Several hundred years after Nephi fled from his brothers “into the wilderness, with all those who would go with [him]” (2 Nephi 5:5), a man named Mosiah was warned by God to do the same. We don’t have a lot of details about him, but he lived in the land of Nephi, which had been established by Nephi and his people. Mormon tells us that Mosiah led a group of people—”as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord” (Omni 1:12-13). They left their homes and traveled in the wilderness, eventually encountering a group of people led by a man named Zarahemla. Mosiah taught the people of Zarahemla his language, and the two groups united, with Mosiah as their king (Omni 1:14-19).
Mormon later tells us that Zarahemla was descended from a man named Mulek, who was a son of King Zedekiah (Mosiah 25:2, Helaman 6:10, Helaman 8:21). The word “Mulekite” doesn’t appear in the Book of Mormon, but we often refer to the people of Zarahemla as the Mulekites. (See “Mulek,” The Encyclopedia of Mormonism and “The Mulekites,” Ensign, March 1987.)
There are some indications that the union of Mosiah’s people with Zarahemla’s people was not an easy transition. I wrote a few days ago about the contention among Mosiah’s people, which continued throughout most of the reign of his son, King Benjamin. Mormon tells us that there was “much contention and many dissensions away unto the Lamanites” during that time. It was only through great effort on the part of Benjamin, “with the assistance of the holy prophets who were among his people,” that peace and unity were eventually established among them (Words of Mormon 1:16-18).
During this period of unrest, a man named Zeniff led a group of Nephites back to the land of Nephi, “to possess the land of their inheritance” (Omni 1:27-30, Mosiah 9:1-5). For two generations, there was no communication between Zeniff’s people (in the land of Nephi) and the people of Mosiah (in the land of Zarahemla). Then, three years after the death of King Benjamin, his son Mosiah sent a search party led by a man named Ammon to find out what had happened to the people of Zeniff (Mosiah 7:1-6).
Ammon and his team were successful: they found the descendants of Zeniff’s people living in captivity. When he was permitted to speak to their leader, King Limhi, this is how he introduced himself:
I am Ammon, and am a descendant of Zarahemla, and have come up out of the land of Zarahemla to inquire concerning our brethren, whom Zeniff brought up out of that land.
He identified himself as a Mulekite, but called Limhi and his people “our brethren,” indicating that he thought of the Nephites and the Mulekites as a united people. The land of Nephi was not the land of his ancestors, but like the rest of Mosiah’s people, he was concerned about the Nephites who had returned there and wanted to know how they were doing.
Interestingly, the Nephites and the Mulekites were not fully integrated, even at this time. After Limhi and his people escaped their captors and traveled to the land of Zarahemla with the assistance of Ammon’s team, King Mosiah called all of his people together to hear their story. They assembled “in two bodies:” the Nephites on one side, and the Mulekites on the other (Mosiah 25:1-4).
But if Ammon was representative of Mosiah’s people, they no longer thought of themselves as separate groups with separate goals. They thought of one another as brethren, and they served one another and worked together toward shared goals.
Today, I will strive for unity in all the groups I am a part of: my family, my project teams at work, my quorum at church. I will strive to reach across boundaries, repair any rifts that may form, and think of the people in my circles of influence as my “brethren.”