Zeniff made a significant miscalculation: He unwisely trusted the king of the Lamanites and placed his people in danger as a result. Having seen “that which was good among [the Lamanites]” (Mosiah 9:1), he failed to recognize and manage the risks of living in their land, vastly outnumbered by them. Then, one day, everything changed. After thirteen years of leaving Zeniff and his people in peace, the Lamanites attacked.
Zeniff and his people cobbled together a defense as best they could:
I did arm them with bows, and with arrows, with swords, and with cimeters, and with clubs, and with slings, and with all manner of weapons which we could invent, and I and my people did go forth against the Lamanites to battle.
The phrase “all manner of weapons which we could invent” suggests that they were woefully unprepared for this situation. They had some weapons, but not sufficient to defend themselves, and they had to create new ones quickly.
But they also prepared in another way, which proved to be decisive: they turned to God for assistance.
In the strength of the Lord did we go forth to battle against the Lamanites; for I and my people did cry mightily to the Lord that he would deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, for we were awakened to a remembrance of the deliverance of our fathers.
And God did hear our cries and did answer our prayers; and we did go forth in his might.
After winning that initial battle, Zeniff was determined to be ready the next time. He and his people made weapons, assigned people to guard the border, and sent spies to learn about the Lamanites’ preparations (Mosiah 10:1-7). Many years later, when the Lamanites attacked again, the Zeniff and his people were much better prepared. But again, when he described the battle, Zeniff emphasized their spiritual preparation:
And it came to pass that we did go up in the strength of the Lord to battle.
Now, the Lamanites knew nothing concerning the Lord, nor the strength of the Lord, therefore they depended upon their own strength….
And now I, Zeniff…did stimulate [my people] to go to battle with their might, putting their trust in the Lord
(Mosiah 10:10-11, 19)
Again, they were victorious.
It’s important to prepare for emergencies. Zeniff’s people were much better off in their second battle than they were in the first. But as he emphasizes, being spiritually prepared is even more important than being physically prepared. Zeniff and his people prepared for battle by praying mightily for deliverance and by remembering how He had delivered their ancestors, to strengthen their faith. Likewise, we can receive his strengthening power as we pray, study the scriptures, and exercise faith in Him.
As Elder David A. Bednar has reminded us, God’s strengthening power can help us with all of the burdens we carry and all of the challenges we face:
Most of us know that when we do things wrong and need help to overcome the effects of sin in our lives, the Savior has made it possible for us to become clean through His redeeming power. But do we also understand that the Atonement is for faithful men and women who are obedient, worthy, and conscientious and who are striving to become better and serve more faithfully? I wonder if we fail to fully acknowledge this strengthening aspect of the Atonement in our lives and mistakenly believe we must carry our load all alone—through sheer grit, willpower, and discipline and with our obviously limited capacities.
It is one thing to know that Jesus Christ came to the earth to die for us. But we also need to appreciate that the Lord desires, through His Atonement and by the power of the Holy Ghost, to enliven us—not only to guide but also to strengthen and heal us.
(“Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease,” General Conference, April 2014)
Today, I will seek for the strengthening power of God. I will follow the example of Zeniff and his people and prepare myself spiritually, so that I can face the battles in my life “in the strength of the Lord.”