In a recent talk in Sacrament meeting, I touched on the concept of how important it is to repent quickly. I used the story of the people of Zeniff as an object lesson to teach the following concepts: Heavenly Father takes us where we are. Repentance is better sooner than later, and our choices directly affect what He does to help us. In other words, while He allows us our agency, He will also exercise His in choosing what to “do” for us.
A quick recap: The people of Zeniff returned to live in the land of Nephi among the Lamanites. They wanted to live in the lands they fled from a generation earlier. In time, Noah becomes the king and leads them from one degree of wickedness to another.
Finally the Lord sends the prophet Abinadi to warn them. He gives the first warning: repent or you will be brought into bondage. They ignored his warning. Two years later he comes again. The warning now is; they will be brought into bondage and destroyed if they don’t repent. (Note that the course correction is more severe.) Here is where the tale of these two people splits.
Converted by Abinadi, Alma preaches to and converts a small group of the people of Noah. They are discovered and flee for their lives into the wilderness. They establish a community and live for years in obscurity and peace. The rest, people later called the people of Limhi, travel a much different path. They are conquered by the Lamanites and after several failed attempts to fight their way to freedom endure years of virtual slavery.
Over a period of time, they too are converted to Christ, (Mosiah 21:33) and want to be baptized but have no one with authority to do it. They send out a team of people to find Zarahemlah. They fail in this but they do find the plates of Ether. Finally, two generations after Zeniff left, Ammon and his group find them and help them escape. A Lamanite army is sent after them to capture them and bring them back. It fails to do so, but in the process finds Alma and his group. The Lamanites enslave them for a short period of time, fulfilling Abinadi’s prophecy.
The good news of this episode is both groups become religious stalwarts among the Nephites. God delivered and guided both of them to where they were, but they both took different paths because of choices they made along the way. The sobering point of the story is how different those paths were and how much more difficult one was than the other.
The same holds true for us. Heavenly Father will work with us to get us back to His presence, but our choices affect the path we need to take to return to Him. I’d rather do it the easy way.