“O Ye Fair Ones how Could Ye Have Departed from the Ways of the Lord”

George Reynolds, Janne M. Sjodahl

When the forces of the Nephites, plus their women and children, saw the Lamanites approaching, they were filled with terror, a sort of intense or violent dread, that filled their hearts. The wicked fear and tremble when brought face to face with death. The awful fear of which Mormon writes, is the opposite of the fear of God, which means that reverence for Hint that leads to obedience because of one's realization of His power, as well as of His love toward man. The Psalmist wrote of evil men and their works; his words may apply not only to the Lamanites, but also to the Nephites: "...They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The Lord looked down from Heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up My people as they eat bread, and call not upon the Lord. There were they in great fear; for God is in the generation of the righteous " (Psalm 14:1-5) A better description of both peoples cannot be had than this.

Despair and anguish took possession of the hearts of the Nephites because the numbers of the Lamanites were so great.

The Jews, when apostate nations and men defiled their Altars of God, it is said that one of their number, Judah Maccabaeus led the loyal and dutiful members of his faith to a grand and glorious victory. However, there were many righteous among them, but their numbers were small. When they saw the greatness of the numbers of their enemies, they said, "How can we be able, being a small company, to fight against so great and strong a multitude?" Judah answered: "With the God of Heaven it is all one to save by many or by few. And all the people shall know that there is One Who redeemeth and saveth Israel." Would to God there had been some righteous ones among the Nephites. Their history might have been different; their end less horrible.

With terrifying yells, we imagine, the Lamanites pounced upon the waiting Nephites with every weapon of which they knew. Soon the whole battlefield was covered with the dead and wounded, and it was not long until the ten thousand soldiers commanded by Mormon who led the Nephites into the fray were "hewn down." Presently other thousands followed in death. Thousands upon thousands of Nephites were hewn down, and at length the battle-weary Lamanites left the field, their gory work accomplished and their hatred gratified.

Of the many thousands of Nephites who only a short time before had prepared for the ensuing battle which they hoped to win, only twenty-four,-who included Mormon and his son, Moroni-were spared from Lamanitish fury, and on the morrow, from the top of the Hill Cumorah, beheld the work of the Lamanites. Although Mormon was wounded in the combat and left by the enemy as dead, he survived, but was later killed by the marauding Lamanites who sought every Nephite to slay, even those who had escaped into the country south.

We may conceive the anguish with which Mormon said his "soul was rent," as he viewed the remains of "what might have been," and pondered in his heart that his people who were now gone and their dead bodies left on the field to molder, and crumble, and to return to their mother earth, might have still lived if only they had been faithful and firm in keeping the commandments of God as did their fathers in former generations.

In bitter distress, he cried: "O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, Who stood with open arms to receive you!" But now it was vain to ask them, Why? They had procrastinated too long the day of their repentance, and the vengeance of a just God had been visited upon them even to their utter destruction.

In the Nephites' destruction we are reminded of the words of the Prophet Isaiah concerning the Jews of his day. They are akin in thought to the words of Mormon. Isaiah said: "Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore is the anger of the Lord kindled against His people, and He hath stretched forth His hand against them, and hath smitten them. (Isaiah 5:24-25)

Mormon continued his prayerful cries, not so much to his fallen brethren, for they were dead, but more to us, the living, unto us to whom his words have come." Your mortal," he says, "must put on immortality, and your bodies which are now moldering in corruption must soon become incorruptible bodies." And then when your bodies have rid themselves of all earthly impurities, and are no longer subject to decay, "You must stand before the Judgment-Seat of Christ to be judged according to your works; and if it so be that ye are righteous, then are ye blessed with your fathers who have gone before you." (v. 21)

But again his sorrowful heart returns to thoughts of his brethren. Again their pitiable state calls forth another prayer from him, and again despair and anguish rend his soul. Again Mormon cries: "O that ye had repented before this great destruction had come upon you. But, ye are gone, and the Father of Heaven, knoweth your state; and He doeth with you according to His justice and mercy." (v. 22)

Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 7