One thing that is fascinating of Zeniff’s account of his journey is how it tweaks or inverts the Exodus story from the Bible. In the biblical account, Israel is brought back to its land of inheritance and ordered to destroy all of the inhabitants of the land. By refusing to do so fully, they invoke the wrath of God and they are continually provoked to sin. The people convert them to pagan faiths and corrupt true worship of God.
The ruler on the journey similarly wants to destroy the Lamanites and take back the land. But here, there is a twist. Zeniff sees much good among them. Perhaps because of their common brotherhood, Zeniff sees their humanity. And so, he fights back against their destruction.
Zeniff’s faith in the Lamanites and their potential to come to Christ pays off in big ways later in the Book of Mormon. In a few generations many among them would be converted to God. Zeniff teaches that we should see the divine potential in others and trust is God to transform those who seem at first glance irredeemable.
1 I, Zeniff, having been taught in all the language of the Nephites, and having had a knowledge of the land of Nephi, or of the land of our fathers’ first inheritance, and having been sent as a spy among the Lamanites that I might spy out their forces, that our army might come upon them and destroy them—but when I saw that which was good among them I was desirous that they should not be destroyed.
2 Therefore, I contended with my brethren in the wilderness, for I would that our ruler should make a treaty with them; but he being an austere and a blood-thirsty man commanded that I should be slain; but I was rescued by the shedding of much blood; for father fought against father, and brother against brother, until the greater number of our army was destroyed in the wilderness; and we returned, those of us that were spared, to the land of Zarahemla, to relate that tale to their wives and their children.