1 And it came to pass when Coriantumr had recovered of his wounds, he began to remember the words which Ether had spoken unto him.
2 He saw that there had been slain by the sword already nearly two millions of his people, and he began to sorrow in his heart; yea, there had been slain two millions of mighty men, and also their wives and their children.
3 He began to repent of the evil which he had done; he began to remember the words which had been spoken by the mouth of all the prophets, and he saw them that they were fulfilled thus far, every whit; and his soul mourned and refused to be comforted.
This may be the saddest passage in the Book of Mormon. Coriantumr, who only a few years earlier had rejected the warning of the prophet Ether and had even tried to kill him, now saw with his own eyes that Ether’s words were true. His people had fought in battle after battle since that time, and more than two million of them had died, which is nearly double the number of military deaths in all the wars fought by the United States. (See “America’s Wars,” published by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs).
Now, finally, he began to repent. I don’t think this was the “sorrowing of the damned” described by Mormon, in which people lament that they can’t be both sinful and happy (Mormon 2:13). No, this appears to be the real thing: a genuine remorse for what he had done and a desire to change. The tragedy is that this remorse came too late to save his people. By this time, his people had become so hardened that “Satan had full power over [their] hearts…; for they were given up unto the hardness of their hearts, and the blindness of their minds that they might be destroyed” (Ether 15:19).
Even though it came too late to save his people, Coriantumr’s contrition may have still served a useful purpose. Is it possible that this contrition was the reason only Coriantumr remained alive after the final battle, just as Ether had prophesied (Ether 13:21)? Is it possible that this is the reason he was allowed to find the people of King Mosiah and live with them for nine months (Omni 1:21)? I’d like to think that it served a useful purpose, and that this is the reason Moroni chose to highlight his repentant attitude and actions in the last chapter of the history of the Jaredite people. Nevertheless, this repentance came only after the consequences of his sins were painfully evident. How tragic that he was not able to find this contrition only a few years earlier, when it might have saved his people!
Today, I will learn from Coriantumr’s mistakes. Repentance may not shield me from all of the consequences of my sins, but the earlier I choose to repent, the sooner I will begin to receive the blessings of the Lord in my life. I will acknowledge my sins early and will strive to feel true remorse and act on that feeling even before I begin to see the consequences of sin.