Tag Archives: Lamanite

#BOMTC Helaman 11-13: A Ride On the Pride Cycle

Helaman 11–13 covers 14 years of Nephite history in which the people passed through a cycle of righteousness and wickedness.

#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398 Pride Cycle, BYU Studies

Because of their pride, the people refused to repent of their wickedness. Nephi sealed the heavens, causing a drought and famine. The drought and famine humbled the people, and they repented and turned to the Lord. Because they did not choose to be humble, the people began to easily forget the Lord their God until they were brought to a realization of how much they needed His help.

#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398 Solution to the Pride Cycle

This history shows how quickly people can forget the Lord and how He chastens them to help them repent and return to Him. In His mercy, God chastens His people to bring them unto repentance and salvation.

 

#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398 Pride Cycle, Figure Eight

Each of the diagrams above is a little bit different, but I like each one because each diagram has a special perspective on what Latter-day Saints have come to identify as the Pride Cycle. If we are honest with ourselves, we can probably identify many times in our lives when we have fallen victim to the Pride Cycle. By examining the diagrams closely we can also learn how to avoid a ride on the Pride Cycle, and instead enjoy the blessings of the Prosperity Cycle.

One of the many ways in which the Lord’s prophets profit us is by providing preaching that prepares us to prosper. When we do not follow the words of the prophets we will end up taking a ride on the Pride Cycle.

I have included an article below that shows what the prophets Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel the Lamanite did during this specific time period to try and help the people to be prepared and prosperous, rather than prideful and perilous. Because “the record of the Nephite history just prior to the Savior’s visit [Helaman] reveals many parallels to our own day as we anticipate the Savior’s second coming” (Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, May 1987, 4), we would do well to consider how our modern-day prophets are trying to help us to avoid the perils of the Pride Cycle like Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel all tried anciently.

“Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel the Lamanite”

Brian Best, Ensign, Dec 1977

They tried to prepare their people for the Lord’s coming.

Most of us are incurably romantic in our attitudes toward life. We like to mentally entertain happy endings, lucky breaks, effortless successes, and sudden character transformations. Some among us even seem to regard salvation as a matter of good fortune and hope God will be particularly merciful on that great and final judgment day.

Yet, over and over, the scriptures demonstrate that life is not a romantic fairy tale, but a law-abiding and largely predictable reality. Mercy is not something to be bestowed upon us gratuitously at the day of judgment, but something that has already been offered through the atonement of Christ, and we are able to receive that mercy only upon conditions of repentance and obedience.

In its unwavering insistence on the conditions that govern justice and mercy, the Book of Mormon is perhaps the most emphatically antiromantic book ever written. On nearly every page it drives home the all-important lesson that the choices we make operate unerringly in a universe of law to bring about predictable consequences. To the writers of the Book of Mormon, nothing is more insidiously false than the notion that God dispenses mercy freely no matter what we do and that our salvation depends chiefly upon his tenderheartedness. Prophet after prophet emphasizes the contrary: that justice cannot be robbed and that mercy can be granted only according to laws and conditions. Alma speaks for them all when he explains:

“According to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.” (Alma 42:13.)

The book of Helaman vigorously illustrates this same teaching: that man must use his agency to choose the way of salvation according to the conditions upon which mercy is based; otherwise, he will forfeit the proffered blessings according to the laws and judgments of a just God. As Nephi and Lehi, the sons of Helaman, pursue the duties of their ministry, and as Samuel the Lamanite joins with them later in their largely futile efforts to prepare a rebellious people to accept the coming Christ, we see that even God is unable to reclaim those who refuse to accept the conditions that would allow them a place in the merciful plan of redemption.

But if the teetering of man between the claims of justice and the claims of mercy were all the scriptures offered for our edification, the reading might have very little human appeal. It is often difficult to get excited about abstract principles, even when they affect our eternal destiny. Fortunately, the Book of Mormon, like all the scriptures, has another dimension that makes it possible for us to share feelingly in the conflict. When we read the book of Helaman, for instance, we do not just read of the conflict of good and evil; we read of people involved in that conflict, people who feel strongly about what is happening to themselves and to others.

Nephi, the son of Helaman, through whose eyes (though at times with Mormon’s editorial comment) we see most of the events, is not just a recorder, not a computerized robot collecting and storing up evidence for and against the children of men; he is a dedicated and caring human being. When we read his words or those which he quotes from the teachings of Samuel the Lamanite, we are permitted to share in more than just historical or doctrinal observations and judgments; through these words we also experience the proper and powerful feelings of a servant of God and come to know more fully how it feels to be righteous and obedient. Through sharing vicariously the aspirations and disappointments, the joys and sorrows of Nephi or Samuel, we discover more fully the love of virtue which we ourselves possess and come to recognize more expertly and cherish more earnestly the behavior and feelings which constitute that virtue.

In order to relate more completely to the problems of Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel as recorded in the book of Helaman, let us become familiar with the historical setting of the book. It begins about 52 b.c. with a brief summary of the events that precede Helaman’s becoming chief judge over the Nephites and introduces us to the newly organized band of robbers begun by the assassin Kishkumen and continued after his death by Gadianton. In a parenthetical note, Mormon tells us that as we read on through the Book of Mormon we will see that this band of robbers finally causes the entire destruction of the Nephite nation. (Hel. 2:12–14.) But in Helaman’s day the band is small, only a minor threat to political stability.

At the death of Helaman, about 39 b.c., Nephi, his eldest son, becomes the chief judge. (Hel. 3:37.) Nine years later, recognizing the inability of law to govern an overwhelmingly lawless society, and realizing also his inability to be fully effective as both judge and prophet, Nephi yields up the judgment seat to Cezoram and with his brother, Lehi, begins an untiring thirty-year ministry to try to convert his people from their sinful ways. (Hel. 5:1–4.) The difficulty of their task is overwhelming—much like trying to eliminate crime, governmental corruption, immorality, and unbelief from a modern nation.

In fact, the Nephite nation was very much like those we are familiar with. Its representative form of government depended for its stability on its laws and on the integrity of its citizens and public officials. (Hel. 5:2.) Moreover, the Nephites were in a time of great prosperity and, except for a few minor conflicts, were enjoying peace following a devastating war that had occurred about twenty years earlier. (See Alma 48–62.) Crime, in the form of the Gadianton robbers, was making rapid advances, even among members of the church. And finally, because of their wealth and prosperity, the people were becoming increasingly proud, worldly, rebellious, and contemptuous of the poor and the humble believers in Christ. Add to these circumstances the fact that prophets were foretelling the imminent coming of Christ—within about forty years, as it turned out—and we see how similar their day was to our own.

One other note should perhaps be added. The Nephites were becoming increasingly wicked; yet, like people nowadays, they seem not to have recognized how far they had degenerated from the truths they had once known. Even at the height of their wickedness, shortly before the birth of Christ when Samuel the Lamanite was preaching of their impending destruction, they still seem to have retained some semblance of religious belief. According to Samuel, they said among themselves, “If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.” (Hel. 13:25.) To hear them talk, one would surmise that they thought of themselves as enlightened, civilized, and properly religious. As in our day, pride, worldliness, and sin seem to have captured them unawares. Thus, to them, the prophets who called attention to their sins seemed to be madmen or schemers deserving of persecution (see Hel. 13:26); to them, those who taught of the birth of one to be called Christ, the Son of God, seemed to be teaching unreasonable doctrines or attempting to impose a fable upon the people in order to keep them in subjection through superstition. Their criticism of Samuel’s teachings about the coming of Christ and the marvelous signs that would attend his birth illustrates well how their faulty religious attitudes and beliefs kept them from comprehending the truth of Samuel’s message:

“We know that this is a wicked tradition, which has been handed down unto us by our fathers, to cause us that we should believe in some great and marvelous thing which should come to pass, but not among us, but in a land which is far distant, a land which we know not; therefore they can keep us in ignorance, for we cannot witness with our own eyes that they are true.

“And they will, by the cunning and the mysterious arts of the evil one, work some great mystery which we cannot understand, which will keep us down to be servants to their words, and also servants unto them, for we depend upon them to teach us the word; and thus will they keep us in ignorance if we will yield ourselves unto them, all the days of our lives.” (Hel. 16:20–21.)

This is not the speech of persons who admit they have abandoned religion and are rebelling willfully against God. It seems very likely that the great wickedness of these people was not very different from what the world today accepts as normal. And in that world, where the pursuit of wealth, power, and pleasure is the norm and where religion is mostly a formal ritual, it is usually the true prophet, not the sinner, who is made to appear abnormal.

Therefore, Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel were neither popular nor very successful in the long run in their efforts to save their society, although the power of the miracles that attended their ministry did result temporarily in great conversions among both the Nephites and the Lamanites.

In contrast to the shifting, unstable, materialistic ways of the people generally is the steadfastness and stability of these three prophets and the few who faithfully follow them. They seem to be a race apart—a different kind of being altogether than the other souls they walk among. They are spiritual men, sons of God; those who reject them are natural men, or enemies of God. Walking in obedience to divine law, these prophets participate more and more fully in the mysteries of God, “having many revelations daily” (Hel. 11:23), while the foolish masses lose even the knowledge they once possessed, until, as Alma warned, they “know nothing concerning his mysteries; and … are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell” (Alma 12:11). In fact, so far did these people go in their rejection of the word of God that they were about to place themselves outside the saving power of either justice or mercy. Samuel prophesied that were they to continue in their sins and not repent, they would soon find it said of them:

“Your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head.” (Hel. 13:38.)

Notice that Samuel did not tell them they had offended God and were about to be cut off from his love; rather, he told them that their behavior was contrary to the nature of happiness and righteousness, or that they had gone contrary to eternal law and were separating themselves from that which is the nature of God.

Not only did these people reject divine law; they also rejected the witness of many signs and miracles. And Samuel explained to them that even greater signs would be given as the birth of Christ drew nearer, “to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men.” (Hel. 14:28.) Then, stressing once more the laws by which the destiny of men is governed, Samuel explained that these many signs and wonders would be given so “that whosoever will believe might be saved, and that whosoever will not believe, a righteous judgment may come upon them.” (Hel. 14:29.) Finally, detailing the laws according to which salvation or damnation is administered to mankind, he admonished:

“Remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.

“He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you.” (Hel. 14:30–31.)

In Samuel’s pleading tone, we see again that the power of the book of Helaman lies in its concern for real human souls, not just in its concern with abstract principles of good and evil. We see it unfolding through the eyes, minds, and hearts of righteous men who, fired by the vision and power of God, are doing all they can to avert catastrophe and are being frustrated every step of the way by the very persons they are laboring so diligently to save. The pain of the irony alone is at times almost overwhelming.

Because the book of Helaman is largely taken from the record of Nephi, we know more of his personal battle against the evils of his day than we do of his brother, Lehi. Although Lehi undoubtedly labored and suffered in much the same way that Nephi did, we know nothing of his personal feelings but are told only generally of his diligence and righteousness. Along with Nephi, he determined to “preach the word of God all the remainder of his days” (Hel. 5:5); he accompanied Nephi in his preaching in the land Bountiful and the land southward; he assisted in the conversion of many dissenting Nephites and 8,000 Lamanites in and around the land of Zarahemla; and he shared with Nephi a remarkable spiritual experience in a Lamanite prison. He also accompanied Nephi on the futile mission to the land northward and continued with Nephi in the ministry around Zarahemla, experiencing many revelations and doing much preaching among the people. We are told that he “was not a whit behind [Nephi] as to things pertaining to righteousness.” (Hel. 11:19.)

An even greater lack of information hampers our efforts to come to know Samuel’s personality. We know little of the man except what we can glean from the brief summary of his activities and the extensive quotations from his preaching. We know that he was a man of courage and determination and that he was obedient to the Lord’s commands. After he had preached to the Nephites for many days, “they did cast him out, and he was about to return to his own land” (Hel. 13:2); but when the voice of the Lord came to him, commanding him to return and continue his prophesying, he immediately obeyed (Hel. 13:3). A lesser man might have been daunted by the refusal of the populace to let him enter the city, but Samuel, determined to obey the Lord, climbed upon the city wall and “cried with a loud voice, and prophesied.” (Hel. 13:4.)

We discover that Samuel was close to the Spirit and sensitive to its promptings: he preached and prophesied “whatsoever things the Lord put into his heart.” (Hel. 13:4.) We know, too, that he was commanded and instructed by an angel of the Lord (Hel. 14:9, 28), and that the power of the Lord protected him from physical harm: when the rebellious Nephites tried to kill him, “the Spirit of the Lord was with him, insomuch that they could not hit him with their stones neither with their arrows.” (Hel. 16:2.)

The portion of Samuel’s prophecies contained in Helaman 15 is a sobering warning to those who have been called the people of God. Samuel reminds the Nephites that they “have been a chosen people of the Lord” (Hel. 15:3) in contrast to the Lamanites, whom the Lord has not favored “because their deeds have been evil continually … because of the iniquity of the tradition of their fathers” (Hel. 15:4). The Nephites have no cause for pride, however, because the Lamanites are steadfast and firm “when they are once enlightened” (Hel. 15:10), and Samuel declares that “it shall be better for them than for you except ye repent” (Hel. 15:14).

Samuel’s exhortation and warning do not come from any cultural smugness, however, but from love for the Nephites—his “beloved brethren.” (Hel. 15:1.) Only when the Lord no longer restrains him and when the Nephites make an attempt on his life does he return to his own country—where he begins “to preach and to prophesy among his own people.” (Hel. 16:7.)

Thus, through Nephi’s quotations from the preaching of Samuel, we are able to perceive the tenacity and depth of devotion and feeling of that great prophet; but our insight into his personality is necessarily limited because we are seeing him through the eyes of another. Nephi himself remains central throughout the book of Helaman; it is his personality that dominates. If we are to share the feelings of a prophet, if we are to taste personally the joy of seemingly great missionary successes and then the pain of watching all those successes disintegrate as a society plummets toward destruction, we must do so through him.

When the account of this Nephi begins, we learn of the riches and pride within the church and the wickedness of the people generally—and we learn of Nephi’s choice to yield up the judgment seat and turn to preaching, since he had become “weary” because of the iniquity of the people. (Hel. 5:4.) We at once can see the human element in Nephi’s choice: we see that his turning to full-time preaching is not only the right or reasonable thing to do, it is the thing he must do because of his feelings about extremely distressing circumstances. The record then tells us more about this man whose emotions are involved in his decisions. He and his brother recall the words of Helaman, their father. We notice that these words are urgent and tender. Over and over we hear a loving, dedicated parent entreating: “My sons … my sons … my sons” (see Hel. 5:6–8); “O remember, remember, my sons” (Hel. 5:9); “and now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation” (Hel. 5:12). Is it surprising that sons of such a father would also feel deeply and urgently the need to preach repentance to a society falling into unbelief?

Moreover, these men were not merely preaching doctrine learned by rote; they, like their father, had experienced personally the power and wisdom of God. Nephi tells us that he and his brother preached with “great power and authority, for they had power and authority, given unto them that they might speak, and they also had what they should speak given unto them.” (Hel. 5:18.)

A particularly impressive witness of the power of God occurred when they found themselves in a Lamanite prison, kept “many days without food.” (Hel. 5:22.) When the Lamanites and the Nephite dissenters came to the prison to put them to death, suddenly they found themselves “encircled about as if by fire.” (Hel. 5:23.) In the way the following sentence repeats certain words, notice traces of the amazement they must have felt: “Nephi and Lehi were not burned; and they were as standing in the midst of fire and were not burned.” (Hel. 5:23.) These men were human. In the prison they experienced hunger, fear, apprehension, then amazement and hope as they participated in this mighty miracle. “When they saw that they were encircled about with a pillar of fire, and that it burned them not, their hearts did take courage.” (Hel. 5:24.)

Recognizing that “God [had] shown … this marvelous thing” (Hel. 5:26), they began to preach with boldness. Suddenly the earth trembled, the walls of the prison shook, and a cloud of darkness overshadowed the prison. (Hel. 5:27–28.) Through this cloud a voice was heard: “Repent ye, repent ye, and seek no more to destroy my servants whom I have sent unto you to declare good tidings.” (Hel. 5:29.) The voice spoke again. Nephi tries to share with us the unusual nature of this voice and the power with which it affected him. This voice, he says, was “not a voice of thunder, neither … a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but … a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul.” (Hel. 5:30.) Yet each time the voice spoke, the walls of the prison trembled as if they were about to fall. The voice came a third time, speaking “marvelous words which cannot be uttered by man; and the walls [of the prison] did tremble … and the earth shook as if it were about to divide asunder.” (Hel. 5:33.) Through all this, the people in the prison were so awestruck and fearful that they could not move. Then through the cloud of darkness they saw the faces of Nephi and Lehi, and “they did shine exceedingly, even as the faces of angels.” (Hel. 5:36.)

Who can read of this experience, allowing his mind’s eye to picture it, without feeling more deeply about the reality of God, about Nephi and Lehi, and about the significance of his own life. Vicariously, we experience something of what Nephi and Lehi experienced. We participate in a real-life drama with living prophets, and like them we are amazed, overjoyed, exalted in our feelings. In brief, we learn more than just doctrine.

With this miraculous event, the great work of conversion among the Lamanites commenced. The three hundred persons who witnessed these miracles in the prison were converted and began to testify among their brethren. Before long the entire Lamanite nation was filled with believers. (Hel. 5:49–50.) Their hearts changed, they laid down their weapons, yielded up the lands they had won by conquest from the Nephites, and returned to their own lands. (Hel. 5:51–52.) Lamanite missionaries then began to testify to the Nephites. (Hel. 6:4–5.) Surely Nephi is reflecting his own intense feelings of joy when he writes: “The people of the church did have great joy because of the conversion of the Lamanites, yea, because of the church of God, which had been established among them. And they did fellowship one with another and did rejoice one with another, and did have great joy.” (Hel. 6:3.)

Imagine the happiness of Nephi and Lehi about 29 b.c. as they beheld the results of their labors: “peace in all the land, insomuch that the Nephites did go into whatsoever part of the land they would, whether among the Nephites or the Lamanites.” (Hel. 6:7.)

Then Nephi, accompanied by Lehi, began a six-year missionary journey in the land northward (Hel. 6:6, 7:1), during which the people there “did reject all his words” (Hel. 7:3). Undoubtedly discouraged, Nephi returned to Zarahemla, only to find that the peaceful situation he had left such a short time before had degenerated considerably. He found “the people in a state of … awful wickedness, and those Gadianton robbers filling the judgment-seats—having usurped the power and authority of the land; laying aside the commandments of God.” (Hel. 7:4.) Here we get one of our most intimate glimpses of the man Nephi. The record states:

“Now this great iniquity had come upon the Nephites, in the space of not many years; and when Nephi saw it, his heart was swollen with sorrow within his breast; and he did exclaim in the agony of his soul:

“Oh, that I could have had my days in the days when my father Nephi first came out of the land of Jerusalem, that I could have joyed with him in the promised land; then were his people easy to be entreated, firm to keep the commandments of God, and slow to be led to do iniquity; and they were quick to hearken unto the words of the Lord—

“Yea, if my days could have been in those days, then would my soul have had joy in the righteousness of my brethren.

“But behold, I am consigned that these are my days, and that my soul shall be filled with sorrow because of this the wickedness of my brethren.” (Hel. 7:6–9.)

Recall that Nephi uttered this lament upon a tower in his garden, pouring out his soul to the Lord in his agony. People passing by happened to overhear him and marveled at the depth of his mourning. Hurriedly, a multitude gathered to discover the cause of such great grief. (See Hel. 7:10–11.) Read Nephi’s words (see Hel. 7:13–29) as he chides these people for their unbelief and wickedness. The words are not just “doctrine” to be learned by chapter and verse; they are the passionate overflowing of a man’s sorrow, and they range from desperate pleading (“O repent ye, repent ye! Why will ye die?”) to amazement and exasperation (“O, how could you have forgotten your God in the very day that he has delivered you?”).

Picture Nephi’s frustration as he tried to convince the people that he was indeed the Lord’s messenger by prophesying the murder of the chief judge (Hel. 8:27–28), only to find himself accused of being an accomplice and cast into prison (Hel. 9:16–20). Picture then the results of his second prophecy regarding the man who had committed the murder. (See Hel. 9:25–36.) When the prophecy turned out to be true, Nephi was hailed as a great prophet; some even called him a god. (Hel. 9:40–41.) But in their controversy over exactly what Nephi was, the people became angry with one another, divided into disputing parties, and went their ways, “leaving Nephi alone, as he was standing in the midst of them.” (Hel. 10:1.) Left alone, isolated from his fellow beings, Nephi perhaps felt very lonely and discouraged.

Yet notice how the command of God prevailed over all Nephi’s moods and disappointments. Nephi started toward his home, “pondering upon the things which the Lord had shown unto him.” (Hel. 10:2.) Suddenly, a voice spoke to him, saying: “Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people.” (Hel. 10:4.) Certainly the Lord knew of Nephi’s personal grief and chose this moment to buoy him up. But more! This time it is obvious that the Lord was regarding his servant in a new and very special way:

“Because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.

“Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people.” (Hel. 10:5–6.)

One is reminded of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s comment: “When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 150.) And then, obedient to the Lord’s command, Nephi turned around, without even returning to his home, and began again to preach repentance to the people.

With only intermittent successes, this mighty prophet continued to serve faithfully, once asking the Lord to bring a famine upon the people in order to bring a halt to their wickedness and warfare, rather than destroy them. (Hel. 11:4–5.) Yet, never one to give up hope, Nephi readily consented to plead with the Lord to end the famine when, three years later, the people showed some evidence of repentance. (Hel. 11:7–9.) His prayer for them shows how deeply he could love his people even in their iniquity:

“O Lord, thou didst hearken unto my words when I said, Let there be a famine, that the pestilence of the sword might cease; and I know that thou wilt, even at this time, hearken unto my words, for thou saidst that: If this people repent I will spare them.

“Yea, O Lord, and thou seest that they have repented, because of the famine and the pestilence and destruction which has come unto them.

“And now, O Lord, wilt thou turn away thine anger, and try again if they will serve thee? And if so, O Lord, thou canst bless them according to thy words which thou hast said.” (Hel. 11:14–16.)

But within ten years all was corrupt again, and the whole of chapter twelve of Helaman records a powerful lamentation which contrasts human frailty with God’s goodness. There is some question as to whether this chapter is a quotation of Nephi’s words or a commentary by the abridger, Mormon. But even if the passage is not Nephi’s work, it seems to reflect the attitudes and philosophy which must undergird the kind of life he lived. Beginning with a general comment on the “unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men,” the author seems to offer an apology for the human race; nevertheless, he goes on hopefully to assert his faith that “the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him.” (Hel. 12:1.) This law he regards as a certainty, and though most of the rest of his lamentation bemoans man’s foolishness, pride, and disobedience, he concludes by praising “our great and everlasting God” and reasserting his faith in the everlasting nature of God’s eternal law and the absoluteness of his word:

“And behold, if the Lord shall say unto a man—Because of thine iniquities, thou shalt be accursed forever, it shall be done.

“And if the Lord shall say [unto a man]—Because of thine iniquities thou shalt be cut off from my presence—he will cause that it shall be so.

“And wo unto him to whom he shall say this, for it shall be unto him that will do iniquity, and he cannot be saved; therefore, for this cause, that men might be saved, hath repentance been declared.

“Therefore, blessed are they who will repent and hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; for these are they that shall be saved. …

“And I would that all men might be saved. But we read that in the great and last day there are some who shall be cast out, yea, who shall be cast off from the presence of the Lord;

“Yea, who shall be consigned to a state of endless misery, fulfilling the words which say: They that have done good shall have everlasting life; and they that have done evil shall have everlasting damnation. And thus it is. Amen.” (Hel. 12:21–23, 25–26.)

It is sobering that the narrative of Nephi’s loving and untiring service in behalf of his people must end with this passage reaffirming the immutability of God’s laws and man’s inability to be saved except through obedience to those laws.

While the signs and wonders increased as the time of the birth of Christ drew near, Nephi continued to preach and baptize whatever converts had responded to the teaching of Samuel and himself. (It is interesting that there is no record of Samuel’s ever having baptized any of the people who were converted through his preaching: “As many as believed on [Samuel’s] word went forth and sought for Nephi … desiring that they might be baptized.” [Hel. 16:1; see also Hel. 16:3–5.]) Lehi may have died, since he is not mentioned toward the end of the book of Helaman. Yet “notwithstanding the signs and the wonders which were wrought among the people of the Lord, and the many miracles which they did, Satan did get great hold upon the hearts of the people upon all the face of the land.” (Hel. 16:23.)

Nephi’s mission ended sometime during the year before Christ’s birth. After “giving charge unto his son Nephi, who was his eldest son, concerning the plates, … he departed out of the land, and whither he went, no man knoweth.” (3 Ne. 1:2–3.) Like Moses, this special servant of God seems to have been taken by the Lord for special purposes.

It would be difficult to find in all of scripture a more devoted and powerful prophet than Nephi, the son of Helaman. As we read his account of his own labors, as well as the labors of Lehi and Samuel the Lamanite, our hearts are touched by the intensely human concern of these prophets for the people to whom they are sent to minister. Yet, with all their humanity, they stand as unfaltering witnesses of the irrevocability of eternal law—not only of the just law that judges and condemns the unrepentant, but of the law of mercy by which glory enters and transforms the lives of all those who choose to obey the commandments of God.

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#BOMTC Alma 53-55: Follow the Prophet!

“But behold, it came to pass they had many sons, who had not entered into a covenant that they would not take their weapons of war to defend themselves against their enemies; therefore they did assemble themselves together at this time, as many as were able to take up arms, and they called themselves Nephites. And they entered into a covenant to fight for the liberty of the Nephites, yea, to protect the land unto the laying down of their lives; yea, even they covenanted that they never would give up their liberty, but they would fight in all cases to protect the Nephites and themselves from bondage. Now behold, there were two thousand of those young men, who entered into this covenant and took their weapons of war to defend their country. And now behold, as they never had hitherto been a disadvantage to the Nephites, they became now at this period of time also a great support; for they took their weapons of war, and they would that Helaman should be their leader. And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted. Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him. And now it came to pass that Helaman did march at the head of his two thousand stripling soldiers, to the support of the people in the borders of the land on the south by the west sea” (Alma 53:10-22, emphasis added.).

It seems that many times we picture Helaman as a big, strong, experienced military leader. If that is the case, then it would make a lot of sense for a troop of young men who had never fought in battle to choose him as their general. But if we take a good look at Helaman’s resume we may picture him very differently and pause to ponder why such an inexperienced group would choose such a leader.

Resume of Helaman, the Son of Alma:

How do you visualize Helaman now? Perhaps even Arnold Friberg’s famous painting is a bit generous (maybe not…, who knows?). The point that I would like to make is that these young, novice, would-be warriors did not choose someone of vast previous military prowess and prestige. Instead they chose to make a prophet of God their leader in battle. Surely there is great scriptural support for such success, but very little worldly wisdom. Most military missions of this kind would end up a tragic headline. However, when we choose to “follow the prophet” we will always be successful.

The world may look upon us with wonder as we follow the prophets of God today. They see old men who seem to be “out of touch” and “old-fashioned”. Faithful disciples of Christ see “men of experience” who serve God and teach eternal truths. Just as the Army of Helaman found great success by choosing “the Lord’s mortal captain” as their captain, so we will find that we are able to come off conquerors in life’s great battles as we choose to “follow the prophet”. Some people may criticize this statement and say something like, “Shouldn’t you be saying ‘follow the Savior’?” Well, that is exactly what I am saying, for as President Ezra Taft Benson taught:

If we want to know how well we stand with the Lord then let us ask ourselves how well we stand with His mortal captain—how close do our lives harmonize with the Lord’s anointed—the living Prophet—President of the Church, and with the Quorum of the First Presidency (see FOURTEEN FUNDAMENTALS IN FOLLOWING THE PROPHET).

So, who have you chosen as your leader? If we haven’t chosen the Lord’s prophet, then we haven’t chosen the Lord!

“Chosen to Bear Testimony of My Name”

In 1996 President Gordon B. Hinckley appeared on the national television news program 60 Minutes. Mike Wallace, an experienced and tenacious journalist, interviewed President Hinckley about a number of important topics.

Near the end of their conversation, Mr. Wallace remarked, “There are those who say, ‘This is a gerontocracy. This is a church run by old men.’”

President Hinckley responded cheerfully and without hesitation, “Isn’t it wonderful to have a man of maturity at the head, a man of judgment who isn’t blown about by every wind of doctrine?” (broadcast on Apr. 7, 1996).

My purpose is to explain why indeed it is wonderful to have older men of great spiritual maturity and judgment serving in the senior leadership positions of the restored Church of Jesus Christ—and why we should “hear” and “hearken” (Mosiah 2:9) to the teachings of these men whom the Lord has “chosen to bear testimony of [His] name … among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people” (D&C 112:1).

I pray we may all be instructed by the Holy Ghost as we consider together this significant subject.

A Lesson of a Lifetime

I speak about this topic from a decidedly distinctive perspective. For the last 11 years, I have been the youngest member of the Twelve in terms of chronological age. During my years of service, the average age of the men serving in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has been 77 years—the oldest average age of the Apostles over an 11-year interval in this dispensation.

I have been blessed by the collective apostolic, personal, and professional experience and insight of the quorum members with whom I serve. An example from my association with Elder Robert D. Hales highlights the remarkable opportunities I have to learn from and serve with these leaders.

Several years ago I spent a Sunday afternoon with Elder Hales in his home as he was recovering from a serious illness. We discussed our families, our quorum responsibilities, and important experiences.

At one point I asked Elder Hales, “You have been a successful husband, father, athlete, pilot, business executive, and Church leader. What lessons have you learned as you have grown older and been constrained by decreased physical capacity?”

Elder Hales paused for a moment and responded, “When you cannot do what you have always done, then you only do what matters most.”

I was struck by the simplicity and comprehensiveness of his answer. My beloved apostolic associate shared with me a lesson of a lifetime—a lesson learned through the crucible of physical suffering and spiritual searching.

Human Limitations and Frailties

The limitations that are the natural consequence of advancing age can in fact become remarkable sources of spiritual learning and insight. The very factors many may believe limit the effectiveness of these servants can become some of their greatest strengths. Physical restrictions can expand vision. Limited stamina can clarify priorities. Inability to do many things can direct focus to a few things of greatest importance.

Some people have suggested younger, more vigorous leaders are needed in the Church to address effectively the serious challenges of our modern world. But the Lord does not use contemporary philosophies and practices of leadership to accomplish His purposes (see Isaiah 55:8–9). We can expect the President and other senior leaders of the Church will be older and spiritually seasoned men.

The Lord’s revealed pattern of governance by councils in His Church provides for and attenuates the impact of human frailties. Interestingly, the mortal limitations of these men actually affirm the divine source of the revelations that come to and through them. Truly, these men are called of God by prophecy (see Articles of Faith 1:5).

A Pattern of Preparation

I have observed in my Brethren at least a part of the Lord’s purpose for having older men of maturity and judgment serve in senior leadership positions of the Church. These men have had a sustained season of tutoring by the Lord, whom they represent, serve, and love. They have learned to understand the divine language of the Holy Spirit and the Lord’s patterns for receiving revelation. These ordinary men have undergone a most extraordinary developmental process that has sharpened their vision, informed their insight, engendered love for people from all nations and circumstances, and affirmed the reality of the Restoration.

I have witnessed repeatedly my Brethren striving diligently to fulfill and magnify their responsibilities while struggling with serious physical problems. These men are not spared from affliction. Rather, they are blessed and strengthened to press forward valiantly while suffering in and with affliction.

Serving with these representatives of the Lord, I have come to know their greatest desire is to discern and do the will of our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son. As we counsel together, inspiration has been received and decisions have been made that reflect a degree of light and truth far beyond human intelligence, reasoning, and experience. As we work together in unity on perplexing problems, our collective understanding of an issue has been enlarged in marvelous ways by the power of the Holy Ghost.

I am blessed to observe on a daily basis the individual personalities, capacities, and noble characters of these leaders. Some people find the human shortcomings of the Brethren troubling and faith diminishing. For me those imperfections are encouraging and faith promoting.

An Additional Lesson

I have now witnessed six of my Brethren receive a transfer through physical death to new responsibilities in the spirit world: President James E. Faust, President Gordon B. Hinckley, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, Elder L. Tom Perry, President Boyd K. Packer, and Elder Richard G. Scott.

These valiant Brethren devoted their “whole souls” (Omni 1:26) to testifying of the name of Jesus Christ in all the world. The totality of their teachings is priceless.

These servants shared with us in the concluding years of their mortal ministries powerful spiritual summaries of lessons learned through decades of consecrated service. These leaders imparted truths of great worth at a time when some may believe they had the least to give.

Consider the final teachings of great prophets in the scriptures. For example, Nephi concluded his record with these words: “For thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey” (2 Nephi 33:15).

Near the end of his life, Jacob admonished:

“Repent ye, and enter in at the strait gate, and continue in the way which is narrow, until ye shall obtain eternal life.

“O be wise; what can I say more?” (Jacob 6:11–12).

Moroni completed his work of preparing the plates with a hopeful anticipation of the Resurrection: “I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead” (Moroni 10:34).

You and I are blessed to learn from the benedictory teachings and testimonies of latter-day prophets and apostles. The names today are not Nephi, Jacob, and Moroni—but President Faust, President Hinckley, Elder Wirthlin, Elder Perry, President Packer, and Elder Scott.

I am not suggesting the final messages of these beloved men necessarily were the most noteworthy or important of their ministries. However, the sum of their spiritual learning and life experiences enabled these leaders to emphasize eternal truths with absolute authenticity and great, penetrating power.

President James E. Faust

In his last general conference address, in April of 2007, President Faust declared:

“The Savior has offered to all of us a precious peace through His Atonement, but this can come only as we are willing to cast out negative feelings of anger, spite, or revenge. …

“Let us remember that we need to forgive to be forgiven. … With all my heart and soul, I believe in the healing power that can come to us as we follow the counsel of the Savior ‘to forgive all men’ [D&C 64:10]” (“The Healing Power of Forgiveness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 69).

President Faust’s message is a powerful lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and one of the most forgiving men I have ever known.

President Gordon B. Hinckley

President Hinckley testified in his last general conference in October of 2007: “I affirm my witness of the calling of the Prophet Joseph, of his works, of the sealing of his testimony with his blood as a martyr to the eternal truth. … You and I are faced with the stark question of accepting the truth of the First Vision and that which followed it. On the question of its reality lies the very validity of this Church. If it is the truth, and I testify that it is, then the work in which we are engaged is the most important work on the earth” (“The Stone Cut Out of the Mountain,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 86).

President Hinckley’s witness affirms a powerful lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and know was a prophet of God.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

Elder Wirthlin delivered his final general conference message in October of 2008.

“I still remember [my mother’s] advice to me given on that day long ago when my team lost a football game: ‘Come what may, and love it.’

“… Adversity, if handled correctly, can be a blessing in our lives. …

“As we look for humor, seek for the eternal perspective, understand the principle of compensation, and draw near to our Heavenly Father, we can endure hardship and trial. We can say, as did my mother, ‘Come what may, and love it’” (“Come What May, and Love It,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 28).

Elder Wirthlin’s message is a powerful lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and who was a living sermon of overcoming difficulties through faith in the Savior.

Elder L. Tom Perry

Elder Perry stood at this pulpit just six months ago. At that time we could not have imagined his testimony would be his last in a general conference.

“Let me close by bearing witness (and my nine decades on this earth fully qualify me to say this) that the older I get, the more I realize that family is the center of life and is the key to eternal happiness.

“I give thanks for my wife, for my children, for my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren, and for … extended family who make my own life so rich and, yes, even eternal. Of this eternal truth I bear my strongest and most sacred witness” (“Why Marriage and Family Matter—Everywhere in the World,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 42).

Elder Perry’s message is a powerful lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and who understood through vast experience the essential relationship between family and eternal happiness.

President Boyd K. Packer

President Packer emphasized in general conference six months ago the Father’s plan of happiness, the Savior’s Atonement, and eternal families:

“I bear witness that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the living God. He stands at the head of the Church. Through His Atonement and the power of the priesthood, families which are begun in mortality can be together through the eternities. …

“I am so grateful for … the Atonement which can wash clean every stain no matter how difficult or how long or how many times repeated. The Atonement can put you free again to move forward, cleanly and worthily” (“The Plan of Happiness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 28).

President Packer’s final message is a lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and who emphatically and repeatedly declared that the purpose “of all activity in the Church is to see that a man and a woman with their children are happy at home, sealed together for time and for all eternity” (Ensign orLiahona, May 2015, 26).

Elder Richard G. Scott

Elder Scott proclaimed in his last general conference talk, in October 2014: “We came to mortal life precisely to grow from trials and testing. Challenges help us become more like our Father in Heaven, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible to endure those challenges. I testify that as we actively come unto Him, we can endure every temptation, every heartache, every challenge we face” (“Make the Exercise of Faith Your First Priority,”Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 94).

Elder Scott’s message is a powerful lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and a beloved special witness of the name of Christ in all the world (see D&C 107:23).

Promise and Testimony

The Savior declared, “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38). May we hear and heed the eternal truths taught by the Lord’s authorized representatives. As we do so, I promise our faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will be fortified, and we will receive spiritual guidance and protection for our specific circumstances and needs.

With all the energy of my soul, I witness the resurrected and living Christ directs the affairs of His restored and living Church through His servants who have been chosen to bear testimony of His name. I so testify in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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#BOMTC Alma 48-50: “No Less Serviceable”

“Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men. Behold, he was a man like unto Ammon, the son of Mosiah, yea, and even the other sons of Mosiah, yea, and also Alma and his sons, for they were all men of God. Now behold, Helaman and his brethren were no less serviceable unto the people than was Moroni; for they did preach the word of God, and they did baptize unto repentance all men whosoever would hearken unto their words. And thus they went forth, and the people did humble themselves because of their words, insomuch that they were highly favored of the Lord, and thus they were free from wars and contentions among themselves, yea, even for the space of four years.” (Alma 48:17-20. Emphasis added.)

Today’s post comes complements of President Howard W. Hunter. It was well worth my time to study. I hope you enjoy it as well!

“No Less Serviceable”

(BY PRESIDENT HOWARD W. HUNTER, ENSIGN, APRIL 1992)

Howard W. Hunter

It was said of the young and valiant Captain Moroni: “If all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.” (Alma 48:17.)

What a compliment to a famous and powerful man! I can’t imagine a finer tribute from one man to another. Two verses later is a statement about Helaman and his brethren, who played a less conspicuous role than Moroni: “Now behold, Helaman and his brethren were no less serviceable unto the people than was Moroni.” (Alma 48:19.)

In other words, even though Helaman was not as noticeable or conspicuous as Moroni, he was as serviceable; that is, he was as helpful or useful as Moroni.

Obviously, we could profit greatly by studying the life of Captain Moroni. He is an example of faith, service, dedication, commitment, and many other godly attributes. Rather than focusing on this magnificent man, however, I have chosen to look instead at those who are not seen in the limelight, who do not receive the attention of the world, yet who are “no less serviceable,” as the scripture phrased it.

Not all of us are going to be like Moroni, catching the acclaim of our colleagues all day every day. Most of us will be quiet, relatively unknown folks who come and go and do our work without fanfare. To those of you who may find that lonely or frightening or just unspectacular, I say, you are “no less serviceable” than the most spectacular of your associates. You, too, are part of God’s army.

Consider, for example, the profound service a mother or father gives in the quiet anonymity of a worthy Latter-day Saint home. Think of the Gospel Doctrine teachers and Primary choristers and Scoutmasters and Relief Society visiting teachers who serve and bless millions but whose names will never be publicly applauded or featured in the nation’s media.

Tens of thousands of unseen people make possible our opportunities and happiness every day. As the scriptures state, they are “no less serviceable” than those whose lives are on the front pages of newspapers.

The limelight of history and contemporary attention so often focuses on the one rather than on the many. Individuals are frequently singled out from their peers and elevated as heroes. I acknowledge that this kind of attention is one way to identify that which the people admire or hold to be of some value. But sometimes that recognition is not deserved, or it may even celebrate the wrong values.

We must choose wisely our heroes and examples, while also giving thanks for those legions of friends and citizens who are not so famous but who are “no less serviceable” than the Moroni’s of our lives.

Perhaps you could consider with me some interesting people from the scriptures who did not receive the limelight of attention but who, through the long lens of history, have proven themselves to be truly heroic.

Many who read the story of the great prophet Nephi almost completely miss another valiant son of Lehi whose name was Sam. Nephi is one of the most famous figures in the entire Book of Mormon. But Sam? Sam’s name is mentioned there only ten times. When Lehi counseled and blessed his posterity, he said to Sam:

Sam, the Brother of Nephi

“Blessed art thou, and thy seed; for thou shalt inherit the land like unto thy brother Nephi. And thy seed shall be numbered with his seed; and thou shalt be even like unto thy brother, and thy seed like unto his seed; and thou shalt be blessed in all thy days.” (2 Ne. 4:11.)

Sam’s role was basically one of supporting and assisting his more acclaimed younger brother, and he ultimately received the same blessings promised to Nephi and his posterity. Nothing promised to Nephi was withheld from the faithful Sam, yet we know very little of the details of Sam’s service and contribution. He was an almost unknown person in life, but he is obviously a triumphant leader and victor in the annals of eternity.

Many make their contributions in unsung ways. Ishmael traveled with the family of Nephi at great personal sacrifice, suffering “much affliction, hunger, thirst, and fatigue.” (1 Ne. 16:35.) Then in the midst of all of these afflictions, he perished in the wilderness. Few of us can even begin to understand the sacrifice of such a man in those primitive times and conditions. Perhaps if we were more perceptive and understanding, we too would mourn, as his daughters did in the wilderness, for what a man like this gave—and gave up!—so that we could have the Book of Mormon today.

The names and memories of such men and women who were “no less serviceable” are legion in the Book of Mormon. Whether it be Mother Sariah or the maid Abish, servant to the Lamanite queen, each made contributions that were unacknowledged by the eyes of men but not unseen by the eyes of God.

We have only twelve verses of scripture dealing with the life of Mosiah, king over the land of Zarahemla and father of the famous King Benjamin. Yet his service to the people was indispensable. He led the people “by many preachings and prophesyings” and “admonished [them] continually by the word of God.” (Omni 1:13.) Limhi, Amulek, and Pahoran—the latter of whom who had the nobility of soul not to condemn when he was very unjustly accused—are other examples of people who served selflessly in the shadow of others’ limelight.

The soldier Teancum, who sacrificed his own life, or Lachonius, the chief judge who taught people to repent during the challenge of the Gadiantons, or the virtually unmentioned missionaries Omner and Himni, were all “no less serviceable” than their companions, yet they received very little scriptural attention.

We don’t know much about Shiblon, the faithful son of Alma whose story is sandwiched between those of Helaman, the future leader, and Corianton, the transgressor; but it is significant that he is described as a “just man [who] did walk uprightly before God.” (Alma 63:2.) The great prophet Nephi, mentioned in the book of Helaman, had a brother named Lehi, who is seemingly mentioned only in passing but is noted as being “not a whit behind him [Nephi] as to things pertaining to righteousness.” (See Hel. 11:18–19.)

Of course, there are examples of these serviceable individuals in our dispensation as well. Oliver Granger is the kind of quiet, supportive individual in the latter days that the Lord remembered in section 117 of the Doctrine and Covenants. [D&C 117] Oliver’s name may be unfamiliar to many, so I will take the liberty to acquaint you with this early stalwart.

Oliver Granger was eleven years older than Joseph Smith and, like the Prophet, was from upstate New York. Because of severe cold and exposure when he was thirty-three years old, Oliver lost much of his eyesight. Notwithstanding his limited vision, he served three full-time missions. He also worked on the Kirtland Temple and served on the Kirtland high council.

When most of the Saints were driven from Kirtland, Ohio, the Church left some debts unsatisfied. Oliver was appointed to represent Joseph Smith and the First Presidency by returning to Kirtland to settle the Church’s business. Of this task, the Doctrine and Covenants records: “Therefore, let him contend earnestly for the redemption of the First Presidency of my Church, saith the Lord.” (D&C 117:13.)

He performed this assignment with such satisfaction to the creditors involved that one of them wrote: “Oliver Granger’s management in the arrangement of the unfinished business of people that have moved to the Far West, in redeeming their pledges and thereby sustaining their integrity, has been truly praiseworthy, and has entitled him to my highest esteem, and every grateful recollection.” (Horace Kingsbury, as cited in Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 3:174.)

During Oliver’s time in Kirtland, some people, including disaffected members of the Church, were endeavoring to discredit the First Presidency and bring their integrity into question by spreading false accusations. Oliver Granger, in very deed, “redeemed the First Presidency” through his faithful service. In response, the Lord said of Oliver Granger: “His name shall be had in sacred remembrance from generation to generation, forever and ever.” (D&C 117:12.) “I will lift up my servant Oliver, and beget for him a great name on the earth, and among my people, because of the integrity of his soul.” (History of the Church, 3:350.)

When he died in 1841, even though there were but few Saints remaining in the Kirtland area and even fewer friends of the Saints, Oliver Granger’s funeral was attended by a vast concourse of people from neighboring towns.

Though Oliver Granger is not as well known today as other early leaders of the Church, he was nevertheless a great and important man in the service he rendered to the kingdom. And even if no one but the Lord had his name in remembrance, that would be a sufficient blessing for him—or for any of us.

I think we should be aware that there can be a spiritual danger to those who misunderstand the singularity of always being in the spotlight. They may come to covet the notoriety and thus forget the significance of the service being rendered.

We must not allow ourselves to focus on the fleeting light of popularity or substitute that attractive glow for the substance of true but often anonymous labor that brings the attention of God, even if it does not get coverage on the six o’clock news. In fact, applause and attention can become the spiritual Achilles’ heels of even the most gifted among us.

If the limelight of popularity should fall on you sometime in your life, it might be well for you to follow the example of those in the scriptures who received fame. Nephi is one of the great examples. After all he accomplished traveling in the wilderness with his family, his attitude was still fixed on the things that matter most. He said:

“And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.

“My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.

“He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.

“He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.” (2 Ne. 4:19–22.)

The limelight never blinded Nephi as to the source of his strength and his blessings.

At times of attention and visibility, it might also be profitable for us to answer the question, Why do we serve? When we understand why, we won’t be concerned about where we serve.

President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., taught this vital principle in his own life. At general conference in April 1951, President David O. McKay was sustained as President of the Church after the passing of President George Albert Smith. Up to that time, President Clark had served as the First Counselor to President Heber

“In the service of the Lord, It is not where you serve, but how.” - J. Reuben Clark.

J. Grant and then to President George Albert Smith. President McKay had been the Second Counselor to both men.

 

During the final session of conference when the business of the Church was transacted, Brother Stephen L Richards was called to the First Presidency and sustained as First Counselor. President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., was then sustained as the Second Counselor. After the sustaining of the officers of the Church, President McKay explained why he had chosen his counselors in that order. He said:

“I felt that one guiding principle in this choice would be to follow the seniority in the Council [of the Twelve]. These two men were sitting in their places in that presiding body in the Church, and I felt impressed that it would be advisable to continue that same seniority in the new quorum of the First Presidency.” (In Conference Report, 9 April 1951, p. 151.)

President Clark was then asked to speak following President McKay. His remarks on this occasion were brief but teach a powerful lesson: “In the service of the Lord, it is not where you serve but how. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one takes the place to which one is duly called, which place one neither seeks nor declines. I pledge to President McKay and to President Richards the full loyal devoted service to the tasks that may come to me to the full measure of my strength and my abilities and so far as they will enable me to perform them, however inadequate I may be.” (Ibid., p. 154.)

The lesson that President Clark taught is expressed in another way in this poem by Meade McGuire, which has been repeated many times:

Father, where shall I work today?”
And my love flowed warm and free.
Then He pointed out a tiny spot
And said, “Tend that for me.”
I answered quickly, “Oh no; not that!
Why, no one would ever see,
No matter how well my work was done;
Not that little place for me.”
And the word He spoke, it was not stern;
He answered me tenderly:
“Ah, little one, search that heart of thine.
Art thou working for them or for me?
Nazareth was a little place,
And so was Galilee.”

(Ensign, May 1986, p. 39.)

King Benjamin declared: “Behold, I say unto you that because I said unto you that I had spent my days in your service, I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God. And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:16–17.)

President Ezra Taft Benson said recently: “Christlike service exalts. … The Lord has promised that those who lose their lives serving others will find themselves. The Prophet Joseph Smith told us that we should ’wear out our lives’ in bringing to pass His purposes. (D&C 123:13.)” (Ensign, Nov. 1989, pp. 5–6.)

If you feel that much of what you do does not make you very famous, take heart. Most of the best people who ever lived weren’t very famous, either. Serve and grow, faithfully and quietly. Be on guard regarding the praise of men. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:

“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

“Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

“But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

“That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” (Matt. 6:1–4.)

May our Father in Heaven so reward you always.

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#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398: A Ride on the Pride Cycle

#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398

Helaman 11–13 covers 14 years of Nephite history in which the people passed through a cycle of righteousness and wickedness.

#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398 Pride Cycle, BYU Studies

Because of their pride, the people refused to repent of their wickedness. Nephi sealed the heavens, causing a drought and famine. The drought and famine humbled the people, and they repented and turned to the Lord. Because they did not choose to be humble, the people began to easily forget the Lord their God until they were brought to a realization of how much they needed His help.

#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398 Solution to the Pride Cycle

This history shows how quickly people can forget the Lord and how He chastens them to help them repent and return to Him. In His mercy, God chastens His people to bring them unto repentance and salvation.

 

#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398 Pride Cycle, Figure Eight

Each of the diagrams above is a little bit different, but I like each one. Each diagram has a special perspective on what Latter-day Saints have come to identify as the Pride Cycle. If we are honest with ourselves, we can probably identify many times in our lives when we have fallen victim to the Pride Cycle. By examining the diagrams closely we can also learn how to avoid a ride on the Pride Cycle, and instead enjoy the blessings of the Prosperity Cycle.

One of the many ways in which the Lord’s prophets profit us is by providing preaching that prepares us to prosper. When we do not follow the words of the prophets we will end up taking a ride on the Pride Cycle.

I have included an article below that shows what the prophets Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel the Lamanite did during this specific time period to try and help the people to be prepared and prosperous, rather than prideful and perilous. Because “the record of the Nephite history just prior to the Savior’s visit [Helaman] reveals many parallels to our own day as we anticipate the Savior’s second coming” (Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, May 1987, 4), we would do well to consider how our modern-day prophets are trying to help us to avoid the perils of the Pride Cycle like Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel all tried anciently.

“Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel the Lamanite”

Brian Best, Ensign, Dec 1977

They tried to prepare their people for the Lord’s coming.

Most of us are incurably romantic in our attitudes toward life. We like to mentally entertain happy endings, lucky breaks, effortless successes, and sudden character transformations. Some among us even seem to regard salvation as a matter of good fortune and hope God will be particularly merciful on that great and final judgment day.

Yet, over and over, the scriptures demonstrate that life is not a romantic fairy tale, but a law-abiding and largely predictable reality. Mercy is not something to be bestowed upon us gratuitously at the day of judgment, but something that has already been offered through the atonement of Christ, and we are able to receive that mercy only upon conditions of repentance and obedience.

In its unwavering insistence on the conditions that govern justice and mercy, the Book of Mormon is perhaps the most emphatically antiromantic book ever written. On nearly every page it drives home the all-important lesson that the choices we make operate unerringly in a universe of law to bring about predictable consequences. To the writers of the Book of Mormon, nothing is more insidiously false than the notion that God dispenses mercy freely no matter what we do and that our salvation depends chiefly upon his tenderheartedness. Prophet after prophet emphasizes the contrary: that justice cannot be robbed and that mercy can be granted only according to laws and conditions. Alma speaks for them all when he explains:

“According to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.” (Alma 42:13.)

The book of Helaman vigorously illustrates this same teaching: that man must use his agency to choose the way of salvation according to the conditions upon which mercy is based; otherwise, he will forfeit the proffered blessings according to the laws and judgments of a just God. As Nephi and Lehi, the sons of Helaman, pursue the duties of their ministry, and as Samuel the Lamanite joins with them later in their largely futile efforts to prepare a rebellious people to accept the coming Christ, we see that even God is unable to reclaim those who refuse to accept the conditions that would allow them a place in the merciful plan of redemption.

But if the teetering of man between the claims of justice and the claims of mercy were all the scriptures offered for our edification, the reading might have very little human appeal. It is often difficult to get excited about abstract principles, even when they affect our eternal destiny. Fortunately, the Book of Mormon, like all the scriptures, has another dimension that makes it possible for us to share feelingly in the conflict. When we read the book of Helaman, for instance, we do not just read of the conflict of good and evil; we read of people involved in that conflict, people who feel strongly about what is happening to themselves and to others.

Nephi, the son of Helaman, through whose eyes (though at times with Mormon’s editorial comment) we see most of the events, is not just a recorder, not a computerized robot collecting and storing up evidence for and against the children of men; he is a dedicated and caring human being. When we read his words or those which he quotes from the teachings of Samuel the Lamanite, we are permitted to share in more than just historical or doctrinal observations and judgments; through these words we also experience the proper and powerful feelings of a servant of God and come to know more fully how it feels to be righteous and obedient. Through sharing vicariously the aspirations and disappointments, the joys and sorrows of Nephi or Samuel, we discover more fully the love of virtue which we ourselves possess and come to recognize more expertly and cherish more earnestly the behavior and feelings which constitute that virtue.

In order to relate more completely to the problems of Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel as recorded in the book of Helaman, let us become familiar with the historical setting of the book. It begins about 52 b.c. with a brief summary of the events that precede Helaman’s becoming chief judge over the Nephites and introduces us to the newly organized band of robbers begun by the assassin Kishkumen and continued after his death by Gadianton. In a parenthetical note, Mormon tells us that as we read on through the Book of Mormon we will see that this band of robbers finally causes the entire destruction of the Nephite nation. (Hel. 2:12–14.) But in Helaman’s day the band is small, only a minor threat to political stability.

At the death of Helaman, about 39 b.c., Nephi, his eldest son, becomes the chief judge. (Hel. 3:37.) Nine years later, recognizing the inability of law to govern an overwhelmingly lawless society, and realizing also his inability to be fully effective as both judge and prophet, Nephi yields up the judgment seat to Cezoram and with his brother, Lehi, begins an untiring thirty-year ministry to try to convert his people from their sinful ways. (Hel. 5:1–4.) The difficulty of their task is overwhelming—much like trying to eliminate crime, governmental corruption, immorality, and unbelief from a modern nation.

In fact, the Nephite nation was very much like those we are familiar with. Its representative form of government depended for its stability on its laws and on the integrity of its citizens and public officials. (Hel. 5:2.) Moreover, the Nephites were in a time of great prosperity and, except for a few minor conflicts, were enjoying peace following a devastating war that had occurred about twenty years earlier. (See Alma 48–62.) Crime, in the form of the Gadianton robbers, was making rapid advances, even among members of the church. And finally, because of their wealth and prosperity, the people were becoming increasingly proud, worldly, rebellious, and contemptuous of the poor and the humble believers in Christ. Add to these circumstances the fact that prophets were foretelling the imminent coming of Christ—within about forty years, as it turned out—and we see how similar their day was to our own.

One other note should perhaps be added. The Nephites were becoming increasingly wicked; yet, like people nowadays, they seem not to have recognized how far they had degenerated from the truths they had once known. Even at the height of their wickedness, shortly before the birth of Christ when Samuel the Lamanite was preaching of their impending destruction, they still seem to have retained some semblance of religious belief. According to Samuel, they said among themselves, “If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.” (Hel. 13:25.) To hear them talk, one would surmise that they thought of themselves as enlightened, civilized, and properly religious. As in our day, pride, worldliness, and sin seem to have captured them unawares. Thus, to them, the prophets who called attention to their sins seemed to be madmen or schemers deserving of persecution (see Hel. 13:26); to them, those who taught of the birth of one to be called Christ, the Son of God, seemed to be teaching unreasonable doctrines or attempting to impose a fable upon the people in order to keep them in subjection through superstition. Their criticism of Samuel’s teachings about the coming of Christ and the marvelous signs that would attend his birth illustrates well how their faulty religious attitudes and beliefs kept them from comprehending the truth of Samuel’s message:

“We know that this is a wicked tradition, which has been handed down unto us by our fathers, to cause us that we should believe in some great and marvelous thing which should come to pass, but not among us, but in a land which is far distant, a land which we know not; therefore they can keep us in ignorance, for we cannot witness with our own eyes that they are true.

“And they will, by the cunning and the mysterious arts of the evil one, work some great mystery which we cannot understand, which will keep us down to be servants to their words, and also servants unto them, for we depend upon them to teach us the word; and thus will they keep us in ignorance if we will yield ourselves unto them, all the days of our lives.” (Hel. 16:20–21.)

This is not the speech of persons who admit they have abandoned religion and are rebelling willfully against God. It seems very likely that the great wickedness of these people was not very different from what the world today accepts as normal. And in that world, where the pursuit of wealth, power, and pleasure is the norm and where religion is mostly a formal ritual, it is usually the true prophet, not the sinner, who is made to appear abnormal.

Therefore, Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel were neither popular nor very successful in the long run in their efforts to save their society, although the power of the miracles that attended their ministry did result temporarily in great conversions among both the Nephites and the Lamanites.

In contrast to the shifting, unstable, materialistic ways of the people generally is the steadfastness and stability of these three prophets and the few who faithfully follow them. They seem to be a race apart—a different kind of being altogether than the other souls they walk among. They are spiritual men, sons of God; those who reject them are natural men, or enemies of God. Walking in obedience to divine law, these prophets participate more and more fully in the mysteries of God, “having many revelations daily” (Hel. 11:23), while the foolish masses lose even the knowledge they once possessed, until, as Alma warned, they “know nothing concerning his mysteries; and … are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell” (Alma 12:11). In fact, so far did these people go in their rejection of the word of God that they were about to place themselves outside the saving power of either justice or mercy. Samuel prophesied that were they to continue in their sins and not repent, they would soon find it said of them:

“Your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head.” (Hel. 13:38.)

Notice that Samuel did not tell them they had offended God and were about to be cut off from his love; rather, he told them that their behavior was contrary to the nature of happiness and righteousness, or that they had gone contrary to eternal law and were separating themselves from that which is the nature of God.

Not only did these people reject divine law; they also rejected the witness of many signs and miracles. And Samuel explained to them that even greater signs would be given as the birth of Christ drew nearer, “to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men.” (Hel. 14:28.) Then, stressing once more the laws by which the destiny of men is governed, Samuel explained that these many signs and wonders would be given so “that whosoever will believe might be saved, and that whosoever will not believe, a righteous judgment may come upon them.” (Hel. 14:29.) Finally, detailing the laws according to which salvation or damnation is administered to mankind, he admonished:

“Remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.

“He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you.” (Hel. 14:30–31.)

In Samuel’s pleading tone, we see again that the power of the book of Helaman lies in its concern for real human souls, not just in its concern with abstract principles of good and evil. We see it unfolding through the eyes, minds, and hearts of righteous men who, fired by the vision and power of God, are doing all they can to avert catastrophe and are being frustrated every step of the way by the very persons they are laboring so diligently to save. The pain of the irony alone is at times almost overwhelming.

Because the book of Helaman is largely taken from the record of Nephi, we know more of his personal battle against the evils of his day than we do of his brother, Lehi. Although Lehi undoubtedly labored and suffered in much the same way that Nephi did, we know nothing of his personal feelings but are told only generally of his diligence and righteousness. Along with Nephi, he determined to “preach the word of God all the remainder of his days” (Hel. 5:5); he accompanied Nephi in his preaching in the land Bountiful and the land southward; he assisted in the conversion of many dissenting Nephites and 8,000 Lamanites in and around the land of Zarahemla; and he shared with Nephi a remarkable spiritual experience in a Lamanite prison. He also accompanied Nephi on the futile mission to the land northward and continued with Nephi in the ministry around Zarahemla, experiencing many revelations and doing much preaching among the people. We are told that he “was not a whit behind [Nephi] as to things pertaining to righteousness.” (Hel. 11:19.)

An even greater lack of information hampers our efforts to come to know Samuel’s personality. We know little of the man except what we can glean from the brief summary of his activities and the extensive quotations from his preaching. We know that he was a man of courage and determination and that he was obedient to the Lord’s commands. After he had preached to the Nephites for many days, “they did cast him out, and he was about to return to his own land” (Hel. 13:2); but when the voice of the Lord came to him, commanding him to return and continue his prophesying, he immediately obeyed (Hel. 13:3). A lesser man might have been daunted by the refusal of the populace to let him enter the city, but Samuel, determined to obey the Lord, climbed upon the city wall and “cried with a loud voice, and prophesied.” (Hel. 13:4.)

We discover that Samuel was close to the Spirit and sensitive to its promptings: he preached and prophesied “whatsoever things the Lord put into his heart.” (Hel. 13:4.) We know, too, that he was commanded and instructed by an angel of the Lord (Hel. 14:9, 28), and that the power of the Lord protected him from physical harm: when the rebellious Nephites tried to kill him, “the Spirit of the Lord was with him, insomuch that they could not hit him with their stones neither with their arrows.” (Hel. 16:2.)

The portion of Samuel’s prophecies contained in Helaman 15 is a sobering warning to those who have been called the people of God. Samuel reminds the Nephites that they “have been a chosen people of the Lord” (Hel. 15:3) in contrast to the Lamanites, whom the Lord has not favored “because their deeds have been evil continually … because of the iniquity of the tradition of their fathers” (Hel. 15:4). The Nephites have no cause for pride, however, because the Lamanites are steadfast and firm “when they are once enlightened” (Hel. 15:10), and Samuel declares that “it shall be better for them than for you except ye repent” (Hel. 15:14).

Samuel’s exhortation and warning do not come from any cultural smugness, however, but from love for the Nephites—his “beloved brethren.” (Hel. 15:1.) Only when the Lord no longer restrains him and when the Nephites make an attempt on his life does he return to his own country—where he begins “to preach and to prophesy among his own people.” (Hel. 16:7.)

Thus, through Nephi’s quotations from the preaching of Samuel, we are able to perceive the tenacity and depth of devotion and feeling of that great prophet; but our insight into his personality is necessarily limited because we are seeing him through the eyes of another. Nephi himself remains central throughout the book of Helaman; it is his personality that dominates. If we are to share the feelings of a prophet, if we are to taste personally the joy of seemingly great missionary successes and then the pain of watching all those successes disintegrate as a society plummets toward destruction, we must do so through him.

When the account of this Nephi begins, we learn of the riches and pride within the church and the wickedness of the people generally—and we learn of Nephi’s choice to yield up the judgment seat and turn to preaching, since he had become “weary” because of the iniquity of the people. (Hel. 5:4.) We at once can see the human element in Nephi’s choice: we see that his turning to full-time preaching is not only the right or reasonable thing to do, it is the thing he must do because of his feelings about extremely distressing circumstances. The record then tells us more about this man whose emotions are involved in his decisions. He and his brother recall the words of Helaman, their father. We notice that these words are urgent and tender. Over and over we hear a loving, dedicated parent entreating: “My sons … my sons … my sons” (see Hel. 5:6–8); “O remember, remember, my sons” (Hel. 5:9); “and now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation” (Hel. 5:12). Is it surprising that sons of such a father would also feel deeply and urgently the need to preach repentance to a society falling into unbelief?

Moreover, these men were not merely preaching doctrine learned by rote; they, like their father, had experienced personally the power and wisdom of God. Nephi tells us that he and his brother preached with “great power and authority, for they had power and authority, given unto them that they might speak, and they also had what they should speak given unto them.” (Hel. 5:18.)

A particularly impressive witness of the power of God occurred when they found themselves in a Lamanite prison, kept “many days without food.” (Hel. 5:22.) When the Lamanites and the Nephite dissenters came to the prison to put them to death, suddenly they found themselves “encircled about as if by fire.” (Hel. 5:23.) In the way the following sentence repeats certain words, notice traces of the amazement they must have felt: “Nephi and Lehi were not burned; and they were as standing in the midst of fire and were not burned.” (Hel. 5:23.) These men were human. In the prison they experienced hunger, fear, apprehension, then amazement and hope as they participated in this mighty miracle. “When they saw that they were encircled about with a pillar of fire, and that it burned them not, their hearts did take courage.” (Hel. 5:24.)

Recognizing that “God [had] shown … this marvelous thing” (Hel. 5:26), they began to preach with boldness. Suddenly the earth trembled, the walls of the prison shook, and a cloud of darkness overshadowed the prison. (Hel. 5:27–28.) Through this cloud a voice was heard: “Repent ye, repent ye, and seek no more to destroy my servants whom I have sent unto you to declare good tidings.” (Hel. 5:29.) The voice spoke again. Nephi tries to share with us the unusual nature of this voice and the power with which it affected him. This voice, he says, was “not a voice of thunder, neither … a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but … a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul.” (Hel. 5:30.) Yet each time the voice spoke, the walls of the prison trembled as if they were about to fall. The voice came a third time, speaking “marvelous words which cannot be uttered by man; and the walls [of the prison] did tremble … and the earth shook as if it were about to divide asunder.” (Hel. 5:33.) Through all this, the people in the prison were so awestruck and fearful that they could not move. Then through the cloud of darkness they saw the faces of Nephi and Lehi, and “they did shine exceedingly, even as the faces of angels.” (Hel. 5:36.)

Who can read of this experience, allowing his mind’s eye to picture it, without feeling more deeply about the reality of God, about Nephi and Lehi, and about the significance of his own life. Vicariously, we experience something of what Nephi and Lehi experienced. We participate in a real-life drama with living prophets, and like them we are amazed, overjoyed, exalted in our feelings. In brief, we learn more than just doctrine.

With this miraculous event, the great work of conversion among the Lamanites commenced. The three hundred persons who witnessed these miracles in the prison were converted and began to testify among their brethren. Before long the entire Lamanite nation was filled with believers. (Hel. 5:49–50.) Their hearts changed, they laid down their weapons, yielded up the lands they had won by conquest from the Nephites, and returned to their own lands. (Hel. 5:51–52.) Lamanite missionaries then began to testify to the Nephites. (Hel. 6:4–5.) Surely Nephi is reflecting his own intense feelings of joy when he writes: “The people of the church did have great joy because of the conversion of the Lamanites, yea, because of the church of God, which had been established among them. And they did fellowship one with another and did rejoice one with another, and did have great joy.” (Hel. 6:3.)

Imagine the happiness of Nephi and Lehi about 29 b.c. as they beheld the results of their labors: “peace in all the land, insomuch that the Nephites did go into whatsoever part of the land they would, whether among the Nephites or the Lamanites.” (Hel. 6:7.)

Then Nephi, accompanied by Lehi, began a six-year missionary journey in the land northward (Hel. 6:6, 7:1), during which the people there “did reject all his words” (Hel. 7:3). Undoubtedly discouraged, Nephi returned to Zarahemla, only to find that the peaceful situation he had left such a short time before had degenerated considerably. He found “the people in a state of … awful wickedness, and those Gadianton robbers filling the judgment-seats—having usurped the power and authority of the land; laying aside the commandments of God.” (Hel. 7:4.) Here we get one of our most intimate glimpses of the man Nephi. The record states:

“Now this great iniquity had come upon the Nephites, in the space of not many years; and when Nephi saw it, his heart was swollen with sorrow within his breast; and he did exclaim in the agony of his soul:

“Oh, that I could have had my days in the days when my father Nephi first came out of the land of Jerusalem, that I could have joyed with him in the promised land; then were his people easy to be entreated, firm to keep the commandments of God, and slow to be led to do iniquity; and they were quick to hearken unto the words of the Lord—

“Yea, if my days could have been in those days, then would my soul have had joy in the righteousness of my brethren.

“But behold, I am consigned that these are my days, and that my soul shall be filled with sorrow because of this the wickedness of my brethren.” (Hel. 7:6–9.)

Recall that Nephi uttered this lament upon a tower in his garden, pouring out his soul to the Lord in his agony. People passing by happened to overhear him and marveled at the depth of his mourning. Hurriedly, a multitude gathered to discover the cause of such great grief. (See Hel. 7:10–11.) Read Nephi’s words (see Hel. 7:13–29) as he chides these people for their unbelief and wickedness. The words are not just “doctrine” to be learned by chapter and verse; they are the passionate overflowing of a man’s sorrow, and they range from desperate pleading (“O repent ye, repent ye! Why will ye die?”) to amazement and exasperation (“O, how could you have forgotten your God in the very day that he has delivered you?”).

Picture Nephi’s frustration as he tried to convince the people that he was indeed the Lord’s messenger by prophesying the murder of the chief judge (Hel. 8:27–28), only to find himself accused of being an accomplice and cast into prison (Hel. 9:16–20). Picture then the results of his second prophecy regarding the man who had committed the murder. (See Hel. 9:25–36.) When the prophecy turned out to be true, Nephi was hailed as a great prophet; some even called him a god. (Hel. 9:40–41.) But in their controversy over exactly what Nephi was, the people became angry with one another, divided into disputing parties, and went their ways, “leaving Nephi alone, as he was standing in the midst of them.” (Hel. 10:1.) Left alone, isolated from his fellow beings, Nephi perhaps felt very lonely and discouraged.

Yet notice how the command of God prevailed over all Nephi’s moods and disappointments. Nephi started toward his home, “pondering upon the things which the Lord had shown unto him.” (Hel. 10:2.) Suddenly, a voice spoke to him, saying: “Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people.” (Hel. 10:4.) Certainly the Lord knew of Nephi’s personal grief and chose this moment to buoy him up. But more! This time it is obvious that the Lord was regarding his servant in a new and very special way:

“Because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.

“Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people.” (Hel. 10:5–6.)

One is reminded of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s comment: “When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 150.) And then, obedient to the Lord’s command, Nephi turned around, without even returning to his home, and began again to preach repentance to the people.

With only intermittent successes, this mighty prophet continued to serve faithfully, once asking the Lord to bring a famine upon the people in order to bring a halt to their wickedness and warfare, rather than destroy them. (Hel. 11:4–5.) Yet, never one to give up hope, Nephi readily consented to plead with the Lord to end the famine when, three years later, the people showed some evidence of repentance. (Hel. 11:7–9.) His prayer for them shows how deeply he could love his people even in their iniquity:

“O Lord, thou didst hearken unto my words when I said, Let there be a famine, that the pestilence of the sword might cease; and I know that thou wilt, even at this time, hearken unto my words, for thou saidst that: If this people repent I will spare them.

“Yea, O Lord, and thou seest that they have repented, because of the famine and the pestilence and destruction which has come unto them.

“And now, O Lord, wilt thou turn away thine anger, and try again if they will serve thee? And if so, O Lord, thou canst bless them according to thy words which thou hast said.” (Hel. 11:14–16.)

But within ten years all was corrupt again, and the whole of chapter twelve of Helaman records a powerful lamentation which contrasts human frailty with God’s goodness. There is some question as to whether this chapter is a quotation of Nephi’s words or a commentary by the abridger, Mormon. But even if the passage is not Nephi’s work, it seems to reflect the attitudes and philosophy which must undergird the kind of life he lived. Beginning with a general comment on the “unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men,” the author seems to offer an apology for the human race; nevertheless, he goes on hopefully to assert his faith that “the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him.” (Hel. 12:1.) This law he regards as a certainty, and though most of the rest of his lamentation bemoans man’s foolishness, pride, and disobedience, he concludes by praising “our great and everlasting God” and reasserting his faith in the everlasting nature of God’s eternal law and the absoluteness of his word:

“And behold, if the Lord shall say unto a man—Because of thine iniquities, thou shalt be accursed forever, it shall be done.

“And if the Lord shall say [unto a man]—Because of thine iniquities thou shalt be cut off from my presence—he will cause that it shall be so.

“And wo unto him to whom he shall say this, for it shall be unto him that will do iniquity, and he cannot be saved; therefore, for this cause, that men might be saved, hath repentance been declared.

“Therefore, blessed are they who will repent and hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; for these are they that shall be saved. …

“And I would that all men might be saved. But we read that in the great and last day there are some who shall be cast out, yea, who shall be cast off from the presence of the Lord;

“Yea, who shall be consigned to a state of endless misery, fulfilling the words which say: They that have done good shall have everlasting life; and they that have done evil shall have everlasting damnation. And thus it is. Amen.” (Hel. 12:21–23, 25–26.)

It is sobering that the narrative of Nephi’s loving and untiring service in behalf of his people must end with this passage reaffirming the immutability of God’s laws and man’s inability to be saved except through obedience to those laws.

While the signs and wonders increased as the time of the birth of Christ drew near, Nephi continued to preach and baptize whatever converts had responded to the teaching of Samuel and himself. (It is interesting that there is no record of Samuel’s ever having baptized any of the people who were converted through his preaching: “As many as believed on [Samuel’s] word went forth and sought for Nephi … desiring that they might be baptized.” [Hel. 16:1; see also Hel. 16:3–5.]) Lehi may have died, since he is not mentioned toward the end of the book of Helaman. Yet “notwithstanding the signs and the wonders which were wrought among the people of the Lord, and the many miracles which they did, Satan did get great hold upon the hearts of the people upon all the face of the land.” (Hel. 16:23.)

Nephi’s mission ended sometime during the year before Christ’s birth. After “giving charge unto his son Nephi, who was his eldest son, concerning the plates, … he departed out of the land, and whither he went, no man knoweth.” (3 Ne. 1:2–3.) Like Moses, this special servant of God seems to have been taken by the Lord for special purposes.

It would be difficult to find in all of scripture a more devoted and powerful prophet than Nephi, the son of Helaman. As we read his account of his own labors, as well as the labors of Lehi and Samuel the Lamanite, our hearts are touched by the intensely human concern of these prophets for the people to whom they are sent to minister. Yet, with all their humanity, they stand as unfaltering witnesses of the irrevocability of eternal law—not only of the just law that judges and condemns the unrepentant, but of the law of mercy by which glory enters and transforms the lives of all those who choose to obey the commandments of God.

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#BOMTC Day 54, May 30~Alma 53-55 or Pages 343-349: Follow the Prophet!

Click on graphic to read Alma 53-55

Click on graphic to read Alma 53-55

“But behold, it came to pass they had many sons, who had not entered into a covenant that they would not take their weapons of war to defend themselves against their enemies; therefore they did assemble themselves together at this time, as many as were able to take up arms, and they called themselves Nephites. And they entered into a covenant to fight for the liberty of the Nephites, yea, to protect the land unto the laying down of their lives; yea, even they covenanted that they never would give up their liberty, but they would fight in all cases to protect the Nephites and themselves from bondage. Now behold, there were two thousand of those young men, who entered into this covenant and took their weapons of war to defend their country. And now behold, as they never had hitherto been a disadvantage to the Nephites, they became now at this period of time also a great support; for they took their weapons of war, and they would that Helaman should be their leader. And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted. Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him. And now it came to pass that Helaman did march at the head of his two thousand stripling soldiers, to the support of the people in the borders of the land on the south by the west sea” (Alma 53:10-22, emphasis added.).

It seems that many times we picture Helaman as a big, strong, experienced military leader. If that is the case, then it would make a lot of sense for a troop of young men who had never fought in battle to choose him as their general. But if we take a good look at Helaman’s resume we may picture him very differently and pause to ponder why such an inexperienced group would choose such a leader.

Resume of

Helaman, the Son of Alma:

How do you visualize Helaman now? Perhaps even Arnold Friberg’s famous painting is a bit generous (maybe not…, who knows?). The point that I would like to make is that these young, novice, would-be warriors did not choose someone of vast previous military prowess and prestige. Instead they chose to make a prophet of God their leader in battle. Surely there is great scriptural support for such success, but very little worldly wisdom. Most military missions of this kind would end up a tragic headline. However, when we choose to “follow the prophet” we will always be successful.

The world may look upon us with wonder as we follow the prophets of God today. They see old men who seem to be “out of touch” and “old-fashioned”. Faithful disciples of Christ see “men of experience” who serve God and teach eternal truths. Just as the Army of Helaman found great success by choosing “the Lord’s mortal captain” as their captain, so we will find that we are able to come off conquerors in life’s great battles as we choose to “follow the prophet”. Some people may criticize this statement and say something like, “Shouldn’t you be saying ‘follow the Savior’?” Well, that is exactly what I am saying, for as President Ezra Taft Benson taught:

If we want to know how well we stand with the Lord then let us ask ourselves how well we stand with His mortal captain—how close do our lives harmonize with the Lord’s anointed—the living Prophet—President of the Church, and with the Quorum of the First Presidency (see FOURTEEN FUNDAMENTALS IN FOLLOWING THE PROPHET).

So, who have you chosen as your leader? If we haven’t chosen the Lord’s prophet, then we haven’t chosen the Lord!

“Chosen to Bear Testimony of My Name”

In 1996 President Gordon B. Hinckley appeared on the national television news program 60 Minutes. Mike Wallace, an experienced and tenacious journalist, interviewed President Hinckley about a number of important topics.

Near the end of their conversation, Mr. Wallace remarked, “There are those who say, ‘This is a gerontocracy. This is a church run by old men.’”

President Hinckley responded cheerfully and without hesitation, “Isn’t it wonderful to have a man of maturity at the head, a man of judgment who isn’t blown about by every wind of doctrine?” (broadcast on Apr. 7, 1996).

My purpose is to explain why indeed it is wonderful to have older men of great spiritual maturity and judgment serving in the senior leadership positions of the restored Church of Jesus Christ—and why we should “hear” and “hearken” (Mosiah 2:9) to the teachings of these men whom the Lord has “chosen to bear testimony of [His] name … among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people” (D&C 112:1).

I pray we may all be instructed by the Holy Ghost as we consider together this significant subject.

A Lesson of a Lifetime

I speak about this topic from a decidedly distinctive perspective. For the last 11 years, I have been the youngest member of the Twelve in terms of chronological age. During my years of service, the average age of the men serving in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has been 77 years—the oldest average age of the Apostles over an 11-year interval in this dispensation.

I have been blessed by the collective apostolic, personal, and professional experience and insight of the quorum members with whom I serve. An example from my association with Elder Robert D. Hales highlights the remarkable opportunities I have to learn from and serve with these leaders.

Several years ago I spent a Sunday afternoon with Elder Hales in his home as he was recovering from a serious illness. We discussed our families, our quorum responsibilities, and important experiences.

At one point I asked Elder Hales, “You have been a successful husband, father, athlete, pilot, business executive, and Church leader. What lessons have you learned as you have grown older and been constrained by decreased physical capacity?”

Elder Hales paused for a moment and responded, “When you cannot do what you have always done, then you only do what matters most.”

I was struck by the simplicity and comprehensiveness of his answer. My beloved apostolic associate shared with me a lesson of a lifetime—a lesson learned through the crucible of physical suffering and spiritual searching.

Human Limitations and Frailties

The limitations that are the natural consequence of advancing age can in fact become remarkable sources of spiritual learning and insight. The very factors many may believe limit the effectiveness of these servants can become some of their greatest strengths. Physical restrictions can expand vision. Limited stamina can clarify priorities. Inability to do many things can direct focus to a few things of greatest importance.

Some people have suggested younger, more vigorous leaders are needed in the Church to address effectively the serious challenges of our modern world. But the Lord does not use contemporary philosophies and practices of leadership to accomplish His purposes (see Isaiah 55:8–9). We can expect the President and other senior leaders of the Church will be older and spiritually seasoned men.

The Lord’s revealed pattern of governance by councils in His Church provides for and attenuates the impact of human frailties. Interestingly, the mortal limitations of these men actually affirm the divine source of the revelations that come to and through them. Truly, these men are called of God by prophecy (see Articles of Faith 1:5).

A Pattern of Preparation

I have observed in my Brethren at least a part of the Lord’s purpose for having older men of maturity and judgment serve in senior leadership positions of the Church. These men have had a sustained season of tutoring by the Lord, whom they represent, serve, and love. They have learned to understand the divine language of the Holy Spirit and the Lord’s patterns for receiving revelation. These ordinary men have undergone a most extraordinary developmental process that has sharpened their vision, informed their insight, engendered love for people from all nations and circumstances, and affirmed the reality of the Restoration.

I have witnessed repeatedly my Brethren striving diligently to fulfill and magnify their responsibilities while struggling with serious physical problems. These men are not spared from affliction. Rather, they are blessed and strengthened to press forward valiantly while suffering in and with affliction.

Serving with these representatives of the Lord, I have come to know their greatest desire is to discern and do the will of our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son. As we counsel together, inspiration has been received and decisions have been made that reflect a degree of light and truth far beyond human intelligence, reasoning, and experience. As we work together in unity on perplexing problems, our collective understanding of an issue has been enlarged in marvelous ways by the power of the Holy Ghost.

I am blessed to observe on a daily basis the individual personalities, capacities, and noble characters of these leaders. Some people find the human shortcomings of the Brethren troubling and faith diminishing. For me those imperfections are encouraging and faith promoting.

An Additional Lesson

I have now witnessed six of my Brethren receive a transfer through physical death to new responsibilities in the spirit world: President James E. Faust, President Gordon B. Hinckley, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, Elder L. Tom Perry, President Boyd K. Packer, and Elder Richard G. Scott.

These valiant Brethren devoted their “whole souls” (Omni 1:26) to testifying of the name of Jesus Christ in all the world. The totality of their teachings is priceless.

These servants shared with us in the concluding years of their mortal ministries powerful spiritual summaries of lessons learned through decades of consecrated service. These leaders imparted truths of great worth at a time when some may believe they had the least to give.

Consider the final teachings of great prophets in the scriptures. For example, Nephi concluded his record with these words: “For thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey” (2 Nephi 33:15).

Near the end of his life, Jacob admonished:

“Repent ye, and enter in at the strait gate, and continue in the way which is narrow, until ye shall obtain eternal life.

“O be wise; what can I say more?” (Jacob 6:11–12).

Moroni completed his work of preparing the plates with a hopeful anticipation of the Resurrection: “I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead” (Moroni 10:34).

You and I are blessed to learn from the benedictory teachings and testimonies of latter-day prophets and apostles. The names today are not Nephi, Jacob, and Moroni—but President Faust, President Hinckley, Elder Wirthlin, Elder Perry, President Packer, and Elder Scott.

I am not suggesting the final messages of these beloved men necessarily were the most noteworthy or important of their ministries. However, the sum of their spiritual learning and life experiences enabled these leaders to emphasize eternal truths with absolute authenticity and great, penetrating power.

President James E. Faust

In his last general conference address, in April of 2007, President Faust declared:

“The Savior has offered to all of us a precious peace through His Atonement, but this can come only as we are willing to cast out negative feelings of anger, spite, or revenge. …

“Let us remember that we need to forgive to be forgiven. … With all my heart and soul, I believe in the healing power that can come to us as we follow the counsel of the Savior ‘to forgive all men’ [D&C 64:10]” (“The Healing Power of Forgiveness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 69).

President Faust’s message is a powerful lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and one of the most forgiving men I have ever known.

President Gordon B. Hinckley

President Hinckley testified in his last general conference in October of 2007: “I affirm my witness of the calling of the Prophet Joseph, of his works, of the sealing of his testimony with his blood as a martyr to the eternal truth. … You and I are faced with the stark question of accepting the truth of the First Vision and that which followed it. On the question of its reality lies the very validity of this Church. If it is the truth, and I testify that it is, then the work in which we are engaged is the most important work on the earth” (“The Stone Cut Out of the Mountain,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 86).

President Hinckley’s witness affirms a powerful lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and know was a prophet of God.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

Elder Wirthlin delivered his final general conference message in October of 2008.

“I still remember [my mother’s] advice to me given on that day long ago when my team lost a football game: ‘Come what may, and love it.’

“… Adversity, if handled correctly, can be a blessing in our lives. …

“As we look for humor, seek for the eternal perspective, understand the principle of compensation, and draw near to our Heavenly Father, we can endure hardship and trial. We can say, as did my mother, ‘Come what may, and love it’” (“Come What May, and Love It,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 28).

Elder Wirthlin’s message is a powerful lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and who was a living sermon of overcoming difficulties through faith in the Savior.

Elder L. Tom Perry

Elder Perry stood at this pulpit just six months ago. At that time we could not have imagined his testimony would be his last in a general conference.

“Let me close by bearing witness (and my nine decades on this earth fully qualify me to say this) that the older I get, the more I realize that family is the center of life and is the key to eternal happiness.

“I give thanks for my wife, for my children, for my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren, and for … extended family who make my own life so rich and, yes, even eternal. Of this eternal truth I bear my strongest and most sacred witness” (“Why Marriage and Family Matter—Everywhere in the World,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 42).

Elder Perry’s message is a powerful lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and who understood through vast experience the essential relationship between family and eternal happiness.

President Boyd K. Packer

President Packer emphasized in general conference six months ago the Father’s plan of happiness, the Savior’s Atonement, and eternal families:

“I bear witness that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the living God. He stands at the head of the Church. Through His Atonement and the power of the priesthood, families which are begun in mortality can be together through the eternities. …

“I am so grateful for … the Atonement which can wash clean every stain no matter how difficult or how long or how many times repeated. The Atonement can put you free again to move forward, cleanly and worthily” (“The Plan of Happiness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 28).

President Packer’s final message is a lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and who emphatically and repeatedly declared that the purpose “of all activity in the Church is to see that a man and a woman with their children are happy at home, sealed together for time and for all eternity” (Ensign orLiahona, May 2015, 26).

Elder Richard G. Scott

Elder Scott proclaimed in his last general conference talk, in October 2014: “We came to mortal life precisely to grow from trials and testing. Challenges help us become more like our Father in Heaven, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible to endure those challenges. I testify that as we actively come unto Him, we can endure every temptation, every heartache, every challenge we face” (“Make the Exercise of Faith Your First Priority,”Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 94).

Elder Scott’s message is a powerful lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and a beloved special witness of the name of Christ in all the world (see D&C 107:23).

Promise and Testimony

The Savior declared, “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38). May we hear and heed the eternal truths taught by the Lord’s authorized representatives. As we do so, I promise our faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will be fortified, and we will receive spiritual guidance and protection for our specific circumstances and needs.

With all the energy of my soul, I witness the resurrected and living Christ directs the affairs of His restored and living Church through His servants who have been chosen to bear testimony of His name. I so testify in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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#BOMTC Day 52, May 28~Alma 48-50 or Pages 329-335: “No Less Serviceable”

Click graphic to read Alma 48-50

Click graphic to read Alma 48-50

“Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men. Behold, he was a man like unto Ammon, the son of Mosiah, yea, and even the other sons of Mosiah, yea, and also Alma and his sons, for they were all men of God. Now behold, Helaman and his brethren were no less serviceable unto the people than was Moroni; for they did preach the word of God, and they did baptize unto repentance all men whosoever would hearken unto their words. And thus they went forth, and the people did humble themselves because of their words, insomuch that they were highly favored of the Lord, and thus they were free from wars and contentions among themselves, yea, even for the space of four years.” (Alma 48:17-20. Emphasis added.)

Today’s post comes complements of President Howard W. Hunter. It was well worth my time to study. I hope you enjoy it as well!

“No Less Serviceable”

(BY PRESIDENT HOWARD W. HUNTER, ENSIGN, APRIL 1992)

Howard W. Hunter

It was said of the young and valiant Captain Moroni: “If all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.” (Alma 48:17.)

What a compliment to a famous and powerful man! I can’t imagine a finer tribute from one man to another. Two verses later is a statement about Helaman and his brethren, who played a less conspicuous role than Moroni: “Now behold, Helaman and his brethren were no less serviceable unto the people than was Moroni.” (Alma 48:19.)

In other words, even though Helaman was not as noticeable or conspicuous as Moroni, he was as serviceable; that is, he was as helpful or useful as Moroni.

Obviously, we could profit greatly by studying the life of Captain Moroni. He is an example of faith, service, dedication, commitment, and many other godly attributes. Rather than focusing on this magnificent man, however, I have chosen to look instead at those who are not seen in the limelight, who do not receive the attention of the world, yet who are “no less serviceable,” as the scripture phrased it.

Not all of us are going to be like Moroni, catching the acclaim of our colleagues all day every day. Most of us will be quiet, relatively unknown folks who come and go and do our work without fanfare. To those of you who may find that lonely or frightening or just unspectacular, I say, you are “no less serviceable” than the most spectacular of your associates. You, too, are part of God’s army.

Consider, for example, the profound service a mother or father gives in the quiet anonymity of a worthy Latter-day Saint home. Think of the Gospel Doctrine teachers and Primary choristers and Scoutmasters and Relief Society visiting teachers who serve and bless millions but whose names will never be publicly applauded or featured in the nation’s media.

Tens of thousands of unseen people make possible our opportunities and happiness every day. As the scriptures state, they are “no less serviceable” than those whose lives are on the front pages of newspapers.

The limelight of history and contemporary attention so often focuses on the one rather than on the many. Individuals are frequently singled out from their peers and elevated as heroes. I acknowledge that this kind of attention is one way to identify that which the people admire or hold to be of some value. But sometimes that recognition is not deserved, or it may even celebrate the wrong values.

We must choose wisely our heroes and examples, while also giving thanks for those legions of friends and citizens who are not so famous but who are “no less serviceable” than the Moroni’s of our lives.

Perhaps you could consider with me some interesting people from the scriptures who did not receive the limelight of attention but who, through the long lens of history, have proven themselves to be truly heroic.

Many who read the story of the great prophet Nephi almost completely miss another valiant son of Lehi whose name was Sam. Nephi is one of the most famous figures in the entire Book of Mormon. But Sam? Sam’s name is mentioned there only ten times. When Lehi counseled and blessed his posterity, he said to Sam:

Sam, the Brother of Nephi

“Blessed art thou, and thy seed; for thou shalt inherit the land like unto thy brother Nephi. And thy seed shall be numbered with his seed; and thou shalt be even like unto thy brother, and thy seed like unto his seed; and thou shalt be blessed in all thy days.” (2 Ne. 4:11.)

Sam’s role was basically one of supporting and assisting his more acclaimed younger brother, and he ultimately received the same blessings promised to Nephi and his posterity. Nothing promised to Nephi was withheld from the faithful Sam, yet we know very little of the details of Sam’s service and contribution. He was an almost unknown person in life, but he is obviously a triumphant leader and victor in the annals of eternity.

Many make their contributions in unsung ways. Ishmael traveled with the family of Nephi at great personal sacrifice, suffering “much affliction, hunger, thirst, and fatigue.” (1 Ne. 16:35.) Then in the midst of all of these afflictions, he perished in the wilderness. Few of us can even begin to understand the sacrifice of such a man in those primitive times and conditions. Perhaps if we were more perceptive and understanding, we too would mourn, as his daughters did in the wilderness, for what a man like this gave—and gave up!—so that we could have the Book of Mormon today.

The names and memories of such men and women who were “no less serviceable” are legion in the Book of Mormon. Whether it be Mother Sariah or the maid Abish, servant to the Lamanite queen, each made contributions that were unacknowledged by the eyes of men but not unseen by the eyes of God.

We have only twelve verses of scripture dealing with the life of Mosiah, king over the land of Zarahemla and father of the famous King Benjamin. Yet his service to the people was indispensable. He led the people “by many preachings and prophesyings” and “admonished [them] continually by the word of God.” (Omni 1:13.) Limhi, Amulek, and Pahoran—the latter of whom who had the nobility of soul not to condemn when he was very unjustly accused—are other examples of people who served selflessly in the shadow of others’ limelight.

The soldier Teancum, who sacrificed his own life, or Lachonius, the chief judge who taught people to repent during the challenge of the Gadiantons, or the virtually unmentioned missionaries Omner and Himni, were all “no less serviceable” than their companions, yet they received very little scriptural attention.

We don’t know much about Shiblon, the faithful son of Alma whose story is sandwiched between those of Helaman, the future leader, and Corianton, the transgressor; but it is significant that he is described as a “just man [who] did walk uprightly before God.” (Alma 63:2.) The great prophet Nephi, mentioned in the book of Helaman, had a brother named Lehi, who is seemingly mentioned only in passing but is noted as being “not a whit behind him [Nephi] as to things pertaining to righteousness.” (See Hel. 11:18–19.)

Of course, there are examples of these serviceable individuals in our dispensation as well. Oliver Granger is the kind of quiet, supportive individual in the latter days that the Lord remembered in section 117 of the Doctrine and Covenants. [D&C 117] Oliver’s name may be unfamiliar to many, so I will take the liberty to acquaint you with this early stalwart.

Oliver Granger was eleven years older than Joseph Smith and, like the Prophet, was from upstate New York. Because of severe cold and exposure when he was thirty-three years old, Oliver lost much of his eyesight. Notwithstanding his limited vision, he served three full-time missions. He also worked on the Kirtland Temple and served on the Kirtland high council.

When most of the Saints were driven from Kirtland, Ohio, the Church left some debts unsatisfied. Oliver was appointed to represent Joseph Smith and the First Presidency by returning to Kirtland to settle the Church’s business. Of this task, the Doctrine and Covenants records: “Therefore, let him contend earnestly for the redemption of the First Presidency of my Church, saith the Lord.” (D&C 117:13.)

He performed this assignment with such satisfaction to the creditors involved that one of them wrote: “Oliver Granger’s management in the arrangement of the unfinished business of people that have moved to the Far West, in redeeming their pledges and thereby sustaining their integrity, has been truly praiseworthy, and has entitled him to my highest esteem, and every grateful recollection.” (Horace Kingsbury, as cited in Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 3:174.)

During Oliver’s time in Kirtland, some people, including disaffected members of the Church, were endeavoring to discredit the First Presidency and bring their integrity into question by spreading false accusations. Oliver Granger, in very deed, “redeemed the First Presidency” through his faithful service. In response, the Lord said of Oliver Granger: “His name shall be had in sacred remembrance from generation to generation, forever and ever.” (D&C 117:12.) “I will lift up my servant Oliver, and beget for him a great name on the earth, and among my people, because of the integrity of his soul.” (History of the Church, 3:350.)

When he died in 1841, even though there were but few Saints remaining in the Kirtland area and even fewer friends of the Saints, Oliver Granger’s funeral was attended by a vast concourse of people from neighboring towns.

Though Oliver Granger is not as well known today as other early leaders of the Church, he was nevertheless a great and important man in the service he rendered to the kingdom. And even if no one but the Lord had his name in remembrance, that would be a sufficient blessing for him—or for any of us.

I think we should be aware that there can be a spiritual danger to those who misunderstand the singularity of always being in the spotlight. They may come to covet the notoriety and thus forget the significance of the service being rendered.

We must not allow ourselves to focus on the fleeting light of popularity or substitute that attractive glow for the substance of true but often anonymous labor that brings the attention of God, even if it does not get coverage on the six o’clock news. In fact, applause and attention can become the spiritual Achilles’ heels of even the most gifted among us.

If the limelight of popularity should fall on you sometime in your life, it might be well for you to follow the example of those in the scriptures who received fame. Nephi is one of the great examples. After all he accomplished traveling in the wilderness with his family, his attitude was still fixed on the things that matter most. He said:

“And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.

“My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.

“He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.

“He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.” (2 Ne. 4:19–22.)

The limelight never blinded Nephi as to the source of his strength and his blessings.

At times of attention and visibility, it might also be profitable for us to answer the question, Why do we serve? When we understand why, we won’t be concerned about where we serve.

President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., taught this vital principle in his own life. At general conference in April 1951, President David O. McKay was sustained as President of the Church after the passing of President George Albert Smith. Up to that time, President Clark had served as the First Counselor to President Heber J. Grant and then to President George Albert Smith. President McKay had been the Second Counselor to both men.

During the final session of conference when the business of the Church was transacted, Brother Stephen L Richards was called to the First Presidency and sustained as First Counselor. President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., was then sustained as the Second Counselor. After the sustaining of the officers of the Church, President McKay explained why he had chosen his counselors in that order. He said:

“I felt that one guiding principle in this choice would be to follow the seniority in the Council [of the Twelve]. These two men were sitting in their places in that presiding body in the Church, and I felt impressed that it would be advisable to continue that same seniority in the new quorum of the First Presidency.” (In Conference Report, 9 April 1951, p. 151.)

“In the service of the Lord, It is not where you serve, but how.” - J. Reuben Clark.

“In the service of the Lord, It is not where you serve, but how.” – J. Reuben Clark.

President Clark was then asked to speak following President McKay. His remarks on this occasion were brief but teach a powerful lesson: “In the service of the Lord, it is not where you serve but how. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one takes the place to which one is duly called, which place one neither seeks nor declines. I pledge to President McKay and to President Richards the full loyal devoted service to the tasks that may come to me to the full measure of my strength and my abilities and so far as they will enable me to perform them, however inadequate I may be.” (Ibid., p. 154.)

The lesson that President Clark taught is expressed in another way in this poem by Meade McGuire, which has been repeated many times:

Father, where shall I work today?”
And my love flowed warm and free.
Then He pointed out a tiny spot
And said, “Tend that for me.”
I answered quickly, “Oh no; not that!
Why, no one would ever see,
No matter how well my work was done;
Not that little place for me.”
And the word He spoke, it was not stern;
He answered me tenderly:
“Ah, little one, search that heart of thine.
Art thou working for them or for me?
Nazareth was a little place,
And so was Galilee.”

(Ensign, May 1986, p. 39.)

King Benjamin declared: “Behold, I say unto you that because I said unto you that I had spent my days in your service, I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God. And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:16–17.)

President Ezra Taft Benson said recently: “Christlike service exalts. … The Lord has promised that those who lose their lives serving others will find themselves. The Prophet Joseph Smith told us that we should ’wear out our lives’ in bringing to pass His purposes. (D&C 123:13.)” (Ensign, Nov. 1989, pp. 5–6.)

If you feel that much of what you do does not make you very famous, take heart. Most of the best people who ever lived weren’t very famous, either. Serve and grow, faithfully and quietly. Be on guard regarding the praise of men. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:

“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

“Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

“But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

“That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” (Matt. 6:1–4.)

May our Father in Heaven so reward you always.

ON THIS DAY IN 1829: Harmony, Pennsylvania. Joseph Smith received Doctrine and Covenants 12, a revelation to Joseph Knight Sr. about laborers wishing to assist in the vineyard.

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#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398: A Ride on the Pride Cycle

#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398

Helaman 11–13 covers 14 years of Nephite history in which the people passed through a cycle of righteousness and wickedness.

#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398 Pride Cycle, BYU Studies

Because of their pride, the people refused to repent of their wickedness. Nephi sealed the heavens, causing a drought and famine. The drought and famine humbled the people, and they repented and turned to the Lord. Because they did not choose to be humble, the people began to easily forget the Lord their God until they were brought to a realization of how much they needed His help.

#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398 Solution to the Pride Cycle

This history shows how quickly people can forget the Lord and how He chastens them to help them repent and return to Him. In His mercy, God chastens His people to bring them unto repentance and salvation.

 

#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398 Pride Cycle, Figure Eight

Each of the diagrams above is a little bit different, but I like each one. Each diagram has a special perspective on what Latter-day Saints have come to identify as the Pride Cycle. If we are honest with ourselves, we can probably identify many times in our lives when we have fallen victim to the Pride Cycle. By examining the diagrams closely we can also learn how to avoid a ride on the Pride Cycle, and instead enjoy the blessings of the Prosperity Cycle.

One of the many ways in which the Lord’s prophets profit us is by providing preaching that prepares us to prosper. When we do not follow the words of the prophets we will end up taking a ride on the Pride Cycle.

I have included an article below that shows what the prophets Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel the Lamanite did during this specific time period to try and help the people to be prepared and prosperous, rather than prideful and perilous. Because “the record of the Nephite history just prior to the Savior’s visit [Helaman] reveals many parallels to our own day as we anticipate the Savior’s second coming” (Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, May 1987, 4), we would do well to consider how our modern-day prophets are trying to help us to avoid the perils of the Pride Cycle like Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel all tried anciently.

“Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel the Lamanite”

Brian Best, Ensign, Dec 1977

They tried to prepare their people for the Lord’s coming.

Most of us are incurably romantic in our attitudes toward life. We like to mentally entertain happy endings, lucky breaks, effortless successes, and sudden character transformations. Some among us even seem to regard salvation as a matter of good fortune and hope God will be particularly merciful on that great and final judgment day.

Yet, over and over, the scriptures demonstrate that life is not a romantic fairy tale, but a law-abiding and largely predictable reality. Mercy is not something to be bestowed upon us gratuitously at the day of judgment, but something that has already been offered through the atonement of Christ, and we are able to receive that mercy only upon conditions of repentance and obedience.

In its unwavering insistence on the conditions that govern justice and mercy, the Book of Mormon is perhaps the most emphatically antiromantic book ever written. On nearly every page it drives home the all-important lesson that the choices we make operate unerringly in a universe of law to bring about predictable consequences. To the writers of the Book of Mormon, nothing is more insidiously false than the notion that God dispenses mercy freely no matter what we do and that our salvation depends chiefly upon his tenderheartedness. Prophet after prophet emphasizes the contrary: that justice cannot be robbed and that mercy can be granted only according to laws and conditions. Alma speaks for them all when he explains:

“According to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.” (Alma 42:13.)

The book of Helaman vigorously illustrates this same teaching: that man must use his agency to choose the way of salvation according to the conditions upon which mercy is based; otherwise, he will forfeit the proffered blessings according to the laws and judgments of a just God. As Nephi and Lehi, the sons of Helaman, pursue the duties of their ministry, and as Samuel the Lamanite joins with them later in their largely futile efforts to prepare a rebellious people to accept the coming Christ, we see that even God is unable to reclaim those who refuse to accept the conditions that would allow them a place in the merciful plan of redemption.

But if the teetering of man between the claims of justice and the claims of mercy were all the scriptures offered for our edification, the reading might have very little human appeal. It is often difficult to get excited about abstract principles, even when they affect our eternal destiny. Fortunately, the Book of Mormon, like all the scriptures, has another dimension that makes it possible for us to share feelingly in the conflict. When we read the book of Helaman, for instance, we do not just read of the conflict of good and evil; we read of people involved in that conflict, people who feel strongly about what is happening to themselves and to others.

Nephi, the son of Helaman, through whose eyes (though at times with Mormon’s editorial comment) we see most of the events, is not just a recorder, not a computerized robot collecting and storing up evidence for and against the children of men; he is a dedicated and caring human being. When we read his words or those which he quotes from the teachings of Samuel the Lamanite, we are permitted to share in more than just historical or doctrinal observations and judgments; through these words we also experience the proper and powerful feelings of a servant of God and come to know more fully how it feels to be righteous and obedient. Through sharing vicariously the aspirations and disappointments, the joys and sorrows of Nephi or Samuel, we discover more fully the love of virtue which we ourselves possess and come to recognize more expertly and cherish more earnestly the behavior and feelings which constitute that virtue.

In order to relate more completely to the problems of Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel as recorded in the book of Helaman, let us become familiar with the historical setting of the book. It begins about 52 b.c. with a brief summary of the events that precede Helaman’s becoming chief judge over the Nephites and introduces us to the newly organized band of robbers begun by the assassin Kishkumen and continued after his death by Gadianton. In a parenthetical note, Mormon tells us that as we read on through the Book of Mormon we will see that this band of robbers finally causes the entire destruction of the Nephite nation. (Hel. 2:12–14.) But in Helaman’s day the band is small, only a minor threat to political stability.

At the death of Helaman, about 39 b.c., Nephi, his eldest son, becomes the chief judge. (Hel. 3:37.) Nine years later, recognizing the inability of law to govern an overwhelmingly lawless society, and realizing also his inability to be fully effective as both judge and prophet, Nephi yields up the judgment seat to Cezoram and with his brother, Lehi, begins an untiring thirty-year ministry to try to convert his people from their sinful ways. (Hel. 5:1–4.) The difficulty of their task is overwhelming—much like trying to eliminate crime, governmental corruption, immorality, and unbelief from a modern nation.

In fact, the Nephite nation was very much like those we are familiar with. Its representative form of government depended for its stability on its laws and on the integrity of its citizens and public officials. (Hel. 5:2.) Moreover, the Nephites were in a time of great prosperity and, except for a few minor conflicts, were enjoying peace following a devastating war that had occurred about twenty years earlier. (See Alma 48–62.) Crime, in the form of the Gadianton robbers, was making rapid advances, even among members of the church. And finally, because of their wealth and prosperity, the people were becoming increasingly proud, worldly, rebellious, and contemptuous of the poor and the humble believers in Christ. Add to these circumstances the fact that prophets were foretelling the imminent coming of Christ—within about forty years, as it turned out—and we see how similar their day was to our own.

One other note should perhaps be added. The Nephites were becoming increasingly wicked; yet, like people nowadays, they seem not to have recognized how far they had degenerated from the truths they had once known. Even at the height of their wickedness, shortly before the birth of Christ when Samuel the Lamanite was preaching of their impending destruction, they still seem to have retained some semblance of religious belief. According to Samuel, they said among themselves, “If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.” (Hel. 13:25.) To hear them talk, one would surmise that they thought of themselves as enlightened, civilized, and properly religious. As in our day, pride, worldliness, and sin seem to have captured them unawares. Thus, to them, the prophets who called attention to their sins seemed to be madmen or schemers deserving of persecution (see Hel. 13:26); to them, those who taught of the birth of one to be called Christ, the Son of God, seemed to be teaching unreasonable doctrines or attempting to impose a fable upon the people in order to keep them in subjection through superstition. Their criticism of Samuel’s teachings about the coming of Christ and the marvelous signs that would attend his birth illustrates well how their faulty religious attitudes and beliefs kept them from comprehending the truth of Samuel’s message:

“We know that this is a wicked tradition, which has been handed down unto us by our fathers, to cause us that we should believe in some great and marvelous thing which should come to pass, but not among us, but in a land which is far distant, a land which we know not; therefore they can keep us in ignorance, for we cannot witness with our own eyes that they are true.

“And they will, by the cunning and the mysterious arts of the evil one, work some great mystery which we cannot understand, which will keep us down to be servants to their words, and also servants unto them, for we depend upon them to teach us the word; and thus will they keep us in ignorance if we will yield ourselves unto them, all the days of our lives.” (Hel. 16:20–21.)

This is not the speech of persons who admit they have abandoned religion and are rebelling willfully against God. It seems very likely that the great wickedness of these people was not very different from what the world today accepts as normal. And in that world, where the pursuit of wealth, power, and pleasure is the norm and where religion is mostly a formal ritual, it is usually the true prophet, not the sinner, who is made to appear abnormal.

Therefore, Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel were neither popular nor very successful in the long run in their efforts to save their society, although the power of the miracles that attended their ministry did result temporarily in great conversions among both the Nephites and the Lamanites.

In contrast to the shifting, unstable, materialistic ways of the people generally is the steadfastness and stability of these three prophets and the few who faithfully follow them. They seem to be a race apart—a different kind of being altogether than the other souls they walk among. They are spiritual men, sons of God; those who reject them are natural men, or enemies of God. Walking in obedience to divine law, these prophets participate more and more fully in the mysteries of God, “having many revelations daily” (Hel. 11:23), while the foolish masses lose even the knowledge they once possessed, until, as Alma warned, they “know nothing concerning his mysteries; and … are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell” (Alma 12:11). In fact, so far did these people go in their rejection of the word of God that they were about to place themselves outside the saving power of either justice or mercy. Samuel prophesied that were they to continue in their sins and not repent, they would soon find it said of them:

“Your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head.” (Hel. 13:38.)

Notice that Samuel did not tell them they had offended God and were about to be cut off from his love; rather, he told them that their behavior was contrary to the nature of happiness and righteousness, or that they had gone contrary to eternal law and were separating themselves from that which is the nature of God.

Not only did these people reject divine law; they also rejected the witness of many signs and miracles. And Samuel explained to them that even greater signs would be given as the birth of Christ drew nearer, “to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men.” (Hel. 14:28.) Then, stressing once more the laws by which the destiny of men is governed, Samuel explained that these many signs and wonders would be given so “that whosoever will believe might be saved, and that whosoever will not believe, a righteous judgment may come upon them.” (Hel. 14:29.) Finally, detailing the laws according to which salvation or damnation is administered to mankind, he admonished:

“Remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.

“He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you.” (Hel. 14:30–31.)

In Samuel’s pleading tone, we see again that the power of the book of Helaman lies in its concern for real human souls, not just in its concern with abstract principles of good and evil. We see it unfolding through the eyes, minds, and hearts of righteous men who, fired by the vision and power of God, are doing all they can to avert catastrophe and are being frustrated every step of the way by the very persons they are laboring so diligently to save. The pain of the irony alone is at times almost overwhelming.

Because the book of Helaman is largely taken from the record of Nephi, we know more of his personal battle against the evils of his day than we do of his brother, Lehi. Although Lehi undoubtedly labored and suffered in much the same way that Nephi did, we know nothing of his personal feelings but are told only generally of his diligence and righteousness. Along with Nephi, he determined to “preach the word of God all the remainder of his days” (Hel. 5:5); he accompanied Nephi in his preaching in the land Bountiful and the land southward; he assisted in the conversion of many dissenting Nephites and 8,000 Lamanites in and around the land of Zarahemla; and he shared with Nephi a remarkable spiritual experience in a Lamanite prison. He also accompanied Nephi on the futile mission to the land northward and continued with Nephi in the ministry around Zarahemla, experiencing many revelations and doing much preaching among the people. We are told that he “was not a whit behind [Nephi] as to things pertaining to righteousness.” (Hel. 11:19.)

An even greater lack of information hampers our efforts to come to know Samuel’s personality. We know little of the man except what we can glean from the brief summary of his activities and the extensive quotations from his preaching. We know that he was a man of courage and determination and that he was obedient to the Lord’s commands. After he had preached to the Nephites for many days, “they did cast him out, and he was about to return to his own land” (Hel. 13:2); but when the voice of the Lord came to him, commanding him to return and continue his prophesying, he immediately obeyed (Hel. 13:3). A lesser man might have been daunted by the refusal of the populace to let him enter the city, but Samuel, determined to obey the Lord, climbed upon the city wall and “cried with a loud voice, and prophesied.” (Hel. 13:4.)

We discover that Samuel was close to the Spirit and sensitive to its promptings: he preached and prophesied “whatsoever things the Lord put into his heart.” (Hel. 13:4.) We know, too, that he was commanded and instructed by an angel of the Lord (Hel. 14:9, 28), and that the power of the Lord protected him from physical harm: when the rebellious Nephites tried to kill him, “the Spirit of the Lord was with him, insomuch that they could not hit him with their stones neither with their arrows.” (Hel. 16:2.)

The portion of Samuel’s prophecies contained in Helaman 15 is a sobering warning to those who have been called the people of God. Samuel reminds the Nephites that they “have been a chosen people of the Lord” (Hel. 15:3) in contrast to the Lamanites, whom the Lord has not favored “because their deeds have been evil continually … because of the iniquity of the tradition of their fathers” (Hel. 15:4). The Nephites have no cause for pride, however, because the Lamanites are steadfast and firm “when they are once enlightened” (Hel. 15:10), and Samuel declares that “it shall be better for them than for you except ye repent” (Hel. 15:14).

Samuel’s exhortation and warning do not come from any cultural smugness, however, but from love for the Nephites—his “beloved brethren.” (Hel. 15:1.) Only when the Lord no longer restrains him and when the Nephites make an attempt on his life does he return to his own country—where he begins “to preach and to prophesy among his own people.” (Hel. 16:7.)

Thus, through Nephi’s quotations from the preaching of Samuel, we are able to perceive the tenacity and depth of devotion and feeling of that great prophet; but our insight into his personality is necessarily limited because we are seeing him through the eyes of another. Nephi himself remains central throughout the book of Helaman; it is his personality that dominates. If we are to share the feelings of a prophet, if we are to taste personally the joy of seemingly great missionary successes and then the pain of watching all those successes disintegrate as a society plummets toward destruction, we must do so through him.

When the account of this Nephi begins, we learn of the riches and pride within the church and the wickedness of the people generally—and we learn of Nephi’s choice to yield up the judgment seat and turn to preaching, since he had become “weary” because of the iniquity of the people. (Hel. 5:4.) We at once can see the human element in Nephi’s choice: we see that his turning to full-time preaching is not only the right or reasonable thing to do, it is the thing he must do because of his feelings about extremely distressing circumstances. The record then tells us more about this man whose emotions are involved in his decisions. He and his brother recall the words of Helaman, their father. We notice that these words are urgent and tender. Over and over we hear a loving, dedicated parent entreating: “My sons … my sons … my sons” (see Hel. 5:6–8); “O remember, remember, my sons” (Hel. 5:9); “and now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation” (Hel. 5:12). Is it surprising that sons of such a father would also feel deeply and urgently the need to preach repentance to a society falling into unbelief?

Moreover, these men were not merely preaching doctrine learned by rote; they, like their father, had experienced personally the power and wisdom of God. Nephi tells us that he and his brother preached with “great power and authority, for they had power and authority, given unto them that they might speak, and they also had what they should speak given unto them.” (Hel. 5:18.)

A particularly impressive witness of the power of God occurred when they found themselves in a Lamanite prison, kept “many days without food.” (Hel. 5:22.) When the Lamanites and the Nephite dissenters came to the prison to put them to death, suddenly they found themselves “encircled about as if by fire.” (Hel. 5:23.) In the way the following sentence repeats certain words, notice traces of the amazement they must have felt: “Nephi and Lehi were not burned; and they were as standing in the midst of fire and were not burned.” (Hel. 5:23.) These men were human. In the prison they experienced hunger, fear, apprehension, then amazement and hope as they participated in this mighty miracle. “When they saw that they were encircled about with a pillar of fire, and that it burned them not, their hearts did take courage.” (Hel. 5:24.)

Recognizing that “God [had] shown … this marvelous thing” (Hel. 5:26), they began to preach with boldness. Suddenly the earth trembled, the walls of the prison shook, and a cloud of darkness overshadowed the prison. (Hel. 5:27–28.) Through this cloud a voice was heard: “Repent ye, repent ye, and seek no more to destroy my servants whom I have sent unto you to declare good tidings.” (Hel. 5:29.) The voice spoke again. Nephi tries to share with us the unusual nature of this voice and the power with which it affected him. This voice, he says, was “not a voice of thunder, neither … a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but … a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul.” (Hel. 5:30.) Yet each time the voice spoke, the walls of the prison trembled as if they were about to fall. The voice came a third time, speaking “marvelous words which cannot be uttered by man; and the walls [of the prison] did tremble … and the earth shook as if it were about to divide asunder.” (Hel. 5:33.) Through all this, the people in the prison were so awestruck and fearful that they could not move. Then through the cloud of darkness they saw the faces of Nephi and Lehi, and “they did shine exceedingly, even as the faces of angels.” (Hel. 5:36.)

Who can read of this experience, allowing his mind’s eye to picture it, without feeling more deeply about the reality of God, about Nephi and Lehi, and about the significance of his own life. Vicariously, we experience something of what Nephi and Lehi experienced. We participate in a real-life drama with living prophets, and like them we are amazed, overjoyed, exalted in our feelings. In brief, we learn more than just doctrine.

With this miraculous event, the great work of conversion among the Lamanites commenced. The three hundred persons who witnessed these miracles in the prison were converted and began to testify among their brethren. Before long the entire Lamanite nation was filled with believers. (Hel. 5:49–50.) Their hearts changed, they laid down their weapons, yielded up the lands they had won by conquest from the Nephites, and returned to their own lands. (Hel. 5:51–52.) Lamanite missionaries then began to testify to the Nephites. (Hel. 6:4–5.) Surely Nephi is reflecting his own intense feelings of joy when he writes: “The people of the church did have great joy because of the conversion of the Lamanites, yea, because of the church of God, which had been established among them. And they did fellowship one with another and did rejoice one with another, and did have great joy.” (Hel. 6:3.)

Imagine the happiness of Nephi and Lehi about 29 b.c. as they beheld the results of their labors: “peace in all the land, insomuch that the Nephites did go into whatsoever part of the land they would, whether among the Nephites or the Lamanites.” (Hel. 6:7.)

Then Nephi, accompanied by Lehi, began a six-year missionary journey in the land northward (Hel. 6:6, 7:1), during which the people there “did reject all his words” (Hel. 7:3). Undoubtedly discouraged, Nephi returned to Zarahemla, only to find that the peaceful situation he had left such a short time before had degenerated considerably. He found “the people in a state of … awful wickedness, and those Gadianton robbers filling the judgment-seats—having usurped the power and authority of the land; laying aside the commandments of God.” (Hel. 7:4.) Here we get one of our most intimate glimpses of the man Nephi. The record states:

“Now this great iniquity had come upon the Nephites, in the space of not many years; and when Nephi saw it, his heart was swollen with sorrow within his breast; and he did exclaim in the agony of his soul:

“Oh, that I could have had my days in the days when my father Nephi first came out of the land of Jerusalem, that I could have joyed with him in the promised land; then were his people easy to be entreated, firm to keep the commandments of God, and slow to be led to do iniquity; and they were quick to hearken unto the words of the Lord—

“Yea, if my days could have been in those days, then would my soul have had joy in the righteousness of my brethren.

“But behold, I am consigned that these are my days, and that my soul shall be filled with sorrow because of this the wickedness of my brethren.” (Hel. 7:6–9.)

Recall that Nephi uttered this lament upon a tower in his garden, pouring out his soul to the Lord in his agony. People passing by happened to overhear him and marveled at the depth of his mourning. Hurriedly, a multitude gathered to discover the cause of such great grief. (See Hel. 7:10–11.) Read Nephi’s words (see Hel. 7:13–29) as he chides these people for their unbelief and wickedness. The words are not just “doctrine” to be learned by chapter and verse; they are the passionate overflowing of a man’s sorrow, and they range from desperate pleading (“O repent ye, repent ye! Why will ye die?”) to amazement and exasperation (“O, how could you have forgotten your God in the very day that he has delivered you?”).

Picture Nephi’s frustration as he tried to convince the people that he was indeed the Lord’s messenger by prophesying the murder of the chief judge (Hel. 8:27–28), only to find himself accused of being an accomplice and cast into prison (Hel. 9:16–20). Picture then the results of his second prophecy regarding the man who had committed the murder. (See Hel. 9:25–36.) When the prophecy turned out to be true, Nephi was hailed as a great prophet; some even called him a god. (Hel. 9:40–41.) But in their controversy over exactly what Nephi was, the people became angry with one another, divided into disputing parties, and went their ways, “leaving Nephi alone, as he was standing in the midst of them.” (Hel. 10:1.) Left alone, isolated from his fellow beings, Nephi perhaps felt very lonely and discouraged.

Yet notice how the command of God prevailed over all Nephi’s moods and disappointments. Nephi started toward his home, “pondering upon the things which the Lord had shown unto him.” (Hel. 10:2.) Suddenly, a voice spoke to him, saying: “Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people.” (Hel. 10:4.) Certainly the Lord knew of Nephi’s personal grief and chose this moment to buoy him up. But more! This time it is obvious that the Lord was regarding his servant in a new and very special way:

“Because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.

“Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people.” (Hel. 10:5–6.)

One is reminded of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s comment: “When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 150.) And then, obedient to the Lord’s command, Nephi turned around, without even returning to his home, and began again to preach repentance to the people.

With only intermittent successes, this mighty prophet continued to serve faithfully, once asking the Lord to bring a famine upon the people in order to bring a halt to their wickedness and warfare, rather than destroy them. (Hel. 11:4–5.) Yet, never one to give up hope, Nephi readily consented to plead with the Lord to end the famine when, three years later, the people showed some evidence of repentance. (Hel. 11:7–9.) His prayer for them shows how deeply he could love his people even in their iniquity:

“O Lord, thou didst hearken unto my words when I said, Let there be a famine, that the pestilence of the sword might cease; and I know that thou wilt, even at this time, hearken unto my words, for thou saidst that: If this people repent I will spare them.

“Yea, O Lord, and thou seest that they have repented, because of the famine and the pestilence and destruction which has come unto them.

“And now, O Lord, wilt thou turn away thine anger, and try again if they will serve thee? And if so, O Lord, thou canst bless them according to thy words which thou hast said.” (Hel. 11:14–16.)

But within ten years all was corrupt again, and the whole of chapter twelve of Helaman records a powerful lamentation which contrasts human frailty with God’s goodness. There is some question as to whether this chapter is a quotation of Nephi’s words or a commentary by the abridger, Mormon. But even if the passage is not Nephi’s work, it seems to reflect the attitudes and philosophy which must undergird the kind of life he lived. Beginning with a general comment on the “unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men,” the author seems to offer an apology for the human race; nevertheless, he goes on hopefully to assert his faith that “the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him.” (Hel. 12:1.) This law he regards as a certainty, and though most of the rest of his lamentation bemoans man’s foolishness, pride, and disobedience, he concludes by praising “our great and everlasting God” and reasserting his faith in the everlasting nature of God’s eternal law and the absoluteness of his word:

“And behold, if the Lord shall say unto a man—Because of thine iniquities, thou shalt be accursed forever, it shall be done.

“And if the Lord shall say [unto a man]—Because of thine iniquities thou shalt be cut off from my presence—he will cause that it shall be so.

“And wo unto him to whom he shall say this, for it shall be unto him that will do iniquity, and he cannot be saved; therefore, for this cause, that men might be saved, hath repentance been declared.

“Therefore, blessed are they who will repent and hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; for these are they that shall be saved. …

“And I would that all men might be saved. But we read that in the great and last day there are some who shall be cast out, yea, who shall be cast off from the presence of the Lord;

“Yea, who shall be consigned to a state of endless misery, fulfilling the words which say: They that have done good shall have everlasting life; and they that have done evil shall have everlasting damnation. And thus it is. Amen.” (Hel. 12:21–23, 25–26.)

It is sobering that the narrative of Nephi’s loving and untiring service in behalf of his people must end with this passage reaffirming the immutability of God’s laws and man’s inability to be saved except through obedience to those laws.

While the signs and wonders increased as the time of the birth of Christ drew near, Nephi continued to preach and baptize whatever converts had responded to the teaching of Samuel and himself. (It is interesting that there is no record of Samuel’s ever having baptized any of the people who were converted through his preaching: “As many as believed on [Samuel’s] word went forth and sought for Nephi … desiring that they might be baptized.” [Hel. 16:1; see also Hel. 16:3–5.]) Lehi may have died, since he is not mentioned toward the end of the book of Helaman. Yet “notwithstanding the signs and the wonders which were wrought among the people of the Lord, and the many miracles which they did, Satan did get great hold upon the hearts of the people upon all the face of the land.” (Hel. 16:23.)

Nephi’s mission ended sometime during the year before Christ’s birth. After “giving charge unto his son Nephi, who was his eldest son, concerning the plates, … he departed out of the land, and whither he went, no man knoweth.” (3 Ne. 1:2–3.) Like Moses, this special servant of God seems to have been taken by the Lord for special purposes.

It would be difficult to find in all of scripture a more devoted and powerful prophet than Nephi, the son of Helaman. As we read his account of his own labors, as well as the labors of Lehi and Samuel the Lamanite, our hearts are touched by the intensely human concern of these prophets for the people to whom they are sent to minister. Yet, with all their humanity, they stand as unfaltering witnesses of the irrevocability of eternal law—not only of the just law that judges and condemns the unrepentant, but of the law of mercy by which glory enters and transforms the lives of all those who choose to obey the commandments of God.

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