Enos begins his record by acknowledging the goodness of Jacob, his father (v. 1). It reminds us of Nephi’s beginning, “… having been born of goodly parents” (1 Nephi 1:1). Enos says his father “was a just man” (Enos 1:1). The Bible calls Joseph, espoused to Mary, the mother to be of Jesus, “a just man.” A just man is a man whom the Savior will “hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world” (3 Nephi 27:16). He is justified because he has kept the commandments given unto him. “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified” (Romans 2:13). The recognition of his father as a just man (Enos 1:1) is a confirmation that the writings of his father, Jacob, were true and in accordance with the commandments of God.
The first experience of Enos, apparently written many years after, was the account of his conversion through “the wrestle which [Enos] had before God” (v. 2). This was, of course, a spiritual wrestle similar to Jacob’s wrestle by the brook Jabbok (see Genesis 32:22–30), or Jonah (see Jonah 1:17–2:10) or Alma’s (see Alma 36:5–34). What took place within Enos was eloquently described by Elder Spencer W. Kimball to the Brigham Young University student body. We will follow his format, quoting the verses of Enos within.
To those of us who would pay pennies toward our unfathomable debt, there is no better example than Enos. Like many sons of good families he strayed; his sins weighed heavily upon him. He wrote:
And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins. [Enos 1:2]
He speaks graphically. He speaks not of a trite prayer but of an intense striving, a vigorous wrestling and almost interminable struggling.
Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests;
But no animal did he shoot nor capture. He was traveling a path he had never walked before. He was reaching, knocking, asking, pleading; he was being born again. He was seeing the pleasant valleys across the barren wastes. He was searching his soul. He might have lived all his life in a weed patch, but now he envisioned a watered garden. He continues:
and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart. [Enos 1:3]
Memory was both cruel and kind. The pictures his father had painted in sermon and admonition now stirred his soul. He was warmed and inspired. He hungered for the good. Then memory opened the doors to his ugly past. His soul revolted at the reliving of the baser things but yearned now for the better. A rebirth was in process. It was painful but rewarding.
And my soul hungered
The spirit of repentance was taking hold. He was self-convicted. He was remorseful for his transgression, eager to bury the old man of sin, to resurrect the new man of faith, godliness.
and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul;
This was no silent, unexpressed wish or hope, but a heart-wrenching, imploring, begging, and pleading. It was vocal and powerful prayer.
He had now come to realize that no one can be saved in his sins, that no unclean thing can enter into the kingdom of God, that there must be a cleansing, that stains must be eliminated, new flesh over wounds. He came to realize that there must be a purging, a new heart in a new man. He knew it was not a small thing to change hearts and minds. He writes:
and all the day long did I cry unto him;
Here is no causal prayer; no worn phrases; no momentary appeal by silent lips. All the day long, with seconds turning into minutes, and minutes turning into hours and hours. But when the sun had set, relief had still not come, for repentance is not a single act nor forgiveness an unearned gift. So precious to him was communication with and approval of his Redeemer that his determined soul pressed on without ceasing.
yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens. [Enos 1:4]
Could the Redeemer resist such determined imploring? How many have thus resisted? How many with or without serious transgression, have ever prayed all day and into the night? How many have ever wept and prayed for ten hours? for five hours? for one? for thirty minutes? for ten? Our praying is usually measured in seconds and yet with a heavy debt to pay we still expect forgiveness of our sins. We offer pennies to pay the debt of thousands of dollars.
How much do you pray, my friends? How often? How earnestly? If you have errors in your life, have you really wrestled before the Lord? Have you yet found your deep forest of solitude? How much has your soul hungered? How deeply have your needs impressed your heart? When did you kneel before your Maker in total quiet? For what did you pray—your own soul? How long did you thus plead for recognition—all day long? And when the shadows fell, did you still raise your voice in mighty prayer, or did you satisfy yourself with some hackneyed word and phrase?
If you have not, I sincerely hope that the time will come when, as others before you have, you will struggle in the spirit and cry mightily and covenant sincerely, so that the voice of the Lord God will come into your mind, as it did to Enos, saying:
… thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed. Because of thy faith in Christ … I will grant unto thee according to thy desires… . [Enos 1:5, 8, 12)]
For this is the ultimate object of all prayer, to bring men closer to God, to give them a new birth, to make them heirs of his kingdom.”