I recently visited Israel, and every time it came up about visiting the Holocaust Museum, I just didn’t want to do it. Why? I’ve seen photos and read about the Holocaust and emotionally, it is really hard for me to take. It is hard to take that a group of people could become so vile they would target a religion and seek to annihilate them — that they would actually kill 6 million people. I just couldn’t bring myself to go there and be reminded of such atrocities. I love my Jewish brothers and sisters, and the Holocaust is an important part of history; some amazing positive things happened during that time, but I just don’t like to be brought down to the depths of sorrow thinking about the death and destruction of so many.
Today I went with Elizabethe to see Monuments Men. I figured since it was about the rescue of stolen art, it wouldn’t be so depressing. That said, there is a scene in the movie where they uncover a large oak barrel full of gold nuggets. It turns out the “gold nuggets” are the teeth and fillings of people. I bring this up because as depressing as that scene was, it was evident that the movie needed to remind us of how evil and oppressive the Nazi regime was. The rest of the movie dealt with the theft aspects, but this little scene was important and has burned another image in my mind about how horrific the Holocaust was.
The movie also reminded me of what happened to the Nephites in the Book of Mormon. Critiques of the Book of Mormon complain that there is no evidence in this area of New York of Nephite cities and civilizations. So, I want to compare that to what happened in World War II, and how the Book of Mormon is a warning about how a civilization can be utterly destroyed, and the Holocaust can help us understand how it can happen.
Around 200 AD, the Nephites and Lamanites both began to fall in to depravity. In Mormon, chapter 6, Mormon writes of the destruction of a quarter million of his soldiers. This doesn’t count the number of women, children and elderly who were killed. Later, he writes,
And now I write somewhat concerning the sufferings of this people. For according to the knowledge which I have received from Amoron, behold, the Lamanites have many prisoners, which they took from the tower of Sherrizah; and there were men, women, and children. And the husbands and fathers of those women and children they have slain; and they feed the women upon the flesh of their husbands, and the children upon the flesh of their fathers; and no water, save a little, do they give unto them. And notwithstanding this great abomination of the Lamanites, it doth not exceed that of our people in Moriantum. For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue— And after they had done this thing, they did murder them in a most cruel manner, torturing their bodies even unto death; and after they have done this, they devour their flesh like unto wild beasts, because of the hardness of their hearts; and they do it for a token of bravery.
O my beloved son, how can a people like this, that are without civilization— (And only a few years have passed away, and they were a civil and a delightsome people) But O my son, how can a people like this, whose delight is in so much abomination—
. . .
O the depravity of my people! They are without order and without mercy. Behold, I am but a man, and I have but the strength of a man, and I cannot any longer enforce my commands. And they have become strong in their perversion; and they are alike brutal, sparing none, neither old nor young; and they delight in everything save that which is good; and the suffering of our women and our children upon all the face of this land doth exceed everything; yea, tongue cannot tell, neither can it be written. And now, my son, I dwell no longer upon this horrible scene. Behold, thou knowest the wickedness of this people; thou knowest that they are without principle, and past feeling; and their wickedness doth exceed that of the Lamanites. Behold, my son, I cannot recommend them unto God lest he should smite me.
So, what happened to the Nephite civilization?
The people, their homes, their art, their writings were all destroyed. Their gold and precious things were buried in the earth and not to be recovered. (This was part of a curse God put upon their riches – that if they did not keep the commandments of God, their riches would be buried in the earth and no one could obtain them for gain. Helaman 13:19) Thus, the Lamanites made sure there was no record or evidence of the Nephites. It was not only a fulfillment or prophecy, but a result of disobedience to God.
Had Hitler and his regime been successful, we would have forgotten about the Jews in a few generations. Monuments Men made it clear that he was out to annihilate the Jews by not only killing them, but pillaging their art and literature and if he couldn’t have it, nobody could. For this reason, I am glad there is a Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem – even if I cannot bring myself to visit it.
Both the Holocaust and the fate of the Nephites have lessons for us. As George Santayana said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed.” (He is often misquoted by people who add, “… to repeat it.” He simply stopped with the word “doomed”.) I think we can all learn a lot by watching Monuments Men, and pondering the implications, and also reading the Book of Mormon, and pondering the implications there too.
Hill Cumorah – the Last Big Nephite Battle