Mormon Chapter 2
1 And it came to pass in that same year there began to be a war again between the Nephites and the Lamanites. And notwithstanding I being young, was large in stature; therefore the people of Nephi appointed me that I should be their leader, or the leader of their armies.
2 Therefore it came to pass that in my sixteenth year I did go forth at the head of an army of the Nephites, against the Lamanites; therefore three hundred and twenty and six years had passed away.
verse 2 "three hundred and twenty and six years had passed away" Time is still being reckoned by the birth of the Savior.
It is truly remarkable that at the age of fifteen, Mormon possessed all the prowess-physical, intellectual, and spiritual-to so inspire the confidence of his people.
3 And it came to pass that in the three hundred and twenty and seventh year the Lamanites did come upon us with exceedingly great power, insomuch that they did frighten my armies; therefore they would not fight, and they began to retreat towards the north countries.
4 And it came to pass that we did come to the city of Angola, and we did take possession of the city, and make preparations to defend ourselves against the Lamanites. And it came to pass that we did fortify the city with our might; but notwithstanding all our fortifications the Lamanites did come upon us and did drive us out of the city.
5 And they did also drive us forth out of the land of David.
6 And we marched forth and came to the land of Joshua, which was in the borders west by the seashore.
verses 3-6 We do not know the locations of Angola, the land of David, and the land of Joshua, though it seems likely they were in the land Desolation north of the narrow neck of land.
7 And it came to pass that we did gather in our people as fast as it were possible, that we might get them together in one body.
8 But behold, the land was filled with robbers and with Lamanites; and notwithstanding the great destruction which hung over my people, they did not repent of their evil doings; therefore there was blood and carnage spread throughout all the face of the land, both on the part of the Nephites and also on the part of the Lamanites; and it was one complete revolution throughout all the face of the land.
verse 8 "it was one complete revolution throughout all the face of the land" The entire land was embroiled in war and carnage.
9 And now, the Lamanites had a king, and his name was Aaron; and he came against us with an army of forty and four thousand. And behold, I withstood him with forty and two thousand. And it came to pass that I beat him with my army that he fled before me. And behold, all this was done, and three hundred and thirty years had passed away.
verse 8 "and his name was Aaron" This victory over the forces of Aaron was apparently Mormon's first victory as a young Nephite commander. Some years later the two sides will entered into a treaty ceding the land northward to the Nephites and the land southward to the Lamanites (Mormon 2:28-29). After ten years of peace, this same Aaron will send an epistle to Mormon, warning of Lamanite preparations for battle (Mormon 3:4). In a letter to his son Moroni, Mormon will speak of the "awful brutality" of Aaron's army (Moroni 9:17).
10 And it came to pass that the Nephites began to repent of their iniquity, and began to cry even as had been prophesied by Samuel the prophet; for behold no man could keep that which was his own, for the thieves, and the robbers, and the murderers, and the magic art, and the witchcraft which was in the land.
11 Thus there began to be a mourning and a lamentation in all the land because of these things, and more especially among the people of Nephi.
12 And it came to pass that when I, Mormon, saw their lamentation and their mourning and their sorrow before the Lord, my heart did begin to rejoice within me, knowing the mercies and the long-suffering of the Lord, therefore supposing that he would be merciful unto them that they would again become a righteous people.
13 But behold this my joy was vain, for their sorrowing was not unto repentance, because of the goodness of God; but it was rather the sorrowing of the damned, because the Lord would not always suffer them to take happiness in sin.
verse 13 "it was rather the sorrowing of the damned, because the Lord would not always suffer them to take happiness in sin" This intriguing phenomenon is exemplified today by the widespread anguish over the disease AIDS in the gay communities of the world. There is no thought to repent of the sexual misconduct that lies at the base of the disease, as that would interfere with their individual "freedoms." The apostle Paul wrote of a "godly sorrow [which] worketh repentance." He also described "the sorrow of the world [which] worketh death" (2 Corinthians 7:10). The sorrow of the damned comes from hopelessness and despair, which "cometh because of iniquity" (Moroni 10:22), and not from broken and contrite hearts. Godly sorrow is a gift of the Spirit and is a first step in repentance. For a discussion of the concept of godly sorrow, see the commentary for Mosiah 26:29.
14 And they did not come unto Jesus with broken hearts and contrite spirits, but they did curse God, and wish to die. Nevertheless they would struggle with the sword for their lives.
verse 14 Note here the awful and pitiful ambivalence of the wicked. There is no desire to continue to live, yet they are fearful of death because of the judgment which follows.
15 And it came to pass that my sorrow did return unto me again, and I saw that the day of grace was passed with them, both temporally and spiritually; for I saw thousands of them hewn down in open rebellion against their God, and heaped up as dung upon the face of the land. And thus three hundred and forty and four years had passed away.
verse 15 "the day of grace was passed with them" Mormon perceived that it was too late for the people of Nephi to repent. They were past feeling. The die was cast. They had sinned to the point where they had no desire or power to avail themselves of the grace of Christ. They would surely be destroyed spiritually. President Spencer W. Kimball wrote, "Sin is intensely habit-forming and sometimes moves men to the tragic point of no return" (Miracle of Forgiveness, 117).
16 And it came to pass that in the three hundred and forty and fifth year the Nephites did begin to flee before the Lamanites; and they were pursued until they came even to the land of Jashon, before it was possible to stop them in their retreat.
17 And now, the city of Jashon was near the land where Ammaron had deposited the records unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed. And 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.
verse 17 Mormon had actually gone for the first time to retrieve the plates some ten years earlier at age 24 (AD 335). He is now, therefore, about 34 years old.
18 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.
verse 18 Here it is clearly stated that on the large plates of Nephi, Mormon engraved a full and unabridged account of the history of his people. But on the plates of Mormon ("these plates") he recorded only an abridged telling-"I did forbear to make a full account." In other words, he did not record a full account on the plates of Mormon.
"ever since I have been sufficient to behold the ways of man" The meaning of this charming phrase is evident.
19 And wo is me because of their wickedness; for my heart has been filled with sorrow because of their wickedness, all my days; nevertheless, I know that I shall be lifted up at the last day.
verse 19 "I know that I shall be lifted up at the last day" Mormon has been blessed with the gift of hope. Further, he is blessed to know he will be exalted. He has been blessed to have had his calling and election made sure, to receive the "more sure word of prophecy" (D&C 131:5). For a discussion of the concept of having one's calling and election made sure, see the commentary for Helaman 10:4-7 and also Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, chapter 16, Calling and Election Made Sure.
20 And it came to pass that in this year the people of Nephi again were hunted and driven. And it came to pass that we were driven forth until we had come northward to the land which was called Shem.
21 And it came to pass that we did fortify the city of Shem, and we did gather in our people as much as it were possible, that perhaps we might save them from destruction.
22 And it came to pass in the three hundred and forty and sixth year they began to come upon us again.
23 And it came to pass that I did speak unto my people, and did urge them with great energy, that they would stand boldly before the Lamanites and fight for their wives, and their children, and their houses, and their homes.
24 And my words did arouse them somewhat to vigor, insomuch that they did not flee from before the Lamanites, but did stand with boldness against them.
25 And it came to pass that we did contend with an army of thirty thousand against an army of fifty thousand. And it came to pass that we did stand before them with such firmness that they did flee from before us.
26 And it came to pass that when they had fled we did pursue them with our armies, and did meet them again, and did beat them; nevertheless the strength of the Lord was not with us; yea, we were left to ourselves, that the Spirit of the Lord did not abide in us; therefore we had become weak like unto our brethren.
verse 26 "we had become weak like unto our brethren" The Nephites were without the Spirit of God because of their rampant iniquity. They had nothing left of the strength of the Lord given to the righteous by the Spirit of the Holy Ghost. The converted Lamanite king Lamoni previously had said to Ammon, one of the sons of Mosiah, "I know, in the strength of the Lord thou canst do all things" (Alma 20:4).
27 And my heart did sorrow because of this the great calamity of my people, because of their wickedness and their abominations. But behold, we did go forth against the Lamanites and the robbers of Gadianton, until we had again taken possession of the lands of our inheritance.
28 And the three hundred and forty and ninth year had passed away. And in the three hundred and fiftieth year we made a treaty with the Lamanites and the robbers of Gadianton, in which we did get the lands of our inheritance divided.
29 And the Lamanites did give unto us the land northward, yea, even to the narrow passage which led into the land southward. And we did give unto the Lamanites all the land southward.
verse 29 In the treaty the Nephites received all land north of the narrow neck of land, and the Lamanites receive all land south. Keep in mind that the "narrow passage" is not synonymous with the narrow neck of land. Rather the narrow passage is the same as the "narrow pass" mentioned in Alma 50:34. For the convenience of the reader, the explanation of that geographical feature is repeated here.
Just exactly what is this "narrow pass" referred to here and elsewhere in the Book of Mormon (Alma 52:9, Mormon 2:29, and Mormon 3:5)? It is apparent from these verses of scripture, that the pass is not the same as the narrow neck of land itself. Rather it is some kind of specific feature of and within the neck itself. It is clear that parties passed near the city of Bountiful to gain access to this pass from the eastern seashore area. Here a Nephite army led by Teancum intercepted Morianton's fleeing group just as both groups arrived at a very specific point: "the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east." John L. Sorenson has provided a compelling solution to this puzzle. He suggests that the answer lies in a careful study of the specific geographic details of the isthmus of Tehuantepec (see the map, Book of Mormon Lands, a Proposed Setting, and the article Book of Mormon Geography). Dr. Sorenson observed: "An irregular sandstone and gravel formation appears as a ridge averaging a couple of miles wide and rising 150 to 200 feet above the surrounding country running west from the lower Coatzacoalcos River." This formation provides the only reliable year-round route from the east coast area of the land Bountiful "northward" into the land Desolation or to what is now Veracruz. "A great deal of land on either side of this ridge is flooded periodically, as much as twelve feet in the rainy season. At times during that season this ridge pass would indeed lead 'by the sea, on the west and on the east' for the water in the flooded basins would be on both sides of the ridge and would have barred travel as effectively as the sea with which the flood waters were continuous. Even in the dry season, the lower terrain is choked with thorny brush, laced with lagoons, and rendered impractical as a customary route. This formation runs from near Minatitlan, the modern city on the Coatzacoalcos, west about twenty miles to the city of Acayucan (An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, 43).