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Zeniff was the first king of a group of Nephites to return to the land of Lehi-Nephi around 200 B.C.
Zeniff was the father of Noah and the grandfather of Limhi. He left Zarahemla to reclaim his ancestral Lehi-Nephi from the Lamanites. He is mentioned by name for the first time in the Book of Mormon in Mosiah 7:9 but an earlier reference to his return to the land of Nephi is written in Omni 1:27-30
Reclaiming Lehi-Nephi—First attempt
Zeniff knew about the land of Nephi and was sent to spy on the Lamanites forces so that the Nephite army could destroy them. However he saw that there was good among them so he appealed to his ruler to spare them. Zeniff's leader wanted him killed, but he was rescued after a fight broke out amongst themselves. He returned to Zarahemla with only fifty others to report to the Nephites.
Reclaiming Lehi-Nephi—Second attempt
He was overzealous to reclaim the land and went again with volunteers (Amaleki's brother was one) but their was famine and adversity among them because they were slow in remembering God. The people eventually reached the site where they had fought each other and Zeniff took four of his men to visit King Laman.
The King made a covenant with Zeniff, giving him the land of Lehi-Nephi and the land of Shilom, including both cities of the same name. The King's people left and Zeniff's people constructed buildings and repaired the walls of Lehi-Nephi and Shilom. They grew corn, wheat, barley, neas, and sheum.
Zeniff was tricked into settling in the land so that they could be destroyed. King Laman was crafty, and his only goal was to bring the Nephites into bondage. His people were lazy and idolatrous and wanted to glut themselves on the work of others.
After twelve years, King Laman worked up his people to war with Zeniff and his people. He was uneasy that they were growing stronger. An attack came the next year on the south of Shilom where the Lamanites slew Zeniff's people and took their flocks and corn. The survivors fled to the city of Nephi to ask for his protection.
King Laman died and his son Laman took over and attacked Shilom from the north. Zeniff had placed his spies in the land of Shemlon and was forewarned. He sent the women and children into the wilderness. The young and old men fought in the strength of the Lord and slaughtered so many Lamanites that they did not count them.