Mosiah 9 The Record of Zeniff
Mormon inserts this history of the people of Zeniff. It comprises about 70 years and three kings, Zeniff, Noah, and Limhi. It is important to remember that chronologically this is a flashback-to tell us what happened to these people and give background for the state of affairs with Limhi's people. This record includes chapters 9-22 and is taken from the plates spoken of in Mosiah 8:5.
Mosiah 9:1 I, Zeniff, having been taught in all the language of the Nephites
A few points deserve mention. First, one can't help but notice the similarities between the introduction of Zeniff and that of Nephi who said, I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father...having had a great knowledge...(1 Ne 1:1). Second, Zeniff says all the language of the Nephites because there was more than one language. They spoke a form of Hebrew, wrote in reformed Egyptian, and joined with the Mulekites who spoke an entirely different language. Third, it is interesting that chapters 9 and 10 are written in the first person. This means that Mormon wrote the story of Zeniff verbatim without abridgement or editorializing. As soon as his son Noah takes charge, Mormon begins to abridge the record and the rest of the story is told in third person.
Mosiah 9:1 I saw that which was good among them
The righteous Nephites always had a soft spot in their hearts for their brethren the Lamanites. Zeniff was quick to acknowledge the good qualities of Lamanite society. In this respect, he was like Jacob who noted, the Lamanites...are more righteous than you...their husbands love their wives, and their wives love their husbands; and their husbands and their wives love their children (Jacob 3:5,7).
Mosiah 9:3 I being over-zealous to inherit the land of our fathers, collected as many as were desirous to go up
Zeniff doesn’t say he was zealous to inherit the land of Nephi, he uses the term “over-zealous.” Writing in retrospect, he must have realized that his fervor was not balanced by reason. We suspect that he didn’t take the time to ask the Lord whether he should go up to the land of Nephi. If he had, the Lord would likely have advised him to seek habitation elsewhere. Certainly, the Lord knew that any group headed into the land of Nephi would end up either in bondage or killed, but being “over-zealous” led to some “over-optimism.” Would we ever find ourselves so set on something that we can’t hear the Lord’s warning to do otherwise?
“We can see here Zeniff acknowledges that he is acting by his own free will, taking no care to ask the Lord if he should do it or not. As we have our free agency, and the Lord is very patient and full of love towards his children, the Lord let Zeniff and the others do what they want… The Holy Ghost may have warned them that it was not a good thing to do, because the Lord does not let his people make terrible decisions without warning them… But they did not listen to it. As we know the end of the story of the people of Zeniff, we can see the terrible consequences of this choice (done without the consent of the Lord) on this people and their children: wars, numerous widows, assassination of a prophet, bondage, etc. eventually necessitating the return to Zarahemla for the survivors. How much suffering and tears would the descendants endure because of the poor decision of their fathers?” (Genevieve Ficquet, French Translator for Gospeldoctrine.com by personal communication)
Mosiah 9:9 What are neas and sheum?
Nobody knows exactly what crop or grain is represented by these words. That Joseph Smith would not be able to describe in 1829 English every word or term used by the Nephites is evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon:
"Together with 'neas and sheum' of Mosiah 9:9 and 'cureloms and cumoms' of Ether 9:19, we have some very convincing examples of what are technically known as hapax legomena. Linguistically, such terms are a part of almost all ancient records. Indeed they become a check on their age. Hapax legomena are terms which cannot be translated, only transliterated-that is, put into the sounds of a language." (Richard H. Cracoft, Neal E. Lambert, A Believing People: Literature of the Latter-Day Saints, p. 143)
Mosiah 9:11 Laman began to grow uneasy, lest...my people should wax strong in the land
Like the early Mormon settlers of Missouri and Illinois, the people of Zeniff grew strong enough to threaten the political and social security of their Lamanite neighbors. An understandable source of conflict, this eventually led to multiple battles with and bondage to the Lamanites. Of course, they would not have fallen into bondage to the Lamanites if they had not turned from the Lord.
When the Nephites went to battle in the strength of the Lord (v. 17), they were not destroyed. In the first battle between Zeniff's people and Laman's armies, Laman lost 3043 while Zeniff lost only 279 (v. 18-19).
Mosiah 9:14 Lamanites...began to slay them, and to take off their flocks
Stealing the flocks of others soon became a way of life for some Lamanites. This is evidence in the story of Ammon who was protecting the flocks of king Lamoni. In this instance, the Lamanite pillagers were stealing from their fellow brethren, Now it was the practice of these Lamanites to stand by the waters of Sebus to scatter the flocks of the people, that thereby they might drive away many that were scattered unto their own land, it being a practice of plunder among them (Alma 18:7).