Consult the Official Gospel Doctrine Manual for your lesson preparation. Below are some supplemental ideas that might be useful.
Through most of the Book of Mosiah, there are two groups of Nephites dwelling separately: those in Zarahemla under Kings Mosiah, Benjamin and Mosiah II, and those in the land of Nephi (here called Lehi-Nephi) under Zeniff, Noah and Limhi. Later in the book of Mosiah, we see these groups (after much tribulation) reunited in Zarahemla.
I made myself the following chart to try to keep it all straight:
Here’s how I explain the chart to my classes: When Lehi, Sariah, Ishmael and their families arrived in the new world, they called it “the land of our first inheritance.” After Lehi died, Nephi took those who wanted to follow him to a new place which they named the Land of Nephi (sometimes called Lehi-Nephi, see 2 Nephi 5:5-8). Some time later, King Mosiah I took the Nephites to a place which was already called “Zarahemla” which was founded by the Mulekites (Omni 1:12-14). While in Zarahemla, Zeniff led an expedition back to the Land of Nephi. These two groups dwelt separately, but were eventually reunited as told in Mosiah 24:1 – Mosiah 25:1-6.
1 – “had heard nothing from them” King Mosiah I wanted to answer the question, “Whatever happened to those people who went up to Lehi-Nephi?” (they’re first mentioned in Omni 1:27). Ammon, (I call him Ammon the Explorer to that I won’t get him confused with Ammon the missionary), leads and expedition to the Land of Nephi.
9-13 – “if ye had known me” Ammon is discovered, and taken and bound by Limhi’s guards. When Limhi discovers that Ammon is from Zarahemla, he rejoices and allows Ammon to teach the people all that had transpired since Limhi’s grandfather (Zeniff) left Zarahemla to return to the land of Nephi.
19 – “lift up your heads” The Book of Mormon contains many stories of bondage and deliverance, or of scattering and gathering. Limhi uses the scriptures to encourage – he reminds his people that the God they worship delivered the children of Israel out of bondage, and he will deliver them as well.
20, 25 – “because of our iniquities” Limhi is righteous enough to recognize that it is their own wickedness which has gotten them into their present situation. We learn from Limhi, that a wicked King can have a righteous son – “Limhi was not ignorant of the iniquities of his father, he himself being a just man” (Mosiah 19:17).
15, 22 – “a tax which is grievous” The Book of Mormon often mentions taxes, but never in positive terms. Here, Limhi’s people are under a 50% tax rate, or rate of “tribute” which they must pay to the Lamanites consisting of half of their grains, flocks and herds.
25 – “if this people had not fallen” Notice that it wasn’t only King Noah who was wicked, but the people themselves had “fallen into transgression.”
26 – “a prophet of the Lord have they slain” One can only imagine Ammon’s reaction when Limhi reveals that they had killed a prophet.
27 – “created after the image of God” Not all of these teachings are found in our account of what Abinadi said, therefore, we probably have an abridged account of Abinadi’s words.
29 – “the Lord hath said” Here Limhi is quoting scripture, evidently from the plates of brass, further evidence of his righteousness and desire to be a good king.
30 – “reap the chaff thereof” “Sowing” and “reaping” remind us of the law of the harvest, (Galatians 6:7), or the “law of restoration” taught in Alma 41-42.
31 – “Reap the east wind” “East wind” is an Old World cultural symbol. The north wind is cold, the west wind from over the Mediterranean Sea is moist, the south wind is warm, and the east wind, which crosses the sandy wastes of the Arabian desert before reaching Palestine, can be violent and destructive (See Millet and McConkie, Doctrinal Book of Mormon Commentary, 2:187).
3 – “words which King Benjamin had taught them” Limhi asks Ammon to review King Benjamin’s address for the people.
5 – “the plates which contained a record of his people” The information on these plates are contained in Mosiah 9-22.
8-9 – “I caused that forty and three of my people should take a journey” Here we learn the origin of the book of Ether, or the record of the Jaredites.
13 – “a man that can translate” Ammon explains that King Mosiah II can translate; he has “interpreters.” Footnote 13b refers to the Urim and Thummim.
Mosiah 9 (chapters 9-22 are a flashback [note the date change to about 200 B.C.], beginning with the grandfather of Limhi, whose name was Zeniff)
To summarize, Zeniff and his party entered the land of Lehi–Nephi under an agreement with Laman, the king of the Lamanites. The Nephites build buildings and repair walls, and in a few years, the king of the Lamanites grew uneasy, so he attacked the Nephites. “In the strength of the Lord” (v. 17) the Nephites defended themselves, and buried their dead.
3 – “we were slow to remember the Lord our God” Zeniff acknowledges their weakness; Being slow to remember has consequences.
12 – “lazy and idolatrous” It’s interesting to note that wickedness and laziness are often mentioned together. Idleness is frequently addressed in the scriptures:
- D&C 68:31 – Now, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them; and their children are also growing up in wickedness; they also seek not earnestly the riches of eternity, but their eyes are full of greediness.
- D&C 75:29 – Let every man be diligent in all things. And the idler shall not have place in the church, except he repent and mend his ways.
- D&C 42:42 – Thou shalt not be idle; for he that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer.
- Ezekiel 16:49 – Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.
Elder John Longden: “Satan selects his disciples when they are idle; Jesus selected his when they were busy at their work either mending their nets or casting them into the sea.” (cited by Elder John Longden, Conference Report, April 1966, page 39)
17 – “in the strength of the Lord” Notice how Zeniff gives credit to God for their successes, and takes personal responsibility for their failures. Very much the same attitude as Captain Moroni.
Mosiah 10 In another 22 years, the Lamanites attacked again, and were driven out. Their reasons for hating the Nephites are explained.
1 – “I caused that there should be weapons of war” Zeniff prepared for their defense. He did not want to attack, he was not an aggressor, but he also knew his people should prepare in case they were attacked.
4-5 – “men should till the ground” Like Nephi in 2 Nephi 5:17, Zeniff taught the people to “be industrious and to labor with their hands”
10-11 – “in the strength of the Lord” Zeniff and his people went to battle, but the Lamanites “depended upon their own strength.”
12-15 – “they were wronged” Here, the reasons the Lamanites hated the Nephites is explained in a series of “wrongs:” They were wronged in the wilderness, (Nephi took the lead of their journey), wronged while crossing the sea, wronged while in the land of their first inheritance (the Nephi took the ruling of the people out of their hands), wronged because he took the plates of brass with him when they left. The “birth order” tradition was that Nephi, being the younger brother, should have been subject to his older brothers. But, as explained in verse 13, Nephi was favored because he was more faithful in keeping the commandments. This attitude persists for many years, long after Nephi, Laman and Lemuel were dead. When Ammoron, younger brother of Amalickiah writes an epistle to Captain Moroni, his closing words are “This war hath been waged to avenge their wrongs, and to maintain and to obtain their rights to the government” (Alma 54:24).
17 – “they should hate them” Their children were taught to hate, something that does not come naturally to children.
Mosiah 11 Zeniff dies, and the Kingdom given to one of his sons, Noah, who is wicked. Abinadi appears. They taxed at one-fifth. Instead of fighting “in the strength of the Lord,” they boast in their own strength, see verse 18-19. They got prideful.
2 – “caused his people to commit sin” The impact of a wicked King is that the people followed his lead.
3 – “a tax of one fifth part” Notice, this is not a tax from the Lamanites, but a tax he inflicted on his own people, a tax on their grains, fatlings, and precious metals, including ziff. We don’t know what “ziff” is, exactly (Nephite Peanut Butter? No, that’s Jif). Notice footnote 3b and Hebrew related words concerning “ziff”
4 – “he had changed the affairs of his kingdom” This was an ominous change with disastrous consequences – from relative righteousness to gross wickedness.
5-8 – “supported in their laziness…by taxes” Notice characteristics of King Noah’s reign contrasted with King Benjamin’s reign; King Noah’s reign in characterized by taxes, spacious buildings with gold trimmings, laziness and idolatry instead of tilling the land, etc.
20 – “whose name was Abinadi” “Let’s look at the name Abinadi. These people had Hebrew background. In Hebrew, ab means “father,” abi means “my father,” and nadi is “present with you.” So the name Abinadi may reflect his mission; it may mean something like, “my father is present with you.” That is actually why they said they killed him – because he said God would come down and would be with man. That was the charge of blasphemy that they finally used to put him to death.” – Todd B. Parker, “Abinadi: The Man and the Message, Part I,” FARMS Book of Mormon Lecture Series, p. 2.
28 – “that I may slay him” When it comes to prophets sounding the voice of warning in the Book of Mormon, people rarely “agree to disagree.” It seems that when the wicked are confronted with truth, and when the truth hurts, the standard reaction is, “now I have to kill you.” They often try to justify this action by accusing the prophet of blasphemy, or in this case, of “stirring up the people to contention,” but, as happened in the Old Testament, simply slaying the prophets seems to be the wicked’s first choice of how to silence the voice of warning.
Next week, we’ll look at the powerful teaching of Abinadi, and Abinadi’s use of Isaiah to teach King Noah and his people that redemption comes through Christ.