War and Peace in the Book of Mormon
Much of the Book of Mormon is taken up with descriptions of wars between the Nephites and the Lamanites (Alma 2-3, 16, 43-62; Mormon 2-6; Moroni 9), while only two pages (4 Nephi 1:1-23) describe the 200 years of peace following the visit of Christ. Shouldn’t more space have been devoted to the era of peace than to the wars?
Mormon, who wrote the Book of Mormon as an abridgment of the records of the Nephites, was not only a prophet, but also a military leader during the final days of conflict between the Nephites and Lamanites. Most of his life was taken up with warfare, so it is a subject he knew well and hence spent much time describing. By the time he got to the era of peace following the Savior’s visit, he was probably pressed for time because the Lamanites were on the brink of destroying his people. Consequently, the time period covered by 4 Nephi received far less attention.
Indeed, Mormon seems to have originally intended to end his account with the Savior’s visit to the Nephites, with 3 Nephi 29-30 being the conclusion to his work. Finding himself still alive after completing that work, he quickly moved on to describe what happened after that marvelous visit, down to the time the Nephites were destroyed as a people, covering nearly 400 years in the books of 4 Nephi and Mormon. His son Moroni, escaping the Lamanites, was able to include other materials found in the last two chapters of Mormon, in Ether, and in the book bearing his own name. Significantly, the book of Moroni discusses doctrinal issues and testifies of Christ.
But we should look at Mormon’s other contributions in his abridgment. He devoted much space to sermons that emphasized the plan of salvation and the anticipated atonement that would be wrought by Jesus Christ. His report on King Benjamin’s message about the Savior takes up Mosiah 1-6, and he described events associated with the missions of the sons of Mosiah and of their friend Alma2, which resulted in the conversions of many thousands of people. He included a number of sermons delivered by people such as Alma2, Amulek, Samuel the Lamanite, Nephi2, and others. Even when describing the Nephite wars, he included stories of faith in God and loyalty to one’s religion, family, and people. Most important of all, Mormon devoted 3 Nephi 8-28 to the resurrected Christ’s visit to the New World.