Thursday, April 30, 2020

Zeniff’s Lost People (Mosiah 7-11)

Backstory Summary:

Earlier in the reign of King Benjamin, a group of Nephites wanted to return to the Land of Nephi from the Land of Zarahemla, where the Nephites had lived for the first 300 or so years of their colonization of the Americas (see Omni 1:27-30).  The Lamanites had taken over that land and Zeniff, the Nephite leader, made a treaty with the Lamanite King for some land, in return for which they would pay tribute to the Lamanites (see Mosiah 7:21-22).  The Lamanites wanted to enslave the Nephites and profit from their industry, so they broke the treaty and attacked them twice (Mosiah 9:14 and Mosiah 10:8).  Zeniff and the Nephites prayed and defeated the Lamanites both times (Mosiah 9:18 and Mosiah 10:19-20).  King Zeniff died and conferred the kingdom upon his son, Noah.  But King Noah was wicked and did not walk in the ways of his father (Mosiah 11:1-2). 

The account starts in chapter 7 at the time of King Mosiah II’s ascent to the throne with a scouting party from Zarahemla, led by Ammon I, which finds the descendants of Zeniff’s lost people, now led by King Limhi, the son of Noah and grandson of Zeniff.  By this time, the people were in bondage to the Lamanites.  Limhi is overjoyed to hear that the main group of Nephites are still alive and he wants to lead his people back to the Land of Zarahemla to reunite with them.  Previously, Limhi had sent a scouting party out to try and locate Zarahemla.  While they did not find that land, they did find a land of bones and a record on gold plates.

A Seer:

READ Mosiah 8:5-9
Whose record did they find recorded on the 24 gold plates?
The record of the Jaredites (see Mosiah 28:11-17; Ether 1:1-2).

READ Mosiah 8:12, 19
What information and “mysteries” are on these plates?
There is a record of the people who were destroyed (see the Book of Ether).
But the greater part of the record is the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon which Moroni summarized, which contains Mahonri’s vision of all things – the history of the earth from the beginning to the end (see Ether 3:25-26).

READ Mosiah 8:13
What does a seer do?
They have vision and can see hidden things.
They see the truth – things as they are, were and will be.
They see beyond the veil.
They can translate records.
What is the opposite of the visionary seer?
Those who are blind – they cannot see.
They are blind in their minds (see 1 Nephi 14:7; Jarom 1:3; Alma 13:4; Alma 14:6; 3 Nephi 7:16; Ether 4:15; Ether 15:9).
They are blind in their hearts (see D&C 58:15; Ephesians 4:8).
So, why can’t the blind “see”?
Spiritual blindness is a voluntary condition (see 2 Nephi 9:32) – they “will not see” rather than “cannot see”.
They refuse to receive what has been made available to them – the “gift from God”.
Seers choose to be seers in that they choose to see with their minds and hearts – they live higher principles and are filled with light as a result – light is what helps people to see in the physical world and in the spiritual realm.  Seers “climb” to the “high places” or “mountain tops” from where they see the visions of eternity through choosing to be obedient to their Lord and moving from a small capacity to a great one.
What does Ammon teach Limhi regarding how a seer “sees”?
They have “wherewith that he can look” – they have tools that enable them to see.
Examples include a Urim and Thummim, used by Mosiah, Joseph Smith, Mormon, Moroni, Abraham (see Abraham 3:1), and Moses (Leviticus 8:8), a seer stone (Joseph Smith), a divining rod (Aaron – Exodus 7-8; Numbers 17, 20:8; Oliver Cowdery – D&C 8:6-8), and a silver cup (Joseph of Egypt – Genesis 44:2, 5).
When anyone has possession of such an instrument, they are a seer by definition, as the instrument itself allows the possessor to see the past, present and future.
Does a seer need a device to enable them to see?
No – the instrument is an enabler but is not required.
Seers who did not use tools included Jesus Christ, Enoch (see Moses 6:35-36), Isaiah, Nephi I (1 Nephi 11-14), Daniel (Daniel 2, 10).
What is the difference between a seer’s tool and a crystal ball or other “magic” device?
The Lord must command the seer to look into the tool – otherwise he might look for that which he ought not and should perish – which may or may not include immediate physical death.
Any other tool for “seeing”, which is not governed by the Lord, is not guaranteed to show the “seer” truth, because it is not of God, who is a God of truth, although it may “work” or show them something .

READ Mosiah 8:14-16
How is a seer a revelator and a prophet also?
One who “sees” the truth can also reveal it or prophesy of it, if commanded (see Jeremiah 23:28; Alma 12:9) – if you find a seer, you have found a prophet and a revelator.

READ Mosiah 8:17-18
What does a seer see?
Things which are past, things which are to come.
Hidden and secret things from the present.
All things.
Seers see the truth – things as they really are, were and are to come (see D&C 93:24).
What is implied by the fact that without revelation there are things “which otherwise could not be known”?
Divine knowledge does not come through scholarship.
There is information beyond the human capacity to gain, no matter how long the effort, how sensitive the scientific tools, or how smart the person seeking it.
Some things are not within human comprehension without divine intervention, i.e. direct revelation and quickening (see D&C 76:116).
It requires faith to receive this higher knowledge from God (see D&C 88:118).
We can only receive some things directly from God through revelation – some things can be learned but cannot be taught by men (see TPJS 365:1).
What is the relationship between the office of Apostle, the titles of “Prophet, Seer and Revelator” and the gifts of prophesy, seership, and revelation?
Inside the Church the current interpretation is that the “office” has associated with it a “title” set out in scripture.  The “office” of the President of the High Priesthood (see D&C 107:65-66), who is the President of the Church, also bears the “title” of “prophet, seer and revelator” (D&C 017:91-92). 
The current interpretation of these verses is that the possessor of the office is entitled to the title of “prophet, seer and revelator” by virtue of office alone.  Therefore, nothing more is needed in current church usage other than possession of the office, which alone gives the possessor of the office the title accorded to the office.  So, no, our current Church terminology does not require something other than office to have these titles.
This means that you can sustain a man in his office with the title of “prophet, seer and revelator” without having to swear an oath that you “know” or even believe that they actually possess the spiritual gifts of prophesy, seership and revelation; on the flip side, they do not have to have these gifts to be called by the titles, as long as they have been sustained in the office of Apostle, so if you are expecting them to demonstrate these gifts of the spirit, you may be disappointed; but worse for them would be if they inferred actual prophesy when there was none (see Jeremiah 23:16-17, 21-23, 30-32).
The titles and the gifts of prophesy, seership and revelation are not the same thing; the gifts are “gifts of the spirit” and are connected to the powers of heaven, which can only be handled or controlled based on the principles of righteousness, regardless of whether they are bestowed upon us as a title or not (see D&C 121:36-37) – it is similar to the discussion of the “authority of the priesthood” which is placed by ordination and the laying on of hands vs. the “power of the priesthood” which requires a connection directly to heaven .
But one must ask themselves, what benefit to one’s fellow beings is it for a person to hold the title of prophet, seer and revelator and yet not possess the spiritual gifts that allow them to actually prophesy, see and reveal the truth?

The Wickedness of King Noah

“The church is prospering and succeeding. All the church’s efforts meet with success, the leaders are respected and loved, and the religion is popular and accepted. The people are faithfully living their leaders' teachings that tell them of their relationship with God, and the responsibilities they must live up to as His chosen people. They are busy doing all that is asked of them. Your tithes are being put to good use; the building program has produced many beautiful and impressive buildings, including a new conference center, office tower, and a gorgeous temple. Prior attacks by those not of your faith have been put to rest, and you can live and practice your religion in peace, without fear of persecution. All is well in Zion. Yea, Zion prospereth.  Then in the midst of this comfortable prosperity, out of nowhere, a crazy man begins to publicly level accusations against your church. He says that you are not chosen, but are instead horribly wicked. He tells you your religion is an abomination and threatens that terrible destruction is coming if you don’t repent. What’s worse, he begins attacking your leaders as being corrupt, greedy, ignorant, and uninspired. The man who makes such accusations has no authority, title or office. He’s a “nobody,” neither known nor respected in the church. He’s so deluded he actually claims God talks to him and tells him to say all these horrible, unkind, and hurtful things about your church and its leadership.  Of course, he is wrong. All the evidence shows that God is pleased with your church and pouring out His choicest blessings on the leadership. Anybody can see that. Consequently, many are hurt and angered by this man. They feel threatened. They fear him and his message. Oh, sure, he preaches about God, but he obviously has no idea that a loving God would never say such things and cause such pain. The God that you know delights to pour out blessings, not destruction. He rewards you for proper behavior, rather than punishing you for error. He raises up chosen leaders to show you the right way, and would never allow them to lead you astray. Why would God ever let his church fall into corruption?  The crazy man is deluded, and easily dismissed. Efforts to ignore him ensue, though he just won’t shut up. Ultimately, as one who may potentially mislead, and even eternally damage those who listen to him, he must be stopped in any way possible. He’s threatening the peace and stirring up unrest. Isn’t it better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief? Unfortunately, efforts to arrest and punish him for his crimes fail, as he gets wind of what’s coming and leaves the country. He makes a clean getaway, and is safe…” 

READ Mosiah 11:1
Why do the scriptures use the metaphor of walking a road or  path or “way” for being obedient?
Obedience is displayed in the face of opposing enticements and a law or standard of behavior (a “right” way of being), which in the case of eternal law, is a way of being that fills one with light, spirit, intelligence, truth, glory and happiness.
Obedience is a choice that is made in a moment in time through the use of agency (see Alma 13:3-5) but as we all must grow from a small capacity to a great one (see TPJS 391:2), not possessing a fullness of light and truth at the beginning (see D&C 93:12-14), means we must continue to be obedient to the light we have and then seek for more and in turn be obedient to that new knowledge.
This movement from grace to grace, from eternity to eternity, is a journey made down a “road” or “way” over time or “times” or lives (see D&C 130:18-21; D&C 132:21-25; TPJS 390-393); it is not all to be understood or accomplished in this life, as we have to ascend on “Jacob’s Ladder” one rung at a time.

READ Mosiah 11:2-8
Contrast King Noah’s “walk” with that of King Benjamin’s – what are the key differences?
Noah did not keep the commandments of God while Benjamin was receiving the ministering of angels.
Noah walked after the desires of his own heart while Benjamin had offered the sacrifice of his broken heart to the Lord and covenanted to walk in His way.
Noah flattered the people with praise while Benjamin told them they were unprofitable servants and less than the dust of the earth.
Noah brought his people down into sin and abomination by making them feel great about themselves while Benjamin raised his people to salvation by showing them their fallen and awful state.
Noah taxed his people (v3) to support his lifestyle while Benjamin labored with his own hands for his livelihood.
Despite imposing a 20% flat tax and requiring much more labor, how does Noah win over the hearts of the people?
He flatters them with praise – “you are industrious; you are a rich and successful people; you are unbeatable in war; and all these things demonstrate that you are blessed by God”.
He builds beautiful public buildings and churches to demonstrate their success as a society.
He encourages them to participate in immorality, which they enjoy.
How does idolatry result from flattery?
People are drawn to others that make them feel good about themselves.
Flattery is a great way to make others feel good about themselves.
The individual who makes a lot of people feel good about themselves builds great regard with and a following among those people.
People prefer to be flattered by others that they regard as credible and successful – more so than themselves, as it gives credence to the flattering words, so there is a natural desire from the one being flattered for the flatterer to be someone worth idolizing.
All of this is a self-fulfilling prophesy which results in idolatry or worship of the man or woman doing the flattering – it is a “win-win” for both parties – but it is all built on a lie (the flattery) and on deception (the flatterer is trying to gain power).

READ Mosiah 11:10-11
Why does Noah spend money on a fine temple if he doesn’t keep God’s commandments?
He knows that a religion that makes you feel good about yourself is a powerful tool – it brings people together, it placates their guilt, it makes them feel like good people.
Religion is a great way to exercise control over people – they are concerned about their souls in eternity and blessings now.
Elevating priestly office in the eyes of the people through beautiful buildings, “chief seats”, and the ability to speak to the people “lying and vain words” on a regular basis is key to retaining control – there are many subliminal messages that are given: priests are better (more righteous, smarter, blessed by God) than you, so you better listen to them!  And when those words are flattery – it’s a “win-win” and the people will support the priests in anything they’d like to do – whatever prophetic prerogatives they would like to accomplish.

READ Mosiah 11:16-19
What is the difference between Noah’s armies and Captain Moroni’s?
While both fought a reactive, defensive war (i.e. the Lamanites attacked them first and were unprovoked), and were defending their countries (religion, freedom, peace, families – see Alma 46:12)…
Noah’s armies delighted in killing and boasted in their own strength while Captain Moroni’s armies were not “men of blood” (see Alma 44:1) and trusted in the Lord to deliver them (see Alma 56:46-47).

READ Mosiah 12:8
Why is it important in the latter days for us to know of the wickedness of Noah’s people?
Because we may suffer from the same sins (we are “men of blood”, love to idolize men, equate material success with God’s blessing for righteous living, mask religious abominations with beautiful temples, etc.).
And we may suffer the same outcome if we do not listen to unlikely sources who are actually sent from the Lord, like Abinadi was – and repent ourselves.
Mormon and Moroni saw our day and included what they included from 1000 years of history for us and the Remnant to learn from.

The Ministry of Abinadi

READ Mosiah 11:20
Where did Abinadi come from?
He was one of the subjects of King Noah (“a man among them”).
He was a total unknown – he was not one of Noah’s inner circle but he was not one of Zeniff’s priests, either.
There is no mention of family or anything about him.
We have no way of knowing if he was a Nephite, Lamanite or from a people that was already living in the vicinity – but he does know the Hebrew scriptures.
Why does Abinadi say “thus sayeth the Lord” and what does that imply?
What he is about to say is a direct quote from the Lord.
Abinadi is not on his own errand but has been sent with a specific message to deliver, in fact, he was commanded to deliver it.
The Lord spoke with Abinadi directly and gave him this message.
True messengers have messages from God – they are not “freelancing”, however well intentioned, and giving their own guidance, no matter how inspired.

READ Mosiah 11:21
What is the only way Noah’s people can avoid being enslaved by the Lamanites and why would the Lord “enforce righteousness” in them instead of honoring their agency?
They must repent to avoid being enslaved.
He’s not forcing them – He is telling Noah that He has been protecting his people but will no longer do so but will let the natural order take its place (bigger armies beat small armies, unless they have way better technology – which they haven’t, or strength – which they don’t, or intelligence – all they have is a high tower, or are protected by the Lord – which is what they will be losing).
They still have their agency but the Lord is telling them what the consequence will be of casting away the Lord’s protection through an unwillingness to repent.

READ Mosiah 11:22-24
How will the people know that the Lord is their God?
By His absence.
They will realize all of the grace He was extending to them and the power He had to protect them when He steps aside.
And by the fact that they will not be able to rescue themselves from bondage – only the Lord will be able to do that.
He will wait until the people have really repented, so that they will know that it is by Him that they are saved, not by their own strength – He’s not slow to hear their cries because He is trying to punish them or is passive-aggressive, but for their own good (see Alma 34:31 and Mosiah 2:24 for how quickly the Lord will forgive or bless His people as they come unto Him in meekness).

READ Mosiah 11:25
What does it mean to “repent in sackcloth and ashes”?
Sackcloth was a very course material usually made of black goat’s hair and was uncomfortable to wear.
Ashes signified desolation and ruin; the individual would sit in the ashes and put them on top of their head.
Sackcloth and ashes were used as an outward sign of one’s inward condition – a symbol of godly sorrow and a change of heart.
It showed the sincerity of one’s grief for sin and humble repentance.
It was the Lord’s duty to remove the sackcloth and clothe the person in “joy” through forgiveness of sin, if the repentance was acceptable to the Lord (see Psalm 30:11).

READ Mosiah 11:26
How did the people react to Abinadi’s message of destruction, coming so soon after their decisive victory over the Lamanites?
They refused to believe it – they hardened their hearts to the message.
But not only that, their disbelief almost immediately turns to violence toward the messenger.

READ Mosiah 11:27
What is Noah implying about Abinadi when he says “who is Abinadi, that I and my people should be judged of him”?
Abinadi holds no position or credibility among the people – socially, economically, or politically.
Abinadi has no religious authority with which to rightfully cast this judgment at Noah.
How can we make sense of Noah’s question about the Lord – does he really not know who God is?
He doesn’t really believe in God, or he wouldn’t be acting the way he is or changing the doctrine and ordinances to support his immorality.
Or if he somehow believes in God, he believes that God either can’t be bothered or has not the power to intercede in the lives of his people in such an intimate (and destructive) way.
Or he is casting aspersions at the God Abinadi has been preaching about or has been sent from, saying in effect, “the God I worship would never treat us the way you say God will treat us, thus your God is false – who is He?  He doesn’t exist”.
But no, Noah definitely does not KNOW the Lord!  God is far from the thoughts and intents of Noah’s heart (see Mosiah 5:13).

READ Mosiah 11:28-29
How is Abinadi’s message stirring up the people to contend with anger with each other?
The wicked take the truth to be hard – they react in anger.
It sounds like some were open enough to Abinadi’s message to use it or parts of it to debate or contend with each other.
The fact that this was being done “in anger” shows how far they have to go to come unto Christ.
Although it was the Lord who told them He would visit them in anger – which could mean “to obtain satisfaction from the offending party, to take vengeance, to press, squeeze, make narrow or strangle” (1828 Webster’s Dictionary).
Why do you think the Lord sends Abinadi at a time when, in Noah and his people’s eyes, everything is going so well – economically, socially, and militarily?
Because things are not going so well spiritually.
But they are practicing religious abominations – in other words, they think or pretend to be worshipping appropriately but they are not (they have adopted Solomon’s polygamy, for instance).
Who blinded the eyes of the people so that they could not “see”?
They blinded their own eyes through their disobedience to God’s commandments – they are filled with darkness instead of light by their own doing.
What results from being blind?
A hard heart against the word of the Lord.
An unwillingness to repent.
An inability to see the truth – things as they really are.


Due to some recent work and life changes, I'm taking a hiatus from the weekly blog.  I will leave the blog up for anyone who would like ...