A Dictionary of the Book of Mormon/Mosiah I
MOSIAH I. Mosiah resided in the land of Nephi, and lived there during the latter half of the third century before Christ. Whether he was originally a prophet, priest or king, the historian (Amaleki) does not inform us. Most certainly he was a righteous man, for the Lord made choice of him to guide the obedient Nephites from their native country to a land that he would show them.
The causes that led the Lord to make this call upon the Nephites are not stated, but some of them can be easily surmised. Among such we suggest that:
The aggressive Lamanites were constantly crowding upon them, ravaging their more remote districts, entrapping and enslaving the inhabitants of the outlying settlements, driving off their flocks and herds, and keeping them in a constant state of anxiety and dread, which hindered their progress and stayed the growth of the work of God. The Lord therefore led them to a land of peace.
Again, this course of events, continued for so long a period, had caused much hard-heartedness and stiffneckedness in the midst of the Nephites. Some of the people had remained righteous, some had grown very wicked. To separate these classes the Lord called the faithful and obedient to follow Mosiah to another land.
For a third reason: there was a portion of the house of Israel, a few hundred miles to the north, entirely unknown to their Nephite brethren. These people had sunk very low in true civilization; they were so degraded that they denied the being of their Creator, they had had many wars and contentions among themselves; they had corrupted their language, had no records nor scriptures, and were altogether in a deplorable condition. To save and regenerate this branch of God's covenant people, Mosiah and the Nephites were led to the place where they dwelt. The statement made by Amaleki regarding this great migration under Mosiah is brief. We are altogether left to our imagination to picture the scenes that occurred at this division of a nation. Nor can we tell how many, preferring home, kindred and friends, and the endearments and associations of their native land, faltered and tarried behind, while the faithful started on their journey northward into the untrodden wilderness. Nor are we informed what afterwards became of those who allowed the allurements of the world to prevail. It is most probable that they united with the Lamanites, were absorbed into that race, and, like them, became darkened, bloodthirsty and savage.
The Nephite evacuation of the cities built in the land of Nephi no doubt had a beneficial effect on those portions of the Lamanite race that took possession of them. They thereby became acquainted with some of the comforts and excellences of civilization, and, though very slow to learn, their experience at this time laid the foundation for a slight advance of the arts of peace in their midst.
Mosiah gathered up the willing and obedient, and, as directed by the Lord, started on the journey. Whither they were going they understood not, only they knew that the Lord was leading them. With preachings and prophesyings they crossed the wilderness and passed down into the land of Zarahemla.
On the west bank of the river Sidon the people of Mosiah found a populous city, of whose existence they had never before heard. Its people were a semi-civilized and irreligious race, speaking a strange language, and with many habits and customs different from those of the new comers.
The meeting must have been a perplexing one to both people, brought face to face but unable to understand each other by reason of their different modes of speech. We often read in history of the irruption of an inferior or more barbarous race into the domains of a more highly civilized one, but it is seldom, as in this case, that the superior race moves in a body, occupies the country and unites with the less enlightened people. It is probable that the first feelings of the old settlers were akin to dismay as they learned of the hosts of the invaders that were marching upon them; but these feelings were soon soothed and an understanding arrived at by which the two people became one nation. We are forced to the conclusion that this arrangement could not have been effected without the direct interposition of Heaven, by and through which both peoples were brought to a united purpose and common understanding.
When the Nephites began to comprehend the language of their new fellow citizens, they found that they were the descendants of a colony which had been led from Jerusalem by the hand of the Lord, in the year that that city was destroyed by the king of Babylon (say B. C. 589). (See Mulek.) At this time their king or ruler was named Zarahemla (about B. C. 200). The reason assigned for their departure from the worship of the true God, their degradation and the corruption of their language, was that their forefathers brought with them from their ancient home in Palestine no records or copies of the holy scriptures, to guide and preserve them from error in their isolated land of adoption.
When the two races joined, it was decided that Mosiah should be the king of the united people, though the Nephites were then the less numerous. This arrangement probably grew out of the fact that though fewer in numbers they were the more civilized and, also being worshipers of the God of Israel, they would not willingly submit to be ruled by those who had no knowledge of His laws.
The education of the people of Zarahemla to the standard of the Nephites, and the work of harmonizing the two races, were not the task of an hour. It required much wisdom, patience and perseverance, Mosiah gave stability to the new kingdom by his own virtues and wise example, by the just laws he established, and by placing the service of the Lord before all earthly considerations. It is evident that he built a temple in the new land, as its existence is particularly mentioned in the days of his son, king Benjamin, and as the people observed the law of Moses in the matter of sacrifices and offerings, a temple would be one of their very first necessities. But to the forms, types, and ceremonies of the Mosaic law were added gospel principles, with a clear and definite understanding of the coming and divine work of the Messiah. Mosiah was not only a divinely inspired leader and king, but he was also a seer. While reigning in Zarahemla a large engraved stone was brought to him, and by the gift and power of God he translated the engravings thereon. They gave an account of the rise, fall and destruction of the great Jaredite nation, from the days of its founders, to the time of their last king, Coriantumer, who himself was discovered by the people of Zarahemla, and lived with them nine moons. When Mosiah died he was succeeded by his son Benjamin.