Book of Mosiah Some Helps Toward Understanding
At this point things begin to be a little complex, so it is helpful to pause and review some of the peoples, places, years, events, and plates:
|1. 589 b.c.||Lehi arrived in the promised land and established the land of First Inheritance.|
|2. 587 b.c.||Mulek led a group from Jerusalem and established the land of Zarahemla.|
|3. 588-559 b.c.||Nephi led his followers away from the Lamanites and established the land of Nephi.|
|4. 279-130 b.c.||Mosiah I led the Nephites out of the land of Nephi and joined the Mulekites in Zarahemla. The Lamanites then occupied the land of Nephi. In Zarahemla Mosiah I was succeeded by his son, King Benjamin.|
Also, the book of Mosiah includes “flashbacks” and other changes in time and location. The chronological order of chapters looks like this:
|5. Mosiah 9-10 (200-160 b.c.?)||Zeniff leads a group from Zarahemla to the land of Nephi; they become subject to the Lamanites (see also Omni 1:27-29).|
|6. Mosiah 11-17 (160-148 b.c.?)||Zeniff’s son Noah rules over the Nephites who are in the land of Nephi; the prophet Abinadi calls them to repentance; Alma believes, repents, and gains followers.|
|7. Mosiah 17-20 (148-123 b.c.)||Noah is replaced by his son Limhi, whose people are still subject to the Lamanites; Alma and his followers are oppressed by the priests of Noah. Limhi sends men to find Zarahemla; they are unsuccessful but they find the ruins of the Jaredites and return with twenty-four plates of gold containing the records of the Jaredites.|
|8. Mosiah 1-6 (124 b.c.)||King Benjamin’s discourse to his people in Zarahemla; his son Mosiah II becomes king.|
|9. Mosiah 7-8, 21-22 (121 b.c.)||Ammon and others are sent to find the people of Limhi; he leads them out of Nephi and to Zarahemla.|
|10. Mosiah 23-25 (120 b.c.?)||Alma and his followers escape bondage and are led by the Lord to Zarahemla.|
|11. Mosiah 26-29 (120-91 b.c.)||Alma the younger (son of Alma) and the sons of Mosiah II are among those who persecute the church. They repent and go to preach among the Lamanites.|
There is also some complexity regarding the several sets of plates. At this point we have the following:
- At the beginning of the book of Mosiah, King Benjamin is in possession of the plates of brass, the small plates of Nephi, and the large plates of Nephi.
- Benjamin passes the three sets of plates to his son Mosiah II, who then added the records of Zeniff and Alma, as well as the twenty-four plates of the Jaredites.
- At the end of the book of Mosiah, all these records were passed on to Alma II (the “younger”). The book of Mosiah appears to draw material from all these sources, except the small plates of Nephi.
Considering all the foregoing, it may occur to the careful reader that the authors of the book of Mosiah (as well as the entire Book of Mormon) were required to keep straight the various plates, names, dates, places, and events with perfect continuity and consistency throughout—and they did. Again, we see textual testimony of Joseph Smith as the translator—not the author nor originator—of an ancient record that was written by prophets inspired of God.
Mosiah 7:14-33 Awaiting the Lord’s Deliverance
King Limhi no longer followed the wicked ways of his father, King Noah, and after being found by Ammon and the others who were sent from Zarahemla, Limhi was “exceedingly glad” (verse 14). He saw this as their way to escape their bondage to the Lamanites. He gathered his people to the temple to speak to them (verse 17) and acknowledged that their afflictions were a result of their own iniquities (see verses 20-32). Still, he had hope for the Lord’s deliverance, and his words are a pattern to any who hope to escape trials or afflictions, whatever their cause. Ponder verses 18-19, 33 and identify what our frame of mind and heart should be, as we await the Lord’s deliverance. Indeed, we can be comforted, even if there is a struggle remaining before we escape our subjection. As we continue in the “struggle” period, perhaps the key words for us in these verses are trust, turn, and serve.
Mosiah 7:21; 9:3 Over-zealous
What does it mean to be “over-zealous”? What does the word inherit in these two verses add to understanding Zenniff’s errors? What consequences did being over-zealous lead to, in the case of Zeniff and his followers? In what ways may we sometimes tend toward being over-zealous in our lives, even when pursuing what we may consider to be worthy endeavors?
Mosiah 8:12-19 Urim and Thummim
Limhi informed Ammon that his search party had looked for Zarahemla but instead found ancient ruins, including twenty-four plates of gold (see verses 7-9). In response to Limhi’s desire to know what was written on the plates, Ammon teaches about King Mosiah being a “seer” who possessed “interpreters” with which “he can look and translate” (verse 13). The Prophet Joseph Smith called the interpreters the Urim and Thummim (JS—H 1:35); which are Hebrew words meaning lights and perfections. Ammon declared that their use is a “high gift from God” and a “great power” (verses 14, 16).
The scriptures refer to two sets of Urim and Thummim; one possessed by Abraham (Abraham 3:1, 4) and the other by the brother of Jared (D&C 17:1; see also Ether 3:28). The set used by the brother of Jared is the same that came into possession of Mosiah II (apparently having been left with the 24 gold plates) and were eventually included with the plates left by Moroni for Joseph Smith. Joseph described them as “two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow fastened to a breast plate” (History of the Church 4:537). The Old Testament has several references to other sets of Urim and Thummim, but their full history is unknown.
Consider how seers have been a blessing in your life, especially the Prophet Joseph Smith, who used the Urim and Thummim (among other methods) to bring forth the Book of Mormon and other scriptures and revelations.
Mosiah 9-10 A Jump Backwards
Note two things that help with understanding this part of the account: First, chapters 9-10 are a flashback to two generations before the events of chapters 7-8 (and, as noted above, chapters 9-10 are the first chapters in the book of Mosiah, chronologically). Secondly, chapters 9-10 are in the first-person perspective (I, me, my, we, us, our, etc.) because they are a direct quote from the record of Zeniff. In chapter 11 we return to the third person voice (he, she, they, etc.) as recorded by the abridger, Mormon.
Mosiah 9:12-13; 10:11-17 Are We Victims or Free Agents?
In these verses Zeniff explains some of the attitudes and behaviors of the Lamanites of his day. What false or distorted beliefs and traditions do you find in these verses? What did these mistaken beliefs and traditions lead to? Note in 10:14-18 the Lamanites’ unfounded feelings of “wroth” (rage or fury), which led to ignorance of the Lord’s dealings and hardened hearts, which in turn led to murder, robbery, and destruction. Today, so-called “hate groups” and others who believe they have been unfairly victimized (whether true or not) often choose rancorous attitudes and destructive behavior with serious consequences against themselves and others. This is a prime example of Satan’s goal as he “seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27).