Now we get to Mormon’s account of “the things which I have both seen and heard.” Ammaron, who has hidden up the plates, comes to Mormon when he is but 10 years old and says “I perceive that thou art a sober child, and art quick to observe.” (2)
Sober can mean grave or serious, solemn, earnest (not light or frivolous), concerned about what really matters. This tells you a lot about this ten year old boy. Being quick to observe means seeing clearly and heeding God’s commands. Being sober and quick to observe lead to having the gift of discernment.
Being quick to observe revealed that the boy Mormon cared about what really mattered and looked for lessons from everything he witnessed. That’s why he often inserts himself into this abridged history, pointing out things to us that he observed—“And thus we may learn that” or “And thus we see…”
How can we do better at observing and discerning?
As you study and learn and grow, I hope you also are learning about and becoming quick to observe. Your future success and happiness will in large measure be determined by this spiritual capacity.”David A. Bednar, Quick to Observe, Ensign, Dec 2006, 30-36
Why would being quick to observe be vital to our future success and happiness?
Let me now address the question of why the spiritual gift of being quick to observe is so vital for us in the world in which we do now and will yet live. Simply stated, being quick to observe is an antecedent to and is linked with the spiritual gift of discernment. And for you and for me, discernment is a light of protection and direction in a world that grows increasingly dark….
We can hope to obtain that supernal gift of discernment and its light of protection and direction only if we are quick to observe—if we both look and obey.”David A. Bednar, Quick to Observe, Ensign, Dec 2006, 30-36
The spiritual gift of discernment can bring heavenly power into our lives to help us stay firm on Christ’s foundation and build His kingdom.
Now, the gift of discerning of spirits not only gives men and women who have it the power to discern the spirit with which others may be possessed or influenced, but it gives them the power to discern the spirit which influences themselves. They are able to detect a false spirit and also to know when the Spirit of God reigns within them. In private life this gift is of great importance to the Latter-day Saints. Possessing and exercising this gift they will not allow any evil influence to enter into their hearts or to prompt them in their thoughts, their words, or their acts. They will repel it; and if perchance such a spirit should get possession of them, as soon as they witness its effects they will expel it or, in other words, refuse to be led or prompted by it.”(Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of George Q. Cannon, comp. Jerreld L. Newquist (1987), 156-57)
I can attest to how sneaky Satan is, even when I’m guarding against his attacks. He’s subtle and devious, trying to poison us by degrees with pride, anger, hurt, offense, and other negativity. When I pray to be quick to observe and have the Holy Ghost to help me be more discerning, I’m enabled to see his tactics for what they are. I’m able to see what I need to repent of, and am able to chase Satan away.
The gift of discernment is vital to not being led astray in today’s crazy world.
First, I mention the gift of discernment, embodying the power to discriminate…between right and wrong. I believe that this gift when highly developed arises largely out of an acute sensitivity to impressions—spiritual impressions, if you will—to read under the surface as it were, to detect hidden evil, and more importantly to find the good that may be concealed. The highest type of discernment is that which perceives in others and uncovers for them their better natures, the good inherent within them….
“…Every member in the restored Church of Christ could have this gift if he willed to do so. He could not be deceived with the sophistries of the world. He could not be led astray by pseudo-prophets and subversive cults. Even the inexperienced would recognize false teachings, in a measure at least…We ought to be grateful every day of our lives for this sense which keeps alive a conscience which constantly alerts us to the dangers inherent in wrongdoers and sin.”Stephen L. Richards, served as counselor to Pres. David O. McKay, in Conference report, Apr 1950, 162-63
I love that discernment helps us not only detect sin, but detect the good in others (and ourselves). May we pray for this amazing spiritual gift each day.
…discernment is a light of protection and direction in a world that grows increasingly dark. You and I can press forward safely and successfully through the mist of darkness and have a clear sense of spiritual direction. Discernment is so much more than recognizing right from wrong. It helps us distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant, the important from the unimportant, and the necessary from that which is merely nice.
The gift of discernment opens to us vistas that stretch far beyond what can be seen with natural eyes or heard with natural ears. Discerning is seeing with spiritual eyes and feeling with the heart—seeing and feeling the falsehood of an idea or the goodness in another person. Discerning is hearing with spiritual ears and feeling with the heart—hearing and feeling the unspoken concern in a statement or the truthfulness of a testimony or doctrine.”David A. Bednar, Quick to Observe, Ensign, Dec 2006, 30-36
Ammaron, tells Mormon that for the next 14 years, he is to observe the people and remember all that he observes. When he turns 24, he is to go to the land Antum, into a place called Shim, and there he will find all the records Ammaron has hid up unto the Lord. He tells him to engrave on the plates of Nephi all that “ye have observed concerning this people.” (4)
Mormon writes his first observations:
His father, who is also called Mormon, carries him into the land southward when he is 11. The people are prosperous.
The whole face of the land had become covered with buildings, and the people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea.”Mormon 1:7
A war begins in 322 A.D. For simplicity, Mormon identifies each side as Nephites or Lamanites, even though they are broken down into many other tribes. The war is close to where he lives—“in the borders of Zarahemla, by the waters of Sidon.” (10)
The Nephites gather 30,000 men and “did beat the Lamanites and did slay many of them.” (11)
After this war, the Lamanites retreat and there is peace in the land for four years. But peace didn’t mean righteousness.
But wickedness did prevail upon the face of the whole land, insomuch that the Lord did take away his beloved disciples, and the work of miracles and of healing did cease because of the iniquity of the people.”Mormon 1:13
He observes that there were no gifts from the Lord during this time. “And the Holy Ghost did not come upon any, because of their wickedness and unbelief.” (14)
Mormon is an exception—maybe even his family (he doesn’t say).
And I, being fifteen years of age, and being somewhat of a sober mind, therefore I was visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus.”Mormon 1:15
He wants to preach the good news to his people, “but my mouth was shut, and I was forbidden.” (16) The reason his mouth was shut?
For behold, they had willfully rebelled against their God; and the beloved disciples were taken away out of the land, because of their iniquity.”Mormon 1:16
He observes that there are Gadianton robbers among the Lamanites, who infest the land and steal, so the people cannot hide or bury treasures without losing them. He also observes that the people are not just wicked (in the general sense), but that they are openly worshiping Satan, through “sorceries, and witchcrafts, and magics; and the power of the evil one was wrought upon all the face of the land…” (19)
Mormon observes all the signs of a wicked, decadent society, yet he stands firm in his faith in Jesus Christ. We, too, live in a very wicked world. Satan and his forces are reveling in their success. They are deceiving or distracting many. But Mormon shows that it’s possible to stay pure and holy in a terrible society. He is sober, quick to observe, and discerning. The Holy Ghost is with him, to buoy him up and give him light, even in darkness. The Holy Ghost can do the same for us, if we are willing to be humble and quick to observe lessons in our own lives. He can guide and protect us if we are willing to listen to His discerning wisdom and act on it.