To date, studies that have investigated the kinematics of spinal motion segments have largely focused on the contributions that the spinal ligaments play in the resultant motion patterns. However, the specific roles played by intervertebral disk components, in particular the annulus fibrosus, with respect to global motion is not well understood in spite of the relatively large literature base with respect to the local ex vivo mechanical properties of the tissue. The primary objective of this study was to implement the nonlinear and orthotropic mechanical behavior of the annulus fibrosus in a finite element model of an L4/L5 functional spinal unit in the form of a strain energy potential where the individual mechanical contributions of the ground substance and fibers were explicitly defined. The model was validated biomechanically under pure moment loading to ensure that the individual role of each soft tissue structure during load bearing was consistent throughout the physiologically relevant loading range. The fibrous network of the annulus was found to play critical roles in limiting the magnitude of the neutral zone and determining the stiffness of the elastic zone. Under flexion, lateral bending, and axial rotation, the collagen fibers were observed to bear the majority of the load applied to the annulus fibrosus, especially in radially peripheral regions where disk bulging occurred. For the first time, our data explicitly demonstrate that the exact fiber recruitment sequence is critically important for establishing the range of motion and neutral zone magnitudes of lumbar spinal motion segments.