Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Unusual Men – Zeniff, Noah, Limhi - PtII

In the writings of the books of Omni and Mosiah, which was from their twelfth year in the land, the Nephite colonizers were often under attack or threat of attack from the Lamanites in the neighboring land of Shemlon. This almost constant stress may have been part of the reason that this group of Nephites produced some of the greatest men—and some of the worst—in the Book of Mormon.
Having lived in Zarahemla for a time after leaving his former homeland in the land of Nephi, a man named Zeniff desired to return and reclaim the land of his father’s first inheritance
    The Nephite named Zeniff was in the first expedition sent to win back the former Nephite lands. When they reached the hills that looked down upon their former city, he had been “sent as a spy among the Lamanites,” somewhat like Moses had sent Hoshea (Joshua), son of Nun, from the desert of Paran into the land of Canan. Zeniff went looking for the Lamanite strengths and weaknesses so that the Nephite army “might come upon them and destroy them.” But as he studied the Lamanites, Zeniff, who had been taught in all the language of the Nephites, and having had a knowledge of the land of Nephi, or of the land of our fathers' first inheritance, but when I saw that which was good among them I was desirous that they should not be destroyed” (Mosiah 9:1).
    So Zeniff argued with the leader of that first expedition, trying to persuade him to make a treaty with the Lamanites. But the leader was a reckless man, desirous to commence a war against the lamanites and commanded the Nephites to kill Zeniff (Mosiah 9:2).
    Zeniff was obvious a leader in his own rights, a person of some station among the Nephites in Zarahemla, for many of the party stood ranks with him and a battle among the first group commenced, in which all but 50 were killed. In fact, most of the expedition was killed in the fight, so that only fifty souls returned to Zarahemla (Omni 1:28).
    But Zeniff had seen the land, and he wanted to possess it. In later years he looked back on his younger self and wrote, “I [was] over-zealous to inherit the land of our fathers” (Mosiah 9:3), however, at the time, many others obviously felt as he did, and a second expedition left Zarahemla for the land of Nephi
Zeniff brings his people back to Nephi, makes a treaty with king Laman and acquires part of the Lamanite lands for their own
    Think of these men—following the righteous king Mosiah who was led out of Nephi to discover the Mulekite land their city of Zarahemlathe similarly honorable king Zeniff, leads a group of Nephites back to Nephi to reclaim part of the land there, lives an exemplary life, teaches his people to be righteous, and looks after both their spiritual and temporal welfare.
    It is interesting that a man of such righteous and spiritual interests has a son who is bankrupt in these same qualities while possessing all the evil opposites. So we come to Noah, the son who was an extreme contrast from his father. At the time of Zeniff’s death, he had placed guards around the city of Nephi and of Shilom and around the Nephites tending their flocks. While he liked what he had seen among the Lamanites, wisdom told him not to trust them beyond a reasonable manner.
Zeniff was a wise leader, placing guards to warn the Nephites of any attack on their animals or flocks. Later, his son, Noah, would built towers for this very purpose
    They lived in peace for 12 years while the Nephites planted and harvested corn, barley, wheat, neas and sheum (Mosiah 9:9). In the 13th year, the Lamanites attacked and Zeniff led his people in defending their lands, crops and flocks, driving the Lamanites out of their land (see last post). Zeniff fought for his people to the end, even in his old age went jup to  battle against the Lamanites as they went up in the strength of the Lord to battle (Mosiah 9:10).
    It is interesting, right to the end of this period, it was the Lamanites who blamed the Nephites for their plight. From the time of Nephi,son of Lehi, 350 years earlier, the Lamanites had been angry with the Nephites, because Nephi departed into the wilderness as the Lord had commanded him, and took the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, for they said that he robbed them. And thus they had taught their children that they should hate them, and that they should murder them, and that they should rob and plunder them, and do all they could to destroy them; therefore they had an eternal hatred towards the children of Nephi. For this very cause had king Laman, by his cunning, and lying craftiness, and his fair promises, deceived the Nephites, that Zeniff brought his people up into this land, that they may destroy them; yea, and the Nephites had suffered these many years in the land.
    “And now I, Zeniff, after having told all these things unto my people concerning the Lamanites, I did stimulate them to go to battle with their might, putting their trust in the Lord; therefore, we did contend with them, face to face, and did drive them again out of our land; and we slew them with a great slaughter, even so many that we did not number them” (Mosiah 10:19-20).
The Nephites then lived in peace the remainder of Zeniff’s days, where the men tilled the ground and the women made their clothing
    After the battle, the Nephites then returned again to their own land, to tend their flocks, and to till their ground (Mosiah 10:11), and Zeniff, “being old, did confer the kingdom upon one of his sons; therefore, I say no more. And may the Lord bless my people” (Mosiah 10:21-22).
    What kind of leader was Zeniff’s son, Noah? Well, he did not walk in the ways of his father, did not keep the commandments of God, instead, he followed the desires of his own heart, had many wives and concubines, caused his people to commit sin, and did that which was abominable in the sight of the Lord (Mosiah 11:1-2).
Noah “changed the affairs of the kingdom” (Mosiah 11:4), by taxing the people 20%, or one-fifth part of all they possessed—their gold, silver, ziff, copper, brass, and iron; also one-fifth of their fatlings and grain (Mosiah 11:3), all of this to support himself, his wives and concubines, his priests, and their wives and concubines (Mosiah 11:4). He removed all the righteous priests appointed by Zeniff and appointed those who were lifted up in the pride of their hearts. “Yea, and thus they were supported in their laziness, and in their idolatry, and in their whoredoms, by the taxes which king Noah had put upon his people; thus did the people labor exceedingly to support iniquity. They also became idolatrous, because they were deceived by the vain and flattering words of the king and priests; for they did speak flattering things unto them” (Mosiah 11:6-7).
    It is interesting that in desperate times, the Lord sends forth desperate people to fight desperate battles. In this case, to counter the evil infecting the land, the Lord sent forth two men—Alma and Abinadi, of whom we will speak more about later.
    In the meantime, Noah, with his taxes and pride built many elegant and spacious buildings; and he ornamented them with fine works of wood, and of all manner of previous things, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of brass, and of ziff, and of copper. And he also built him a spacious palace, and a throne in the midst thereof, all of which was of fine wood and was ornamented with gold and silver and with previous things” (Mosiah 11:8-9). In addition to building these in the city of Nephi, he also “caused many buildings to be built in the land Shilom” (Mosiah 11:12).

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