Annotated Book of Mormon
Evaluated According To My Current Knowledge

Mosiah Chapter 9

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Book of Mormon Annotations

The Record of Zeniff—An account of his people, from the time they left the land of Zarahemla until the time that they were delivered out of the hands of the Lamanites.

Comprising chapters 9 through 22.

 

 

Chapter 9

 

1 I, Zeniff, having been taught in all the language of the Nephites, and having had a knowledge of the land of Nephi, or of the land of our fathers’ first inheritance, and having been sent as a spy among the Lamanites that I might spy out their forces, that our army might come upon them and destroy them—but when I saw that which was good among them I was desirous that they should not be destroyed.

 

2 Therefore, I contended with my brethren in the wilderness, for I would that our ruler should make a treaty with them; but he being an austere and a blood-thirsty man commanded that I should be slain; but I was rescued by the shedding of much blood; for father fought against father, and brother against brother, until the greater number of our army was destroyed in the wilderness; and we returned, those of us that were spared, to the land of Zarahemla, to relate that tale to their wives and their children.

 

3 And yet, I being over-zealous to inherit the land of our fathers, collected as many as were desirous to go up to possess the land, and started again on our journey into the wilderness to go up to the land; but we were smitten with famine and sore afflictions; for we were slow to remember the Lord our God.

This is sort of a flip side to the prosperity gospel.

4 Nevertheless, after many days’ wandering in the wilderness we pitched our tents in the place where our brethren were slain, which was near to the land of our fathers.

 

5 And it came to pass that I went again with four of my men into the city, in unto the king, that I might know of the disposition of the king, and that I might know if I might go in with my people and possess the land in peace.

 

6 And I went in unto the king, and he covenanted with me that I might possess the land of Lehi-Nephi, and the land of Shilom.

 

7 And he also commanded that his people should depart out of the land, and I and my people went into the land that we might possess it.

 

8 And we began to build buildings, and to repair the walls of the city, yea, even the walls of the city of Lehi-Nephi, and the city of Shilom.

 

9 And we began to till the ground, yea, even with all manner of seeds, with seeds of corn, and of wheat, and of barley, and with neas, and with sheum, and with seeds of all manner of fruits; and we did begin to multiply and prosper in the land.

There was no wheat in pre-Columbian Americas.

Many critics have indicated there was no barley in the pre-Columbian Americas, however there were some wild varieties and at least one variety that was domesticated (little barley or hordeum pusillum). Since even little barley didn’t seem to be a major crop, the term barley seems to be an anachronism in the context of this passage describing barley on par with corn. Corn production was much better and supplanted little barley cultivation as I understand it. (See 3rd paragraph of p. 146 of Guns, Germs, and Steel 20th Anniversary Edition by Jared Diamond for more context on this.)

Neas - I find nothing on what this might be. It is like the cureloms and cumoms of Ether 9:19.

Sheum - Some apologists argue that this is Akkadian for “barley.” I’m not sure why Zeniff would list barley twice in this case, but assuming that by “sheum” he meant an edible grain similar to barley, that could work. However, there are some problems with this. First, Akkadian was a language spoken in what is now Iraq and Syria until about 500 BCE. It is not very plausible that Nephites would retain an Akkadian word for a grain for almost 400 years after Lehi left the old world. At least one other source says that there was an ancient Egyptian grain “sm” or “shm” that would be a more likely candidate for “sheum.” In the end, it’s all just speculation, and one must pre-suppose the Book of Mormon recounts what actually happened to find any value in the word “sheum.”

10 Now it was the cunning and the craftiness of king Laman, to bring my people into bondage, that he yielded up the land that we might possess it.

 

11 Therefore it came to pass, that after we had dwelt in the land for the space of twelve years that king Laman began to grow uneasy, lest by any means my people should wax strong in the land, and that they could not overpower them and bring them into bondage.

How many people would Zeniff have gotten to follow him to get the land of their inheritance after coming back the first time and telling everybody about the slaughter they just had in the wilderness killing many of their own people? Yet 12 years later, this band of Zeniffites is large enough to leave the Lamanites feeling threatened?

See verse 18 of this chapter. The Zeniffites killed more than 3,000 Lamanites in one battle where warriors were hastily pulled together. The Zeniffites would have to be quite a large community or group in order to pull this off.

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.

 

13 Therefore it came to pass that king Laman began to stir up his people that they should contend with my people; therefore there began to be wars and contentions in the land.

 

14 For, in the thirteenth year of my reign in the land of Nephi, away on the south of the land of Shilom, when my people were watering and feeding their flocks, and tilling their lands, a numerous host of Lamanites came upon them and began to slay them, and to take off their flocks, and the corn of their fields.

 

15 Yea, and it came to pass that they fled, all that were not overtaken, even into the city of Nephi, and did call upon me for protection.

 

16 And it came to pass that I did arm them with bows, and with arrows, with swords, and with cimeters, and with clubs, and with slings, and with all manner of weapons which we could invent, and I and my people did go forth against the Lamanites to battle.

The only pre-Columbian weapon I can find that was similar to a sword was the macuahuitl which was made with a plank of wood similar in shape to a cricket bat with obsidian blades mounted on the edges. It is similar enough to a sword that it is often referred to as the Aztec sword.

 

However, the macuahuitl does not seem to fit the Book of Mormon time frame. “Some groups of Central Mexico, principally in the transition between the Early and the Late Post-Classic, probably developed this weapon” (emphasis added, Dr. Marco Antonio Cervera Obregón, “The macuahuitl: an innovative weapon of the Late Post-Classic in Mesoamerica”, Arms & Armour, Vol.3, Nov. 2, 2006, p. 146, article from a research journal). The Post-Classic period is between 900 CE and the Spanish conquest.

17 Yea, in the strength of the Lord did we go forth to battle against the Lamanites; for I and my people did cry mightily to the Lord that he would deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, for we were awakened to a remembrance of the deliverance of our fathers.

 

18 And God did hear our cries and did answer our prayers; and we did go forth in his might; yea, we did go forth against the Lamanites, and in one day and a night we did slay three thousand and forty-three; we did slay them even until we had driven them out of our land.

 

19 And I, myself, with mine own hands, did help to bury their dead. And behold, to our great sorrow and lamentation, two hundred and seventy-nine of our brethren were slain.

 

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