Tuesday, March 20, 2018

One of Mormon’s observations on the Nephite records

In the middle of telling us what the Nephites did to deal with the Gadianton robbers and telling about the passage of time, we get this bit from Mormon about the Nephite records and history:

8 And there had many things transpired which, in the eyes of some, would be great and marvelous; nevertheless, they cannot all be written in this book; yea, this book cannot contain even a hundredth part of what was done among so many people in the space of twenty and five years;
9 But behold there are records which do contain all the proceedings of this people; and a shorter but true account was given by Nephi.
10 Therefore I have made my record of these things according to the record of Nephi, which was engraven on the plates which were called the plates of Nephi. (3 Nephi 5:8-10)

I find it interesting that among all the records Mormon notes a “shorted but true” account given by Nephi. That makes me think there were records of the same events that had been romanticized and distorted and twisted and elaborated upon. Mormon probably compared the different accounts and trusted Nephi’s account because of his righteousness. Prophets tend to see historical events through the perspective of “how is this increasing or decreasing society’s ability to repent, make good choices, and come closer to Christ?”

It is interesting to see that Mormon comments that some would find things that transpired and were recorded to be “great and marvelous,” but he doesn’t go into detail about who exactly that would be. Would righteous people find those things great and marvelous, but there just wasn’t the room on the plates for them? Or would the world find those things great and marvelous, but they weren’t worth noting because Mormon had to stick to the spiritual things?

Either way, I suppose these verses tell us why Mormon sticks to condensing using the plates of Nephi instead of the plethora of other records available. It is always fascinating to see what he interjects about the records he’s working with throughout the text. It is as though he feels someone (or a group of someones) looking over his shoulder who wonder why he makes the choices he does, and he feels he has to explain his methodology or why the alternatives aren’t attractive.

I can’t help but be grateful for the hard work he did. When I try to imagine what it would be like to condense a library of history books down into one book, especially while on the run from one’s enemies, I’m pretty awed.  But then, someday I will have to condense the events of my journals down into a condensed history of my life, so perhaps I should be more alert and thinking about how he does what he does.