For generations, the ancient inhabitants of the Americas were blessed by prophets who testified of Jesus Christ. In the Book of Mormon, the Nephites are generally considered the more righteous of the two seminal nations, the Nephites and the Lamanites. Peace between the descendants of Nephi and Laman was infrequent for most of their millennial history. Although the people of Nephi were led by many inspired prophets, the Nephites did not remain faithful.
The Lamanites lived without the benefit of the Brass Plates. For much of their history, no messengers were sent to teach them the gospel. The leaders of the Lamanites passed down their hatred for the Nephites for centuries, leading their people to revile against the Nephites in seemingly endless conflict. And yet, we are told by several Nephite prophets that the:
“Lamanites had become, the more part of them, a righteous people, insomuch that their righteousness did exceed that of the Nephites, because of their firmness and their steadiness in the faith.”
Helaman 6:1, (emphasis added)
The “exceeding” righteousness of the Lamanites was often matched by the vehement wickedness from the dissenters of the Nephites. These dissenters had been taught the gospel and rebelled against the Lord. These Nephites proved to be a tremendous stumbling block for others, especially those who had not heard the gospel. Many of the Lamanites had to look past the wickedness of the Nephites to recognize the voice of the Lord from the prophets.
The people of Laman associated with the people of Nephi, and at times, lived among them peacefully. The Lamanites even produced their own great prophets. Samuel the Lamanite testified of the coming of Jesus Christ, and prophesied about many signs that would signify His arrival. The Lamanites were a proud civilization who honored the traditions of their fathers. Many of them also converted to the faith of the Nephites and accepted conflicting cultural influences. Astonishingly, the people of Laman overcame their disadvantages and became more righteous than their brethren the Nephites.
We have one record written by the Nephite people, compiled by the hand of Mormon and his son Moroni. But, what about the record of the people of Laman? What would the silent history of the Lamanites reveal? As I considered the neglected perspective of the Lamanites in the Book of Mormon, I was struck by the following passage in Helaman:
“And now there are many records kept of the proceedings of this people, by many of this people, which are particular and very large, concerning them. But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, yea, the account of the Lamanites and of the Nephites, and their wars, and contentions, and dissensions, and their preaching, and their prophecies, and their shipping and their building of ships, and their building of temples, and of synagogues and their sanctuaries, and their righteousness, and their wickedness, and their murders, and their robbings, and their plundering, and all manner of abominations and whoredoms, cannot be contained in this work. But behold, there are many books and many records of every kind, and they have been kept chiefly by the Nephites.”
Helaman 3:13–15, (emphasis added)
We learn that the records were “chiefly” kept by the Nephites. This demonstrates that the Lamanites must have kept records of their activities as well. There were “many records” kept by “many of this people” which could not be compiled into one book because of their enormity. We are told that Amulon, one of the priests of King Noah, gained “favor in the eyes of the king of the Lamanites.” King Laman instructed Amulon and his brethren to teach the Lamanites the language of Nephi. The Lamanites were described at that time as “a people friendly one with another; nevertheless they knew not God.” Amulon taught the Lamanites that “they should keep their record, and that they might write one to another (Mosiah 24: 6, emphasis added).”
We have been counseled to “liken” the scriptures unto ourselves. Nonetheless, it is challenging to disconnect from our worldview and see through the eyes of another. It is easier for many of us to relate our lives to the Nephites. But what about the Lamanites? What essential messages are we to construe from their lives? The Lamanites represent those who come from different cultural backgrounds, family traditions, and belief systems. It proves difficult for each of us to understand how the gospel message, and even our own behavior, is viewed through the lens of another outside of our cultural heritage or religious faith. Those who embrace the message of the restored gospel, from different diverse backgrounds, have a unique and valuable story to share.
The Book of Mormon is filled with numerous inspirational accounts from those who valiantly fought for their religious liberty and the lives of their families. Countless individuals engaged in brutal battles and tens of thousands witnessed the atrocities of war. Those events would have taken a substantial emotional toll on the inhabitants in the land. Surely they experienced extreme hardships as they grieved for the loss of loved ones. In contrast, there were many wonderful events and miracles which would have uplifted the hearts and souls of those who lived in the ancient Americas.
The challenges encountered by the people in the Book of Mormon parallel the difficulties we face today. The Lamanite and Nephite nations struggled with issues of racial discrimination, wars and contentions, religious freedom, and corrupt government. There are life altering messages written in the scriptures that are meant for our time. The Book of Mormon details the accounts of individuals who walked this earth, experienced joy and sorrow, and had the gospel of Jesus Christ among them.
This novel takes place in the land of Zarahemla shortly before the birth of Jesus Christ. For years, the land of Zarahemla witnessed many battles between the Lamanites and the Nephites. Eventually, the sons of Mosiah journeyed to the lands of the Lamanites and converted thousands of Lamanites to the gospel. These Lamanites joined with the Nephites in the land of Zarahemla. Although many Lamanites were converted, the more numerous part of them continued in conflict with the people of Nephi.
The city of Zarahemla experienced periods of prosperity, during times of righteousness, and endured many wars and bloodshed, during times of wickedness. The land of Zarahemla was infested by a band of robbers named after their conspiring leader, Gadianton. Through secret oaths and combinations, the Gadianton robbers plundered, murdered, and betrayed both the Nephites and Lamanites. They infiltrated the government and undermined any virtue that remained in the city of Zarahemla.
The citizens of Zarahemla witnessed much turmoil in anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ. Many conflicts ensued stemming from rejection of prophetic teachings and conflict with the Gadianton robbers. Samuel the Lamanite testified boldly upon the city walls that the time of Christ’s birth was near. The Lamanites were forced to either believe the words of their fellow Lamanite, or join with the unbelievers. The decision to believe in the words of the prophets was not easy. Defiance to the unbelievers was punishable by death.
The Book of Mormon details this tumultuous time in the land of Zarahemla before the birth of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, the account is written through the eyes of the Nephites. The stories of the Lamanite people have never been told. For over two millennia, the Lamanite records have been concealed, and their legacy has faded along with the passage of time. This day, the voice of the Lamanites is heard once more.
And this, is their story…