Mormon 1


Covenant Obedience Brings Peace -

 3 Nephi 11 -- Mormon 7      Disobedience Brings Destruction










Mormon 1:1 I Mormon Make a Record of the Things Which I Have Both Seen and Heard:


     Mormon's making of "a record of the things which I have both seen and heard" (Mormon 1:1) has similarities to what has been found in Mesoamerica. Hunter and Ferguson relate an account of Huematzin [Hueman], a Mesoamerican astrologer. . . . Before dying he (Huematzin) gathered together all the histories the Tultecas had, from the creation of the world up to that time (his time) and had them pictured in a very large book, where were pictured all their persecutions and hardships, prosperities and good happenings, kings and lords, laws and good government of their ancestors, old sayings and good examples, temples, idols, sacrifices, rites and ceremonies that they had, astrology, philosophy, architecture, and the other arts, good as well as bad, and a resume of all things of science, knowledge, prosperous and adverse battles, and many other things. He entitled this book Teoamoxtli, which interpreted means various things of God and divine book. The natives now call the Holy Scriptures Teoamoxtli because it is almost the same, principally in the persecutions and hardships of men.

     According to Ixtlilxochitl, Hueman rose up as a great leader of the people of Bountiful-land in the year they left their ancient homeland (A.D.339). [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, pp. 337, 344]


Mormon 1:1-4 Ammaron said unto me [Mormon] . . . take the plates of Nephi unto yourself (Nephite Record Keepers) [Illustration]: Nephite Record Keepers. Adapted from [Church Educational System, Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122, 1989, p. 155]


Mormon 1:2 I being about ten years of age (Illustration): Mormon As a Young Boy. Artist: Scott Snow. [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Ensign, November 1987, p. 84]


Mormon 1:2 I [Mormon] being about ten years of age, and I began to be learned (Illustration): Mormon Age 10. Mormon was "a sober child, and . . . quick to observe." Artist: Scott Snow. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 583]


Mormon 1:3 Go to the Land Antum, unto a Hill Which Shall Be Called Shim:


     Mormon 1:3 states that the hill Shim was in the land Antum ("go to the land Antum, unto a hill which shall be called Shim"). According to the Book of Mormon record, the land Antum was probably located close enough to where Mormon was living at the time that he was somewhat familiar with it. We can use the following reasoning:

     (1) According to the geographical description in the 22nd chapter of Alma, "the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful" (Alma 22:31). There also was "a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward" (Alma 22:32).

     (2) In the final Nephite battles, Mormon describes a land Desolation in which there was a city Desolation which "was in the borders, by the narrow pass which led into the land southward" (Mormon 3:5) In these final battles, the Nephites fled from the city Desolation to the city Boaz (Mormon 4:20). When the city Boaz was taken by the Lamanites, Mormon, "seeing that the Lamanites were about to overthrow the land, . . . did go to the hill Shim, and did take up all the records" (Mormon 4:23). Thus, the hill Shim and the land Antum probably near to the land Desolation (Mormon 4:1,19), and not too far away from the "the narrow pass which led into the land southward."

     (3) In another account of the battles, the Nephites were forced to flee from "the land of Joshua" (Mormon 2:6). They "were pursued until they came even to the land of Jashon" (Mormon 2:16), and "the city of Jashon was near the land where Ammaron had deposited the records" (Mormon 2:17). Thus the land of Jashon was near to the land Antum, which was not too far from the narrow pass.

     (4) In the book of Ether we read that Omer "came over and passed by the hill of Shim, and came over by the place where the Nephites were destroyed" (Ether 9:3)). This seems to imply that the hill Shim and the land Antum were located somewhat near to the hill Cumorah.

     Thus if the Nephites didn't seem to retreat any great distance northward beyond the hill Cumorah where they were destroyed, and if Mormon lived in the land northward until he was eleven years old (Mormon 1:6), then his home was probably not far from (1) the land Antum; (2) the land of Desolation; (3) the narrow pass; (4) the city of Jashon; and (5) the hill Cumorah. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Mormon 3:23] [See Geographical Theory Maps]


Mormon 1:3 The Land Antum:


     According to Jerry Ainsworth, the name Cori-antum-r may might have some reference not only to the land Antum, where Ammaron hid up all the engravings concerning "this people" in the hill Shim (see Mormon 1:3), but to the location where Coriantumr was found by the people of Zarahemla (see Omni 1:21). The historian Ixtlilxochitl appears to pinpoint the location of a meeting with surviving Jaredites when he says: "On the banks of the Atoyac river, which is the one that passes between Puebla and Cholula . . . they found some of the giants that had escaped the calamity and extermination of the second age."70 The Atoyac River begins east of the continental divide in the state of Puebla, Mexico. [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, pp. 82-83]


Mormon 1:3 The Land Antum:


     According to Jerry Ainsworth, the name Antum apparently has something to do with water. Nephi relates how "we beheld the sea, which we called Irreantum, which, being interpreted, is many waters" (1 Nephi 17:5). Hugh Nibley notes that the Egyptian term an-t refers to water, while the word Iaru, a non-Semitic name, anciently referred to the Red Sea (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, 7:171-72).

     Because Irre-antum identifies a place where waters end up, it's possible that antum identifies a place connected with waters. If Ammaron had referred to the area of the Hill Shim as the land of Antum, that would have implied it was named after a person, as were other Nephite lands. Rather, he referred to it in such a way as to possibly imply that the name was descriptive; it might have identified what the place was like.

     According to Ainsworth, Ammaron's description of the land best fits the valleys of Puebla and Tlaxcala in Mexico. These adjoining valleys are surrounded by four volcanoes covered with snow. The two western-most volcanoes sit on the continental divide. From that point, waters flow to both the western and eastern seaboards. The area is indeed descriptive of where waters originate, or a "land Antum" (see illustration). The chief ancient city of these valleys is Cholula, which nestles at the foot of the snow-covered volcanoes. Its Olmec name is Atlxoloayan, which means "Where the Waters Begin to Flow" or, literally, "The Place of the Fleeing of the Waters."

     A prominent hill, called Malinche, sits in the middle of the Valley of Puebla (see illustration). Its numerous caves are considered taboo by the local inhabitants. They will not allow anyone to enter them on threat of death. People who have attempted to enter have lost their lives; some have had narrow escapes. Perhaps in one or more of these caves Ammaron hid the plates containing the Nephite records. Perhaps this is the hill Shim. [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, pp. 145-146]


Mormon 1:3 The land Antum (Illustration): Map 24. The Land Antum. [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, p. 147]


Mormon 1:3 The land Antum (Illustration): 73. The Hill Malinche in the state of Tlaxcala, Mexico; possible site of the Hill Shim. [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, p. 148]


Mormon 1:5 I Mormon, Being a Descendant of Nephi, and My Father's Name Was Mormon:


     According to David Lamb, in Mormon 1:5 Mormon identifies his lineage. He states that he is a descendant of Nephi and that his father's name was Mormon. However, he does not state that he was primarily named after his father and this should not be assumed. Mormon apparently had been taught about his heritage by his parents and understood the sacred significance associated with the name Mormon. In 3 Nephi 5:12 Mormon tells us that he was not named after his father, but rather he was named after the land in which a great event took place -- the restoration of Christ's covenant people, Christ's church. Thus, in 3 Nephi 5:12 Mormon gives us a clear indication that the name Mormon is symbolically synonymous with the restoration of the covenant which took place in the land of Mormon by Alma and his people.

     A study of the title page of the Book of Mormon tells us its main purpose is to restore a knowledge of the covenants to the house of Israel. This adds weight to the understanding that the name Mormon was always associated with the place of the restoration of the covenant to the Nephites. In fact, the name Mormon might have become synonymous with the concept of restoring the covenants. [David Lamb, "The Meaning of the Name Mormon," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol 2., p. 45]

     Readers should note also that the 1986 addition to the Book of Mormon title, "Another Testament (Covenant) of Jesus Christ," reinforces this idea. [See the commentary on 3 Nephi 5:12; 27:7]


Mormon 1:6 I [Mormon] Was Carried by My Father into the Land Southward:


     John Tvedtnes tells the story about one of his students who suggested that Mormon, the father of the abridger of the Nephite record, was a professional soldier. As evidence, the student noted that the younger Mormon was eleven years of age when his father took him into the "land southward" (Mormon 1:6) and that "in this year there began to be a war between the Nephites . . . and the Lamanites (Mormon 1:8). The family's departure into the war zone hints at a military transfer. In light of this possibility, Tvedtnes suggests that the historian/general/prophet Mormon was, in fact, from a line of army leaders who belonged to a military caste. . . . There appear to have been two distinct warrior castes in the Book of Mormon. The first was that of the Zoramites. The other warrior caste comprised men such as the earlier Moroni and Moronihah and probably Mormon and his father Mormon, as well as his son Moroni and another Moronihah. It may not be out of line to suggest that this caste descended from the ancient kings. . . . The earlier Moroni, who was Nephite chief captain when the war with the Lamanites broke out about 74 B.C. . . . may have been a descendant of King Benjamin or the first Mosiah, and hence of the royal seed. This would give more meaning to the claim of Mormon not only to be "a descendant of Nephi" (Mormon 1:5), but to be a "pure descendant" of Nephi (see 3 Nephi 5:20). It should be noted that Nephi personally wielded the sword of Laban in the defense of his people (Jacob 1:10), and only descendants of Nephi were chosen as kings (see Mosiah 25:13). It should be noted that Mormon took possession of both the sword of Laban and the records of the kings, and they were duly passed on to his son Moroni. [John A. Tvedtnes, "Tribal Affiliation and Military Castes," in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, pp. 317-322]


Mormon 1:6 I [Mormon] Was Carried . . . into the Land Southward:


     Jerry Ainsworth notes that at age eleven, in A.D. 322, Mormon was carried by his father from the land northward to the land of Zarahemla (Mormon 1:6). Being carried this distance is probably an accurate description of what actually happened and is possibly indicative of Mormon's socio-economic position. In Part 2 of the text of Izapa Sculpture, Garth Norman states, "Maya dignitaries are known to have been transported in sedan chairs carried by two attendants" (see illustrations). Indeed, regal, wealthy, and aristocratic families were commonly carried in litters over an excellent highway system of this time period. [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, p. 153]


Mormon 1:6 I [Mormon] was carried . . . into the land southward (Illustration): (76) Rolled-out watercolor painting from a Mayan vase in Ratinlixul, Guatemala, showing use of a litter. Used by permission of the University of Pennsylvania. (77) Tracing of a small portion of Stela 21, showing use of a litter, from Izapa, southern section of the state of Chiapas, Mexico. (78) Use of litter in transportation, from Codice Magliabechi, p. 35. [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, p. 154]


Mormon 1:6 Mormon:


     [See the commentary on 3 Nephi 5:12]


Mormon 1:6 I [Mormon] . . . Was Carried . . . Even to the Land of Zarahemla:


     In Mormon 1:6, Mormon states that "I, being eleven years old, was carried by my father into the land southward, even to the land of Zarahemla." If the land of Zarahemla was "in the heart of the country" (of Zarahemla--Alma 60:19) and "in the center of the land" (of Zarahemla--Helaman 1:27); and if the hill Shim was located near the hill Cumorah (Ether 9:3), and was somewhere near where the historian Ammaron and the boy Mormon were living; and if Mormon was taken by his father to the land of Zarahemla which action implies social ties between the two places; then, the question that we should address here is, How much distance was there between the hill Shim and the land of Zarahemla. As discussed previously in the commentary on 4 Nephi 1:48 and Mormon 1:3, the reasoning tends to favor a maximum distance of only a few hundred miles. If we were to assume a traditional hemispheric model of Book of Mormon geography (North America - South America), then Mormon might have had to travel thousands of miles to reach his destination. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps]


Geographical Theory Map: Mormon 1:1-6 Mormon Goes Southward To Zarahemla (322 A.S.)


Mormon 1:7 The Whole Face of the Land Had Become Covered with Buildings:


     Mormon said that when he went southward from the land northward as a child he saw that "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). According to Jerry Ainsworth, that description--for that time period (about A.D. 322)--coincides only with Central America, where the massive ruins of contiguous cities runs for hundreds of miles. No archaeological sites have been found within the boundaries of North and South America that qualify for Mormon's description of that time and place. One has only to visit the lowlands of southern Mexico and northern Guatemala to appreciate the magnitude of their ancient civilizations and to realize how few of their sites have been excavated. Today, entire metropolises lie hidden in huge tracts of jungle, seemingly as if they never existed. Where else do we find concrete evidence of anything comparable? [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, pp. 42, 155]


Mormon 1:7 The whole face of the land had been covered with buildings, and the people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea (Illustration): (79) Painting of a section of El Mirador, an ancient city in the northern part of Guatemala (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" (Mormon 1:7. Used by permission of the National Geographic Society. [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, p. 155]


Mormon 1:7 The whole face of the land had been covered with buildings, and the people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea (Illustration): (81) Painting of a section of Tikal, a large ancient city in the northern (Peten) section of Guatemala (Zarahemla). [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, p. 157]


Mormon 1:10 The War Began . . . in the Borders of Zarahemla, by the Waters of Sidon:


     We find in Mormon 1:10 that "the war began to be among them in the borders of Zarahemla, by the waters of Sidon." If the term Zarahemla means the general land of Zarahemla, then these borders might somewhat match the borders described in Alma 22:27. In that verse a description is given of a narrow strip of wilderness which divided the land on the north (Zarahemla) from the land on the south (Nephi). This narrow strip of wilderness went "through the borders of Manti, by the head of the river Sidon, running from the east towards the west". This border location seems logical because of the Nephite history in which that area was fortified -- the city of Manti being established there. This area is mentioned heavily in regards to travel and battles between the people of Nephi and Zarahemla. Any other location, although possible, would need some explanation. It is an interesting cultural note that although the Lamanites and Nephites at one time "were one" (4 Nephi 1:17) and were spread out "upon all the face of the land" (4 Nephi 1:2), the war between the Lamanites and Nephites began here, of all places, in these historically and militarily significant "borders of Zarahemla by the waters of Sidon." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps]


Mormon 1:10 The War Began . . . in the Borders of Zarahemla, by the Waters of Sidon:


     John Sorenson notes that the conflict that was to result in extermination of the Nephite lineages began in the same place as the earlier wars--where expanding Lamanite power on the south rubbed against the Nephite political presence. "The war began to be among them in the borders of Zarahemla, by the waters of Sidon" (Mormon 1:10).

     As has been noted before (see Alma 31:3; Alma 50:8), southeast Chiapas formed a boundary between speakers of Maya languages and other groups, particularly the Zoqueans, who had been among the bearers of the Olmec/Jaredite tradition. Our glimpses of ethnic history before the time of Columbus indicate that the Maya speakers occupied nearly all the lands we have identified as included in the greater land of Nephi. The mass of folk governed by the Lamanite lineage of rulers probably spoke one or another Mayan tongue. The tendency of the speakers of those languages, as shown by linguistic reconstruction, has been to expand in a northern and western direction into Chiapas.71 It seems almost historically inevitable that the Mayan/Lamanite movement would crowd the southern edge of the Nephite domain. The renewed conflict in the fourth century at that particular geographical point adjacent to the Sidon and to Zarahemla fits in as a logical continuation of the process begun centuries before. [John L. Sorenson An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, pp. 335-336]


Geographical Theory Map: Mormon 1:10 War Starts in the Borders of Zarahemla (322 A.S.--326 A.S.)


Mormon 1:11 Sands of the Sea (30,000):


     In Mormon 1:7, Mormon notes that "the people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea." However, just 4 verses later in Mormon 1:11 he states that "the Nephites had gathered together a great number of men, even to exceed the number of thirty thousand. And it came to pass that they did have in this same year a number of battles, in which the Nephites did beat the Lamanites and did slay many of them." One might ask, Why, if the Nephites were as numerous as "the sands of the sea," could they only raise an army of 30,000? Perhaps this verse is either describing only one of many battle zones for the Nephite "armies" (see Mormon 2:3), or it is possibly describing a relatively minor battle. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mormon 1:15 I Being Fifteen Years of Age . . . Was Visited of the Lord:


     Mormon says the following:

     And I, being fifteen years of age and being somewhat of a sober mind, therefore I was visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus. (Mormon 1:15)


     According to Douglas and Robert Clark, there must be something significant concerning the stage of life one goes through at the age of about fourteen or fifteen. Mormon's awakening to spiritual matters at about this age foreshadows a similar awakening at a similar age by the young Joseph Smith (see JS-H 1), who would translate Mormon's record. And the experiences of both these men echo that of their ancient father Abraham, who was fourteen years old (according to the ancient and venerable Book of Jubilees) when he "began understanding" how society had gone astray and consequently "began to pray to the Creator" for guidance.72 Fifteen is the age specified in Confucian tradition to set one's heart upon learning, and thirteen is the age specified in Jewish tradition for the acceptance of moral responsibility.73 Similarly, through modern-day prophets, the Lord has specified twelve as the age when worthy young men of his church can receive the Aaronic Priesthood. [E. Douglas Clark and Robert S. Clark, Fathers and Sons in the Book of Mormon, p. 230]


Mormon 1:15 I Was Visited of the Lord and . . . Knew of the Goodness of Jesus:


     Under conditions of widespread wickedness, Mormon, at age fifteen, becomes chief captain of the Nephite armies (Mormon 2:1-2). This is the same Mormon after whom the Book of Mormon is named. More to the point, however, Mormon writes the following: "And I, being fifteen years of age and being somewhat of a sober mind, therefore I was visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus." (Mormon 1:15)

     According to Avraham Gileadi, the parallelism of these two statements implies that to know the goodness of Jesus is to be visited of the Lord, to make one's calling and election sure. Gileadi notes that in the Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (3:352-53), the term "goodness" is listed as a synonym of covenant blessing and covenant keeping. In the very beginning of the Book of Mormon, Nephi, the son of Lehi, also comes to know personally the "goodness" and mysteries of God (1 Nephi 1:1). Like Mormon, at a young age Nephi becomes a prophet in his own right--he sees the Lord in a vision, thus making sure his calling and election (1 Nephi 11:7,21,27; 18:3). [Avraham Gileadi, The Last Days: Types and Shadows from the Bible and the Book of Mormon, pp. 216, 232] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 1:1],


Mormon 1:17 The Land Was Cursed for Their Sake:


     One might wonder why "the land was cursed for their sake"? According to McConkie, Millet, and Top, Mormon uses the phrase "for their sake" not to illustrate any beneficial aspects but rather to point out another terrible consequence of the wickedness of his people. The definition of "sake" in an 1830 dictionary or some other contemporary edition would include "on account of." This definition seems to fit better with Mormon's intent and is consistent with other Book of Mormon passages that use similar language. Thus the land was "cursed" not for the blessing or benefit of the Nephites in any way, but rather "on account of" the great wickedness. See 2 Nephi 1:7; Alma 45:10-16; Ether 2:8-12. [Joseph F. McConkie, Robert L. Millet, Brent L. Top, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. IV, p. 212]


Mormon 1:18 [They] Began to Hide Up Their Treasures in the Earth:


     Roger Keller reasons that if the writings of latter-day prophets reflect their author's personal characteristics, then records left by ancient prophets should also contain features that distinguish their authors as individuals. In his published study, Professor Keller, of the Department of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University, analyzes the traits that set each Book of Mormon author apart from the others.

     One analysis involved the word "earth." According to Keller, while among the various authors, there are a few scattered references to the earth meaning the "ground," either as that to which people relate in some way, i.e., they fall on it, sit on it, etc., or as that stuff of which the earth is composed and which may bear fruit, be smitten, bear seeds, etc. . . . we find that 71.4 percent of all Mormon's uses of "earth" mean ground. Of those usages, 57.8 percent refer to people in relationship to the ground, and 42.2 percent refer to the ground as the essence of the earth, thus making Mormon distinctly different from all other authors with the possible exception of his son, who may have been influenced by his father's language (see illustration).

     Based on his research, Professor Keller concludes:

           I have no reluctance whatsoever in asserting that no one person could possibly have written the Book of Mormon. Either it is the product of massive collusion among numerous nineteenth-century persons, or it is precisely what it claims to be---an ancient book written by ancient people. There is simply no viable middle ground.

[Roger R. Keller, Book of Mormon Authors: Their Words and Messages, pp. 60, 73-77, 196]


Mormon 1:18 [They] began to hide up their treasures in the earth (Illustration): Figure 5: Earth---As Related to Humans. Figure 6: Earth---Ground as Ground. [Roger R. Keller, Book of Mormon Authors: Their Words and Messages, p. 74]


Mormon 1:18 Their Treasures . . . Became Slippery:


     In calling the Nephites to repentance, Samuel the Lamanite warned that "the time cometh that [the Lord] curseth your riches, that they become slippery, that ye cannot hold them; and in the days of your poverty ye cannot retain them" (Helaman 13:31). More than three centuries later, Mormon recorded that, in fulfillment of Samuel's prophecy, the Gadianton robbers

           "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" (Mormon 1:18).


     According to Kevin Barney, some critics have suggested that these passages reflect beliefs prevalent in Joseph Smith's day. One such belief was that guardian demons moved buried treasures to different locations when people dug for them. Because the general idea of slippery treasures appears in the Book of Mormon, critics see it as evidence of the book's supposed 19th-century origin. However, the concept of slippery treasures is found to have existed in the ancient Near East of Lehi's time.

     One example comes from the Instructions of Amenemope, an Egyptian text dating to between the 11th and 13 centuries B.C. and believed by many to have been the source for a portion of the biblical book of Proverbs. Proverbs 23:4-5 closely parallels chapter 7 of Amenemope. Compare the first lines of each passage:74

     Do not wear yourself out to get rich; be wise enough to desist. (Proverbs)

     Do not strain to seek an excess, when thy needs are safe for thee. (Amenemope)


     Compare also the end of each passage:

     When your eyes light upon it, it is gone; for suddenly it takes wings to itself, flying like an eagle toward heaven. (Proverbs)

     (Or) they [riches] have made themselves wings like geese and are flown away to the heavens. (Amenemope)


[Kevin L. Barney, "'Slippery Treasures' in the Book of Mormon: A Concept from the Ancient World," FARMS Update Number 135 in Insights: A Window on the Ancient World, June 2000, p. 2]


Mormon 1:19 There Were Sorceries, and Witchcrafts, and Magics:


     Mormon notes that "there were sorceries, and witchcrafts, and magics; and the power of the evil one was wrought upon all the face of the land, . . ." (Mormon 1:19).

     According to Hunter and Ferguson, usually those who sought or practiced the black arts were endeavoring to obtain some unfair advantage over their fellows. The practices were condemned under ancient Israelite law but were never wholly eradicated. The law is given in Deuteronomy as follows:

           There shall not be found among you anyone that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of time, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord; and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12; )


     Virtually the same law existed in Middle America, even as late as the Conquest period. Sorcery and witchcraft were illegal if employed to injure the community or the individual.

     In striking confirmation, Ixtlilxochitl grouped together four of the pseudo-arts practiced by the Tultecas prior to the Conquest: necromancy, enchantment, sorcery and astrology. Necromancers are those who pretend to forecast events by alleged communication with the dead. Necromancy is generally regarded as one of the black arts, along with sorcery. The latter is related to magic or witchery. Astrology, too, is a false "science" by which the destinies of men are allegedly told by study of the stars. Ixtlilxochitl's statement on the black arts in Mesoamerica is similar to the Book of Mormon report of happenings in Bountiful-Zarahemla just prior to the expulsion of the Nephites from that ancient center (Mormon 2:10-11). [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, pp. 290-291]


Mormon 1:19 There were sorceries, and witchcrafts, and magics (Illustration): Secrecy was heavily ingrained in Mesoamerican life. Witchcraft and sorcery were, and still are, common ingredients in the social and ritual life of certain groups. The remarkable piece of ceramic sculpture shown here dates to the Maya Late Classic. It recalls Mormon 1:19, written in the fourth century A.D., "There were sorceries, and witchcrafts and magics . . . upon all the face of the land." [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 119]


Mormon 1:19 Even unto the Fulfilling of All the Words of Abinadi:


     Mormon records 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 1:19).


     This verse creates confusion for the reader because, first, it is apparently not punctuated correctly. As the verse now stands, the reader is incorrectly led to believe that both Abinadi and Samuel prophesied about sorceries (which they did not). Additionally, if the reader looks at the footnotes they will find a reference to Samuel's prophecy but no reference is given for Abinadi. This adds to the confusion because the reader is led to believe that there is no recorded prophecy by Abinadi in the Book of Mormon which fulfills these words by Mormon.

     The answer to all this confusion is that Abinadi did NOT prophesy about sorceries and witchcrafts; he prophesied about a people ripe for destruction. In other words, Abinadi prophesied about what Mormon discussed in verses 11-17. Samuel prophesied about what Mormon discussed in verses 17-19.

     For the benefit of the reader, I will first note the specific prophecy of Abinadi, and then the specific prophecy of Samuel the Lamanite:


Prophecy of Abinadi Concerning Complete Destruction:

           And now, because of this great victory they were lifted up in the pride of their hearts; they did boast in their own strength . . . and thus they did boast, and did delight in blood, and the shedding of the blood of their brethren, and this because of the wickedness of their king and priests.

           And it came to pass that there was a man among them whose name was Abinadi [who was apparently a "type" for Mormon], and he went forth among them, and began to prophesy, saying: Behold, thus saith the Lord, and thus hath he commanded me, saying, Go forth, and say unto this people, thus saith the Lord--Wo be unto this people, for I have seen their abominations, and their wickedness, and their whoredoms; and except they repent I will visit them in mine anger. . . .

           And it shall come to pass that except they repent I will utterly destroy them from off the face of the earth; yet they shall leave a record behind them, and I will preserve them for other nations which shall possess the land; yea, even this will I do that I may discover the abominations of this people to other nations. And many things did Abinadi prophesy against this people.

           And it came to pass that they were angry with him . . . (Mosiah 11:19-20; 12:8-9).


Prophecy of Samuel Concerning Slippery Treasures:

           And behold, if a man hide up a treasure in the earth, and the Lord shall say--Let it be accursed, because of the iniquity of him who hath hid it up--behold, it shall be accursed. (Helaman 12:18)

           And behold, a curse shall come upon the land, saith the Lord of Hosts, because of the people's sake who are upon the land, yea, because of their wickedness and their abominations. And it shall come to pass, saith the Lord of Hosts, yea, our great and true God, that whoso shall hide up treasures in the earth shall find them again no more, because of the great curse of the land, save he be a righteous man and shall hide it up unto the Lord. For I will, saith the Lord that they shall hide up their treasures unto me; and cursed be they who hide not up their treasures unto me; for none hideth up their treasures unto me save it be the righteous; and he that hideth not up his treasures unto me, cursed is he, and also the treasure, and none shall redeem it because of the curse of the land. And the day shall come that they shall hide up their treasures, because they have set their hearts upon riches; and because they have set their hearts upon their riches, I will hide up their treasures when they shall flee before their enemies; because they will not hide them up unto me, cursed be they and also their treasures; and in that day shall they be smitten, saith the Lord. Behold ye, the people of this great city, and hearken unto my words; yea, hearken unto the words which the Lord saith; for behold, he saith that ye are cursed because of your riches, and also are your riches cursed because ye have set your hearts upon them, and have not hearkened unto the words of him who gave them unto you. Ye do not remember the Lord your God in the things with which he hath blessed you, but ye do always remember your riches, not to thank the Lord your God for them; yea, your hearts are not drawn out unto the Lord, but they do swell with great pride, unto boasting, and unto great swelling, envyings, strifes, malice, persecutions and murders, and all manner of iniquities. For this cause hath the Lord God caused that a curse should come upon the land, and also upon your riches, and this because of your iniquities. (Helaman 13:17-23)

           Yea, behold, the anger of the Lord is already kindled against you; behold, he hath cursed the land because of your iniquity. And behold, the time cometh that he curseth your riches, that they become slippery, that ye cannot hold them; and in the days of your poverty ye cannot retain them. And in the days of your poverty ye shall cry unto the Lord; and in vain shall ye cry, for your desolation is already come upon you, and your destruction is made sure; and then shall ye weep and howl in that day, saith the Lord of Hosts. And then shall ye lament, and say: O that I had repented, and had not killed the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out. Yea, in that day ye shall say: O that we had remembered the Lord our God in the day that he gave us our riches, and then they would not have become slippery that we should lose them; for behold, our riches are gone from us. Behold, lay a tool here and on the morrow it is gone; and behold, our swords are taken from us in the day we have sought them for battle. Yea, we have hid up our treasures and they have slipped away from us, because of the curse of the land. O that we had repented in the day that the word of the Lord came unto us; for behold the land is cursed, and all things are become slippery, and we cannot hold them. Behold, we are surrounded by demons, yea, we are encircled about by the angels of him who hath sought to destroy our souls. Behold, our iniquities are great. O Lord, canst thou not turn away thine anger from us? And this shall be your language in those days. But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head. (Helaman 13:30-38)


     Now, in order to more fully bring this message home to the reader, I will give a more appropriate punctuation for Mormon 1:19 as follows:

     19a. "And it came to pass that there were sorceries, and witchcrafts, and magics."


     The reader should note that verse 19a is a continuation of verses 17-18, which talk about a curse on the land and about slippery treasures. Mormon now summarizes the two messages which he has previously stated--(1) verses 11-17; and (2) verses 17-19a:

     19b. : "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 of Samuel the Lamanite."


     Thus, in Mormon's reference to the fulfillment of these prophecies, we find another superb illustration of Mormon's inspired writing (and another reason to doubt that Joseph Smith could have written the Book of Mormon by himself). In a most convincing way, Mormon brings together specific prophecies about the destructions which occurred among his people, and the reasons behind those destructions. Mormon also gives to the reader in the last days a most convincing warning of what will happen if history chooses to repeat itself. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]