Among the great revelatory treasures contained in the Book of Mormon are the lost Old Testament writings of Zenos. We do not know when and where he lived in Israel, but we do know key aspects of his revelations and life sacrifices. Zenos had unique ways of unfolding the eternal mission of Jesus Christ.
Early in the Book of Mormon, Nephi records that Zenos foresaw “three days of darkness, which should be a sign given of his death unto those who should inhabit the isles of the sea”; the scattering and persecutions “for those who are at Jerusalem”; the gathering “from the four quarters of the earth”; and the blessings available to “every nation, kindred, tongue and people” (1 Nephi 19:10-17). The prophecies of Zenos were especially meaningful to the Nephites because they believed that their land of promise was upon islands in the sea. They knew that they were direct descendants of the Israelites living in Jerusalem. They lived with the fervent hope that they would be regathered to the house of Israel, and they hoped to receive the blessings of eternal life made possible through a promised Messiah.
Subsequently, Jesus personally verified all that Zenos had predicted. After His Crucifixion, the Nephite survivors heard the voice of Jesus admonish them, “he that hath the scriptures, let him search them, and see and behold if all these deaths and destructions by fire, and by smoke, and by tempests, and by whirlwinds, and by the opening of the earth to receive them, and all these things are not unto the fulfilling of the prophecies of many of the holy prophets. …Yea, the prophet Zenos did testify of these things” (3 Nephi 10:14, 16). The Resurrection and the great atoning sacrifice of Jesus have profound effects for all of earth’s inhabitants.
Where and How Can God Be Worshipped?
Alma used the words of Zenos to teach the poor and homeless Zoramites the true manner of worship. Zenos recounted how God heard and answered his prayers in the wilderness, among enemies, in fields, at home, even in a closet, and with congregations of fellow worshipers. In all of these places, Zenos testified, “Thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity; and it is because of thy Son that thou hast been thus merciful unto me” (Alma 33:3-11). Amulek added that Zenos affirmed that “redemption cometh through the Son of God” (Alma 34:7). Both Alma and Amulek used the teachings of Zenos to show that Jesus Christ is a loving and caring Savior. It was possible not only to worship with others at church but also to pray at home or work, amid danger or in safety. No matter where we may be or what problems we are facing, God is always attentive to our sincere requests
About 20 years before the birth of Christ, Nephi (the son of Helaman) said that Zenos “was slain” (Helaman 8:19) for boldly testifying of the divinity of Jesus. Zenos did not fear martyrdom because he had faith in the Resurrection. Likewise, we need to be willing to accept God’s will for each one of us and trust in Christ’s redeeming love.
Samuel, a Lamanite Prophet, added another dimension for how to strive to live righteously. Samuel reminded the Nephites that “the prophet Zenos, and many other prophets,” had spoken of the “restoration of our brethren, the Lamanites, again to the knowledge of the truth … and notwithstanding the many afflictions which they shall have, and notwithstanding they shall be driven to and fro upon the face of the earth, and be hunted, and shall be smitten and scattered abroad, having no place for refuge, the Lord shall be merciful unto them” (Helaman 15:11-12).
Today, we are witnessing this restoration of the House of Israel throughout the world. We need to show mercy, respect, and love for all of God’s children. We should trust that God will prepare a way for all of His children to hear His gospel, even some who may have rejected Him in the past.
Studying an Allegorical Masterpiece of Revelation
The Prophet Jacob provides the most comprehensive account of the writings of Zenos (Jacob 5:2-77). This is not only the longest chapter in the Book of Mormon but also one of the most detailed and challenging allegorical narratives in the Holy Scriptures. An allegory teaches spiritual truths through symbolic storytelling. In many ways, allegories are similar to parables, only they are longer and more intricately developed. In some ways, an allegory could be characterized as a full-grown parable.
The March 16-22, 2020 Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families provides outstanding resources for gaining a better understanding of the allegorical symbols Zenos used: “For example, a vineyard represents the world, a tame olive tree represents Israel (those who have made covenants with God), and wild olive trees represent the gentile nations (those who have not made covenants with God)” (“What Is An Allegory,” Come, Follow Me, 47). With these basic suggestions in mind, the manual encourages us to ponder the hidden meanings for other symbols that Zenos used in the allegory of the vineyard.
Additionally, the Come, Follow Me resources provide an outline that divides the verses into five time periods of world history:
“Verses 3-14. The scattering of Israel before the time of Christ.”
“Verses 15-28. The ministry of Christ and the Apostles.”
“Verses 29-49. The Great Apostasy.”
“Verses 50-76. The gathering of Israel in the latter days.”
“Verses 76-77. The Millennium and end of the world.” (“Jesus Christ Is Lord of the Vineyard,” Come, Follow Me, 47)
For additional ideas on how to interpret the allegorical symbols of Zenos, review the diagram “The Allegory of the Olive Trees (Jacob 5)” shown below (see: Come, Follow Me, 49 and click on picture to enlarge).
The outline and chart are valuable study tools that can increase our understanding of what the Lord revealed to Zenos.
Personalize Your Readings of Zenos
These tools are, however, only invitations to search for deeper personal meanings. In the “Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Family Home Evening”, Come, Follow Me, 48, the following reading strategy is encouraged: “You could invite family members to personalize verse 75 by adding their names into this verse—for example, ‘Blessed art thou [name].’ Maybe they can share experiences in which they felt joy while serving the Lord of the vineyard, for example through sharing the gospel, serving in the temple, or strengthening Church members.”
What we need to learn most from Zenos is best expressed by President M. Russell Ballard, “Become engaged in doing what you can in sharing the great message of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (“Put Your Trust in the Lord,” Ensign, Nov. 2013, 43).