I counted 23 Nephite generals, each of whom commanded 10,000 men. After the final climactic battle with the Lamanites, all but 24 had fallen except for the few who had escaped to the south or had defected to the Lamanites. So, when the aged prophet Mormon survived to write a few last lines and hand over the plates to his son Moroni, he had witnessed the slaughter of 230,000 men with their wives and children. His soulful lament is one of the most touching things in the scriptures:
16 And my soul was rent with anguish, because of the slain of my people, and I cried:
17 O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you!
18 Behold, if ye had not done this, ye would not have fallen. But behold, ye are fallen, and I mourn your loss.
19 O ye fair sons and daughters, ye fathers and mothers, ye husbands and wives, ye fair ones, how is it that ye could have fallen!
20 But behold, ye are gone, and my sorrows cannot bring your return.
21 And the day soon cometh that your mortal must put on immortality, and these bodies which are now moldering in corruption must soon become incorruptible bodies; and then ye must stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, to be judged according to your works; and if it so be that ye are righteous, then are ye blessed with your fathers who have gone before you.
22 O that ye had repented before this great destruction had come upon you. But behold, ye are gone, and the Father, yea, the Eternal Father of heaven, knoweth your state; and he doeth with you according to his justice and mercy.
President Gordon B. Hinckley wrote the following in 1988 (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Power of the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, Jun 1988, 2):
Let me tell you of a letter which we received some years ago. A man wrote, saying, “I am in a federal prison. I recently came across a copy of the Book of Mormon in the prison library. I have read it, and when I read Mormon’s lamentation over his fallen people—‘O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you! Behold, if ye had not done this, ye would not have fallen’ (Morm. 6:17, 18)—I felt that Mormon was talking to me. Can I get a copy of that book?”
We sent him a copy. Some time later, he walked into my office a changed man. He was touched by the spirit of the Book of Mormon and today is a successful man, rehabilitated, earning a living honestly for himself and his family.
Such is the power of this great book in the lives of those who read it prayerfully.
Brothers and sisters, without reservation I promise you that if you will prayerfully read the Book of Mormon, regardless of how many times you previously have read it, there will come into your hearts an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord. There will come a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to his commandments, and there will come a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.
I share President Hinckley's testimony. The Book of Mormon message has changed my life.