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Mosiah 9


Out of Bondage through Covenants

      Jarom -- Mosiah



Mosiah 9 Heading The Record of Zeniff (Nephite Record Keepers) [Illustration]: Nephite Record Keepers. Adapted from [Church Educational System, Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122, 1989, p. 155]


Mosiah 9 Chapter Heading Zeniff leads a group from Zarahemla (Major Nephite Leaders) [Illustration]: The Major Leaders During Nephite History. [Church Educational System, Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122, 1989, p. 160]


Mosiah 9:1 I Zeniff, Having Been Taught in All the Language of the Nephites:


     Since the days of the Nephi1 there had been two distinct lines of decent for record keepers. One was the line of rulers from the first king anointed by Nephi. This kingly line was apparently composed of "pure" descendants of Nephi. They were entrusted with the responsibility of keeping "the history of Nephi's people" on the large plates of Nephi. The scriptural reasoning goes as follows:

     (1) "The plates upon which I make a full account of the history of my people I [Nephi} have given the name of Nephi; wherefore, they; are called the plates of Nephi" (1 Nephi 9:2).

     (2) "[Nephi] said that the history of his people should be engraven upon his other plates" (not "the small plates" (Jacob 1:1, 3). Thus these plates are referred to as the Large Plates of Nephi.

     (3) "[Nephi] anointed a man to be a king and a ruler over his people now, according to the reigns of the kings" . . . And whoso should reign in his stead were called by the people, second Nephi, third Nephi, and so orth, according to the reigns of the kings; and thus they were called by the people, let them be of whatever name they would (Jacob 1:9)

     (4) "the record of this people is engraven upon plates which is had by the kings, according to the generations" (Omni 1:11).

     (5) "[Benjamin] took [the small plates] and put them with the other plates, which contained records which had been handed down by the kings, from generation to generation until the days of king Benjamin. And they were handed down from king Benjamin, from generation to generation until they have fallen into my [Mormon's] hands." (W of M 1:10-11)      (6) "the kingdom had been conferred upon none but those who were descendants of Nephi" (Mosiah 25:13).

     (7) "I . . . give my account of the things which have been before me. I am Mormon, and a pure descendant of Lehi" (3 Nephi 5:20)

     (8) "And I, Mormon, being a descendant of Nephi" (Mormon 1:5)


     The other line of record keepers was descended from Jacob, Nephi's brother. The scriptural reasoning goes as follows:

     (1) "Nephi gave me, Jacob, a commandment concerning the small plates, upon which these things are engraven. . . . For he said that . . . I should preserve these plates and hand them down unto my seed, from generation to generation." (Jacob 1:1, 3).

     (2) These small plates were indeed passed down from generation to generation until they came into the possession of Amaleki (Omni 1:12). It is quite likely that Amaleki, "having no seed" (Omni 1:25) would have conferred the small plates upon a worthy brother (see Omni 1:8 for precedence), but the brother of Amaleki had gone "up into the wilderness to return to the land of Nephi" (Omni 1:27, 30).

     (3A) This brings up the possibility that this brother of Amaleki might have been Zeniff himself. Yet Amaleki states that his brother "went with them," rather than mentioned that he was their leader. Nevertheless, the record does show that on the first mission, Zeniff was not the leader (see Mosiah 9:1-3).

     (3B) Another distinct possibility would have been that Zeniff was a pure descendant of Nephi. Further confirmation of this comes from Zeniff's opening statement: "I Zeniff, having been taught in all the language of the Nephites" (Mosiah 9:1) This certainly suggests educational and instructional privileges not had by everyone but training which a prospective recipient of the sacred records would naturally receive. The reader should notice that the phrasing in Mosiah 9:1 is exactly like that used to describe the royal education of the three sons of King Benjamin (Mosiah, Helorum, and Helaman). Mosiah 1:2 says that "he [Benjamin] caused that they should be taught in all the language of his fathers, that thereby they might become men of understanding; and that they might know concerning the prophecies which had been spoken by the mouths of their fathers." (see also Mosiah 1:3-4) It is clear that Zeniff exercised the rule over his people with righteousness. He was familiar with the teachings on the "plates of brass" as well as the writings of Nephi, and had an unshakable faith in the Lord's ability to deliver his people out of their difficulties. He sensed this spiritual responsibility and also the obligation of keeping a record of his people (see superscription to Mosiah 9; 9:17-18;10:11-19; 11:1). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes adapted from a discussion in Charles S. Bagley's "The Limhi Expedition, unpublished, September 1985, p. 5] [See the commentaries on Jacob 1:9; Omni 1:11; W of M 1:10-11; Mosiah 25:13]

     Note* The reader should also be aware that Alma is referred to as "being a descendant of Nephi" (Mosiah 17:1-2). In these verses it is unclear whether king Noah or Abinadi is the one referred to as "also" being a descendant of Nephi. If king Noah was the one referred to, then Zeniff would also have been a descendant of Nephi. If Abinadi was the one referred to, Zeniff could still have been a descendant of Nephi. In my opinion, the use of the phrase "descendant of Nephi" seems to imply a royal line of both kingship and high priesthood. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 9:1 I Zeniff, Having Been Taught in All the Language of the Nephites:


     Zeniff notes that he had been taught "in all the language of the Nephites" (Mosiah 9:1). Were there a number of languages involved in "all the language of the Nephites”? The reader should notice that the phrasing in Mosiah 9:1 is exactly like that used to describe the royal education of the three sons of King Benjamin (Mosiah, Helorum, and Helaman). Mosiah 1:2 says that "he [Benjamin] caused that they should be taught in all the language of his fathers, that thereby they might become men of understanding; and that they might know concerning the prophecies which had been spoken by the mouths of their fathers." What made Zeniff so special that he was allowed to learn these languages? Perhaps he was of royal birth, or perhaps Zeniff was referring to his scriptural and religious upbringing. Perhaps there were still previously converted "Nephites" from different cultural backgrounds in the land of Nephi who had chosen not to follow Mosiah1 when he fled to the land of Zarahemla. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 9:1 Land of Our Fathers' First Inheritance:


     It is apparent that the Nephite recordkeepers considered several places as lands of inheritance. To Zeniff, the land of Nephi was the "land of our fathers’ first inheritance" (Mosiah 9:1). To the converts of Ammon, Jershon was given to them as "an inheritance" (Alma 27:22). In 57 B.C. after a long war, Helaman returned to "the place of his inheritance" (Alma 62:42). In Alma 22:28, Mormon appears to be referring to Lehi's landing site as the place of the Lamanites’ "first inheritance." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 9:1 Having Had a Knowledge of the Land of Nephi:


     According to the chronology chart in Appendix A, when Zeniff returned to the land of Nephi, only about 27 years had passed since Mosiah1 had fled from that land to Zarahemla. Why then was a Nephite army going to spy on and destroy the Lamanites in the local land of Nephi? Had there been a war? It wasn't Nephite policy to initiate war. Was Zeniff's original group going to extract revenge for the plight of Mosiah1, or to eliminate a threat to the peace of the Nephites in the land of Zarahemla, or both? Or neither? What does this allusion to war say about the extension of Lamanite-controlled boundaries and about how much the Lamanites knew of the location of the Nephites in the land of Zarahemla? Were the Lamanites spread out so far as to encroach upon the land of Zarahemla? If we assume a Mesoamerican setting, the travel distance from the proposed land of Zarahemla (Santa Rosa, Chiapas) to the proposed local land of Nephi (Kaminaljuyu, Guatemala City) is approximately 250 miles, which would take about 25-30 days on foot. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Omni 1:12.]


Mosiah 9:1 Having Been Sent As a Spy among the Lamanites:


     In Mosiah 9:1 we learn that Zeniff had been "sent as a spy among the Lamanites." From a few key items in the verses that follow, the reader can deduce some facts about this spy mission.

     (1) First, Zeniff had "a knowledge of the land of Nephi" (v. 1). It is likely that when Mosiah's group had originally fled the land of Nephi, they left behind many diverse linguistic and cultural "Nephites" who were now classified as "Lamanites" only because they fit the definition of all people who did not follow the ways of Nephi. Zeniff says that he "had been taught in all the language of the Nephites." (v. 1) Thus, Zeniff was apparently asked to be a spy because he was linguistically qualified to communicate with such a culturally diverse group.

     (2) Second, Zeniff must have been young and strong. From verse 2 we find that Zeniff not only felt equal to the task of challenging an "austere and a bloodthirsty" commander in the wilderness, but survived the bloody battle which followed. Moreover, although the trip consisted of "many days" travel "up" through "wilderness" (vv. 4,3,2), Zeniff was "over-zealous" about going again. (v. 3)

     (3) Third, because Zeniff had "a knowledge of the land of Nephi" (v. 1), he had apparently been part of Mosiah's original exodus. If he was still young and vigorous, then his attempt to return to the land of Nephi probably occurred relatively soon after the arrival of the Nephites in the land of Zarahemla.

     (4) Fourth, after surviving the original spying mission and returning again to the land of Nephi with another group, Zeniff indicates that he "went again . . . into the city." (v. 5) This possibly implies that on his original spy mission, Zeniff had gone into the city where he was able to talk with some of the people and witness their lifestyle. Indeed he says that he "saw that which was good among them." (v. 1) This apparently led him to oppose their destruction (see v. 2).

[Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Geographical Theory Map: Mosiah 9:1-2 (Omni 1:27) Zeniff Is Part of a Failed Bid to Return to Lehi-Nephi (Year 407)


Mosiah 9:3 I Being Overzealous to Inherit the Land of our Fathers:


     When Zeniff and his original party returned to the land of Nephi, they were going back to fight the Lamanites to "destroy them" (Mosiah 9:1) This didn't happen and Zeniff returned to Zarahemla. In Mosiah 9:3 Zeniff mentions that he was "over-zealous to inherit the land of our fathers." We can probably assume from such remarks that the object of the failed original party was also to inherit the land of their fathers. Were there any other factors involved? Other than a guess that a lower elevation such as Zarahemla might have tropical heat and that a higher elevation such as Nephi might have a temperate climate, the text doesn't offer many clues. Perhaps Zeniff was of royal Nephite birth and not satisfied with the position of power allocated to him in the land of Zarahemla under the rule of Mosiah1. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See also the commentary in Mosiah 9:5]


Geographical Theory Map: Mosiah 9:3-13 (Omni 1:29-30) Zeniff Returns from Zarahemla to Lehi-Nephi (Year 407)


Mosiah 9:5 I Went Again . . . unto the King:


     Zeniff makes an interesting statement when he says, "I went again with my four men into the city, in unto the king" (Mosiah 9:5). Because of this word "again" we might assume that this was at least the second time, or maybe the third time that Zeniff had gone to talk with King Laman. Zeniff was apparently convinced the first time (on his initial trip) that King Laman was offering "fair promises" (see Mosiah 10:18) and this conviction not only precipitated a civil war among the first Nephite army but motivated Zeniff to be "overzealous" so that he "brought [his] people up [again] into this land" (compare Mosiah 9:3). In Mosiah 9:2 Zeniff explains the reason for this first war: "I contended with my brethren in the wilderness for I would that our ruler should make a treaty with them [the Lamanites]." This contention became so violent that many people died and the expedition had to be aborted.

     Why was Zeniff’s proposal of peace with the Lamanites so hard to accept, and how did he ever get so many people to join him on a second expedition to the land of Nephi? In the first mission Zeniff "was sent as a spy among the Lamanites that [he] might spy out their forces, that [their] army might come upon them and destroy them" (Mosiah 9:1). But instead "when [he] saw that which was good among them [he] was desirous that they should not be destroyed" (Mosiah 9:1). Perhaps Zeniff, without the authority of his ruler, had gone to the Lamanite king and unofficially negotiated a peaceful contract. This unofficial contract might have precipitated a violent contention between those favoring peace and those intent on following their "blood-thirsty" leader's plans to destroy the Lamanites. Zeniff might have returned from this disastrous first trip to the land of Nephi back to the land of Zarahemla carrying the "fair promises" (Mosiah 10:18) of King Laman in order to justify himself to not only king Mosiah1, but to the relatives of the people who had been slain. Perhaps using these promises, Zeniff gathered those sympathetic to these "fair promises" and returned. Upon arriving the second time, Zeniff went again into King Laman to reconfirm the promises that had been made in the first meeting.

     Whatever the answer to the use of the word "again," one has to wonder what gave Zeniff the confidence to not only return to the land of Zarahemla to face the inquiry which was inevitable, but to persuade women and children to come along with him on a second trip when the first mission had consisted of all men (see Mosiah 9:2). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 9:6 (The Lamanite King) Covenanted with Me That I Might Possess the Land of Lehi-Nephi:


     Zeniff notes that he made a covenant with the Lamanite king in order to possess the land of Lehi-Nephi (Mosiah 9:6). One has to wonder if this covenant was the reason why Zeniff's people apparently did not try to communicate with the people in the land of Zarahemla? Perhaps Laman made Zeniff promise to have no contact with the people in the land of Zarahemla. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 9:6,10, 11, 12 To Bring My People into Bondage:


     It appears that the Lamanite king first covenanted with Zeniff peacefully (using "fair promises," Mosiah 10:18) and the treaty was apparently unalterable, but only during the Lamanite king's lifetime. Thus, when the Lamanite king died, his son apparently saw an opportunity to subject the Nephites to Lamanite rule and put Zeniff's people into bondage (see Mosiah 9:6). The Lamanites must have had a definite numbers advantage (see Mosiah 9:11) in order for the Lamanite king to think that he could bring Zeniff's people into bondage. Somehow he apparently didn't consider the resourcefulness of Zeniff's people to defend themselves (Mosiah 10:13-19). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 9:6 Lehi-Nephi:


     The name Lehi-Nephi is mentioned only seven times in the Book of Mormon, and all seven references refer to a place within the confines of a larger land of Nephi. (Allen, Exploring, p. 363) Perhaps the returning Nephites wanted to distinguish their city (Lehi-Nephi) from the general land of Nephi, which by this time was Lamanite territory (perhaps called Lehi-Laman?). The fact that Zeniff had to rebuild the walls of the city suggests that the city was, if not abandoned, at least neglected, and that the departure of Mosiah1 had not been a pleasant one.

     One note of interest is that "Lehi-Nephi" might have been not only the full name of Nephi, but also the royal pedigree line by which Zeniff derived his power and protection. We see the same thing possibly happening in the future with the Lamanites who were converted by the sons of Mosiah2. For possible protection, these converted Lamanites took upon them the name of the son of the Lamanite king who was the brother of Lamoni. His name was Anti-Nephi-Lehi (Alma 23:17, 24:5), and the converted Lamanites called themselves "Anti-Nephi-Lehies."

     Understanding of the term Lehi-Nephi is complicated by the use at this same time of the phrase "city of Nephi" to possibly refer to the same location. [See Mosiah 9:14-15, 20:3, 21:1, 12, 23:11.] The phrase "city of Nephi" is also used later in Alma 47:20 and describes the "chief city" of the land of Nephi (which was controlled by the Lamanites). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 9:6 Shilom:


     Much like Lehi-Nephi, the land of "Shilom" (Mosiah 9:6) was probably a part of a larger land of Nephi. In Hebrew, the word shilom means peace. Perhaps this area of land was so named in honor of the peace treaty originally negotiated between Zeniff and the Lamanite king.

     The land of Shilom was apparently sparsely populated for agricultural and grazing purposes. It is significant that the land of Shilom is not mentioned routinely after the departure of king Noah, apparently because of the fact that in response to the persecutions of the Lamanites, "the people of Limhi kept together in a body as much as it was possible, and secured their grain and their flocks" (Mosiah 21:18). Thereafter, the land of Shilom is only mentioned in a description of Limhi's escape, where the people of Limhi went "round about the land of Shilom" without any mention of including the people of Shilom or giving any reasons why they did not include those people (see Mosiah 22:11). Thus Shilom, perhaps because of its sparse population and its grazing potential, would eventually become occupied by the Lamanites. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 9:6 Shilom:


     Is "Shilom" a Jaredite-Mulekite name? Notice the "mimmation." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 9:8 We Began to . . . Repair the Walls of the City:


     Walls were rebuilt for the city of Lehi-Nephi and also for the city of Shilom (Mosiah 9:8). Did these walls completely surround the city? Were they used only for a boundary or did they aid in defense like the steep dug-away slopes or "walls" of the fortified site of Mixco Viejo (Hauck's proposed site of Lehi-Nephi)? Would they have had anything to do with water transport, like the ancient walls of the aqueduct "La Culebra" in Guatemala City, which transported water to Kaminaljuyu? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 9:8 We began to . . . repair the walls of the city, yea, even the walls of the city (Illustration): "La Culebra" (the snake) is a winding aqueduct system built by the Spanish "Conquistadores" (conquerors) in the 1500's. The foundation they built it on was a Preclassic (Nephite time-period) city wall. We will pass through one of the narrow arches soon after leaving the airport on our way to our hotel, the Conquistador Ramada. [Clate Mask, personal Book of Mormon Lands Tour photos and notes]


Mosiah 9:9 Corn:


     According to John Sorenson, by 130 B.C. "corn" (that is, Maize)--a native plant of America--had become the leading crop in the land of Nephi. Mosiah 7:22 and 9:9 both list this crop first in the food supply of Zeniff's people, and the neighboring Lamanites apparently sought for maize in their raids upon the people (Mosiah 9:14). Corn is a plant so completely dependent on man that it does not grow in the wild. Ever since it was first cultivated thousands of years before the Nephites arrived, it had to be tended by human hands and passed on from generation to generation. We are given no hint of who taught Lehi's descendants to grow corn, nor of who gave them the seed. Of course, the people of Zeniff--the corn growers of Mosiah 9--had come from the land of Zarahemla, but where would they have got it? The obvious source in Book of Mormon terms would be Jaredite survivors [or Mulekites]. [John Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 139]


Mosiah 9:9 Corn:


     At least by the time of Zeniff, the Nephites were growing "corn" (Mosiah 9:9). According to Joseph Allen, just as corn is the most frequently mentioned food product in the Book of Mormon, so it continues to play a major role among the Maya. This is especially significant in terms of identifying Book of Mormon lands. For example, corn didn't even show up in the eastern part of the United States until after A.D. 500. The Nephites and Lamanites [according to the Book of Mormon and the archaeological record in Mesoamerica] had been eating corn for a thousand years prior to that. [Joseph L. Allen, "Eating Breakfast With the Lamanites," in The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Vol. II, Issue I, 1999, p. 4]


Mosiah 9:9 We began to till the ground . . . with seeds of corn (Illustration): Corn in the Codex Borbonicus. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 24]


Mosiah 9:9 We began to till the ground . . . with seeds of corn (Illustration): Four scenes from Sahagun's Florentine Codex display the sequence of Aztec maize cultivation and harvest. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 35]


Mosiah 9:9 We Began to Till the Ground . . . with Seeds of Corn:


     According to an article by Carl Johannessen and Anne Parker, the tradition among Nahua Indians of Mexico was to sculpt maize ears with vivid likeness to reality in the headdresses of the goddess Chicomecoatl (Anton 1973: illustration 70) and other archaeological representations in the Americas (Mangelsdorf 1974:187-199). It is possible that such a tradition of sculpting could have been carried to India along with the maize. . . . "As a result of our studies we recognize a need to re-examine the pre-1492 A.D. evidence for diffusion of many species of cultivated American plants and other cultural artifacts. It is a reasonable hypothesis to suggest that large-sized maize ears reached India by sailboat many centuries prior to the 12th century A.D., enabling the Hoysala culture to have integrated maize ears into its religious symbolism prior to the time when these temples were built." [Karl L. Johannessen and Anne Z. Parker, "Maize Ears Sculpted in 12th and 13th Century A.D. India as Indicators of Pre-Columbian Diffusion." Reprinted by F.A.R.M.S. from Economic Botany 43/2 (1989): 164-80.]


Mosiah 9:9 We began to till the ground . . . with seeds of corn (Illustration): Three diagrammatic kernel distributions that are possible on live maize or on sculpted "ears." [Karl L. Johannessen and Anne Z. Parker, "Maize Ears Sculpted in 12th and 13th Century A.D. India as Indicators of Pre-Columbian Diffusion." Reprinted by F.A.R.M.S. from Economic Botany 43/2 (1989): 164-80.]


Mosiah 9:9 We began to till the ground . . . with seeds of corn (Illustration): Carefully cultured corn growing in the highlands of Guatemala. Corn or maize was a staple in the diet of the Nephites. "Although good soil and growing conditions particularly favored a few areas, most Mesoamerican agriculture was not highly productive. Vast areas are mountainous, frost threatened, or heavily forested." Photograph [Scot and Maurine Proctor, Light from the Dust, p. 148]


Mosiah 9:9 Of Wheat and of Barley:


     According to John Sorenson, botanists today believe that the earliest wheat in the New World was introduced by Spaniards. "I am aware of no clear-cut evidence to the contrary, although there are hints that warrant closer examination." Wheat now grows in Guatemala but only at elevations higher than our [land of] Nephi. Possibly the Nephites brought seed with them and grew wheat for a time, only to have it disappear from cultivation later on, a not uncommon phenomenon in the experience of migrating groups. But the "problem" may be one of scientific method rather than of the Book of Mormon's statements. In 1982, for example, apparent domesticated barley was reported found in Arizona, the first pre-Columbian occurrence in the western hemisphere. That such an important crop could have gone undiscovered for so long by archaeologists justifies the thought that wheat might also be found in ancient sites. Another possibility is that edible seeds not familiar to most of us were labeled with the names "wheat" or "barley." (Names do shift: "corn" in England means wheat; in Scotland, oats; in North America, maize.) Amaranth, considered an Old World grain, was grown and used in Mexico at the time the Spaniards arrived. Botanist Jonathan Sauer thought its origin to be American, but he noted too that it was widely distributed in the Old World in pre-Columbian times. Its uses in the two hemispheres were strikingly similar also (it was popped and eaten as "popcorn balls" on special feast days); the similarities have suggested to some scholars that amaranth seed was carried across the ocean in ancient times. Could the name translated in the Book of Mormon as "wheat" actually have been amaranth? [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, pp. 185-186]


Mosiah 9:9 We began to till the ground . . . with seeds of wheat (Illustration): Beautiful golden wheat, stacked and ready for the threshing floor, is harvested by hand in the mountains of Guatemala. [Scot and Maurine Proctor, Light from the Dust, p. 123]


Mosiah 9:9 Barley:      


     Based on research by John Sorenson and Robert Smith, and edited by John Welch, the December 1983 issue of the popular magazine Science 83 reported the discovery in Phoenix, Arizona, by professional archaeologists of what they supposed to be pre-Columbian domesticated barley. . . . This Arizona find is the first direct New World evidence for cultivated pre-Columbian barley in support of the Book of Mormon.

     Archaeologists have been analyzing the barley samples retrieved from the Phoenix area and say that they are associated with material and strata generally dated about A.D. 900. . . . We await with interest further excavations, dating, and morphological examination to determine when and how the cultivation of this barley was begun, as well as its taxonomic relationship to New or Old World wild barleys. [John L. Sorenson, Robert F. Smith, and John W. Welch, "Barley in Ancient America," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 130-132]


Mosiah 9:9 With Neas and with Sheum:


     According to Hunter and Ferguson, the following are exclusively New World crops, and thus might fall into the category of "neas" and "sheum" (Mosiah 9:9): 1. maize or Indian corn, 2. potato, 3. sweet potato, 4. cassava, 5. lima bean, 6. common garden beans, 7. runner bean (scarlet runner bean), 8. tepari bean, 9. yam, 10. tomato, 11. pepper, 12. Jerusalem artichokes, 13. sunflower, 14. squash, 15. pumpkin, 16. fig-leaved pumpkin, 17. musky pumpkin, 18. peanut, 19. chayote, 20. papaya, 21. avocado, 22. pineapple, 23. custard apple, 24. sour-sop, 25. cherimoya, 26. guava, 27. cacao, 28. cashew, 29. sapote, 30. white sapote, 31. sapodilla, 32. mammei, 33. Mexican plum, (and others) [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas S. Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, p. 306]


Mosiah 9:9 Sheum:


     According to John Sorenson, two puzzling plants are mentioned in Mosiah 9:9, among those cultivated by the people of Zeniff: "sheum" and "neas." The former word has recently been identified as "a precise match for Akkadian s(h)e'um, 'barley' (Old Assyrian 'wheat'); the most popular ancient Mesopotamian cereal name." The word's sound pattern indicates it was probably a Jaredite term. This good North Semitic word was quite at home around the "valley of Nimrod," north of Mesopotamia, where the Jaredites paused and collected seeds before starting their long journey to America (Ether 2:1, 3). [John Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 185]


Mosiah 9:9 Sheum:


     John Sorenson notes that many historical cases assure us that plant names can change under new circumstances. When new plants are encountered old names commonly are applied to them. For instance, after the Conquest, many Spanish names were applied to plants found in Mexico because of their similarities to those of Europe, such as "ciruelo," plum (tree), applied to the nonplum genus Spondias.126 Various other naming puzzles also occurred. The fruit of the prickly-"pear" cactus was called by the Spaniards "fig," even though a real native fig was present. Some Spaniards used the word "trigo," wheat, for maize (French peasants in recent times still called it "Turkish wheat" or "Roman wheat")127

     Within the Book of Mormon itself we discover an interesting case of a plant name changing. Mosiah 9:9 mentions "sheum" in a list of plants. The name rather obviously derives from Akkadian (Babylonian) "she'um," barley (Old Assyrian, wheat), "the most popular ancient Mesopotamian cereal name,"128 A Jaredite source is logical, for that group departed from Mesopotamia, although the Book of Mormon reference is to a plant cultivated by the Zeniffites (a Nephite-"Mulekite" group) in the second century B.C. The term could not have meant "barley" or "wheat" among the Nephites because "sheum" is listed along with "barley," while "wheat" is named elsewhere without hint of any connection with "sheum" (Incidentally, careful reading of Mosiah 9:9 indicates that while "corn," "barley," and "wheat" were classified as "seeds," "neas" and "sheum" may be implied to be other than seeds.) Whatever crop was called "sheum," it is unlikely to have meant to the Zeniffites what it once had in Mesopotamia, barley or wheat, but had come to be applied (by the Jaredites?) to something else.

     Plenty of other cultivated grains in ancient Mesoamerica might have been called sheum, or "wheat," or "barley." Some possibilities are:

     1. amarangth (Amaranthus leucocarpus and A. cruentus);129

     2. huauzontle;130

     3. chia (Salvia hispanica or S. chian, used in greater quantity by the Aztecs than even amaranth);131

     4. Setaria or fox-tail millet (S. geniculata Beauvais);132

     5. 40-chromosome "perennial corn" (Zea perennis, a form of teosinte);

     6. 20-chromosome "perennial corn" (Zea diploperennis, also a teosinte); and

     7. Chalco teosinte (probably the food plat mentioned in Codex Vaticanus 3738 as "accentli").133


     These materials are cited to make the point that the archaeological inventory of Mesoamerican grains still remains to be completed, as well as to point to the problem of naming. [John L. Sorenson, "Viva Zapato! Hurray for the Shoe! in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 6, Num. 1, pp. 337-339]


Mosiah 9:10 King Laman:


     Daniel Ludlow suggests that the name of king Laman was a throne name:

           Evidently the Lamanites have used the same procedure as the Nephites did in their early history of naming their kings after their earliest leader. Jacob 1:11 mentions that the kings who succeeded Nephi were known as "second Nephi, third Nephi, and so forth, according to the reigns of the kings." Thus it should not be too surprising to discover that the king of the Lamanites in approximately 178 B.C. was still known as "king Laman" (Mosiah 10:56), although the original leader after whom the king was named lived some four hundred years before. Also, later in the Book of Mormon we discover that the son who succeeded this king is also known as Laman." (see Mosiah 24:3). [Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 181]


     Note* Brant Gardner comments, however, that "it is not clear that this is a throne name as opposed to a personal name. . . . Nevertheless, what the name clearly is not, is King Nephi. The city of Nephi clearly came under some kind of Lamanite influence, and one way or the other, the connections to the Nephite leadership line had been lost. It is reasonable to assume that had the people of the city of Nephi continued their political allegiance to the lineage of Nephi, the name Laman would not have been a very popular one for the king. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," Mosiah/Mosiah9.htm, pp.13-14]

     Note* It is also very plausible that the name "Laman" is a metonymic name inserted by Mormon to imply that the Nephites left behind in the land of Nephi had assimilated the Lamanite cultural and religious ideas. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 9:12 They Were a Lazy and an Idolatrous People:


     Brant Gardner notes that Zeniff specifically notes two things about the Lamanites in the land of Nephi-- that they were "lazy and idolatrous" (Mosiah 9:12).

     The term "lazy" is certainly linked to the Lamanite desire for tribute, since it is given as a justification for the conquest and tribute pattern. But the reader should take care not to infer too much else about the term "lazy." The later Aztecs of Tenochtitlan (the city of Motecuhzoma) exacted tribute from many city states, but could hardly be called lazy.

     The description of the Lamanites as "idolatrous" is a very specific designation dealing with religion. One becomes "idolatrous" when they turn to idols, and thus away from God. This process is inherently religious, but with the tight connection between religion and culture in the ancient world, it is also a turn to a different cultural system. Thus Zeniff is describing a religious cultural system that is opposed to the belief in the God of Israel. He is noting that the Nephites who are now termed Lamanites have changed their religion as well as their political allegiance. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," ~nahualli/LDStopics/Mosiah/Mosiah9.htm, p. 16]


Mosiah 9:12 They Were Desirous to Bring Us into Bondage:


     In Mosiah 9:12, Zeniff says that "the Lamanites were a lazy and an idolatrous people; therefore they were desirous to bring us into bondage, that they might glut themselves with the labors of our hands; yea, that they might feast themselves upon the flocks of our fields." Was this the type of atmosphere that caused Mosiah1 to leave the land of Nephi in the first place? Was Nephi only one king among many, subject to the actions of multi-cultural "Lamanite kings" in the area? Was "King Laman" a real name or just a type name given by Mormon? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Mosiah 24:2, 24:3]


Mosiah 9:14 My Reign in the Land of Nephi:


     Zeniff refers to his "reign in the land of Nephi" (Mosiah 9:14). Apparently Zeniff considered himself as reigning over an area in the land of Nephi that included (at least) both Lehi-Nephi and Shilom. Zeniff himself refers to the place where he resided as "the city of Nephi" (Mosiah 9:15), and the people on the south of Shilom sought him out for help. Thus, the phrase "land of Nephi" here might mean an area extending beyond the city of Lehi-Nephi and at least encompassing Shilom. Was this area the total extent of the land governed originally by the Nephite kings who laid claim to the name "Nephi" (Jacob 1:11)? The original Nephites under the first King Nephi constructed many buildings including a temple (2 Nephi 5:15-16). Were these original buildings or those built in their stead part of Zeniff's land of Nephi? Would King Laman move himself and his people out of the center portion of their population in order for Zeniff's group to come marching in and settle themselves down on what the Lamanites considered prime property? Perhaps Nephi had originally settled some distance from the existing cultures of "Lamanite" population (non-Nephite, or those who "seek to destroy the people of Nephi"--see Jacob 1:13) which perhaps at this time far outnumbered the original group of Nephi. In time, and from a relatively small area ("the lands of our father's first inheritance" -- Mosiah 9:1) but nevertheless from a strategically defensible position (with "walls" -- see Mosiah 9:8) and with superior weapons (see 2 Nephi 5:14, Jarom 1:8) Nephi and those kings who followed him might have succeeded in not only defending the Nephite people from those "who were now called Lamanites" (2 Nephi 5:14) but in extending the Nephite culture and commerce throughout what would eventually become a general, Lamanite controlled land of Nephi after the departure of Mosiah1 (see Alma 22:27-34). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 9:14 Away on the South of the Land of Shilom:


     Mention is made in Mosiah 9:14 of a numerous host of Lamanites that attack "on the south of the land of Shilom," and then shortly after, in verse 10:8, the Lamanites "came up upon the north of the land of Shilom." If we assume a Mesoamerican setting, the land of Shemlon could have been positioned both lower in elevation and "west" (according to John Sorenson's rotated directional system) of Shilom near the shores of lake Amatitlan. This would allow the Lamanites to attack both on the south and on the north. (See illustration)


Geographical Theory Map: Mosiah 9:14--11:1 The Lamanites Invade Shilom on the North & South (Year 419)


Mosiah 9:15 They Fled, Even into the City of Nephi:


     The people of Shilom fled from south of Shilom directly to the city of Nephi (not Lehi-Nephi?) for protection and not to the city of Shilom. Either the city of Nephi was closer or the numbers of people and the fortifications necessary for resistance did not exist in Shilom. Perhaps the land of Shilom was sparsely populated for agricultural and grazing purposes. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 9:18-19 (3043 Lamanites . . . 279 Nephites Slain):


     Zeniff notes that in a battle with the Lamanites, the people of Zeniff killed "three thousand and forty three" Lamanites (Mosiah 9:18) in one day and a night. Zeniff also notes that "two hundred and seventy-nine of our brethren" were killed (Mosiah 9:19). What does this say about the Nephite population after 12 years in the land of Nephi, and what do these figures tell us about battle conditions?

     If after 12 years and after other "wars and contentions" (v. 13), losing 279 Nephite brethren did not seriously reduce the Nephite colony or their power, then how many people followed Zeniff back to the land of Lehi-Nephi? There must have been many more Nephite men remaining than the 279 who fell in battle. After all, the Lamanites did not regroup and fight the Nephites again, even when the general land of Nephi was apparently Lamanite territory. Would any people native to the region of Lehi-Nephi have united themselves with the Nephites when Zeniff first returned or during the first 12 years? If not, Zeniff's returning group must have been quite large.

     As for battle conditions, the Lamanite/Nephite mortality ratio was almost 11 to 1. This seems to indicate that some type of fortification was involved. The people of Zeniff couldn't have hoped to attain such superiority in open battle. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 9:18-19 (3043 . . . 279):


     As quoted in Mosiah 9:18-19, the ratio of Lamanites killed (3043) to Nephites (279) is very disproportionate. Could the reason for this be the defensive fortifications? Two sites have been proposed for the area to which Zeniff and his people returned. At Mixco Viejo (Hauck) there are plateaus on top of steep inclines. Were these the "walls" referred to in Mosiah 9:8? Does Kaminaljuyu (the site of Lehi-Nephi for Sorenson and Allen) have any remnants of fortified "walls"? What would have afforded the people of Zeniff the protection such that they would achieve an 11 to 1 kill ratio? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 9:18-19 (3043 Dead . . . 279 Dead):


     According to Hugh Nibley, the commentary on the population in Mosiah 9:18-19 is very interesting: 3043 Lamanite dead against 279 Nephite dead. If ten percent of the Lamanites were killed, that would mean there were only 30,000 Lamanites that the king was able to put into battle. It may have been three percent, which is considered the minimum [which correlates to 100,000 males]. . . . but it was probably 30,000 or even 15,000. . . . There are all sorts of calculations here that you can use. In my division in World War II, we had to make these calculations, and it was figured that in the average operation three percent would be lost. But this was a disaster; the Lamanites got beaten. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 41]