Evidence #26 | September 19, 2020

Dating Moroni 9

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Mormon’s second letter to Moroni consistently reflects the unfolding events and conditions of Nephite history (as recorded in Mormon 4, 5, and 6) in a way that is subtly realistic.

Moroni 9 contains a letter from Mormon, written to his son Moroni, which describes the spiritual decline of their people. Although Mormon never said when he wrote this letter, careful analysis demonstrates that it closely parallels the historical events and spiritual themes found in Mormon 45, and 6.1 

Losses in Battle

In his letter, Mormon stated, “I have had a sore battle with the Lamanites, in which we did not conquer” and in which “we have lost a great number of our choice men” (Moroni 9:2). For several reasons, it’s likely that this battle took place during a series of Nephite retreats and losses reported in Mormon 5:3–7, which occurred after Mormon resumed his command of the Nephite armies.2

Intense Anger and Hardened Hearts

In Moroni 9:4–5, Mormon mentioned that the Nephites had “harden[ed] their hearts” against the word of God and that “so exceedingly do they anger that it seemeth me that they have no fear of death; and they have lost their love, one towards another.” Likewise, in Mormon 4 we learn that “every heart was hardened” (v. 11) and that the Nephites “did go against the Lamanites with exceedingly great anger” (v. 15). In each case, a desire for “revenge” was a strong motivating factor (see Moroni 9:5; cf. Mormon 4:15).


In Moroni 9:6, Mormon declared, “And now, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation.” A similar theme, of continuing to strive for the Nephites’ spiritual welfare despite their wickedness, is found in 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.”

"Ultimas Paginas" by Jorge Cocco

Prisoners and the Suffering of Women and Children

Mormon reported to Moroni that “the Lamanites have many prisoners, which they took from the tower of Sherrizah; and there were men, women, and children” (Moroni 9:7; cf. Moroni 9:16). The taking of Nephite prisoners was also mentioned in Mormon 4:13–14: “And it came to pass that the Lamanites did … take many prisoners both women and children, and did offer them up as sacrifices unto their idol gods.” It is also implied in Mormon 4:21: “And when they had come the second time, the Nephites were driven and slaughtered with an exceedingly great slaughter; their women and their children were again sacrificed unto idols.”

Destruction and Desertion

Mormon declared that he knew his people “must perish except they repent” (Moroni 9:22). He also mentioned that “many of our brethren have deserted over unto the Lamanites, and many more will also desert over unto them” (v. 24). This matches the scene of destruction, desertion, and retreat found in Mormon’s own record. As his people lost battles and fled northward, Mormon said that they “began to be swept off … even as a dew before the sun” (Mormon 4:18). Mormon’s prediction in Moroni 9:24 that even more Nephites would join the Lamanites was fulfilled in Mormon 6:15, which reports that some Nephites survived their last battle because they “deserted over unto the Lamanites.”

"Mormon en Batalla" by Jorge Cocco

Securing the Records

Mormon wrote to Moroni, “I trust that I may see thee soon; for I have sacred records that I would deliver up unto thee” (Moroni 9:24). In Mormon 4:23 we learn that Mormon “did go to the hill Shim, and did take up all the records which Ammaron had hid up unto the Lord.” Then, at the Nephites’ final battle with the Lamanites, Mormon reported that he hid these records up at Cumorah, all except “these few plates which I gave unto my son Moroni” (Mormon 6:6).


It is uncertain how long Mormon had been separated from Moroni when he composed his letter. Nor can it be determined how much time transpired between the events reported in his letter and the time of its composition. Yet, despite these uncertainties, analysis of the above textual connections suggests that Mormon’s letter was most likely written sometime between AD 375 and 380.3 It should be remembered that the entire book of Ether and several chapters written by Moroni stand between Mormon’s letter (recorded in Moroni 9) and the relevant chapters from Mormon’s own record (Mormon 45, and 6). Yet, despite this textual distance, Mormon’s letter consistently reflects recorded events and historical conditions that are discussed in his own record.

Book of Mormon Central, “When Did Mormon Write His Letter Recorded in Moroni 9? (Mormon 9:1),” KnoWhy 477 (October 18, 2018).

Joseph M. Spencer, “On the Dating of Moroni 8–9,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 22 (2016): 131–148.

Alan C. Miner, “A Chronological Setting for the Epistles of Mormon to Moroni,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 3, no 2. (1994): 94–113.

Mormon 4–6 Moroni 9

Mormon 4–6

Moroni 9

  1. Mormon’s language implies that he was personally involved in a “sore battle” which the Nephites lost (Moroni 9:2). From this detail, we can confidently date Mormon’s letter to no earlier than the year 375, when Mormon resumed command of the Nephite armies (see Mormon 5:1).
  2. Mormon’s report of a “sore battle” also likely dates his letter to no later than the year 380. This is because after 380 no more battles were reported and the Nephites began to gather at Cumorah for their final conflict (see Mormon 5:66:5).
  3. Mormon expected to see Moroni “soon” so that he could deliver “sacred records” to him (Moroni 9:24). This statement was likely made sometime after Mormon retrieved the records from the hill Shim in the year 375 (Mormon 4:23) but certainly before the final battle in 385, when Mormon and Moroni were reunited.
  4. Mormon counseled Moroni to continue to labor with the people (Moroni 9:6). This may reflect Mormon’s personal decision to repent of his oath and again lead the Nephites in battle in the year 375 (Mormon 5:1).
  5. Mormon’s concern about his people’s utter destruction, as well as his comments about Nephites deserting to the Lamanite army (Moroni 9:3, 22–24), suggest that the Nephites were in the final stages of their struggle against the Lamanites. This, again, fits a time frame of 375–380 very well.
  • 1 For studies on the chronology of this letter, as well as Mormon’s letter found in Moroni 8, see Sidney B. Sperry, Book of Mormon Compendium (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1975), 491; Alan C. Miner, “A Chronological Setting for the Epistles of Mormon to Moroni,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 3, no 2. (1994): 94–113; Joseph M. Spencer, “On the Dating of Moroni 8–9,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 22 (2016): 131–148. This evidence summary draws loosely from lines of reasoning and analysis in these sources, especially from Miner, “A Chronological Setting for the Epistles of Mormon to Moroni,” 103–112 and Spencer, “On the Dating of Moroni 8–9,” 142–144.
  • 2 Mormon’s language implies that he was personally involved in the “sore battle.” Yet Mormon refused to lead the Nephites between the years 362–375 (Mormon 3:115:1). Only Nephite victories are recorded for the battles that took place between the years 359–362 (Mormon 3:7–8). And before that, there were ten years of peace between 350–359 (v. 1). This means that there are no references to lost battles between the years 350–375 in which Mormon could have fought. And any losing battle before the year 350 would seem far too removed from the other details of Mormon’s letter for it to be plausibly referenced. For these reasons, we can reasonably date Mormon’s letter to no earlier than the year 375, when Mormon resumed command of the Nephite armies (see Mormon 5:1).
  • 3 The following points support this conclusion:
Intertextuality (Internal)
Historical Context for Moroni 9
Book of Mormon

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