“Mormon,” said Ammaron, “I have been watching you. You are a sober lad and are quick to observe.”
Mormon looked up, eager to listen to Ammaron. Three hundred and twenty years had passed since Jesus had told the Nephites on the American continent to keep accurate, complete records. Mormon had heard the story often in his ten years, and he honored the historian Ammaron, who had charge of all the sacred writings of his people. So, quietly and respectfully, Mormon listened as Ammaron continued: “Therefore, remember the things that you observe concerning your people; and when you are twenty-four years of age, go to the land Antum, to the hill Shim, where I have hidden all the records of this people. Take only the plates of Nephi and engrave on them all that you have seen.”
Mormon’s eyes shone as he realized the full meaning of Ammaron’s words. His heart beat faster. This was a great trust. He was eager to see the records, to handle them, and to read the many histories. But Ammaron had said, “When you are twenty-four. …” Fourteen years seemed a long time to wait.
It was to be even longer than that. The next year, when Mormon was eleven, his father (who was also named Mormon) moved to Zarahemla, a land of many buildings. And peace was upon this land for the space of about four years.
Then wickedness did prevail among the people of Zarahemla, so much so that when Mormon was fifteen years old, the church was taken from them. There were no gifts of healing, no miracles, no blessings of the church. And Gadianton robbers who were among the Lamanites infested the land so no one was safe, neither were his valuables, nor his property. Mormon was not afraid, for he was visited of the Lord. He was told to wait and to watch, but not to preach to the people because of the hardness of their hearts.
When Mormon was sixteen, there began to be a war again. The Nephites chose Mormon to lead their army, because he was of large build and he had kept himself from wicked ways and was good.
In spite of their trust in Mormon, when the Nephites saw with what force and with what numbers the Lamanites came out to battle, they retreated and fled northward. There was much destruction, and complete revolution covered all the face of the land.
Mormon talked to his people and urged them to stand boldly against the Lamanites. And they did. The Lamanites fled before Mormon. Mormon, hardly more than a boy, led his people to a great victory. But the strength of the Lord was not with the Nephites, because they were wicked. Again and again they retreated northward, until they came to the land where Ammaron had said the records were waiting in the hill Shim.
Mormon was thirty-four years old now, but he had not forgotten the words of Ammaron. He went to the hill Shim. There were many records hidden there for safekeeping. At last Mormon could see and handle them. They were made of metal, each plate covered with fine engraving. Mormon studied and read as long as he could, but he took with him only the plates of Nephi, as he had been told.
Then Mormon gathered his people northward to the land that was called Shem, and they fought against the Lamanites and the Gadianton robbers until they were able to win back their homelands. A treaty was made and there was peace for ten years. The Lord told Mormon to call the people to repent of their wickedness, to believe in Jesus, and to build up his church. Mormon loved the people. He prayed for them and tried to get them to see the wrong they were doing, but they would not listen to him. The people had forgotten the Lord. They wanted only to fight and kill and get revenge on the Lamanites.
Mormon turned to the records. “I write,” he said, “unto all the ends of the earth.” He wrote of his people and of the goodness of Jesus.
It was difficult to engrave the fine letters upon the metal plates, even with the sharpest of instruments. He labored long and diligently. He studied the writings of the men before him. There were many records and he found the same pattern repeated over and over: when the people served Jesus, there was happiness; when they forgot him, there was sorrow. Mormon wondered how the world could ever come to know these testimonies of Jesus, so he decided to rewrite the records into one smaller book. For twenty-eight years, while the Nephites and Lamanites battled, Mormon wrote a small abridgment, daring not to give a full account of all he had seen because of the commandment given him not to do so, and also because of the sorrow he feared would come to future readers as they learned of the wickedness of that time.
Mormon took all the records Ammaron had hidden in the hill Shim, and protected them as the people were driven northward.
Then Mormon led his people to the land Cumorah, where they pitched their tents about the hill. He was now seventy-five years old, and he feared that here would be the last struggle of his people. The Lamanites were many and were strong. The Nephites gathered men, women, and children to fight. They were afraid, but still they fought. They fought with all manner of weapons of war. Mormon took command of the army and led them, but many were killed. Thousands upon thousands died, until only twenty-four Nephites were left.
Mormon wrote that his “soul was rent with anguish.” He sorrowed at so many deaths, and he grieved because he knew that the battles need not have been if the people had only repented of their wickedness and served the Lord.
Mormon was wounded and knew that he would soon die. He asked his son, Moroni, to finish the Book of Mormon and to hide it up safely with all the sacred writings, and this Moroni did.