Book of Mormon Lesson 17 (Mosiah 7–10)
April 27–May 3
The Many Stories in Mosiah
The stories related in the Book of Mosiah and Book of Alma are intertwined with each other in a rather complex way. They are not told chronologically. The various stories come from different records and have been included by the prophet Mormon for what they teach us. Some of them were happening simultaneously. Following is a quick summary of happenings in chronological order:
● Nephi’s people escaped to the Land of Lehi-Nephi (Land of Nephi) (2 Nephi 5:5–8). After Lehi’s death, the Lord told the followers of Nephi to separate from the followers of Laman. The Nephites settled in the land of Nephi, later known as “the land of Lehi-Nephi” (Mosiah 7:1). Nephi bid us farewell approximately 550 BC (2 Nephi 31).
● Mosiah’s people escaped to the Land of Zarahemla (279 BC) (Omni 12–19). About 271 years later, the Nephites were led by a king named Mosiah. The Lord commanded him to flee from the Land of Nephi with “as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord.” When they did, he and his people discovered the people of Zarahemla. The two groups of people united and called themselves Nephites. Mosiah was appointed to be their king.
● Zeniff’s people returned back to the Land of Nephi (200 BC) (Mosiah 9–10). A group of Nephites left Zarahemla under the leadership of Zeniff to return to the land of Nephi (see also Omni 1:27). These two chapters are Zeniff’s first-person account of what happened to them, which Mormon inserted into the record. They obtained land there through a truce with the Lamanites, and Zeniff became their king (Mosiah 9:1–7). The Lamanites attempted several times unsuccessfully to subject them, having made their truce only to deceive them.
● Noah succeeded his father Zeniff and ruled in wickedness (160 BC) (Mosiah 11–17). Noah reigned after his father’s death in the land of Nephi. Abinadi came among them and preached repentance but they rejected his words and put him to death.
● Alma escaped from King Noah (148 BC) (Mosiah 17–18). He led a group of righteous, believing persons into the wilderness, where they remained for a time. He taught and baptized at the Waters of Mormon. They later fled further into the wilderness to escape King Noah’s attempts to capture and kill them.
● Limhi and his people suffered under Lamanite oppression (145 BC) (Mosiah 19–20). King Noah’s brutal behavior caused his own people to put him to death by fire (as Abinadi predicted). His son Limhi succeeded him, and was more righteous than his father, but his people were subjected by the Lamanites and suffered greatly (as Abinadi also predicted).
● King Benjamin delivered his temple sermon in Zarahemla (124 BC) (Mosiah 1–6). During the time that Zeniff and his descendants resided in the Land of Nephi, King Mosiah I died and was succeeded by his righteous son Benjamin. King Benjamin delivered his great sermon just three years before his own death. He placed his people under covenant to take upon them the name of Christ, and appointed his son Mosiah II to be their king.
● Ammon took an expedition to the Land of Nephi in search of Zeniff’s people (121 BC) (Mosiah 7–8). King Mosiah II “was desirous to know concerning the people who went to . . . the land of Lehi-Nephi” about 79 years earlier (Zeniff’s people). He permitted Ammon (not the same as the later missionary Ammon) and a few others to lead an expedition for this purpose. They found King Limhi and his people in the Land of Nephi. They taught them and also learned about some records of an ancient people (the Jaredites) that Limhi’s people had found while searching for Zarahemla. Ammon tells them that Mosiah is a seer and can translate them.
● The people of Limhi escaped to Zarahemla (120 BC) (Mosiah 21–22). These chapters continue the historical record of the people of Limhi, who had been subjected by the Lamanites for approximately 20 years. They also reiterate some of the facts told from Ammon’s perspective in Mosiah 7–8 about Limhi’s people being discovered by Ammon and converted, as well as about the 24 Jaredite plates. With the help of Ammon, the people of Limhi made plans to escape from Lamanite bondage by getting the Lamanites drunk. They were successful and Ammon led them back to the land of Zarahemla.
● Alma and his people escaped to Zarahemla (120 BC) (Mosiah 23–24). These chapters pick up the historical record of the people of Alma during the 20 years that followed their escape from King Noah into the wilderness (Mosiah 17–18). They built a city called Helam. Like Limhi’s people, these followers of Alma were citizens at the time of Abinadi’s rejection and death, and they were under the same curse of bondage as their brethren. They were eventually subjected by the Lamanites a suffered greatly under Amulon, a former priest of King Noah whom the Lamanites placed over them. But the Lord eventually blessed them and delivered them from bondage, and they found their way back to Zarahemla.
There are interlocking facts about these various groups in Omni and the Words of Mormon, as well as in Mosiah. It is a story with many important sub-plots, and well beyond the literary skills of the uneducated farm boy Joseph Smith. We will focus in this lesson on the events surrounding Zeniff and his descendants.
ZENIFF AND HIS PEOPLE
● Mosiah chapters 9–10 are a first-person account, written by Zeniff himself (Mosiah 9–10). Mormon inserted it into the record at this point, even though it pre-dates King Benjamin’s last sermon by almost 76 years.
● Zeniff was a spy who became overzealous (Mosiah 9:1–4). His grandson Limhi said his grandfather, by over zealousness, led his people into captivity (Mosiah 7:21–22). As we read this account we should consider all of the following:
— The propriety of this attempt to re-inhabit the land of Lehi-Nephi was questionable.
— There is no suggestion in the scriptural text that the Lord approved of this venture.
— Yet even after their first failure, Zeniff recruited another group to attempt it again.
— The second group suffered famine and afflictions while being slow to remember God.
— They knew little but bondage, death, and difficulty until the time of their repentance.
● The Lamanites agreed to let them stay, intending to put them in bondage (Mosiah 9:5–10).
— The Lamanite king commanded his own people to vacate the land of Lehi-Nephi and the land of Shilom so that Zeniff’s people could inhabit them (v. 7).
— They moved into the area and began to build buildings and repair the walls of the cities (v. 8). They also began to plant crops of corn, wheat, barley, neas, sheum, and various kinds of fruits (v. 9).
● After 12 years (188 BC), the Lamanites tried and failed to overpower them (Mosiah 9:11–19).
● After 22 years, the Lamanites came upon them again (Mosiah 10:10–18). The Lamanites are described in this account as “wild and ferocious and . . . blood-thirsty” (v. 12).
● We also learn about the false traditions of their Lamanite fathers:
1. That Laman and Lemuel were driven out of the land of Jerusalem “because of the iniquities of their father.”
2. That Laman and Lemuel were “wronged” by their brethren “in the wilderness” . . . “while crossing the sea” . . . and “while in the land of their first inheritance.”
3. That Nephi had wrongfully “taken the ruling of the people” out of the hands of Laman and Lemuel.
4. That Nephi robbed Laman and Lemuel by taking “the records which were engraven on the plates of brass.”
● Daniel H. Ludlow said, “Because of these false traditions the Lamanites had taught their children that they should hate, rob, and murder the Nephites; therefore, the Lamanites had ‘an eternal hatred towards the children of Nephi’” (Mosiah 10:17).
● Today, much of the blindness of the Christian world toward the restoration is based on the “orthodox” traditions of their fathers, to which they cling, to the exclusion of any new revelation from God that might contradict those cherished traditions. This was also the great failure of the Pharisees when the Lord came among them, teaching things that they were not willing to hear because of their false religious traditions. Such traditions become barriers to salvation—which, by definition, is damnation.
● The Prophet Joseph Smith said, [False traditions are as] “an iron yoke,” “a strong band . . . the very handcuffs, and chains, and shackles, and fetters of hell.” (D&C 123:8).
● Zeniff kept his people relatively free of Lamanite enslavement by stirring them up to righteousness and placing their trust in God (Mosiah 10:19–21).
THE WICKED KING NOAH
Leading the Nephites into Sin
● In Mosiah chapters 11–22, the account shifts to third person voice as Mormon begins abridging it.
● Near the end of his life, Zeniff conferred his kingdom upon his son, Noah. Unfortunately for the Nephites living in the land of Nephi, Noah chose not to keep the commandments but to commit sin (Mosiah 11:1–6).
—He had many wives and concubines and caused his people to commit abominations, whoredoms, and “all manner of wickedness” (vv. 1–2).
—To support his glutenous lifestyle, he taxed his people one-fifth of all they possessed and produced (v. 3).
—King Noah also removed all the priests that had been consecrated by his father and replaced them with priests of his own choosing who “were lifted up in the pride of their hearts” (v. 5).
—This new group of political and religious leaders 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 causing the people to “labor exceedingly to support iniquity” (v. 6).
● Rodney Turner said, “Zeniff undoubtedly restored the temple originally built by Nephi in the sixth century BC (2 Nephi 5:16). King Noah seems to have remodeled this same temple on a grand scale, making it far more elaborate and costly than it previously had been. (Mosiah 11:10). Like Herod the Great, who remodeled the second temple (that of Zerubbabel; see Ezra 3), Noah’s project was doubtless more a matter of personal vanity than genuine piety.”
● King Noah and his priests had seats within his palace “which were set apart for the high priests, which were above all the other seats,” which he ornamented with pure gold and which had a breastwork in front of them on which they could “rest their bodies and their arms . . . while they should speak lying and vain words to his people” (v. 11).
● King Noah built a high tower near the temple from the top of which he could overlook the entire region, including the city of Shilom and also the areas controlled by the Lamanites. He also built a high tower on a hill overlooking the city of Shilom (vv. 12–13).
● King Noah loved his many riches and “spent his time in riotous living with his wives and his concubines,” as did his priests who spent their time “with harlots” (v. 14). He built many vineyards and wine-presses to produce “wine in abundance; and therefore . . . became a wine-bibber” as did also his people (v. 15). A wine-bibber is one who indulges in excessive wine drinking. Today we would use the word drunkard (v. 15).
● Though scourged by the Lamanites the Nephites did not repent, but were “lifted up in the pride of their hearts [and] they did boast in their own strength” (Mosiah 11:16–19).
● Thus we can see that the same spirit of laziness and bloodshed that was so prevalent among the Lamanites was also prevalent among this group of Nephites—a sure sign that the Spirit of the Lord had withdrawn from them and they were ripe for destruction.
THE PROPHET ABINADI
Abinadi’s Mission to the Nephites
● At this point, the prophet Abinadi appeared among them, calling them to repentance (Mosiah 11:20–25). We do not know where he came from, but because these things occurred deep in the Land of Nephi which was Lamanite territory, I believe that he may have been a Lamanite called of God to preach repentance to the Nephites. His teachings included these:
— The Lord is slow to answer the prayers of the wicked (v. 24; see a similar warning in our own day in D&C 101:7–8).
— If they do not repent, God will bring them into bondage to their enemies (vv. 21, 23, 25).
● Rodney Turner said, “Abinadi is the John the Baptist of the Book of Mormon. Like John, he was a lone prophet who briefly ministered to a people committed to the law of Moses, who knew little of the Messiah to come and nothing of his actual divinity. Like John, Abinadi preached repentance, warned of the impending judgments of God, and testified of the Messiah to come. Both prophets were opposed by the religious leaders of their day; both were victims of priestcraft—the ultimate hypocrisy. Both denounced the immoral conduct of their respective kings and died violent deaths at their hands. Both Abinadi and John served as transitional prophets, linking together the old and the new covenants—the law of Moses and the law of Christ. In doing so, they functioned as ‘Eliases,’ preparing the way for the first coming of the Messiah.”
● Rather than repent, Noah reacted with anger and sought to kill Abinadi (Mosiah 11:26–29).
KING LIMHI’S PEOPLE
There is much that took place between the visit of the prophet Abinidai and the portion of this history that follows. Alma and his people rebelled against Noah’s wickedness, escaped temporarily from Noah’s armies, then fell into slavery under the Lamanites.
Meanwhile, Noah died a violent death and was succeeded by his son Limhi. He was more righteous than his father, but his people came under bondage to the Lamanites and suffered all of the things that Abinidai prophesied would happen because of their prior wickedness.
Ammon Finds Limhi’s People
● Ammon was sent on an expedition back to the Land of Nephi to try to discover what had happened to the people who left many years earlier with Zeniff (Mosiah 7:1–7).
● Limhi rejoiced when he learned that Ammon was from Zarahemla (Mosiah 7:8–16) and he shared this good news with his people (Mosiah 7:17–20).
● Limhi confessed his people’s wickedness, which was the cause of their suffering ever since they put Abinadi to death (Mosiah 7:25–32).
— They did not obey the Lord’s words.
— They contended with each other “even so much that they did shed blood among themselves”
— They killed a prophet of the Lord
● As part of this recitation, Limhi identifies the results of bondage (vv.29–32) which he apparently drew from their scriptures since he is quoting the Lord.
— The people will not prosper, and their activities will be stumbling blocks. (v. 29).
— They will reap chaff [rather than wheat in their fields] (v. 30).
— They will reap the east wind [drought] and destruction (v. 31).
— They will be smitten and afflicted (v. 32).
● Their rejection of the prophet Abinadi and their complicity in his death by fire were serious and consequential sins. Though they were now sorry for what they had done, they could not erase the consequences of their choices.
● Ammon rehearsed to Limhi’s people all that had happened in Zarahemla since their people departed, including King Benjamin’s final sermon (Mosiah 8:1–5).
The Importance of a Seer
● Limhi said that he once sent 43 people to search for their brethren in Zarahemla (Mosiah 8:6–12). Instead, they found the remains of the Jaredite civilization, including 24 gold plates (Ether 1:1–2). The Jaredites had occupied this land for centuries before the Nephites arrived.
● Limhi asked Ammon if he could translate the 24 gold plates. He said that he couldn’t, but King Mosiah was a “seer” who could translate them through the “interpreters” that he possessed (Mosiah 8:13–14).
● Ammon explained the roles and benefits of a seer (Mosiah 8:15–21): He can see the past, the future and things hidden from other men, thus becoming “a great benefit to his fellow beings” (v. 17).
● Elder John A. Widtsoe said, “A seer is one who sees with spiritual eyes. He perceives the meaning of that which seems obscure to others; therefore he is an interpreter and clarifier of eternal truth. He foresees the future from the past and the present. This he does by the power of the Lord operating through him directly, or indirectly with the aid of divine instruments such as the Urim and Thummim. In short, he is one who sees, who walks in the Lord’s light with open eyes.”
● Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “A seer is a prophet selected and appointed to possess and use these holy interpreters [the Urim and Thummim]. . . . The President of the Church holds the office of seership (D&C 107:92; 124:94, 125). Indeed, the apostolic office itself is one of seership, and the members of the council of the Twelve, together with the Presidency and Patriarch to the Church, are chosen and sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators to the Church. If there are seers among a people, that people is the Lord’s. Where there are no seers, apostasy prevails (Isaiah 29:10; 2 Nephi 27:5).”
As we consider the disintegration of the family today in our society, how thankful we should be for prophets and seers who saw this evil coming and instituted the Family Home Evening program and the Proclamation on the Family decades ago. We may rest assured that our seers will continue to be a great benefit to our safety and salvation.
1. A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, 182.
2. “Two Prophets: Abinadi and Alma,” in Kent Jackson, ed., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 7: 1 Nephi to Alma 29 , 257.
3. “Two Prophets: Abinadi and Alma,” 240–241.
4. Evidences and Reconciliations, arr. G. Homer Durham, 3 vols. in 1 , 258.
5. Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 700–701.