This is a story about a man named Zeniff. Zeniff was discontent.
Discontent a definition
A rich woman can be as discontent as a poor man. It has nothing to do with what you have or don’t have. Nothing in the world can make you content. No food. No toy. No trophy will make you content. Only God can do that. And if you try to replace God with something else, you will fail. And you will be discontent.
Zeniff was discontent. If you are ever discontent like Zeniff, that is okay. We are all discontent sometimes. But beware, this is a sad story. It is about a man who lets discontent into his heart. And discontent hangs there like a bat pooping all over the floor until everything is black and sad and sticky.
When Zeniff was young, something very sad happened to him. He was forced to leave his home by the Lamanites. Zeniff was a Nephite. And as you know by now, the Nephites and the Lamanites didn’t get along very well. They couldn’t even live next to each other without fighting.
And so Zeniff and his family left their home and walked into the forest and across rivers. They slept nights under the stars. They were scared when they heard a twig break because they thought it might be a dangerous animal and because they had lost everything. They would need to find a new place to live. Build new homes. Plant new crops. Everything would begin again.
And that is when discontentment fluttered its way into Zeniff’s heart and clouded his vision. He did not see how God was blessing them with sunshine and food and children and joy. He didn’t see the green grass or the tall trees or the brown soil. Even after he had built a new house and married a wife and had children, Zeniff was still discontent. He said, “I want to go back home, only then will I be content.” And that was sad because Zeniff believed his home was behind him, not right there in front of him. He didn’t see that God had already given him and his family a new home.
And so Zeniff and others like Zeniff went to reclaim their homes and their lands. They put together an army and were ready to fight and even kill the Lamanites if they had to. And Zeniff was a spy in that army. He was supposed to find the perfect place and time for the Nephites to attack. So he sat and he watched and watched and watched the Lamanites for days and days and days.
And then something happened. While Zeniff was watching the Lamanites, he began to see that they weren’t all bad, terrible, horrible people like he thought they were. Actually, most of them seemed like normal and even good people! How very confusing.
And as it turns out, it is actually very hard to attack people once you realize they are good and normal, and so Zeniff did something remarkable. He ran back to the Nephite armies and as one man against a hundred, he defended the Lamanites.
“This was a big mistake,” he said. “You see, the Lamanites seem sort of normal. And good, actually. And maybe good is normal. Maybe God’s children are normally good, even if they aren’t Nephites. I think we should go home, and not try to destroy them after all.”
Some of the Nephites agreed with Zeniff, and some of them didn’t like what he was saying. And so they fought together about what they should do and eventually agreed to go home, and let the Lamanites be.
But it didn’t last forever because Zeniff and other Nephites like him were still discontent. It wasn’t long until Zenniff and the others like him marched right back to the Lamanite city and said, “Lamanites, we want our homes back.” And amazingly, the Lamanite king agreed. The king asked all the Lamanites to move out of part of the land to make room for the Nephite moms and dads, sons and daughters, grannies and grandpas. And so the Nephites walked right into the land, no fighting necessary, and they set up farms, and homes, and cities, and churches.
‘Now we will be happy,” said Zeniff. And he looked around and the grass was not as green as he had remembered. “Hmm,” he thought. “The Lamanites must not have been doing a good job keeping the grass.”
And he began to dislike the Lamanites because now they were neighbors. And he wanted what they had and they wanted what he had and everyone was discontent. And they began to hate each other. And Zeniff, who had once defended the Lamanites as good people, could no longer see anything good in them.
“The Lamanites are just terrible horrible wicked bad people,” he wrote, because he was angry. “There is nothing at all good about them. Laman and Lemuel were terrible, and now all their relatives are terrible. They’re all just terrible terrible terrible.” And there was fighting, and death, and the Nephites thought they were right, and the Lamanites thought they were right. And everywhere there was discontent.
And I wish I could give you a better ending to Zeniff’s story. I wish I could say that Zeniff remembered the goodness that he saw in the Lamanites, or that he saw it all over again. And that he ran up to his own army, one man against a hundred, and cried “This is all a big mistake! These are our brothers, and they are good. It is wrong for us to fight.”
But that isn’t what happened then, and it often isn’t what happens now. Because we are all like Zeniff. Because we are all discontent. And we try to make ourselves content by gathering things and places and other people into our hearts instead of God. And we think we will be able to love these things and places and people. And that will make us content.
But we are wrong. The miracle of loving God is that once you love God you are finally able to love things and places and people. And you will be content. Which means, you will love yourself.
Maybe you feel discontent. Maybe you want what someone else has. Maybe you have become mad and can only see the bad things in someone else. If that is you, and it will be you sometimes, do what Zeniff forgot to do. Reach up your hands to God and say “God, I am discontent. Help me feel your love.” And then God will do something remarkable. He will send you Jesus.
And Jesus will run up to you, and he will teach you how to love, how to see what is good in your brother or your sister or your neighbors. He will defend them against armies of hundreds or thousands or millions and millions. “Here is the good,” Jesus will say, “They too are loved.” And you will realize that there is goodness and God in the world all around you, and in the people, too. And your heart will be calm. And you will be able to love.
All artwork by Lauren Blair.
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