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The young Mormon was there as a child when the wars began, and as a teenager he was strong (verse 1). He was made a leader of army fighting against the Lamanites who came at them with such force it frightened his Nephite army (verses 2-3), even driving them out of their fortified city (verse 4), even driving them out of the land (verse 5). Driven about, they worked to gather their people into one group (verse 7), but there was revolution everywhere: the people would not repent, Gadianton robbers infested the people, and the carnage of war was spread about (verse 8).
Mormon was able to lead the people to beat the Lamanite army enough to make them flee (verse 9), and this got the attention of the Nephites. As the opposing army left, they realized that their lands and homes and lives had been invaded from within – by selling out to the robbers and relying on superstition instead of God (verse 10). They had been blaming the Lamanites as an external cause for all their problems and difficulties, but as the external cause was removed they found the source of their pain to be internal – the consequences of their own choices. This caused them great mourning and sadness (verse 11).
And it came to pass that when I, Mormon, saw their lamentation and their mourning and their sorrow before the Lord, my heart did begin to rejoice within me, knowing the mercies and the long-suffering of the Lord, therefore supposing that he would be merciful unto them that they would again become a righteous people (verse 12).
But alas! This is not what happened, because the people were not sad for repentance, but sad for feeling sorry for themselves. The people were not making progress in learning to look to God, but rather felt bad because of they had been caught in their consequences (verse 13).
And they did not come unto Jesus with broken hearts and contrite spirits, but they did curse God, and wish to die. Nevertheless, they would struggle with the sword for their lives (verse 14).
When Mormon saw the people fight for their lives in pride and self-pity, instead of turning to God in repentance, he was overcome by sorrow once again, seeing that:
the day of grace was passed with them, both temporally and spiritually… in open rebellion against their God (verse 15).
Having turned from God, the Nephites began to lose their battles and be pursued even in retreat (verse 16). As the people retreated, Mormon remembered the hidden records and did not want them destroyed. He went there and recorded what was happening with the people, just as Ammaron had instructed him to do (verse 17). He wrote of the wickedness of the people (verse 18), and how his heart was filled with sorrow because of it (verse 19).
The battles continued, and the Lamanites pursued the Nephites like hunters (verse 20). The Nephites tried to gather the people and fortify their cities (verse 21), but the Lamanites were upon them already (verse 22). Mormon urged the people to fight for their families and homes (verse 23), and not to retreat but to “stand with boldness against them” (verse 24). This was a success so much that the Lamanites were the ones to flee this battle (verse 25), and the Nephites pursued them (verse 26). However, the Nephites were still weak in battle because they fought only in themselves and did not have the strength of the Lord with them (verse 26). This caused Mormon much sorrow (verse 27), even though a treaty was made with the Lamanites (verses 28-29).