Monday, May 26, 2014

The Importance of the Book of Omni

There are only thirty verses in the entire Book of Omni, named after the first writer, who received the sacred record from his father, Jarom. Omni portrays himself as a warrior and a wicked man (Omni 1:2), who tells us that the Nephites in what we call the Land of Nephi had many periods of peace as well as many seasons of war with the Lamanites in his 160-word (three verses). We learn from his son, Amaron, that he wrote in 280 B.C., stating that “three hundred and twenty years had passed away” from the time Lehi left Jerusalem” (Omni 1:5). 
    Amaron, apparently more righteous than his father, tells us that the more wicked part of the Nephites had been destroyed (Omni 1:5) “For the Lord would not suffer, after he had led them out of the land of Jerusalem and kept and preserved them from falling into the hands of their enemies, yea, he would not suffer that the words should not be verified, which he spake unto our fathers, saying that: Inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall not prosper in the land. Wherefore, the Lord did visit them in great judgment; nevertheless, he did spare the righteous that they should not perish, but did deliver them out of the hands of their enemies” (Omni 1:6-7).
    Amaron gave the records to his brother, Chemish, who must have been younger than Omni (around 265 B.C). Chemisah then handed the records down to his son, Abinadom (around 240 BC), who was also a warrior and who described many battles with the Lamanites. He also mentioned that a [full] record “is engraven upon plates which is had by the kings” (Omni 1:11), identifying the (large) plates of Nephi. At the end of his life, he gave the records to his son, Amaleki (around 210 B.C).
Now, this Amaleki “was born in the days of Mosiah” and he “lived to see his (Mosiah’s) death; and Benjamin, his son, reigneth in his stead” (Omni 1:23). Amaleki was with Mosiah, who was “warned of the Lord that he should flee out of the land of Nephi, and as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord should also depart out of the land with him, into the wilderness” (Omni 1:12).
    Mosiah (and Amaleki) leaves the city of Nephi around 205 B.C., taking as many Nephites as would join him in leaving the wickedness behind and “they departed out of the land into the wilderness…and were led by many 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. And they discovered a people, who were called the people of Zarahemla” (Omni 1:13-14).
Now these people of Zarahemla “came out from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon,” which would be about 597 B.C. “And they journeyed in the wilderness and were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters into the land where Mosiah discovered them; and they had dwelt there from that time forth” (Omni 1:16).
    The “great waters” mentioned was the sea, or ocean, and since they left Jerusalem as Lehi did, and at the time of the wars and occupation that led to Zedekiah’s death and removal of the Jews, the only avenue of escape from Jerusalem open to anyone around Jerusalem would have been to the southeast—Lehi’s earlier route.
Babylon controlled everything to the north, west and east, as well as the routes into Israel’s ally, Egypt. The only escape route would be toward the Red Sea
    Likely, then, Zedekiah’s son, Mulek, and his party that were led to the Land of Promise, came over the same route that Lehi took, making the “great waters,” the same Irrenatum upon which Lehi embarked.
    For ease of discussion, most Latter-day Saints refer to this people as Mulekites, though the term is not used in the scriptural record. Three different appellations are used to refer to these people: 1) The “people of Zarahemla,” named after their leader, Zarahemla (Omni 1:14-15); 2) Nephi, the son of Helaman, referred to them as “the seed of Zedekiah,” (Helaman 8:21); and 3) Mormon tells us of Mulek, the son of Zedekiah,” who the lord brought into the Land of Promise (Helaman 6:10).  
    Thus, from Amaleki’s writing, we learn that:
1. The people of Zarahemla, referred to today as the Mulekites, left Jerusalem (as did Lehi)
2. The Mulekites came across the ocean (as did Lehi)
3. They would have had a landing sight along a coast of the Land of Promise
4. After landing, they dwelt in the place of their landing site for about 395 years by the time Mosiah discovered them (around 205 B.C.)
5. This area of their first landing they called the Land of Zarahemla
6. This Land of Zarahemla was at a lower elevation than the city of Nephi, for Mosiah “came down into the land which is called…Zarahemla,” suggesting the interior of the land, from whence Mosiah came, was at higher elevations
7. Mosiah and his people wandered in the wilderness for some time—they were led by many preachings and prophesyings and were admonished continually by the word of God, and were led by the power of his arm through the wilderness” (Omni 1:13)
8. Lehi landed along the West Sea, far to the south (Alma 22:28), and after Lehi died, Nephi led some to an area later called the Land of Nephi and built a city they called Nephi (2 Nephi 5:8,15)
9. The city of Nephi, which Mosiah left, was located near the East Sea (Alma 50:8), thus Mosiah would have been traveling westward and northward to reach a coastal city settled by the people of Zarahemla, which must have been along the West Sea (there is recorded activity in the scriptural record to the north, east and south of Zarahemla, but not to the west)
10. The Mulekites landed somewhere along the coast of the West Sea, northward of where Lehi landed
11. The land of Zarahemla would have been an agricultural area that could accommodate an “exceedingly numerous” group over some four centuries
12. There were Nephites left in the city of Nephi that did not go with Mosiah
13. These Nephites left behind are not heard from more in the scriptural record. Whether they were killed by the Lamanites who later invaded and occupied this land, or joined with them when the Lamanites took over the land and city previously occupied by the Nephites, is unknown
14 . Those left behind must have made up the bulk of the Nephite people at the time, since those that went with Mosiah, when combined with the much larger Mulekite population, were still only half of the population of the Lamanites
The Lord brought Mulek into the Land North, and Lehi into the Land South (Helaman 6:10), and both these lands were in the overall Land Southward (Alma 46:13)
    Thus, we see, from the brief account of Amaleki that the people of Zarahemla (Mulekites) landed along the west coast of the Land of Promise, somewhere to the north of Lehi’s earlier landing site and settled in that landing area where they lived from the time of their landing to the time when Mosiah discovered them (Omni 1:16). In fact, we are told that “the Lord did bring Mulek into the land north, and Lehi into the land south” (Helaman 6:10). Note that it was not into the Land Northward and into the Land Southward.
    The story of the Mulekites, then, began in Jerusalem in the days of Lehi and Jeremiah, prophets at the time of the fall of the kingdom of Judah. And like Lehi, were led away from Jerusalem by the Lord and to the Land of Promise. However, unlike Lehi, the Lord has not revealed his purpose in leading this remnant, including a surviving heir to David’s throne (Mulek, son of king Zedekiah), out of Jerusalem to be reunited with another chosen remnant, the Nephites, but obviously followed a Divine plan. Clearly, this uniting of Mosiah’s Nephites with the Mulekites explicitly shows that their meeting was no accident—the Lord guided both parties to this one location—Zarahemla. It is also interesting that initially, since Mulek and his people would have followed the basic route Lehi took, that Lehi’s planting in Bountiful helped sustain the Mulekites until a ship was built and they set sail, that in the Land of Promise, it was the Mulekites that provided the sustenance and living conditions in for the Nephites until they became established in the Land of Zarahemla.

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