Mormon Chapter 5
1 And it came to pass that I did go forth among the Nephites, and did repent of the oath which I had made that I would no more assist them; and they gave me command again of their armies, for they looked upon me as though I could deliver them from their afflictions.
verse 1 The account of Mormon's deciding not to lead his people is contained in Mormon 3:11. It gives no indication that Mormon actually swore an oath not to lead his people. Mormon was obviously moved by compassion for his people. It was a selfless act, as he knew he could never again be victorious as a Nephite commander.
2 But behold, I was without hope, for I knew the judgments of the Lord which should come upon them; for they repented not of their iniquities, but did struggle for their lives without calling upon that Being who created them.
3 And it came to pass that the Lamanites did come against us as we had fled to the city of Jordan; but behold, they were driven back that they did not take the city at that time.
4 And it came to pass that they came against us again, and we did maintain the city. And there were also other cities which were maintained by Nephites, which strongholds did cut them off that they could not get into the country which lay before us, to destroy the inhabitants of our land.
verse 4 The "strongholds" formed by a few Nephite-held cities temporarily delayed the Lamanite forces.
5 And 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; and thus three hundred and seventy and nine years passed away.
verse 5 As the Nephite army fled from before the Lamanites, they gathered up Nephites to travel with them. Those who did not go with the Nephite army were killed, and their cities were burned.
6 And it came to pass that in the three hundred and eightieth year the Lamanites did come again against us to battle, and we did stand against them boldly; but it was all in vain, for so great were their numbers that they did tread the people of the Nephites under their feet.
7 And it came to pass that we did again take to flight, and those whose flight was swifter than the Lamanites' did escape, and those whose flight did not exceed the Lamanites' were swept down and destroyed.
8 And now behold, I, Mormon, do not desire to harrow up the souls of men in casting before them such an awful scene of blood and carnage as was laid before mine eyes; but I, knowing that these things must surely be made known, and that all things which are hid must be revealed upon the house-tops-
verse 8 To "harrow up" is to vex or cause mental distress. Mormon says he doesn't want to upset his readers with a too graphic description of the carnage of the time, so he withholds some of the graphic details.
Mormon also suggests that those things which he left out of his account will eventually be made known-"revealed upon the house-tops." This statement probably has a dual meaning. First, several scriptural passages testify that at the judgment, all deeds, words, thoughts, and intents of the heart, both righteous and wicked, will be revealed-shouted from the housetops as it were-for all to know (Matthew 10:26-27; D&C 1:3; D&C 88:108-10). An alternate way in which the more graphic description of the wickedness of his people may yet come to light is that the Lord will one day reveal to the world more information than is contained on the plates of Mormon (the book of Mormon) see verses 12 and 13 of this chapter and 2 Nephi 27:10-11. This may come in the form of revealing what is on the sealed portion of the plates of Mormon, or perhaps it may come in the form of other records, perhaps even a translation of more of the writings on the large plates of Nephi than we have now. The reader is reminded that Mormon's account of his own history on the plates of Mormon (Mormon 1-5) is an abridgment of a longer record of his own history he previously had entered onto the large plates of Nephi.
9 And also that a knowledge of these things must come unto the remnant of these people, and also unto the Gentiles, who the Lord hath said should scatter this people, and this people should be counted as naught among them-therefore I write a small abridgment, daring not to give a full account of the things which I have seen, because of the commandment which I have received, and also that ye might not have too great sorrow because of the wickedness of this people.
verse 9 "a knowledge of these things" Mormon is still speaking of the knowledge of the wicked doings of the Nephites of his day, over and above that which is written in the Book of Mormon record, which will eventually come, in the latter days, to the remnant of the Book of Mormon people ("these people"). That same knowledge will also come to the Gentiles, the founders and citizens of the great Gentile nations, who will scatter the remnants of the Book of Mormon people.
"this people should be counted as naught among them" The latter-day Gentiles ("this people") will regard the remnants of the Book of Mormon people as having little worth ("should be counted as naught among them").
"therefore I write a small abridgment" Mormon refers to the plates of Mormon as a "small abridgment," and he states that he was commanded not to write a more complete record of the wickedness of his people. The implication of this verse is that if Mormon had written a more complete account, then the latter-day Gentiles, who will scatter the Lamanite remnants, would have even more reason to regard them as "naught" and have greater disdain for them. In effect Mormon's being commanded to write only a brief record protects the latter-day Lamanite remnants from having the evil reputation that further knowledge would bring upon them.
Mormon's writing here suggests that his actual abridgment of the writings on the large plates of Nephi, including his own writings on those plates, likely began at this time-about AD 380 (see verse 6).
10 And now behold, this I speak unto their seed, and also to the Gentiles who have care for the house of Israel, that realize and know from whence their blessings come.
verse 10 Now Mormon speaks to the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These consist of those Lamanite remnants which have joined the Church ("their seed") and also of the "Israelite/Gentiles" who are responsible for gathering Israel. These have read the Book of Mormon and "realize and know from whence their blessings come."
11 For I know that such will sorrow for the calamity of the house of Israel; yea, they will sorrow for the destruction of this people; they will sorrow that this people had not repented that they might have been clasped in the arms of Jesus.
verse 11 These members of the Lord's latter-day Church will feel sorrow because of the wickedness of scattered Israel and the corruption of the scattered remnants of the Book of Mormon people. It is poignant to note that had the book of Mormon peoples repented at the time of the prophet Mormon, their history might have been much different-a much happier tale.
"that this people . . . might have been clasped in the arms of Jesus" I recall reading of a survey taken in 1983 among American Catholics, reported in a prominent Catholic publication. It revealed that many American Catholics "want to 'hug God' when they arrive in heaven" (Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang, Heaven: A History [New Haven: Yale university Press, 1988] 309). Isn't it interesting that these surveyed Catholics, their doctrine of the Godhood notwithstanding, have an intuitive yearning for such a relationship with a physical, personal, and manly God who is willing (and anxious I'm sure) to be hugged (see also D&C 6:20)? Another related observation of interest was pointed out by BYU's David Paulsen ("Early Christian Belief in a Corporeal Deity: Origen and Augustine as Reluctant Witnesses," Harvard Theological Review, vol. 83, no. 2 [April 1990]: 105). He documents that "ordinary Christians for at least the first three centuries" after Christ believed that God had a body. Brother Paulsen shows that beginning in the fourth century, Christianity gradually abandoned its belief in God's physical body, because that idea was unacceptable to the Greek philosophy that pervaded the Roman Empire.
12 Now these things are written unto the remnant of the house of Jacob; and they are written after this manner, because it is known of God that wickedness will not bring them forth unto them; and they are to be hid up unto the Lord that they may come forth in his own due time.
verse 12 Mormon continues to explain the brevity of his record that has omitted some of the more graphic details of his people's history. He states that his writings are intended for latter-day scattered Israel. They are abbreviated ("are written after this manner") because God knows that a more complete record documenting even more wickedness and depravity would not be a positive factor in attracting the Israelite remnants to the Book of Mormon ("bring them [these things that are written] forth unto them [the scattered Israelite remnant]").
"and they are to be hid up unto the Lord that they may come forth in his own due time" Now Mormon seems to be referring to the eventual coming forth of the writings of the Book of Mormon record.
13 And this is the commandment which I have received; and behold, they shall come forth according to the commandment of the Lord, when he shall see fit, in his wisdom.
verse 13 This verse repeats the idea that Mormon has been obedient to the Lord's commandment to make an abridgment and that his abridgment, the Book of Mormon, will come forth in the latter days when the Lord sees fit. The antecedent of the word they in this verse and in the next verse is these things in verse 12-the things written into the Book of Mormon record.
14 And behold, they shall go unto the unbelieving of the Jews; and for this intent shall they go-that they may be persuaded that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; that the Father may bring about, through his most Beloved, his great and eternal purpose, in restoring the Jews, or all the house of Israel, to the land of their inheritance, which the Lord their God hath given them, unto the fulfilling of his covenant;
verse 14 The first two "they"s refer to the record of Mormon on the plates of Mormon and the small plates of Nephi-the entire Book of Mormon. The third "they" refers to the unbelieving Jews.
15 And also that the seed of this people may more fully believe his gospel, which shall go forth unto them from the Gentiles; for this people shall be scattered, and shall become a dark, a filthy, and a loathsome people, beyond the description of that which ever hath been amongst us, yea, even that which hath been among the Lamanites, and this because of their unbelief and idolatry.
verse 15 Mormon prophesies that the Lamanites will be scattered and become a "dark, filthy, and a loathsome people." Were not the Lamanites already a dark skinned people (see 2 Nephi 5:21)? The answer is that the Lamanites had a dark skin only during the first phase of their history, from their separation from the Nephites in the land of their first inheritance and to the time of their conversion a few years before the Savior's appearance to the people in Bountiful (3 Nephi 2:15). After that the Holy Ghost was restored to them and the "mark" was removed. Thus began the second phase of Lamanite history during which they were a wholesome righteous people and did not really exist as Lamanites separate from the Nephites. The people were one homogenous righteous whole. The third phase began in about AD 214, when some of the people dissented, and there began again to be Lamanites in the land (4 Nephi 1:20). There is no mention in the Book of Mormon that a dark skin returned to these dissenters after their apostasy. Therefore, the battles between Nephites and Lamanites of Mormon's day was not likely waged between light and dark races, but between groups that were simply divergent culturally. Mormon's prophecy indicates that all of those who survived the great final battles between Lamanites and Nephites would eventually have the "mark" restored to them as a sign of their estrangement from God.
16 For behold, the Spirit of the Lord hath already ceased to strive with their fathers; and they are without Christ and God in the world; and they are driven about as chaff before the wind.
verse 16 President Harold B. Lee commented on this verse in general conference. He stated that he was inspired to know that the phrase "the Spirit of the Lord hath already ceased to strive with their fathers; and they are without Christ and God in the world" referred to more than a withdrawal of the influence of the Holy Ghost. He said that it also referred to "that light of truth to which every one born into the world is entitled and which will never cease to strive with the individual unless he loses it through this own sinning" (CR, April 1956, 108). As the verse states, this closing off of the light of Christ results in their becoming spiritual chaff, blown in every direction by the tempests of Satan.
17 They were once a delightsome people, and they had Christ for their shepherd; yea, they were led even by God the Father.
18 But now, behold, they are led about by Satan, even as chaff is driven before the wind, or as a vessel is tossed about upon the waves, without sail or anchor, or without anything wherewith to steer her; and even as she is, so are they.
verse 18 "even as she is, so are they" The pronoun she refers to the "vessel [which is] tossed about upon the waves, without sail or anchor, or without anything wherewith to steer her." The Nephite and Lamanite peoples of Mormon's day were like a helpless, rudder-less boat, without sail of anchor.
19 And behold, the Lord hath reserved their blessings, which they might have received in the land, for the Gentiles who shall possess the land.
verse 19 The blessings which the Lamanite remnants could have had in the Americas have gone to the Israelite/Gentiles in America.
20 But behold, it shall come to pass that they shall be driven and scattered by the Gentiles; and after they have been driven and scattered by the Gentiles, behold, then will the Lord remember the covenant which he made unto Abraham and unto all the house of Israel.
verse 20 "after they have been driven and scattered by the Gentiles, behold, then will the Lord remember the covenant which he made unto Abraham and unto all the house of Israel" This verse serves as a warning to the latter-day Gentile inhabitants. After the Gentile founders of the great Gentile nation are allowed by the Lord to scattered the Israelite remnants of the Book of Mormon people, there will eventually come a time when the Lord's wrath will be directed less toward the scattered remnants of the Book of Mormon people and more upon the Gentiles because of the iniquity among them. The Lord will remember his covenants with his people Israel-including the Book of Mormon remnants.
21 And also the Lord will remember the prayers of the righteous, which have been put up unto him for them.
verse 21 The Lord will answer the prayers of those who have prayed for the Israelite remnants of the Book of Mormon people.
22 And then, O ye Gentiles, how can ye stand before the power of God, except ye shall repent and turn from your evil ways?
verse 22 Mormon continues his warning to the latter-day Gentiles, both in and out of the Church, among whom there will be a major apostasy in the latter days just prior to the Lord's second coming.
23 Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God? Know ye not that he hath all power, and at his great command the earth shall be rolled together as a scroll?
verse 23 "at his great command the earth shall be rolled together as a scroll" The warning to the latter-day Gentiles continues. Rolled means wrapped; wound; folded; enclosed. This verse describes the great destruction by great heat of the telestial elements of earth at the time of the Lord's second coming. At this time the old earth shall pass away making way for a new millennial earth (see 3 Nephi 26:3 and its commentary).
24 Therefore, repent ye, and humble yourselves before him, lest he shall come out in justice against you-lest a remnant of the seed of Jacob shall go forth among you as a lion, and tear you in pieces, and there is none to deliver.
verse 24 Mormon concludes his warning to the latter-day Israelite/Gentiles both in and out of the Church. He recalls a theme initially introduced by the Savior during his visit to the temple at Bountiful (see the commentary for 3 Nephi 16:15 and 3 Nephi 20:16). It has engendered considerable discussion as to its meaning. Some have suggested that it prophesies of a major "Lamanite" uprising against the people of the United States. It seems more likely that this image of Israel rending its Gentile enemies, like a "young lion among the flocks of sheep" (Micah 5:8- 14), is symbolic of Israel's ultimate victory over its foes. This victory will come when the Savior returns and the wicked are destroyed.