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CHAPTER 11 THE NEPHITES AND THE LAMANITES Parable of the Tame and Wild Olive Trees. In the fifth chapter of Jacob, in the Book of Mormon, we have a most wonderful story. It is an allegory of the tame and the wild olive tree, or, in other words, the history of Israel through all ages, in the dispersions and the mixing among the Gentiles and finally the gathering again in the last days, If we had the complete interpretation of this story in all its details, we could understand the history of che scattering of Israel and how the whole world has been leavened through the blessings of the dispersion according to the covenant the Lord made with Abraham. From time to time the Lord has colon- ized various parts of the earth with remnants of the chosen people, The scattering of Israel commenced before the captivity of the Ten Tribes, and continued after the captivity of Judah by the Babylonians, at the time when Lehi was called from Jerusalem. In this allegory, which is quoted from the ancient prophet Zenos, of whom we know nothing except what is quoted of him in the Book of Mormon, the tame olive tree represents the house of Israel. The wild olive tree represents the Gentiles. By grafting and cultivation, the Lord endeavored to preserve his vineyard, and the fruit thereof, for branches of the parent tree were planted in THE NEPHITES AND LAMANITES 131 all corners and parts of the vineyard. In this story the history of Israel is vividly told. The Coming of Lehi’s Colony. Six hundred years before the birth of Christ a branch was taken from the mother tree and planted in the Western World. This branch was the colony which came out of Jerusalem, in the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, under the lead- ership of Lehi. This colony was composed of members of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, and therefore descendants of Joseph, son of Jacob. In the blessing given by Jacob upon the head of his son Joseph the promise was made granting him a double inheritance. The blessing is as follows: Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: ‘The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: Bur his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacobs (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel.) Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breast, and of the womb: The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren —Gen. 49:22-26, The interpretation of this blessing is to the effect that Joseph was to receive the added blessings which had been given to Jacob over his progenitors, and also 132 THE PROGRESS OF MAN the inheritance of the land of Zion, as a branch of the tree which ran over the wall, or over the “great waters” to this land choice above all other lands. The other tribes of Israel received their inheritance in Palestine, but Joseph was given the land of Joseph, or Zion, as well as an inheritance with his brothers in Palestine. Obtaining the Brass Plates. Under the direction of Lehi, who was called to leave Jerusalem by a com- mandment from the Lord, this colony advanced to the seashore. On two separate occasions the sons of Lehi were sent back to Jerusalem after the family had departed from that city, to complete arrangements for the journey in a manner satisfactory before the Lord. The first occasion for the return was to obtain the Brass Plates (which were kept by Laban, a member of the family of Joseph to which Lehi belonged), which contained the Five Books of Moses and the sacted writings of the prophets down to Jeremiah, a contemporary of Lehi, who was at that time prophesying among the Jews. After much trouble and tribulation Nephi, the fourth son of Lehi, was successful in obtaining this important and necessary record. The second visit to Jerusalem was for the purpose of persuading the family of one Ishmael to join the little colony on this journey to the promised land. After some persuasion Ishmael, with the members of his family, consented to join Lehi on this trek across the country to the seashore and thence across the ocean to the Western World. THE NEPHITES AND LAMANITES 133 Nephi Builds a Ship. While this little band was encamped on the shore of the ocean Nephi was com- manded to build a ship in which these two families could cross the great deep. The reason this call came to Nephi was that his older brothers were rebellious and lacked the necessary faith to do such a mighty work. Nephi, however, felt that since the call had come from the Lord, it was not an impossible thing to do, so he commenced to make tools and prepare for the building of the ship. In this work he was violently opposed by his two older brothers, Laman and Lemuel, who com- plained and said Nephi had neither the skill nor the intelligence to build a ship. Nephi’s answer to them is very significant in the simplicity of his faith—a faith which it would be well for all at this day to emulate. Nephi felt the urge of the Spirit of the Lord to admin- ister to his rebellious brethren a merited rebuke. Of this incident the following is written: Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words; wherefore, he has spoken unto you like unto the voice of thunder, which did cause the earth to shake as if it were to divide asunder. And ye also know that by the power of his almighty word he can cause the earth that ie shall pass aways yea, and ye know that by his word he can cause the rough places to be made smooth, and smooth places shall be broken up. O then, why is it, that ye can be so hard in your hearts? Behold my soul is rene with anguish because of you, 134 THE PROGRESS OF MAN and my heart is pained; I fear lest ye shall be cast off forever. Behold, I am full of the Spirit of God; insomuch that my frame has no strength. And now it came to pass that when I had spoken these words they were angry with me, and were desirous to throw me into the depths of the sea; and as they came forth to lay their hands upon me I spake unto them, saying: In the name of the Almighty God, I command you that ye touch me not, for I am filled with the power of God, even unto the con- suming of my flesh; and whoso shall lay his hands upon me shall wither even as a dried reed; and he shall be as naught before the power of God, for God shall smite him.—I Nephi 17:45-48, When Nephi had spoken these words his brothers were afraid to touch him, for they felt the power of his words. Therefore Nephi continued to speak unto them saying: If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them. If he should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth; and if I should say it, it would be done. And now, if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship? All of this, and much more, Nephi said to these rebellious brethren, after they became afraid to lay their hands violently upon him. Later, when they had partly repented, the Lord said to Nephi: “Stretch forth thine hand again unto thy brethren, and they shall not wither before thee, but I will shock them, saith the Lord, and this will I do, that they may know that I am the Lord their God.” Nephi did as he was commanded and THE NEPHITES AND LAMANITES 135 Laman and Lemuel received a severe shock which filled their hearts with fear. After this manifestation of divine power they felt the necessity of assisting Nephi in the building of the ship. When this task was completed Lehi and his farhily with Ishmael and his family entered the ship and proceeded to the promised land. Ishmael was, like Lehi, a descendant of Joseph. Lehi was of the tribe of Manasseh and Ishmael was of the tribe of Ephraim, so in the combining of these two families the two sons of Joseph who were numbered among the tribes of Israel were equally represented. This colony cattied with them in the ship provisions ample for their journey, but they did not collect animals and seeds as did the Jaredites, for the land of promise had been stocked with such things by the Jaredites when they were called out from the building of the Tower of Babel. After traveling many days upon the water, Lehi and his colony landed on the promised land. The Nephites and Lamanites. It was not long after the death of Lehi when differences between two of the sons of Lehi and the sons of Ishmael on one side, and Nephi and those who were willing to hearken to his counsels on the other, developed in such proportions that Nephi saw the need of separating himself and all who would listen to him, from his brethren. In this he found himself in very much the same condition that Abraham was in while residing in Ur of the Chaldees. Nephi took with him his followers, including his brothers 136 THE PROGRESS OF MAN Sam, Jacob and Joseph, the latter two having been born after Lehi left Jerusalem, and journeyed some distance from the rebellious followers of Laman and Lemuel, The place where the people of Nephi settled they called the land of Nephi, and here they commenced to colonize and worship the Lord in humility and faith. Because of the rebellion of Laman and Lemuel the Lord placed upon them and their seed a dark skin, so that they could be distinguished from the followers of Nephi. In this way from the very beginning of the colonization of the people of Lehi, two nations were born. The white and righteous people were called Nephites; the rebellious were called Lamanites. Their history from this time forth until the coming of Jesus Christ is one of continued rebellion, war and bloodshed. When the Nephites rebelled against the commandments of the Lord the Lamanites acted as a scourge. Nephi saw all of this in vision and the Lord said unto him: I will cause that they (the Lamanites) shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities. And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done. And because of their cursing which was upon them they did become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey. And the Lord God said unto me: They shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in remembrance of me: and inasmuch as they will not remember me, and hearken unto my words, they shall scourge them even unto destruc- tion—2 Nephi 5:22-25. THE NEPHITES AND LAMANITES 137 The Mulekites. A few years after Lehi left Jerusa- lem, when Zedekiah, the king, and the Jews were catried off captive into Babylon, another colony came to America from Jerusalem. This colony brought with them the youngest son of Zedekiah who escaped the horrible destruction of the other sons of that unfortunate and rebellious king. The name of this child was Mulek, and his people lived in this land for many yeats before they were discovered by the Nephites. When they were discovered they were in a state of decadence, for they had brought no records with them and had shown little tendency towards improvement. However, they had kept an oral record so that they could tell who they were and whence they came. These people joined with the Nephites and from that time forth they were all known as Nephites, or the people of Nephi. The Rule of the Judges. The Nephites and La- manites continued their struggles and warfare until the time of the coming of Christ. During the first part of the history of the people of Nephi they were ruled by kings, and much of this time they were fortunate, for their kings were righteous men, Eventually, in the reign of King Mosiah, son of Benjamin, they changed the form of their government. Mosiah was a righteous man and a prophet unto his people. When he thought of conferring the kingdom upon one of his sons, they each in tum refused to receive the honor, for they were following in the footsteps of their fathers and realized 138 THE PROGRESS OF MAN that when wicked kings arose distress and trouble came upon the people, It was agreed, therefore, that the entire nation should be ruled by judges. These judges were chosen in a measure by the people, and in part by hereditary right. There were times when the judges were righteous and then the people prospered, but when their judges became corrupt then the people suffered. Through secret combinations formed in wickedness and by the rise of robber bands in the land the time came when wicked men sat in the judgment seats and ruled the people. Especially was this the case duting the century preceding the coming of Jesus Chtist. The Reign of Righteousness. The promise had been made from the beginning of the Nephite nation that when Christ should rise from the dead he would pay a visit to the people on this hemisphere. After his resurrection the Lord fulfilled this promise. Immedi- ately before the crucifixion the people had destroyed the unity of their government and had broken up into tribes and petty kingdoms. Wickedness ruled supreme in most of the land and the corruption and violence was appalling. When Christ was crucified there were three days of darkness upon the American continent. This was preceded by a severe tempest such as had never been known, and the whole face of the land, we are informed, was changed. Many cities were buried in the depths of the sea, others were burned with fire, and still others carried up upon the tops of new mountains which were THE NEPHITES AND LAMANITES 139 formed by the sudden convulsions of the earth. In this manner the more wicked part of the people, and that was the greater part of them, were all destroyed. All who survived were granted the privilege of a visitation from Jesus Christ, The account of his visitation and his teachings to the survivors among the people is a very interesting and profitable story. He established his Church among them and for wo hundred years there were neither Nephites or Lamanites, or any manner of “ites” in the land. All of the people became united in one kingdom and one church. Their kingdom was the kingdom of God, a theocracy, and they were ruled by twelve disciples comparable to the twelve Apostles of the Savior who were ordained in the Church in the and of Palestine, Following the appearance of the Savior, for a period of two hundred years the Church of Jesus Christ ruled, and the people lived, as did the people in the city of Enoch, the law of consecration. The historian says of these people during this time: And it came to pass that there was no contention among all the people, in all the land; but there were mighty miracles wrought among the disciples of Jesus, * * * And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people. And’ there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, not any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were 140 THE PROGRESS OF MAN there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of Gods ad how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings; yea, even they were blessed and prospered until an hundred and ten years had passed away; and the first generation from Christ had passed away, and there was no contention in all the Iand—4 Nephi 13-18. The Cup of Iniquity Full. It seems very strange, when a people were so happy and prosperous, knowing the truth and in it being free, that they could not so continue indefinitely. The weaknesses and frailties of mortality blind the judgment of men. They fail to comprehend the eternal truth spoken by Alma, a Ne- phite prophet: “Wickedness never was happiness.” Turning from righteousness in the spitit of selfish greed, they seek for happiness contrary to righteousness, and there it cannot be found. For two hundred years the descendants of Lehi lived as one united people. Then the break came and a portion of the people took upon them the name of Lamanites. In course of time all of the people became very corrupt. Their rebellion was wilful. They turned away from the truth and the teachings of their Savior with the full knowledge of their iniquitous course. They had reached the stage when they loved wickedness and Satan more than God. The Nephites, who remained true to the cause of Christ longer than their brethren who called themselves Lamanites, eventually became even more wicked than the first dissenters from the THE NEPHITES AND LAMANITES 141 kingdom of God. So intense was their hatred of that which is good, that they sought to destroy the disciples of the Lord who had been blessed with power of life in the translated state with the promise that they should remain on the earth until the second coming of Jesus Christ. These people had the benefit of the presence and teachings of these disciples, but in their wickedness they tried to destroy them as they had destroyed the Church. In this state of rebellion the Lord said of them: But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until itis everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which ‘thing is contrary to the nature of shat righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head—Helaman 13:38. Because the people filled the cup of their iniquity, the promised destruction came upon them. War and bloodshed continued until some time early in the fifth century of the Christian era, when the Nephites were utterly destroyed. From that time forth the Lamanites divided into bands and tribes and fought among themselves, Their greatest civilizations, at the time of the discovery of America, were in Mexico and Peru. In North America they had dwindled until they had become roaming bands or tribes of savages. In this awful state of degradation they were found when the white people from Europe came to make their homes upon this promised land. 142 THE PROGRESS OF MAN From the Heights to the Depths. During the time of their prosperity the Nephites, like the Jaredites before them, reached great heights of prosperity and civiliza- tion. They achieved a wonderful advancement in the arts and in science, but they forgot God—the God of this land choice above all other lands, even Jesus Christ, They trampled his teachings under their feet. They took pleasure in unrighteousness and when they filled their cup, destruction awaited them. Moroni, the prophet who survived the destruction of the Nephite people, hid up the records of his people, containing the prophetic sayings of their seers, the great promises made unto them by the Lord, their wars and contentions, rebellions and punishments, that this history might come forth in the last days for the benefit of the Gentiles upon the land as well as to again acquaint the remnant upon the land with their departed glory. From the favor of God the remnant upon the land sank in the depths of degrada- tion and lost divine favor. However the Lord has not altogether cast them off. There are promises made to them which are yet to be fulfilled. The day will come when they shall again rise up and be a blessed people, white and favored of the Lord. That day will come when they in all sincerity accept the fulness of the Gospel. Moroni hid his records in the hill known as the Hill Cumorah, which is located in Western New York, It was here where Joseph Smith, in our present dispensa- THE NEPHITES AND LAMANITES 143 tion, was led by this same Moroni, who had by then teceived his resurrection, to obtain and translate the abridgment of this ancient history made by Moroni’s father Mormon and by himself, Today that record speaks as from the dust from those who are dead, with a warning voice to all who are living, that they may, upon this land, avoid the pitfalls and the rebellions which brought destructions upon the peoples who formerly dwelt here, and thus escape a similar destruction. For the decree has gone forth that no people may possess this land indefinitely in rebellion against God, for when their cup of iniquity is full they shall be swept off the face of the land, for the Lord has decreed that “wickedness shall not stand.”