“The Lord God Would Preserve a Record of My People”

Brant Gardner

Sociological: In this verse we have the subject of Enos' great and faithful supplication. He asks that should the Nephites be destroyed, that a record be preserved to bring the gospel to the Lamanites. The is a great subtext in Enos' plea that we need to understand.

When Enos first begins to pray, he prays for the Nephites. This is normal, for they are his own people, the society in which he lives. However, his supplications for his people result in only the very weakest of promises by the Lord, that the Lord will visit the acts of the Nephites upon their heads. In other words, God will reward or punish them as they deserve through their actions. Two things are important about this promise. First, that the Lord is so cautious about the future history of the Nephites.

The second interesting point is that Enos so fully accepts this response, and in his greater supplication, turns not to the Nephites, but to the preservation of the records of the Nephites should they be destroyed. This is a rather pessimistic acceptance of a future failure of Nephite society to follow the Lord to preserve themselves among the land. It may be that Enos has greatly abbreviated his conversation with the Lord (understandable if it lasted throughout most of a day) and that Enos received the prophetic vision of the future that Nephi had seen (and which was surely understood by Jacob whether he had seen it or read Nephi's account). It may also be that he understands that there will be a great destruction of the Nephites within a few generations, for such is recorded in the Book of Omni (Omni 1:5-7).

From a sociological perspective, what allowed Enos to so easily accept such a gloomy future for his people? Perhaps it was because he had been witness to the Nephite apostasy that was apparently only temporarily reversed with the Sherem incident. Perhaps even after the redemption of the Jacob as a prophet of the Lord, there were trends Enos saw that led him to understand that the struggle of the Nephites to remain faithful was not over after their turnabout to the Lord upon the death of Sherem. Indeed, the later evidence in Omni suggests that there was a rather widespread continuation of some of the practices which led the Nephites away from the Lord, and eventually led to their destruction.

Biographical: While it is an inference, and not explicit, it appears that while Enos had been taught sufficient to keep the plates, he had not necessarily read them. Enos' understanding of the future history of the Nephites appears to come in this epiphanal experience, and not through his reading of Nephi. When Enos begins to pray, he is pondering on the words of his father, not the written text.

Once again. it is inference, but it is probably significant that Enos notes that he pondered his fathers words rather than text. In many early literate societies, the text itself becomes sacred. The scrolls of the Torah become holy as vessels for the word of God, such that hands should not touch them, but rather that they be manipulated with a stick.

Later in the Book of Mormon itself we will see the brass plates passed along as part of the set of symbols associated with sacred rulership (along with the sword of Laban and the Liahona - Mosiah 1:16). Certainly at that later time the text itself is considered sacred, and it is not a far stretch to assume that it would also be at least sacred in purpose if not in its physical form for Enos. In such a case, we should expect that had Enos received his knowledge from the text that he would have been certain to note such a sacred origin. Indeed, both Nephi and Jacob cited text (including whole passages) to support their preaching. Enos does not do so, and so we are allowed the speculation that while Enos is sufficiently righteous to accept the small plates from his father, to this point he has not read them. We may also expect that this condition will change soon. With Enos' new experience, his sensitivity to things of the spirit would increase, increasing his desire to know the contents of the sacred records he is preserving.

Whether Enos has read them or not, he does know that they are important, a lesson learned from his father. Thus when he does pray for an eventual good, it concerns these records. Indeed, it is tempting to assume that this experience in the woods comes soon after receiving the plates from his father, a reason that they should be foremost in his mind during this discourse with the Lord.

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon