Helaman 13:1-4 We Thank Thee, O God, For Prophets
Following a similar pattern to those of Abinadi in the land of Nephi (Mosiah 11-17) and Alma the Younger in Ammonihah (Alma 8-14), Samuel tried to call apostate Nephites to repentance but was rejected and thus departed; then he was inspired to return and warn the people of destruction if they did not repent; had his life miraculously preserved in order to finish his message; and prophesied and testified of Jesus Christ. In each case, a minority of the people chose to repent, but most did not. As warned, they were destroyed; not immediately, but in process of time.
We feel great gratitude for such holy men—including those in our own dispensations—who endure great suffering and rejection, but still give us sacred scriptures, examples of discipleship, patterns of perseverance, and a special witness of Jesus Christ.
Helaman 13 Glad Tidings or Sad Warnings?
Some people accuse prophets of being negative, but when we are warned of the consequences of our bad behavior, it can motivate us to repent. Like all prophets, Samuel preached the “glad tidings” of Christ’s coming and His redeeming atonement (verses 6-7). Also, “he did preach, many days, repentance” (verse 2; see also his invitations to repent in 13:6, 8, 10-11, 13, 33, 36, 39; 14:9, 11, 13, 18-19; 15:1-3, 7, 14, 17). And Samuel clearly warned the Nephites, often using words quoted from the Lord:
- “The sword of justice hangeth over this people” (verse 5).
- “I will take away my word from them, and I will withdraw my Spirit from them” (verse 8).
- “I will cause that they shall be smitten … with the sword and with famine and with pestilence” (verse 9).
- “I will visit them in my fierce anger,” even to “utter destruction” (verse 10).
- “When ye shall cast out the righteous from among you, then shall ye be ripe for destruction” (verse 14).
- “Ye are cursed because of your riches, and also are your riches cursed because ye have set your hearts upon them” (verse 21; see also verses 18-20, 22-23, 30-31, 33-36).
- “Wo unto this people [because] ye do cast out the prophets, and do mock them, and cast stones at them, and do slay them” (verse 24; see also verses 25-26).
- “The anger of the Lord is already kindled against you” (verse 30) because they embraced false prophets who taught, “there is no iniquity … ye shall not suffer … do whatsoever your heart desireth” (verses 27-29).
- “In the days of your poverty ye shall cry unto the Lord; and in vain shall ye cry” (verse 32).
- “[Ye] are surrounded by demons” (verse 37).
- “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” (verse 38).
Twice Samuel said to the people, “your destruction is made sure” (verses 32, 38). This may seem to indicate that there is no hope for them, yet Samuel still invited them, “repent and be saved” (verse 39). There is hope for everyone. Perhaps Samuel’s most important words—which apply just as much to us today—are these: “Nothing can save this people save it be repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 6); “Blessed are they who will repent and turn unto me” (verse 11); and “Repent and be saved” (verse 39).
Helaman 14 Prophecies of Christ
God’s prophets have always foretold important events and often provide signs to help the humble to better prepare. Samuel prophesied signs of events that God would soon fulfill:
- Search verses 2-7 for the signs Samuel prophesied that would attend the birth of Christ.
- Find in verses 10-13 the words that ye might, and identify the messages and purposes of prophets.
- Look in verses 20-27 for the many signs of Christ’s death, as prophesied by Samuel.
- Find in verses 28-29 the words to the intent, and identify the four purposes for giving these signs.
In verse 13 we see again—as is clear throughout the scriptures—that faith and repentance must always go together. It is our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that motivates us toward and helps us through sincere repentance, and it is our repentance that evidences and strengthens our faith. We cannot separate repentance from faith. And those who truly believe will manifest their belief by repenting (those who merely say they believe in Jesus, but do not repent, have not yet developed true faith).
Also, “signs” do not create faith, but they can get people’s attention, and this can lead to faith and repentance. See also Helaman 16:4-5, wherein Mormon explains that Nephi (the same Nephi as in chapters 3-11) was also prophesying, preaching, crying repentance, showing signs and wonders, and working miracles “that they might know that the Christ must shortly come … that they might know and remember … that they might believe.” Today we are counseled to watch for signs (for example, see Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:29-39, 46).
Helaman 15:1-2, 17 More Warnings
In addition to those in chapter 13, find the additional warnings Samuel gave in 15:1-2. Note the sadness of the words: desolate (which means “bleak, dismal, and deserted”), great cause to mourn, no place for refuge, trodden down and left to perish. Perhaps the most foreboding are these final words of Samuel, quoting the Lord: “If they will not repent, and observe to do my will, I will utterly destroy them … because of their unbelief notwithstanding the many mighty works which I have done among them” (verse 17). But again, the Lord’s arms are always open to return to Him, and each warning is preceded by “except ye repent.”
Helaman 15:4-10 “In the Path of Their Duty”
Samuel, a Lamanite, used the example of the Lamanites as an encouragement for the Nephites to return to faith and good works. Again, note the words; this time much more positive: Salvation, duty, circumspectly (which means “conscientiously”), unwearied diligence, faith, change of heart, firm and steadfast, free. Think about the people in your life to whom you look for such examples. What are they like? What more can you learn from them?
Also, note in verses 7-10 the process and results that occur when we “believe the holy scriptures”:
belief in the scriptures → faith on the Lord → repentance → change of heart → firm and steadfast → made free → bury “weapons” → fear to sin → blessed by the Lord
Helaman 16:1-8 Reactions to the Prophet
As we saw with the prophet Nephi in Helaman 8-10, there are also varied reactions to the prophet Samuel:
- Those who believed Samuel sought out Nephi for baptism (verse 1).
- Those who did not believe Samuel were angry and tried to kill him with stones and arrows (verse 2).
- After seeing the miracle of Samuel’s protection from their stones and arrows, “many more” then chose to believe him and went to Nephi “repenting and confessing their sins” (verses 3-5).
- “But the more part of them did not believe in the words of Samuel” and claimed that his miraculous protection was because “he hath a devil” and therefore he must be bound and taken away (verse 6).
Helaman 16:10-23 The Signs Increase But Few Believe
- In the 87th and 88th years of the reign of the judges (just five and four years before the birth of Christ), “the more part of the people remain[ed] in their pride and wickedness” (verses 10-11).
- In the 89th year “the people began to be more hardened in iniquity” (verse 12).
- In the 90th year there were great signs and wonders, yet all but “the most believing part” of the people were hard-hearted and depended on their own strength and wisdom (verses 13-15).
The signs and wonders were unmistakable and unavoidable, so the people chose a position of denial, declaring:
- “Some things they [the prophets] may have guessed right … but behold, we know that all these great and marvelous works cannot come to pass” (verse 16).
- They also “began to reason and to contend … that it is not reasonable that such a being as a Christ shall come” (verses 17-18; see also 2 Peter 3:3-4). Of course, today it is not “reasonable” nor “scientific” nor “proven” that Jesus Christ will return, cleanse the earth, preserve the righteous, and institute the millennial era; yet those with believing hearts accept and prepare for these great events.
- They claimed that Christ’s coming had not been prophesied to occur in their land, therefore by this “wicked tradition” the prophets “can keep us in ignorance, for we cannot witness with our own eyes that they are true” (verses 19-21). However, these scoffers were not familiar with the many prophecies that Jesus would indeed appear in the land of the Nephites and Lamanites; see, for example, 1 Nephi 12:4-6; 2 Nephi 26:7-9; 32:6; Alma 16:20.
- Mormon concluded the book of Helaman with: “And many more things did the people imagine up in their hearts, which were foolish and vain; and they were much disturbed” and hardened their hearts “against that which was good,” leading to further contentions and denial of the signs, wonders, and miracles (verses 22-23). Thus ended the 90th year, and in the next year the Savior of the World will be born.
In your study of the book of Helaman, what thoughts and impressions have come to you regarding our world—and your life in it—during these last days before Jesus Christ’s second coming?