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One of the beautiful gems of the Book of Mormon is the Book of Enos. This little book packs in so much literary beauty, doctrinal truths, and applicable lessons that never dim with time. And the covenants of God are seamlessly woven into the tapestry of Enos’s testimony and experience.
Like other faithful writers before (Nephi and Jacob), Enos begins his record in the first person. He describes how his father, Jacob, was a just man. The word “just” in covenantal context means that someone is faithful to God and models for others and teaches the covenant path. Jacob did just that. He taught Enos in his language, possibly referring to the scribal language Enos had to learn to compose and preserve his record. This language might have also included covenantal instruction as found in scripture.
By Small and Simple Things
A powerful small and simple word that my friend Tyler Griffin taught me to see in verse one is the “and” binding together nurture and admonition. Tyler taught that parents who only provide nurturing or only provide admonishment typically raise children who have problems when they are older. We learn the principle here in the Book of Mormon that parenting (and leadership) requires a balancing pair of nurturing and admonishment.
Look for the Hunting Symbolism in Enos
With this covenantal foundation and with the love of his parents coursing through his veins, Enos explains the transformative experience he had out hunting. Before we pursue his story further, consider the hunting imagery that is found in Enos’s record. Enos was a capable communicator. He used this hunting theme to teach important doctrines.
As he was out hunting experienced a transformative wrestling with God. Instead of hunting beasts by sinking arrows deep into their hearts, Enos discovered that he was the beast who needed to be slain by having the words of his father on joy and eternal life sink deep into his heart.
His spiritual wrestle was not a quick and easy experience. Enos labored mightily in the spirit for his own soul. He tells us that he prayed all day and all night. And then the glorious dawn of God’s redeeming and forgiving love burst into his soul so pure and clear he could not deny but only acknowledge “I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away” (Enos 1:5).
Words Starting with Wr- Mean to Twist
I love words and language. There are so many literary gems in this text. Take for instance the English word “wrestle.” Did you know that in English any word that begins with “wr-” has a core meaning of twisting, including twisting out of shape, sometimes painfully? Wreath, wrath, write, wrist, wrangle, wreck, wrapping, wrong, wretchedness, wrought, wrench, writhe, wraith, wrinkle, and wry. To wrestle is to get painfully twisted up. This is no walk in the park.
Another literary gem is some underlying Hebrew word plays. Enos is the son of Jacob who was named after the ancient Old Testament patriarch Jacob, also known as Israel. In fact, God changed the patriarch Jacob’s name to Israel after Jacob wrestled with God all night long.
“And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.” (Genesis 32:24, emphasis added)
God is the Enos, The Man of Holiness
Who was the man that Jacob wrestled with? The Man of Holiness, even God Himself. And what is the Hebrew word for “man”? Enos! It seems that the Book of Mormon prophet Jacob named his own son with the name that identifies the man that Jacob’s namesake, the patriarch Jacob, wrestled with in order to receive God’s enduring promises! (To learn more about the Hebrew word play of Enos in these scriptures, see the work of LDS Biblical scholar Dr. Matthew Bowen of BYU-Hawaii here.)
“And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” (Genesis 32:24)
The name Israel literally means “God will prevail” or “God will fight [our battles]” or “God will contend [with His adversaries].” Jacob wrestled with God and prevailed upon Him to give him a blessing, “And [God] blessed [Jacob/Israel] there” (Genesis 32:29). Because Jacob prevailed, he received from God the new name Israel, symbolizing that God would wrestle with and overcome all of our adversaries.
We Must Wrestle with God
Like Jacob, if we want the blessings of God, we need to put in the effort, the struggle, the time, the patience, the good fight, the wrestle. We will then, like patriarch Jacob, and noble Enos, gain the rewards God has in store for us.
And what are those blessings? The covenantal promises God delivered the Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What promises did Enos receive? The remission of his sins. Being brought back into the presence of God.
What I love about Enos’s story is that once he has tasted of God’s love he immediately wants to join in God’s work to spread that love far and wide. Notice how Enos then desires for blessings to be poured out upon the Nephites. Then Enos struggles further in prayer that the Lamanites, who he calls “his brethren”, will also receive of God’s divine love.
Look at the incredible nature of God! He will hear us and covenant with us and make promises to us. Because of Enos’s righteous desires God made these promises.
“I will visit thy brethren [the Nephites] according to their diligence in keeping my commandments.” (Enos 1:10)
“I [God] will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith….that the Lord God would preserve a record of my people, the Nephites; even if it so be by the power of his holy arm, that it might be brought forth at some future day unto the Lamanites, that, perhaps, they might be brought unto salvation.” (Enos 1:12-13)
CALL TO ACTION: What promises do you seek from God? When did you last wrestle with the Man of Holiness for your salvation of for the salvation of others? What did you learn about yourself? About others? About God?