Brant Gardner

Textual: These two verses tell us that Mormon’s conceptual use of “book” was similar to our own in that it could refer both to the book that is his source and the book that he is writing. When he writes that we will see more of Gadianton at the end of the book, he clarifies that he means the end of the book that he is writing, not his source book from Helaman.

We also have reinforced the information that Mormon structured his account prior to committing it to the plates. Mormon is making reference to text that he has not yet written as though it were written. This suggests that perhaps it has been written in some form on a more perishable material, and that it is being committed to the plates.

This ends a chapter in the 1830 edition.

Redaction: We can describe the conditions that surround some of Mormon’s decisions to make chapter breaks (see the analysis: Mormon and Moroni’s Gross Structural Editing of the Book of Mormon; Chapters and Books in the commentary on Mosiah). They are most obvious when there is a change in the speaker, or when there is a shift from cited material. In this case, we have a puzzling chapter break that may actually tell us more about Mormon’s intent that it might appear.

Without worrying about the chapter break for the moment, let’s examine the general narrative structure of this section of Mormon’s text, covering our chapters 1-6:

Including Mormon’s chapter breaks there is an interesting pattern. The end of Mormon’s first chapter comes with the introduction of Kishkumen/Gadianton. The end of the second chapter is the last item noted in our list, the overthrow of government by the Gadiantons. This gives us a potentially important parallel between the first and second chapters, where they both have contentions resulting in an episode with the Gadiantons. Is there anything else about the intervening information that is important?

The most anomalous information in Mormon’s second chapter is the narrative excursion north. It might be explained by simply noting that they went north. However, Mormon is writing a planned story on a difficult medium, and he does not elaborate details without a reason. So much of his “history” is so brief that any elaboration should scream at us that Mormon intends something important by the elaboration. We can get an idea of the anomalous nature of this northward excursion by comparing it to Mormon’s treatment of the journeys of Hagoth. That entire story, including two sailings and the departure of other peoples to the land northward covers only five verses (Alma 63:4-9). The northward journey in Helaman covers ten verses. The Hagoth section simply tells that the people went north, but they never heard from them, so they know nothing of them (Alma 63: 8). This story of a northward migration spends a great deal of time speaking details of the land northward.

As will be discussed in the commentary on the next chapter, Mormon describes this land northward with details that are more appropriate to his own time than to the precise events of the time period of his source. What happens structurally is a reference to the Gadiantons that looks forward to Mormon’s time. Then there is a discussion of details of the land northward, and finally a return to a parallel story of contention and the Gadianton’s. The thread would seem to tell us that there is a connection between this land northward and the surrounding text, and that connection would be the Gadiantons.

When Mormon ends the first chapter he has introduced the Gadianton robbers. He specifically mentions that these Gadiantons will become very important “at the end of the book.” With these phrases Mormon’s authorial attention is turned toward his own time. When he begins the next section he is still looking forward to his own day, but with the purpose of explaining the connection between these historical Gadiantons and those of his own time. As we will examine, Mormon ties this appearance of the Gadiantons with those of his own day, and will do so by positing a connection through this group who moved north. In order to make the connection, he must describe that land northward in such a way as to be easily understood, so that when we see the Gadiantons later we will know that they are associated both with that land and with these people who provide the tie between the apostate Nephites and the Gadiantons of that later time.

Because Mormon’s temporary focus is on his own day, he can more easily step out of the historical role and into his present-time moralizing on events. When Mormon returns his attention to the historical events, he begins again with the parallel theme of the first chapter – the cycle of contention and peace among the Nephites that escalating into an incident with the Gadiantons, a concept that is the result of the escalation of contentions in both chapters.

Mormon’s narrative structure tells us that his overarching purpose in these two original chapters (Mormon’s chapter one is our Helaman 1-2, Mormon’s second chapter is our Helaman 3-6) is to set up the idea that contentions lead to the Gadiantons, and the Gadiantons lead to ultimate destruction for at least some aspect of Nephite government. Of course this precisely parallels the events of Mormon’s own day, where the escalating contentions lead to the influence and presence of the Gadiantons, and that leads to the eventual total destruction of the Nephites. Mormon is intentionally telling us to look for the parallels between the events of his day and the events of the years just before the arrival of the Savior in the New World.

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon