Tag Archives: salvation

#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 Helaman 1-3: The Beginning of the End

The events in the book of Helaman begin at about 52 B.C. At this point in our reading we have about 30% still left in the Book of Mormon, but as Mormon points out, the secret combinations that were being organized at that time would lead to the eventual overthrow of Nephite nation (Hel. 2:13-14).

President Ezra Taft Benson said, “The record of the Nephite history just prior to the Savior’s visit reveals many parallels to our own day as we anticipate the Savior’s second coming” (“The Savior’s Visit to America“, Ensign, May 1987). One of the major points emphasized in this book is the evil caused by secret combinations.

Satan LOVES secrets! Many times we keep something a secret in an effort to save ourselves in some way.  But secrets do not save us; they enslave us! We become a slave to a secret. We would do well to understand what Mormon teaches us about secret combinations so that we can recognize modern-day secret combinations and do everything in our power to combat them–especially the secret combinations that we may produce in our own lives.

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles warned of the dangers of secret combinations in our day:

“The Book of Mormon teaches that secret combinations engaged in crime present a serious challenge, not just to individuals and families but to entire civilizations. Among today’s secret combinations are gangs, drug cartels, and organized crime families. The secret combinations of our day function much like the Gadianton robbers of the Book of Mormon times. … Among their purposes are to ‘murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness, contrary to the laws of their country and also the laws of their God’ (Helaman 6:23).

“If we are not careful, today’s secret combinations can obtain power and influence just as quickly and just as completely as they did in Book of Mormon times. …

“The Book of Mormon teaches that the devil is the ‘author of all sin’ and the founder of these secret combinations (Helaman 6:30). … His purpose is to destroy individuals, families, communities, and nations (see 2 Nephi 9:9). To a degree, he was successful during Book of Mormon times. And he is having far too much success today. That’s why it is so important for us… to take a firm stand for truth and right by doing what we can to help keep our communities safe.

“… [We can] ‘stand as witnesses of God’ by [1] setting an example, [2] keeping Church standards, and [3] sharing our testimony with those around us (see Mosiah 18:9)” (“Standing for Truth and Right,” Ensign, Nov. 1997).

Bro Simon Bonus:

My “current favorite” verses from the Book of Mormon come from Helaman 3:27–30. Mormon often used the phrases “thus we may see,” “thus we see,” and “we see” to point out truths he wanted us to learn. In Helaman 3:27–30 these phrases are used a number of times. What message do you think Mormon wants you to take away from these verses?

27 Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name.

28 Yea, thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto all, even to those who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God.

29 Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked—

30 And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out.

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#BOMTC Alma 34-36: YOMO Not YOLO

Have you ever heard someone use the term YOLO to justify doing what they want to do? YOLO is an acronym for You Only Live Once. Similar to carpe diem or memento mori, it implies that one should enjoy life, even if that entails taking risks.

The gospel however teaches a different motto. The gospel motto is more like YOMOYou’re Only Mortal Once! Alma 34 explains the concept of YOMO this way:

32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.

33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses  therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.

34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis  that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.

35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.

In Alma 36, Alma shares with his son, Helaman, an important life-lesson: YOLO will make you say, “OH NO!!!” and YOMO is the “WAY TO GO!”

YOMO--You're Only Mortal Once

YOMO–You’re Only Mortal Once

Here are a few video clips to help you YOMO a little “mo” ;o)

What Matters Most

President Thomas S. Monson counsels us to spend time with, cherish, and express love to the people we hold dear.

Moments That Matter Most

We would do well to slow down a little, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most. Read President Uchtdorf’s entire address “Of Things That Matter Most” at http://bit.ly/momentsmatter

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#BOMTC Alma 17-19: M.T.C. = MEMBER TRAINING CHAPTERS

Try filling in the blanks in the following quote using the words: MEMBER and MISSIONARY (I listed the words in alphabetical order so that you won’t try and do that “Princess Bride” thing where the guy tries to figure out which cup has the poison… No cheaters!).

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught:

“Asking every member to be a ___________ is not nearly as crucial as asking every member to be a ___________.”

So, what do ya think?

I know what we typically hear, and that may be why you chose what you did. Or perhaps as you thought about it you realized what Elder Holland is really getting at. The easiest way to figure out the correct answer is to “do the math!

What do I mean by, “do the math”? Well, what I mean is, with roughly 70,000 missionaries serving currently and a world population of 7 Billion +, each missionary would have responsibility for sharing the gospel with ~100,000 people. Not very good odds.

Now if we use the same world population and use the members of the church (7,000,000,000/15,000,000) we get a ratio of ~467 people for each member of the church to influence. Now those odds are pretty good! Especially when you take social media into account.

Sharing Your Beliefs

“Sharing the good news of the gospel is easier and the effects more far-reaching than ever before. . . . Perhaps the Lord’s encouragement to ‘open [your] mouths’ might today include ‘use your hands’ to blog and text message the gospel to all the world!” . . .

“With the blessings of modern technology, we can express gratitude and joy about God’s great plan for His children in a way that can be heard . . . around the world. Sometimes a single phrase of testimony can set events in motion that affect someone’s life for eternity.” — President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (Ensign, May 2011, “Waiting on the Road to Damascus.” Emphasis added)

Inviting All to Come unto Christ: Sharing the Gospel

When Junior, a young man in a small Florida branch, decided he didn’t want to be alone in his belief in Christ, he invited a friend. One friend joined, then another, and another….

Click here to read more about the young men in Immokalee, Florida

You may be thinking that you are right on your guess now, but we are not done yet (well, we are with the math…). Here is Elder Holland’s quote in context:

“A young returned missionary sister from Hong Kong told me recently that when she and her companion asked an investigator if she believed in God, the woman replied, ‘I didn’t until I met a member of your church and observed how she lived.’ What exemplary missionary work! Asking every member to be a MISSIONARY is not nearly as crucial as asking every member to be a MEMBER! Thank you for living the gospel.” (“‘Witnesses unto Me’,” Ensign, May 2001, emphasis added.)

youths reading Joseph Smith pamphlet

Now, why on earth would Elder Holland say something like that when it seems to contradict what has been taught previously and is emphasized currently with the Hasten the Work initiative?

We know what it means to be a MEMBER MISSIONARY. “Member missionary” sounds great (and the challenge has been extended frequently and recently by prophets of God), but one of the primary problems is the psychology behind the phraseology.  There is a lot of “baggage” and responsibility that comes with the word “missionary”. This can be very intimidating for members–especially those who may have never served a full-time mission. But if we ask every member to be a MEMBER, well, that doesn’t sound hard at all–no extra baggage, no added responsibility–we are just asking a member to do what they should already be doing.

RMN, Catch the Wave (9)

So, what does it mean to be a MEMBER MEMBER. Well, Elder Holland said that one way we do it is by simply “living the gospel.” Perhaps one of the best places to look for information on how to be a MEMBER MEMBER that is “living the gospel” is to study Mosiah 18:7-11. Think about it, isn’t that exactly what Ammon did? He didn’t start out in typical “missionary mode”. What did he do? He did exactly what any member of the church could and should do. He wasn’t able to be a MISSIONARY until he fulfilled his responsibility as a MEMBER first.

Ammon Defends the Flocks of King Lamoni

All of this is why I refer to Alma 17-19 as the M.T.C. Not because it stands for Missionary Training Center in this case, but rather MEMBER TRAINING CHAPTERS. Ammon is the perfect model for how a good MEMBER MEMBER can make all the difference in the world by just “LIVING THE GOSPEL.” As you read Alma 19 you will be able to see the Ripple Effect of ONE MEMBER MEMBER easily affecting hundreds of other people.

ripples diagram

rock in water

You can do that, right? You can be a “lively member” of the church (see D&C 92:2) each and every day. You can influence the lives of many more than 467 people in a short matter of time by just living up to the covenants you made at baptism. You don’t need a badge on your shirt because you already wear His name on your heart! Think of what Ammon did in Alma 17-19, then liken it to your own station in life, and GO BE A MEMBER MEMBER!

Sharing Gospel Happiness

A priest finds out his friend has been hospitalized with cancer. His testimony and Christlike example lead her to a knowledge of the truth.

QLC, Pin One On Your Heart

 What the Apostles Say About Sharing the Gospel Online

Why You Should be Part of the Mormon Conversation Online

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#BOMTC Alma 10-11: A TESTimony from A[mulek] to Z[eezrom]

A TESTimony from A[mulek] to Z[eezrom]

A TESTimony from A[mulek] to Z[eezrom]

After Alma taught in the cities of Zarahemla, Gideon, and Melek and had many people accept his message, the people in Ammonihah rejected his teaching and cast him out of their city. However, obedient to the Lord’s command, Alma returned to Ammonihah.

The Lord prepared Amulek, a native of Ammonihah, to receive Alma and join him in testifying to the people. Alma and Amulek warned the people of Ammonihah that if they did not repent, they would be destroyed. Amulek faithfully obeyed God and used his reputation, good name, and influence to support the prophet Alma and testify of Jesus Christ.

Alma and Amulek had little success preaching to the people of Ammonihah because Satan had a, “great hold upon the hearts of the people” (see Alma 8:9). Many of them had hardened their hearts against the gospel, and they resisted Alma and Amulek’s invitation to repent. Nevertheless, Alma and Amulek faithfully called them to repentance, testifying that because they had been taught the truth and had experienced the power of God, the Lord expected them to be more righteous than the Lamanites, who had not been taught the truth. Alma and Amulek taught that if the people of Ammonihah would not repent, they would face destruction. They also taught the people that redemption was possible only through Jesus Christ.

After Alma addressed the people, they were angry and wanted to cast him into prison. Amulek bravely addressed the people and added his witness to Alma’s (see Alma 9:31–34). Amulek was a descendant of Nephi. He was a hardworking man who had built substantial wealth. He was also well known and was “of no small reputation” among his many family members and friends (see Alma 10:4).

As Alma and Amulek continued to teach the people of Ammonihah, a lawyer named Zeezrom offered Amulek money to deny the existence of the true and living God. As he defended his faith against Zeezrom’s attempts to ensnare him, Amulek testified that salvation from sin comes only through Jesus Christ. Amulek bore strong testimony that all mankind will be resurrected and judged by God. Amulek also testified that all mankind will be resurrected and will be brought to “be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit” on the Day of Judgment (Alma 11:44).

As you consider the events that take place in these chapters, it is important to remember:

  • Every QUEST-ion begins with a QUEST
  • Every TEST-imony begins with a TEST

I found the following illustration from the More Good Foundation very relevant and applicable to today’s reading:

Some people want to learn about the Church, but not from the Church. It’s not hard to believe. When shopping on Amazon.com, do you pay more attention to the publisher’s review or the users’ reviews? Do you shop for the best-in-class car by researching Ford.com or a user forum that discusses all makes and models?

In the book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath call this concept an appeal to “antiauthorities” (or non-authorities): “A citizen of the modern world, constantly inundated with messages, learns to develop skepticism about the sources of those messages. Who’s behind these messages? Should I trust them? What do they have to gain if I believe them? A commercial claiming that a new shampoo makes your hair bouncier has less credibility than hearing your best friend rave about how a new shampoo made her own hair bouncier. Well, duh. The company wants to sell you shampoo. Your friend doesn’t, so she gets more trust points. The takeaway is that it can be the honesty and trustworthiness of our sources, not their status, that allows them to act as authorities. Sometimes antiauthorities are even better than authorities.” (Made to Stick, pp. 136-37)

Church members can bring credibility to the Church by raising this “antiauthority” (or “non-authoritative”) voice.

Amulek was a non-authority for the prophet Alma. Because Amulek was well known in his community, when he added his testimony to the words of the prophet, the people believed: “I am also a man of no small reputation among all those who know me; yea, and behold, I have many kindreds and friends, and I have also acquired much riches by the hand of my industryI know that the things whereof [Alma] hath testified are true… And now, when Amulek had spoken these words the people began to be astonished, seeing there was more than one witness who testified…” (Alma 10:4,10,12)

The following is a great article by Elder Dean L. Larsen, that goes well with this account, in the book, Heroes from the Book of Mormon. 

Zeezrom does not rank among the great prophet leaders in the Book of Mormon, but his story is one of the fascinating sidebars to the lives of the principal characters in the Nephite record. He appears on the historical scene during a time of great challenge to the Church and to the stability of the government among the Nephite people.

During the closing years of King Mosiah’s life, a significant alteration occurs in the government. Frustrated in his attempts to install one of his sons as his successor, Mosiah implements a system of judges to govern the people. These judges are elected by popular vote. A chief judge is appointed as the presiding figure in this new system. Alma the Younger is chosen to fill this role, in addition to his responsibilities as the head of the Church.

Alma is soon faced with troubles in the Church, as the people begin “to wax proud” (Alma 4:6). As a result of this pride, the unity of the Nephite people begins to dissolve. In this crisis Alma is faced with a critical decision. He resigns as the chief judge of the land and determines to focus his full energies upon bringing about a spiritual renewal among the people.

Launching into his committed course with full energy and faith, Alma visits the cities and villages of the land, counseling the people and calling them to repentance. In due time his mission takes him to the city of Ammonihah, where he finds the people in almost total rebellion.

After experiencing ridicule and total rejection, Alma is finallycast out of the city. The Lord, however, directs Alma to return to Ammonihah and guides him to Amulek, a prominent citizen, who accepts Alma as a prophet. Together, the two go among the people, preaching repentance and warning of the direful consequences that will come to the inhabitants if they persist in their willful disobedience.

It is in this scenario that Zeezrom appears. While the description of conditions in Ammonihah is not given in great detail, it is not difficult to fill in the pieces of the political, moral, and social mosaic from the recorded account. Corruption and dishonesty in official circles have become endemic. Grasping for material riches, the people have clamored to gain advantage one over another. Judges have become corrupt, susceptible to bribes and yielding advantage to those who can show favors.

This litigious environment has spawned the need for many of those who can plead cases successfully before the courts. Numerous lawyers have emerged, skilled not only in the law but also in exploiting the devious legal system for the potential benefit of themselves and their clients.

It is a group of these lawyers that confront Alma and Amulek. Undoubtedly they hold some hope of profiting from feeding the controversy that has developed from the preaching of the two men. Additionally, lawyers, nimble of speech, are thought to have the best prospect of confounding the Lord’s servants.

It is significant that Zeezrom presents himself as the chief spokesman for these legalists. “Now he was the foremost to accuse Amulek and Alma, he being one of the most expert among them, having much business to do among the people” (Alma 10:31).

We learn much about Zeezrom from this capsule profile. Not only is he acknowledged by his peers as one of the leaders in his craft, he is well known among the people generally, and apparently is one of the foremost to whom they look for legal assistance. This would indicate that he also has a comfortable relationship with the judges in the city.

The account of the dialogue between Zeezrom and Alma and Amulek in the eleventh chapter of the book of Alma provides additional insight into Zeezrom’s worldly self-assurance. He has an audience to play to, and he intends, with his practiced sophistry and cunning, to make a game of his denegration of the two missionaries. After all, the audience is completely prejudiced in his favor, and he relishes the opportunity to add to his reputation among his peers. His questions to Alma and Amulek reflect his courtroom skills. They are designed for entrapment.

Zeezrom, however, is completely unaccustomed to dealing with those who have the spirit of inspiration and revelation working in their favor. His motives are transparent to Alma and Amulek.

Zeezrom’s offer to pay the missionaries six onties of silver if they will deny that there is a Supreme Being exposes his conviction that everyone is as corruptible as himself. It is a revealing demonstration of the debauched condition into which the people have fallen. Zeezrom obviously expects no disapproval from his fellow lawyers or the people for his proffered bribe. It is a practice to which they are accustomed.

It is when Zeezrom’s scheming is powerfully rebuffed by Amulek, and Amulek begins to testify of basic gospel truths, that Zeezrom senses something different about these two men. His arrogant self-confidence begins to falter. “Now, when Amulek had finished these words the people began again to be astonished, and also Zeezrom began to tremble” (Alma 11:46).

Alma, sensing that the power of the Spirit has begun to work upon the heart of Zeezrom and upon some of his listeners, takes up the attack that Amulek has begun:

Now the words that Alma spake unto Zeezrom were heard by the people round about; for the multitude was great, and he spake on this wise:

Now Zeezrom, seeing that thou hast been taken in thy lying and craftiness, for thou hast not lied unto men only but thou hast lied unto God; for behold, he knows all thy thoughts, and thou seest that thy thoughts are made known unto us by his Spirit;

And thou seest that we know that thy plan was a very subtle plan, as to the subtlety of the devil, for to lie and to deceive this people that thou mightest set them against us, to revile us and to cast us out-

Now this was a plan of thine adversary, and he hath exercised his power in thee. (Alma 12:2-5.)

The effect of Alma’s rebuke upon Zeezrom is dramatic:

Now when Alma had spoken these words, Zeezrom began to tremble more exceedingly, for he was convinced more and more of the power of God; and he was also convinced that Alma and Amulek had a knowledge of him, for he was convinced that they knew the thoughts and intents of his heart (Alma 12:7).

It is at this point that a remarkable change begins to take place in the demeanor of Zeezrom. He becomes the earnest inquirer-the learner. The change is the more remarkable because it occurs in the presence and full view of the people to whom he has been appealing with his inquisition. “And Zeezrom began to inquire of them diligently, that he might know more concerning the kingdom of God” (Alma 12:8).

We must pause at this point in our consideration of Zeezrom’s situation to ask ourselves the question, why was this arrogant, sophisticated demagogue so susceptible to the influence of the Spirit? Other rebels in the Book of Mormon record were similarly confronted by spiritual leaders but persisted in their debauchery. Nehor, although rebuked by Alma, had no change of heart (see Alma 1), nor did Amlici (see Alma 2) or Sherem (see Jacob 7). Korihor stubbornly refused to repent (see Alma 30). What was there in the soul of Zeezrom that pressed him toward such a remarkable change?

The answers to some of these questions must be left to speculation.

It is interesting, however, to contemplate the abrupt changes that occurred in the lives of others who had initially been enemies to the Lord’s work and his people, and who reversed their life’s course to become champions of the gospel plan. Alma himself, along with the sons of King Mosiah, underwent such a redirection. Ammon, Mosiah’s son, when reflecting upon the remarkable missionary successes that he, Aaron, Omner, Himni, and their brethren had enjoyed among the Lamanite people over a fourteen-year period of unusual hardship and sacrifice, recalls the days of their rebellion: “Behold, we went forth even in wrath, with mighty threatenings to destroy his [the Lord’s] church” (Alma 26:18). He then wonders, “Oh then, why did he not consign us to an awful destruction, yea, why did he not let the sword of his justice fall upon us, and doom us to eternal despair?” (Alma 26:19.)

Why, indeed?

Anti-Nephi-Lehi, the converted Lamanite king, acknowledges his dark past when he persuades his people to willingly lay down their lives rather than resist the threatened onslaught by their unconverted brethren: “And behold, I also thank my God, that we have been convinced of our sins, and of the many murders which we have committed” (Alma 24:9).

It appears that the “light that shineth in a dark place” to which Peter referred (2 Pet. 1:19) is difficult to extinguish completely in the souls of men. For those who have basked in that light and then have willfully turned against it, the regeneration process appears to be more difficult and unlikely. Such seems to have been the case with Sherem, who confessed before he died, “I fear lest I have committed the unpardonable sin, for I have lied unto God; for I denied the Christ, and said that I believed the scriptures; and they truly testify of him” (Jacob 7:19).

An important lesson seems to emerge from the experiences of Zeezrom and the other repentant transgressors who have been mentioned. It is never safe for us to judge a person to be beyond the reach of the Lord’s merciful hand. Even those whose lives have been tainted by corruption and apparent rebellion against the things of God can, through sincere repentance, become forces for great good in the accomplishment of the Lord’s purposes.

We do know that Zeezrom’s life was dramatically redirected. It appears that in spite of his having yielded to the influence of the environment in which he had gained notoriety, a spark of spiritual light must have endured in his soul. While some of those who listen to the exchange between Zeezrom and the missionaries react in a positive way, the majority are angry and are determined to destroy Alma and Amulek. A mob spirit inflames them. They bind the two men with strong cords and take them before the chief judge, where the men are accused of reviling against the law and against the people of the land.

In the midst of this turmoil, Zeezrom attempts to come to the defense of Alma and Amulek:

And it came to pass that Zeezrom was astonished at the words which had been spoken; and he also knew concerning the blindness of the minds, which he had caused among the people by his lying words; and his soul began to be harrowed up under aconsciousness of his own guilt; yea, he began to be encircled about by the pains of hell.

And it came to pass that he began to cry unto the people, saying: Behold, I am guilty, and these men are spotless before God. And he began to plead for them from that time forth; but they reviled him, saying: Art thou also possessed with the devil? And they spit upon him, and cast him out from among them. (Alma 14:6-7.)

It is apparent that in attempting to stop the destruction of Alma and Amulek, Zeezrom risks his own life. The fury of the mob turns in some measure upon him. They cast him out from among them, casting out as well all those who believe in the words of Alma and Amulek. They then gather together the wives and children of the believers and cause them to be burned, along with their sacred records. It is not difficult to imagine the agony that fills Zeezrom’s soul as he witnesses the holocaust that his taunting has precipitated.

Along with the other believers who have been cast out of Ammonihah, Zeezrom finds refuge among the people of Sidom. He is found there by Alma and Amulek, who barely escaped from the city with their lives after the Lord miraculously delivered them from the hands of their tormentors. Undoubtedly the two missionaries had witnessed the futile attempt of their former antagonist to quell the wrath of the mob. They find him in dire circumstances:

Zeezrom lay sick at Sidom, with a burning fever, which was caused by the great tribulations of his mind on account of his wickedness, for he supposed that Alma and Amulek were no more; and he supposed that they had been slain because of his iniquity. And this great sin, and his many other sins, did harrow up his mind until it did become exceedingly sore, having no deliverance; therefore he began to be scorched with a burning heat. (Alma 15:3.)

When Zeezrom learns that Alma and Amulek have made their escape and are in Sidom, he pleads for them to come to him. The two companions respond immediately. With a profoundly repentant spirit, Zeezrom begs Alma and Amulek to heal him. This request in itself is reflective of the faith that has begun to take root in Zeezrom’s heart.

And it came to pass that Alma said unto him, taking him by the hand: Believest thou in the power of Christ unto salvation?

And he answered and said: Yea, I believe all the words that thou hast taught.

And then Alma cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord our God, have mercy on this man, and heal him according to his faith which is in Christ. (Alma 15:6-7, 10.)

Alma’s administration is instantly effective. Zeezrom leaps to his feet, healed not only physically but spiritually as well. The report of this incident is spread throughout Sidom.

One cannot reflect upon this episode without recalling the conversion of Saul of Tarsus in New Testament times. Saul, who had been a tormentor of the Christians and had condoned Stephen’s martyrdom (see Acts 8:1), requires a similarly dramatic conversion experience. His sightlessness is healed under the hands of Ananias. He is brought to a recognition and acknowledgement of his folly in attempting to thwart the Lord’s work. In a flood of repentant anguish he makes a dramatic reversal in the course of his life. His fervor and energy are redirected to promulgate and sustain the work he has previously sought to destroy.

So it is with Zeezrom. He is baptized by Alma, and, just as was the case with Paul, he immediately begins to preach among the people, later becoming a trusted companion of Alma and Amulek. It is perhaps not adding too much to reality to suppose that Zeezrom’s healing, his conversion, and his testifying of Christ contribute much to the missionary success enjoyed by these three servants of the Lord. The record tells us that the people “did flock in from all the region round about Sidom, and were baptized” (Alma 15:14).

That Zeezrom proves himself in the eyes of his mentor, Alma, is confirmed by the fact that he regularly appears in the accounts of Alma’s ministry as one of his most trusted and reliable companions and fellow servants. Years after the events in Ammonihah and Sidom, when Alma undertakes one of the most difficult challenges of his life’s ministry-the conversion of the Zoramites-Zeezrom is chosen along with Ammon, Aaron, Omner, Amulek, and two of Alma’s sons to be a part of this seasoned missionary force (see Alma 31:6).

That some of Zeezrom’s testimony and teachings find their way into the permanent Nephite record is confirmed in the book of Helaman. Nephi and Lehi, the sons of Helaman, are engaged in a missionary effort among the Lamanites. They are captured and imprisoned by those they have sought to convert. In a miraculous manifestation of the Lord’s power, Nephi and Lehi are encircled by a fire that preserves rather than consumes them. The Lamanites are frozen in wonderment at this spectacle. They become overshadowed by a cloud of darkness, and a voice commands them to repent. They then see Nephi and Lehi conversing with angels. Aminadab, a Nephite dissenter who had once been a believer, seizes this moment to confirm that these miracles are occurring through the Lord’s power. He cries to those who are witnessing this event, “You must repent, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom” (Hel. 5:41).

Perhaps the most convincing evidence we have of the love and esteem that Zeezrom comes to enjoy among his fellow Christians is that one of the principal Nephite cities is given his name (see Alma 56:14).

Much can be learned from the story of Zeezrom: the tragedy of corruption among a people who reject Christ and sacrifice moral principle to pride and self-interest; the anguish and torment that sin produces in an individual life.

Perhaps the most significant lesson to be learned from Zeezrom’s experience is that the redeeming power of Christ’s love can bring about the miracle of spiritual regeneration in the vilest of sinners when they fully turn to the Savior and give themselves to the accomplishment of His purposes. In Zeezrom’s story, all of us who are imperfect find hope for forgiveness, and hope in reaffirmation of the Savior’s infinite love for those who reject evil and give their hearts to Him. (Heroes from the Book of Mormon, p.112-120.)

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#BOMTC Alma 5-6: A Mighty Change of Heart!

You may remember a general conference address in which Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles compared the process of conversion to the process of pickling a cucumber (Referred to as, “The Parable of the Pickle” in “Ye Must Be Born Again,” Ensign,May 2007). For many of us this was a new and powerful object lesson, but Elder Bednar wasn’t the first Apostle to make this comparison. President Lorenzo Snow shared a similar insight 150 years earlier:

“Place a cucumber in a barrel of vinegar and there is but little effect produced upon it the first hour, nor in the first 12 hours. Examine it and you will find that the effect produced is merely upon the rind, for it requires a longer time to pickle it. A person’s being baptized into this church has an effect upon him, but not the effect to pickle him immediately. It does not establish the law of right and of duty in him during the first 12 or 24 hours; he must remain in the church, like the cucumber in the vinegar, until he becomes saturated with the right spirit (Teachings: Lorenzo Snow, CHAPTER 3: LIFELONG CONVERSION: CONTINUING TO ADVANCE IN THE PRINCIPLES OF TRUTH).

Although Elder Bednar may not have been the first to use “the parable of the pickle” as an object lesson of true and continual conversion, he did elaborate on it with more power, and authority, clarity, and completeness than I could ever hope to offer. I commend his words to you below… (Keep scrolling though, I do have more!)

Ye Must Be Born Again

These pages are an invitation to CHANGE in the same way! When the Church was threatened by internal contention and wickedness (see Alma 4:9–11), Alma knew that true reform could only come through a mighty change in the hearts of Church members. Alma gave up the judgment seat so he could focus his efforts on strengthening the Church. As the High Priest of the Church, Alma began his mission to reclaim the people of Zarahemla by “bearing down in pure testimony against them” (Alma 4:19) and calling on the people to repent. Alma began his mission by reminding the people of Zarahemla that the Lord had delivered their ancestors from physical and spiritual bondage. He encouraged them to prepare for the judgment of the Lord by having faith in the word of God and evaluating the spiritual condition of their hearts. As Alma continued preaching in Zarahemla, he warned the people that their decision to hearken to or reject his words held certain blessings or consequences. Alma also compared Jesus Christ to a good shepherd who called after them and desired to bring them back to his fold. He encouraged the people to repent and avoid the unclean things of the world so they could inherit the kingdom of heaven. After setting the Church in order in Zarahemla, Alma went to the city of Gideon.

#BOMTC Day 36, May 12~Alma 5-6 or Pages 217-223 (4)

One of the classic stories that I feel illustrates Alma 5-6 well is HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS”, by Dr. Seuss

#BOMTC Day 36, May 12~Alma 5-6 or Pages 217-223 (7)

What exactly was the Grinch’s problem? The same thing that Alma has noticed with his people (and perhaps us)–Heart Disease! Elder Gerald N. Lund, who later served as a member of the Seventy, taught that when the word heart is used in the scriptures, it often refers to “the real, inward person” (“Understanding Scriptural Symbols,” Ensign, Oct. 1986). How is a “mighty change of heart” different from the other ways in which people may change?

#BOMTC Day 36, May 12~Alma 5-6 or Pages 217-223 (6)

One way to express that someone has had a mighty change of heart is to say that they have been “born of God” or “born again”–the change that a person experiences when they accept Jesus Christ and begin a new life as His disciple.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained:

“You may ask, ‘Why doesn’t this mighty change happen more quickly with me?’ You should remember that the remarkable examples of King Benjamin’s people, Alma, and some others in scripture are just that—remarkable and not typical. For most of us, the changes are more gradual and occur over time. Being born again, unlike our physical birth, is more a process than an event. And engaging in that process is the central purpose of mortality” (“Born Again,” Ensign, May 2008).

President Ezra Taft Benson also explained that experiencing “a mighty change of heart” is most often an incremental process: 

“Becoming Christlike is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow, almost imperceptible. The scriptures record remarkable accounts of men whose lives changed dramatically, in an instant, as it were: Alma the Younger, Paul on the road to Damascus, Enos praying far into the night, King Lamoni. Such astonishing examples of the power to change even those steeped in sin give confidence that the Atonement can reach even those deepest in despair. But we must be cautious as we discuss these remarkable examples. Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule. For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life. They live quiet lives of goodness, service, and commitment. They are like the Lamanites, who the Lord said ‘were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not’ (3 Ne. 9:20; italics added)” (“A Mighty Change of Heart,” Ensign, Oct. 1989).

#BOMTC Day 36, May 12~Alma 5-6 or Pages 217-223 (3)

CHART YOUR HEART!

In medical practice a cardiogram is a chart that doctors use to evaluate the status of our physical hearts. It helps identify conditions that need treatment. Study the verses from Alma 5 that are listed at the bottom of the spiritual cardiogram below. What does your SPIRITUAL CARDIOGRAM look like?

#BOMTC Day 36, May 12~Alma 5-6 or Pages 217-223 (8)

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught us this about CHANGE: 

“Here the most crucial challenge, once you recognize the seriousness of your mistakes, will be to believe that you can change, that there can be a different you. To disbelieve that is clearly a satanic device designed to discourage and defeat you. We ought to fall on our knees and thank our Father in heaven that we belong to a church and have grasped a gospel that promises repentance to those who will pay the price. Repentance is not a foreboding word. It is, after faith, the most encouraging word in the Christian vocabulary. Repentance is simply the scriptural invitation for growth and improvement and progress and renewal. You can change! You can be anything you want to be in righteousness.

“If there is one lament I cannot abide, it is the poor, pitiful, withered cry, “Well, that’s just the way I am.” If you want to talk about discouragement, that is one that discourages me. I’ve heard it from too many people who want to sin and call it psychology. And I use the word sin to cover a vast range of habits, some seemingly innocent enough, that nevertheless bring discouragement and doubt and despair.

“You can change anything you want to change, and you can do it very fast. Another satanic sucker punch is that it takes years and years and eons of eternity to repent. That’s just not true. It takes exactly as long to repent as it takes you to say, “I’ll change”-and mean it. Of course there will be problems to work out and restitutions to make. You may well spend-indeed, you had better spend-the rest of your life proving your repentance by its permanence. But change, growth, renewal, and repentance can come for you as instantaneously as they did for Alma and the sons of Mosiah. Even if you have serious amends to make, it is not likely that you would qualify for the term “the vilest of sinners,” which is the phrase Mormon used in describing these young men. Yet as Alma recounts his own experience, it appears to have been as instantaneous as it was stunning. (See Alma 36)”  (However Long and Hard the Road, p.6)

President Ezra Taft Benson taught how people who have had a “change of heart” want to live:

“When you choose to follow Christ, you choose to be changed. … The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human behavior. …

“Men [and women] changed for Christ will be captained by Christ. Like Paul they will be asking, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ (Acts 9:6.) …

“Their will is swallowed up in His will. (See John 5:30.)

“They do always those things that please the Lord. (See John 8:29.)

“Not only would they die for the Lord, but more important they want to live for Him.

“Enter their homes, and the pictures on their walls, the books on their shelves, the music in the air, their words and acts reveal them as Christians.

“They stand as witnesses of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places. (See Mosiah 18:9.)

“They have Christ on their minds, as they look unto Him in every thought. (See D&C 6:36.)

“They have Christ in their hearts as their affections are placed on Him forever. (See Alma 37:36.)

“Almost every week they partake of the sacrament and witness anew to their Eternal Father that they are willing to take upon them the name of His Son, always remember Him, and keep His commandments. (See Moro. 4:3.)” (“Born of God,” Ensign, Nov. 1985).

Are You Saved?

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “As Latter-day Saints use the words saved and salvation, there are at least six different meanings. According to some of these, our salvation is assured—we are already saved. In others, salvation must be spoken of as a future event . . . or as conditioned upon a future event. . . . But in all of these meanings, or kinds of salvation, salvation is in and through Jesus Christ” (Ensign, May 1998). The following are summaries of the six different meanings of which Elder Oaks spoke:

  1. We are saved from the permanent effects of death. Because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, all mankind will be resurrected.

  2. We are saved from sin through Christ’s Atonement and by following the gospel plan. Repentance is an important part of being saved from the consequences of our sins.

  3. We are saved when we are “born again.” This happens when we enter into a covenant relationship with Christ by accepting baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and taking Christ’s name upon us. We must also faithfully keep and renew that covenant relationship.

  4. We are saved from the darkness of ignorance as we learn about the gospel plan. The gospel of Jesus Christ brings light into our lives.

  5. We are saved from the second death, which is final spiritual death, because of Christ’s Atonement. Everyone, except for those few who become sons of perdition, will enter into a kingdom of glory.

  6. Our hope is that we will be finally saved in the celestial kingdom. In addition to the other requirements, this salvation, or exaltation, also requires that we make sacred covenants in God’s temples and remain faithful to them.

HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS”

Every Who

Down in Who-ville

Liked Christmas a lot…

But the Grinch,

Who lived just North of Who-ville,

Did NOT!

The Grinch hated Christmas!

The whole Christmas season!

Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.

It could be that his head wasn’t screwed on quite right.

It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were to tight.

But I think that the most likely reason of all

May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

But,

Whatever the reason,

His heart or his shoes,

He stood there on Christmas Eve, hating the Whos,

Staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown

At the warm lighted windows below in their town.

For he knew every Who down in Who-ville beneath

Was busy now, hanging a mistleoe wreath.

“And they’re hanging their stockings!” he snarled with a sneer.

“Tomorrow is Christmas! It’s practically here!”

Then he growled, with his grinch fingers nervously drumming,

“I MUST find a way to keep Christmas from coming!”

For, tomorrow, he knew…

…All the Who girls and boys

Would wake up bright and early. They’d rush for their toys!

And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!

That’s one thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!

Then the Whos, young and old, would sit down to a feast.

And they’d feast! And they’d feast!

And they’d FEAST! FEAST! FEAST! FEAST!

They would start on Who-pudding, and rare Who-roast-beast

Which was something the Grinch couldn’t stand in the least!

And THEN

They’d do something he liked least of all!

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,

Would stand close together, with Christmas bells ringing.

They’d stand hand-in-hand. And the Whos would start singing!

They’d sing! And they’d sing!

AND they’d SING! SING! SING! SING!

And the more the Grinch thought of the Who-Christmas-Sing

The more the Grinch thought, “I must stop this whole thing!

“Why for fifty-three years I’ve put up with it now!

I MUST stop Christmas from coming!

…But HOW?”

Then he got an idea!

An awful idea!

THE GRINCH

GOT A WONDERFUL, AWFUL IDEA!

“I know just what to do!” The Grinch Laughed in his throat.

And he made a quick Santy Claus hat and a coat.

And he chuckled, and clucked, “What a great Grinchy trick!

“With this coat and this hat, I’ll look just like Saint Nick!”

“All I need is a reindeer…”

The Grinch looked around.

But since reindeer are scarce, there was none to be found.

Did that stop the old Grinch…?

No! The Grinch simply said,

“If I can’t find a reindeer, I’ll make one instead!”

So he called his dog Max. Then he took some red thread

And he tied a big horn on top of his head.

THEN

He loaded some bags

And some old empty sacks

On a ramshakle sleigh

And he hitched up old Max.

Then the Grinch said, “Giddyap!”

And the sleigh started down

Toward the homes where the Whos

Lay a-snooze in their town.

All their windows were dark. Quiet snow filled the air.

All the Whos were all dreaming sweet dreams without care

When he came to the first house in the square.

“This is stop number one,” The old Grinchy Claus hissed

And he climbed to the roof, empty bags in his fist.

Then he slid down the chimney. A rather tight pinch.

But if Santa could do it, then so could the Grinch.

He got stuck only once, for a moment or two.

Then he stuck his head out of the fireplace flue

Where the little Who stockings all hung in a row.

“These stockings,” he grinned, “are the first things to go!”

Then he slithered and slunk, with a smile most unpleasant,

Around the whole room, and he took every present!

Pop guns! And bicycles! Roller skates! Drums!

Checkerboards! Tricycles! Popcorn! And plums!

And he stuffed them in bags. Then the Grinch, very nimbly,

Stuffed all the bags, one by one, up the chimney!

Then he slunk to the icebox. He took the Whos’ feast!

He took the Who-pudding! He took the roast beast!

He cleaned out that icebox as quick as a flash.

Why, that Grinch even took their last can of Who-hash!

Then he stuffed all the food up the chimney with glee.

“And NOW!” grinned the Grinch, “I will stuff up the tree!”

And the Grinch grabbed the tree, and he started to shove

When he heard a small sound like the coo of a dove.

He turned around fast, and he saw a small Who!

Little Cindy-Lou Who, who was not more than two.

The Grinch had been caught by this little Who daughter

Who’d got out of bed for a cup of cold water.

She stared at the Grinch and said, “Santy Claus, why,

“Why are you taking our Christmas tree? WHY?”

But, you know, that old Grinch was so smart and so slick

He thought up a lie, and he thought it up quick!

“Why, my sweet little tot,” the fake Santy Claus lied,

“There’s a light on this tree that won’t light on one side.

“So I’m taking it home to my workshop, my dear.

“I’ll fix it up there. Then I’ll bring it back here.”

And his fib fooled the child. Then he patted her head

And he got her a drink and he sent he to bed.

And when Cindy-Lou Who went to bed with her cup,

HE went to the chimney and stuffed the tree up!

Then the last thing he took

Was the log for their fire.

Then he went up the chimney himself, the old liar.

On their walls he left nothing but hooks, and some wire.

And the one speck of food

The he left in the house

Was a crumb that was even too small for a mouse.

Then

He did the same thing

To the other Whos’ houses

Leaving crumbs

Much too small

For the other Whos’ mouses!

It was quarter past dawn…

All the Whos, still a-bed

All the Whos, still a-snooze

When he packed up his sled,

Packed it up with their presents! The ribbons! The wrappings!

The tags! And the tinsel! The trimmings! The trappings!

Three thousand feet up! Up the side of Mount Crumpit,

He rode to the tiptop to dump it!

“Pooh-pooh to the Whos!” he was grinch-ish-ly humming.

“They’re finding out now that no Christmas is coming!

“They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do!

“Their mouths will hang open a minute or two

“The all the Whos down in Who-ville will all cry BOO-HOO!”

“That’s a noise,” grinned the Grinch,

“That I simply must hear!”

So he paused. And the Grinch put a hand to his ear.

And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.

It started in low. Then it started to grow…

But the sound wasn’t sad!

Why, this sound sounded merry!

It couldn’t be so!

But it WAS merry! VERY!

He stared down at Who-ville!

The Grinch popped his eyes!

Then he shook!

What he saw was a shocking surprise!

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,

Was singing! Without any presents at all!

He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming!

IT CAME!

Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,

Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?

It came without ribbons! It came without tags!

“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”

And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!

“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.

“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

And what happened then…?

Well…in Who-ville they say

That the Grinch’s small heart

Grew three sizes that day!

And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,

He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light

And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!

And he…

…HE HIMSELF…!

The Grinch carved the roast beast!

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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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