Helaman Chapter 14
1 And now it came to pass that Samuel, the Lamanite, did prophesy a great many more things which cannot be written.
2 And behold, he said unto them: Behold, I give unto you a sign; for five years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God to redeem all those who shall believe on his name.
verse 2 It is interesting to note that while the moment of the Savior's second coming to the earth is a carefully kept secret, it is obvious that he, the Lord, had no intention of keeping secret the time of his mortal birth.
Matthew Roper has raised an interesting question: In view of Samuel's obviously specific knowledge about the time of the coming of Christ, why did king Benjamin and the younger Alma not speak more specifically of this date and of the significance of Lehi's six-hundred-year prophecy (1 Nephi 10:4) in their public discourses in the land of Zarahemla? Brother Roper suggests:
The most likely explanation may be that this information was considered a mystery, reserved for the faithful (Alma 12:9-11). Nephite prophets often concealed certain scriptural information from the public at various times in their history, for diverse reasons (Alma 37:27-29; Alma 45:9; 3 Nephi 28:25; Ether 4:1). I would suggest that Samuel's prophecy was considered significant and unique because it was the first public disclosure of the date of Christ's birth among the people of Zarahemla and not because the information was new. The largely negative reaction of the people (Helaman 16:6-23; 3 Nephi 1:4-10) is reason enough for the prophets to have concealed the information so long (Matthew Roper, Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, 366).
3 And behold, this will I give unto you for a sign at the time of his coming; for behold, there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day.
4 Therefore, 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; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born.
5 And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you.
verse 5 Commenting on this verse, Joseph Fielding McConkie, Robert L. Millet, and Brent L. Top wrote:
There is no Old Testament prophecy on this aspect of the Savior's birth that is comparable to that of Samuel the Lamanite. The nearest allusion is found in the prophecy of Balaam, who, speaking of the Messiah himself, said: "There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel" (Numbers 24:17). This prophecy obviously refers to the first coming of Christ but does not announce itself as indicating a sign of his birth. The only other related passage is in the book of Revelation, where Christ refers to himself as "the bright and morning star" (Revelation 22:16). The appearance of a star, or of a phenomenon of light accompanying the birth of one destined to a significant role in history, is a common motif in the literature of the ancient Near East. Such legends are but the dim recollection of the lost prophecy of the star that was to announce the Messiah's birth (Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 410).
It is obvious that a prophet or prophets in the Old World had prophesied of this sign, for when the wise men arrived in Judea seeking the Messiah of the Jews, they said, "We have seen his star in the East and have come to worship him" (JST, Matthew 3:2). The implication is that not only they knew of the new star which would bear record of the Messiah's birth, but the Jews in Judea did as well (see also the commentary for 3 Nephi 1:21).
6 And behold this is not all, there shall be many signs and wonders in heaven.
verses 4-6 The fulfillment of these prophecies of Samuel is recorded in 3 Nephi 1.
7 And it shall come to pass that ye shall all be amazed, and wonder, insomuch that ye shall fall to the earth.
8 And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall believe on the Son of God, the same shall have everlasting life.
verse 8 Here is the essence of Samuel's message. All who shall fully accept Christ and his gospel shall be exalted.
9 And behold, thus hath the Lord commanded me, by his angel, that I should come and tell this thing unto you; yea, he hath commanded that I should prophesy these things unto you; yea, he hath said unto me: Cry unto this people, repent and prepare the way of the Lord.
10 And now, because I am a Lamanite, and have spoken unto you the words which the Lord hath commanded me, and because it was hard against you, ye are angry with me and do seek to destroy me, and have cast me out from among you.
11 And ye shall hear my words, for, for this intent have I come up upon the walls of this city, that ye might hear and know of the judgments of God which do await you because of your iniquities, and also that ye might know the conditions of repentance;
12 And also that ye might know of the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and of earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and that ye might know of the signs of his coming, to the intent that ye might believe on his name.
verse 12 "Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and of earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning" These twenty-one words seem to be standard sacred terminology used by the Nephites to describe the Savior. Apparently they were derived from the words given to King Benjamin by an angel of God (see Mosiah 3:8). Samuel likely learned these words from Nephi and Lehi during their ministry among the Lamanites (see Helaman 5:50). We know that the words of Benjamin were especially important to these two missionaries. Their father Helaman had charged them especially to "remember, remember, my sons, the words which King Benjamin spake unto his people" (Helaman 5:4). Lehi and Nephi likely used the precise words of Benjamin in their preaching.
The reference here to Jesus as the "Father" should not be surprising. John A. Widtsoe commented upon this usage:
The title "Father" is used in behalf of Jesus Christ who was commissioned by his Father to create the earth and all things on it. Mosiah, a Book of Mormon prophet, speaks of Jesus Christ as "the Father of heaven and earth" because he was the creator of "all things" as pertaining to the earth (Mosiah 3:8; also Helaman 14:12; Ether 4:7; 2 Nephi 25:12). Adam likewise, being the first man, has been called the father (D&C 29:34). This is not an uncommon use of the word. George Washington is called the father of his country. A man who creates a great business is called the father of the institution. The Indians are said to speak of the great father in Washington. The leader of any cause is frequently referred to as its father (Evidences and Reconciliations, 54-55).
Another aspect of this verse is worth noting. Let us first recall the method of translation used by Joseph Smith as he brought forth the book of Mormon. He dictated his translation to a scribe pausing only to allow the scribe to complete the recording. Once recorded, he did not go back and review or revise the text. At the beginning of each translation session, he simply began exactly where he had left off in the previous session without going back to review. In this verse, Joseph dictated twenty-one words verbatim found also in Mosiah 3:8. How would he have accomplished this unless the Book of Mormon is indeed a literal translation? Can you quote twenty-one words of King Benjamin without looking? This is yet another example of the remarkable internal consistency in the Book of Mormon.
Author's note: A second and careful comparison of Mosiah 3:8 and Helaman 14:12 reveals an extra "of" in the twenty-one word phrase here in Helaman 14:12. Thus, the phrase in Mosiah contains only twenty words. I will let the above commentary stand, though we must qualify our claim to include the idea that this phrase in Helaman is almost verbatim with that in Mosiah.
Another note of interest: We previously commented on another twenty-one word phrase quoted by the prophet Alma (see Alma 36:22 and its commentary). It is identical with a phrase originally written by the prophet Nephi, son of Lehi, in 1 Nephi 1:8. In this particular case, the prophet Alma was obviously using a quote from the prophet Nephi that he (Alma) had found on the small plates of Nephi.
13 And if ye believe on his name ye will repent of all your sins, that thereby ye may have a remission of them through his merits.
verse 13 Don't pass by this verse without pausing to fully appreciate the important and profound truth it contains. This verse defines what it means to "believe on his name." One who believes on his name is willing to abandon his sins, repent of them, and obey the Lord's commandments.
14 And behold, again, another sign I give unto you, yea, a sign of his death.
verse 14 "a sign of his death" This prophesied "sign of his death"-actually multiple signs of his death-are described in verses 20-28 of this chapter.
verses 15-19 Let us review briefly the fundamental gospel doctrines that allow us to understand these next few verses. The fall of man has a dual nature-two major aspects or features. The first is the fall or transgression of Adam. The second is the fall of each individual as each commits sin. Adam's transgression results in (1) physical death-all men born into mortality will eventually suffer physical death. (2) spiritual death-all men are separated from God while here on earth (the so-called "first death"). Neither of these consequences of Adam's transgression will have permanent consequences for any of God's children. Man is not to blame for them and therefore will not suffer for them, except temporarily. Christ's atonement will automatically do away with these consequences of the fall of Adam. All men will be resurrected, and no one will be excluded from the presence of God eternally because of Adam. The fall of each individual, on the other hand, brings about a "permanent" spiritual death, or separation from God, for all men (the so-called "second death"). This separation is permanent at least until each man repents of his sins and receives forgiveness from the Savior. Christ's suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross qualified him to forgive us of our sins, and he will do so on condition of our repentance.
15 For behold, he surely must die that salvation may come; yea, it behooveth him and becometh expedient that he dieth, to bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, that thereby men may be brought into the presence of the Lord.
verse 15 The Savior's atoning suffering and death were an absolute necessity. We do not have the opportunity for exaltation because of his kindness or goodness or sinlessness or even because of his love for us. We have this opportunity only because he was willing to suffer, bleed, and die-indeed to become our Savior by paying the awful price. This verse also implies that no one may be "brought into the presence of the Lord" to live eternally lest they first be resurrected and receive an eternal body. We know from modern revelation that this will be an eternal celestial body as opposed to the other types of eternal bodies man may receive.
16 Yea, behold, this death bringeth to pass the resurrection, and redeemeth all mankind from the first death-that spiritual death; for all mankind, by the fall of Adam being cut off from the presence of the Lord, are considered as dead, both as to things temporal and to things spiritual.
verse 16 As mentioned in the commentary above, the scriptures speak of two spiritual deaths, the "first death" and the "second death." Here, the term "first death" refers to that spiritual death or separation from God which is due to Adam's transgression. As we have previously stated, Christ's death and atonement "redeemeth all mankind from the first death" (italics mine). The consequences of Adam's transgression (both the "first death" and the physical death) are automatically overcome or reversed by the Savior's atonement. The "second death" is the separation from God which occurs as a consequence of a man's own sins. This second death is "permanent" as is discussed above, and also below in verse 18 and its commentary.
17 But behold, the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind, yea, even all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord.
verse 17 Is "all mankind" really brought back "into the presence of the Lord" by the Savior's death and resurrection? They are, but only temporarily. All men will at least be ushered into the presence of God for a private audience to be judged of him. This is due to an unconditional consequence of the atonement, the overcoming of the "first death."
18 Yea, and it bringeth to pass the condition of repentance, that whosoever repenteth the same is not hewn down and cast into the fire; but whosoever repenteth not is hewn down and cast into the fire; and there cometh upon them again a spiritual death, yea, a second death, for they are cut off again as to things pertaining to righteousness.
verse 18 "it bringeth to pass the condition of repentance" The Savior's atonement made repentance possible.
"second death" This term is used several times in the Book of Mormon. It implies an eternal separation from God. This "second death" is the spiritual death that results from man's own sins. This death is permanent except the man repent. On occasion in scripture the term "second death" may refer to that place of eternal damnation where Satan and his sons live, so-called outer darkness (see also Jacob 3:11). From modern revelation, we now know that the second death will be suffered by all who fail to qualify for exaltation in God's celestial presence, including those who inherit the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms. On occasion the eternal banishment of a man to outer darkness is referred to as the "third death"-the third spiritual death.
19 Therefore repent ye, repent ye, lest by knowing these things and not doing them ye shall suffer yourselves to come under condemnation, and ye are brought down unto this second death.
20 But behold, as I said unto you concerning another sign, a sign of his death, behold, in that day that he shall suffer death the sun shall be darkened and refuse to give his light unto you; and also the moon and the stars; and there shall be no light upon the face of this land, even from the time that he shall suffer death, for the space of three days, to the time that he shall rise again from the dead.
verse 20 The "sign of his death"-the great destruction, death, and darkness occurring at the time of his crucifixion had been previously prophesied of by Zenos and Nephi (1 Nephi 19:10-11). This specific sign is prophesied to occur only in the New World. A variation of this sign occurred also in the Old World in that there was three hours of darkness following the Savior's death (Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33).
21 Yea, at the time that he shall yield up the ghost there shall be thunderings and lightnings for the space of many hours, and the earth shall shake and tremble; and the rocks which are upon the face of this earth, which are both above the earth and beneath, which ye know at this time are solid, or the more part of it is one solid mass, shall be broken up;
22 Yea, they shall be rent in twain, and shall ever after be found in seams and in cracks, and in broken fragments upon the face of the whole earth, yea, both above the earth and beneath.
23 And behold, there shall be great tempests, and there shall be many mountains laid low, like unto a valley, and there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great.
24 And many highways shall be broken up, and many cities shall become desolate.
25 And many graves shall be opened, and shall yield up many of their dead; and many saints shall appear unto many.
verse 25 This prophecy of Samuel's was fulfilled in the Old World. Following the resurrection of Christ, "many" of the faithful saints who had lived and died since the days of Adam were resurrected and appeared as special witness of the resurrection unto some who were worthy of their ministrations (Matthew 27:51-53). The Book of Mormon provides no record of this prophecy's having been fulfilled in the New World.
There is some evidence that saints might also have been resurrected in the New World at the time of the Savior's resurrection. During the Savior's visit to the New World following his resurrection, he will point out to the prophet Nephi that there was an important omission regarding resurrection of the saints at the time of the Savior's resurrection in the Nephite scriptural record. The Savior will say to the prophet Nephi, referring to the large and small plates of Nephi:
And it came to pass that he said unto Nephi: Bring forth the record which ye have kept. And when Nephi had brought forth the records, and laid them before him, he cast his eyes upon them and said: Verily I say unto you, I commanded my servant Samuel, the Lamanite, that he should testify unto this people, that at the day that the Father should glorify his name in me that there were many saints who should arise from the dead, and should appear unto many, and should minister unto them. And he said unto them: Was it not so? And his disciples answered him and said: Yea, Lord, Samuel did prophesy according to thy words, and they were all fulfilled. And Jesus said unto them: How be it that ye have not written this thing, that many saints did arise and appear unto many and did minister unto them? And it came to pass that Nephi remembered that this thing had not been written. And it came to pass that Jesus commanded that it should be written; therefore it was written according as he commanded (3 Nephi 23:7-13).
The reader may well be confused at this point. Just what exactly was the Savior pointing out to Nephi that was missing from the Nephite scriptural record? There seem to be two possibilities:
1. The Savior may have been pointing out to the prophet Nephi that Samuel's prophecy itself-that saints would be resurrected at the time of the Savior's resurrection was not included in the Nephite record. If this is true then this verse (Helaman 14:25) might not have been added until several years following Samuel's prophesying from the wall around Zarahemla. The account in 3 Nephi says that the error was corrected "according as he [the Savior] commanded."
Some Book of Mormon scholars have suggested that this is the most likely possibility. In other words, they have supposed that the omission the Lord is speaking of in 3 Nephi was this particular verse-Helaman 14:25-the prophecy that saints would be resurrected. They have agreed that this verse was inserted years after the account of Samuel's prophecies were originally recorded (D. Lynn Johnson, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, "The Missing Scripture," 85).
2. The other possibility is that the Savior was pointing out that this prophecy of Samuel's was fulfilled-also in the New World-but its fulfillment was not recorded in the Nephite scriptural record. This possibility is suggested by the fact that in the 3 Nephi account, the Lord's disciples, referring to the words of Samuel, said to the Savior, "they were all fulfilled." If saints had only been resurrected in the Old World, how would the Lord's disciples have known that this prophecy had been fulfilled. Also, the Lord will say in 3 Nephi to the prophet Nephi, "How be it that ye have not written this thing, that many saints did arise and appear unto many and did minister unto them? (italics added)." How could the Lord have expected them to know that saints did arise if they only did so in the Old World. One point against this possibility is that the passage in 3 Nephi does say, "Jesus commanded that it should be written; therefore it was written according as he commanded (3 Nephi 23:13). If saints were resurrected in the New World, we don't have record of it in the Book of Mormon.
Some scholars have suggested that this second possibility is the most likely one. They have supposed that the Savior was pointing out to Nephi that the account of the fulfillment of the prophecy was omitted from the record and not the prophecy itself (McConkie, Millet, and Top, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, volume IV, 159). They suggest that presumably Nephi made the needed correction on the large plates, but we still do not have the account of the fulfillment of this prophecy in the present-day Book of Mormon.
There is yet a third possibility for the "missing scripture." It will be discussed in the commentary for 3 Nephi 23:6-13.
26 And behold, thus hath the angel spoken unto me; for he said unto me that there should be thunderings and lightnings for the space of many hours.
27 And he said unto me that while the thunder and the lightning lasted, and the tempest, that these things should be, and that darkness should cover the face of the whole earth for the space of three days.
28 And the angel said unto me that many shall see greater things than these, to the intent that they might believe that these signs and these wonders should come to pass upon all the face of this land, to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men-
verses 20-28 The fulfillment of these prophecies of Samuel are recorded in 3 Nephi 8.
29 And this to the intent that whosoever will believe might be saved, and that whosoever will not believe, a righteous judgment might come upon them; and also if they are condemned they bring upon themselves their own condemnation.
verse 29 "a righteous judgment might come upon them" Through the process of the atonement, Christ became the perfect judge, capable of meting out "righteous judgment" upon the children of men. For a further discussion of the concept of "righteous judgment" see the section "Just What did happen in Gethsemane and at Calvary" in volume 1, chapter 5, The Essence of the Lord's Atonement in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine.
30 And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.
verse 30 "whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself" Whosoever dies a spiritual death is completely responsible for his own fate.
"God hath given unto you a knowledge" Agency alone does not make an individual accountable. He must also have some concept of what is right and wrong. A basic "knowledge" of what is right and what is wrong is given to all men. An important aspect of this propensity for knowing right from wrong is the spirit or light of Christ (Moroni 7:16).
"he hath made you free" The word "free" refers to agency or the doctrine of agency. We often say that God has given to man his agency and that agency is a free gift. Yet, we know that each individual has always possessed agency. It is God's gift to us in the sense that he has placed us in a situation and setting wherein we may utilize that agency to grow toward godhood. All accountable individuals have their agency and are responsible for their own actions. Speaking of all men, Alma said, "for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil" (Alma 41:7). See Agency and Freedom in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 13.
There are three conditions that must exist in order for mortals to be accountable before God (see the commentary for Alma 12:14). These are law, adequate knowledge of the law (including the mental competence to know), and agency. Knowledge of the law is essential. Only when a man is accountable to God is he able to grow spiritually.
31 He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you.
verse 31 Here is yet another reference to the "law of restoration." The reader may wish to review this most important concept in the introductory commentary for Alma 41.