Moroni 8

 

A Confirming Covenant Witness

      Mormon 8 -- Moroni


 

Moroni 8:1 An Epistle of My Father Mormon, Written to Me, Moroni . . . Soon After My Calling to the Ministry:

 

     Jerry Ainsworth notes that the writings of Mormon and Moroni about events of their day caused him to focus on several statements they made, which, on the surface, seem to contradict one another. One of these contradictions involves Moroni's call to the ministry. In his own book, Moroni shares a letter from his father that commences with "an epistle of my father Mormon, written to me, Moroni . . . soon after my calling to the ministry" (Moroni 8:1). Let us review the conditions that might have preceded this call:

           (1) Mormon comments in his abridgment of Nephite history that by A.D. 300, both the Nephites and the Lamanites had become exceedingly wicked, the one just like the other. This was just 10 years before his birth. (4 Nephi 1:45)

           (2) Mormon notes that at the age of fifteen, after being "visited of the Lord," "I did endeavor to preach unto this people, but my mouth was shut, and I was forbidden that I should preach unto them . . . But I did remain among them, but I was forbidden to preach unto them, because of the hardness of their hearts" (Mormon 1:15-17)

           (3) Thirty five years later, Mormon notes that the Lord relented and told him to "cry unto this people--Repent ye, and come unto me . . . and ye shall be spared" (Mormon 3:2) However, this attempt also failed (see Mormon 3:3).

           (4) As a final statement before the battles in which the Nephite nation would be destroyed, Mormon states: "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 4:12)

 

     Ainsworth notes that if Mormon was forbidden to preach to the Nephites and Lamanites because of their wickedness, we must assume that the same prohibition existed for his son. Yet, here is a letter in which Mormon commends Moroni on his call to the ministry. Doesn't that make one wonder to whom Moroni was called to minister? Mormon's letter also implies that Mormon was apprised of Moroni's calling after the fact. Yet, Mormon, for all practical purposes, was "head of the church." How could he not have known of his son's calling to the ministry from the first? Moreover, who would have possessed the authority to call him? If Mormon and Moroni were the only righteous Nephites remaining, then who called Moroni to the ministry and for what purpose?

     In addition to these apparent anomalies, Mormon's letter to Moroni indicates that Moroni had encountered disagreement over the age of children who qualified for baptism. Despite the fact that there was apparently a Church with "peaceable followers of Christ" that had "obtained a sufficient hope by which [they could] enter into the rest of the Lord" (see Moroni 7:3), apparently nobody but Mormon understood even basic doctrine concerning baptism. [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, pp. 34-35]

Moroni 8-9 The Epistles of Mormon to His Son Moroni (Chronology):

 

     Although chapters 8 and 9 of the Book of Moroni (Mormon's epistles to Moroni) were placed with Mormon & Moroni's abridgment by Moroni sometime between the years 401 A.S. and 421 A.S., these chapters were not written at that time. The insertion into the text of these epistles was done for doctrinal reasons; however, mixed in with the doctrinal message are certain facts and phrases which deal with their historical-chronological setting. By analyzing the specific chronological clues contained within Mormon's epistles, and comparing them with his abridged record of the final years of the Nephite nation, we can create a set of chronological time frames which then can be matched to construct a reasonable historical setting.

Concerning the epistle of chapter 8:

     1. The epistle of chapter 8 was written "soon after" Moroni was called to the ministry (Moroni 8:1).

     2. There was an apparent time lapse and distance gap since Mormon & Moroni had been together such that disputations had arisen (Moroni 8:4-5).

     3. Apparently, Mormon had devoted enough time apart from his military calling to achieve leadership status of the church and Moroni was old enough to labor in the church (Moroni 8:6-7).

     4. In chapter 8, Mormon says "I will write unto you again if I go not out soon against the Lamanites." If this refers to the epistle in chapter 9, then chapter 9 is apparently linked to the same general time period as chapter 8 (Moroni 8:27).

Concerning the time of the "second epistle" of chapter 9:

     5. Mormon was personally involved in battles (Moroni 9:2).

     6. The battle mentioned by Mormon was specifically termed a "sore battle" (Moroni 9:2).

     7. The battles were ones in which the Nephites "did not conquer" (Moroni 9:2).

     8. The Lamanites at this time "have many prisoners" (Moroni 9:7).

     9. The prisoners are slain and treated inhumanely (Moroni 9:8).

     10. The Nephites are making inhumane sacrifices of their own (Moroni 9:9-10).

     11. Aaron is in charge of a Lamanite army (Moroni 9:17).

     12. Mormon "cannot any longer enforce [his] commands" (Moroni 9:18).

     13. Mormon has "sacred records that [he] would deliver up unto [Moroni]" (Moroni 9:24).

 

     By highlighting and charting the time periods relative to each analyzed chronological clue located within the epistles of Mormon to his son Moroni (see charts), it is the writer's opinion that chapters 8 & 9 in the Book of Moroni (Mormon's epistles) were written sometime within the year between 375 A.S. and 376 A.S. This chronological setting meets not just a majority of the textual clues, but it satisfies all thirteen time frames established for the clues. It is fascinating to realize that from limited references within the complex chronological story contained in the Book of Mormon, a consistent historical scenario can be mapped out. [Alan C. Miner, "A Chronological Setting for the Epistles of Mormon to Moroni," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 3/2 (Fall 1994), pp. 94-113]

 

Moroni 8-9 Epistles of Mormon to his son Moroni (Illustration): A Chronological Setting for the Epistles of Mormon to Moroni (Charting the Time Frames of Textual Clues) [Alan C. Miner, "A Chronological Setting for the Epistles of Mormon to Moroni," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 3/2 (Fall 1994), p. 113]

 

Geographical Theory Map: Moroni 8-9 Mormon Writes to His Son Moroni (375 A.S.--376 A.S.)

Moroni 8:5 There Have Been Disputations among You concerning the Baptism of Your Little Children:

 

     The washing of little children was a false doctrine instituted in the days of Abraham and refuted by the Lord in a revelation (JST Genesis 17:3-6.) The Lord on this same occasion made the covenant with Abraham that every male child should be circumcised when eight days old. (Genesis 17:9-12) The circumcision being performed at eight days was symbolic of the child becoming accountable at eight years. (JST Genesis 17:11-12; see also D&C 68:25-27.) [Monte S. Nyman, "Hope, Faith and Charity," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 2, p. 302]

Moroni 8:9 It Is Solemn Mockery before God That Ye Should Baptize Little Children:

 

     One might wonder, Why did Mormon have to write on infant baptism? And why did Moroni choose to include these writings in the abridgment? Critics of the Book of Mormon have generally focused forward in time and linked Mormon's epistle on infant baptism with the practices of infant baptism associated with the Catholic Church. They have also credited the inclusion of a discussion on infant baptism to be a spinoff from the religious debate associated with Joseph Smith's boyhood environment.

     However, according to Thomas Cherrington, the inclusion of material on infant baptism could have had something to do with Jaredite tradition--a tradition that led to their confusion on the role of Christ, and ultimately became a sign of their rejection and destruction.

     We find the following in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible:

           And it came to pass, that Abram fell on his face, and called upon the name of the Lord.

           And God talked with him, saying, My people have gone astray from my precepts, and have not kept mine ordinances, which I gave unto their fathers;

           And they have not observed mine anointing, and the burial, or baptism wherewith I commanded them;

           But have turned from the commandment, and taken unto themselves the washing of children, and the blood of sprinkling;

           And have said that the blood of the righteous Abel was shed for sins; and have not known wherein they are accountable before me. (JST Genesis 17:3-7)

 

     In other words, the descendants of Shem at the time of Abraham (and perhaps the people at the time of the brother of Jared would be included here) had lost sight of the significance of baptism and the role of the Savior. Not only were they sprinkling infants at baptism, but the symbolism of the baptism was directed to Abel (or the blood of Abel). If such practices or traditions had been passed down through the Jaredite generations, this might explain Moroni's choice to include this bit of Nephite history along with his inclusion of the Jaredite record. If such was the case, this might explain the basis of universal salvation in the Jaredite-Mulekite Nehor doctrine. The Nehors believed that "all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life" (Alma 1:4). Perhaps the Nehors believed the Lord had "redeemed all men" because Abel's blood had balanced the scales for man after Adam's "mistake."

     Thus, in his choice to insert the material on infant baptism, perhaps Moroni was primarily focusing backward in time (rather than forward), and giving the reader just one more parallel on a pathway to destruction shared by two great covenant nations--the Nephites and the Jaredites. [Thomas Cherrington, Personal Communication]

Moroni 8:11 Little Children Need No . . . Baptism:

 

     Moroni quotes an epistle from Mormon which speaks out strongly against infant baptism in the 4th Century A.D (see Moroni 8:4-26). Among other things Mormon says:

           And little children need no repentance, neither baptism. . . . And he that saith that little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption. . . . And after rejecting so great a knowledge, my son, they [the Nephites] must perish soon . . . (Moroni 8:11, 20, 29)

 

     Apparently, despite Mormon's preaching, the practice of infant baptism continued until the arrival of the Spaniards. Bernardino de Sahagun described the Aztec baptism of infants. H.H. Bancroft wrote of it as follows:

           Then the midwife dipped the child into water and said: "Enter, my son, into the water . . . let it wash thee; let him cleanse thee . . . let him see good to put away from thee all the evil that thou has carried with thee from before the beginning of the world. (Native Races, Vol. 3, p. 370)

[Roy E. Weldon and F. Edward Butterworth, Book of Mormon Claims and Evidences, Vol. 2, p. 94]

 

Moroni 8:11 Little Children Need No . . . Baptism:

 

     According to Donald Hemingway, Sahagun refers to the above ceremony as "holy [ritual." (Sahagun, Book 6, p. 204) At another time he spoke of those who were "bathed . . . to lay aside their crimes." (Sahagun, Book 4, p. 91)

     This detailed description of bathing and symbolic washing has been commented on by Prescott.

     "They [the Spaniards] witnessed another ceremony, that of the Aztec baptism; in which, after a solemn invocation, the head and lips of the infant were touched with water, and a name was given to it. While the goddess Cioacoatl, who presided over childbirth, was implored, . . . that the sin, which was given to us before the beginning of the world, might not visit the child, but that, cleansed by these waters, it might live and be born anew!" (Prescott, Mexico, p. 696)152 [Donald W. Hemingway, Christianity in America Before Columbus?, p. 55]

Moroni 8:11 (Chiasm):

 

     A good example of chiastic inverse parallelism is found in Moroni 8:11:

Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift.

A. For behold, a bitter fountain

    B. cannot bring forth good water;

    B. neither can a good fountain

A. bring forth bitter water;

 

A. wherefore, a man being a servant of the devil

    B. cannot follow Christ;

    B. and if he follow Christ

A. he cannot be a servant of the devil.

[Donald W. Parry, The Book of Mormon Text Reformatted according to Parallelistic Patterns, p. 482]

Moroni 8:25-26 (Climax):

 

     A good example of staircase parallelism ("climax") is found in Moroni 8:25-26:

And the first fruits of repentance is

baptism; and

baptism cometh by faith unto the

fulfilling the commandments; and the

fulfilling the commandments bringeth

remission of sins; And the

remission of sins bringeth

meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of

meekness, and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the

Holy Ghost, which

Comforter filleth with hope and perfect

love, which

love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.

[Donald W. Parry, The Book of Mormon Text Reformatted according to Parallelistic Patterns, p. 486]

     Note* More examples of climactic parallelism are found in 2 Nephi 2:25; Alma 42:22-23; and Mormon 9:12-13. (See Parry, Ensign, October 19898, p. 61).

Moroni 8:25-26 First Fruits. . . [1], [2], [3], . . . Love (Climactic Forms):

 

     Climactic Hebrew poetry takes the form of staircase parallelism, demonstrating to the reader a gradual ascent through the recurrence of several identical words. This duplication of words creates a continuation of thought from one sentence to the next, which adds power through repetition to the discourse, while at the same time connecting the lines into an inseparable body. Like the Bible, the Book of Mormon contains a varied and beautiful selection of climactic forms. One good example is found in Moroni 8:25-26:

     And the first fruits of repentance is [1] baptism;

     and [1] baptism cometh by faith unto [2] the fulfilling the commandments;

     and [2] the fulfilling the commandments bringeth [3] remission of sins;

     and [3] the remission of sins bringeth [4] meekness, and lowliness of heart;

     and [4] because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh [5] the visitation of the Holy Ghost,

     which [5] Comforter filleth with [6] hope and perfect love,

     which [6] love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until [7] the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.

 

     Other examples of climactic poetry are found in 1 Nephi 15:13-20, 33-35; 2 Nephi 1:13; Mosiah 2:17-19; Alma 42:17-20; Helaman 5:6-8; Ether 3:15-16; Mormon 9:11-13. [Donald W. Parry, "Climactic Forms in the Book of Mormon," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, pp. 290-292]