The book of Omni is a compilation of five ancient authors/record-keepers that spans a period of over 200 years in Nephite history. They were each given responsibility over the sacred record and commanded to write in it. They each were obedient, even if only to write one verse. Let’s break down this chapter into what each author recorded:
Omni receives the plates from Jarom, his father.He writes to “preserve our genealogy” (1) Omni “fought much with the sword to preserve my people, the Nephites, from falling into the hands of their enemies, the Lamanites. But behold, I of myself am a wicked man, and I have not kept the statutes and the commandments of the Lord as I ought to have done.” (2)
I like Omni’s honesty. If we are completely truthful, we can all say those same words at points in our lives. I am a wicked man or woman and haven’t kept the commandments as I ought to have done.
We all fall short of keeping the commandments…almost every day. To me, this doesn’t prove Omni’s wickedness, but rather his humility. Recognizing and confessing our weaknesses before God is part of repentance. It is a good and necessary step toward true change. When we humbly acknowledge our unworthiness before God, then He can root out the evil in us and perfect us through Christ’s Atonement.
282 years have now passed away since they came to the promised land. Omni hands the plates to his son, Amaron.
Amaron writes that 320 years have passed away and “the more wicked part of the Nephites were destroyed.” (5) Lots of wars have taken place, it seems. Amaron’s short message is that the covenant where God will preserve His people in this land as long as they follow Him is intact. If they don’t follow Him, He will sweep them from the earth. (7) After reiterating that message, he delivers the plates to his brother, Chemish
Maybe Amaron had no posterity. Chemish only writes one verse, but he was obedient to his charge. He basically swears that the record is true and that he saw his brother write on them before he passed them on to him.
Abinadom is Chemish’s son. He references the great wars in his days and that he “with [his] own sword, have taken the lives of many of the Lamanites in the defense of my brethren.” (10)
The state of the Nephites is sad (or the individuals in charge of the plates are having a rough go of it). Abinadom says he knows “of no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy; wherefore, that which is sufficient is written. And I make an end.” (11) He hands the plates down to his son, Amaleki.
Amaleki possesses the gift of connection. He seems to understand the purpose for the plates, even though he doesn’t write a lot. He perceives through the Spirit what is important to record for posterity and does so.
He tells about Mosiah, who was made king over the land of Zarahemla, after he was warned of the Lord to flee from the land of Nephi with those that would follow him. It’s another Nephi/Laman moment—where the people divide. This time the Nephites have a division among themselves.
Those that follow Mosiah leave the main body of the Nephites.
And they were led by many preachings and prophesyings. And they were admonished continually by the word of God; and they were led by the power of his arm, through the wilderness until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla.”Omni 1:13
Now we have two bodies of Nephites that will come into play later. 1) those in the land of Nephi, and 2) those in the land of Zarahemla under Mosiah.
I believe the politics of the Nephites and Lamanites were way more complicated that we get out of reading the BOM. The prophet-authors simplified or cut out completely the political element in order to focus on matters of faith. The other larger plates of Nephi contained a record of their kings and political intrigue.
In the new land of Zarahemla, Mosiah’s people “discovered a people who were called the people of Zarahemla.” (14) These people were grateful for the people of Mosiah, because they had the “plates of brass which contained the record of the Jews.”
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.” (15) This is another branch from the main olive tree that has been grafted into another part of the vineyard (Jacob 5). The Mulekites had “journeyed in the wilderness, and were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters, into the land where Mosiah discovered them; and they had dwelt there from that time forth.” (16)
They had become “exceedingly numerous.” But wars and “serious contentions” had made their numbers dwindle. Their language had also “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.” (17)
Mosiah takes it upon himself and his people to teach the Mulekites in their language. Zarahemla “gave a genealogy of his fathers, according to his memory.” (18) That is a good memory.
The Mulekites and Mosiah’s people “did unite together; and Mosiah was appointed to be their king.” (19)
In the future, this group is referred to as Nephites only, but they are actually Nephites and Mulekites. Also, don’t forget that there is another group of Nephites still in the land of Nephi that they left behind.
Mosiah has a “large stone brought unto him with engravings on it; and he did interpret the engravings by the gift and power of God.” (20)
Before Mosiah’s arrival, the people of Zarahemla had come across a man named Coriantumr, who was the last of the Jaredites—another branch plucked from the main olive tree in the old world and brought to the new one at the time of the tower of Babel, when the Lord confounded languages. But God’s judgments fell upon that people “and their bones lay scattered in the land northward.” (22) Coriantumr, the last remaining descendent of that nation, had lived out his days (9 months) with the people of Zarahemla before he died.
Amaleki, after connecting all these dots in the history, cuts into his narration to say that he has lived during the reign of King Mosiah and has seen his son Benjamin reign in his stead. There is also a great war in the time of King Benjamin, but the Nephites “did obtain much advantage over them” and drove the Lamanites out (24).
Amaleki is getting old and has no posterity. He knows Benjamin to be “a just man before the Lord,” (25) so he delivers the plates into his keeping. He seems to be able to connect the dots going forward as well, and understands the importance of getting the plates into hands that can be trusted to reverence the Lord.
Amaleki ends with his testimony, which shows strong faith in God:
I shall deliver up these plates unto him, exhorting all men to come unto God, the Holy One of Israel, and believe in prophesying, and in revelations, and in the ministering of angels, and in the gift of speaking with tongues, and in the gift of interpreting languages, and in all things which are good; for there is nothing which is good save it comes from the Lord…”
And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and prayer, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved.”Omni 1:25-26
What does it mean to offer my whole soul unto God? What does that look like? Feel like?
I think it would feel like a sacrifice. It might be something very difficult to offer up—like Trust. The natural man wants to trust in himself/herself. It’s difficult to give up control and hand over the reins to someone else. But God knows best. When we offer up our whole souls to Him, we hand over the reins or the keys to our lives to Him, knowing He will get us safely to our destination, no matter what that journey entails.
Do I hold onto things that keep me from being completely committed to God?
President Russell M. Nelson, our living prophet today, admonished the women of the Church last conference about how to figure out the answer to that question:
Sometimes we speak almost casually about walking away from the world with its contention, pervasive temptations, and false philosophies. But TRULY doing so requires you to examine your life meticulously and regularly. As you do so, the Holy Ghost will prompt you about what is no longer needful, what is not longer worthy of your time and energy.”Spiritual Treasures – Oct 2019
Amaleki ends by telling of a group from among them who went into the wilderness to try to return to the land of Nephi, from whence they came. A contention arose among them and they fought and killed each other, save 50, who returned and took others with them to try again. He had a brother who went with the second group and hasn’t heard from him again. (30)