Whom Did Mormon and Moroni "Minister" To?
Whom Did Mormon and Moroni "Minister" To?
Condensed from material by Jerry L. Ainsworth and Alan C. Miner
The Book of Mormon makes it clear that by the year 301 AD "there were none that were righteous save it were the disciples (Apostles) of Jesus" (4 Nephi 1:45). A review of Mormon's life reveals that he tried to preach to the Nephites on only two occasions. The first time was when he was 15 years old and was visited by the Savior. He reports that he tried to preach to them but "my mouth was shut, and I was forbidden that I should preach unto them: for behold they had willfully rebelled against their God; and the beloved disciples were taken away out of the land, because of their iniquity" (Mormon 1:16). His second attempt was sometime between the years 350 and 360 A.D. when he reports that "the Lord did say unto me: Cry unto this people-Repent ye, and come unto me, and be ye baptized, and build up again my Church, and ye shall be spared. And I did cry unto this people but it was in vain .... they did harden their hearts against the Lord their God. (Mormon 3:2)
These and other clues would seem to eliminate the possibility of an existing Church of Jesus Christ among the Nephites during Morrnon and Moroni's lifetimes. Yet, the prophet Ammaron who sought out Mormon when he was just 10 years old, was constrained by the Holy Ghost to do so. Who was Ammaron the prophet ministering to? The record would indicate that Ammaron lived in the Land Northward near the Hill Shim. Is it possible that there was a group of righteous people living apart from the main, wicked Nephite population somewhere Northward from the greater Nephite population base? The record does not indicate that Mormon's father was righteous, but assuming he was, it would make sense that he had distanced himself from the center of Nephite wickedness and moved to an area where his family could live spiritual lives. When Mormon tells us that the Lord did take away his beloved disciples "out of the land", could the land referred to be the greater Zarahemla land and not the "north countries?" (Mormon 2:3) The term "north countries" may well have been a geographical direction and/or a group or groups of people. When Mormon says he attempted to preach to "this people" but his mouth was shut, could "this people" refer to the main Nephite population base and not people living in "the north countries?"
Mormon's sermon as recorded in Moroni 7, which was written during this 13 year lull, says that he was teaching the people about faith, hope and charity in the synagogue which they had built for a place of worship. Mormon addressed them as his "beloved brethren" (Moroni 7:2), those "of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with Him in heaven." (Moroni 7:3) These words do not sound like the words of a highly conspicuous military leader to an unrighteous and unrepentant mass of degenerate humanity absorbed in the horrors of war and unable to repent. In Moroni 8, Mormon wrote to Moroni concerning his son's "ministry" and some disputations among the people he was ministering to concerning infant baptism-hardly a concern if there was no true Church or righteous people to minister to or baptize into the Church.
It makes sense that Mormon was serving as the leading Church authority in an area separate from the wicked Nephite nation and that prior to the end of the 13 year lull when he decided to return and lead the Nephites in battle once again, he ordained his son Moroni to that role.
In the book of Alma we find the story of the missionary efforts of the sons of Mosiah. The eldest son was named Ammon. He was instrumental in converting thousand of Lamanites who were received by the Nephites into their territories for protection. Upon arriving at the Land of Jershon in the lands of the Nephites, these people took upon themselves the name "people of Ammon." They are also referred to as the "people of God." (Mosiah 25:24, Alma 2:11, 19:14; 4 Nephi 1:40) Their remarkable story is filled with symbolisms and types. The very name Ammon is Egyptian and means "the unknown God", exactly as the Hebrews referred to Him, "the one who is not seen." In some of our LDS hymns we refer to Ammon: "What, tho, if the favor of Ahman possessing, this world's bitter hate you are called to endure?". (The Time is Far Spent" Hymnbook, p. 266)
In about 46 B.C., so great a contention arose among the people of the Nephite nation that the people of Ammon departed as a group into the Land Northward. (Hel 3:3-5, 11-15) At that time in the chronological record, Mormon observes that the people of Ammon "never did fall away." As he unfolds the rest of Nephite history, Mormon never recounts that statement. Is it possible that they continued to be a viable, religious community, distant both geographically and spiritually, during the Nephite apostasy and clear up to Mormon and Moroni's time?
There are several logical time periods during Mormon's lifetime when he could have traveled to where the people of Ammon (the People of God) may have been located and ministered to them and delivered the sermon found in Moroni 7.
1. During the 14 year period of peace between 331 A.D. and 334 A.D. (Mormon 2:10-15), Mormon would have been between 20-34 years old.
2. During the 10 year grace period after the Treaty of 350 A.D. (Mormon 3:1-2), Mormon would have been between 39-49 years old.
3. During the 12 plus years when Mormon stood as an "idle witness" between 362 and 375 A.D. (Mormon 3:16)
Since Moroni had to be old enough to labor in the ministry sometime during this period, alternative number 3 seems to be the most logical. Lastly, the record tells us that Mormon was not only a special witness to the destruction of the Nephite nation, but also a special witness of Christ. (Mormon 3:16, 9:1-6). It also tells us that his son Moroni labored with him in the ministry, "Laboring with them continually ... speaking the word of God." (Moroni 9:4). It would seem that these two very different stewardships can only be accomplished simultaneously if there are two, very different groups of people with which Mormon and Moroni are associated.
The scripture is very plain that there are two very different scenarios taking place at the same time period. We have a totally wicked and depraved nation of Nephites which the Lord will not allow Mormon to preach to and who are headed to a violent destruction and at the same time both Mormon and Moroni are ministering to a group of brethren and Saints. This apparent dilemna is resolved through the above proposal.
(This paper is derived from the works of Jerry L. Ainsworth and Alan C. Miner)