Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson 14: “For a Wise Purpose” Enos-Words of Mormon

Book of Mormon Lesson 14: “For a Wise Purpose”
Enos-Words of Mormon


If we are to believe the time-frames established in the Book of Mormon, Enos was a child born in Jacob’s late years.  Jacob must have been around 80 years old when Enos was born!  That Enos probably was not as involved in the government or church, as were his father and uncle Nephi, is suggested by the fact that Enos is out hunting as an adult, and begins to think upon his own salvation.  It is at this time that he thinks upon the words of his father, Jacob, and turns to the Lord for his own witness.

Something lacking in many modern testimonies today is the level of desire and effort to gain a witness and forgiveness. How often do we hear of people praying through the day and into the night for their own soul?  

Of course, for Enos, and hopefully for us, once we gain forgiveness, we should begin to ponder the outcome for those around us.  Yet, again, how many of us “pour out [our] whole souls” and “struggle in the spirit”?

Perhaps from this alone, we can measure our own level of spirituality.  Are our prayers Celestial, Terrestrial, or less?  Do we pour out our whole souls, or only a part of it?  Are we giving all we have, or just what is comfortable and convenient?  What is our commitment level?

Later, Jacob discusses the daily grind of Nephites and Lamanites.  In sharing the agrarian work of the Nephites, he mentions they have “...flocks of herds, and flocks of all manner of cattle of every kind, and goats, and wild goats, and also many horses” (Enos 1:21).

What are “flocks of herds”? Are they any different than flocks of flocks?  They seem to not include cattle, goats or horses, as these are mentioned in addition to the flocks of herds. The term actually seems to be an early 19th century term, being used in the 1823 “A geographical dictionary or universal gazetteer, ancient and modern”, Volume 2,  by Joseph Emerson Worcester.  In the gazetteer, Worcester talks of the highlands (altiplano) of Bolivia and notes, “Oruro, jurisdiction Buenos Ayres,  The greatest part of this jurisdiction is so cold, that no esculent vegetables will flourish here; but it abounds with numerous flocks of herds, besides the numerous cattle peculiar to this country.”

Here we see that he not only uses the term “flocks of herds”, but also separates it from the cattle.  It seems to include flocks of animals other than cattle, at least in this instance.  For the Nephites, it may be that many wild animals were domesticated which were not known in Jerusalem, but were useful and found in the Americas.

Archaeologically, there are issues regarding horses in the Americas at the time of the Nephites. In this instance, horses do not seem to be noted as animals for carrying or riding, but for food.  It may be possible that some indigenous animal in the Americas was seen by the early Nephites and designated as a horse-like animal.  For example, when the Greeks first went to Egypt and saw the animals there, they used their terminology and understanding to name them.  So, the large animal they found strolling in the Nile River was called the “water horse” or hippopotamus.  In this way, it is possible that the Nephites also named an American animal a “horse” due to similarities. It may have been a type of deer, tapir, llama, or some other animal.

“And I bear record that the people of Nephi did seek diligently to restore the Lamanites unto the true faith in God. But our labors were vain; their hatred was fixed, and they were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven; and their skill was in the bow, and in the cimeter, and the ax. And many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat; and they were continually seeking to destroy us” (Enos 1:20).

Enos described the Lamanites that the Nephites had contact with.  They were ferocious and dwelt in tents.  Not much later, we will see Ammon the missionary go among the Lamanites to large cities, a structured government, laws, and some civility.  While it is possible that the Lamanites changed quickly from a hunter/gatherer group to city dwellers, it is probably unlikely.  More likely, the Nephites dealt with the Lamanites on their wilderness border.  While most Lamanites probably dwelt in or near cities, those along the border would have been the backwoods hicks of their time. Just as a modern New York socialite might look down his nose at Jed Clampett, so the Nephites may have been guilty of treating the Lamanites living on the border as people needing to be taught how to be civilized.  Such effort could easily be construed by the “savage” Lamanites in the same manner as the Native Americans viewed the whites trying to civilize them, an insult to their heritage and traditions.

This attempt was very different than Ammon’s, where he did not insult the Lamanite traditions, but asked to live with them, and even be a servant.  Perhaps Enos’ people demonstrate a method we could learn from in how not to bring people to Christ.


In Omni, we first find that an apostasy lasting several generations occurs among the Nephites. Even Omni himself admits he has not kept the commandments of his father, Jarom (Omni 1:2). Yet it became so bad that the “the more wicked part of the Nephites were destroyed” and only the righteous were preserved (Omni 1:5-7).  It is easy to miss this great destruction, as it is covered in only a few short verses.  Still, we can imagine the destruction and wars to be similar to later events, such as in the times of Captain Moroni or even Mormon.  We can note here, and will see occur many times in the Book of Mormon, that a common event that precedes the destruction is that the people spread out over the land and become very wealthy (Jarom 1:6-8).  It may be that large populations that sought wealth and more than they needed would strain the resources of the land, until wars would grow over the scarce resources.  Among the ancient Maya, slash and burn farming techniques would often wear the soil out after just a few generations.  The only choice in this issue would be for the entire city to move, often into the territory of an enemy, in order to be slashing and burning land for agriculture again.  We will see this again and again, including Mormon noting that the people were spread over the land, suggesting a fight among Nephites and Lamanites over scarce resources.  And when the resources are impossible to find, the soldiers reduce themselves to cannibalism (Moroni 9).

King Mosiah I and Zarahemla

The writer Amaleki notes that King Mosiah, in fact, moves his people to another location. Perhaps it is because of an impending invasion of the Lamanites, or just as likely because the resources are depleted.  A disastrous crop failure (or series of them over several years), would have weakened them, leaving them open to destruction by the Lamanites.

Mosiah flees into the wilderness towards the narrow neck of land.  On the march, they come across the city of Zarahemla.  Here are the relevant passages, followed by some key points concerning the Mulekites (people of Zarahemla) and the Jaredites that will influence the rest of the Nephite story.

“And they discovered a people, who were called the people of Zarahemla. Now, there was great rejoicing among the people of Zarahemla; and also Zarahemla did rejoice exceedingly, because the Lord had sent the people of Mosiah with the plates of brass which contained the record of the Jews.
Behold, it came to pass that Mosiah discovered that the people of Zarahemla came out from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon....
And at the time that Mosiah discovered them, they had become exceedingly numerous. Nevertheless, they had had many wars and serious contentions, and had fallen by the sword from time to time; and their language had become corrupted; and they had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator; and Mosiah, nor the people of Mosiah, could understand them.
But it came to pass that Mosiah caused that they should be taught in his language. And it came to pass that after they were taught in the language of Mosiah, Zarahemla gave a genealogy of his fathers, according to his memory; and they are written, but not in these plates.
And it came to pass that the people of Zarahemla, and of Mosiah, did unite together; and Mosiah was appointed to be their king.
And it came to pass in the days of Mosiah, there was a large stone brought unto him with engravings on it; and he did interpret the engravings by the gift and power of God.
21 And they gave an account of one Coriantumr, and the slain of his people. And Coriantumr was discovered by the people of Zarahemla; and he dwelt with them for the space of nine moons” (Omni 1:14-22).

Here we see that not only do the people of Zarahemla rejoice to meet the Nephites, but also their leader Zarahemla also rejoices. Cities in antiquity were often named after their leaders, and so was the custom in the MIddle East and among the Nephites. Mosiah discovered the city of Zarahemla around 200 BC.  This means the man, Zarahemla, is alive in 200 BC, and so the city of Zarahemla probably was created no earlier than 250 BC.  The man Zarahemla notes HIS genealogy, and not that of his people, probably because there are many that do not have his lineage.  That the people lived for a long time with no records, and therefore lost their traditions, religion and language (Hebrew), suggests they had to learn another.  

Given they had Coriantumr, last king of the Jaredites, dwell with them for nine months, we can determine that the Jaredites’ final destruction was actually around 250 BC.  This suggests that upon arriving in the Americas, the Mulekites dwelt among the Jaredites for centuries. During that time, they would have learned to speak the Jaredite language, although not read it (as they could not read/interpret the large stone).  The wars and violence mentioned would have been from the violent Jaredite wars.

The Mulekites were cultural Jaredites, and may even had several living among them. Starting with this event, we will begin to see Jaredite names appear in the Nephite record: Morianton, Corianton, Gadianton (suffix), Korihor, Nehor, and many others.

We will also see Jaredite tactics begin, as secret combinations and priestcraft will appear among the Nephites.  Governments will be toppled, and getting gain will bring wars and destabilize governments.

Other concepts to consider:

First, when the Nephites showed up, they were not able to settle down into every other house, as if the Mulekites emptied them for them. Instead, we will see a division between Nephites and Mulekites that will last for generations.  Just as modern cities have different areas for groups (Chinatown, Jewish Quarter, Spanish area, etc), so we would see the division among these. And we do. Later, we will see Captain Moroni establish cities on the border. Two “sister cities” will be Lehi and Morianton (a Jaredite name), and we can easily guess which will be the troublemaker: Morianton.

Then are are claims to authority.  Nephite leaders claim authority through Nephi.  Yet, now we have descendants of Mulek, who can claim authority and the right of kings through “Zedekiah, King of Judah” and descendant of David!  Who has the right to rule, David or Nephi, the tribe of Judah or Joseph?  And of course, Laman and perhaps others also have claim on the throne, so we shall see how such kingship claims will affect the Nephites going into the future.

I’ve noted that the Nephites and Lamanites absorbed other peoples previously, but did not explicitly mention it.  Why mention the Mulekites now? Exactly because of the new struggles that will appear among the Nephites.  Previously, there were no other claims to the throne (that we know of) or attempts to create secret combinations to obtain such goals.  Now we will see how the Jaredite traditions and the divine right of kingship will combine to destroy the Nephite nation.


“A geographical dictionary or universal gazetteer, ancient and modern”, Volume 2,  by Joseph Emerson Worcester - Google Books

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