1. The people are righteous and are blessed with peace and prosperity.
Helaman 6:5 Exceedingly great power and authority
‘Mormon emphasizes the ironic juxtaposition of the recalcitrant Nephites who encounter the “exceedingly great power and authority” of the Lamanite missionaries who are not only fully converted but also apparently empowered with the priesthood.
The Nephites who could listen open-hearted to their message were brought down “into the depths of humility.” They would have to be. All of their national pride would have vaunted their religious superiority over the Lamanites. Now they must admit that the righteous Lamanites were calling them to a much-needed repentance. Only the humble could hear such a message.
Paul must have faced such a challenge when he first began to preach. Having been a persecutor of the Saints, he becomes one of this despised group’s foremost teachers. Perhaps, however, it is also one reason why his most significant ministry occurred outside Jerusalem, away from the scene of his former actions against the Christians.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)
Helaman 6:8 They did have free intercourse one with another to buy and to sell
‘Never in Nephite history had the trade barriers been completely broken down as at this time. As soon as the righteousness of the Lamanites opened up all the Lamanite markets, the Nephite merchants were there to buy and sell. The result was an increase in trade and intercourse with the motive of getting ‘gain, according to their desire’. The laws of economics teach that whenever commerce and trade increase, the economy is strengthened. Whenever the economy is strengthened, the merchants benefit. This is precisely what happened among the Nephites. Their increase in trade had strengthened their economy until ‘they became exceedingly rich, both the Lamanites and the Nephites’ (v. 9).’ (Bryan Richards, GospelDoctrine.com)
2. The Nephites become proud and wicked. Nephi calls them to repentance.
Helaman 6:17 Setting hearts upon riches
“God is forgotten out of vanity. A little prosperity and peace, or even a turn slightly for the better, can bring us feelings of self-sufficiency. We can feel quickly that we are in control of our lives, that the change for the better is our own doing, not that of a God who communicates to us through the still, small voice of the Spirit. Pride creates a noise within us which makes the quiet voice of the Spirit hard to hear. And soon, in our vanity, we no longer even listen for it. We can come quickly to think we don’t need it” (Henry B Eyring, in Conference Report, Oct. 2001, 16; or Ensign, Nov. 2001, 16).
Helaman 6:18-40 The evils of secret combinations
Helaman chapter 6 provides several insights into secret combinations, including how they work, what motivates them, and how they come to power:
- Their two objectives are to get gain and power; then they glory in it (see Helaman 6:17; Ether 8:22; Moses 5:31).
- Secret combinations require general wickedness to survive (see Helaman 6:21, 31, 38).
- Secret combinations thrive on secrecy, violation of which is a capital offense (see Helaman 5:22;6:22; Moses 5:29, 50).
- Secret combinations involve formal covenant making (see Helaman 6:22; Moses 5:30–31).They use murder, violence, threat of violence, plunder, vice, whoredoms, and flattery to get gain and power (see Helaman 2:4–5; 6:17, 23).
- Secret combinations operate on laws contrary to the laws of the country (see Helaman 6:23).
- Satan is the grand conspirator and author (seeHelaman 6:26–30).
- Participants have court trials for their own people—not according to the laws of the land but according to their own set of laws (see Helaman 6:23–24).
- They seek to take governmental power as rapidly as possible (see Helaman 2:5; 6:39).
- Participants seek to overthrow freedom for others but seek to maintain freedom for themselves (see Ether 8:25; Moses 5:28–33).
- Secret combinations cause the destruction of nations (see Alma 37:21, 26, 29; Helaman 2:13;Ether 8:21–22).
- Secret combinations are abominable in God’s sight (see 3 Nephi 9:9; Ether 8:18). (Book of Mormon Institute Manual)
Helaman 6:23 And thus they might murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms
‘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 law of their country and also the law of their God.”
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.’ (M Russell Ballard, Ensign, Oct. 2011, 50)
Helaman 7:4 Laying aside the commandments of God
‘Mormon records Nephi’s dismay at the Gadianton control over the government. Since Gadianton goals are antithetical to the gospel, and particularly to the Nephite egalitarian ideal, Mormon describes them as “laying aside the commandments of God.” This political takeover also means that the laws no longer provide “justice unto the children of men.” The Gadianton takeover has altered the basic fabric of Nephite society.
While Mormon and Nephi certainly saw this development as calamitous and quick-acting, like a coup, the actual process had occurred over time, eventually reflecting a shift in the people’s attitudes. Although the Gadianton ascension clearly altered the balance of power, that ascension happened because a fundamental shift had correspondingly occurred about how Nephite society ought to be. The voice of the people had become the voice of the Gadiantons.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)
Helaman 7:6 His heart was swollen with sorrow
“I have come to believe that this is worth knowing, not only for teachers, but for everyone. If you get a little depressed during those dreary days, do not begin to think that you’re psycho-something-or-other.
“For missionaries, this was well worth knowing. Occasionally a missionary told me in an interview, ‘I’m not doing very well. I just seem to be depressed and discouraged.’ Unless there was an unusual reason for these feelings, my answer was, ‘Well, I’m glad to hear that. At least now we know that you’re normal. Enjoy the feeling-it probably won’t last. And the first sunny day will do wonders for it.’
“We know from the Book of Mormon that there must be opposition.
‘For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad.’ (2 Nephi 2:11.)
“It helps a great deal if we realize that there is a certain healthy element in getting the blues occasionally. It is quite in order to schedule a good, discouraging, depressing day every now and again just for contrast.” (Boyd K Packer, Teach Ye Diligently, p. 101-2)
Helaman 7:23 It shall be better for the Lamanites
‘Only the repentant can be saved. The way out of destruction remains open, if only they would accept it. As a rhetorical device, Nephi warns the people, using what should be the greatest contrast possible, in saying “it shall be better for the Lamanites” in Yahweh’s judgment if the Nephites will not repent. Despite the massive conversion of Lamanites and their generosity in returning the land of Zarahemla to the Nephites, Nephi here invokes the firm and enduring Nephite antipathy against Lamanites. This bigotry and prejudice was the inheritance of the Nephite fathers, parallel to and just as unreasonable as the Lamanite tradition that Nephi1 had usurped the privileges of Laman and Lemuel. For the Nephites, being compared unfavorably to the Lamanites would have been an affront, something nearly impossible to believe. Nevertheless, it was quite true. Yahweh favors faithfulness, not ancient prejudices. The Nephites as a people no longer followed Yahweh, while many of the Lamanites did and had, furthermore, converted the Gadiantons among them to the gospel (Hel. 6:20).’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)
Helaman 8:6 We are powerful and our cities great
‘We would never hear Captain Moroni or Helaman use such language. Captain Moroni always acknowledged God when they were successful in defending themselves, and always took responsibility when they had failures. Sometimes wickedness brings a false sense of strength and security.’ (John Bytheway.com)
Helaman 9:39 Believed because of the testimony of the five
“Now, don’t ever think your testimony isn’t strong, because it is. Every testimony that’s born is not born of man, but born of God by the power of the Holy Ghost. When you bear testimony, it’s not you. It’s not me. It’s the Spirit of God, and that’s powerful.” (Ed J. Pinegar, Especially for Missionaries, vol. 4, chapter 2)
3. The Lord gives Nephi the sealing power. The unrepentant Nephites face warfare and famine.
Helaman 10:5-6 Behold I will bless thee forever
“The story goes that someone once asked Michelangelo how he could transform ordinary rock into his marvelous statues. Reportedly, the artist replied that he just chiseled until everything that wasn‘t the statue wasn’t there. To be spiritual means to have a sense of who we truly are and then to be that person.
“Eventually, spirituality becomes such an integral part of our being that we can follow our heart’s true desires without doing anything wrong. Nephi, the son of Helaman, reached that point where there was no conflict between what he wanted and what was right…This kind of spirituality requires that we consciously move away from all that is unkind, unholy, impure, or unchristian. It requires that we let go of anger and revenge. And it yields a peace of heart and soul. It makes us able to find good things to do without constantly being asked, pushed, or reminded.” (Mary Ellen Edmunds, Ensign, Oct. 1985, p.14)
Helaman 11:2 Secret band of robbers
‘Mormon assumes that his readers will understand that even the surge of converts resulting from Nephi’s preaching did not tip the numerical balance. The Gadiantons are still a majority in the land of Zarahemla, still retain the “voice of the people,” and still are working to transform Nephite society into something more closely resembling the larger culture. In other words, violence was not directed only against chief judges but against believing Nephites in general.
This civil war pits church-men and Gadiantons against each other. It has erupted out of long-standing differences. Now that those who favor Gadianton-style culture are in the majority, believers become victims.
It is important to Mormon that we see the Gadiantons as causing this war. Regardless of the movement’s origin or historical name, Mormon terms every manifestation of this philosophy “Gadianton.” Even though this particular reign of Gadiantons has no discernible connection to the small band of Gadiantons from Helaman2’s day a generation earlier, Mormon insists on it. For him, the enemy is no longer “Lamanite” but “Gadianton.” This source of greatest danger to the Nephites is no longer in some distant city but in the Nephite heartland.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)
Helaman 11:4-5 Famine
“The Lord uses the weather sometimes to discipline his people for the violation of his laws” (Spencer W Kimball, in Conference Report, Apr. 1977)
Helaman 11:6 They did perish by thousands
“The destroying angel will…exercise his tremendous mission upon the children of disobedience; and destroy the workers of iniquity, while the Saints will be gathered out from among them, and stand in holy places ready to meet the Bridegroom when he comes.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 92)
4. The Nephites humble themselves and repent.
Helaman 11:10 They have concealed their secret plans in the earth
‘Question: Nephi said that [the Gadianton band] had become extinct and they had concealed their secret plans in the earth. You [Hugh Nibley] said that meant they went underground?
Answer: I mean they literally went underground if they buried their secrets in the earth. They will dig them up later on–don’t worry. These things are hid and dug up. You find them. They put them in caves and their sacred places. If you go near those places, you are in real danger because those places are carefully guarded. They have all sorts of things in them. I had quite an adventure in one where you would never expect there was anything at all. They had the whole thing down underground. ‘ [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, p. 267]
Helaman 11:20 Exceedingly great peace in the land
‘Prior to the famine the Nephites had prospered and become wealthy. They then rejected the gospel’s egalitarian principles in favor of adopting the social hierarchies around them. After the famine ended, all of the factors that had led to the original increase in wealth were still in place: food, trade, and prosperity. The famine had temporarily changed their focus from wealth to survival. Once their survival was assured, all of the processes that had led to the previous prosperity were reestablished.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)
Helaman 11:21-38 Wickedness returned
‘The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “the devil always sets up his kingdom at the very same time in opposition to God” (History of the Church, 6:364). Whenever the Savior’s Church is established or strengthened, the adversary seeks to create resistance in one form or another to battle the progress made by the Saints of God. We see an example of Satan’s opposition emerge inHelaman 11. The Gadianton robbers had been swept off the land. The righteous Nephite and Lamanite members of the Church had great peace (see Helaman 11:21). Only a few years passed, however, before Satan’s influence on the people led them to return to iniquity and allowed the Gadianton robbers to regain their power and influence.’ (Book of Mormon Institute Manual)
Helaman 11:22-23 Points of doctrine
“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.
“The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. … That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel” (Boyd K Packer, in Conference Report, Oct. 1986).
Helaman 12:1 The unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men
“You and I need to be patient, and for a reason. A quick reading of the Book of Mormon, a few prayers, a shallow attempt at repentance, a casual regard for the covenants we’ve made-of course, that is not enough. The scriptures use over and over again the word ‘steadiness’ to describe faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. When faith and repentance and diligent efforts to live the commandments have gone on long enough that virtue garnishes our thoughts unceasingly, then the doctrine of the priesthood, the truthful answers to the questions that really matter, will distill upon us as the dews from heaven.
“That’s been my experience with seeking the confirmation of truth by the Spirit of God. I have at times sought it by singular effort, in times of great need, and it has come. Investigators have that experience when they reach the point where they must know if the Book of Mormon is true.
“But far more often for me, I notice the Spirit’s presence in quiet confirmations at times when all I seem to have done is plod on in diligence, doing the simple things-searching the scriptures with a prayer in my heart and with more concern for others, and therefore less time for pursuits that let Satan, the father of lies, entice me. It’s in periods of that steadiness that I notice the Holy Ghost, almost in the way you’re surprised to discover that your shoes are wet from the dew formed on the grass overnight, and I look up and realize that my mind has been enlightened and my heart has been enlarged.” (Henry B Eyring, To Draw Closer to God, p. 120)
Helaman 12: 7-8 How great is the nothingness of the children of men
‘This is an interesting statement, for those of us who grew up in a generation where we were constantly told that we were “saved for the last day” and “a chosen generation” and even “Saturday’s Warriors,” only be told in the Book of Mormon that “man is nothing” and even “less than the dust of the earth.” How is this possible if we are really the sons and daughters of God? The answers lie in verse 8. The dust obeys God. Man rebels. If God tells the dust what to do, the dust obeys, with no pushback.
Footnote 7a directs us to a story in the Pearl of Great Price wherein Moses has a fascinating encounter with God. Three times, Moses is addressed as “Moses, my son.” Yet, after the vision, Moses concludes, “Now I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.” (Moses 1:10). I love this story, because Moses illustrates how we can keep these two ideas, “man is nothing” and “I am a son of God” in perfect harmony. Yes, we are nothing without God, but with God, we can be something.’ (JohnBytheway.com)