Mosiah 21:4 all this was done that the word of the Lord might be fulfilled
The events of this chapter are in direct fulfillment of the word of the Lord to Abinadi, Yea, wo be unto this generation! And the Lord said unto me: Stretch forth thy hand and prophesy, saying: Thus saith the Lord, it shall come to pass that this generation, because of their iniquities, shall be brought into bondage, and shall be smitten on the cheek; yea and shall be driven by men, and shall be slain (Mosiah 12:2).
Mosiah 21:5 the afflictions of the Nephites were great
In times of trouble, it is seldom helpful to point fingers, but the Nephites had no one to blame but themselves. They were being smitten on every hand by the Lamanites because of their own wickedness, for this is the only way in which the Lamanites could ever exercise power over the Nephites. As Lehi told Nephi, they shall have no power over thy seed except they shall rebel against me also (1 Ne 2:23), and They shall be scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in remembrance of me and inasmuch as they will not remember me, and hearken unto my words, they shall scourge them even unto destruction (2 Ne 5:25). President Benson points out characteristics of the ancient Roman Empire which apply also to the Nephites.
Ezra Taft Benson
"In his book Caesar and Christ, Will Durant, in summarizing the causes of the destruction of the Roman Empire, stated; ' A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within. The essential causes of Rome's decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, her consuming wars...' (An Enemy Hath Done This, p. ix as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 227)
Mosiah 21:6-12 they began to be desirous to go against them to battle
In their last encounter, Limhi's people had been fairly successful against the Lamanites (Mosiah 20:11). Their mistake was to assume that their success was due to their own power and strength. Now, after suffering more Lamanite-induced affliction, Limhi's people become the aggressors. They strike first in three different ill-fated military campaigns. This behavior was in defiance of the will of the Lord regarding any military activities. The people of the Lord are not to be the aggressors, Inasmuch as ye are not guilty of the first offense, neither the second, ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies (Alma 43:46), and they were also taught never to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives (Alma 48:14). This law against aggression was repeated to the persecuted saints of Missouri:
'Now, I speak unto you concerning your families--if men will smite you, or your families, once, and ye bear it patiently and revile not against them, neither seek revenge, ye shall be rewarded;
But if ye bear it not patiently, it shall be accounted unto you as being meted out as a just measure unto you.
And again, if your enemy shall smite you the second time, and you revile not against your enemy, and bear it patiently, your reward shall be an hundredfold.
And again, if he shall smite you the third time, and ye bear it patiently, your reward shall be doubled unto you four-fold;
And these three testimonies shall stand against your enemy if he repent not, and shall not be blotted out...
And then, if he shall come upon you or your children, or your children's children unto the third and fourth generation, I have delivered thine enemy into thine hands' (DC 98:23-29, italics added)
The blood thirstiness of Limhi's people was rewarded with pain and suffering so severe that it caused a great mourning and lamentation...the widow mourning for her husband, the son and the daughter mourning for their father, and the brothers for their brethren.
Mosiah 21:15 the Lord was slow to hear their cry because of their iniquities
The Lord always answers our prayers-he just doesn't do it according to our understanding or timetable. The Lord answers the prayers of Limhi's people but he lets them suffer a little for their iniquities. The Lord has told us not to petition him only when we need him. Our prayers should reach the heavens in times of plenty as well as times of trouble. In speaking of the early saints in Missouri, the Lord said, They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble. In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me (DC 101:7-8). Limhi's people had been guilty of the same thing-they had esteemed lightly the counsel of the Lord, but in the day of their trouble, of necessity they felt after him.
Joseph Fielding Smith
"When we neglect this and other duties we do not have the same claim on the blessings of the Lord, and he has said if we are slow to hear him he may be slow to hear us in the hour of our trouble. (D. & C. 101:7-8.) The Lord was slow to hearken to the Nephites in their rebellion until they were humbled and so with the Israelites, and this happened repeatedly. We should profit by their example. In our praying we should seek to do the will of the Lord and not merely to reap some advantage or gratification which may not be the best for us. This is a very significant saying: 'Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall he given unto you, that is expedient for you; and if ye ask anything that is not expedient for you, it shall turn unto your condemnation.' (DC 88:63-65) Therefore we should not be too insistent, but should pray earnestly seeking light and to know the will of the Lord, with an unselfish spirit. Then, with this spirit, will our bodies be filled with light." (Church History and Modern Revelation, p. 135)
Mosiah 21:17 every man should impart to the support of the widows and their children
King Limhi was a righteous man and accordingly took care of the needs of those who had lost husbands and fathers in the wars with the Lamanites. He would have been more wise to have forbidden his people to fight against the Lamanites in the first place, but at least he understood the principle of righteousness which James calls pure religion, Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world (James 1:27).
Mosiah 21:23 the king...discovered Ammon and his brethren
This marks the end of the flashback. We now return to the same time period described back in Mosiah 8. The intervening chapters (9-22) were taken from the record of Zeniff.
Mosiah 21:26-27 they did find a land which had been peopled
Limhi is looking for some way to deliver his people from the Lamanites. He is hopeful that he can get assistance from the Nephites in Zarahemla and sends an envoy to find and solicit help. Unfortunately, all they find is the land of Jaredites, covered with dry bones. It is evident that both Zarahemla and the Jaredites lived north of the land of Nephi. Although this little excursion failed to deliver the people from the hands of their enemies, its importance cannot be understated. Without the efforts of this little band, the Book of Ether would not have been had among the Nephites. Those in Zarahemla had interpreted a stone by which they knew somewhat of the Jaredites (Omni 1:20), but the history and prophecies of the brother of Jared were contained within the twenty-four plates. It is to this little band of Limhi's that we owe this great scriptural find.
"The twenty-four plates were called The Book of Ether after its author. (Ether 1:2) Their discovery was not an accident. For, when Ether had finished his record, 'He hid them in a manner that the people of Limhi did find them.' (Ether 15:33)" (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 2, p. 283)
Mosiah 21:28 king Mosiah had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings
The gift spoken of is the gift of seership. See commentary for Mosiah 8:13-15.
Mosiah 21:33 people were desirous to be baptized; but there was none...that had authority
Again we see the wisdom of Limhi. He could have assumed authority and baptized his people, but he understood that no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron (Heb 5:4). So many others in the history of mankind have not worried that they had no authority but started their own churches with their own authority, doctrines, ordinances, and wisdom. In essence, they were able to create churches with a form of godliness but they denied the power thereof (JS-H 1:19) because they were never based on proper authority from God.