Come, Follow Me: The Damage of Reasonable Over-zealousness

Zeniff is an example of a man who ignored dangers as he attempted to be reasonable.

This week’s Come, Follow Me reading is where we learn a bit about Zeniff and the expedition to resettle the land of Nephi.

Zeniff explains he did not lead the initial attempt to return to the land of their inheritance but rather played the role of a spy. He recommended instead of executing a surprise attack, they should negotiate a treaty and avoid needless killing. The leader of the expedition thought a treaty was such a terrible idea Zeniff should be executed. This command divided the expedition, and the internal strife nearly destroyed them completely.

Then Zeniff describes himself as being “over-zealous” to inherit the land of Nephi.

This seems like an odd assessment, given that he was the one who wanted a peaceful solution. Additionally, as the record continues, he does not alter his approach but negotiates for a portion of land with the Lamanites. How is this reasonable approach over-zealous?

The answer to this question is that he miscalculated the danger of the Lamanites. After the Nephites had taken the time to cultivate and develop the land, to make it productive, the King of the Lamanites stirred his people up to anger against Zeniff and the Nephites and launched their own unprovoked attack, slaying several Nephites.

In other words, Zeniff wanted the land so much (a reasonable pursuit), that he ignored the actual dangers associated with obtaining it.

This type of over-zeal is applicable to us here and now. It is quite easy to underestimate the danger, even when intentions are good:

  • A person might have a legitimate desire to show friendship and kindness to someone of the opposite sex, underestimate the danger, and find themselves breaking the law of chastity.
  • One may have a legitimate desire to give to someone who is in need, underestimate the greed of others, and find that they have lost their income to a scammer.
  • You could have a legitimate desire to learn about the perspectives of people who have left the Church of Jesus Christ, overestimate the strength of their faith and testimony, and find yourself fighting vehemently against friends and family once held cherished.

Learn to apply the lessons of Zeniff. The covenant path is strait and narrow, and it is easy to stray from it. Do not be so over-zealous, even in reasonable pursuits, so as to ignore the actual danger.

Supplemental Reading:

Brett Jensen manages The Ward Preacher. You can follow him on Twitter @wardpreacher.

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