The Book of Nephi
The Son of Nephi, who was the Son of Helaman
And Helaman was the son of Helaman, who was the son of Alma, who was the son of Alma, being a descendant of Nephi who was the son of Lehi, who came out of Jerusalem in the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, the king of Judah.
The original author of the book of Third Nephi is Nephi who will become the chief disciple of Jesus. The prophet Mormon also contributed.
Chapter Outline of 3 Nephi
A brief outline of the book of 3 Nephi, worth committing to memory, is as follows:
3 Nephi 1 Signs of Christ's birth-"At the going down of the sun there was no darkness."
3 Nephi 3-4 The Nephites gather themselves together to defend themselves against the Gadianton band led by Giddianhi and then Zemnarihah. The Nephites are led by the Chief Judge Lachoneus and the military captain Gidgiddoni. The Gadianton band is eventually defeated. Zemnarihah is hanged from a tree, and then the tree is felled.
3 Nephi 8 Signs of Christ's crucifixion-great destruction throughout the land.
3 Nephi 9-10 The Lord's voice is heard out of the darkness following the period of destruction at the time of the Savior's crucifixion.
3 Nephi 11-28 Christ's Ministry Among the Nephites at Bountiful
3 Nephi 12-14 Jesus's Sermon at the Temple in Bountiful
3 Nephi 20 Isaiah 52
3 Nephi 22 Isaiah 54
3 Nephi 24 and 25 The prophet Malachi on tithing (Malachi 3) and the return of Elijah (Malachi 4)
3 Nephi 28 The three Nephites are allowed to tarry.
3 Nephi Chapter 1
3 Nephi 1 The signs of Christ's birth-"At the going down of the sun there was no darkness."
1 Now it came to pass that the ninety and first year had passed away and it was six hundred years from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem; and it was in the year that Lachoneus was the chief judge and the governor over the land.
verse 1 The two methods of Nephite chronological reckoning are mentioned here. We will learn that there will be yet a third method.
For over five hundred years after the arrival of the Lehi and his extended family in the New World, the only reference date for their dating was the date of Lehi's departure from Jerusalem (2 Nephi 5:28; 2 Nephi 5:34). We may easily connect this date to biblical chronology since Lehi's family likely departed Jerusalem in the first month of 587 BC (Randall P. Spackman, "Introduction to Book of Mormon Chronology: The Principal Prophecies, Calendars, and Dates," a FARMS reprint). See the commentary for 1 Nephi 10:4. This first era continued for 609 years before it was terminated. The second major reference date was the date when Alma the younger began to preside as the first chief judge of the people which was about ninety-one years before the birth of Christ. This second era is referred to as "the year of the reign of the judges." It was supplementary in that it was utilized concomitantly with the aforementioned system, and both eras ran simultaneously. This era continued for one-hundred years before it was terminated. Yet another era will begin nine years after the signs of the Messiah's birth were seen, "the Nephites began to reckon their time from this period when the sign was given, or from the coming of Christ" (3 Nephi 2:5-8). The first two eras were brought to a close at the inception of this third era.
"it was six hundred years from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem" We will learn later in this chapter that the Savior's birth will take place during this year. This six hundred year period between the departure of Lehi's family from Jerusalem and the birth of the Savior has been discussed previously in the commentary for 1 Nephi 10:4. For the convenience of the reader, we will repeat that discussion here:
There is a problem with this "six hundred years" since Lehi and his family probably left Jerusalem in 587 BC and the Savior was likely born between 4 and 6 BC. Six hundred years from 587 BC would be AD 13. Randall P. Spackman in his helpful article "Introduction to Book of Mormon Chronology: The Principal Prophecies, Calendars, and Dates," (a FARMS reprint) has provided us with a compelling explanation of the problem: The principal time-keeping system throughout the Middle East in the sixth century BC was a twelve-moon lunar calendar. By this calendar a year lasted 354.367 days. The principle of the solar calendar was also understood in which a year lasted 365.24 days, but the twelve-moon lunar calendar continued in use as the principal Babylonian, Egyptian, and Jewish religious calendar throughout ancient history. These religious calendars appear to have been based on direct observation of the moon by the priests to determine the times of religious festivals. "The priests also recognized that the solar year . . . was about eleven days longer than the twelve-moon calendar. For purposes of seasonal or agricultural rituals, the priests probably added or "intercalated" a 13th moon every two or three years. This was not an exact process in the time of Lehi, but it was an ancient one. Accurate intercalation schedules for adding the 13th moon were not worked out in Babylonia until the fifth century BC. In Lehi's day in Jerusalem, a 13th moon was added to the year when it became clear that the religious festivals were starting to occur too early in the agricultural or seasonal cycle" (Spackman, 15).
Brother Spackman feels it unlikely that Lehi and his people ever tried to intercalate their calendar. Thus, their year was slightly over 354 days long. Brother Spackman also makes a compelling argument for the fact that Lehi and his family probably left Jerusalem in January 587 BC according to our present-day Gregorian calendar. Lehi would probably have begun his 600-year count on the first new moon day that followed his departure. The date of that new moon was January 19, 587 BC. He apparently began the count as he camped in the wilderness. Lehi's righteous posterity kept this year count and were taught expressly to look forward to the birth of the Savior in 600 years by this lunar calendar. After 600 years or 7,200 moons, the 601st year of Lehi's prophetic period would have begun with the new moon of March 8, 5 BC. In the "commencement" of this long-awaited year, the sign of the Messiah's birth was seen in the heavens and he was born at Bethlehem probably in the spring of 5 BC.
If the Savior was born in the period of 4 to 6 B.C., how is it that our current system of dating does not coincide with this date? How could there have been such a significant mistake in dating such an important event such as the Savior's birth? After all, our present BC-AD system is based upon that very event. Dr. John L. Sorenson has pointed out that: "The year of the Savior's birth did not become significant to the calendar used in Europe until centuries after the event. The monk Dionysius Exiguus calculated the date soon after AD 500, but he made a mistake, mainly due to the inadequate historical materials available. So Christ was not born in 1 BC, neither in AD 1, but probably in 4 or 5 BC, or a bit earlier still" (An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, 272).
"Lachoneus was the chief judge and the governor over the land" Lachoneus may have become the chief judge in this particular year. If so, he will serve as chief judge and governor for about thirty years and be succeeded by his son, also named Lachoneus (3 Nephi 6:19).
2 And Nephi, the son of Helaman, had departed out of the land of Zarahemla, giving charge unto his son Nephi, who was his eldest son, concerning the plates of brass, and all the records which had been kept, and all those things which had been kept sacred from the departure of Lehi out of Jerusalem.
verse 2 "and all those things which had been kept sacred from the departure of Lehi out of Jerusalem" This phrase refers to those sacred relics that served as symbols of authority to the possessor (see Alma 50:38 and its commentary). In addition to the plates of brass, the small plates of Nephi, and the large collection of plates referred to as the large plates of Nephi, these relics included the sword of Laban, the Urim and Thummim, the breast plate, and the director or Liahona.
The succession of righteous prophets or keepers of the plates from King Benjamin to the son of Nephi can seem a bit confusing. It is, however very simple. Let us briefly review this succession:
1. Benjamin delivers the plates to his son Mosiah who becomes the final Nephite king (124 BC).
2. Mosiah places them in the possession of Alma's son, Alma the younger (92 BC). This Alma had been converted miraculously and later becomes the first chief judge of the people. He eventually gives up the office of chief judge to spend full time in his other office of high priest of the people.
3. Alma passes the plates along to his son, Helaman (74 BC) who valiantly leads the two thousand stripling warriors at the same time that captain Moroni is leading the Nephite army in other parts of the land.
4. The plates eventually end up in the possession of Helaman's son Helaman, but prior to that, they are held for a four-year period by the older Helaman's brother, Shiblon (57 to 53 BC). The younger Helaman writes the large part of the book of Helaman, serves as a righteous chief judge in Zarahemla, and sees the rise of the Gadianton robbers.
5. Helaman hands the plates on to his son Nephi (39 BC) who, with his brother Lehi, preaches valiantly and converts thousands of Lamanites. At one point Nephi and his brother are protected from destruction in a Lamanite prison by a miraculous protective ring of fire. Nephi later preaches from his garden tower and miraculously predicts the murder of the chief judge Seezoram.
6. Nephi disappears mysteriously, but not before he delivers the plates to his son Nephi (1 AD), who is the prophet during the time of great wickedness between the time of the Savior's birth and the Lord's appearance at the temple in Bountiful. Nephi eventually becomes one of the Lord's twelve disciples or apostles.
As long as we are at it, we might as well complete this list of plate keepers.
7. Nephi is succeeded by his son, also named Nephi. This Nephi dies in 111 AD.
8. The record is then kept by his son Amos. Amos keeps the record for eighty-four years and dies in 194 AD.
9. Amos gives the record to his son also named Amos. This Amos dies in 305 AD.
10. Amos's brother Ammaron keeps the record in his stead. In 320 AD Ammaron is constrained by the Holy Ghost to hide all the sacred records in a hill called Shim. After hiding the records, Ammaron is inspired to approach a boy named Mormon who is ten years old at the time and command him that when he reaches the age of twenty-four, Mormon should remove from their hiding place the large plates of Nephi and take possession of them.
11. Mormon does so in 335 AD. Years later, Mormon abridges the large plates of Nephi onto another set of plates, the plates of Mormon (380 AD). Mormon is eventually slain by Lamanites in about 385 AD. Before his death he buries the large plates of Nephi in the hill Cumorah.
12. Mormon gives to his son Moroni the small plates of Nephi and the plates of Mormon. These plates will be combined into a single set with the plates of Mormon at the front and the small plates of Nephi at the back. This set will eventually be delivered to Joseph Smith Jr. just after midnight in the early morning hours of September 22, 1827.
3 Then he departed out of the land, and whither he went, no man knoweth; and his son Nephi did keep the records in his stead, yea, the record of this people.
verse 3 Although the text never explains the fate of the prophet Nephi, it seems possible and even likely that he was translated. For a summary of the accomplishments of this remarkable prophet, see the commentary for Helaman 10:4-7. This verse is reminiscent of Alma 45:18 which relates the fate of Alma the younger, the great-grandfather of Nephi: "He departed out of the land of Zarahemla . . . and it came to pass that he was never heard of more; as to his death or burial we know not of." Terrence L. Szink has pointed out the remarkable similarities in the lives of Alma the younger and Nephi:
Nephi and Alma in fact led very similar lives. Among other things both were judges (Nephi-Helaman 3:37; Alma-Mosiah 29:42-44), both gave up their judgeship to devote more time to service in the church (Nephi-Helaman 5:1-4; Alma-Alma 4:20), and, finally, weary with the wickedness of their people, both wished for something different than the circumstances in which they found themselves: Nephi wanted to live in the days when Lehi and his family left Jerusalem (Helaman 7:7), and Alma wanted to speak with the voice of an angel (Alma 29:1-3) (Studies in Scripture, Volume Eight, Alma 30 to Moroni, 136).
Three additional Nephite apostles will yet be translated in the remaining pages of the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 28). For a discussion of the doctrine of translated beings, see Doctrine of Translation in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, chapter 17.
4 And it came to pass that in the commencement of the ninety and second year, behold, the prophecies of the prophets began to be fulfilled more fully; for there began to be greater signs and greater miracles wrought among the people.
5 But there were some who began to say that the time was past for the words to be fulfilled, which were spoken by Samuel, the Lamanite.
6 And they began to rejoice over their brethren, saying: Behold the time is past, and the words of Samuel are not fulfilled; therefore, your joy and your faith concerning this thing hath been vain.
verse 6 "they began to rejoice over their brethren" This rejoicing was a negative gloating by the antagonistic unbelievers rather than a positive emotion.
7 And it came to pass that they did make a great uproar throughout the land; and the people who believed began to be very sorrowful, lest by any means those things which had been spoken might not come to pass.
verse 7 This verse is a poignant reminder that here in mortality even the faithful depend on faith and hope that in the due time of the Lord, all will be revealed and they will be vindicated in their beliefs.
8 But behold, they did watch steadfastly for that day and that night and that day which should be as one day as if there were no night, that they might know that their faith had not been vain.
verse 8 The reader will recall that the prophet Samuel the Lamanite had predicted that "there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and this shall be unto you for a sign; for ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also of its setting" (Helaman 14:4).
9 Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the sign should come to pass, which had been given by Samuel the prophet.
verse 9 "all those who believed in those traditions" We have encountered the word "traditions" on many occasions in the Book of Mormon, yet we have not taken the time to define it. It refers to the customs, beliefs, and stories that are handed down from generation to generation either by word of mouth or by written records.
A common characteristic of the unbeliever is set forth in this verse. Since they do not believe or know or feel, they conclude that no one else can believe or know or feel. Since they were the powerful majority, they could calendar this awful ultimatum.
Brother Hugh Nibley commented on this intent of the non-believers to put to death the believers if the foretold events did not occur by a certain date:
It was the overwhelming majority of unbelievers who actually set a date for a general massacre of those who expected the coming of Christ (3 Nephi 1:9; 3 Nephi 1:16). Fantastic as this may seem, it has many parallels in history: the slaughter of the Magi in Lehi's day, the Sicilian Vespers, the liquidation of the Mamlukes, St. Bartholomew's, the slaughter of the Donatists, the Bloodbath of Stralsund, etc., most of them attempts at the complete wiping out of large unorthodox minorities, and most of them engineered by devout intellectuals. It is a grim and authentic psychological touch in the Book of Mormon (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, volume 6, 370).
10 Now it came to pass that when Nephi, the son of Nephi, saw this wickedness of his people, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful.
11 And it came to pass that he went out and bowed himself down upon the earth, and cried mightily to his God in behalf of his people, yea, those who were about to be destroyed because of their faith in the tradition of their fathers.
verse 11 "he went out and bowed himself down upon the earth" In commenting upon the subject of obeisance (bowing down or showing deference), Elder Bruce R. McConkie, wrote:
Obeisance . . . is a true and proper part of the worship of the Eternal King. Faithful people have always bowed down when worshiping the Lord (Genesis 24:52; Numbers 22:31). Prayer is properly made on bowed knees (Alma 46:13; Helaman 7:10; 3 Nephi 1:11). Nephi the disciple bowed himself before Jesus (3 Nephi 11:19), who in turn bowed himself before the Father (3 Nephi 19:19; 3 Nephi 19:27). In mocking desecration of sacred worship, the tormentors of our Lord bowed before him as they "platted a crown of thorns" upon his head (Matthew 27:29; Mark 15:19). There is a coming day when every knee shall bow to Christ (D&C 76:110), even as "all things bow in humble reverence" before the Father (D &C 76:93) (Mormon Doctrine, 541).
What a joy it will be to one day bow ourselves in adoration before our Savior!
We have often discussed the Lamanites' incorrect traditions of their fathers. The reader must keep in mind that the Nephites also had a set of unwritten and correct traditions which were handed down (see the commentary for Enos 1:14).
12 And it came to pass that he cried mightily unto the Lord, all that day; and behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him, saying:
13 Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.
verses 12-13 These interesting verses have caused some to ask the question: "How was Jesus able to speak to Nephi? Nephi's prayer was offered the day prior to Christ's mortal birth. Was his spirit not, therefore, in Mary's womb waiting to be born? When does the spirit enter the body? At conception? At the time of quickening? At birth? Might the physical presence of the spirit come and go from the womb?" We are obviously not given to know the answers to these questions. It is not difficult to imagine that the Holy Ghost himself or an angel messenger might have been commissioned to speak to Nephi the words of Christ. We are taught in latter day scripture that all the Lord's words will be fulfilled "whether [they are spoken] by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same" (D&C 1:38).
14 Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son-of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given.
verse 14 "I come unto my own" Jesus will come unto his own people the Jews to fulfill all the prophecies made of him and to fulfill the law of Moses.
"from the foundation of the world" This phrase refers to man's premortal existence or first estate.
"to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son-of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh" How are we to interpret this rather enigmatic statement of the Lord's? Three interpretations are suggested:
1. It would seem that Jesus is saying that here in mortality, he will do the will of, or be answerable to, two individuals: to his Father, Elohim, and to himself. The Father and the Son, of course, are of one mind. If he does the will of one then he does also the will of the other. Yet, here he seems to draw a subtle contrast between doing the will of the Father and doing the will of the Son. The contrast between the phrases "because of me" and "because of my flesh" suggests an intended contrast between the spirit and the flesh. Perhaps he is suggesting that as he takes upon himself mortality he will be, just as are the rest of us, subject both to the influences of the Spirit and to influences of the flesh-at least he will know and understand both through his personal experiences here on earth. His spirit will be answerable to the Father-"to do the will . . . of the Father because of me [my spirit's responding to the Holy Spirit]." He himself, and no one else, will be responsible also to keep the pulls of the flesh in check-"to do the will . . . of the Son because of my flesh."
2. Alternatively, it may be more correct to apply this statement specifically to Christ's assigned mission to atone for the sins of all mankind. The will of the Father is that the Son pay the demands of justice and thus atone for all men. The Son is uniquely able to accomplish this only "because of me"-because of the divine nature he will receive when he is sired by Elohim. Having that nature will enable him to pay the price and make the atonement. It is also the will of the Son that this atonement be made. This awesome sacrifice, however, can only be effective if it is given willingly and without coercion. The Savior must overcome the pulls of the flesh-the fear, the horror, the apprehension, the uncertainty-and willingly submit himself "because of the flesh," or in the setting of the pulls of the flesh.
3. Elder Bruce R. McConkie seems to have interpreted this statement as simply Jesus's teaching that he is both the Father and the Son-that his actions in mortality are in accordance with the will of the Father and the Son because he is both the Father and the Son. Commenting upon the idea that Jesus is "the Father because of me," Elder McConkie said: "This can only be taken to mean that he was the Father because he had the power of the Father; that his will was swallowed up in the will of the Father; that he could do all things because of his inheritance from that Supreme Being" (The Promised Messiah, 371-72). And how was Jesus "the Son because of my flesh"? "It is clear that he is the Son because of the flesh, meaning that he was born into the world as other mortals are. He had a body that was conceived and nurtured in the womb of a mortal woman (Ibid.). Elder McConkie then pointed out that this same thought is put forth in latter-day revelation: "I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one-The Father because he gave me of his fulness, and the Son because I was in the world and made flesh my tabernacle, and dwelt among the sons of men" (D&C 93:3-4).
15 And it came to pass that the words which came unto Nephi were fulfilled, according as they had been spoken; for behold, at the going down of the sun there was no darkness; and the people began to be astonished because there was no darkness when the night came.
verse 15 This miraculous interruption of the conventional twenty-four-hour light-dark cycle has been referred to as "a celebration of light" (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, volume 2, "Light and Darkness").
In contrast, beginning at the crucifixion of Christ and extending for three consecutive days "there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof who had not fallen could feel the vapor of darkness; and there could be no light" (3 Nephi 8:20-21).
16 And there were many, who had not believed the words of the prophets, who fell to the earth and became as if they were dead, for they knew that the great plan of destruction which they had laid for those who believed in the words of the prophets had been frustrated; for the sign which had been given was already at hand.
verse 16 "there were many, who had not believed the words of the prophets, who fell to the earth and became as if they were dead" Undoubtedly these erstwhile non-believers were awe-struck and overcome with fear and consternation over the implications of their now-obvious mistake.
17 And they began to know that the Son of God must shortly appear; yea, in fine, all the people upon the face of the whole earth from the west to the east, both in the land north and in the land south, were so exceedingly astonished that they fell to the earth.
verse 17 "in fine" This phrase may be interpreted as "finally," "eventually" or "in summary."
"all the people upon the face of the whole earth" This phrase is a hyperbole which actually is intended to mean "all the people in the lands of Zarahemla and Nephi" or "all the people in the Book of Mormon lands." The phrase is also likely hyperbolic in another sense. It seems unlikely that all of the former non-believers fell to the earth in humble acknowledgment of their erroneous ways and beliefs.
18 For they knew that the prophets had testified of these things for many years, and that the sign which had been given was already at hand; and they began to fear because of their iniquity and their unbelief.
19 And it came to pass that there was no darkness in all that night, but it was as light as though it was mid-day. And it came to pass that the sun did rise in the morning again, according to its proper order; and they knew that it was the day that the Lord should be born, because of the sign which had been given.
20 And it had come to pass, yea, all things, every whit, according to the words of the prophets.
21 And it came to pass also that a new star did appear, according to the word.
verse 21 Please review the commentary for Helaman 14:5 regarding this "new star."
verses 15-21 It is interesting to note that in this description of the fulfillment of the new-star prophecy and in the prophecy itself (Helaman 14:3-6), the sentence order and wording imply that the new star was not the cause of there being no darkness that night. The event is difficult for astronomers to explain by any natural phenomena, and no account of any comparable incident is given by any New Testament writer nor by any other contemporary historical record from the eastern hemisphere. This apparently was a remarkable sign given in the Nephite regions of the world only, though the new star could perhaps be the same observed by the wise men in the New Testament account (Matthew 2:1-2).
22 And it came to pass that from this time forth there began to be lyings sent forth among the people, by Satan, to harden their hearts, to the intent that they might not believe in those signs and wonders which they had seen; but notwithstanding these lyings and deceivings the more part of the people did believe, and were converted unto the Lord.
verse 22 In spite of the best efforts of Satan, these signs had been so powerful that the majority, the "more part," of the people were converted to the Lord. This conversion, however, will be short-lived. Three years hence the hearts of most of these converts will be hardened again (see 3 Nephi 2:1). See the discussion of hard-heartedness in the commentary for Alma 10:6. Obviously the conversion of these people was superficial. It had, after all, occurred as the result of a miraculous outward sign and required no active work on their part. It should also be noted that before the night without darkness, these people had doubted the other signs as they began to occur. Elder Bruce R. McConkie has written on the quality of testimony that results from supernatural signs:
Faith that is based on signs alone is weak and ineffective. It continually demands added and greater signs to keep it alive, and those relying on such visible supernatural guidance soon begin "to be less and less astonished at a sign or a wonder from heaven" until they are in danger of disbelieving all they have "heard and seen" (3 Nephi 2:1). Thus, belief based on supernatural experiences is less to be desired than that which stands on its own feet. "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (John 20:29) (Mormon Doctrine, "Signs" 714).
23 And it came to pass that Nephi went forth among the people, and also many others, baptizing unto repentance, in the which there was a great remission of sins. And thus the people began again to have peace in the land.
24 And there were no contentions, save it were a few that began to preach, endeavoring to prove by the scriptures that it was no more expedient to observe the law of Moses. Now in this thing they did err, having not understood the scriptures.
verse 24 One small group believed that since Christ had been born it was no longer necessary to obey the law of Moses. These were most likely a group of sincere believers who had simply misunderstood the scriptures. The law of Moses would actually remain intact until the time of Christ's resurrection when it would be fulfilled.
25 But it came to pass that they soon became converted, and were convinced of the error which they were in, for it was made known unto them that the law was not yet fulfilled, and that it must be fulfilled in every whit; yea, the word came unto them that it must be fulfilled; yea, that one jot or tittle should not pass away till it should all be fulfilled; therefore in this same year were they brought to a knowledge of their error and did confess their faults.
verse 25 "the law was not yet fulfilled, and that it must be fulfilled in every whit" The law of Moses was indeed fulfilled in Christ, but not until after his death and resurrection (3 Nephi 12:18).
26 And thus the ninety and second year did pass away, bringing glad tidings unto the people because of the signs which did come to pass, according to the words of the prophecy of all the holy prophets.
27 And it came to pass that the ninety and third year did also pass away in peace, save it were for the Gadianton robbers, who dwelt upon the mountains, who did infest the land; for so strong were their holds and their secret places that the people could not overpower them; therefore they did commit many murders, and did do much slaughter among the people.
28 And it came to pass that in the ninety and fourth year they began to increase in a great degree, because there were many dissenters of the Nephites who did flee unto them, which did cause much sorrow unto those Nephites who did remain in the land.
29 And there was also a cause of much sorrow among the Lamanites; for behold, they had many children who did grow up and began to wax strong in years, that they became for themselves, and were led away by some who were Zoramites, by their lyings and their flattering words, to join those Gadianton robbers.
verse 29 "many children who did grow up and began to wax strong in years, that they became for themselves" As the children of the Lamanites grew to maturity, they "became for themselves," or became independent of parental influences and began to make their own decisions.
"they . . . were led away by some who were Zoramites, by their lyings and their flattering words, to join those Gadianton robbers" We previously encountered the Zoramites who were Nephite apostates in Alma 31-35 during the mission of Alma the younger and others to their land to reclaim them from their apostasy and to prevent them from entering into an alliance with the Lamanites. Here we learn that the Zoramites are still dissident and are luring naive young Lamanites to join the Gadianton robbers. We are surprised, yet pleased, to learn that two centuries later the Zoramites will be back in the Nephite fold (see 4 Nephi 1:36).
30 And thus were the Lamanites afflicted also, and began to decrease as to their faith and righteousness, because of the wickedness of the rising generation.
verses 27-30 Hugh Nibley comments:
The criminal element took to the hills and there established retreats where they built up strength from dissenters joining them until they were able to reestablish the Gadianton organization. Terrorism was the name of the game. From their secure places they would strike and withdraw, making a special effort to kidnap "especially women and children," to assure the permanence of their society (Helaman 11:33). At the same time, Zoramite recruiters brought a host of young Nephites into the organization by the prospect of such things as romantic adventure, gaudy makeup, danger, loot, and license to kill (3 Nephi 1:28-30). Soldiers of fortune also flocked to the camps (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, volume 8, 555-56).