You are here
Show Full Text
1 And it came to pass that we again began to establish the kingdom and we again began to possess the land in peace. And I caused that there should be weapons of war made of every kind, that thereby I might have weapons for my people against the time the Lamanites should come up again to war against my people.
2 And I set guards round about the land, that the Lamanites might not come upon us again unawares and destroy us; and thus I did guard my people and my flocks, and keep them from falling into the hands of our enemies.
3 And it came to pass that we did inherit the land of our fathers for many years, yea, for the space of twenty and two years.
4 And I did cause that the men should till the ground, and raise all manner of grain and all manner of fruit of every kind.
5 And I did cause that the women should spin, and toil, and work, and work all manner of fine linen, yea, and cloth of every kind, that we might clothe our nakedness; and thus we did prosper in the land—thus we did have continual peace in the land for the space of twenty and two years.
The aftermath of the retaliation is that the people of Zeniff are able to assert their independence but were required to remain diligent. Having retaliated, it was always possible that another raid would come, perhaps seen as retaliation from the Lamanite perspective. The people of Zeniff are placed into a more militaristic stance, needing to post guards.
The result, however, is a return to prosperity. That is signaled, as usual, by the statement that they did “raise all manner of grain and all manner of fruit of every kind.” In the 1830 edition, this statement of growing foodstuffs followed the previous statement of growing grains by only five paragraphs. The examples of prosperity are expanded here by noting that the women were able to produce cloth. These are common tasks for a pre-industrial people and are not particularly different from any other people in their area. They are, however, evidence that “we did prosper in the land.” They have peace for twenty-two years after the retaliation.
6 And it came to pass that king Laman died, and his son began to reign in his stead. And he began to stir his people up in rebellion against my people; therefore they began to prepare for war, and to come up to battle against my people.
7 But I had sent my spies out round about the land of Shemlon, that I might discover their preparations, that I might guard against them, that they might not come upon my people and destroy them.
8 And it came to pass that they came up upon the north of the land of Shilom, 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.
9 And it came to pass that I caused that the women and children of my people should be hid in the wilderness; and I also caused that all my old men that could bear arms, and also all my young men that were able to bear arms, should gather themselves together to go to battle against the Lamanites; and I did place them in their ranks, every man according to his age.
After twenty-two years of peace, King Laman dies and his son takes a different and more militaristic stance against this people living within his overall lands. The Lamanites prepare for war. Zeniff discovers this because he has been on alert. Twenty-two years earlier he had set guards around his people, and that practice was continued. Thus, the Lamanite preparations were discovered and Zeniff was able to prepare his people.
The catalogue of weaponry is very similar to what was recorded in Mosiah 9:16, but this time the list describes the Lamanite weaponry rather than the Zeniffite list of arms. Because it describes Lamanites, the addition is that the Lamanites have shaved their heads. This suggests that the Lamanites were not typically without hair but shaved their heads in this military context.
The Zeniffite defense is twofold. The women and children are removed from direct harm’s way and hidden in the wilderness. Then all available males, including old men who were able, were conscripted into the defensive force. This strongly suggests that the Zeniffite people were significantly fewer than the force coming against them.
When Zeniff places the young and old men into ranks, he does so by age, rather than intermingle all the troops. It is probable that this was to have the ranks of the youngest and the oldest behind those of warrior age, so that they would be used only in as a final extreme.
10 And it came to pass that we did go up to battle against the Lamanites; and I, even I, in my old age, did go up to battle against the Lamanites. And it came to pass that we did go up in the strength of the Lord to battle.
11 Now, the Lamanites knew nothing concerning the Lord, nor the strength of the Lord, therefore they depended upon their own strength. Yet they were a strong people, as to the strength of men.
12 They were a wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, believing in the tradition of their fathers, which is this—Believing that they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem because of the iniquities of their fathers, and that they were wronged in the wilderness by their brethren, and they were also wronged while crossing the sea;
13 And again, that they were wronged while in the land of their first inheritance, after they had crossed the sea, and all this because that Nephi was more faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord—therefore he was favored of the Lord, for the Lord heard his prayers and answered them, and he took the lead of their journey in the wilderness.
The Nephites stereotyped the Lamanites. In spite of the fact that the term Lamanite had become a generic term for all non-Nephites (see Jacob 1:13–14), the stereotypes were applied to all. When the people of Zeniff returned to the land of Nephi, they could speak the language, suggesting that there were many previous Nephites who remained and became Lamanites by switching allegiance. The newly entered rulers were Lamanites by Jacob’s definition of those who “seek to destroy the people of Nephi,” but it is unknown how they might have been related to Laman or Lemuel.
Nevertheless, the description of Lamanites as wild and ferocious occurs in Enos 1:20, here in Mosiah 10:12, later in Mosiah 17:17, Alma 17:14, and Helaman 3:6. Zeniff had called them lazy in Mosiah 9:12, and Mormon will later call them indolent in Alma 37:36. This stereotyping leads directly to the imputation of the motives for the Lamanite hatred. They were wronged in the Old World wilderness and while crossing the sea. They rejected Nephi. In Zeniff’s writing, the events of the beginnings of the Nephites continued to fuel Lamanite hatred. We will see this accusation again.
These are all Nephite descriptions and part of typical ethnocentrism, which sees one’s own people as the most important group, and outsiders only in reaction to one’s group. The Nephite records will clearly advance the Nephite perspective, and their perspective created stereotypes of lazy and blood-thirsty Lamanites that will persist through to the end of the Nephite nation.
14 And his brethren were wroth with him because they understood not the dealings of the Lord; they were also wroth with him upon the waters because they hardened their hearts against the Lord.
15 And again, they were wroth with him when they had arrived in the promised land, because they said that he had taken the ruling of the people out of their hands; and they sought to kill him.
16 And again, they were wroth with him because he departed into the wilderness as the Lord had commanded him, and took the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, for they said that he robbed them.
17 And thus they have taught their children that they should hate them, and that they should murder them, and that they should rob and plunder them, and do all they could to destroy them; therefore they have an eternal hatred towards the children of Nephi.
18 For this very cause has king Laman, by his cunning, and lying craftiness, and his fair promises, deceived me, that I have brought this my people up into this land, that they may destroy them; yea, and we have suffered these many years in the land.
The ethnocentric explanation for the Lamanite hatred of the Nephites, and by extension, the Zeniffites, continues. All the wrongs that originally divided the brothers will continue to be used as the reason for violence for over four hundred years. Zeniff indicates that the Lamanites have taught these things to their children. Zeniff could not know that. However, he could certainly extrapolate that information from what the Nephites had clearly taught their children. Whatever the Lamanite reasons, the Nephite justifications returned to the very origins of their people.
Verse 17 adds a motivation for Lamanite actions that are not related to the origins of the Nephites and Lamanites. Lamanites desire to murder, rob, and plunder the Nephites. The three basic concepts of murder, robbing, and plunder are repeated twenty times in the Book of Mormon. That number focuses on the terms murder and plunder. Sometimes the term rob is exchanged for steal, but clearly the theme is the same. That consistent repetition of the description suggests a stereotype. However, like many stereotypes, it conceals some element of truth. In this case, these are terms that are used in conjunction with actions that we would see as one city dominating another and establishing a tribute system with the conquered city.
19 And now I, Zeniff, after having told all these things unto my people concerning the Lamanites, I did stimulate them to go to battle with their might, putting their trust in the Lord; therefore, we did contend with them, face to face.
20 And it came to pass that we did drive them again out of our land; and we slew them with a great slaughter, even so many that we did not number them.
21 And it came to pass that we returned again to our own land, and my people again began to tend their flocks, and to till their ground.
22 And now I, being old, did confer the kingdom upon one of my sons; therefore, I say no more. And may the Lord bless my people. Amen.
The result of this conflict is that the Zeniffites are able to defend their homes. We get no information about the battle. There is the long introduction, including the justification of fighting against the Lamanite hatred, but of the battle and the aftermath we are told only that it happened and that, when they finished, they went home and “again began to tend their flocks, and to till their ground.” There is a return to normalcy, and a repetition of the events that have previously been used to show prosperity.
Without stating it, Zeniff implies that his people were worthy of the promise of the land. Although attached, they have been spared and they return to the things that provide them prosperity. Yahweh has fulfilled his part of the covenant and protected the Zeniffites and allowed them to prosper.
This ends Zeniff’s personal writing. The Amen at the end closes his record, and Mormon closes the chapter. Mormon has been quoting Zeniff but will return to making selections from his source record and narrating the events starting in the next chapter. It is probable that the record of Zeniff also includes the record of Noah, just as Nephite books include more than one person’s record. Mormon simply treats the material differently, even though it comes from the same source.
Items in the BMC Archive are made publicly available for non-commercial, private use. Inclusion within the BMC Archive does not imply endorsement. Items do not represent the official views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or of Book of Mormon Central.
Get the latest updates on Book of Mormon topics and research for free