“Seek Diligently to Restore the Lamanites Unto the True Faith in God.”

The time for the Lamanite conversion to the Gospel was still in the future. Prophecies about them may have encouraged belief they would convert in Enos' day. The efforts to accomplish this conversion were futile. The Lamanite "hatred" of the Nephites prevented it. The wounded feelings of grandparents had been successfully transferred to the grandchildren. Missionary work was not going to succeed.

The Lord in His wisdom knows that it is the nature of most men that their hatred does not pass from a people for three to four generations. It is one of the truths we see repeated in modern revelation. This was too soon for a Lamanite conversion. "[T]heir hatred was fixed" against the Nephites and the Nephite religion. That is the way it was destined to remain until enough generations had passed for the descendants to be unemotional about the dispute. When animosity drifts into legend, the descendants no longer harbor their hatreds. We read newspaper accounts about the fourth-generation of the Hatfields and McCoys holding reunions together to celebrate their famous feud. That would have been unimaginable even two generations earlier.

He wrote next: "and they were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people[.]" Their "evil nature" refers to their inherited disposition to rebel, not merely their mortality. The desire to rebel had been carried into the extreme of being "wild" and "ferocious" and "blood-thirsty." The extent of this becomes clear as we read on.

The Lamanite position was informed by their apostate religious views. Their behavior reckoned from a core set of beliefs. Enos was giving us a larger view of the Lamanite condition as he described for us how they were: "full of idolatry and filthiness[.]" This behavior was based upon "idolatry," meaning their behavior reflected their beliefs. Their beliefs were idolatrous. And when he describes them as "full of filthiness" he is not speaking about hygiene. He is speaking of their religious practices. The "pollutions" of the Lamanites written of later by Mormon, was speaking of spiritual degeneracy, not environmental conditions. They failed to follow the required rites to become spiritually pure, and as a result they were impure, or "filthy" under Nephite spiritual standards.

By referring to the issue of the Lamanite idolatry and spiritual filthiness, Enos puts a context to the words which follow. Everything he lists thereafter should be read as examples of the benighted spiritual condition of these people. They were engaging in certain practices which were an extension of their wrong religious beliefs and traditions.

Enos describes Lamanites "feeding upon beasts of prey[.]" This gives us an interesting basis for evaluating Lamanite cosmology. If this was "idolatrous," then we are reading something more than just consumption of unclean animals under the Mosaic law. The Law of Moses forbad eating beasts of prey, to be sure, but this was not just uncleanness, it is the first example of their idolatry.

What does eating animals of prey tell us about religious idolatry? It suggest that the Lamanites ate the animals as a form of worship, or religious sacrament. It suggests these beasts of prey were sought out specifically as the desired sacrament for people who wanted to benefit spiritually by this habit. It seems likely the "spirit" of the aggressive animal was a talisman to the Lamanites in their quest to become the predators who would dominate their Nephite opponents.

To pursue this lifestyle, the idolatry had to have an affect on the way they lived: "dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness[.]" Pursuing beasts of prey required a mobile, hunting social existence. They could not settle down and build permanent structures. By adopting a nomadic lifestyle these Lamanites may have been preserving a tradition relating back to the time of their ancestor's sojourn in the Trans-Arabian Peninsula. This may have been their intentional attempt to live a more authentic past lifestyle. This kind of excessive peroccupation with their ancestor's tradition is a kind of idolatry.

Next we read, "with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven[.]" A short, skin girdle implies a tradition which hearkens back to the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve found themselves naked, after their transgression, they put on an apron to cover their nakedness. The girdle about their loins was likely related to this ancient tradition, once again as a way of asserting that they, the Lamanites, were the real thing. They followed the oldest tradition.

The girdle was made of "skin" and not leaves. This, too, had an ancient counterpart going back to the dawn of mankind. Their idolatry reflected a lifestyle which was directly linked with a set of religious beliefs. Although there may have been actual counterparts in the true religion of the Nephites, the collective beliefs of the Lamanites were all corrupt.

The Lamanites' "skill was in the bow, and in the cimeter, and the ax." They were devoted to martial arts. They took comfort in their physical strength and martial prowess. However, we know from the battle between Goliath and David that there is no security in being adept with a sword and covered with armor.

Enos records "many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat." This, too, may have been a link back to the original Lehi-Ishmael party's practice in the wilderness. There was a time on the Arabian Peninsula when fires could not be lit because of danger posed by marauders. Eating raw meat may also have been a form of blood sacrifice or sacrament for these idolaters. We cannot be certain, except that Enos links this practice to idolatry.

So what are the modern counterparts to these ancient practices? In addition to describing the ancient practices of an apostate people, Enos must have had a prophetic lesson in mind for us. What do we see today as a modern manifestation of these kinds of idolatrous practices? Are there those of us who seize upon traditions rather than upon the Gospel of Christ? Do some of us choose to follow a pattern laid down by traditions while ignoring requirements found in the Gospel? Do some of us practice strange dietary regimens as part of wrongly held religious beliefs? Are there those among us who believe martial arts are a higher form of religious pratice? Who can say Enos isn't speaking to us about our behavior in leaving this record. It would be a mistake to think he wrote only to preserve strange practices from the past without a concern for us as the future audience of his record. It would also be a mistake not to reconsider your own beliefs and practices to see if Enos was warning you.

Denver C. Snuffer, Jr. -

Denver C. Snuffer, Jr.

Beloved Enos