The book of Helaman (son of Helaman and grandson of Alma the Younger) may be considered the beginning of the countdown to the appearance of the Savior. President Ezra Taft Benson taught: “In the Book of Mormon we find a pattern for preparing for the Second Coming. A major portion of the book centers on the few decades just prior to Christ’s coming to America. By careful study of that time period, we can determine why some were destroyed in the terrible judgments that preceded His coming and what brought others to stand at the temple in the land of Bountiful and thrust their hands into the wounds of His hands and feet” (October 1986 general conference). President Benson also observed: “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” (April 1987 general conference).
Helaman 1 Turmoil in the Government
The record of Helaman begins with more political dissent and upheaval:
- The campaigning for office was contentious and created contention among the people (verses 2-4).
- Some factions refused to accept the results of “the voice of the people” (the majority vote; verses 5, 7).
- This led to conspiracy intended to take power (verses 7-8) and ultimately anger, murder, and secret combinations (verses 9-12). Note that in verse 11 the oath of those who “entered into a covenant” was sworn “by their everlasting Maker,” suggesting that they considered their combination to be of a religious nature and they wanted (or pretended) to believe that they were acting in accordance with the will of God.
- As often is the case, while in this weakened condition, the Nephites were attacked by the Lamanites, led (again) by a Nephite dissenter, who took possession of Zarahemla, their capital and strongest city, along with “many cities and many strongholds” (verses 14-27).
- However, being led by Moronihah (son of Captain Moroni), the Nephites were able to defeat the Lamanites and retake their cities (verses 28-33).
In these events we may see parallels to our day. And—just as the Lamanites attacked when the Nephites were in a state of weakness—we must remain spiritually strong and avoid vulnerability to the attacks of Satan.
Helaman 2 Continued Contention and Combinations
Again, political contention arises and so do the secret combinations (verses 1-3), seeking the ruin of the country in order to gain “power and authority” (verses 4-5), as well as “to murder, and to rob” (verse 8). But patriots rise to the occasion and the servant of the new chief judge Helaman was able to detect and kill Kishkumen before he could carry out his plan to assassinate Helaman. It is interesting that Kishkumen’s secret band of robbers, as soon as they realized that Kishkumen had been delayed, abandoned him and “took their flight out of the land,” rather than try to rescue Kishkumen (verse 11). What a contrast to the 2,000 stripling Ammonite warriors, who, when told that Antipus and his army may be in trouble and need their help—or that it could be a ruse that would lead to their own destruction—chose to take the risk and go to the assistance of Antipus (see Alma 56:30-54). Those who are evil have little or no loyalty to each other, nor does Satan support those he uses to do his evil works (see Alma 30:60).
Helaman 3:3-32 The Church Can Still Prosper in Times of Great Evil
All is not well among the Nephites. These verses include much contention and many dissensions; wars, wickedness, murders, robbings, plunderings, all manner of abominations and whoredoms, disturbances, and secret combinations (see verses 3, 14, 17, 19, 23). But the government and the church are led in “justice and equity” by Helaman (verse 20); with “exceedingly great prosperity in the church,” including tens of thousands of converts (verses 24-25), “continual rejoicing” (verse 31) and “peace and exceedingly great joy” (verse 32). Ponder Mormon’s glorious conclusions in his three uses of “we see” in verses 27-30.
Helaman 3:33-36 Pride Versus Humility
The Book of Mormon is full of warnings for us today, but perhaps none more prominent than the sin of pride. In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord warned, “Beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old” (D&C 38:39). And it usually begins small: “And in the fifty and first year of the reign of the judges there was peace also, save it were the pride which began to enter … into the hearts of the people who professed to belong to the church of God” (Helaman 3:33). Then pride “did grow upon them from day to day” (verse 36) and it manifested its uncomely corollaries: “They were lifted up in pride, even to the persecution of many of their brethren … which did cause the more humble part of the people to suffer great persecutions, and to wade through much affliction” (verse 34).
Those who were targeted for persecution provide us with the remedy: “They did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ … yielding their hearts unto God.” All of this blessed them with “joy and consolation [and] the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts” (verse 35). We too must choose this path as our remedy in times of “all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil” (verse 29).
Helaman 4 The Church Dwindles and the People Become Weak
When pride goes unchecked it leads to many unfortunate behaviors and consequences. Search verses 1-5, 11-13, 20-26 and note the long list of sad affairs that came upon the Nephites “in the space of not many years” (verse 26). The only antidote is mentioned in verse 15: “Repent.”
Helaman 5:2-4 “They Who Chose Evil Were More Numerous”
Unfortunately, in the 62nd year of the reign of the judges the Nephites fell into this condition warned of by King Mosiah II when he set up the system of judges (see Mosiah 29:26-27). This prompted Nephi (son of Helaman) to do the same as his great-grandfather Alma the Younger did 53 years earlier—give up the judgment seat in order to preach among the people full-time (see Alma 4:19).
Helaman 5:5-19 Remember
The word remember is used fifteen times in verses 5-14, as Mormon records the teachings of Helaman to his sons Nephi and Lehi. Study these verses to see how remembrance can lead us to obedience. According to verses 14-19, what effect did all this have upon the ministry of Nephi and Lehi?
Helaman 5:20-52 The Workings of the Spirit
This remarkable story highlights some of the ways in which the Holy Ghost and the gifts of the Spirit can operate in our lives. Make a list of the various workings and descriptions in these verses of the Holy Ghost/Spirit of the Lord. Note also the effects the Spirit had upon the people, and consider ways in which you have experienced the gifts and blessings of the Spirit in your life.
Helaman 6 Things Change Quickly
This chapter covers the following years, which went like this:
- 29 b.c.—many Lamanites had joined the church of Christ and were noted for “their firmness and their steadiness in the faith” (verse 1), while many Nephites “had become hardened and impenitent [which means having no remorse for sin] and grossly wicked” (verse 2). At the same time, the members of the church—whether Lamanite or Nephite—“did fellowship one with another, and did rejoice one with another, and did have great joy” (verse 3). This can increase our hope today, as we pass through times of wickedness and trouble.
- 28 and 27 b.c.—“there was peace in all the land” (verse 7); “they did become rich” (verse 11); “they did multiply and wax exceedingly strong” (verse 12); and there was “much preaching and many prophecies” (verse 14).
- 26 b.c.—the chief judge Cezoram was murdered, then replaced by his son who was also murdered (verse 15).
- 25 b.c.—“the people began to grow exceedingly wicked again” (verse 16); “they began to set their hearts upon their riches … that they might be lifted up one above another … they began to commit secret murders, and to rob and to plunder” (verse 17; note Mormon’s “reason” [and its implicit warning for us] regarding why the people became this way).
- 24 b.c.—“They did grow in their iniquities” (verse 33); and Mormon again describes the secret combinations/Gadianton robbers in some detail (verses 18-31, 38-40; see also Alma 37:21-31; Ether 8:13-25).
Mormon laments, “all these iniquities did come unto them in the space of not many years” (verse 32). And for our additional benefit, Mormon provides several contrasts between the wicked Nephites and the righteous Lamanites. Compare Mormon’s two uses of the word grow in verse 34; compare the word withdraw versus the words pour out in verses 35-36, and the word hardness versus the word easiness in verses 35-36. Finally, compare what the Lamanites did with the robbers to what the Nephites did with them (verses 37-38).
Helaman 1-6 Bottom Line
Helaman 1-6 documents many swings in righteousness/wickedness, pride/humility, wars/peace, and so forth. When the people repent and move toward righteousness and peace, it is generally because of hardships and afflictions that come into their lives. Must people go through periods of suffering before they will become humble and repent?