Gospel Doctrine – Lesson 33 – A Sure Foundation

1. Internal strife develops among the Nephites.

Helaman 1:1 Contention for the judgement seat

The contention of the sons of Pahoran for the judgment seat is a good example of what can happen in a democracy when men refuse to accept the will of the people. The contention for the judgment seat opened the way for much evil and eventually resulted in the downfall of the Nephite nation.

Note the following points found in Helaman 1:

  • Capital punishment was the accepted punishment for treason (see v. 8).
  • Those who sought to circumvent the law for personal power were willing to resort to murder to get their way (see v. 9).
  • The contention over the judgment seat gave the attacking Lamanites an advantage against the Nephites (see vv. 18–20).
  • Because the Lamanites first invaded the weaker center of the Nephite lands, Moronihah and his troops were able to surround them and compel them to surrender (see v. 31).
  • As his father, Moroni, had done earlier, Moronihah “caused that the Lamanites who had been taken prisoners should depart out of the land in peace” (v. 33).

(Book of Mormon Institute Manual)

Helaman 1:4 “Pahoran, Paanchi, and Pacumeni”

‘There is in the Book of Mormon, within one important family, a group of names beginning with Pa-.  They are peculiar names and can be matched exactly in Egyptian. ‘ (Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 282).

‘It is hard to explain bull’s-eyes like Korihor, Pahoran, and Paankhi as pure accidents.  Paankhi was a popular Egyptian name in the seventh century B.C., but it was not known until the end of the last [nineteenth] century. ‘ (Hugh Nibley, Since Cumorah, 170).

I’n a study by Gardiner [an Egyptologist], he refers to “Piankhi’s Instructions to His Army.”  That is a peculiar name, a pure Egyptian name, and one odd enough that no one could have possibly invented it in the Book of Mormon.  Piankhi was a general before the time of Lehi, was very famous, became king of Egypt, and the name became quite popular afterwards …. But of course the name occurs in the Book of Mormon (Helaman 1:3). ‘  (Hugh Nibley, Temple and Cosmos, 255).


Hugh Nibley

Helaman 1:12 Kishkumen and his band

“Thus they became an underground organization, whose members’ identity was ‘not known unto those who were at the head of the government’ (Helaman 3:23). And that explains how it was possible later on, in the midst of great peace and prosperity, for the chief of state, Cezoram, and after him his son and successor, to be murdered in office in such a way that the assassins were never discovered (Helaman 6:15). It is significant that the times of great prosperity and abundance were also the times when murder and intrigue were the order of the day, ‘for behold, the Lord had blessed them so long with the riches of the world that . . . they began to set their hearts upon their riches; yea, they began to seek to get gain that they might be lifted up one above another; therefore they began to commit secret murder . . . that they might get gain’ (Helaman 6:17). The sequence is a natural one: with easy wealth comes the feeling of superiority which makes people status-conscious; and with a feeling for status comes a desperate need to acquire the one thing that will give status; and with the recognition of the all-importance of that one thing, any scruples that may stand in the way of its acquisition are pushed aside, even murder being permissible as long as one is not found out.” (Hugh Nibley, Since Cumorah, p. 363)

Helaman 1:13 It was according to his right

‘It appears that the sons of Pahoran had a “right” to the judgment-seat by lineal descent. In following the laws instituted by Mosiah2, the people could have a voice in choosing their Chief Judge, but that “voice” was limited to choosing from among the sons of a deceased Chief Judge. The reason such care was taken by Mosiah2 during the transfer of power from kings to the judges is that the liberty of the Nephites – ultimately the church – was at risk if a Mulekite should ever consolidate the reigns of power.’  [Michael M. Hobby, The Mulekite Connection, p. 34]

Helaman 1:18 Because of so much contention

‘At the risk of wearying the reader, we should not belabor the point, but the only time that the Lamanites were ever able to make significant progress in their battles with the Nephites was when the Nephites were in the midst of internal strife. Internal strife naturally came only in times of Nephite wickedness but this problem had plagued Moroni for his entire career. Now his son Moronihah inherits the legacy of internal instability and its costly consequences.’ (Bryan Richards, GospelDoctrine.com)

Helaman 2:4 Gadianton

“Gadianton was a Nephite apostate; the founder and first leader of the robber bands that bore his name. He is first mentioned in connection with the attempt by Kishkumen to assassinate Helaman, the Chief Judge, 50 B.C. At that time Gadianton had organized his band and bound its members together with the most horrible and blasphemous oaths and covenants to stand by and protect each other in all their treasons, villainies, and crimes. These oaths and secret compacts had not been searched out of the old records by Gadianton, but that same being who had revealed them to Cain, the first murderer, had whispered them to him. Gadianton was a crafty, capable man, full of strategy and cunning; a flatterer and an expert in the use of many words; and at this time he desired to be elected Chief Judge of the Nephite Commonwealth. To this ambition his followers gave full consent, as he promised them that when elected, they should fill the offices of honor and profit which would be at his disposal.” (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 5, pp. 203-4)

Helaman 2:5 Kishkumen sought to destroy Helaman

‘Kishkumen and his band had already decided to take action against the new chief judge when they murdered Pahoran2 but failed to achieve their political goals. They undoubtedly hoped that Pacumeni’s murder would facilitate their rise to power. That hope was dashed with the seating of Helaman2. Their goal, however, remained the same, so they targeted Helaman with the same strategy of assassination.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

2. Thousands join the Church; some Church members are lifted up in pride.

Helaman 3:27-28 Thus we see

‘We love to find the words “thus we see” because we know that Mormon wants us to see and draw a conclusion from the events being described.  Here we are reminded of the Lord’s mercy to all who call on his name, and that the “gate of heaven” is open to all. 2 Nephi 31:17 refers to repentance and baptism as the “gate by which ye should enter.”’ (JohnBytheway.com)

Helaman 3:33 People who professed to belong to the church

“…there are two churches. There are the people who profess it, and the people who really are. They all profess to belong to the church of God, but how do you distinguish? Well, as Paul says, our security rests in this. God knows his own. Only he knows the ones who are true Latter-day Saints and those who aren’t. We have no means of knowing. You’d be surprised what rascals there are among us and what good people there are among us too. But you never suspect.” (Hugh Nibley, Teachings From The Book of Mormon, Lecture 75, p. 215)

Helaman 3:35 They did fast and pray oft

“The world needs self-discipline. You can find it in fasting and prayer. Our generation is sick for lack of self-control. Fasting and prayer help to instill this virtue…In addition to the occasional fasting experience for a special purpose, each member of the Church is expected to miss two meals on the fast and testimony Sunday. To skip two consecutive meals and partake of the third normally constitutes approximately a 24-hour period. Such is the counsel.

“Competent medical authorities tell us that our bodies benefit by an occasional fasting period. That is blessing number one and perhaps the least important. Second, we contribute the money saved from missing the meals as a fast offering to the bishop for the poor and the needy. And third, we reap a particular spiritual benefit that can come to us in no other way. It is a sanctification of the soul for us today just as it was for some choice people who lived 2,000 years ago.” (Robert L Simpson, Conference Report, Oct. 1967)


Helaman 3:36 The Fifty and Second Year

‘According to Dr. Sami Hanna, the numbering system throughout the Book of Mormon is clearly Semitic. As illustrated in Helaman 3:36, there is a connective word “and” between each digit: “And it came to pass that the fifty and second year ended in peace.”

If Joseph had been merely writing his own book, it would have been natural and expected for him to write “fifty-second year.” But again, he was only translating from the hieroglyphics placed before him. ‘[Brenton G. Yorgason, Little Known Evidences of the Book of Mormon, p. 34]

3. Lamanites and Nephite dissenters defeat the Nephites.

Helaman 4:5 They succeeded in obtaining possession of the land of Zarahemla

‘Mormon’s purpose in abridging the plates is not to give us a long description of every war which occurred among the Nephites. Chapter 4 chronicles a war which was about as extensive as the ones described in Alma 43 to Alma 62. In fact, never had the Lamanites had such military success, capturing the land of Zarahemla and also all the lands in the land southward. However, Mormon does not bother us with the details. He doesn’t give us warfare for the sake of warfare. He never elaborates on the strategic successes of the Lamanites. As a Nephite general, it would have been too painful for him to write them.

Rather, he described the warfare in the end of Alma because it taught us certain lessons. It provided great examples of integrity and strength in Moroni, Pahoran, Helaman, and his stripling warriors. Having given us such a characteristic description of Nephite and Lamanite warfare, he abridges the current war into less than a chapter because he has already taught us the major lessons to be learned.’ (Bryan Richards, GospelDoctrine.com)

Helaman 4:12 Because of their exceeding riches

“For the most part, the Church today finds itself in much the same circumstances as those in the beginning of the book of Helaman. It is wealthy and growing rapidly. Are we in danger? The Book of Mormon suggests that the only real danger to the Church itself is not an outward foe but rather a more powerful and far more devastating enemy within-pride. It grows in the hearts of those who profess to be Saints. It is little wonder that President Benson has warned us against pride. Will we heed the warning or become as the Nephites of old?” (Richard D. Draper, FARMS: Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 3, no. 2, Fall-1994, p. 32)

Helaman 4:14-16 Because of their iniquity

‘Mormon next records renewed efforts to call the people to repentance, an effort sufficiently successful that Moronihah can recapture half of the territory. Mormon thus underscores his moral argument that the Nephites’ fate is directly related to their righteousness. However, because only half of the territory was regained (both a historical and moral fact), he hints that their repentance was not complete. Mormon’s formula thus explains the Nephites’ loss of virtually all their land except for Bountiful, their partial repentance and partial retaking of territory, but their eventual destruction.’ Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

4. Nephi and Lehi remember their father’s counsel. Miracles attend their ministry.

Helaman 5:2 They who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good

“If television viewing choices serve as a valid measure of our society, they who choose evil surely are more numerous than they who choose good.” (Joseph B Wirthlin, Finding Peace in Our Lives, p. 218)

Helaman 5:6 When you remember their names, ye may remember them

‘Helaman2 begins his charge to his sons by reminding them of their names’ significance. In the ancient world, names were more than simple labels. They could change a person’s identity and/or represent his essential (or desired) nature. When God changed Abram’s name (“exalted father”) to Abraham (“father of many nations”), it signaled a change in his relationship to Yahweh, a relationship marked by promises so important that it became embodied in the name (Gen. 17:5).

This understanding explains not only why Helaman gave his sons these names but also why he gave them their charge: “When you remember your names ye may remember them… [and]… their works.” The original Lehi and Nephi were faithful to Yahweh, and their works showed this commitment.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

Helaman 5:12 A strong foundation

“Someone once said you can’t visually tell the difference between a strand of cobweb and a strand of powerful cable—until stress is put on the strand. Our testimonies are that way, and for most of us, the days of stress for our testimonies have already begun. It may not be the death of a loved one. We might not yet have been asked to give up something that is really precious to us, though the time for such a test may well come to us by and by. Our current stress is more likely to come in the form of overpowering temptations, which show us that a shallow acceptance of the gospel does not have the power to cope with the full fury of the powers of darkness. Perhaps there is a mission call to a place of illness and disappointment, when we had planned on a mission to a place of unbounded opportunity. Or perhaps there are too many questions to which our limited knowledge simply has no answer, and those who claim to know more than we do taunt us with what appears to be a persuasive certainty.

“When those times come, our testimonies must be more than the cobweb strands of a fair-weather faith. They need to be like strands of cable, powerful enough to resist the shafts of him who would destroy us. In our days of stress and trouble, we must be built ‘upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, … that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, … and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you, … because of the rock upon which ye are built.’ (Helaman 5:12.)” (Bruce C Hafen, The Believing Heart, 2nd ed. [1990], 21–22).



Helaman 5:22-34 Miraculous occurrences

‘The marvelous events described in Helaman 5:22–34 are similar to occurrences described elsewhere in the scriptures.

Nephi and Lehi were surrounded by fire which did not harm them (see v. 23). Compare this with the experience of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in the fiery furnace (see Daniel 3:19–27), and the experience recorded concerning the little children at the time of Jesus’ visit to the Nephites (see 3 Nephi 17:24).

The walls of the prison shook on three separate occasions as if they might tumble down (see Helaman 5:27, 31, 33). Compare this to the time the walls of the prison in Ammonihah fell and killed all but Alma and Amulek (see Alma 14:27–28).

A voice was heard from heaven three separate times commanding the people to repent and to cease persecuting the servants of the Lord (see Helaman 5:29, 32–33). This is similar to the voice that was heard just prior to the Savior’s appearance among the Nephites (see 3 Nephi 9, 10:3–7).

A cloud of darkness overshadowed those who assembled near the prison, making it impossible for the Lamanites to flee “because of the fear which did come upon them” (Helaman 5:34). Compare this with the darkness at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion (see 3 Nephi 8:20–23). (Book of Mormon Institute Manual)

Helaman 5:47 Peace

“The gospel is the only answer to the problems of the world. We may cry peace. We may hold peace conferences. And I have nothing but commendation for those who work for peace. But it is my conviction that peace must come only by following the teachings and the example of the Prince of Peace.” (Ezra Taft Benson, Title of Liberty, pp. 213-4)

Helaman 5:49 They we bidden to go forth and marvel not

‘That three hundred people should have shared this experience certainly confirmed its veracity. It is human, however, to wonder about such things when one is away from the group, alone with the memory—hence, the brothers’ admonition to remember and doubt not.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)


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