Last of the Jaredites: Coriantumr’s hard lesson
There’s a story in the Book of Mormon that has intrigued me in recent weeks.
It’s the story of Coriantumr, the last king of the Jaredites and the sole survivor of his people.
My interest was piqued when I read in Omni 1:21 that Coriantumr was discovered by the people of Zarahemla and dwelt with them for the space of “nine moons” (about nine months). Of course that led me to back to the final chapters of Ether where we find the bulk of his sad story.
The days of Coriantumr were a time of great wickedness, war and bloodshed. The account tells us that Coriantumr devoted a great deal of his time to studying “all arts of war and all the cunning of the world, wherefore he gave battle unto them who sought to destroy him” (Ether 13:16). He wanted to protect his kingdom from the constant attacks of his enemies.
The Lord sent the prophet Ether to declare to Coriantumr that if he would repent, and all his household, the Lord would give unto him his kingdom and spare the people. Otherwise, they would all be destroyed except for him so he could live to see the fulfillment of the prophecy. Ether also said Coriantumr would live to see another people inherit the promised land. This people would bury him (Ether 13:20-21).
Coriantumr rejected Ether and his message. He continued in warfare and the Holy Spirit withdrew. Only after nearly two million of his people were killed did Coriantumr began to feel remorse. The words of the prophet pricked his heart and he tried to repent and negotiate peace with his rival Shiz (Ether 15:2-6).
But it was too late for peace. Shiz was out to avenge the death of his brother. Shiz had no conscience and killed women and children in his effort to slay Coriantumr. He also didn’t want the prophecy to come true.
After four years of building their armies, a final fierce battle commenced where everyone was slain except for Coriantumr and Shiz. The story ends in dramatic fashion as Coriantumr beheads Shiz before falling unconscious himself (Ether 15:30-31). Sometime later he was found by the people of Zarahemla.
Sometimes you read a story in the scriptures and certain details are omitted, leaving it up to you to ponder and imagine what occurred. That’s the case with the end of Coriantumr’s story. What happened to him those last nine months? What did he experience, what emotions did he feel?
Initially I saw this story through the eyes of a journalist. What would be like to meet Coriantumr during those last nine months among the people of Zarahemla? Would he grant me an interview, and if so, what stories would he tell? Having lived to see a prophecy fulfilled — the loss of his kingdom and the annihilation of his people, including his family and loved ones — I imagine his heart would be heavy with pain, regret and grief, among a variety of sad emotions. How difficult would it be to live with the knowledge that you are responsible for the deaths of millions? I imagine that would be a very bitter pill to swallow.
When I asked my friend Ryan Olsen what he thought Coriantumr experienced in his final months, he said the Jaredite king probably had a lot of time to think about the statement from the prophet Ether:
“If he would repent, and all his household, the Lord would give unto him his kingdom and spare the people.”
“I see the Lord trying to get Coriantumr to be a righteous father. If he influences his own children in righteousness, a nation is spared!” Olsen said. “I also think he would regret what he focused on — ‘studying in the arts of war and all the cunning of the world, wherefore he gave battle …’ Maybe a little more time studying the gospel would have helped.”
Both of us came away from the story inspired to be better fathers at home.
One more thing — did Coriantumr ever find peace?
Based on the scriptural account, we can easily imagine Coriantumr’s pain and suffering in his final days. But I hope he also found some measure of peace through repentance and the Savior’s Atonement. Yes, Coriantumr made some horrible mistakes, as do we all, but he’s still a son of God and worthy of forgiveness. If the embattled king of the Jaredites truly and sincerely sought forgiveness, I believe the Lord would visit him with peace and comfort.
And if the Lord would offer healing to Coriantumr, he would surely offer it to us.
I invite you to think about Coriantumr as you watch his video, “Jesus Christ is the Way.”