Omni 1:2 I of myself am a wicked man
Omni is the first "wicked man" to be custodian of the plates. His forefathers all kept the commandments of the Lord. The book of Omni is unlike any other book in the Book of Mormon. It is written by five different men: 1) Omni, 2) Amaron, 3) Chemish, 4) Abinadom, and 5) Amaleki. The first four authors write no more than 11 verses. Yet the book of Omni covers a time period of 230 years, from 361 BC to about 130 BC. This is the era of Nephite history which remains a great mystery. We know that they lived in the land of Nephi, that they had many wars and contentions, and that the kings kept the secular history on the large plates of Nephi (v. 11). But we don't have any prophecies, history, social developments, missionary efforts, or new revelations to speak of.
Omni 1:9 I, Chemish, write what few things I write
Chemish has the distinction of writing only one verse. He contributes less to the Book of Mormon than any other author. Whether or not Chemish kept another record of his life is not known. Nevertheless, this is the best time to discuss the importance of record keeping. The Lord has commanded us to keep a journal. Hopefully, we will be able to generate a history larger and more spiritually oriented than Chemish did. The importance of record keeping can be seen in the Nephite record. The commandment to keep a record started in the days of Adam, a book of remembrance was kept, in the which was recorded, in the language of Adam, for it was given unto as many as called upon God to write by the spirit of inspiration (Moses 6:5). The Lord also commanded the prophet Joseph Smith to have the saints keep a record of the their proceedings, It is the duty of the Lord's clerk, whom he has appointed, to keep a history, and a general church record of all things that transpire in Zion, and of all those who consecrate properties, and receive inheritances legally from the bishop; And also their manner of life, their faith, and works; and also of the apostates who apostatize after receiving their inheritances (DC 85:1-2).
The prophet himself contributed greatly to this history by writing his own personal history. He prefaces his 1838 history with the explanation that it is his intent to disabuse the public mind regarding the truth of his story, Owing to the many reports which have been put in circulation by evil-disposed and designing persons, in relation to the rise and progress of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all of which have been designed by the authors thereof to militate against its character as a Church and its progress in the world-I have been induced to write this history, to disabuse the public mind, and put all inquirers after truth in possession of the facts, as they have transpired, in relation both to myself and the Church, so far as I have such facts in my possession (JS-H 1:1).
As far as our personal journal writing goes, we should include whatever we want. However, we would be wise to follow the example of Nephi who wanted to write of spiritual things, I desire the room that I may write of the things of God. For the fullness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved (1 Ne 6:3-4). If we were to write only of our spiritual experiences and personal revelations, would our record be large like the record of Nephi, or would it be one verse long, like the record of Chemish?
Elder Andrew Jenson
"By examining ourselves we find that nearly all of us spend more or less time every day in a way that is not calculated to do any particular good; this applies even to us who always think ourselves very busy. I venture to say that there is hardly a man or woman so busy with the affairs of life that he or she could not find time to keep a daily journal. But still, only a very few venture the experiment. Those few, however, almost invariably say, after a few years' practice, that the keeping of a diary is one of the best things they ever did.
"The keeping of a journal has a tendency to keep both mind and body in the straight and narrow path. If we keep a journal we naturally desire to write something that will read well. We want to make a good record of ourselves. But in order to do so we must live a good and useful life, and thus by our actions produce materials for a clean and interesting record." (Collected Discourses 1886-1898, ed. by Brian Stuy, vol. 5, Andrew Jenson, January 20th, 1895)
Joseph Fielding Smith
"The importance of keeping individual records should be impressed upon each member of the Church. Let each member of the Church ask himself, or herself, the following questions. Do I know the date of my birth? Do I know the date of my baptism? Confirmation? By whom were these ordinances performed? Do the brethren know when they were ordained to offices in the Aaronic Priesthood, and by whom? Do they know who conferred upon them the Melchizedek Priesthood, and when? All of these things are important, and no member should rely solely on the record of the Church for this information. Records may be burned, or get lost. This has frequently happened. Members of the Church are writing constantly to bishops, presidents of stakes and to the Historian's Office, seeking this kind of information which cannot be obtained in many instances. All important dates and events should be recorded in your family history. If any member of the Church desires to keep a full and complete journal of his life, it is well and good; but each member should have a record of the vital events in his life in some permanent manner." (Church History & Modern Revelation, p. 100)
Omni 1:12 Mosiah...should flee out of the land of Nephi
The geography of the Book of Mormon becomes important in the next several verses. The Nephites landed in an unnamed area and remained there until the conflict between Nephi and his brothers became so intense that Nephi had to take as many as would follow him to another area. They were taken to "the land of Nephi." The journey was described as taking many days (2 Ne 5:7). The Nephites remained here for several centuries.
The next move is being described here in Omni. Apparently Mosiah takes as many as will follow him and travels out of the land of Nephi. Presumably, each Nephite move sends them further north. This is not explicitly recorded but makes sense given the fact that the Lamanites were later described as inhabiting the lands to the south and the Nephites were described as inhabiting the lands to the north. So Mosiah takes his people from the land of Nephi to the land of Zarahemla. Elsewhere in the Book of Mormon, the record indicates that this distance could be traveled in a 21 day journey (see Mosiah 23:3;24:20-25). There is nothing in the record which suggests that great, long journeys over thousands of miles took place among the Nephites. Those who make such claims have little or no evidence for the same.
In general, the geography of the Book of Mormon cannot be accurately determined. Many have attempted to designate certain ancient sites as prominent Nephite cities. These attempts are spurious at best. The individual who claims to have figured out Book of Mormon geography is not honest about what he or she can fairly claim. There just isn't enough information in the Book of Mormon to come to distinct conclusions about the locations of Zarahemla, the site of the last battle, or other Nephite cities.
President Anthony V. Ivins
"There is a great deal of talk about the geography of the Book of Mormon. Where was the land of Zarahemla? Where was the City of Zarahemla? and other geographic matters. It does not make any difference to us. There has never been anything yet set forth that definitely settles that question. So the Church says we are just waiting until we discover the truth. All kinds of theories have been advanced. I have talked with at least half a dozen men that have found the very place where the City of Zarahemla stood, and notwithstanding the fact that they profess to be Book of Mormon students, they vary a thousand miles apart in the places they have located. We do not offer any definite solution. As you study the Book of Mormon keep these things in mind and do not make definite statements concerning things that have not been proven in advance to be true." (Conference Reports, Apr. 1929, p. 16)
Harold B. Lee
"Don't be concerned over Book of Mormon geography. Some say the Hill Cumorah was in southern Mexico (and someone pushed it down still farther) and not in western New York. Well, if the Lord wanted us to know where it was or where Zarahemla was, He'd have given us latitude and longitude, don't you think? And why bother our heads trying to discover with archaeological certainty the geographical locations of the cities of the Book of Mormon like Zarahemla? (66-07)
"The witness of the Book of Mormon is not found in the ruins of Central and South America. They may be outward evidences of a people long since disappeared. The real witness is that which is found in the Book of Mormon itself." (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 156)
Omni 1:13 they came down into...the land of Zarahemla
"The concept of going 'up' when you go north and of going 'down' when you go south is of relatively recent origin, and thus was not used by the Nephites. When the Nephites stated they went from Nephi down to Zarahemla, they were referring to elevation and not to direction. Zarahemla was definitely lower in elevation than Nephi because the river Sidon had its head in the land of Nephi but flowed down through the center of the land of Zarahemla. (Alma 16:6-7; 22:27-29.)" (Daniel Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p.169)
Omni 1:14-15 the people of Zarahemla
The people of Zarahemla are often referred to as "the Mulekites." Although this term is not used in the Book of Mormon, Mulek was the son of Zedekiah who accompanied his people to the promised land, and his descendants were the people of Zarahemla. It is useful to review the history of Zedekiah, his sons, and Mulek's people.
First of all, Lehi and his family had left Jerusalem around the first year of Zedekiah's reign. Mulek and his people left at the end of Zedekiah's reign, about 11 years later. What happened to Zedekiah before he was taken to Babylon is both gruesome and interesting. The Chaldeans' army...overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho...Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah before his eyes: also the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah. Moreover he put out Zedekiah's eyes, and bound him with chains, to carry him to Babylon (Jer 39:5-7). Zedekiah was kept in prison until the day of his death (Jer 52:11).
The obvious question, then, is how could Mulek have come to the Americas if he was a son of Zedekiah? The record states that the sons were killed in the presence of their father. Apparently, Mulek was somehow spared from this ignominious demise, And now will you dispute that Jerusalem was destroyed? Will ye say that the sons of Zedekiah were not slain, all except it were Mulek? Yea and do ye not behold that the seed of Zedekiah are with us, and they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem? (Hel 8:21).
"Nowhere are we told that Mulek was the leader of the company, and indeed at his age that would be unthinkable-his father Zedekiah was only about thirty-one when he was taken prisoner and blinded. But as the sole survivor of the royal family and heir presumptive to the throne, he was certainly the most important person in the company, a source of legitimate pride to the group. The name tells everything-'Mulek' is not found anywhere in the Bible, but any student of Semitic languages will instantly recognize it as the best-known form of diminutive or caritative, a term of affection and endearment meaning 'little king.' What could they call the uncrowned child, last of his line, but their little king? And what could they call themselves but Mulekiyah or Mulekites?" (Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins, p. 118)
The next important point that this brings up is that the Mulekites must have been of the tribe of Judah. All the kings of Judah, since the reign of king David, were of the tribe of Judah. Our tendency to think of the Nephites as strictly of the tribe of Manasseh is not correct. The Nephites merged with the Mulekites and also had some of the blood of Ishmael (of the tribe of Ephraim) amongst them. Therefore, the Nephites, by the time Christ comes, had the blood of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Judah in their veins.
James E. Talmage
"The Prophet Joseph Smith informed us...that Ishmael was of the lineage of Ephraim, and that his sons married into Lehi's family, and Lehi's sons married Ishmael's daughters...Thus these descendants of Manasseh and Ephraim grew together upon this American continent, with a sprinkling from the house of Judah, from Mulek descended, who left Jerusalem eleven years after Lehi, and founded the colony afterwards known as Zarahemla found by Mosiah -- thus making a combination, an intermixture of Ephraim and Manasseh with the remnants of Judah, and for aught we know, the remnants of some other tribes that might have accompanied Mulek. And such have grown up upon the American continent.' -- From "Discourse by Apostle Erastus Snow," at Logan, Utah, May 6, 1882, see Journal of Discourses, vol. 23, pp. 184, 185." (James E. Talmage, A Study of the Articles of Faith, p.504-5)
Omni 1:17 their language had become corrupted; and they had brought no records with them
The Mulekites spoke Hebrew when they arrived in the Americas. Without a written record, their language naturally became corrupted. Imagine that the time Mosiah found them was 200 BC. If such was the case, the Mulekites would have been on their own for about 390 years. Imagine how much the English language has changed in the last 390 years. If spoken English has changed that much with the benefit of many written records and the stabilizing force of the Bible, you can only imagine how quickly the Mulekite language was transformed.
Now we begin to more fully understand the wisdom of the Lord in sending Nephi and his brothers back to Jerusalem to get the brass plates of Laban. Without this record, the Nephite language would have similarly been corrupted. Even with the record, the language was naturally modified, as Moroni states, the Hebrew hath been altered by us also (Mormon 9:33).
The most significant effect of not bringing any records with them was that the Mulekites denied the being of their Creator. The story of the creation is pivotal to our understanding of God and the plan of salvation. The Nephites had this record in the brass plates, but the Mulekites had lost touch with their God because they had no record to teach them of the creation and His dealings with the house of Israel. Imagine how many lives would have been blessed among the early Mulekites if they had been wise enough to preserve their religious tradition.
Omni 1:20 Mosiah...did interpret the engravings by the gift and power of God
By interpreting the large stone, Mosiah demonstrates his ability as a seer. A similar episode happens when the people of Limhi find 24 plates containing the record of the Jaredites. Ammon explains that he can't interpret them because he does not have the gift of seership. He defines a seer as one who uses the "interpreters," and refers the people to king Mosiah (the grandson of the Mosiah spoken of in Omni's record), whosoever is commanded to look in them (the interpreters), the same is called seer...a seer is greater than a prophet. And Ammon said that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God (Mosiah 8:13-16).
Omni 1:21 Coriantumr, dwelt with them for the space of nine moons
Coriantumr was the last surviving Jaredite, except for Ether whom the Lord preserved to preserve the history of their destruction. We are not told how long the Mulekites had been living in Zarahemla when Coriantumr came and dwelt with them. However, the fact that he was a contemporary of the Mulekites, means that there was a time period after the arrival of Mulek's party, when all three groups, the Nephites, the Mulekites, and the Jaredites, were living in the Americas without knowledge of each other. This underscores the fact that all three groups were located in geographically separate areas, the Jaredites in the land northward (v. 22), the Nephites to the south in the land of Nephi, and the Mulekites in the middle.
Omni 1:22 his first parents came out from the tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language
Coriantumr's ancestors (the Brother of Jared, etc.) left Mesopotamia at the time of the tower of Babel. Their departure, with the pure Adamic language, is not recorded in the Bible. Genesis does record that the Lord [did] scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth (Gen 11:9). Josephus is a little more specific about how the Lord scattered the peoples at this time, "they were dispersed abroad, on account of their languages, and went out by colonies everywhere...so that the whole continent was filled with them, both the inland and maritime countries. There were some also who passed over the sea in ships, and inhabited the islands." (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book I, Chapter V, italics added)
Omni 1:25 I shall deliver up these plates unto him (king Benjamin)
Amaleki is going to finish off the Small Plates of Nephi. He states, these plates are full (v. 30) and has determined to deliver them to Benjamin. Benjamin, as the king, was already the custodian of the large plates of Nephi, the record of this people is engraven upon plates which is had by the kings (v. 11). Giving the plates to Benjamin was a natural and wise decision.
Omni 1:25 there is nothing which is good save it comes from the Lord: and that which is evil cometh from the devil
This is a pretty all-encompassing statement. All actions, it implies, are influenced by the two great governing forces in the universe. It must be frustrating for the do-gooder atheist to finally discover that his actions were inspired by the Lord. The light of Christ fills every heart. Therefore, one who does good by this light is, in fact, acting as an instrument in the Lord's hands, for light and truth forsake that evil one (DC 93:37). For behold the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God (Moroni 7:16).
"Amaleki explained that 'there is nothing which is good save it comes from the Lord: and that which is evil cometh from the devil' (Omni 1:25; see also Alma 5:40). This is the great litmus test for determining the truthfulness or rightness of a matter- does it invite and entice one to come unto God, to partake of his goodness and grace, to enjoy the fruits of his Spirit, to gain in time those godly attributes and godly powers which will equip the person to be with and be like God? If it does so, it is of God." (McConkie, Millet, and Top, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 4, p. 335)
Omni 1:26 offer your whole souls as an offering unto him
The tradition, under the Law of Moses, to offer an animal sacrifice to the Lord is symbolic of the sacrifice of the Only-Begotten. But the Lord has declared, I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats (Isa 1:1). And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams (1 Sam 15:22). The Lord would much rather that we follow the example of the Son in our obedience and in offering our lives up unto God as the ultimate sacrifice that we can make. This implies a total sacrifice. It implies submitting ones will, entirely, to the will of the Father. It implies that our sacrifice and devotion to the Lord is more prized than life itself.
Neal A. Maxwell
"Real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed! (Ensign, May 1995, p. 68.)...
"The submission of one's will is placing on God's altar the only uniquely personal thing one has to place there. The many other things we 'give' are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. (If Thou Endure It Well, p. 54.)" (Cory H. Maxwell, The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book, p. 293)
Omni 1:27-30 a certain number...went up into the wilderness to return to the land of Nephi
These were led by a strong and mighty man named Zeniff. The story being referred to is found in Mosiah 9:1-4. Zeniff was part of a group of people who were traveling from their new home of Zarahemla back to the land of Nephi. Apparently, his memory was that the grass was considerably greener in the land of Nephi. After a violent contention along the way, the party turned back with only fifty surviving. On a second attempt, Zeniff, now the leader of the group, was successful in settling in the land of Nephi. They become the people of king Noah and king Limhi who are eventually forced into slavery to the Lamanites. The entire story is contained in Mosiah 9-22.
Omni 1:30 these plates are full
This is the end of the small plates of Nephi. This was the Lord's great backup plan-to preserve the small plates in case someone named Martin Harris should lose the 116 pages translated from the large plates. This story is one of the greatest examples of the foreknowledge of God and his great wisdom in preparing for the foibles of man.
'I will not suffer that they shall destroy my work; yea, I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil...
Behold, there are many things engraven upon the plates of Nephi which do throw greater views upon my gospel; therefore, it is wisdom in me that you should translate this first part of the engravings of Nephi, and send forth in this work.' (DC 10:43,45)