Note: I am posting this idea because it intrigues me, not because it is necessarily true.
The (4th) Book of Nephi
The Book of Nephi (Fourth Nephi) records what happened after Christ established His church with 12 ordained disciples. By the 35th year, the missionary work of these 12 had established a church in every part of the land. In the 36th year, they had succeeded in converting every single Nephite and Lamanite soul to Christ in the land, baptizing them into the church.
After the 194th year passed, Mormon informs us that a small part of the people left the church and started calling themselves Lamanites. By this time, Amos—who was the son of Amos, who was the son of Nephi, who was the son of Nephi (one of the three translated disciples of Christ)—was the one keeping the record.
Mormon next tells us that in the 201st year pride entered society and they started forming for-profit churches and different class structures, and denying the true church of Christ. After the 210th year, he tells us there were many churches in the land, both ones that claimed to be of Christ and yet denied most of His gospel, and also ones that persecuted the true church of Christ and the 12 disciples. This persecution of the saints lasted until the end of the 230th year.
In the 231st year the people split into Nephites, who were the true believers in Christ, and Lamanites, who rejected the gospel of Christ.
After the 244th year, Mormon tells us that the wicked Lamanites were a whole lot more numerous than the righteous Nephites. Lamanite wickedness continued to increase until 260 years had passed.
In the 261st year, the Lamanites began to employ the plans of Gadianton and pride enters into Nephite society. From this point on, the 12 disciples began sorrowing for the sins of the world.
After the 300th year, everyone everywhere had become exceedingly wicked except for the 12 disciples.
In the 306th year, Amos died and his brother, Ammaron, began keeping the record. (It can be inferred from this that both Ammaron and Amos were two of the 12 disciples.)
In the 321st year, Ammaron hid up all the sacred records, finishing The Book of Nephi (Fourth Nephi).
The Book of Mormon and Mormon’s conversion
After hiding up all the records, Ammaron went to Mormon, a ten-year old child, and gave him instructions, according to the spirit of prophecy which was in Ammaron, to perform 14 years later, when he was 24 years old, relative to the large plates of Nephi.
One year later, when Mormon was 11 years old, the Lord removed the remaining disciples and all miracles ceased in the land, with the Holy Ghost no longer coming upon any.
Four years later, though, when Mormon was 15 years old, which was about the 326th year, he had a baptism of fire and became converted to the Lord.
Mormon was alone during an absolute apostasy
The four year interval, between 11-year old Mormon and 15-year old Mormon, represents a total apostasy among the Nephite and Lamanite people. When Mormon became converted to the Lord at 15, he represented the entire living church in that society. It is reasonable to assume that when he was visited by the Lord during his conversion, that the ordinances of the gospel were also administered to him. Thus, Mormon represented a restoration of the gospel and the church of Christ, or a new dispensation, he becoming a restoration prophet or seer.
After his conversion, the first thing Mormon desired to do was spread the good news and preach to the people, but he was forbidden by the Lord from doing so. Mormon’s conversion happened in or around the 326th year.
False hope of repentance
In the 331st year, the Nephites began to repent somewhat, and 20-year old Mormon began to have hope for them, but by the 345th year, the now 34-year old began to sorrow again for them, seeing that they didn’t come to Christ and “that the day of grace was passed with them, both temporally and spiritually”. During this 14-year period, in which there was some measure of repentance, Mormon may have taken a wife.
Mormon’s decade-long ministry
In the 350th year, Mormon was 39 years old and likely already married with children. If Moroni was his first born child, born when Mormon was a married 20-year old, he would have been 19 years old by this time. In this 350th year, the Nephites were given a ten-year window in which to repent, build up again the church of Christ and be spared. Accordingly, Mormon’s mouth was opened and he was given permission by the Lord to preach at last to the people.
Why did the Lord wait five years after Mormon’s accurate assessment of the people that “the day of grace was passed with them” before sending him to preach to them? If grace has passed, no amount of preaching will do anything for a damned people, right? It would be like preaching to the spiritually dead souls in hell, totally useless and futile. One possibility is that it may have been a test of Mormon’s faith, to see if he could do the impossible and spiritually resurrect some of them.
Although Mormon records that his 10-year preaching stint was in vain, it is apparent from the record that he did have a measure of success. Moroni chapter 7 is a sermon he gave to converts, showing that he had succeeded in establishing and building up, once again, the church of Christ in the land, though it was likely exceedingly small. Moroni chapter 8 is an epistle he sent to his son Moroni, soon after Moroni was called to preach to the people. This indicates that he took full advantage of the opportunity to preach, including organizing a missionary force among the converts. Also, from Moroni’s words in Moroni chapter 1, written between A.D. 400 and 421, it is apparent that even at the end of Nephite civilization, there were Nephites who did not deny the Christ.
In A.D. 362, 51-year old Mormon stood as an idle witness, according to the commandments of the Lord, which meant that his preaching had stopped at that point.
Chief captains were possibly Mormon’s converts
In A.D. 385, 74-year old Mormon listed the Nephite chief captains who had fallen in battle (in Mormon chapter 6). These chief captains were possibly church members who had converted during the A.D. 350-360 restoration. Mormon, as leader of all the Nephite armies, would have appointed men who had the spirit of prophecy and revelation as the chief captains, according to the custom of the Nephites. (See 3 Ne. 3:19.)
Converts hunted until all extinct
After the great final battle, only 24 Nephite souls remained, along with some few who escaped to the south, and another unspecified small number who joined the ranks of the Lamanites. (See Mormon 6:15.) Those who fled south were hunted down and killed by the Lamanites. (See Mormon 8:2.) The remaining 24 were also hunted down by the Lamanites. These 24 and those who escaped to the south sound to me like the people who didn’t deny the Christ, mentioned by Moroni in Moroni chapter 1. Everyone was eventually killed by the Lamanites, including Mormon, except for Moroni.
The Lamanite hunt, then, was from A.D. 385 to 401. It appears that they offered up a choice to those they found: deny the Christ, join the Lamanites and live, or confess Christ and be killed.
Mormon was unique among all the prophets
Mormon was born around A.D. 311, eleven years after the church of Christ had ceased to exist. At the time of his birth, there were but 12 or less of the disciples of Christ living among the people. Eleven years later, even these were removed, leaving Mormon and the rest of the people completely alone.
Despite such dire circumstances, living in a society filled to the very brim of iniquities, a veritable sea of exceeding wickedness, Mormon somehow was able to exercise faith unto repentance and get visited by the Lord, creating a restoration of the gospel. Not only was he visited by the Lord, but the translated disciples also visited him. (See Mormon 8:11.)
Nevertheless, his mouth was shut and he was forbidden to preach. But when he finally got permission, he actually did get some measure of success, which was an impossibly miraculous feat. So we know Mormon must have been a man of jaw-dropping faith. Yet, the Lord decided to allow this Nephite branch to wither and die, to further his righteous purposes, and so Mormon was again constrained and bidden to cease to preach, resulting in the eventual extinction of the Nephites.
Why Mormon wrote the Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon, then, may represent God’s compromise with his frustrated seer, Mormon, who had to sit idly by for most of his life and just watch the branch wither and die. It may have been God’s way of allowing Mormon to preach and exercise his faith to the salvation of his people. Mormon could not pray in faith for his doomed people, for God had decreed their destruction, but he could pray in faith for those of the future. The Book of Mormon, then, may have been God’s way of letting Mormon release all that pent up faith he had, that his preaching and faith and prayers would not be in vain.
When a prophet preaches in faith, believing that a people will repent, God must supply the miracle and grant according to his desires. Mormon’s situation was so hopeless, that his faith should have perished as the faith of everyone else did in that environment, but he remained fixed on Christ. Mormon’s life was like being born in hell, and living in hell for the whole duration, and then (astoundingly!) making some converts during one decade in which permission is granted to preach. Mormon’s faith was akin to those missionaries who are currently preaching in hell, who do not allow themselves to be overcome by the darkness and despair of their environment. He was rock solid in every way, but lived a life full of sorrow and woe.
And wo is me because of their wickedness; for my heart has been filled with sorrow because of their wickedness, all my days; nevertheless, I know that I shall be lifted up at the last day. (Mormon 2:19)
Mormon as the pattern of restoration
Some people make such a great impression on the Lord, that He not only chooses them as His representatives, but also co-opts their name. Melchizedek was one such person. The man’s faith was so tremendous that the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God was re-named in his honor, now being known as the Melchizedek priesthood. Aaron and Levi also got priesthoods named after them. We call the language of the Lord, given to Adam, the Adamic language, and so on and so forth.
The saints of God are called by Him saints, but the unbelievers have always called them Christians, after their belief in Christ. But today we’ve got something different. The true believers and church of Christ are now no longer called Christians, nor even saints, but are called Mormons and the Mormon church.
The Lord knew this would happen and surely it must please Him. Mormon is a pattern, or type, of Christ. He represents the very essence of restoration. His entire life was a shadow of the restoration that would take place in the days of wickedness during the latter days. To Mormon, then, goes the honor of having his name used as the new label for all the saints and church of the latter-days. Mormon’s words, in Mormon’s record, would also be used as the tool of salvation for all those of the latter-days who repented and exercised faith.
The Book of Mormon’s place in the future history of the world cannot be stressed enough. It is the tool of salvation that the Lord intends to use to restore His people. Yet, it could have been titled something else. It could have been named after Moroni or Lehi or Nephi or Alma. It could have been named merely, A Nephite Record, without mentioning a specific author. But no, the Lord chose Mormon as the author and his name as the title of the book, knowing full well that the believers of the latter-days would be called this name by the unbelievers. So, we are called Mormon by the design and foreknowledge of the Lord.
Mormon (and apparently his father, whose name was also Mormon) was named after the land of Mormon, which land was named by king Noah. It was in this land of Mormon, and the forest of Mormon, and the place of Mormon, and in the waters of Mormon, that Alma baptized and established the first church of Christ among the Lehites. Alma and his congregation of 450 converted souls essentially became the first Mormons, or people associated with the name Mormon, which name was given by an unbeliever (king Noah). The Gentiles would do the same thing, associating all Gentile converts with the name Mormon, which is why Mormon drew attention to this fact in Mosiah chapter 18. And just as the name Mormon was associated with the establishment of God’s church, signifying restoration after apostasy, so would the work and ministry of the prophet Mormon be all about restoration. Thus Mormonism and Restoration are synonymous terms, for when we speak of Mormonism, we speak of the Restoration, and when we speak of the Restoration, we are referring to Mormonism.
Mormon will convert the world
Mormon was a man whose faith was great enough to convert the entire world. This is why he got to write the Book of Mormon. This is why his book will be used to restore the tribes of Israel, including the Lamanites and the Nephites among them, and convert the Gentiles. This is why his name is used to designate the true believers. In other words, Mormon made a major impression on the Lord, and so, instead of granting him the repentance of his people, the Nephites, and his brethren, the Lamanites, who were living with him at the time, the Lord will grant him the repentance of the remnant of his people, the Nephites, and his brethren, the Lamanites, who will be living in a future time, as well as the repentance of the Gentiles and the other tribes of Israel. The faith of Mormon was intentionally re-directed by the Lord from the people of his time to the people of the future in order that the Lord could show forth the miracle of having a dead prophet speak from the dust and convert the entire world.
Joseph Smith was patterned after Mormon, in that he was alone, like Mormon, in an environment in which the church of Christ had ceased to exist, and was able to commune with God, creating a restoration of the gospel and a re-establishment and re-building of the church. The Lord visited Joseph at age 14 and Mormon at age 15, so their lives have startling parallels. The difference between the two, though, is that Mormon’s environment was orders of magnitude more wicked than Joseph’s. Mormon, then, is the standard that is held up for how to restore the gospel and the church in the midst of great wickedness, which pattern will be repeated during the second restoration act on a much grander scale.
A child prophetic prodigy
Ammaron recognized a savior of men in Mormon, when he saw him at the age of ten. Melchizedek is also noted as having had great faith at a young age. Some prophets start quite young in their prophetic direction, and Mormon appears to have been one of these prophetic, child prodigies. But, again, whereas Melchizedek likely had someone teach him the gospel, or at least had some scriptural records to rely upon, Mormon appears to have been completely alone, with no sacred records of any type. Ammaron came to him only after having hidden all the sacred records. There may have been extant copies among the population, but given the state of wickedness, the possibility exists that such records may have already been systematically destroyed, hence the need for Ammaron to hide up the sacred records, in order to protect them from destruction. Mormon, then, may have had only whatever verbal or written instruction he received from Ammaron in that one, singular visit. Even Joseph surely had more to go on, with the entire Bible as his guide.
We are often quick to note that Mormon remarkably took command of the Nephite armies at only 15 years of age, and we wonder how that could be, but if he was a prophetic prodigy, a kind of prophet’s prophet, he may have made an indelible impression on everyone, including the wicked. Ammaron seems to have been impressed with 10-year old Mormon, and if Ammaron was one of the disciples of Christ, then he would not have been all that easy to impress. So Ammaron may have recognized in Mormon a greater prophet than he himself was.
The Lord may have saved the very best for last, beginning the Nephite civilization with powerhouses in the form of Lehi, Nephi, Jacob and the rest and then finishing it off with the very greatest of the Nephite prophet-seers, Mormon. Even Moroni, who finished the record of his father, did so under direction of Mormon, meaning that he followed the commandments of Mormon in what he ended up writing, assigning all the credit to his father. Mormon, then, appears to be a dispensation head, but which one?
The dispensation of the fulness of times
His ministry seems to be a bridge between the past and the future, almost as if it was his task to gather and restore the church of Christ to earth, which he accomplished and began during that decade of his preaching, and to participate in each subsequent restoration and gathering, through his preaching as recorded in his book. In other words, his dispensation began during his life and would continue throughout time until all of Israel was finally restored and gathered, through his words. The restoration of Israel, then, which is the dispensation of the fulness of times, might be properly said to have begun with Mormon, he being that dispensation’s head, which is why he and his book and his name are held up as an ensign or standard to the nations.
Mormon’s ministry and the converts that he got, during his time, do not seem to have apostatized, but to have been killed, showing that the restoration he undertook was a true restoration, none of them ever falling away again, choosing instead to suffer death. Likewise, the restoration of Israel is prophesied to occur without any more scattering or confounding. Once they are restored, they are firmly planted and will not be uprooted again.
Mormon’s compilation and abridgment of the Nephite records is another pattern after which the dispensation of the fulness of times will be brought to pass. It is prophesied that that dispensation will have all things in heaven and on earth brought together in one, in Christ, including hidden things that never have been known. Mormon’s work is, in essence, the bringing together in one of the Nephite scriptural records, which were hidden to us. His life’s work is an unfolding pattern that will be duplicated on a much larger scale.
Joseph Smith wrote,
Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also; for it is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time. And not only this, but those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent, shall be revealed unto babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times. (D&C 128:18)
Joseph’s work was never completed, not even in our day. It is entirely appropriate to say that the dispensation of the fulness of times is still in the process of being ushered in. When the tribes of Israel are restored to the lands of their inheritance and into the fold of God, then it will have finally been ushered in. I have assumed from the above quotation that the dispensation of the fulness of times began to be ushered in only with Joseph Smith, but that assessment may have been premature. It may have begun to be ushered in with Mormon, but was interrupted by Lamanite aggression.
Joseph’s ministry, then, may have been a continuation of Mormon’s ministry, which is why Moroni was sent to him. However, since there was another interval between Mormon and Joseph, in which the gospel was lost and the church ceased to exist again, Joseph was given yet another dispensation, his being the Gentile dispensation of the last days and the last time.
For unto you, the Twelve, and those, the First Presidency, who are appointed with you to be your counselors and your leaders, is the power of this priesthood given, for the last days and for the last time, in the which is the dispensation of the fulness of times, which power you hold, in connection with all those who have received a dispensation at any time from the beginning of the creation; for verily I say unto you, the keys of the dispensation, which ye have received, have come down from the fathers, and last of all, being sent down from heaven unto you. (D&C 112:30-32)
When John the Baptist was sent to Joseph and Oliver, he stated that he acted under direction of Peter, James and John. Joseph never mentioned if Moroni ever stated he acted under the direction of someone else, but based on what he wrote in the Book of Mormon, he possibly was acting under the direction of his father, Mormon, as he did when he finished the book. Regardless of whether that is true or not, the fact that there’s an unbroken line from Mormon to Moroni to Joseph shows that Mormon’s ministry was not confined to his own time, but dealt with the future, with its main goal being the restoration of Israel.
What all this means
If any of this is true, it means that we can wholeheartedly embrace the terms Mormon, the Mormon church and Mormonism. Although these terms have been assigned to us by non-believers, it may have been done with the approval of God. The Lord likes to have his people distinguished from all others, and Mormon may be the name He has chosen for us, because of the prominent role Mormon has played and will play in the restoration of His people, he being of exceedingly high estimation in God’s sight. If Mormon was as great a prophet as I suspect he was, and is, in fact, the head of the dispensation of the fulness of times, it ought to be an honor for us to be called after his name.