In a war of vengeance such as that described in Mormon 4, men lose the Spirit of the Lord in their thirst for bloody retribution. Mormon recorded seeing a “horrible scene of … blood and carnage … ; and every heart was hardened, so that they delighted in the shedding of blood continually” (v. 11). This spirit promoted such wickedness never before found “among all the children of Lehi, nor even among all the house of Israel, according to the words of the Lord” (v. 12).
“Now if a nation essays to go forth against another nation for the purpose of conquest, to gain territory, to grasp something that does not belong to that nation, then the nation thus assailed has the right to resist even to the shedding of blood, as it was in this land in the war for independence. But we have to be careful as to what spirit we are guided by… . We Latter-day Saints must watch ourselves and not give way to passion and desire to shed blood and to destroy, for that is the power of the evil one… .
“… There is a very great difference between arising to go forth for conquest, for blood, for plunder, to gain territory and power in the earth, and in fighting to defend our own possessions in the spirit of justice and righteousness and equity, and standing up like men for those things that we have a right to contend for”
(Charles W. Penrose, in Conference Report, Apr. 1917, pp. 21–22).
Mormon explained how the wicked are punished—the Lord merely withdraws and leaves the people to themselves, and the wicked punish one another (see Mormon 2:26, 4:5). Compare this with the prophetic comments in 1 Nephi 2:23 and Leviticus 26:25.