May 31, 2013 by FHElessons
The next Book of Mormon story I would like to share with you is that of Zeniff. (To see the Book of Mormon timeline, click HERE. For the story previous to this one, the story of Enos, click HERE). His story is not as well known as some, but it is a good one. I didn’t have a picture to illustrate this story, but I thought I would share some photos that my sister took when she was in Belize. They are of a ruin called Caracol.
Sometimes we wonder why the Nephites and the Lamanites were always fighting over lands. Doesn’t it seem like with all of North and South America there ought to have been plenty of land to spare? And why, in the story we’re about to read, would a people want to leave their family and friends in order to go reclaim a land that was once inhabited by their ancestors?
Perhaps part of the reason is that when these lands were settled, the people put a lot of work into developing them. When we look at the ruins, we see enormous buildings that must have taken large amounts of resources and man power to construct. Once these cities were built, the people were very attached to them. And the buildings were valuable to them.
Anyway, just something to think about as you read this story. I don’t really know what the Book of Mormon lands looked like, but perhaps these photos will give you an idea of what the people might have been fighting over and wishing to reclaim.
The Story of Zeniff
found in Mosiah 9-10 in the Book of Mormon
Summarized by Amanda (my sister)
The Nephites and Lamanites moved around a lot. In their moving around they built cities in several different places. But often, once they left a city they did not return to it. There were some individuals that always wondered about the cities left behind and wanted to return and find them. One of these adventurous and curious people was Zeniff. He left Zarahemla in search of the Land of Nephi, the land where the Nephites first colonized upon arriving in the Americas but had since left. Zeniff was strong and mighty but also stiff-necked (headstrong). Zeniff went with a big group of people (we’re not told how many but I imagine thousands). When they arrived in the land of Nephi, Zeniff went to spy on the Lamanites who inhabited the land (Zeniff knew the Lamanite language). He was supposed to figure out what resources and strengths the Lamanites had so the Nephite group he was with could then come in and destroy them and overtake the lands. But as he was spying on them he saw a lot of things about them that he liked, and he didn’t want them to be slaughtered. He told this to the leader of the group and recommended that instead of destroying them they make a treaty with them, and it made that leader (we don’t know his name but Zeniff called him stern and blood-thirsty) mad. He ordered that Zeniff be killed. This order caused this large group of Nephites to war amongst themselves – between those who wanted Zeniff to live and those who supported the leader. Zeniff said father fought against father and brother against brother. They fought until all but 50 of them had died. Zeniff and the remaining 50 returned to Zarahemla to tell what happened and let the wives and children of those who died know (Omni 1:27-28; Mosiah 9:1-3).
But Zeniff still really wanted to live in the Land of Nephi, so after recruiting more people to journey with him he returned to the Land of Nephi. This journey took several days, and on the way they suffered many trials including lack of food because they “were slow to remember the Lord”. Eventually they did make it to where they had been before, just outside the Lamanite settlement, and they set up their tents. Zeniff took 4 men with him, and they went into the Lamanite city to talk with the king. Zeniff asked the king if there was a place he and his people could settle that would be pleasing to the king and that they wouldn’t have to fight for. The king gave them the land of Lehi-Nephi and the land of Shilom. He also commanded that his people that had been living in those lands had to leave. Then Zeniff and his people moved in. (Omni 1:29; Mosiah 9:4-8)
After moving in they started planting crops and working the land and making it a nice place to live. They were successful in their farming and cultivating, and things were going well for them. After they had lived there 12 years, the Lamanite king, King Laman, began to worry that they were too prosperous and that they might overpower his people and bring them into bondage. These Lamanites were fairly lazy, and they were idol worshippers, and the king was jealous of their prosperity. He commanded his men to go to battle against Zeniff’s people so they could subject them to bondage. The Lamanites went in and started killing them and stealing their sheep and crops. This began a war between the Lamanites and Zeniff’s people. It was a deadly war in which 3,043 Lamanites and 279 Nephites were killed. Luckily the Nephites had been faithful in remembering the Lord, and He preserved them and helped them push the Lamanites out of their land. (Mosiah 9-19)
For 22 years Zeniff and his people continue to prosper in their land, being very industrious. But King Laman eventually died and left his kingdom to one of his sons. His son wanted to try again to take Zeniff’s people captive and take their lands, so he got his people all ready to go to battle again Zeniff’s. But Zeniff had spies that informed him of the Lamanite’s plans, so he was able to prepare his people against the Lamanite’s attack. During this 22 years they had still been faithful in the worship of the Lord, and so they were again preserved in the war and drove the Lamanites back out. It seems this war was even more deadly than the previous since the number of the Lamanites killed was so great that they didn’t even number them. But they returned to their gardening and shepherding and were blessed by the Lord. Just before Zeniff died, he conferred his kingdom onto his son Noah – King Noah. (Mosiah 10)
Points to Ponder:
- Zeniff must have known that the leader of his group would be opposed to sparing the Lamanites, so it took courage for him to voice his opinion that those Lamanites should be spared. Have you ever had to use courage to speak your opinion, knowing that it would anger someone you knew? What can help to give us courage to speak out, courage to stand in holy places and be not moved?
- Zeniff and his group expected to have to kill the Lamanites in order to take back the land of Nephi, but Zeniff was moved with compassion towards a people who he expected to be his enemy. Is there anyone today who you feel is your enemy? How does the Lord want you to treat that person or group of people? How can you get the right attitude toward someone who is against you?
- Over and over in the scriptures, we see stories of people who were either preserved by the Lord because they were righteous or suffered trials and persecution because they were “slow to remember the Lord, their God.” How does this lesson apply to our lives today?
- Zeniff was a righteous ruler, and his people prospered and enjoyed the Lord’s protection. We shall see that his son, King Noah, will not be a righteous ruler. How does the morality of a ruler (or a government) affect the people being governed?
- Why does it sometimes happen in the scriptures that one ruler is righteous while his son turns out to be unrighteous or vice versa? What factors might affect the righteousness of a father/son?
For the next story in this series, Abinadi’s story, click HERE.