A lot is happening in this week’s lesson. We learn of an epic resettlement by the Nephites, betrayals by enemies, major wars, powerful sermons by prophets, and the stage is set for the creation of God’s church that changes how the people live the Mosaic Law until the Savior comes. We also have the only scriptural definition and discussion of what a seer is and what a seer can do for God’s people. As we go through these chapters, focus on the value of having such men as Abinadi and Mosiah to teach the people.
Reading Assignment: Mosiah 7-11.
When Lehi’s family settled in the Americas the whole family lived together. At some point the Lord warned Nephi to gather those who would follow him and flee in order to avoid being killed by his brothers. They fled many days into the wilderness and the place they settled came to be known as the Land of Nephi, and was sometimes later referred to as the Land of Lehi-Nephi. They lived in the Land of Nephi for more than 300 years. Again, the voice of the Lord came to their prophet, whose name was Mosiah, and he was told to take all those who would follow him and flee into the wilderness to avoid being destroyed by the Lamanites.
Mosiah’s people fled and eventually stumbled upon the descendants of Mulek, who, like Lehi, also left Jerusalem at the time it was destroyed by the Babylonians. They had built a great city called Zarahemla. The people of Mulek and the people of Nephi joined together and crowned Mosiah to be their king.
Sometime towards the end of Mosiah’s reign a spy named Zeniff, who had been sent to find the weaknesses of the Lamanites so the Nephites could destroy them, returned to Zarahemla and said that he had seen many things that were good about the Lamanites. He wanted to take some people back to the land of Nephi (Lehi-Nephi) and see if they couldn’t get the Lamanites to let them settle and live among them in peace. His desire to spare the Lamanites had resulted in civil war among those sent by the king to spy on the Lamanites, and very few were left alive to tell the tale.
But Zeniff was “overzealous to possess the land” and pursued his agenda until he got what he wanted. The king let him gather as many as wanted to go and they traveled back to the land of their forefathers and were permitted to resettle a part of the land of Nephi. During their absence from Zarahemla, Mosiah died, and his son, Benjamin became king. Benjamin lived his whole reign without any word from those who had returned to the land of Lehi-Nephi. When Benjamin’s son, Mosiah II came to the throne, he sent Ammon and a group of men to find those who had sought to resettle the land of Lehi-Nephi. They had been gone for at least three generations, and they wanted to know if the people of Zeniff were still alive.
Prophets, Seers, and Revelators
Prophets teach and expound the word of God. Seers are able to translate records of ancient date, as well as to use the Urim and Thummim as instruments to reveal that which is hidden and cannot be learned in any other way. A revelator is one who reveals the will of the Lord. The two governing quorums of the Church are comprised of 15 men, all of whom are prophets, seers, and revelators.
So what difference does it make in our lives to have such men to teach us and lead us? Don’t we all have the gift of the Holy Ghost and the priesthood? Don’t we all have the scriptures and the ability to pray and get answers to prayer?
The answer to these last two questions is yes. Yes, we do have the priesthood. Yes, we do have the scriptures and can each get answers to our individual prayers. So why do we need prophets, seers, and revelators? Let’s look at the people of Zeniff as an example, and see if we are any different.
The example of the people of Zeniff
Zeniff says, “we were smitten with famine and sore afflictions; for we were slow to remember the Lord our God.” If the Book of Mormon teaches us anything about the nature of people, it is that most people are followers. The scriptures show us time and time again that people tend to follow the example of their leaders.
It is interesting that when Zeniff describes the Lamanite people, he is also describing their king. In Mosiah 9:12 he says,
12 Now they 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.
When the people of Zeniff were attacked by the Lamanites they “were awakened to a remembrance of the deliverance of [their] fathers.” They got serious about their prayers and devotion to the Lord, and the Lord protected them in battle and gave them victory. For the rest of Zeniff’s life they were able to resist the onslaughts from the Lamanites, who “were a wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people,” because he taught his people to put their trust in the Lord.
But things changed when Zeniff’s son Noah came to the throne. Noah did not believe in the ways of his father. He flattered the people into thinking that what they had been taught by their fathers as sin wasn’t sin at all, but their right. They embraced concubines, and became drunkards. He raised their taxes and placed heavy burdens on his people, but they fell into line and supported his reign for “they also became idolatrous, because they were deceived by the vain and flattering words of the king and priests; for they did speak flattering things unto them.” (Mosiah 11:7)
Noah changed their religion by removing from office those priests who kept the commandments and installing priests who would teach what he wanted them to preach to the people. Thus they taught the people to be as wicked as they were. So who could fault them if everyone was doing it?
This is where Abinadi comes into the picture. The Lord called him apart from everyone else and gave him a special assignment. He was to go and preach repentance to the people. Abinadi’s responsibility was to speak truth to the people. The people didn’t like it. Noah didn’t like it. They threw Abinadi out and threatened to kill him if he returned.
The important thing about Abinadi is that he didn’t just tell them to repent. He also told them what the Lord said would happen to the people if they did not repent and change their ways. He was actually revealing to them their future if they continued on in their chosen path. This is what all prophets, seers, and revelators do. In Mosiah 11:21-25 he spells out the specific conditions that will exist if the people don’t repent. These events are far too specific to be just a general guess on the part of Abinadi. The Lord is very specific in what He says will happen to the people if they continue in their sins.
21 And except they repent and turn to the Lord their God, behold, I will deliver them into the hands of their enemies; yea, and they shall be brought into bondage; and they shall be afflicted by the hand of their enemies.
22 And it shall come to pass that they shall know that I am the Lord their God, and am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of my people.
23 And it shall come to pass that except this people repent and turn unto the Lord their God, they shall be brought into bondage; and none shall deliver them, except it be the Lord the Almighty God.
24 Yea, and it shall come to pass that when they shall cry unto me I will be slow to hear their cries; yea, and I will suffer them that they be smitten by their enemies.
25 And except they repent in sackcloth and ashes, and cry mightily to the Lord their God, I will not hear their prayers, neither will I deliver them out of their afflictions; and thus saith the Lord, and thus hath he commanded me.
We will see in future lessons that these exact conditions did, in fact, come about. The people did learn these very lessons about the Lord.
So what does this have to do with us? Put on your thinking cap and consider our societal situation today. We have wicked rulers in government increasing the burdens of the tax-paying public, but they flatter them with the offer of free programs to “relieve” their burdens, which in many cases are the very burdens they themselves have caused. We also have people in power who are seeking to justify immoral behavior of all kinds, supporting those who break the commandments of God, and trying to humiliate or bully into silence anyone who wants to stand up for their religious convictions.
Back in the early 90’s the protests of the gay community were looked upon by many to be like the protests of the hippies during the 60’s. It was assumed that the moral majority would put them in their place and it would “go away.” Yet our prophets, seers, and revelators issued a proclamation on the family, defining the Lord’s word on gender roles in mortality. For many this proclamation was a puzzlement. Really? Why do we need this? Isn’t it obvious?
Fast forward 20 years and we now have transgenders trying to use any bathroom they choose, school districts in some countries trying to get children as young as 8 years of age to choose a gender to identify with, when a child that young doesn’t even understand what it means. The prophets have set in place the Lord’s definition for us many years in advance for our own protection. Remember that to be a seer and a revelator is to be able to see the past and the future that cannot be seen any other way. The Lord reveals His will to them for the protection of His children who are willing to listen to them and follow their counsel.
We were warned almost a hundred years ago that the family was going to disintegrate. To protect the families of the righteous the Lord instituted Family Home Evening. We have been told that hard times will be coming upon the people, so for decades the Lord’s servants have been preaching food storage, savings, the need to get out of debt, and self sufficiency.
If you haven’t noticed yet, in the last one or two General Conferences the Brethren have changed their discourse. They are stressing personal purity and the need to learn how to receive our own revelation. We need to be closer to the Holy Spirit in our daily activities. These are warnings that will prepare us for the trials that are to come. And come, they will.
If we do not follow the voice of the Lord’s servants we will find ourselves in the same situation the people of Noah found themselves in when the day of judgment hit them and they were unprepared. We will learn more about that in the next lesson or two.
The Lord never “wings it.” He never let’s us get caught unprepared. No detrimental social change ever happens without the Lord having warned his Saints about it first. We don’t know what kind of trials are coming in the future, but as we have been told time and time again, ‘if you are prepared, ye shall not fear.’
We need to stay close to the Lord’s servants. He has promised us that they will not lead us astray. If we keep the commandments and listen to their voice of warning, if we follow them, we will be spiritually safe and richly blessed. But we must place our faith in the Lord’s servants and not on the voices of the world.