Limhi was the third king over the descendants of a colony that left Zarahemla with Zeniff about 200 B.C. to return to the land of Lehi-Nephi. Limhi's father was the unrighteous King Noah, who had placed the priesthood in the hands of corrupt and wicked men (Mosiah 11:11), and who caused the prophet Abinadi to be burned to death. (Mosiah 17:5-20.)
Although Limhi was a king, his reign was vastly limited because his people were in bondage to the Lamanites, as Abinadi had prophesied. Limhi's people were "taxed with a tax which is grievous to be borne." (Mosiah 7:15.)The Nephites had to give the Lamanites half their corn and barley and other grain, and half of the increase of their flocks and herds and "even one half of all we have or possess." (Mosiah 7:22.) Limhi and his people were slaves to the Lamanites, and Lamanite guards prevented their escape.
"In this sad condition of bondage and serfdom the people of Limhi had one hope. It was to communicate with their Nephite friends in the land of Zarahemla," wrote George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl in Commentary on the Book of Mormon.
Limhi secretly sent an expedition consisting of a small number of men. They became lost in the wilderness and traveled a long distance, until they found a land covered with the dry bones of men who appeared to have fallen in battle. Limhi's people thought this must be the land of Zarahemla and that their Nephite brethren who dwelt there had been destroyed.
However, they found some records engraved on plates of gold, which, when translated later by King Mosiah, showed that the bones were those of some of the Jaredites.
Evidently, the expedition missed the land of Zarahemla. During the third year of his reign in Zarahemla, King Mosiah "granted that sixteen of their strong men might go up to the land of Lehi-Nephi, to inquire concerning their brethren." (Mosiah 7:2.) This group was led by Ammon, who took three of his "brethren": Amaleki, Helem, and Hem.
Ammon and his group were captured by King Limhi's guards. The next day, Ammon was taken before King Limhi, who "was exceedingly glad" when he learned that his "brethren who were in the land of Zarahemla are yet alive." (Mosiah 7:14.)
Soon plans were made for the enslaved Nephites to escape. After the Lamanite guards had fallen asleep upon drinking wine that the Nephites had paid in tribute, the Nephites escaped through a secret pass, crossed the wilderness and reached the land of Zarahemla. (Mosiah 22:9-13.)
Little is known of Limhi, after the arrival of his people in Zarahemla, except that he and all who accompanied him were baptized by Alma the elder (Mosiah 25:16-18), and that Limhi gave King Mosiah the records on the gold plates. (Mosiah 28:11.)