Mormon 4

Mormon 4:1 the Nephites did go up with their armies...out of the land Desolation

The land Desolation and the city Desolation are the focus of the battles described in Mormon 4. By review, the land Desolation was that land previously inhabited by the Jaredites (Alma 22:30, Ether 7:6). It was a land of large bodies of water and many rivers (Alma 50:29, Mosiah 8:8, Mormon 6:4).

A common misconception is that the land of Desolation was a desolate, barren wasteland. This is not true at all. The name refers to the desolation which came upon its inhabitants, And now no part of the land was desolate, save it were for timber; but because of the greatness of the destruction of the people who had before inhabited the land it was called desolate (Hel 3:6). There were many areas without timber apparently because the Jaredites cleared the land to build their cities, for the whole face of the land northward was covered with inhabitants (Ether 10:21). But we should not presume that the land was uninhabitable or inhospitable. Just because the timber was exceedingly scarce in 46 BC (Hel 3:5-10) doesn't mean that it remained that way for the next four centuries. The land may well have replenished itself for we never hear of Mormon or Moroni complaining that the land northward lacked timber or that it was an inhospitable, barren land.

Nevertheless, the land Desolation would again earn its namesake-not because the trees would be chopped down but because the Nephites would be cut asunder and swept off...even as a dew before the sun (v. 18). The land Desolation would be the site of a Nephite "Desolation of Abomination."

Mormon 4:4 it was because the armies of the Nephites went up unto the Lamanites that they began to be smitten

"Once the Nephite soldiers started to wage offensive war they soon became so bloodthirsty they were concerned only with the taking of human life...The leaders of this dispensation have also warned against the dangers of starting an offensive war. President Charles W. Penrose has said:

'...we Latter-day Saints must watch ourselves and not give way to passion and desire to shed blood and to destroy, for that is the power of the evil one. We do not want to imitate any nation that is bent on a policy of destruction, to destroy where they cannot rule, to break down and trample under foot where they cannot dominate. If we have that desire, it is the spirit of the wicked one...

'There is a very great difference between arising to go forth for conquest, for blood, for plunder, to gain territory and power in the earth, and in fighting to defend our own possessions in the spirit of justice and righteousness and equity, and standing up like men for those things that we have a right to contend for.' (Conference Report, April 1917, pp. 21-22.)" (Daniel Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 301)

Mormon 4:5 it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished

The atheist often bemoans the brutality of a vengeful God. First, he allows mortals to do such horrendous things to each other, then, he finally gets mad and kills them all (e.g. The Flood). It is more logical, the atheist argues, to deny such a Being. Yet, the vast majority of the time, the wicked suffer at the hands of the wicked, not at the hands of God. Brigham Young stated:

"Of one thing I am sure, God never institutes war; God is not the author of confusion or of war; they are the results of the acts of the children of men. Confusion and war necessarily come as the results of the foolish acts and policy of men; but they do not come because God desires they should come. If the people, generally, would turn to the Lord, there would never be any war. Let men turn from their iniquities and sins, and instead of being covetous and wicked, turn to God and seek to promote peace and happiness throughout the land, and wars would cease. We expect to see the day when swords shall be turned into ploughshares, spears into pruning hooks, and when men shall learn war no more. This is what we want. We are for peace, plenty and happiness to all the human family." (Discourses of Brigham Young, pp. 366-367.)

But again, we must recognize the parallel for our day. The Nephite civilization was destroyed by wars in which the wicked killed the wicked. A similar destruction has been decreed for the dispensation of the fulness of times. The Lord has decreed wars upon the face of the earth, and the wicked shall slay the wicked, and fear shall come upon every man; And the saints also shall hardly escape; nevertheless, I, the Lord, am with them (DC 63:33)...thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn...until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations (DC 87:6).

"'Often, very often, we are punished as much by our sins as we are for our sins,' Elder Boyd K. Packer has written (Teach Ye Diligently, p. 262).  As was the case with the Nephites, so often is it the case that God does not have to personally curse, condemn, or punish the wicked; their actions and associations produce natural consequences that in and of themselves become severe punishments.  Many of the destructions, plagues, and atrocities that come upon the world are a direct result of the wickedness of man.  C. S. Lewis insightfully observed:  'The possibility of pain is inherent in the very existence of a world where souls can meet.  When souls become wicked they will certainly use this possibility to hurt one another; and this, perhaps, accounts for four-fifths of the suffering of men.  It is men, not God, who have produced racks, whips, prisons, slavery, guns, bayonets, and bombs; it is by human avarice or human stupidity, not by the churlishness of nature, that we have poverty and overwork.' (The Problem of Pain, p. 89.)" (McConkie, Millet, and Top, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 4, p. 228)

Mormon 4:11 it is impossible for tongue to describe...the horrible scene of the blood and carnage

See commentary for Mormon 2:18.

Mormon 4:12 never had been so great wickedness...even among all the house of Israel

Only the Lord could know if the Nephite wickedness had exceeded all previous generations of the House of Israel. Accordingly, Mormon says that he got his information from the Lord. The statement is significant because of what we know about the wickedness of the rest of the House of Israel. The Jews among whom Christ ministered were said to be more wicked than any other nation on earth, for there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God (2 Ne 10:3). While Enoch saw in vision all the nations of the earth, he was told that the wickedness of this earth exceeded all other earths, among all the workmanship of mine hands there has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren (Moses 7:23,36). One particular city among the Nephites had reached a similar record-breaking degree of wickedness, their wickedness...was above all the wickedness of the whole earth (3 Ne 9:9).

Well, congratulations to Mormon's generation! They win the prize. They were more wicked than the Jews who crucified Jesus. They were more wicked than any previous generation of Nephites. They had become the most wicked people in the entire universe!

Mormon 4:14 they...did offer women and children up as sacrifices unto their idol gods

Hugh Nibley

"We're getting into the Mesoamerican, Mayan, and especially Aztec, practice of mass sacrifice of prisoners on a tremendous scale. They did it to the point where it reduced the population so much. There are some very interesting studies made of that recently. At the drop of a hat, prisoners had to be sacrificed. It was not just a sacrifice that was symbolic once in a while; then it became an orgy of blood. That's what they used their sacred towers for after that [development]-sacrifices unto their idol gods. That's what they did." (Teachings From the Book of Mormon, Lecture 105, p. 203)

Mormon 4:18 the Nephites...began to be swept off by them even as a dew before the sun

Hugh Nibley

"Mormon said, 'And from this time forth did the Nephites gain no power over the Lamanites, but began to be swept off by them even as a dew before the sun [Mormon 4:18].' A very powerful expression. There's nothing left. Everything is swept away as the dew before the sun, combing the land. It wasn't just a spot engagement here and there that would lead to a conference between the rulers, or something like that. No, it was a total thing. The most violent element of war, like a violent natural force, like a plague sweeping a nation, appears when, 'freed from all conventional restrictions, it [breaks] loose with all its natural force. It is a natural phenomenon. There are no more artificial or other restraints. War is much nearer to real nature in absolutes.'" (Teachings From the Book of Mormon, Lecture 68, p. 136)

Mormon 4:23 I Mormon...did go to the hill Shim, and did take up all the records

At this point, it has been 54 years since Ammaron entrusted Mormon as custodian of the plates. He had been writing on the Large Plates of Nephi for some time, but the many other Nephite records he had left in the hill. We often underestimate the number of records Mormon was in charge of. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were given the privilege of seeing some of these records.

"Oliver Cowdery went with the Prophet Joseph when he deposited these plates...When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did. Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls." (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 19, p. 40)

Mormon had left these "many wagonloads" of records in place until this point, but the hill Shim was about to become Lamanite territory. Mormon had to take possession of them in order to protect them. A brief review of his custodianship is in order.






321 AD

Called by Ammaron

Mormon 1:2-4


335 AD

Removed plates of Nephi from the hill, but left most the records in place

Indirect reference in Mormon 2:17


345 AD

Fights battle near the hill, declares that he had been making a full account on the Large Plates

Mormon 2:17-18



375 AD

Removed all the records from the hill Shim

Mormon 4:23


385 AD

Abridges the Book of Mormon and secures almost all the plates in the hill Cumorah in anticipation of the final battle (Editor's note: I know you can't believe that he wrote the entire Book of Mormon at this hectic time. If you don't believe me, then come to your own conclusion based on Mormon 6:6 and Words of Mormon 1:1-9.)

Mormon 6:6, Words of Mormon 1:6-9