A Dictionary of the Book of Mormon/Zeniff

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ZENIFF. The first of the three kings who reigned over the colony of Nephites who returned from Zarahemla and established themselves in the land of Lehi-Nephi, about B. C. 200.

Zeniff and his people, having left Zarahemla, traveled southward towards the land of Nephi. The blessings of the Lord were not greatly with them, for they did not seek Him nor strive to do His will. In the wilderness they lost their way, and suffered from famine and many afflictions; but after many days they reached the neighborhood of the city of Lehi-Nephi, the former home of their race. Here Zeniff chose four of his company, and accompanied by them went to the king of the Lamanites. This monarch, whose name was Laman, received them with the appearance of kindness. He made a treaty with them, and gave them the lands of Lehi-Nephi and Shilom to dwell in. He also caused his own people to remove out of these cities and the surrounding country, that Zeniff's people might have full possession. King Laman was in reality not as friendly as he pretended to be. His object was to get the industrious Nephites to settle in the midst of his people, and then by his superior numbers to make them his slaves; for his own subjects were a lazy, unprogressive race.

As soon as Zeniff and his followers occupied their new possessions they went to work to build houses and to repair the walls of the city; for the idle Lamanites had suffered them to fall into decay. They also commenced to till the ground, and to plant all manner of seeds of grain, vegetables and fruit therein. Soon, through their thrift and industry, they began to prosper and multiply. This caused king Laman to grow uneasy. He desired to bring them into bondage that his people might reap the benefits of the labors of the Nephites. But they were growing so rapidly that he feared that if he did not soon put a stop to their increase they would be the stronger of the two people. To prevent this he began to stir up the hearts of his people in anger against the Nephites. He succeeded so well that in the thirteenth year of Zeniff's reign in the land of Lehi-Nephi a numerous host of Lamanites suddenly fell upon his people, while they were feeding and watering their flocks, and began to slay them. They also carried off some of their flocks, and the corn from their fields.

Those of the Nephites who were not slain or overtaken fled to Zeniff. As quickly as he could he armed his people with bows and arrows, swords and cimeters, clubs and slings, and with such other weapons as they could invent. Thus armed they went forth in the strength of the Lord to meet the enemy, for in their hour of peril they had cried mightily unto Him, and He heard their cries and answered their prayers.

Thus strengthened they met their foes. The battle was an obstinate and a bloody one. It lasted all day and all night. At last the Lamanites were driven back, with a loss of 3,043 warriors, while the people of Zeniff had to mourn the death of 279 of their brethren. After this, there was peace in the land for many years.

During this time of peace Zeniff taught his people to be very industrious. He caused his men to till the ground and raise all kinds of fruit and grain. The women he had spin and make cloth for clothing, fine linen, etc. In this way, for twenty-two years, they prospered and had uninterrupted peace.

At this time the old: king Laman died, and his son succeeded him upon the throne. Like many young princes, he desired to distinguish himself in war. So he gathered a numerous host of the Lamanites, and having armed them in the same manner as the Nephites, he led them to the north of the land of Shemlon, which lay near the land of Nephi-Lehi.

When Zeniff learned of the approach of young king Laman's armies, he caused the women and children of his people to hide in the wilderness; but every man, young or old, who was able to bear arms was placed in the ranks to go out against the foe. Zeniff himself was then an aged man, but he still continued to command his forces and led them in person to battle. Strengthened by the faith Zeniff implanted in their hearts, the Nephites gained a great victory; and so numerous were the slain of the Lamanites that they were not counted. After this there was peace again in the land. Shortly after this Zeniff died, and, unfortunately for his kingdom, chose for his successor an unworthy son, named Noah.