Book of Mormon Lesson 43: “How Could Ye Have Departed from the Ways of the Lord?”
Mormon 1–6; Moroni 9
In Alma 34:35, the prophet teaches a very profound concept:
“For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked” (Alma 34:35).
A person or people may become so wicked and hard-hearted that the Holy Spirit withdraws completely. Such a person has procrastinated the day of his repentance “even until spiritual death.” What a contrast to the last several lessons of Jesus’ sojourn with the Nephites. In these chapters, we’ve seen the people renewed, reborn, and sealed to Christ. They have been filled with the Spirit, which they prayed for and desired most of all (3 Nephi 19:9). Christ has all power over the righteous Nephites for about 200 years time. When they died, they were received into the bosom of Abraham, which is the final state of the righteous.
In our study of Mormon and Ether, we will see how a people become so depraved that the only solution for God is a mercy killing. They are telestial beings at best, sons of perdition at worst. They love evil and contention. They thirst for the blood of their enemies. The Nephites have a love/hate relationship with Mormon. They see him as their only hope for rescue from the Lamanites, and yet will not give heed to them. Here are some of the things Mormon says concerning the Nephites of his day:
“The whole face of the land had become covered with buildings, and the people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea” (Mormon 1:7).
It seems the destructions occur only after the people have populated the land. Today, we see over-crowding into cities causing a rise in gangs. Over-population can cause famine and poverty. In this time, Nephites and Lamanites would seek to extend their kingdoms in hopes of dealing with the struggles just mentioned. So, we have a premise for beginning war.
“But wickedness did prevail upon the face of the whole land, insomuch that the Lord did take away his beloved disciples, and the work of miracles and of healing did cease because of the iniquity of the people. And there were no gifts from the Lord, and the Holy Ghost did not come upon any, because of their wickedness and unbelief” (Mormon 1:13-14).
Imagine the world without prophets, miracles, or gifts of the Spirit. Imagine a world without faith, hope and charity. Here is the situation Mormon finds himself.
“ And these Gadianton robbers, who were among the Lamanites, did infest the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof began to hide up their treasures in the earth; and they became slippery, because the Lord had cursed the land, that they could not hold them, nor retain them again. And it came to pass that there were sorceries, and witchcrafts, and magics; and the power of the evil one was wrought upon all the face of the land, even unto the fulfilling of all the words of Abinadi, and also Samuel the Lamanite” (Mormon 1:18-19).
Signs leading to destruction include Gadianton robbers or gangs infesting the land. Today, there are over 100,000 gang members in Chicago alone. People turn to witchcraft and magic, because they do not have the gifts of the Spirit. The Spirit of Satan (as opposed to the Holy Ghost) displays his power in the land.
“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” (Mormon 2:8).
The people refuse to repent. They no longer are capable of repenting. Repenting would require them to trust in God, rather than on their swords. And yet, their swords and other treasure is slippery. They cannot trust one another, nor can they trust God to deliver them. In rejecting God and his power to save and order things, they rely on the power of Satan. Revolution, or chaos, runs rampant. As I’ve written elsewhere, God seeks to give order to the earth and all things. The Creation is all about God creating order from chaos: light from darkness, earth from the chaotic waters, life from no existence, etc. In the Nephite Millennium, we see God’s order hold sway. Now it has collapsed and completely replaced by Satan’s chaos. Order leads to more life. Chaos leads to destruction. Or, in scientific terms, chaos leads to entropy.
“… 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. 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. 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” (Mormon 2:13-15).
They experienced misery and sorrow. But they had no recourse for their misery. Unlike the rebellious Alma, who suffered for three days in intense and exquisite pain, but then found peace and joy in repentance (Alma 36), these Nephites refused to believe and repent. Instead of believing and repenting, they chose to “curse God, and wish to die.” When Mormon states that “the day of grace was passed with them”, we must wonder if they are so far beyond the Spirit that Christ’s atonement can no longer reach any of them. Perhaps in the Spirit World, some may believe and repent, but it seems that many would likely refuse Christ there, as well. To be in “open rebellion against their God” suggests that they had a true and perfect knowledge of Christ – after all they just concluded centuries of perfect peace with Christ dwelling among them occasionally. If they had such a witness, but then chose Satan – many joining the Gadianton robbers or just choosing to be as bad as the Gadianton robbers, suggests that they were “subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal [them] his”.
We can only anticipate that at the end of the final Millennium, when Satan is loosed for a season and many choose to follow the devil in that final act of open rebellion, those will also become sons of perdition.
“And now, because of this great thing (beating the Lamanites) which my people, the Nephites, had done, they began to boast in their own strength, and began to swear before the heavens that they would avenge themselves of the blood of their brethren who had been slain by their enemies. And they did swear by the heavens, and also by the throne of God, that they would go up to battle against their enemies, and would cut them off from the face of the land. And it came to pass that I, Mormon, did utterly refuse from this time forth to be a commander and a leader of this people, because of their wickedness and abomination…. And when they had sworn by all that had been forbidden them by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that they would go up unto their enemies to battle, and avenge themselves of the blood of their brethren, behold the voice of the Lord came unto me, saying: Vengeance is mine, and I will repay; and because this people repented not after I had delivered them, behold, they shall be cut off from the face of the earth” (Mormon 3:9-15).
Instead of thanking God for their victories, they boasted in themselves. Worse, instead of being on the defense, they chose to begin an offensive war of revenge. You’ll note they still believe in God, as they swear by God’s throne and the heavens. Yet, they want God to work on their terms. They sought to destroy the Lamanites completely. Mormon recognized that this evil desire would become the beginning of the end for the Nephites, and refused for a time to be their leader.
Because the Nephites attacked the Lamanites in seeking revenge and to destroy them, Mormon explains,
“But, behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed” (Mormon 4:5).
When war comes, it is always the wicked who start it. They stir men’s hearts to bloodshed, rather than into defending themselves. They seek to inflict the world and the innocent with the chaos of war. In doing so, hearts are hardened, people lose faith, the wicked destroyed and the innocent suffer.
“And it is impossible for the tongue to describe, or for man to write a perfect description of the horrible scene of the blood and carnage which was among the people, both of the Nephites and of the Lamanites; and every heart was hardened, so that they delighted in the shedding of blood continually. And there never had been so great wickedness among all the children of Lehi, nor even among all the house of Israel, according to the words of the Lord, as was among this people” (Mormon 4:11-12).
Mormon’s pleas are useless. They will not listen:
“Behold, I am laboring with them continually; and when I speak the word of God with sharpness they tremble and anger against me; and when I use no sharpness they harden their hearts against it; wherefore, I fear lest the Spirit of the Lord hath ceased striving with them. For so exceedingly do they anger that it seemeth me that they have no fear of death; and they have lost their love, one towards another; and they thirst after blood and revenge continually” (Moroni 9:4-5).
Idolatry, Torture and Cannibalism
Mormon then gives us a glimpse of some of the worse violence provided:
“…they (The Lamanites) did also march forward against the city Teancum, and did drive the inhabitants forth out of her, and did take many prisoners both women and children, and did offer them up as sacrifices unto their idol gods” (Mormon 4:14).
He expounds upon this to his son, Moroni:
“…the Lamanites have many prisoners, which they took from the tower of Sherrizah; and there were men, women, and children. And the husbands and fathers of those women and children they have slain; and they feed the women upon the flesh of their husbands, and the children upon the flesh of their fathers; and no water, save a little, do they give unto them” (Moroni 9:7-8).
But as bad as the Lamanites are, the Nephites are far worse:
“For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they (Nephites) taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue— And after they had done this thing, they did murder them in a most cruel manner, torturing their bodies even unto death; and after they have done this, they devour their flesh like unto wild beasts, because of the hardness of their hearts; and they do it for a token of bravery” (Moroni 9:9-10).
“O the depravity of my people! They are without order and without mercy. Behold, I am but a man, and I have but the strength of a man, and I cannot any longer enforce my commands. And they have become strong in their perversion; and they are alike brutal, sparing none, neither old nor young; and they delight in everything save that which is good; and the suffering of our women and our children upon all the face of this land doth exceed everything; yea, tongue cannot tell, neither can it be written” (Moroni 9:18-19).
Women and children are the victims. Men are sons of perdition, as they love only evil things. They are like Cain:
“And Cain loved Satan more than God…. And Cain said: Truly I am Mahan, the master of this great secret, that I may murder and get gain. Wherefore Cain was called Master Mahan, and he gloried in his wickedness. And Cain went into the field, and Cain talked with Abel, his brother. And it came to pass that while they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him. And Cain gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands” (Moses 5:18; 31-33).
The Solution for all times, places and people
Mormon tells us there is a solution. In fact, there is only one solution. There is a way to avoid the great destructions and violence that inflicts our world even today.
“…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; And also that the seed of this people may more fully believe his gospel, which shall go forth unto them from the Gentiles….” (Mormon 5:14-15).
My article on Order and Chaos: http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2010/07/gospel-scholarship-order-out-of-chaos.html