Now we get into the record of Zeniff, who left Zarahemla to spy upon the Lamanites. He got caught up in all that was good in their land and didn’t want to destroy them. At first, this seems good. We are told all the time to look for the good in others. But maybe his mistake was he was overzealous, looking at bad things and trying to fit them into his plan. The Lamanites culture wasn’t Christ-centered. Maybe he was justifying their sin and trying to call bad good. Many people do this today.
Zeniff contends with his leader, who he describes as “being an austere and a blood-thirsty man.” (2) The captain wants to slay him, but there is a battle and many men are killed as they fight each other. When the survivors struggle back to Zarahemla, Zeniff is still “over-zealous to inherit the land of our fathers.” (3) He gathers more men to return to the land of Nephi, but they are “smitten with famine and sore afflictions; for we were slow to remember the Lord our God.” (3)
This last verse shows that this wasn’t a God-sanctioned mission. In fact, God kept throwing up obstacles to keep them from going. But Zeniff is determined to do his own will. He takes four men and visits the Lamanite king to figure out his disposition. The king agrees to let him have the “land of Lehi-Nephi, and the land of Shilom.” (6)
Are there times when I want something so badly that I pray and when I don’t get the answer I want, I go ahead and still try to force my will to happen?
From this story, it shows that the Lord will hedge up our way at first, but ultimately will let us do as we want…to our detriment. He won’t take our agency away.
Zeniff gets to dwell in the land he has obsessed over for years. He’s fought over this land with his brethren; he’s suffered famine and sore afflictions, but he pushes through and ultimately gets it…only to learn later that he has been tricked and brought into bondage.
Zeniff’s people inhabit the land. They build buildings and repair what’s broken. They plant crops & “begin to multiply and prosper in the land.” (9) They are being blessed. But they will learn soon what their “over-zealous”ness has cost them.
Now it was the cunning and the craftiness of king Laman, to bring my people into bondage, that he yielded up the land that we might possess it.”Mosiah 9:10
The devil and his followers are cunning and deceitful. They lure us into snares by making worldly pursuits, distractions and sins look enticing. If we do our will, without consulting with God, we will lean toward justifying our actions until we are caught in binding addictions and circumstances that are destructive to our spirts.
King Laman didn’t rush right out and bring them into bondage. He waited twelve years before he “began to grow uneasy, lest by any means [the] people should wax strong in the land, and that they could not overpower them and bring them into bondage.” (11)
We’ll learn later what happened during these years. But the thing that stuck out to me is how King Laman grew uneasy.
The devil and the world will grow uneasy when we begin to grow strong spiritually. He doesn’t want us to prosper in goodness. He needs us weak enough to keep us in bondage to him. That’s why he works so hard to bring doubts to our minds, offense, contention, pride…anything that can get us to look away from God, the source of strength.
King Laman’s people were lazy and wanted to “glut themselves with the labors of our hands.” (12) They begin to stir up contentions and have wars among each other. The people of Zarahemla are slaughtered as they watch their sheep and when they are in their fields. The Lamanites take, take, take…keeping them weak.
Zeniff arms his people, and “in the strength of the Lord did we go forth to battle against the Lamanites; for I and my people did cry mightily to the Lord that he would deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, for we were awakened to a remembrance of the deliverance of our fathers.” (17)
Since they were humble and trusting in God, He “did hear our cries and did answer our prayers; and we did go forth in his might” until they “had driven them out of our land.” (18)
When we unite with God, we have His power. When we don’t link up with the Almighty, we are left to our own weakness. God’s power is evident in this story. Zeniff’s people slay 3,043 of the Lamanites, while only losing 279 of their own people. There was loss…but so MUCH less than the wicked Lamanites.
God truly will deliver us when we look to him and not the world. But the devil will always work in opposition to Him, trying to weaken us or make us overzealous to do our selfish will, like he did with Zeniff in this story. Later, we’ll see a contrasting story in Alma and his people during this same time period. They didn’t go their own way, like Zeniff, but followed the Spirit to know where to go and what to do in their lives.
By following God, we are made strong enough to fight against evil and not be chained down by the adversary.