Mormon had access to a large library of sacred records, describing 1,000 years of history (Mormon 1:3-4). From those records, he made an abridgment of the history of his people, focusing on events and teachings which would help us understand God’s covenants and increase our faith in Jesus Christ (Title Page, Words of Mormon 1:3-5). Several times, he tells us that he couldn’t include a “hundredth part” of the content (Words of Mormon 1:5, Helaman 3:13-16, 3 Nephi 5:8, 3 Nephi 26:6).
The book of Alma illustrates this reality. Although the book covers the first 39 years of the reign of the judges, most of the content is focused on only a few of those years. I created the following diagram to illustrate that fact:
Note the following:
- More that 40% of the book (845 out of 1,975 verses) is dedicated to some of Alma’s sermons (the dark blue columns in the diagram).
- Another 17% of the book (335 verses) describes the fourteen-year mission of the sons of Mosiah to the Lamanites. Although Mormon highlights only a few events from that mission, he doesn’t tell us when those specific events occurred. Therefore, in the diagram above, I have spread the 335 verses evenly across the fourteen years (the light blue portions of columns).
- The war between the Nephites and the Lamanites is another area of focus (the maroon columns). About 20% of the book is focused on that war, which lasted from the 25th year to the 31st. Mormon focuses particularly on the events of the 29th year, when both Moroni and Helaman were able to regain control of several cities.
President Ezra Taft Benson encouraged us to think about Mormon’s editorial process as we read the Book of Mormon:
We should constantly ask ourselves, “Why did the Lord inspire Mormon (or Moroni or Alma) to include that in his record? What lesson can I learn from that to help me live in this day and age?”
(“The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” General Conference, October 1986)
This month, as I read the book of Alma, I will pay particular attention to Mormon’s prioritization. I will ask myself what I can learn from the content he chose to include.