Friday, September 4, 2015

The Unusual Men – Zeniff, Noah, Limhi – PtIII

It is interesting that within these three kings, Zeniff, Noah and Limhi, that such a dichotomy appeared in just three generations of spiritual and righteous opposites.
    But what about the people?
    It is an understatement when the scripture says, “Noah…did not walk in the ways of his father” (Mosiah 11:1). In fact, after being led by Zeniff, a righteous man, and under whom they prospered in the land, the people might have been disgusted by a king who took many wives and concubines, committed whoredoms, set his heart upon wealth, spent his time in riotous living, and became a winebibber.
    However, what we learn from Noah’s early leadership is a very important part of our knowledge of people in general, and our own characters as well. For when Noah so drastically sinned, the people did not hold fast to the principles taught by Zeniff. Instead they joined King Noah in his sins, becoming idolatrous, drinking wine, and committing “whoredoms and all manner of wickedness” themselves (Mosiah 11:2; Mosiah 11:7, 15).
It is a sad commentary on human nature that the carnal state of all men seems to be held in check only by the righteousness of its leaders, but when an evil man holds the highest office, the natural tendencies of humanity seems to disappear. As Paul said, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7), and also said in Corinth, “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Corinthians 3:3).
    No one brought the slavery of character upon the Nephites when Noah came to power and exercised his evil leadership, but themselves. Noah’s evil character rose to the surface like cream in milk, when he was no longer held in check by the humanity around him. However, no one was forcing the Nephites themselves to so become as well—only their own individual natures that, when given the opportunity to express their own evil natures, that evil nature rose to the top of their behavior as we see it happened with Noah.
Whatever was in Noah’s mind to accomplish is not written, though it seems apparent that his interest was in creating the physical signs of civilization—large and spacious public buildings, life-styles of the rich mixed with worldly matters, and the pride of their hearts. It is written that the people were “deceived by the vain and flattering words of the king and priests” (Mosiah 11:7). But it seems much more likely and accurate to say that the people were deceived by the natural man who led them and within their own characters.
    At heart, people admire and want brave leaders. No doubt when the problems with the Lamanites began, the Nephites remembered that instead of just “sending guards round about the land to keep the Lamanites out,” that Zeniff in his leadership “sent his armies against them and drove them back” (Mosiah 11:17-18), and that Zeniff fought against the Lamanites with his own arm, even in his old age. And when Nephites fell, Zeniff, with his “own hands, did help to bury their dead” (Mosiah 9:19). It was a different people under Noah, who “did boast in their own strength, saying that their fifty could stand against thousands of the Lamanites” (Mosiah 11:19), and “did delight in blood, and the shedding of the blood of their brethren.”
Like the evilness that overtook the Jews, when the prophet Abinadi came preaching repentance “they were wroth with him, and sought to take away his life” (Mosiah 11:26), even before Noah heard of the prophet and ordered his capture. Instead of realizing their errors, the people sided with King Noah: “They hardened their hearts against the words of Abinadi, and they sought from that time forward to take him” (Mosiah 11:29).
    When at last Abinadi was captured, the people “carried him bound before the king” and denounced him as a traitor and a false prophet (Mosiah 12:9). In their pride they said: “O king, behold, we are guiltless, and thou, O king, hast not sinned. We are strong…and thou shalt also prosper.” It shows once again, that when evil rules, people become carnal and worldly, and sin also. Which is what the psalmist wrote “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).
    Instead of standing against Noah and his evil priests and the sins of their leaders, the people mirrored the evilness of their leaders and became like them. No doubt, this is the reason the Brother of Jared said about their people wanting a king, “Surely this thing leadeth into captivity” (Ether 6:23).
    It was not that the people didn’t know these things—they understood them well, but within every civilization, every people, every group, there are those who are more interested in doing evil than good, and if the opportunity presents itself, they often leap at the chance. As Helaman wrote: “they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted” (Helaman 5:2).
    King Noah tried to create the physical signs of civilization. With the people’s taxes he “built many elegant and spacious buildings; and he ornamented them with fine work of wood, and of all manner of precious things” (Mosiah 11:8). He didn’t skimp on the palace or the temple, either, and like many kings and government leaders in other ages of mankind, he used impressive monuments and elegant facades to persuade the people that they were a wealthy and mighty kingdom.
    And the people “were deceived by the vain and flattering words of the king” and his hand-picked priests (Mosiah 11:7). Perhaps they relished their new “freedom” from what they considered the restraints of God’s laws—it certainly wouldn’t be the first or the last time such action occurred for that very reason, after all, we see this very thing happening in our society today! Perhaps they believed that Noah had made them a great people, there is certainly a type for this thinking throughout history as well.
    But if they had not allowed themselves to be blinded, they might have seen some danger signs. Certainly one of the greatest men of the age gave his life in trying to turn the tide away from Noah’s evil pursuits in his call to the Nephites for their repentance.
Despite Noah’s power, which he used to get rich, to commit adultery and all forms of evil, and to protect himself, he was weak in character. Even surrounded by his guards and his priests, he was so frightened by Abinadi’s testimony that he “was about to release him, for he feared his word” (Mosiah 17:11). However, his priests goaded him and his fear swung to not supporting his priests and he reversed himself and ordered Abinadi’s death.
    Both Noah and his father, Zeniff, faced a massive Lamanite invasion at the end of their reigns. But the difference between them is pointed up most clearly by the ways they handled similar situations and in the way the people reacted to their leaders.
(See the next post, “Unusual Men-Zeniff, Noah, Limhi - Pt IV,” for the pivotal point that drove the Nephites back into Zarahemla and handed over the Land of Nephi to the Lamanites permanently)


  1. You are right, we should learn from those under King Noah. What problems do we have today? 2 Nephi 28:21 teach that those who are PACIFIED in Zion today are at risk to go to hell. Is it not a pacified spirit that teaches that the church leadership are guaranteed to never fail us? But is this not a just as much a possibility as the failure under King Noah? If there is a problem, but members are condemned for even considering there could be a problem, is that not even worse than the situation under King Noah?

  2. The scripture quoted relates to Satan leading the pacified away into carnal security (physical, especially sexual, needs and activities--sensual, erotic, lustful, lascivious,libidinous, lecherous, licentious, etc.). If Church leaders ever get to the point where such takes place, I would think the members would know it and rightfully rebel against it; however, such is not only not the case in the Church today, there is never a point where it has been. On the other hand, when the President of the land has sex in the White House, while on the phone with a foreign leader, one might suggest such is the case with the nation, yet recent history has shown us that half of the elected officials said that was O.K. and the news media saw no reason to raise an alarm--thus the people of the country were, and are, pacified. Personally, I fear for the country and its leaders, not the Church.