strtoupper('Y')ea Come Unto Christ and Offer Your Whole Souls As an Offering Unto Him

At the end of the book of Omni which record includes a flight from the land of Nephi to a new "promised land," in the land of Zarahemla, the Nephite record keeper Amaleki leaves his readers with some words of advice before turning over the small plates of Nephi to king Benjamin. These Small Plates consisted mostly of the writings of Nephi, in which he also chronicled his covenant experiences in being inspired by the Lord to flee destruction and travel through the wilderness to a promised land. In Omni 1:26 we find some definite covenant language: "Yea, come unto [Christ], and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him . . ." Raymond Treat offers a very informative cultural story illustrating these covenant words of Amaleki. The following is an adaptation:

Most of us belong to what is called "western civilization." People in this category know less about the concept of a covenant than any other category. Every native tribe and most third-world peoples understand covenants and use them in their daily lives. We do not. We hire lawyers instead. The true story of Stanley and Livingstone is a good example. Henry Morton Stanley arrived in the United States at the age of 15, after suffering through a miserable childhood in England. He had been born illegitimately and his relatives sent him to a poorhouse where he was brutally mistreated. Once in America he began to work for a businessman who soon adopted him and whose name he took. After serving on both sides during the Civil War, he traveled west. His career as a newspaperman began with the publication in eastern newspapers of accounts of his travels in the West. In 1869 his employer, James Gordon Bennett of the sensation-seeking New York Herald, sent the 28 year-old to Africa in order to find a Scottish explorer named Livingstone who had vanished while searching for the headwaters of the Nile.

David Livingstone was a Scottish medical missionary. He devoted his life to exploring the uncharted regions of central Africa. His outstanding work brought him international fame, and his book Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa was widely read. In his travels he had realized the necessity of abolishing the slave trade. On a major expedition he was cut off from the world, in constant danger from Arab slave traders, and left with no means of controlling a terrible fever because of the theft of his medicines.

As part of his plan to find Livingstone, Stanley organized human caravans to escort him through the jungles of Africa. In the 1800s Africa was a closed continent. It was not easy to travel. Every attempt that Stanley made met with failure. His cargo bearers would disappear into the bush, taking with them his supplies. One day, after several failures, his right-hand man, a native who had lived for a while in England and knew the language and customs, told Stanley that the only way he could travel successfully through Africa was to make covenants with the heads of the various chiefdoms or tribes through whose territory he was passing. Stanley did not like this idea because, being a proper Englishman, (and therefore part of the same western civilization as most of us are) he thought that the native customs were primitive, barbaric and certainly beneath him. However, he finally consented to make a covenant because he had no other alternative.

Part of the covenant procedure required that Stanley give a gift to the chief. The chief wanted Stanley's goat so Stanley had to give it to him. Stanley had stomach trouble and thought that the only way he could survive was on goat's milk. Stanley did not want to part with his goat but he had to. In exchange, the chief gave Stanley a wooden staff decorated with strips of copper. This did not mean anything to Stanley. He did not understand covenants. Nevertheless, Stanley continued on to the next village with the staff in hand.

Although Stanley did not know the meaning of the staff, the people in the next village did. It meant that Stanley had a covenant with the chief in the previous village and that all the resources of that chief, which were extensive, would be used against them if they did not treat Stanley as a friend (a covenant term). Having no doubt as to the consequences if they mistreated Stanley, they treated him like a king. Stanley's eyes were opened. He began to understand his covenant relationship with the chief. If Stanley had desired, every goat in the village would have been given to him for milk. The cargo bearers no longer disappeared into the bush with his supplies; the bearers knew the judgments that would come upon them.

Two years later, in what is currently Tanzania, Stanley's hunt ended with "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" In the course of his journeys, Stanley had made covenants with over fifty chiefs and tribal leaders. Needless to say, Stanley's journey was not only a success, but it was just the first of many exploits. He returned to Africa in 1874 and stayed until 1884. During this time he became the first explorer to travel the circumference of Lake Victoria and to travel the length of the Congo River. These years in Africa convinced him that more missionaries should be sent to Africa and that England should step in to stop the Arab trade in African slaves. Afterward he retired to England, where he was knighted.

Like Stanley, if we give ourselves fully to the Lord according to the covenant relationship then the Lord will make available to us all of the direction and resources needed to accomplish our stewardship and complete our journey to the Promised Land. [Adapted from Raymond Treat, "Lesson #1: What Is the Covenant Relationship?", Zarahemla Research Foundation, [], pp. 1-2; see also The Golden Home and High School Encyclopedia, Vol. 17. New York: Golden Press, 1961, p. 2412; see also vol. 10, p. 1488.]

Note* One might wonder if both Nephi and Mosiah1 (in whose days Amaleki was born) experienced the same circumstances in the course of their travels. It is certain that Nephi would have had to make covenants with tribal chiefs all along the course of the Frankincense trail. We are left to speculate, however, concerning Mosiah's travels from the land of Nephi to the land of Zarahemla. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the covenant commentary on 1 Nephi 2:22, 3:7. See the travel commentary on 1 Nephi 16:10. Notice the headings and covenant markings in The Covenant Story from 1 Nephi 2:16-5:22]

Omni 1:26 Yea, come unto [Christ], and offer your whole soul as an offering unto him ([Illustration]--Stanley Livingstone): An artist reconstructs Henry Stanley's dramatic meeting with missionary David Livingstone. [The Golden Home and High School Encyclopedia, Vol. 17. New York: Golden Press, 1961, p. 2412]

Alan C. Miner -

Alan C. Miner

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary