Elder Richard G. Scott said, “Help from the Lord always follows eternal law. The better you understand that law, the easier it is to receive His help.” The chapters that we are studying today demonstrate just that.
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Maurine and Scot Proctor have taught Book of Mormon for many years in Institute and have spent extensive time in the Arabian peninsula, following Lehi’s trail. They are the creators of a foundation that has sponsored a multi-year archaeological study of the best candidate for Nephi’s Bountiful in Oman. They have written a book on the Book of Mormon, as well as immersed themselves in the culture, history, and geography. of the scripture.
Elder Richard G. Scott said, “Help from the Lord always follows eternal law. The better you understand that law, the easier it is to receive His help.” The chapters that we are studying today demonstrate just that.
Hello, we’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and this is Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. This week the lesson is called “In the Strength of the Lord” and covers Mosiah chapters 7-10 in the Book of Mormon. You know, Maurine, the more we study the Book of Mormon, the more we see that it is its teachings that ground our thoughts and bring us joy. We just love talking with all of you about it. Oh and speaking of our studies of the Book of Mormon, this little book I have done, Eleven Things You Probably Didn’t Know about the Book of Mormon, is just about ready. The pandemic has slowed everything down, but it will be worth the wait. We should be able to give you the links for this in next week’s podcast. I assure you, this will accentuate and complement your studies and excite your learning. I think you will see things you’ve never seen before. I’m so excited to share this with you.
Thank you for joining us. Today we start by giving some context for these chapters. Remember when Nephi and his family separated from Laman and Lemuel, they came to settle in the Land of Nephi, which in these chapters is called the Land of Lehi-Nephi. This is in the southern part of the Book of Mormon lands, in fact, south of the narrow strip of wilderness.
The Nephites lived here for many generations, until Mosiah 1, who is King Benjamin’s father, was warned to leave, and take the righteous with him. Obviously the rest of the people had become wicked, and destruction was threatening them.
Mosiah 1 and his people traveled north, found the land of Zarahemla, which they had not known of before, and joined with the people there. These people had also come from Jerusalem hundreds of years before.
Mosiah 1 reigned in Zarahemla, followed by his son King Benjamin, and then followed by Mosiah who is reigning when this story begins. We will just call Mosiah because we know him well. This is the Mosiah we are most familiar with and who this book is named after. So Mosiah, Benjamin, then Mosiah. The land of Nephi in the south and Zarahemla in the north—two lands that had previously not known about each other until Mosiah 1 left the Land of Nephi..
We have to tell you these details so that these four chapters make sense to you, because they involve a flashback, just the kind of flashbacks we see in movies. You are watching a movie, and suddenly you need some more information about a character or an event to have the current story make sense to you, so you are given a flashback. It is just a way of saying we want you to know the backstory of the scene we are about to show you. It will help the scene make more sense. Your understanding will be so much richer.
That flashback will begin with Zeniff’s story in Mosiah 9, but it is the reason for the action many years later that is described in Mosiah 7.
So back to chapter 7. Mosiah, King Benjamin’s son, has reigned for three years in continual peace, but the scriptures say that his people “wearied him with their teasings” (Mosiah 7:1) because they wanted to know something. What? They wanted to know what had happened to Zeniff’s people who had left Zarahemla and traveled back south to the Land of Lehi-Nephi many years earlier.
So Mosiah sends Ammon and sixteen of their strong men back to find out what happened to them. But wait a minute. And remember, as readers at this point we didn’t even know anyone had gone back to the Land of Lehi-Nephi. What are the people in Zarahemla all worked up about?
We’re going to get the story in Mosiah chapters 9-22 which is the flashback. We’re going to learn about Zeniff leaving Zarahemla to find the land of Lehi-Nephi, coming to reign there, passing the kingdom on to his wicked son Noah, and then Noah passing the kingdom to Limhi.
OK, so let’s go back to Ammon, knowing our flashback that will give us more understanding is coming.
There is something intriguing about this journey, because we are told that Ammon and his company “knew not the course they should travel in the wilderness to go up to the land of Lehi-Nephi; therefore they… wandered forty days” (Mosiah 7:4,5)
Therefore, we can see that if they had not been wandering, they would have found the land of Lehi-Nephi in much less time. So what is clear is that the land of Lehi-Nephi and Zarahemla are not that far apart, but there is clearly no well-traveled road between them. Those who try to find their way between these two cities get lost, and for hundreds of years they don’t know of each other’s existence.
Clearly there is some reason that this journey is not well-traveled and in those early years of the Book of Mormon, it was a difficult slog. The narrow strip of wilderness lies between them, which most scholars believe to be a mountain range that runs east and west. It may be that vegetation quickly covers any trail that is made. We aren’t told the why’s here, but are left to wonder. And certainly any consideration of where the Book of Mormon took place geographically on the earth, has to account for a people being relatively proximate to each other, separated by only a few hundred miles, and yet, surprisingly, not knowing of each other’s existence.
So Ammon and three of his brethren go to the land of Nephi and are immediately surrounded by the king’s guard, arrested, and slung into jail for two days. If you haven’t noticed, this is not a friendly greeting. In fact, when the king, who is Limhi, finally allows them into his presence, he declares he would have already had them killed if he had not wanted some answers.
Limhi has good reason for his defensiveness as they are in bondage to the Lamanites “with a tax which is grievous to be borne” (Mosiah 7:15).
He describes this tax, “We at this time do pay tribute to the king of the Lamanites, to the amount of one half or our corn, and our barley, and even all our grain of every kind, and one half of the increase of our flocks and our herds; and even one half of all we have or possess the king of the Lamanites doth exact of us, or our lives” (Mosiah 7:22).
This has been bondage, indeed, and Limhi rejoices to see Ammon because, he says, “Now the time is at hand or is not far distant, when we shall no longer be in subjection to our enemies” (Mosiah 7:18). Why is he so certain that they will soon be released from bondage? This is a very Book of Mormon point.
Because Limhi knows that it was the wickedness under King Noah that put the people in chains, and it was his people’s righteousness in keeping the covenant that will deliver them.
He cites the covenant to make that clear:
Right. He says, “Therefore, lift up your heads, and rejoice, and put your trust in God, in that God who was the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; and also, that God who brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, and caused that they should walk through the Red Sea on dry ground, and fed them with fmanna that they might not perish in the wilderness; and many more things did he do for them.
“And again, that same God has brought our fathers aout of the land of Jerusalem, and has kept and preserved his people even until now,” (Mosiah 7:19,20).
If this sounds familiar, just the kind of thing Nephi would have said to his recalcitrant brothers, Laman and Lemuel, it is because Limhi is calling on that covenant of protection that covenant keepers receive. His people have been taught this as their legacy.
In fact, one of the most important themes of the Book of Mormon is that the Lord will deliver us from bondage. Deliverance is a word that rings in the book. Limhi does a good job of summarizing this:
‘If ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage” (Mosiah 7:33).
What is bondage? It is being so chained, so yoked, so tyrannized that it takes a power stronger than your own to set you free. The dictionary describes it as slavery, servility, servitude, captivity, serfdom, and subjugation to an external power or control. It is something that seems bigger than you are, something all but impossible to escape.
When I think of bondage, I think of slaves who suffer cruelty at the hands of a wicked master, families being sold apart. I think of people humiliated and starving whose work is for the greed of others. When I think of bondage I think of the Count of Monte Cristo in a dark, rat-infested dungeon on an island prison whose walls are three feet thick and impenetrable by the light.
These are physical bondages. In all of history, it is hard to find a time when some of the Lord’s children aren’t in some kind of bondage or slavery.
Yet there other kinds of bondages, too, that are also devastating.
Bondage comes from people’s unwillingness to follow the principles of the gospel or heed the warnings of the prophets. People can be in bondage to addictions, to sorrow, to bad habits, to resentment, to health issues, to ignorance, to bad ideas, to heartbreak, to a sense of worthlessness, to fear, to shame. We want to be free, and whole and full of love, yet life seems to be a considerable struggle against bondage.
We feel like we are wading in the shallows, that we aren’t quite ourselves, that there is more we could be or do. Satan’s whole goal is to put us in chains—and he’s good at it.
The Book of Mormon presents a whole range of the types of troubles that men and women face in all dispensations. In the stories we see people lost, hungry, under severe task masters, preaching false doctrine with passion, threatened with death and burnings, caught in immorality, imprisoned. It is Nephi tied up by his brothers. It is Alma’s people under bondage. It is the believers about to be burned in Ammonihah. How does anyone get delivered from such trouble? The Book of Mormon tells us again and again and again.
In fact, the word deliver appears more than two hundred times in the Book of Mormon, while the book teaches the principles of deliverance. You want out of chains? There’s only one way and here’s how. It is through the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Let’s look at just a few of those scriptures about deliverance. It is interesting that even when the word deliverance isn’t specifically used, the concept is clear.
In first Nephi: “Behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance” (1 Nephi 1:20).
In second Nephi: “O house of Israel, is my hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem, or have I no power to deliver?” (2 Nephi 7:2)
In Alma: “I have been supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions; yea, God has delivered me from prison, and from bonds, and from death; yea, and I do put my trust in him, and he will still deliver me” (Alma 36:27).
In Helaman: “O, how could you have forgotten your God in the very day that he has delivered you?” (Helaman 7:20).
This theme of deliverance goes on and on. It is the Lord lifting you with His power from a circumstance or a sin or a mindset that would otherwise overcome you. He reminds us, “Without me, ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). In other words, mortality itself would overcome you.
But with him, nothing is impossible.
Do you remember, Maurine, years ago when we were talking about the book of Mosiah and we realized that it was all about deliverance? We said, “I am finding a pattern here.” Limhi’s people are delivered. And, as if we don’t get it, we see that Alma’s people are delivered. We wondered, “Are there any other stories of deliverance in this book?” Yes there were. We see Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah delivered from the bondage of sin and the destruction they are reaping. Limhi. Alma. Alma the Younger. These three stories are parallel to each other and echo one another so that the meaning is clear.
One of the most important themes of the Book of Mormon is deliverance. This happens to groups of people, such as Limhi’s people. It happens to families, such as Lehi and Sariah’s family on their wilderness journey. It happens to individuals such as Alma the Younger.
Deliverance is through the atonement of Jesus Christ and His grace which empowers us. All the kinds of dilemmas and heartache we face are just the types of troubles that we face in mortality and can be delivered from. What happens is we have tough experiences, we come to see how He is there for us and that is how we obtain hope. We are ultimately not alone to struggle out of our bondage. He is there with the key.
It means sometimes we have to endure through what seems like heavenly silence. It means sometimes we have to be patient while the Lord prepares us to receive the answer, but all along the Lord has his plan.
In our culture, we sometimes think of hope as something flimsy. “I sure hope that happens,” meaning “it would be nice if.” Yet hope in scriptures means more than that. It is sturdy and powerful, and built on the experience of being ultimately rescued and delivered by Jesus Christ from our chains. And who else can do it?
That deliverance may take different forms. I remember in November of 2018, California’s most destructive wildfire ever, swept through the mountain town of Paradise, California and burned and destroyed most of it. 7,000 homes and structures in Paradise were destroyed. One of those buildings left as a char was a meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Gretchen Harrison, whose husband was the bishop, and whom you interviewed, Maurine, said, “It’s easier to count the number of homes in our ward that weren’t burned. I can count maybe four.”
Paradise, nestled at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains, was one of those towns that felt to Gretchen like she lived at girls’ camp every day, because of its mountainous rustic beauty.
Yet, when I called to interview Gretchen and others, she said, “The whole town is gone. For the most part, everyone has lost everything.” Still, again and again, the people had been rescued, not just from the fire, but from their feelings of devastation and hopelessness. They said they felt the Lord with them and therefore, they could not only endure, but felt steadied and sure and calm.
For Gretchen, when the town was ordered to evacuate, it meant coming along a road that was a tunnel of fire. She used her cell phone to make what she thought were several goodbye calls. The flames were hot, the darkness was penetrating and her phone just kept cutting out until finally it died, the cell tower obviously burned up.
“I was praying the whole time,” she said. She told the Lord, “I don’t care about my home. I just want my family to be safe. Just knowing they were okay, allowed me to concentrate on how I could get out.
“It felt like a war zone,” she said. “The sound of the exploding propane tanks was the scariest for me. You are stuck in traffic. You can’t move and you hear these tanks going off. You don’t know where you are.”
She felt two emotions at once. Yes, she felt panicked and a rush of adrenalin, at the same time, she said, “I was surprised at how calm I was the whole time.”
The Lord was delivering her heart from bondage.
Josh Cook, a regional public affairs director for the Church in Paradise said, “When you have to flee for your life, it is a faith-promoting experience…What do you do if you are a mom evacuating your children and you are driving down a road with fire on all sides of you? You have to believe what you really believe. There are people here who have lost all of their stuff and they are happy. There are lots of stories of gratitude and people who will say, ‘We’ll start over.’”
Crises this deep impact the spirit. Gretchen said that one of her husband’s dear friends who has been inactive for many years came up to her husband and said, that he had received just too many promptings about where to go and how to stay safe to disbelieve in God. “Bishop, I’m ready to come back,” he said. (Maurine Proctor, “California’s Worst Fire” Meridian Magazine, https://latterdaysaintmag.com/californias-worst-fire-its-easier-to-count-the-number-of-homes-in-our-ward-that-werent-burned/ )
There really does come a moment in life when you truly see that you can’t do it alone. It is not a terrible moment, but an important one. You see that all your white knuckling through life, your stress and your fear, have not been enough, and you finally acknowledge the Lord as your only hope. It is that day when you begin to see clearly. It is us who have come to that day where we truly understand who the Lord is to us and our helplessness without Him, when our eyes are opened. No more pretense that we are sufficient. We need a deliverer.
Elder Richard G. Scott said, ”Help from the Lord always follows eternal law. The better you understand that law, the easier it is to receive His help…It is important to understand that His healing can mean being cured, or having your burdens eased, or even coming to realize that it is worth it to endure to the end patiently, for God needs brave sons and daughters who are willing to be polished when in His wisdom that is His will.
“Recognize that some challenges in life will not be resolved here on earth. Paul pled thrice that “a thorn in the flesh” be removed. The Lord simply answered, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ He gave Paul strength to compensate so he could live a most meaningful life. He wants you to learn how to be cured when that is His will and how to obtain strength to live with your challenge when He intends it to be an instrument for growth. In either case the Redeemer will support you. That is why He said, ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me;…For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Richard G. Scott, “To Be Healed” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/new-era/2002/04/to-be-healed?lang=eng)
Elder Scott also said, “Life in today’s world can be at times so complicated and the challenges so overwhelming as to be beyond our individual capacity to resolve them. We all need help from the Lord. Yet there are many individuals who don’t know how to receive that help. They feel their urgent pleas for help have often gone unattended. How can that be when He Himself has said, “Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you”? (D&C 4:7.)
“As much as we want help, we must expect to follow the spiritual law that controls that help.
“The Lord has the power to bless us at any time. Yet we see that to count on His help, we must consistently obey His commandments.” He added, “It is evident that He intends that we do our part. But what, specifically, are we to do? No one would expect to receive a result from physical law without obeying it. Spiritual law is the same. As much as we want help, we must expect to follow the spiritual law that controls that help. Spiritual law is not mysterious. It is something that we can understand. The scriptures define it in significant detail.”
(Riehard G. Scott, “Obtaining Hope from the Lord” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1991/10/obtaining-help-from-the-lord?lang=eng
When we do seek to live the spiritual laws that control deliverance, we might gain this perspective described by Bob Spiel recently in Meridian Magazine about his Grammy’s prayers.
“Bob”, she said, “far too often we approach God pleading for help or rescue. In our hearts we cry out, ‘Please, Father, save me,’ or ‘Please God, get me out of this mess.’ We may ask, ‘Why God does this have to happen?’’ As she shared this, I could certainly relate to this type of prayer. It was how I prayed all the time. But then she wisely looked at me and said, “What we need to learn to do, instead, is change these prayers of pleading into prayers of real gratitude.” I stumbled at that suggestion and asked her what that meant. She explained, “When we want to cry out for help and assistance, when we want to give full voice to our worries and fears and throw them at the feet of our Father, if we will choose, instead, to pray, ‘Father, I thank Thee that you’ve already got this. You know the end from the beginning and have already made ample provision for deliverance. You know how it will all turn out, and I thank Thee for giving the patience, grace and power needed to pull through it. I thank Thee Father for knowing exactly what I need right now, and in the future — and having it all under control – for Thou art never late.”
The righteous in the Book of Mormon understand that their deliverance will only come from the Lord. Deliverance is another name for the atonement and the empowering capacity of grace. It is Jesus Christ who delivers us from those awful monsters sin and death, hell and the grave. It is also the Lord who delivers us from all else that puts us in bondage.
We learn the importance of deliverance in the story of Zeniff, and we have two chapters to study today, just enough to understand how he got himself and those who followed him in bondage.
At the beginning of chapter 9 we learn that two generations before Limhi, Zeniff was obsessed with the Land of Nephi, traveled south with a group from Zarahemla to learn of them and was sent as a spy among the Lamanites. He liked what he saw and didn’t want to destroy them. Violent arguing broke out in Zeniff’s group because of their blood-thirsty commander, many were killed, and they returned back to Zarahemla with that sad news.
But Zeniff couldn’t forget that Land of Nephi, calling himself “over-zealous to inherit the land of our fathers”, so he gathered another group to “go up to possess the land.” They should have been forewarned because even the journey wasn’t easy. Though he had been to the Land of Nephi before, there were yet again many days of wandering” and they “were smitten with famine and sore afflictions’ for we were slow to remember the Lord our God” (Moroni 9: 3) They were not delivered, because they didn’t follow the laws upon which deliverance is predicated.
When Zeniff meets with the king of the Lamanites, the king allows them to possess the Land of Nephi and Shilom. It sounds like such a good deal. Zeniff’s people go to with great industry to build buildings, till the ground and have all the fruits of hard labor.
After twelve years, however, the Lamanites grew uneasy about this growing Nephite presence. On top of that “they were a lazy and idolatrous people; therefore they were desirous to bring us into bondage,” said Zeniff, “that they might glut themselves with the labor of our hands; yea, that they might feast themselves upon the flocks of our fields” (Mosiah 9:12).
In what you might think was almost an inevitability, the Lamanites declared war on the Nephites, and here we see the power of deliverance that we have been talking about demonstrated.
Zeniff said, “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.
“And God did hear our cries and did answer our prayers; and we did go forth in his might” (Mosiah 9: 17, 18).
You see both the power of deliverance and family history in these verses. They knew their heritage. The Lord had delivered their people before, and if they fought in his strength, they would be delivered again.
They win this war, and then a few years later, the son of their Lamanite enemy comes to war against them again. This seems like a formidable enemy “with their numerous hosts, men armed with bows, and with arrows, and with swords, and with cimeters, and with stones, and with slings; and they had their heads shaved that they were naked; and they were girded with a leathern girdle about their loins” (Moroni 10:8).
Again there is this contrast. Zeniff says, “we did go up in the strength of the Lord to battle”, but the Lamanites, however ferocious and naturally strong they are “knew nothing concerning the Lord, nor the strength of the Lord, therefore they depended upon their own strength” (Moroni 10:11).
Do we too often go up to battle the wars in our lives, depending only on our own strength? How can we go up to the daily battle of our own lives, and all that is difficult, in the strength of the Lord? That is a good question to ask in prayer. I suspect we too often try to make life a do-it-yourself experience with its consequential misses, when we could have leaned upon the Lord.
I know that He will deliver us from our very customized challenges, those things that come into our lives, in a way that is perfect for our situation. And if it doesn’t seem like it comes quickly enough, the Lord may be preparing you for an answer you may not be ready yet to receive. Trust in that power of deliverance. Trust that He knows your bondage. He could not know it more personally because He took it upon Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knows you and as you learn how He delivers you, you come to know Him.
What the Lamanites had inherited instead of the knowledge of God was a damaging, false tradition. They inherited a context of lies about their history, and that fueled a sense of injustice and anger that bubbled and twisted inside of them.
Their legacy was a series of resentments. “They were wronged in the wilderness by their brethren, and they were also wronged while crossing the sea;..they were wronged while in the land of their first inheritance” (Mosiah 10:13). They felt robbed because they thought Nephi had wrenched the leadership from their fathers in the promised land.
Their ferocious violence toward the Nephites all sprang from their warped and incorrect worldview. We see a whole history of this.
It is such a marked demonstration that there is an underlying truth to our existence. If our worldview is contrary to that, we will be broken by the lies we believe. No wonder Satan is called the great liar. He would take us from the truth so that we are miserable.
The truth had once been available to them, but like their forefathers Laman and Lemuel, they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them and they acted with great passion on the lies they believed. Their anger toward the Lamanites knew no end. And I would guess they framed that anger as being righteous.
One other important note from chapter 8. Limhi explains to Ammon how they came upon a treasure that he needs help to understand. Because they were under bondage, earlier Limni had sent 43 of his people into the wilderness to see if they could find Zarahemla. They became lost and, instead, found a place “which was covered with bones of men, and of beasts, and was also covered with ruins of buildings of every kind, having discovered a land which had been peopled with a people who were as numerous as the hosts of Israel.”
We know this is, of course, the remains of what had once been the great Jaredite nation. There they also found twenty-four plates of pure gold, covered with engravings. This is, of course, the history of the Jaredite people and infinitely valuable for the knowledge they contain.
It is interesting to note here, that when we speak of 24 plates, it is probably not just 24 gold pages, but 24 entire books. Remember that these plates contain the material that we have in the Book of Ether, but also so much more.
This was not a small find, but what frustrated Limhi is that he could not translate them, and wondered if Ammon could.
Ammon answered: “I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can atranslate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called binterpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called cseer” (Mosiah 8:13)
In other words, he is saying Mosiah has interpreters or what we often call a seer stone or a Urim and Thummim. This opens up a mystery.
Right. Are these the Urim and Thumim that Joseph used when he was translating the Book of Mormon? The answer may surprise you. It is “no”. We learn in the Doctrine of Covenants 17:1 that the Urim and Thummim that Joseph had was from the Brother of Jared. It was clearly among the 24 plates from the Jaredites already in Limhi’s possession. They must not have recognized what they were, nor knew how to use them. Mosiah had a different Urim and Thumim or seer stone and could use it because he was a seer.
When do we see the Urim and Thummim mentioned in scripture? Abraham had them. Aaron and then Joshua both used them. Saul and David are both referred to as having and using a Urim and Thummim. Ultimately will learn that each person who received the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17 will be able to use their own personalized seer stone. What a promise.
Thanks so much for being with us today. Please tell your friends about this podcast. Post it on your Facebook or Instagram. Let’s get the word out.
The transcript for this broadcast is at latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast. We’d like to thank Paul Cardall for the use of his music that begins and ends this podcast and Michaela Proctor Hutchins who produces the show. Next week we will be studying Mosiah 11-17, “A Light that can Never be Darkened.” See you then.