful things be made known, and be made known unto us? As Brother Benson says, it's particularly for us in our time. Well, that must be very, very relevant, so we must pay very close attention here." (Teachings From the Book of Mormon, Lecture 105, p. 206)
Mormon 5:10 the Gentiles who have care for the house of Israel
Since when do the Gentiles have a responsibility to take care of the house of Israel? What does Mormon mean by this statement? Isaiah prophesied, Behold I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people; and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders (1 Ne 21:22). Nephi interpreted this passage as follows:
'Nevertheless, after they (the House of Israel) shall be nursed by the Gentiles, and the Lord has lifted up his hand upon the Gentiles and set them up for a standard, and their children have been carried in their arms, and their daughters have been carried upon their shoulders, behold these things of which are spoken are temporal; for thus are the covenants of the Lord with our fathers; and it meaneth us in the days to come, and also all our brethren who are of the house of Israel.
And it meaneth that the time cometh that after all the house of Israel have been scattered and confounded, that the Lord God will raise up a mighty nation among the Gentiles, yea, even upon the face of this land; and by them shall our seed be scattered.
And after our seed is scattered the Lord God will proceed to do a marvelous work among the Gentiles, which shall be of great worth unto our seed; wherefore, it is likened unto their being nourished by the Gentiles and being carried in their arms and upon their shoulders.
And it shall also be of worth unto the Gentiles; and not only unto the Gentiles but unto all the house of Israel, unto the making known of the covenants of the Father of heaven unto Abraham, saying: In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.' (1 Ne 22:6-9)
Spencer W. Kimball
"A loving father does not despise his children. These [Lamanites] are a chosen people, and this Church has an important part in restoring them to their rightful inheritance. The chasm between what they are and what they will be is opportunity. The gospel furnishes that opportunity; it is ours to give." (Ensign, Dec. 1975, p. 7 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p.70)
Mormon 5:11 they will sorrow that this people had not repented that they might have been clasped in the arms of Jesus
Bruce C. Hafen
"The inevitability of belonging either to Satan or to Christ is graphically portrayed by the scriptural imagery of that most human expression of belonging-to be embraced, or as the scriptures say, 'to be encircled about.' Those who follow Christ until they are accepted into his covenants of true belonging will one day be, as was Father Lehi, 'encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.' (2 Nephi 1:15.) That is why Mormon lamented in his 'sorrow for the destruction of [his] people': 'They will sorrow that this people had not repented that they might have been clasped in the arms of Jesus.' (Mormon 5:11.) Mormon's sorrow was not just that his unrepentant people would be left unattended to continue wandering as they desired; rather, Mormon knew, as Alma explained, that 'this was a snare of the adversary, which he has laid to catch this people, that he might bring you into subjection unto him, that he might encircle you about with his chains.' (Alma 12:6; emphasis added.)" (A Belonging Heart, p. 141)
Mormon 5:15 that the seed of this people may more fully believe this gospel
"In a special way, the Book of Mormon was written to the Lamanites, the descendants of Lehi, as a major tool to restore them to Christ. It seems that the righteous Nephite prophets, knowing the destruction of their own people, wrote with special feelings to the future Lamanites. Mormon in his final chapter said, 'And now, behold, I would speak somewhat unto the remnant of this people who are spared' (7:1); and Moroni in his last chapter said, 'Now I, Moroni, write somewhat as seemeth me good; and I write unto my brethren, the Lamanites' (10:1).
"In 1829, about a year before the publication of the Book of Mormon, the Lord spoke plainly to Joseph Smith after the 116 pages of manuscript had been lost. While reproving young Joseph, the Lord impressed upon him the sacred character and purpose of the Book of Mormon and hence the great importance of his work.
'Nevertheless, my work shall go forth, for inasmuch as the knowledge of a Savior has come unto the world, through the testimony of the Jews, even so shall the knowledge of a Savior come unto my people-
And to the Nephites, and the Jacobites, and the Josephites, and the Zoramites, through the testimony of their fathers-
And this testimony shall come to the knowledge of the Lamanites, and the Lemuelites, and the Ishmaelites, who dwindled in unbelief because of the iniquities of their fathers, whom the Lord has suffered to destroy their brethren the Nephites, because of their wickedness and abominations.
And for this very purpose are these plates preserved, which contain these records-that the promises of the Lord might be fulfilled, which he made to his people; and that the Lamanites might come to a knowledge of their fathers' (D&C 3:16-20; emphasis added).
"The Book of Mormon was written to all the world as another testament of Jesus Christ. In a special way, however, it was written and preserved to restore the Lamanites to the knowledge and testimony of Christ once had by their fathers and also to convince the Jew and Gentile that 'Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God' (title page, Book of Mormon)." (Rex C. Reeve, Jr., Book of Mormon Symposium Series, 2 Nephi, edited by PR Cheesman, MS Nyman, and CD Tate, Jr., 1988, p. 266-7)
Mormon 5:18 they are led about by Satan...as a vessel is tossed about upon the waves
Neal A. Maxwell
"The Prophet Mormon lamented the joyless lot of those who choose to float through the see of life without truth and perspective.
'. . . behold, they are . . . as a vessel is tossed about upon the waves, without sail or anchor, or without anything wherewith to steer her. . . .' (Mormon 5:18.)
"The disciple must signal anchorless souls drifting on the 'gulf of misery and woe,' even though the signal may not be seen. It was in this spirit that our ancestors flashed us the experiential distillation of their discipleship, '. . . writing upon plates diligently.' They were probably as busy as we, but were 'willing to communicate.'" (A Time To Choose, p. 24 - 25)
Mormon 5:20 they shall be driven and scattered by the Gentiles
Spencer W. Kimball
"Perhaps of all prophecies ever made, none have been fulfilled more literally and more intensely and more devastatingly than this one from Mormon:
'But behold, it shall come to pass that they shall be driven and scattered by the Gentiles. . . .' (Mormon 5:20.)
"And what a tragic and literal fulfillment those scriptures had.
"...The story of the Cherokees would melt the stoniest heart-driven at the point of a bayonet from their homes and lands, evicted from their country and sent to the swampy, mosquito-ridden area of Indian Territory. The prejudiced historian again said that the Indians were the culprits. Their suffering and death means little; their homes and gardens and farms were expropriated. The 'white heroes' evicted and expropriated for their own use (at the point of bayonets) the lands of the 'red demons.'
"We follow the Navajos from their exquisitely beautiful red sandstone lands of northeastern Arizona in their long, pitiful, painful march to central New Mexico, to Bosque Redondo on the Pecos River. We suffer and starve and freeze with them in the lonely four years, and then walk with them back to their homeland after signing their treaties.
"In recent times our attention was arrested by a double-page picture in Life magazine. It is the dead of winter. Plodding across the thousands of square miles of deep snow and the wind-scoured stubbly plain, two Indian women on their horses make a new deep trail through the snow. It is good that their horses can break trail; it is good that their warm skirts are long to their ankles; it is good that their blankets cover them well and their scarves cover their heads and faces, for the wind is bitter and the cold intense, and the way is long. Thank goodness they have a sense of direction, for if the horses failed, never would they be found alive. They have left in their hogans their children, so they might find food for their families. Their wagon is under a tree, a solitary tree; frozen sheep are here and there half covered in the snow. That frozen one that the boy is dragging is one of over half a million sheep, goats, and cattle that were stranded with no food save that from a lucky drop. They will have food for a few days but soon the carcasses will be spoiled beyond eating.
"Why do I return to a rehearsal of the indignities against the Indian? The answer is that we have a debt to pay. We are deeply indebted and we shall never have liquidated that debt until we shall have done all in our power to rebuild the Indian and give him back the opportunities that are possible for us to give him." (Faith Precedes The Miracle, p. 340-2)
Mormon 5:20 after they have been driven...then will the Lord remember the covenant
Bruce R. McConkie
"Our case study now turns to the day of Lamanite gathering. The long night of apostate darkness that left the remnants of Lehi's seed in their low and fallen and loathsome state is drawing to an end. Already the rays of gospel light are rising in the eastern sky and the day of gathering is dawning. Lamanites in the United States and Canada, in Mexico and Central America, and in the various nations of South America, together with the Lamanites in the islands of the South Pacific, whom we call Polynesians -- all these are coming back, one by one as the divine decree requires. And when the day has fully dawned, as soon it must, they will be a glorious people indeed.
"Indeed, that day -- the day of the Lamanite -- shall dawn before the Second Coming. Its arrival will be one of the signs of the times, and all those who can read the promised signs will thereby know that the coming of their Lord is nigh at hand. Pending that day, the Lord's command to his people is: 'Be not deceived, but continue in steadfastness, looking forth for the heavens to be shaken, and the earth to tremble and to reel to and fro as a drunken man, and for the valleys to be exalted, and for the mountains to be made low, and for the rough places to become smooth -- and all this when the angel shall sound his trumpet.'
"Having so announced, the Lord then relates all this to the gathering of Israel, including the Lamanite gathering. 'But before the great day of the Lord shall come,' he says, 'Jacob shall flourish in the wilderness, and the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose. Zion shall flourish upon the hills and rejoice upon the mountains, and shall be assembled together unto the place which I have appointed.' (D&C 49:23-25.)" (The Millenial Messiah, p. 210)
Mormon 5:22-24 A warning to the Gentiles
This is the fourth time since the Savior's visit that the Book of Mormon warns the Gentiles to repent (see 3 Ne 16:15; 20:15-17; 21:12-21). The scriptures do not repeat a concept four times as an idle threat. The Gentiles will reject the gospel and will suffer according to the word of the Lord, for the rejection of the gospel by the Gentiles is prophesied elsewhere (DC 45:28-30). Their rejection of the truth marks the fulfillment of the times of the Gentiles (DC 45:30). Of this warning to the Gentiles, Mark E. Petersen said, "Can we ignore such a warning, directed specifically at this generation?" (Ensign, Nov. 1978, "The Last Words of Moroni")