Posted in Book of Mormon, Gospel Doctrine 2016

Gospel Doctrine 2016 – Lesson 35 – Repent and Return unto the Lord

1. Samuel warns the Nephites that they will be destroyed unless they repent.

Helaman 13:2 Samuel, a Lamanite

“The condition of society in the days of Samuel was somewhat peculiar (6 B.C.). The Nephites and the Lamanites had, in so far as righteousness was concerned, to a great extent, changed places…The majority of the Lamanites…walked circumspectly before God; they were full of faith and integrity, were zealous in the work of converting their fellows, and in keeping the commandments of God according to the Law of Moses.

“Such was the condition of affairs when the Lamanite prophet, Samuel, appeared among the citizens of Zarahemla…[After he prophesied in Zarahemla], the voice of Samuel was never heard again among the people of Nephi, but in later years, Jesus, Nephi, Mormon, and others quoted his prophecies or referred to his testimony.

“Nearly all the events, great and glorious, terrible and heart-rending, of which Samuel prophesied were fulfilled before the inspired historians of the Book of Mormon sealed up the Record. Prominent among these predictions were the signs that should occur at the advent of our Savior; the two days and a night of continued light and the appearance of a new star in the heavens that should mark His birth at Bethlehem. He even told the exact year when these things should take place; also he told of the convulsions, the storms, the earthquakes that should attend His crucifixion, and the resurrection of many of the Saints that would follow His own resurrection. He also foretold, with great clearness and minuteness, that in subsequent years, the Nephites should grow in iniquity and because of their wickedness, their treasures, their tools, their swords, etc., should become slippery, and that within four hundred years the Nephite race should be destroyed. To the fulfillment of these predictions, Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni, bear record.” (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 5, p. 304-6)

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Helaman 13:8 Thus saith the Lord

‘Ancient scriptures contain a number of revelatory speech forms or formulaic expressions which are unique to the prophetic writings. That is to say, the prophetic speech forms are present in sections of scripture where God reveals his word directly to the prophets (i.e., Isaiah, Amos, Nephi, Joseph Smith). As might be expected, the same prophetic forms are also present in the Book of Mormon, for it too, consists of prophetic writings. In the writings of Samuel the Lamanite (Helaman 13-15), six speech forms can be identified:

1. Messenger Formulas — “Thus saith the Lord” (Helaman 13:8)

2. Proclamation Formula — “Listen to the words of Christ” (Helaman 13:21)

3. Oath Formula — “As the Lord liveth” (Helaman 15:17)

4. Woe Oracle — The characteristic woe oracle consists of the accusation, the addressee, the

intent of the accusation, and the promise of judgment. (Helaman 13:11–12, 14–17, 24; 15:2-3)

Helaman 13:16–17, for example, contains the following elements:

a. Accusation: Yea and Wo

b. Addressee: Be unto all the cities which are in the land round about

c. Intent: Because of wickedness and abominations which are in them

d. Promise of Judgment: And behold, a curse shall come upon the land, saith the Lord of

Hosts.

5. Announcement Formula — “I say unto you” (Helaman 15:6, 12, 14)

6. Revelation Formula — “The word of the Lord came to me, saying” (Helaman 13:3)

These speech forms and others dealing with the commission and divine workings of a prophet are indicative of the prophetic authority and prerogative contained within the verses of the Book of Mormon.’ [Donald W. Parry, “Thus Saith the Lord”: Prophetic Language in Samuel’s Speech,” in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Fall 1992, pp. 181-183]

Helaman 13:11-16 Spared because of a few righteous people

‘There have been times when the wicked were spared from terrible destructions because there were righteous people living among them. The wicked people of Zarahemla had the righteous people to thank for their preservation from destruction, though, of course, they did not know it. In a few years Zarahemla lost this silent and unappreciated protection, and Samuel’s words were fulfilled (see 3 Nephi 9:3). Even Sodom and Gomorrah would have been spared if only 10 righteous people had lived there (see Genesis 18:23–33).

How we live really does make a difference. The personal righteousness of a few can become a great blessing to others, especially to those in our ownfamily and local community.’ (Institute Book of Mormon Manual)

Helaman 13:19-22 Riches and spirituality

“Materialism, which gives priority to material needs and objects, is obviously the opposite of spirituality. The Savior taught that we should not lay up ‘treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal’ (Matthew 6:19). We should lay up treasures in heaven: ‘For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’ (Matthew 6:21). …

“There is nothing inherently evil about money. The Good Samaritan used the same coinage to serve his fellowman that Judas used to betray the Master. It is ‘the love of money [which] is the root of all evil’ (1 Timothy 6:10; italics added). The critical difference is the degree of spirituality we exercise in viewing, evaluating, and managing the things of this world and our experiences in it.

“If allowed to become an object of worship or priority, money can make us selfish and prideful, ‘puffed up in the vain things of the world’ (Alma 5:37). In contrast, if used for fulfilling our legal obligations and for paying our tithes and offerings, money can demonstrate integrity and develop unselfishness. The spiritually enlightened use of property can help prepare us for the higher law of a celestial glory” (Dallin H Oaks in Conference Report, Oct. 1985, 78; or Ensign, Nov. 1985, 62–63).

Helaman 13:23-29 Follow the living prophet

“Now, my dear brothers and sisters, please pay attention to those things that the leaders of the Church have taught. … Apply the teachings that will help you and your family. Let all of us, regardless of our family circumstances, bring into our homes the teachings of the prophets and the apostles to strengthen our relationships with each other, with our Father in Heaven, and with the Lord Jesus Christ. I promise you in the name of the Lord that if you will listen not just with your ears but also with your heart, the Holy Ghost will manifest the truth unto you of the messages delivered by [the President of the Church], his counselors, the Apostles, and other leaders of the Church. The Spirit will prompt you to know what you should do as individuals and as families in order to follow our counsel, that your testimonies might be strengthened and that you might have peace and joy” (M Russell Ballard in Conference Report, Apr. 2001, 86; or Ensign, May 2001, 67).

Helaman 13:38 Sought happiness in doing iniquity

“Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 255-56).

2. Samuel prophesies of the signs that will precede the birth and death of the Savior. He continues to call the people to repentance.

Helaman 14:2 I give unto you a sign

‘The specificity of this prophecy is unique in the scriptural canon. Other time-specific prophecies (e.g., that the Messiah would be born six hundred years from Lehi’s departure from Jerusalem, and that the Nephites would be destroyed in four hundred years) were uttered about a future so distant that no listener would still be alive. Because six hundred and four hundred are round numbers, they also might be understood by the listeners as generic rather than specific figures. (They are known to have been specific in the Book of Mormon only after their recorded fulfillment.) This five-year prophecy, however, is absolute, finite, and testable within the lifetime of virtually all of Samuel’s listeners.

Like Nephi1’s prophetic vision of the Savior (1 Ne. 11–12), Samuel’s details are firmer and more elaborate than any prophecy recorded from the Old World. I hypothesize that these New World prophecies are qualitatively different those of the Old World because Joseph was translating them after the fact. The originals may have been more ambiguous; but Joseph, clearly understanding their fulfillment, phrased them to reflect his own understanding.

This cannot be the complete explanation, however, because the Nephites and righteous Lamanites genuinely did have more specific prophecies than those in the Old World. I argue that the very locale of fulfillment is a reason for their specificity. The world-altering events in Jerusalem occurred in the same city where the earlier prophets had made their predictions. God’s honoring of human agency required that Jesus be recognized as the Messiah through his own actions, not because of the expectations of those around him. In a very real sense, he became the Messiah in spite of the people’s Messianic expectations. It was also necessary for Jesus to accept his Messianic mission rather than have it thrust upon him.

This requirement to honor the agency of both Jesus and those around him did not exist in the New World. Even this dramatic five-year prophecy influenced the Nephites’ faith only briefly and ultimately condemned many, rather than saving them.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

Helaman 14:3-7, 20-28 Signs

‘Signs Samuel said would attend the Savior’s birth and death included great lights in the heaven, a night with no darkness, the rise of a new star, and many unspecified signs and wonders in heaven at the time of his birth; and at his death the sun would be darkened along with the moon and stars for three days, thunderings and lightnings occur for many hours, the earth would tremble with earthquakes, solid rock masses above and beneath the earth’s surface would be broken up and remain so ever after, great tempests would arise, mountains would collapse into valleys while valleys would become mountains, highways would be destroyed and cities devastated, graves open to yield up their dead and saints would appear.’ (Neumanninstitute.org)

Helaman 14:16 Spiritual death

“Therefore, spiritual (or the second) death becomes a matter of great importance to us while we sojourn here in mortality. Even the Savior cannot save individuals in their sins. He will redeem them from their sins, but then only through their repentance. Only rarely may we be responsible for physical death, but we are solely responsible for spiritual death.

“Whether spiritual death be numbered as the second or the first death is incidental. The real objective is to avoid it.” (Russell M Nelson, The Gateway We Call Death, p. 14)

3. Some believe Samuel and are baptized. Others harden their hearts and try to kill Samuel.

Heleman 15:3 He chastened them

“We should learn to accept counsel. All of us need counsel. Sometimes there is need for reprimanding. I do not suppose that any of us who served for any length of time have not been on the receiving end of some pointed counsel that was for our benefit. ‘Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth’ (Hebrews 12:6).” (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 332)

Helaman 15:7-8 A lasting change of heart

“Social, ethical, cultural, or educational converts will not survive under the heat of the day unless their taproots go down to the fulness of the gospel which the Book of Mormon contains” (Ezra Taft Benson in Conference Report, Apr. 1975, 96; or Ensign, May 1975, 65).

Helaman 16:6 The more part of them did not believe in the words of Samuel

“And, therefore, a prophet is seldom popular, and the cost of being a prophet is always great, for he may be called upon to say those things which are not pleasing,…and he may find himself fighting against a tide of mass-misconception, and, as history records, be stoned, crucified, banished, ridiculed, shunned, or rejected. For the truth is not pleasing unto all men, and time has proved that majorities are not always right….

“It is not important that a prophet should say those things with which you and I are in full accord. But it is important that you and I should bring ourselves into full accord with those things which a prophet speaks by virtue of his office and calling.” (Richard L Evans, Improvement Era, Nov. 1939, p. 672)

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Helaman 16:15 Began to depend upon their own strength

“The Book of Mormon describes that attitude among a people who depended solely ‘upon their own strength and upon their own wisdom’ and upon what they could ‘witness with [their] own eyes.’ (Hel. 16:15, 20.) Upon the basis of reason, these persons rejected the prophecies, saying, ‘It is not reasonable that such a being as a Christ shall come.’ (vs. 18.) Applying that same attitude, a prominent professor dismissed the Book of Mormon with the assertion, ‘You don’t get books from angels. It is just that simple.’

“Those who seek gospel knowledge only by study and reason are particularly susceptible to the self-sufficiency and self-importance that sometimes characterize academic pursuits. As the apostle Paul observed in his day, ‘Knowledge puffeth up.’ He cautioned the learned: ‘Take heed lest by any means this liberty [knowledge] of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. . . . And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?’ (1 Cor. 8:1, 9, 11.)

“The apostle Peter foresaw that attitude in our time: ‘There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.’ (2 Pet. 3:3-4.)

“A Book of Mormon prophet described the origin and consequences of this attitude: ‘O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.’ (2 Ne. 9:28.)

“The fulfillment of these prophecies is evident in our day.” (Dallin H Oaks, The Lord’s Way, p. 47)

Helaman 16:18 They began to reason and to contend among themselves

“The worship of reason, of false philosophy, is greater now than it was [in the past]. Men are depending upon their own research to find out God, and that which they cannot discover and which they cannot demonstrate to their satisfaction through their own research and their natural senses, they reject. They are not seeking for the Spirit of the Lord; they are not striving to know God in the manner in which he has marked out by which he may be known; but they are walking in their own way, believing in their own man-made philosophies, teaching the doctrines of devils and not the doctrines of the Son of God. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, p. 275)

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