Letters and Epistles

Mormon Abridging the Plates.jpg

Question: Why would Mormon, in an abridged account of Nephite history, include letters and epistles in their entirety?

Answer: It is interesting to see that the letters (epistles) Mormon decided to put into his record, reveal the character and personality of the writer in a way that an abridged account of the correspondence could not. Consider how much more the character of Captain Moroni, Ammoron, Helaman, and Pahoran are brought out in their epistles that couldn’t be brought out in an abridged account.

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Captain Moroni (leader of the Nephites) to Ammoron (leader of the Lamanites):

“Behold, I am in my anger, and also my people; ye have sought to murder us, and we have only sought to defend ourselves...” (Alma 54:13).

Ammoron to Captain Moroni:

“I am Ammoron, and a descendant of Zoram, whom your fathers pressed and brought out of Jerusalem. And behold now, I am a bold Lamanite; behold this war hath been waged to avenge their wrongs, and to maintain and to obtain their rights to the government...” (Alma 54:23-24).

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Helaman’s epistle to Captain Moroni comprises three chapters–Alma 56-58. In his epistle Helaman recounts the state of the war with the Lamanites. He tells Moroni about how the two thousand “strippling sons” fought with miraculous power and that none of them were slain.

“And the sons of the people of Ammon, of whom I have so highly spoken, are with me in the city of Manti; and the Lord has supported them, yea, and kept them from falling by the sword, insomuch that even one soul has not been slain.

“But behold, they have received many wounds; nevertheless they stand fast in that liberty wherewith God has made them free; and they are strict to remember the Lord their God from day to day, yea, they do observe to keep his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments continually...” (Alma 58:39-40).

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Moroni complains to Pahoran of the government’s neglect of the armies:

“Behold, I direct mine epistle to Pahoran, in the city of Zarahemla, who is the chief judge and the governor over the land, and also to all those who have been chosen by this people to govern and manage the affairs of this war.

“For behold, I have somewhat to say unto them by the way of condemnation; for behold, ye yourselves know that ye have been appointed to gather together men, and arm them with...all manner of weapons of war of every kind, and send forth against the Lamanites, in whatsoever parts they should come into our land...And now behold, we desire to know the cause of this exceedingly great neglect; yea, we desire to know the cause of your thoughtless state (Alma 60: 1-6).

Pahoran’s response:

“I, Pahoran, who am the chief governor of this land, do send these words unto Moroni, the chief captain over the army. Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul...And now Moroni, I do joy in receiving your epistle, for I was somewhat worried concerning what we should do...And now I close mine epistle to my beloved brother, Moroni” (Alma 61: 1, 21).

Source: 400 Questions and Answers About the Book of Mormon by Susan Easton Black, p. 167; Book of Mormon.