If God came to you and gave you an assignment that would change the world forever, would you accept the challenge? What if it required you to suffer the deaths of everyone you loved and to have thousands of people trying to kill you? What if you were only a teenager when all this happened?
This is what happened to a teenager named Moroni. His instructions came through his father, the prophet Mormon, who started the project, but who was murdered before he could finish it. Knowing he would be killed, he passed along the assignment to his son.
This was his assignment: Since his people had come to the Americas, the prophets had kept records of the history of the people and had recorded God’s instructions and interactions. These records were not given to their own people, however. The prophets were instructed to record only those things which would be of value to people in a time no one could even imagine.
However, over the centuries the records had become too large. Mormon was told by God to condense them, which means to take out anything that wasn’t important or that was repeated too often. The entire record needed to fit onto one set of metal plates, since they didn’t have paper books then.
Mormon’s people were called the Nephites. Their ancestor, Nephi, had been a prophet, receiving his first revelations when he was just a teenager. His older brothers, however, were nasty people and were mad that an angel had told them Nephi would one day rule over them. They were so mad, they regularly beat him, tied him up, and even tried to kill him. Can you imagine being part of that family? Eventually, after the boys grew up and the parents died, they split into two groups. Nephi’s group became known as the Nephites and they were usually, but not always, the people who obeyed God. His brother’s group was called the Lamanites, after the oldest brother, Laman. They were mostly as mean as Laman. In time, both groups became giant civilizations, but they were always at war. Just like their ancestors, the Lamanites wanted to do away with all the Nephites.
God promised the Nephite prophets that if their people did what they were supposed to and obeyed and loved God, He wouldn’t let them be completely destroyed. Unfortunately, by the time Mormon was a prophet, the Nephites had pretty much stopped caring about God. Since they weren’t making good choices, they lost God’s protection and the Lamanites started a terrible war against them. Almost all the Nephites were killed. As the numbers got smaller and smaller, Mormon and Moroni spent a lot of time taking care of the survivors, but eventually Mormon died. Since the record doesn’t mention Moroni’s mother or siblings, we can assume they died earlier in the battles. Moroni mentioned he no longer had any family or friends.
Moroni was only a teenager when all this happened. He had already been a soldier in the wars. He had buried his entire family and seen all his friends die. Now he cared for the remaining survivors until they were also killed.
Moroni couldn’t leave, though. His work still wasn’t done. He went into hiding and took out the records his father had been working on. He finished creating the shortened version and added more information of his own. Try to imagine being hidden away, perhaps in a cave, all alone. You have to sneak out at night to find your food, because everyone who is left alive wants to murder you. Sometimes angels pay you a visit and take care of you in ways you can’t do yourself, but mostly you’re alone, missing your family and friends, wanting to have fun…and not being able to do anything but your work.
What did Moroni think about in those hours? Did he look at the book and wonder why it was so important to go through this terrible trial just for a book? He wrote that he felt like he knew all of us because God had shown our day to him. We became his friends, even though we lived in very different times. His entire reason for living was to give us an extraordinary gift that would change millions of lives.
He wrote that once the record was done, he didn’t know if God would allow him to continue living or not, or where he could go, but that he was so lonely, he didn’t care. What mattered was to finish God’s work. When it was done, he placed it in a box and secretly buried it in a hill in what is now New York State. Then he slipped away. We don’t know where he went during that time, but eventually, he secretly slipped back into the area to discover he was still being hunted, that people still wanted to kill him. He dug the book back up and wrote more of God’s instructions, mentioning that he was surprised he was still alive.
Then he hid the book one last time and went away in the dark of the night. We don’t know what happened to him during the rest of his life or even if he got out of town safely. We do know what happened to him long after he died.
The next article will tell you about that.