Saturday, June 15, 2013

Why Mosiah Was Named King – Part I

Not long after Lehi landed in the New World in about 586 B.C., perhaps two to five years, Lehi knew he was near death, and took the time to prophesy to his children and grandchildren, reminding each of them why he had led them out of the land of his fathers, saying, “I have seen a vision in which I know that Jerusalem is destroyed; and had we remained in Jerusalem we should also have perished” (2 Nephi 1:4), while at the same time, reminding them that the land to which they had been led was a special land, saying, “I, Lehi, prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord” (2 Nephi 1:6).
Then he made it quite clear to each about the importance of this land: “I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves. And if it so be that they shall keep his commandments they shall be blessed upon the face of this land, and there shall be none to molest them, nor to take away the land of their inheritance; and they shall dwell safely forever” (2 Nephi 1:9). Like any patriarch that sits at the head of his posterity, Lehi also made clear his fear for many of his posterity and set down a warning to them, “But behold, when the time cometh that they shall dwindle in unbelief, after they have received so great blessings from the hand of the Lord -- having a knowledge of the creation of the earth, and all men, knowing the great and marvelous works of the Lord from the creation of the world; having power given them to do all things by faith; having all the commandments from the beginning, and having been brought by his infinite goodness into this precious land of promise -- behold, I say, if the day shall come that they will reject the Holy One of Israel, the true Messiah, their Redeemer and their God, behold, the judgments of him that is just shall rest upon them” (2 Nephi 1:10).
Unlike most of us who cannot see what will befall our grandchildren and great grandchildren, etc., Lehi knew from his vision from the Lord, what was to happen to his posterity, and underlined his warning with an unveiled prediction: Yea, he will bring other nations unto them, and he will give unto them power, and he will take away from them the lands of their possessions, and he will cause them to be scattered and smitten” (2 Nephi 1:12). He then adds, in a compassionate manner, as any parent would who knew what was to come, “O that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell, and shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe. Awake! and arise from the dust, and hear the words of a trembling parent, whose limbs ye must soon lay down in the cold and silent grave, from whence no traveler can return; a few more days and I go the way of all the earth. But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love” (2 Nephi 1:13-15). But there was still an underlying promise despite the fears of unrighteousness, “Wherefore, if ye shall keep the commandments of the Lord, the Lord hath consecrated this land for the security of thy seed with the seed of my son” (2 Nephi 1:32—emphasis mine).
Consequently, we know from Lehi that the Lord reserved this land for a wise purpose, one in which he could bring a branch of Israel to its shores and prove themselves by living a righteous life. The Land was promised to his posterity, and none else had that promise but Lehi and his son, that is, Nephi.
Upon Lehi’s death (2 Nephi 4:12), Nephi was warned by the Lord to flee out of the land of their first inheritance, the area where they landed and settled while Lehi lived, to escape the wicked desires of his older brothers and the sons of Ishmael (2 Nephi 5:1-5). Nephi settled and founded the Land of Nephi and the City of Nephi (called Lehi-Nephi later). Here the Nephites lived, built a temple, and various buildings and cities over the next 300 years or so, in this area, during a time of many wars and confrontations with the Lamanites (Jacob 1:10; Enos 1:23, Jarom 1:6-7, 13), and as early as the second generation after Nephi, “And now it came to pass that the people of Nephi, under the reign of the second king, began to grow hard in their hearts, and indulge themselves somewhat in wicked practices, such as like unto David of old desiring many wives and concubines, and also Solomon, his son” (Jacob 1:15), having wickedness in their hearts (Jacob 2:6) and were continually preached to on their unrighteous state by Jacob (Jacob 2:10, 31), and by around 300 years after Nephi fled from his brethren, “the more wicked part of the Nephites were destroyed” (Omni 1:5). Evidently, because so many Nephites had perished in one manner or another, and because of the Lamanite nature to attack and make war with the Nephites, that a prophet named Mosiah was told by the Lord to flee out of the city and land, and to take as many with him who would hearken unto the voice of the Lord, and flee into the wilderness” (Omni 1:12).
Now Mosiah took those who would follow him through the wilderness “and they were led by many preachings and prophesyings. And they were admonished continually by the word of God; and they were led by the power of his arm, through the wilderness, until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla” (Omni 1:13). They traveled down into a low valley until they discovered a people, who were called the people of Zarahemla. Now, there was great rejoicing among the people of Zarahemla; and also Zarahemla did rejoice exceedingly, because the Lord had sent the people of Mosiah with the plates of brass, which contained the record of the Jews” (Omni 1:14). Now this people came out from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon, with Mulek, Zedekiah’s youngest son, who survived the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem (Helaman 8:21).
Now the People of Zarahemla, who we also call the Mulekites, had become very numerous, had many wars and had fallen away from the knowledge of who they were (Omni 1:17), and nobody could understand their language which had deteriorated from their original Hebrew over the 400 years or so of their being gone from Jerusalem, so Mosiah had them taught (relearn) his language (Omni 1:18), and the people of Zarahemla, combined with the people Mosiah brought out of the Land of Nephi, “did unite together; and Mosiah was appointed to be their king” (Omni 1:19).
Now, there seems to be a misunderstanding as to why Mosiah was selected as king by the combined Nephite-Mulekite population of Zarahemla, since the Mulekites were nearly twice as many as Mosiah’s Nephite (Mosiah 25:2). Regarding this incident, John L. Sorenson writes:
The local residents quickly agreed that Mosiah, a total stranger who had dropped in on them, should become their king (Omni 1:14,19).  How could this man and his intruding party find such a hearty welcome and then fit so neatly into a dominant political niche in the society?  One piece of the answer must lie in the superior qualifications of Mosiah to be king.
Sorenson then goes on to outline Mosiah's greater qualifications over those of Zarahemla.  While this all might well have played a part in the thinking of the Mulekites in Zarahemla, it can in no way be the only, or even the main reason. 
(See the next post, Why Mosiah Was Named King – Part II,” to see why Mosiah was made king over the people of Zarahemla, despite their being twice as many as the Nephites)

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