I recently went back to my study notes from when I was a missionary just to see if the way I am studying, and learning things had much in common with my missionary-self from 20 years ago. It was a fun exercise, and really thought provoking. While there were plenty of differences, when it came to Enos my first impression was the same both times.
Enos is the “every-person” that grows up in the church with multiple generations of believers above him. His life and habits and culture were a bubble of doing the right things, learning the right things, and seeing everyone else outside the bubble with trepidation. Just like many of us, Enos becomes an adult, free to choose his path, but with expectations to take up the mantle his righteous father Jacob had. This becomes overwhelming because Enos isn’t certain that God is there, he believes but he doesn’t “know” like everyone else seems to “know.”
I will discuss more later in the post, but I just relate so much to Enos, and I know so many other people do as well. What is nice as well is that Enos gives us a pattern of how we all can find the Lord.
We will also be covering Jarom and Omni, which has some crazy awful journal entries (like most of ours) and it has some key narrative points that are necessary to understand Mormon’s abridgement of the rest of Nephite history. Finally, we are introduced to Mormon, the most influential author/editor of the Book of Mormon.
I know there are hard things happening in the world with COVID-19, and with the economic impact on people. I am seeing and feeling it myself, and I just want to let each of you know I love you and you are in my prayers. I learned a long time ago that we do not get to control what happens to us, especially the bad things, but we can learn and help each other through them. The helping each other makes us different, and from that comes love and power that grows through our lives. I pray that you can help each other through this hard time and that we can each find our way to the Lord in prayer and in faith.
CHAPTERS FOR STUDY WEEK 13 – Enos-Words of Mormon
– Faith, Hope, and Charity are not just virtues, but the process of becoming more like Christ.
– The value of writing down our experiences with the Lord, and not short-changing our journals cannot be overstated.
– One faithful person, who is willing to serve and sacrifice, can change the paths of many people for good.
History and Context:
– Enos did not retain any political leadership, if Jacob even had any at the end of his life. He may not have even had an ecclesiastical calling, but he did take over the responsibility of the plates, and spiritual leadership in the family and likely community at large. This is one explanation as to why subsequent entries on the plates are short and without more specifics, they may not have been privy to as many events and were making more general observations of the people.
– One interesting observation of Enos’s prayer with God is that when he makes his covenant with God, Enos has input on some of the terms. Usually, God is the only voice in our covenant relationships. This could mean that general covenants, we all make, are dictated by God. However, there are more personal covenants we can make with God that, perhaps, bring more personal blessings or outcomes.
– I think it easy for us to apply the same motivation to every author/editor in all of scripture, that of bringing people to God. While it is true that is one of the motivations, particularly spelled out by Nephi and Jacob, there are many others. Here are a few we find: spiritual prompting, genealogical history, recording personal experiences, commandment of God, duty imposed by authorities, and for future benefit of posterity or others. These motivations are important to keep in mind as we think through what is happening and what is being said by those writing.
– Prosperity, War, and God’s Favor – You can see a mind-set building in the people of Nephi, to their detriment. The mindset is that prosperity is linked with winning wars and representing God’s favor. This doesn’t just happen to the Nephites; this happens to all human people. Prosperity is a natural consequence and blessing of living the way God asks, and God will protect his people, however, prosperity is a challenge and trial rather than a blessing. It is what truly represents the path to destruction of the Nephites, and all of us individually. So, it is important to separate prosperity, winning wars, and God’s favor. They are not connected the way the Nephite’s believed or what we might believe.
– Zarahemla is a new place in the geography. Mosiah takes his people away from their land, as assimilation has made him and those who believe in him a persecuted minority. They flee to a place that has a small population of people that also descend from Jerusalem. They supposedly were the lineage of a man named Mulek, who was the son of Zedekiah. While their languages had morphed differently, Mosiah is able to interpret their language and they are able to agree on him being their new leader
– Mulek and Zedekiah – Zedekiah was the king of Judah at the time of Jerusalem’s captivity by Babylon and its destruction. Mulek is variant of the Hebrew word mlk that means “king” and could mean a great many things. In the bible we learn that all of Zedekiah’s sons were tortured and killed in front of him. However, Zedekiah lives decades after this. So there are a few possible explanations – 1) Zedekiah had more sons (no specifics were given on which sons or if he had other sons in the bible), 2) He had a son after this event, 3) the group of people who journeyed from Jerusalem could have used their association, and the name “king” to claim kingship in their community over time. This was a common requisite of kingship in Mesoamerica, that you had lineage to another king.
– Words of Mormon is one the most interesting parts of the Book of Mormon coming together. Unlike every other book, there is no introduction to Mormon and his purpose. This seems likely because we learn from Mormon, that he had already abridged the record of Lehi (lost 116 pages) before he found the plates of Nephi that he just included with the full record (that is what we just read 1 Nephi-Omni). Mormon decides instead to let the readers know this happened and then to do a quick introduction to King Benjamin, the son of King Mosiah. Words of Mormon was written around 380 AD, so over 500 years later than the events we have been studying.
– Mormon is the primary abridger, editor, and narrator in the Book of Mormon. It is important to understand his method, which is completely different than Nephi. Mormon loves to use history, as opposed to doctrine, to prove his theology. He had centuries of stories to choose from and so he selected the most pronounced stories that show his theological beliefs were true. He clearly has negative feelings about all the people who fight against the Nephites. He is a captain of his armies, and so he relates with wars, and war heroes like Captain Moroni (names his son Moroni). More importantly he tells us that he could not tell us a “hundredth part” of the people’s history. This means there is so much more to the story and to what happened, and we are getting Mormon’s best efforts to help us come closer to the Lord through seeing the history that illustrates that the most.
Faith, Hope, and Charity
Enos is the son of Jacob, the mighty spiritual leader, and clearly Enos feels out of his element with the expectations of filling Jacob’s shoes. Not only does Enos feel unworthy, disconnected from God, but he is also a hunter (something Jacob denigrated in the Lamanites). While hunting, and probably clearing his thoughts, Enos has an incredible experience. It begins with three things that are instrumental to all spiritual experiences: REFLECTION, DESIRE, and EFFORT. I will discuss these three things at the end of the post in more detail, but Enos prays for day and a night and has an amazing experience.
There is a pattern in his experience though that I want to highlight and when you study maybe you can see something that helps you:
- FAITH – Enos wants to believe, takes action (praying all day) and is rewarded with,
- HOPE – an answer to his prayers has the Lord telling him that he is accepted and loved which immediately leads to Enos,
- CHARITY – having the intense feeling of love and desire for the welfare of his family.
- FAITH – Enos pours out his whole soul for them in prayer,
- HOPE – and the Lord responds with assurances that he loves them and that their situation will be just,
- CHARITY – Enos then feels the same desire for his enemies the Lamanites and prays for them.
Hopefully you can see the pattern. Faith, Hope, and Charity is more than a list of virtues, it is a pattern for revelation and personal progress.
Jarom and Omni –
In Jarom and Omni we discover a centuries long shift within the people. The religious beliefs have become political laws and perverted by the political leaders. Not unlike the Jews, but probably more assimilation with the surrounding people and so even more skewed with the writings of Nephi being the possession of one family that has lost favor with the people. Enos’s family is no longer the religious leaders and are likely not privy to all the things happening. The narrators have strong opinions on how things are going with the people, mostly condemning their wickedness, some admitting their own wickedness. The narrators also shift they purpose of their record more toward the Lamanites (maybe direction from Enos?) and we learn that the political leaders have their own records being passed from king to king.
Ultimately the family line of those who keep the records unites with another righteous group of people and passes the records to Mosiah. They flee their home to a land called Zarahemla. They unite with the people there, also descended partly from Jerusalem, and eventually a righteous King Benjamin takes the lead of the people and the records.
Interlude to the Book of Mormon – Mosiah, Benjamin, and Mormon
Mormon is astonished that there is another record of Lehi’s family (the small plates we have just studied) and decides to include the plates in his abridgment. He then gives us a quick explanation of the situation as we head into his main narrative portion comprising The Book of Mosiah thru Mormon chapter 7.
King Benjamin becomes the king when there is a lot of conflict, both spiritual and political. He puts down the political threats, and he recruits spiritual people to be his advisers and teachers as they bring the gospel to the people he rules. This brings peace and happiness to the people.
How often do you spend time pondering and thinking about the things that bring you joy? or the things that matter most? what about the things you really need to talk to the Lord about? how can you make time?
What makes you rejoice? Please spend some time actually thinking through this one.
What can you do to write more spiritual experiences down in a journal? what do you currently do and what could you do to write down the things of your life that matter for your posterity?
Key Moment or Scripture: Enos 1:2-9
2 And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.
3 Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.
4 And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.
5 And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.
6 And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.
7 And I said: Lord, how is it done?
8 And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen. And many years pass away before he shall manifest himself in the flesh; wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole.
9 Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites; wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them.
Don’t you just love how Enos expresses himself and what he went through. I think his words provide some of the best descriptions of what it is like when you really connect with God.
Wrestle – effort, uncomfortable, passion, exertion, endurance
Sunk Deep Into My Heart – a long time, thought about many times, penetrated the pride of a heart, all the way, truly mattered
My Soul Hungered – desire that cannot be quenched, needed it to live, passion, willing to take action to satisfy, a deeper feeling of needing
Mighty Prayer – large, willful, effort, passion, endurance, energetic, emotional, open and letting everything out
Raise My Voice High – loud, unembarrassed, completely honest, sincere, and consistent
Pour Out My Whole Soul – empty every emotion, invest all the energy we have, open the locked chambers of our hearts, facing the fears we have and the doubts we have
I invite each of us to think about these words and descriptions and ask if they apply to the way we pray and seek the Lord. I can tell you that they don’t match most of my prayers and I feel embarrassed to admit it. When our relationship with God is causal or on the surface then that is likely what we will get in return. The things that stop us from engaging God like this are many: pride, distractions, lack of time, trials, frustration, doubt, anger, repetitive prayers, and many others.
I am fortunate to have had a few experiences in my life like Enos and I can be a second voice to the power of the kind of emotional and mental effort that is necessary for true connection and power from the Lord. Like Enos, I know the Lord does not lie, and that he loves us and wants to bestow that love upon us. Sometimes the only thing necessary to remove the barriers around our soul is to empty it out in prayer so we can finally feel that love that is there.
My next post will be on April 12, after General Conference and it will be focused on The Book of Mosiah Chapters 1-6. It will likely be the longest post of the year, since the Sermon of King Benjamin is, in my opinion, the most important sermon in the Book of Mormon. It is the key to lived religion and the underpinning of what we need to change about our lives and our communities to truly be one with God. I am excited to write my thoughts on it, but it will take a bit longer than other posts and so I will be publishing it on April 12. Enjoy conference and take care of yourselves.
- Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon by Brant Gardner
- Understanding the Book of Mormon by Grant Hardy
- The Book of Mormon: For the Least of These by Fatimah Salleh