Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Unusual Men – Zeniff, Noah, Limhi PtI

We don’t too often see a collapse or complete breakdown of character between father and son and then its complete restoration of integrity in the next son. But that is the story of Zeniff, Noah, and Limhi in the books of Omni and Mosiah, and even more notable, the greatness of at least two more men who were the products of this righteous to evil to righteous period. 
Some 350 years after Nephi, son of Lehi, settled in the land his people named after him (2 Nephbi 5:5-8), the Lord told Mosiah I to flee out of the land of Nephi (Omni 1:12), and probably with the use of the Liahona, guided him and those Nephites who would go with him.
    And they departed out of the land into the wilderness, as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord; 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). How long or far they traveled is not known. Evidently, later Alma would make this same trip with his people in 21 days of travel, though the constant "preachings" and "propheysings" sounds like it took a lot longer than 21 days in the case of Mosiah.
    It is interesting that after a short time, and during Mosiah I’s reign as king over the land of Zarahemla and the Mulekites, which he and these Nephites discovered (Omni 1:13), a man named Zeniff, a contemporary of Amaleki, the prophet who records these events (Omni 1:12), and whose own brother was part of this group (Omni 1:30), decided to go back to the Land of Nephi and reclaim their inheritance in that land.
    Two contrasting figures rise at this point—Zeniff, a kindly but impractical and “overzealous man interested in inheriting the land of his fathers” (Mosiah 7:21), and the unnamed leader of this first group, a strong and mighty stiffnecked man, who started a battle between those who wanted to follow him and kill all the Lamanites, and those who followed Zeniff and wanted to live in peace and harmony with the Lamanites. Fifty survived this battle and returned to Zarahemla, but Zeniff was adamant about returning to inherit the land of their fathers and mounted another large group (Omni 1:28), this time including women and children.
    We are not told about the wives of the earlier killed Nephites in the hills overlooking the city of Nephi, but when Zeniff leads the second group back to that area, he camps “in the place where our brethren were slain, which was near to the land of our fathers” (Mosiah 9:4); however, one can only wonder at what must have been going through the minds of these men, and especially their wives and children. No doubt this was a poignant moment, but ignored during the abridgement.
    Being overzealous and gullible, Zeniff met with king Laman, the Lamanite king living in the city of Nephi at the time, and who schemed to have the Nephites settle there with the future intent of bringing them under bondage (Mosiah 7:22). Laman artfully manipulated Zeniff through his craftiness and cunning into accepting a treaty that ceded the city of Nephi and that of Shilom and the lands round about (Mosiah 7:21) to the Nephites.
    Obviously, since this group, unlike the earlier one, whose leader seemed bent on fighting and conquering the Lamanites who had overrun the land of their father’s first inheritance (Nephi’s city and land named after him), was interested in colonization from the very beginning, for they had with them women and children, and they also had brought “all manner of seeds, with seeds of corn, and of wheat, and of barley, and with neas, and with sheum, and with seeds of all manner of fruits” (Mosiah 9:9), with the purpose of “multiplying and prospering in the land.”
    So we have here four contrasting men with their diverging views, interests, and concerns:
    Ameleki, an eye witness to these events, who was born in the days of Mosiah, and accompanied him out of the land of Nephi and in his discovery of the Land of Zarahemla, and lived during the following two generations;
    Zeniff, a man taught in all the language of the Nephites, and having had a knowledge of the land of Nephi—the land of their fathers' first inheritance, an overzealous, but righteous man who became the first king of this family and who was blind to the craftiness and ploys of the unrighteous king Laman and brought his people into captivity and bondage (Mosiah 9:10);
Zeniff (left) working out a treaty or “covenant” with the Lamanite king, Laman (right), for the Nephites to reclaim the cities of Nephi and Shilom
    Laman, king of the Lamanites in the land of Nephi at this time, a cunning manipulator whose forward thinking and evil plans saw a way to bring the Nephites into bondage so they could provide crops, food and manpower for the lazy Lamanites;
    Unnamed leader of the first party to go back to reclaim the land of Nephi; a strong and mighty, stiffnecked and evidently bloodthirsty man, who seemed to settle his arguments with the sword, who, because of his unrighteous desires, brings about the death of a few hundred men.
    During the next twelve years, Zeniff and his people planted seeds for grain crops: (barley, wheat, neas and sheum, and all manner of fruit, “and they began to proposer in the land” (Mosiah 9:9). By the way, the actual grain crop of sheum and neas has been a point of discussion and research by many theorists over the years, none coming up with a satisfactory answer of two unknown crops that Joseph Smith would not have been able to translate other than the two we have suggested in the Andean area of Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, but that is another point discussed in other posts.
    In the twelfth year, Laman, king of the Lamanites, began to be uneasy lest by any means the Nephites in his land should wax strong and prosper in the land and overpower the Lamanites and bring them into bondage (Mosiah 9:11), which had been his original plan to bring the Nephites into bondage to him (Mosiah 9:10).
    Of course the purpose of Laman’s plan was so the Lamanites could glut themselves upon the Nephite crops and the labors of the Nephites, even feast themselves upon the Nephite flocks of their fields” (Mosih 9:12), because of their own laziness. 
    During their time in the Land of Nephi, these Nephites "built buidlings, and repaired the walls of the city, even the walls of the city of Lehi-Nephi, and the city of Shilom" (Mosiah 9:8), and in the thirteenth year, to the south of the city of Nephi, in the land of Shilom, the first battle was waged. In this city where Laman led his Lamanites in attacking the Nephites as the latter watered their fields and fed their flocks and harvested their crops, Laman’s true colors were unfurled. It is also interesting that for the first time, the crop “corn” is mentioned since evidently, this was not a seed brought from Jerusalem, but a crop the Nephites somehow acquired while in Zarahemla, either as a singular domestication of their own, or more likely a domestication of the Mulekites in their 350-375 year occupation of Zarahemla or one that somehow came to them via the Jaredites, such as contained in Coriantumr’s bag where he had a cob he had been eating, or a seed to be planted—after all, he had to have been living somehow between his battle with Shiz around the hill Shim in the land of Antum (Nephite hill Cumorah) and when he wandered into the Mulekite camp or city (Zarahemla).
The Lamanites on the distant hill, coming down to attack the Nephites in Shilom near the city of Nephi
    Wherever corn originated and by whom, we find it a very attractive crop to the Lamanites who attacked the Nephite farmers harvesting the corn in the land of Shilom. And lest we forget, it was king Laman who did “stir up his people that they should contend with the Nephites” (Mosiah 9:13), that led, over time “to wars and contentions in the land.” But though gullible, Zeniff was a wise leader who armed his people with "bows, and with arrows, with swords, and with cimeters, and with clubs, and with slings, and with all manner of weapons which we could invent, and I and my people did go forth against the Lamanites to battle” (Mosiah 9:16).
    And he was also a spiritual and righteous man, leading the Nephites “in the strength of the Lord did we go forth to battle against the Lamanites; for I and my people did cry mightily to the Lord that he would deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, for we were awakened to a remembrance of the deliverance of our fathers. And God did hear our cries and did answer our prayers; and we did go forth in his might; yea, we did go forth against the Lamanites, and in one day and a night we did slay three thousand and forty-three; we did slay them even until we had driven them out of our land” (Mosiah 9:17-18).
    While the scriptural record does not indicate at any time the size of Zeniff's group, it must have been significantly large, since not only did they kill over three thousand Lamanites in this first battle, but over the next 22 years in other battles they "slew them with a great slaughter, even so many that we did not number them" (Mosiah 10:20)

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