Many years ago there lived a young boy named Mormon. His father’s name was also Mormon. In those days no one had last names, so the boy was known as the son of Mormon.
At that time a man called Ammaron had been appointed by the Lord to care for the historical records of the people of that day. The records were valuable and had been handed down from one generation to the next by the prophets who had compiled the history of the people of their own time. (Such records were usually engraved on thin sheets of gold because harder metals were more difficult to engrave. Another advantage of using sheets of gold was that they would not rust and could be kept indefinitely.)
When Mormon, the son of Mormon, was ten years old, Ammaron said to him, “I perceive that thou art a sober child, and art quick to observe;
“Therefore, when ye are about twenty and four years old I would that ye should remember the things that ye have observed concerning this people; and when ye are of that age go to the land Antum, unto a hill which shall be called Shim; and there have I deposited unto the Lord all the sacred engravings concerning this people.
“And behold, ye shall take the plates of Nephi unto yourself, and the remainder shall ye leave in the place where they are; and ye shall engrave on the plates of Nephi all the things that ye have observed concerning this people.” (Morm. 1:2–4.)
Then the son of Mormon wrote: “I, Mormon, being a descendant of Nephi, … remembered the things which Ammaron commanded me.
“And it came to pass that I, being eleven years old, was carried by my father into the land southward, even to the land of Zarahemla.
“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.” (Morm. 1:5–7.)
When Mormon was fifteen years old, he was “visited of the Lord, and … knew of the goodness of Jesus” (Morm. 1:15). Mormon wanted to preach to the people, but in the land around Zarahemla, a war broke out between the two great nations that lived there, the Nephites and the Lamanites.
Mormon grew to be a large, strong young man, and he was called into the Nephite army, where he soon became a leader of many soldiers. When he was about twenty-four years old, he went to the Hill Shim and obtained the plates of Nephi as Ammaron had commanded him. He began to write on them, telling of the wickedness of the Nephite people and of the wars they were having with the Lamanites.
The Lord commanded Mormon to compile the thousand years of Nephite history into one volume, and this he did, engraving it upon plates that he himself fashioned out of gold. He put them with the plates of Nephi.
In the battles that were fought later, Mormon and all the other Nephites were killed, except for Mormon’s son, Moroni.
It was Moroni who wrote the final history of his people. He knew that the record must be kept safe, for his father had commanded him to take good care of it. When Moroni finished his own writings on the gold plates, he made a box out of stone and put the plates inside. Moroni placed the stone box containing the sacred records in a hole in the ground on the side of the Hill Cumorah, as it was known in those days. Eventually Moroni died.
About 1400 years went by, and the records lay safely in the Hill Cumorah. Then the time came for them to be brought forth. Moroni was sent back to earth as an angel from heaven to visit a young man named Joseph Smith, Jr., who lived on a farm with his family in western New York, not far from the Hill Cumorah. The Lord had chosen Joseph Smith to be His first latter-day prophet, and He instructed Moroni to deliver the sacred records to him. Four years later Joseph would translate the records by the power of God and have them published for all the world to read. The records came to be called the Book of Mormon because Moroni’s father, Mormon, had compiled most of them.