Does the Book of Mormon have a special Memorial Day message for us, a message in regards to military service?

There are a number of Book of Mormon examples we could look at – but Mormon is particularly interesting because he plays a dual role to his people, a people who are (or who become) wholly wicked and depraved. On one hand Mormon is a despised and rejected prophet of God and on the other, he is the beloved and accomplished leader over the Nephite armies. The people are at best indifferent to his preaching and refuse to repent – but (unlike other wicked peoples in history) the Nephites don’t seem inclined to threaten or kill Mormon for his preaching. They still want him around to lead them in their battles and to protect them.

This unique relationship to his people makes Mormon an interesting study in regards to questions about the extent of an individual’s civic duty, a person’s responsibility to serve and participate versus the individual’s right to opt out. However, this isn’t necessarily a character study that gives us clear and easy answers. What we are left with is a lot to think about.

Facing such a terrible situation, Mormon is plainly conflicted.

At one point he writes:

Mormon 3:11
And it came to pass that I, Mormon, did utterly refuse from this time forth to be a commander and a leader of this people, because of their wickedness and abomination.

Later he changes his mind:

Mormon 5:1
And it came to pass that I did go forth among the Nephites, and did repent of the oath which I had made that I would no more assist them; and they gave me command again of their armies, for they looked upon me as though I could deliver them from their afflictions.

Even though he abhors their behavior and mindset, ultimately Mormon chooses to stick by and with his people. Mormon then continues to fight at the head of the Nephite armies and tragically, dies with them. Still, from the alternating decisions he made, it appears he had the ability to righteously choose either path – to participate or to opt-out.

Consequently, Moroni has to write the end of the story:

Moroni 8:1-3
1 Behold I, Moroni, do finish the record of my father, Mormon. Behold, I have but few things to write, which things I have been commanded by my father.
2 And now it came to pass that after the great and tremendous battle at Cumorah, behold, the Nephites who had escaped into the country southward were hunted by the Lamanites, until they were all destroyed.
3 And my father also was killed by them …

It is up to each of us to decide whether Mormon’s last decision (to stand by the Nephites) is a binding example on our decision-making or whether he simply leaves us with a peculiar personal choice to consider. However, it is obvious that he loved his people and that to a great degree (perhaps even to a degree that is difficult to justify or understand), that love and allegiance was unconditional.

Perhaps it is fitting to end this post with the following quotation from Mormon, which I feel provides us with the answer to the characteristic that motivated him in his civic duty and military service:

Mormon 3:12
Behold, I had led them, notwithstanding their wickedness I had led them many times to battle, and had loved them, according to the love of God which was in me, with all my heart; and my soul had been poured out in prayer unto my God all the day long for them; nevertheless, it was without faith, because of the hardness of their hearts.

One additional note: this post began (in my mind) as a comparison between Ether and Mormon. The utility of that comparison ended (in my opinion) when I remembered that Ether had to flee in order to protect his life (Ether 13:22)