Mosiah 9:1 - 9:5
Mosiah 9:1 I, Zeniff, having been taught in all the language of the Nephites, and having had a knowledge of the land of Nephi, or of the land of our fathers’ first inheritance, and having been sent as a spy among the Lamanites that I might spy out their forces, that our army might come upon them and destroy them—but when I saw that which was good among them I was desirous that they should not be destroyed.
Zeniff knows about the land of Nephi now controlled by the Lamanites. He was among a force sent to destroy the Lamanites in that land, but when he saw that they were a good people for the most part, he and a good part of the Nephite army changed their mind about destroying the Lamanites.
Mosiah 9:2 Therefore, I contended with my brethren in the wilderness, for I would that our ruler should make a treaty with them; but he being an austere and a blood-thirsty man commanded that I should be slain; but I was rescued by the shedding of much blood; for father fought against father, and brother against brother, until the greater number of our army was destroyed in the wilderness; and we returned, those of us that were spared, to the land of Zarahemla, to relate that tale to their wives and their children.
Zeniff and the other sympathizers wanted to make a treaty with the Lamanites. However their leader, with revenge in his heart, wanted just to kill all the Lamanites. The leader wanted to now kill Zeniff, but he was saved by the others of like mind through much blood shed. The result being there were few left. They then returned to Zarahemla to relate to the Nephites and to the families of the dead members of the army what had happened.
Mosiah 9:3 And yet, I being over-zealous to inherit the land of our fathers, collected as many as were desirous to go up to possess the land, and started again on our journey into the wilderness to go up to the land; but we were smitten with famine and sore afflictions; for we were slow to remember the Lord our God.
In spite of this experience, Zeniff was impressed enough with the land of Nephi that he wanted to return and settle down there. He gathered a number of people and made their journey to the land of Nephi. However because of their wickedness they had many problems in the journey.
Mosiah 9:4 Nevertheless, after many days’ wandering in the wilderness we pitched our tents in the place where our brethren were slain, which was near to the land of our fathers.
They must have gotten lost but finally stumped upon the place were the previous group had fought and killed one another. There they made their camp. [It must have been a strange feeling seeing the graves of their fallen brothers who they had died but were not the victims of Lamanite attacks.]
Mosiah 9:5 And it came to pass that I went again with four of my men into the city, in unto the king, that I might know of the disposition of the king, and that I might know if I might go in with my people and possess the land in peace.
Zeniff took four men with him and went in the city of the Lamanites to learn what kind of man the king was. Zeniff wanted to reach some kind of agreement to allow his people to once again settle and live in the land were the Nephites first came to settle upon arriving from Jerusalem.