Mormon described the struggle he had working with a people who had once been enlightened by the gospel but had hardened their hearts against it. Because of their accomplishments they became proud, and boasted in their own strength. They sought revenge for the evils brought upon them by their enemies. They desired blood, and went to other lands to destroy. Thus, Satan had great hold upon their hearts.
"And it came to pass that I, Mormon, did utterly refuse from this time forth to be a commander and a leader of this people, because of their wickedness and abominations.
"Behold, I had led them, notwithstanding their wickedness I had led them many times to battle, and had loved them, according to the love of God which was in me, with all my heart; and my soul had been poured out in prayer unto my God all the day long for them; nevertheless, it was without faith, because of the hardness of their hearts" (Morm. 3:11-12, emphasis mine).
The prophet Mormon admits that though he continued to pray for his people it was without faith. He understood the prophecies, and knew the final outcome. He not only knew the destiny of the wicked, but knew that his people would ultimately fail to repent and would be destroyed. He could not exercise faith in their behalf. In other words, faith failed. Love remained intact.
Mormon made a point of alerting his readers that even though his preaching would have no effect upon his people, he believed we could learn from their example. "Therefore I write unto you Gentiles, and also unto you House of Israel..." (Morm. 3:17). He reminds us that we will indeed stand before Christ to be judged (v. 20). He writes to help us "believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ" (v. 21). He desires to persuade "all ye ends of the earth to repent and prepare" for the judgment which shall come (v. 22).
After seeing that his people were on the verge of becoming extinct, Mormon goes forth to lead them once more.
"But behold, I was without hope, for I knew the judgments of the Lord which should come upon them; for they repented not of their iniquities, but did struggle for their lives without calling upon that Being who created them" (Morm. 5:2).
Their efforts were "all in vain" (v. 6). If they had repented they might have been "clasped in the arms of Jesus" (v. 11). Mormon desires to help us understand these things. In case the meaning is lost upon us he helps us with his own commentary to the Gentiles:
"And then, O ye Gentiles, how can ye stand before the power of God, except ye shall repent and turn from your evil ways?
"Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God? Know ye not that he hath all power, and at his great command the earth shall be rolled together as a scroll?
"Therefore, repent ye, and humble yourselves before him, lest he shall come out in justice against you - lest a remnant of the seed of Jacob shall go forth among you as a lion, and tear you in pieces, and there is none to deliver" (Morm. 5:22-24).
Though faith and hope failed him, love did not. Mormon prayed without faith for his people, and led them without hope. It seems, however, that he held out hope for us.