Podcast 25 The Chroniclers of Cumorah Insights and Illuminations on Mormon and Moroni Greetings Tennis Shoes/Forever LDS fans. I haven't contributed new podcasts to ForeverLDS lately. Trying to focus any spare creative energy that I have on finishing Tennis Shoes 13: Thorns of Glory. I don't think anyone would fault me with that, but . . . I miss doing podcasts.
Some time ago I asked those who visit my various Facebook pages if they preferred short or long podcasts, and the overwhelming consensus was that folks liked loooooong podcasts. The longer the better! Just one problem with that. Long podcasts take a long time. Gotta write 'em, record 'em, edit 'em. So, sadly, I'm disregarding everyone's advice. I think--and this is just a feeling, mind you--that given the choice of short podcasts or NO podcasts, a lot of loyal listeners of ForeverLDS would choose to at least have short podcasts. That's the conclusion I've drawn. So instead of knocking myself out with 30-40-50 minute shows, let's try some shorter stuff. That'll give me a chance to be more consistent with putting up fresh material. And I won't feel so overwhelmed and can still focus on the novel. Sound reasonable? Okay.
In my last podcast—that is, my second to last podcast—I sort of left listeners hanging on a number of fascinating points regarding Mormon and Moroni. At least I find 'em fascinating. Some of these are completely new perspectives and ideas. I make every effort to back up my points with research and logic, but ... they're just ideas. Not doctrine. If I have any gift as a novelist it's the ability--or attempted ability--to look at the verses of The Book of Mormon and read between lines of the choices--often very human choices--made by the compilers--the chroniclers of the spiritual history of the Nephites and Jaredites. Sometimes I'll stare at a verse, and the motivations in the minds of Mormon or Moroni or Ether or one of the other authors of the narrative seem obvious. No, I'm not a prophet, and I don't pretend to be one. I try to present both sides of a given puzzle, but in the end, it does seem rather easy—rather elementary—to formulate a logical opinion of how things probably went down? I've spent my writing career doing the best I can to understand humanity—how people tick, how ancient cultures ticked. How their minds worked. That observation and research has usually been very helpful. It’s from that experience that I draw most of my conclusions. Maybe a better word than conclusions would be suggestions. Sometimes I feel strongly about some suggestion or another. Sometimes not-so-strongly. There's always room for alternative perspectives and quite often it’s clear that we just need additional information. So, take my analyses with a grain of salt, run them through your own intellectual turbines and test tubes, and decide for yourselves how plausible they "settle" over you. That's how intellect works. That's how the Spirit works.
Just keep in the back of your mind that my opinions are fallible. Often—frequently, in fact—readers or listeners will point out some nugget of information that I never considered. That nugget might change my perspective entirely. Feel free to make comments or inform me of anything I might’ve overlooked. I am firmly convinced that The Book of Mormon is true strictly from an intellectual POV—point of view. For me, a person can't read these verses without coming to the conclusion that crafting or inventing that myriad of elements that become evident by looking more closely at The Book of Mormon would've been impossible, particularly for a farm boy from upstate New York in 1829. In fact, for ANY number of collaborators from that part of the world, or any other part of the world, in that era. If you miss that premise, or simply reject it, well, I dunno if anything I’d have to add can make a difference. To me this, as I said, it’s obvious. And it has nothing to do with my original testimony. Certainly nothing to do with the core testimony that I received when I was 18 years old. I received that spiritual witness by focusing on the three verses of Moroni 10:3-5 after I completed my first reading the volume. Back then I wouldn't have recognized--or even cared--about intellectual clues that substantiate The Book of Mormon's authenticity. Folks can go their entire lives not caring about stuff like that, and still have the same testimony I have. That’s one of the coolest things about it. What's most fun—and rewarding—is when some of these insights give us a more dynamic understanding of the spiritual intent of the prophets who compiled The Book of Mormon. Especially insights that help make us better servants of Christ. Sometimes being a more effective servant is simply the by-product of magnified study and learning. Knowledge, remember, is only thing we carry with us into the eternities. That alone can often make these pursuits invaluable.
Okay, enough of an intro. This podcast wil be longer than I intended if I ramble on too much and I'll be reluctant to create more of ‘em. So let's get into the meat of our topic. The two principle—primary—compilers and chroniclers of The Book of Mormon—the two individuals who contributed the most to the Gold Plates later translated by Joseph Smith, Jr.—was the father/son tag team of Mormon and Moroni. They decided what would be included, they often editorialized in the middle of certain chapters or sermons, and ultimately brought about the miracle of the book's very existence--it's literal availability to be translated into English in about a four month time span in 1829. Thus, this volume became a foundational tool--the cornerstone--with regard to the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the last days. We owe Mormon and Moroni a lot. We owe them everything when it comes to this volume even existing.
Additionally, what I find fascinating are the clear, distinctive choices that these men made during the abridgement and compilation process. Make no mistake: These men were prophets of God. They were also human beings, with many of the same flaws and foibles as you and me. They were also geniuses--some might simply say they were "inspired"--but in either case geniuses with regard to how they managed to complete this Herculean undertaking. And it was Herculean. I don't think many of us can begin to comprehend how difficult it was, especially in the face of the practical challenges they had to deal with day-to-day in order to compile, write, and then preserve what they had created in the face of harrowing obstacles, including such minor things as the total annihilation of their culture and civilization by nations and tribes who were determined, not only to destroy the work they'd done, but slay them, personally, at the first opportunity.
This was, of course, particularly true in the aftermath of the great and final battle at the Hill Cumorah. This battle, according to the dates the prophets provided in the text, took place in 385 A.D. The Prophet Mormon chronicled this event, as well as the events leading up to it, in the first seven chapters of a particular book tucked inside the overall compilation that we call the Book of Mormon—not to be confused with the overall Book of Mormon. By contrast this is a tiny book, a 9-chapter sub-work, so to speak. And even though this tiny, 9-chapter book bears Mormon’s name, it’s important to note that Mormon only wrote the first seven chapters. The final two chapters were etched onto the plates by his son, Moroni, about six years after the battle at Cumorah.
Here's the thing: When Mormon penned the final verses of Mormon Chapter 7, his intent was clear. The record was complete. Mormon’s composition of those final verses gives every indication that the prophet was making benedictory, or conclusionary remarks, offering up his final sentiments, to the volume's future readers. It seems apparent that he did not envision his son or anyone else adding to the gold plates. This was it. Mormon's lifelong work had come to an end. Listen to these verses as I read them—the last words written by the Prophet Mormon:
8 Therefore repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus, and lay hold upon the gospel of Christ, which shall be set before you, not only in this record but also in the record which shall come unto the Gentiles from the Jews, which record shall come from the Gentiles unto you.
9 For behold, this is written for the intent that ye may believe that; and if ye believe that, ye will believe this also; and if ye believe this ye will know concerning your fathers, and also the marvelous works which were wrought by the power of God among them.
10 And ye will also know that ye are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; therefore ye are numbered among the people of the first covenant; and if it so be that ye believe in Christ, and are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior, according to that which he hath commanded us, it shall be well with you in the day of judgment. Amen.
"Amen" even. Mormon never used that word to close any of the other books he'd compiled. His record is complete. And yet the book was not complete. In fact, quite a bit was added to the gold plates before they were buried up in the earth for the last time in 421 A.D. These additions were, of course, made by Moroni—not Mormon.
First of all, Moroni added 2 more chapters to his father's short history. After that, he added the entire abridgement of the record of the Jaredites as preserved by the Prophet Ether, including the portion that was sealed and whose words have never been translated into English or made available to readers in our generation, AND Moroni added another ten chapters of his own sub-book simply entitled The Book of Moroni.
When you read the final verses that Moroni wrote in the 9th Chapter of the shorter book named for his father, Moroni's tone and intent is also conclusive in nature. These chapters were written during a particularly bleak time wherein the Prophet Moroni felt completely isolated and alone, having no family, friends, or prospects for the future. And as I said, he penned these chapters six years AFTER the battle of Cumorah. Listen to Moroni's final verses in Mormon Chapter 9:
34 But the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language; and because that none other people knoweth our language, therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof.
35 And these things are written that we may rid our garments of the blood of our brethren, who have dwindled in unbelief.
36 And behold, these things which we have desired concerning our brethren, yea, even their restoration to the knowledge of Christ, are according to the prayers of all the saints who have dwelt in the land.
37 And may the Lord Jesus Christ grant that their prayers may be answered according to their faith; and may God the Father remember the covenant which he hath made with the house of Israel; and may he bless them forever, through faith on the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
There's that word again, "Amen". Just like his father, Moroni was convinced the record of his father was done. He even says in Mormon 8:5 that he'd like to write more, and in fact he would have written more--quote--"...if I had room upon the plates, but I have not; and ore I have none." The plates are full. He couldn't add more to his father's plates even if he'd wanted to, because in his own bleak circumstances of 401 A.D., he didn't see any way to find the ore to make additional plates. So that's it. Book finished.
Thank goodness his father had left a little space to add those two final chapters, which contain some extraordinary information that we deeply cherish today, such as the prophesies regarding the coming forth of The Book of Mormon. Starting in Mormon 8 verse 26:
26: for out of the earth shall they come, by the hand of the Lord, and none can stay it; and it shall come in a day when it shall be said that miracles are done away; and it shall come even as if one should speak from the dead.
27 And it shall come in a day when the blood of saints shall cry unto the Lord, because of secret combinations and the works of darkness.
28 Yea, it shall come in a day when the power of God shall be denied, and churches become defiled and be lifted up in the pride of their hearts; yea, even in a day when leaders of churches and teachers shall rise in the pride of their hearts, even to the envying of them who belong to their churches.
29 Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be heard of fires, and tempests, and vapors of smoke in foreign lands; 30 And there shall also be heard of wars, rumors of wars, and earthquakes in divers places.
31 Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth; there shall be murders, and robbing, and lying, and deceivings, and whoredoms, and all manner of abominations; when there shall be many who will say, Do this, or do that, and it mattereth not, for the Lord will uphold such at the last day. But wo unto such, for they are in the gall of bitternessand in the bonds of iniquity.
32 Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be churchesbuilt up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins.
Powerful stuff. For true connoisseurs of The Book of Mormon, it’s hard to imagine the volume with it. And the reason we have it is because Moroni's father left a little room for his son to etch a few additional characters. And, like Mormon, at the end of Chapter 9, Moroni is obviously bidding farewell. Like his father, Moroni felt the record was finally--finally--complete.
And yet, the Book doesn't end there. As it turns out, the closing verses of Mormon 9 are the first of three, possibly four, separate and distinct farewells wherein Moroni sincerely expresses the sentiment--"That's it!"--he has added to the record all that needs to be added. Nevertheless, at least twice, possibly three times, he changed his mind and added just a bit more.
Moroni tells us himself in the first verse of Ether that he is the one who abridged Ether's 24 plates and included them in his father's record. Ether 1 verse 1 suggests Moroni commenced and completed this abridgement after engraving his original farewell in Mormon Chapter 9, or in other words, Ether was added after 401 A.D. Then he added those ten additional chapters of vital scripture known as the Book of Moroni. So obviously, sometime after 401 A.D., Moroni's circumstances starting looking up. They changed. Somehow he did manage to find the ore necessary to forge a few extra sheaves to slip inside the metal binders of the gold plates.
It's actually rather interesting how in the whole first chapter of the Book of Moroni, the prophet sounds apologetic, almost embarrassed. Hey, he’d already written his touching, though admittedly kind of a "downer", farewell in Mormon 9. And then, in Moroni Chapter 1, he sounds genuinely surprised that he's even around to add something further!
Verse 1 reads, "Now I, Moroni, after having made an end of abridging the account of the people of Jared, I had supposed not to have written more, but I have not as yet perished; and I make not myself known to the Lamanites lest they should destroy me." So clearly as added the Book of Ether and started the Book of Moroni he’s still in the region—or at least a region—dominated by Lamanites.
A few verses later he says again: "Wherefore, I write a few more things, contrary to that which I had supposed; for I had supposed not to have written any more; but I write a few more things (he’s so surprised that he’s repeating himself!) I write a few more things, that perhaps they may be of worth unto my brethren, the Lamanites, in some future day, according to the will of the Lord."
Moroni knows the reader is going to find it a little peculiar that he's back at it, adding more verses, especially considering the tragic farewell he’d offered up earlier. So he tells us, frankly, "I'm just as surprised as you are that my circumstances have given me an opportunity to add more to the record."
This is cool stuff! At least it is to me. It reveals the prophet's humanity—his three dimensions as person. Moreover, it proclaims the authenticity of the record. Who could make this up? Why would anyone attempting to hoodwink readers of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries WANT to make up something so confusing and illogical.
Additionally, in case anyone else who reads these verses doesn't sense it, at the start of Moroni Chapter 1, Moroni's overall mood has perked up. He seems to feel his life has a purpose again. He can still contribute something eternal and lasting for the salvation of his brethren, the Lamanites. Then, at the end of Moroni Chapter 7, the prophet AGAIN polishes off what seems to read like the records final hieroglyphs, this time with a notably sublime, far more uplifting and hopeful message than his father's closing verses in Mormon 7, or even his own farewell in Mormon 9. Moroni 7 is a magnificent discourse on the gifts of the Spirit, faith, hope, and charity, the pure love of Christ.
The final verse of Moroni 7 reads: "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen."
There it is again. Amen, which I'm sure in the Nephite language meant the same thing it does in English. We're done here! If this volume of holy writ had finished right there—at the end of Chapter 7—What a beautiful and moving close to the Book of Mormon. But wait. Moroni isn't quite done. Sometime after he finished composing Chapter 7 in 421 A.D., the year he finally deposited the plates, he decides to include two separate writings of his father, Mormon, that, for whatever reason, didn't make it into Mormon's abridgment. This information is critical. Chapter 8 is a sermon that his father, Mormon, delivered at some point in his life proclaiming that the baptism of little children is an abomination.
Finally, Moroni decides to include one of his father's epistles. This letter is written directly to Moroni and it’s very personal. And graphic. Go back to the stark aversion that Mormon expressed in Mormon Chapter 5, verse 8 about not describing the scenes if horror associated with the destruction of the Nephites. If you reread those verses, it's easy to understand why Mormon may not have wanted to include the information found in that epistle onto the plates. But, for whatever reason, Moroni felt differently, and etch every word of his father's personal letter into the final record.
The historical significance of Moroni 9 is undeniable, but in a way, the letter just feels anti-climactic. If I were editing The Book of Mormon for publication as a commercial enterprise—and thank goodness I wasn’t—I would have advised the author to either cut this chapter or place it earlier in the record. It doesn't fit. That's what's glorious about it. That's what makes this volume so real. As a storyteller, I could have never deliberately devised such disjointedness and lack of cohesion. Nor could I have created something so authentic, so timeless, and so vitalizing.
The Book of Mormon is true. It's not entirely clear which ancient prophet wrote The Book of Mormon's Title Page—Mormon or Moroni. Daniel H. Ludlow presents a convincing case that both men may have contributed, with Moroni composing the final paragraph. (https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/book-mormon-first-nephi-doctrinal-foundation/2-title-page). If so, wisely did Moroni write, "And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ."
Faults. Mistakes of men. If I may be permitted, I think Moroni might have been judging his work too harshly. These so-called faults—if they can even be characterized that way—are precious. They emphasize that it’s okay to be human. If human beings, in their glaring state of imperfection, can't be allowed to teach, inspire, and motivate other human beings to turn to Christ and live His commandments, what’s the point of having any of us go through this grueling process called mortality?
Okay, we’re done here. Thanks for listening. In the future I'm sure I'll have much more to say about Mormon and Moroni. I feel like I've hardly scratched the surface. A better question is: Can we ever say enough about The Book of Mormon?
So until next time, I offer to my listeners my traditional admonition to stay close to the Lord. And remember, if you don't feel as close to the Lord today as you did yesterday, who moved? This is Chris Heimerdinger. And this is ForeverLDS.