Helaman chapter 3
Helaman 3:35 Though they were persecuted by other members of the church, the humble and persecuted saints in Zarahemla did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ.
1 And now it came to pass in the forty and third year of the reign of the judges, there was no contention among the people of Nephi save it were a little pride which was in the church, which did cause some little dissensions among the people, which affairs were settled in the ending of the forty and third year.
verse 1 "save it were a little pride which was in the church, which did cause some little dissensions among the people" What exactly is pride, and how might it lead to dissensions among people? For a discussion of universal sin, see "Pride" in The "Natural Self" and "Spiritual Self," volume 1 chapter 5 of Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine.
2 And there was no contention among the people in the forty and fourth year; neither was there much contention in the forty and fifth year.
3 And it came to pass in the forty and sixth, yea, there was much contention and many dissensions; in the which there were an exceedingly great many who departed out of the land of Zarahemla, and went forth unto the land northward to inherit the land.
verse 3 "And it came to pass in the forty and sixth, yea, there was much contention" This wording of this phrase is awkward. It would read more smoothly if the word "yea" were instead "year." There are several LDS scholars working with what is called the "critical text" or "critical edition" of the Book of Mormon. This is a project designed to determine, as far as is possible, the original text of the Book of Mormon and to determine the historical evolution of the text, that is, to study the changes that have occurred over the several editions of the book that have been published. Relative to this particular verse, these scholars have suggested what they call a "conjectural emendation" to this phrase in verse 3. By studying the usage of the word yea in the text and by studying also the pattern of mistakes that Oliver Cowdery tended to make when he was taking dictation from Joseph, they have suggested that this phrase was likely intended to read: "And it came to pass in the forty and sixth year there was much contention." They found, for example that in the Book of Mormon text the word yea is used to provide emphasis of something which has just been said. It emphasizes some particular aspect. In this verse, it doesn't emphasize anything. They also observed that on some twenty different occasions, Oliver Cowdery, on intending to write the word year, left off the r and wrote instead yea. Most of the time he caught himself and inserted a small r, but on this occasion he did not (Royal Skousen, "The Critical Text of the Book of Mormon," a FARMS reprint).
"an exceedingly great many who departed out of the land of Zarahemla, and went forth unto the land northward to inherit the land" These Nephite migrants were following a pattern set by Hagoth and his people ten years earlier (Alma 63:4-10).
4 And they did travel to an exceedingly great distance, insomuch that they came to large bodies of water and many rivers.
verses 3-4 "the land northward . . .[which contained] . . . large bodies of water and many rivers" We have previously discussed the possible identification of a land which might be the "land northward" (see the commentary for Alma 63:4). For the reader's convenience and for the sake of review, I will repeat that commentary:
The Book of Mormon text often speaks of a mysterious land. It may be referred to, as it is in this verse, as the "land which was northward" or simply the "land northward" (Alma 63:5-8; Alma 63:10; Helaman 3:3-4; Helaman 3:7; Helaman 3:10-11). In another place it is referred to as the "northernmost part of the land" (3 Nephi 7:12). It is possible that this land is in the same location as the "great city of Jacobugath" (3 Nephi 9:9). Joseph L. Allen (Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, 97-107) suggests that this mysterious land might by the ancient city of Teotihuacan, built in the valley of Mexico, near where Mexico City lies today. The ancient culture which inhabited this city had its beginnings about 150 BC and fell about AD 750. The circumstantial evidence that Teotihuacan might have played a role in the Book of Mormon includes the fact that between 55 BC and AD 29, the Book of Mormon mentions several migrations into this land where large bodies of water were found (see also Alma 63:7-8; Helaman 3:3-4; Helaman 3:12; 3 Nephi 7:12).
According to Dr. John L. Sorenson: "In former times the floor of the valley of Mexico was occupied by a set of lakes that were greater in combined size than anything else in central Mexico. It was this lake system that allowed the Aztecs to facilitate movement of goods needed to support their great city" (An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, 266-67).
This is the same time period when, according to archaeologists, Teotihuacan was experiencing a high growth rate. Also the valley of Mexico contained many lakes, in fact Mexico City is built on a dry lake bed. The Book of Mormon speaks of the people in the land northward building houses out of cement because timber was scarce in the land (Helaman 3:7; Helaman 3:10-11). The archaeological site of Teotihuacan contains many buildings made of cement, and timber is indeed scarce in the valley of Mexico (see also the commentary for verse 7).
5 Yea, and even they did spread forth into all parts of the land, into whatever parts it had not been rendered desolate and without timber, because of the many inhabitants who had before inherited the land.
verse 5 It would seem that the Nephites strongly preferred wood as their favorite building material and that they used cement only when wood was not available. It is likely they were more dependent upon forests than we are today! This verse particularly refers to the land which was north of the narrow neck of land, as indicated by the following verse. Previous populations of people, presumably at least in part Jaredites, had not practiced effective conservation techniques and had, in some measure, denuded the land of its forests.
6 And now no part of the land was desolate, save it were for timber; but because of the greatness of the destruction of the people who had before inhabited the land it was called desolate.
verse 6 All parts of the land were inhabited, even though many were denuded of timber. Even the land Desolation was inhabited, its name notwithstanding.
7 And there being but little timber upon the face of the land, nevertheless the people who went forth became exceedingly expert in the working of cement; therefore they did build houses of cement, in the which they did dwell.
verse 7 Northward, there was "little timber upon the face of the land," and the Nephite colonists from the land of Zarahemla who settled in the land northward in the first century BC are credited with becoming expert "in the working of cement" (see also verses 9, 11). This technology was not apparently available in Zarahemla.
Here we have several testable facts: the Book of Mormon tells us that people in ancient America became very skillful in the use of cement at a precise historical time. No one in the nineteenth century could have known that cement, in fact, was extensively used in Mesoamerica beginning at about this time, the middle of the first century BC (see Matthew G. Wells and John W. Welch, "Concrete [pun intended] Evidence for the Book of Mormon," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, ed. Welch, 212-14).
Central and Gulf Coast Mexico was the scene of the culmination of concrete engineering. Particularly at the vast ruins of Teotihuacan, north of present-day Mexico City, large constructions of this material can still be seen. The area of Teotihuacan is, of course, northward from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, which most LDS scholars consider to be the dividing point between the Nephite lands southward and northward. Teotihuacan has a city center that is literally built of cement. Apparently the use of cement appeared suddenly on the scene in the middle of the first century BC in the area of Teotihuacan. The earliest sample discovered was "a fully developed product." The cement floor slabs at this site "were remarkably high in structural quality." Although exposed to the elements of nearly two thousand years, they still "exceed many present-day building code requirements" (David S. Hyman, A Study of the Calcareous Cements in Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican Building Construction [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 1970], ii, 6-7). It is also interesting that in that area timber is scarce and is very expensive. Until recently in that area, when steel has started to play a major role in construction, most modern buildings were built with cement. The earliest concrete known is from the Valley of Mexico and dates to perhaps two centuries BC. We may assume that the Nephites' expertise in cement work was taught to them by people who were already living in the "land northward" and had earlier experience in that technology.
8 And it came to pass that they did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east.
verse 8 "they did multiply and spread . . . insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth" This statement should be interpreted as being hyperbolic rather than being a specific geographic declaration. It simply means that the people spread out all over the land. Hugh Nibley comments on what it means "to cover":
Terms like "great," "mighty," "numerous," etc., are purely relative and cannot for a moment be taken to indicate population on a modern scale. We are told, for example, that the people of the great northern migration "began to cover the face of the whole earth" (Helaman 3:8). What is meant by "cover"? In case one thinks of something like greater Los Angeles one need only read a few verses farther to learn that the Gadianton robbers established their cells "in the more settled parts of the land" (Helaman 3:23), which makes it clear that "covering the face of the whole earth" does not mean a dense and uniform occupation but can signify the thinnest possible settlement (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, volume 6, 420).
"from the sea south to the sea north" This phrase is troublesome and seems not to fit with the geographical hypothesis proposed by John L. Sorenson. See the map Book of Mormon Lands, a Proposed Setting. There is no north sea or south sea! It seems likely that the entire phrase "the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east" is not only hyperbolic but also metaphorical. It is likely that Mormon is waxing poetical and that the phrase has no real concrete meaning, rather he intends only to say that the Nephites spread over a wide area. It is interesting that in a parallel passage in Helaman 11 (verse 20) describing the same sort of population expansion no north or south sea is mentioned: "And thus it did come to pass that the people of Nephi began to prosper again in the land, and began to build up their waste places, and began to multiply and spread, even until they did cover the whole face of the land, both on the northward and on the southward, from the sea west to the sea east." Here all specific references or allusions to Book of Mormon seas are only to the east and west seas.
"and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward" In Joseph Smith's day there was a view that the western hemisphere was populated across the Bering Strait, and that civilization moved from the Northwest through North America and then to Central America. This verse suggests that migrations went the opposite way. Today archaeologists, linguists, and historians who have studied the matter are agreed that a long sequence of cultural transmissions and migrations moved northward from southern Mexico. There are also many discovered cultural links between Mesoamerica and South America (John L. Sorenson, "Mesoamericans in Pre-Columbian North America," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch, 218).
9 And the people who were in the land northward did dwell in tents, and in houses of cement, and they did suffer whatsoever tree should spring up upon the face of the land that it should grow up, that in time they might have timber to build their houses, yea, their cities, and their temples, and their synagogues, and their sanctuaries, and all manner of their buildings.
verse 9 "the people who were in the land northward did dwell in tents" It would seem that no matter how firmly the Nephite people were established in cities, some of them always considered themselves wanderers in a strange land, and they had their tents readily available (see also Omni 1:12; Omni 1:27; Mosiah 2:6; Mosiah 10:13-16; Mosiah 22:2; Mosiah 24:20).
"they did suffer whatsoever tree should spring up upon the face of the land that it should grow up" Here is a colorful way of stating that timber was scarce and valuable, and the people encouraged the growing and perhaps planting of trees that they may be later harvested for their lumber.
"temples, and their synagogues, and their sanctuaries" For a discussion on the various places of worship among the Nephites, see the commentary for Alma 16:13.
10 And it came to pass as timber was exceedingly scarce in the land northward, they did send forth much by the way of shipping.
verse 10 "they did send forth much by the way of shipping" It is notable that the people were beginning to utilize ships for transportation and trade. This likely took place via the Pacific Ocean or "west sea" (see Alma 63:5-6). This verse, in spite of its use of the phrase "send forth," seems to refer to the importing of timber. They sent forth other goods in return for timber imports.
11 And thus they did enable the people in the land northward that they might build many cities, both of wood and of cement.
12 And it came to pass that there were many of the people of Ammon, who were Lamanites by birth, did also go forth into this land.
verse 12 These people who were moving to the north and were spreading all over the land were obviously a mixture of cultural groups who would go on to intermarry and mingle their various racial bloods. It is difficult to know whether to refer to them as Nephites or Lamanites, as either designation seems arbitrary and inaccurate.
verses 13-17 Here Mormon suddenly pauses in his narrative and editorializes about the general decay of the Nephite culture from his vantage point in about AD 385.
13 And now there are many records kept of the proceedings of this people, by many of this people, which are particular and very large, concerning them.
verse 13 One might suppose that this verse refers to the peoples who had migrated to the lands northward. Yet it is clear from the context that Mormon is referring to the large plates of Nephi, the record kept of the people in the land southward.
Perhaps this verse is pertinent in another way. Opponents of the Book of Mormon have repeatedly raised alternate theories regarding its authorship. A variety of theories have been proposed including such proposed authors as Joseph Smith, Solomon Spaulding, Oliver Cowdery, or Sidney Rigdon. Modern computers have given birth to a new science of analyzing word patterns in documents whose authorship is disputed. The technique is called "wordprint analysis" or "wordprinting." This technique has been applied, by Dr. John L. Hilton, to the Book of Mormon and to related writings ("On Verifying Wordprint Studies: Book of Mormon Authorship," BYU Studies 30 : 89-108). It is based on the fact that each individual author subconsciously uses a consistent and characteristic pattern as he employs such common words as "and," "the," "of," and "that." Sixty-five different patterns of usage have been identified. Utilizing these patterns, it is possible for researchers to ascertain with a high degree of statistical certainly whether two separate works were written by the same or by different authors. The technique has been applied to translated works, and it has been determined that the process of translation does not invalidate the technique.
Specific conclusions drawn thus far by Dr. Hilton include the following:
1. The writings of Nephi in the Book of Mormon were written by a different author that the writings of the younger Alma.
2. The writings of Nephi and the writings of Alma were found not to be written by Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, or Solomon Spaulding.
14 But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, yea, the account of the Lamanites and of the Nephites, and their wars, and contentions, and dissensions, and their preaching, and their prophecies, and their shipping and their building of ships, and their building of temples, and of synagogues and their sanctuaries, and their righteousness, and their wickedness, and their murders, and their robbings, and their plundering, and all manner of abominations and whoredoms, cannot be contained in this work.
verse 14 "behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people . . . cannot be contained in this work" Mormon is implying that voluminous records were available to him as commenced his work of abridgement, and he was able to include only a "hundredth part" of those materials. The phrase "this work," of course, refers to the plates of Mormon. If the reader still has a lingering confusion regarding the nomenclature of all the plates pertinent to the Book of Mormon, please see the supplemental article, "Those Confusing Book of Mormon Plates." Mormon likely included those parts of the history which, by inspiration, he felt would be applicable to us today.
Please note the many "ands" in this verse-there are eighteen in all. Biblical Hebrew uses the equivalent of the conjunction and much more than English uses and, particularly in historical narrative and prose but also in poetry and direct speech. Its frequent use in English sounds irregular and repetitive. Consider the ten ands in the KJV of 1 Samuel 17:34-35:
And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: and I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him (emphasis mine).
Compare also the thirteen ands in a single verse of Joshua:
And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor (Joshua 7:24, emphasis mine).
The Book of Mormon corresponds to the Old Testament in its use of many ands throughout its historical and prose sections. This particular verse is an excellent example. There are other examples in the Book of Mormon. There are twenty-two ands in 1 Nephi 11:30-32, twelve ands in 1 Nephi 12:4, eight ands in Mosiah 10:8; and fifteen ands in Alma 46:12-13.
15 But behold, there are many books and many records of every kind, and they have been kept chiefly by the Nephites.
verse 15 "many books and many records of every kind" We are aware, of course, of both the large plates of Nephi and the small plates of Nephi. And the large plates of Nephi were likely a large set of plates consisting of several subsets. In this phrase Mormon may refer to the large plates of Nephi, or perhaps there were other "books and records" kept which cannot be classified among the plates of Nephi.
As you read this verse and some others in the Book of Mormon, you may intuitively conclude that all of the inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere two thousand years ago were literate. Archaeologists have provided evidence that this is not the case. Actually, the Book of Mormon does provide evidence of literacy among the ruling and priestly classes (Alma 59-60; Mormon 6:2; Mosiah 1:2) but not among all the Book of Mormon people-let alone all the inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere.
16 And they have been handed down from one generation to another by the Nephites, even until they have fallen into transgression and have been murdered, plundered, and hunted, and driven forth, and slain, and scattered upon the face of the earth, and mixed with the Lamanites until they are no more called the Nephites, becoming wicked, and wild, and ferocious, yea, even becoming Lamanites.
verse 16 "And they have been handed down from one generation to another by the Nephites, even until they have fallen into transgression""And they have been handed down from one generation to another by the Nephites, even until they have fallen into transgression" Notice that the two "they's" in this phrase have different antecedents. The first "they" refers to the "many books and many records of every kind" spoken of by the prophet Mormon in the previous verse. The second "they" refers to the Nephites in the time of Mormon who apostatized from the truth and who now (at the time of Mormon's writing) were being "hunted . . . driven forth . . . slain, and scattered."
17 And now I return again to mine account; therefore, what I have spoken had passed after there had been great contentions, and disturbances, and wars, and dissensions, among the people of Nephi.
verse 17 "what I have spoken had passed" Here Mormon seems to be referring to the migration of peoples to the land northward. He intends to say, "This migration occurred following a period of great contention and war among the people of Nephi."
18 The forty and sixth year of the reign of the judges ended;
19 And it came to pass that there was still great contention in the land, yea, even in the forty and seventh year, and also in the forty and eighth year.
20 Nevertheless Helaman did fill the judgment-seat with justice and equity; yea, he did observe to keep the statutes, and the judgments, and the commandments of God; and he did do that which was right in the sight of God continually; and he did walk after the ways of his father, insomuch that he did prosper in the land.
verse 20 Keep in mind that the Helaman spoken of here is Helaman, the son of Helaman, and the primary author of the large part of the book of Helaman. Other contributing authors to the book of Helaman were Nephi and Lehi, the sons of Helaman, and the prophet Mormon.
21 And it came to pass that he had two sons. He gave unto the eldest the name of Nephi, and unto the youngest, the name of Lehi. And they began to grow up unto the Lord.
verse 21 These two sons of Helaman will establish themselves as valiant servants. The older of the two, Nephi will become one of the most valiant and noble prophets in all of the Book of Mormon.
22 And it came to pass that the wars and contentions began to cease, in a small degree, among the people of the Nephites, in the latter end of the forty and eighth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi.
Hugh Nibley comments on the peaceful circumstances of this particular time but then provides an ominous preview of things to come:
In Helaman [chapter] 3, after a thumbnail picture of a civilization-a skillfully condensed vignette like one of those astonishing ivory panoramas carved on a single elephant's tusk (Helaman 3:14), we are introduced into the underworld and are told how skillfully the crime families gradually infiltrate the whole society during a time of peace and prosperity, getting themselves "established in the more settled parts of the land" so quietly that their activities "were not known unto those who were at the head of the government" (Helaman 3:23). The prosperity of the time is actually called "astonishing beyond measure," a time of "peace and exceedingly great joy" (Helaman 3:25; Helaman 3:32). Yet scarcely two years later "pride . . . began to enter into the church" (Helaman 3:33), and soon "the more humble part of the people," suffering great persecutions, "did wax stronger and stronger in their humility" (Helaman 3:34-35), while the great majority had their vices "grow upon them from day to day, . . . because of their exceedingly great riches and their prosperity" (Helaman 3:36-37). Such was the way of the church. The general public (not the church members) were able to drive out the worst criminals, who went to stir things up among the Lamanites (Helaman 4:1-2) and finally persuaded them to make war against the Nephites who had thrown them out. The worst offenders in those days were "those who professed to belong to the church of God. And it was because of the pride of their hearts, because of their exceeding riches, yea, of their oppression of the poor, withholding their substance from the hungry," and so on (Helaman 4:11-12), that "in the space of not many years" (Helaman 4:26) the Nephites were reduced to a sorry, materialistic people, hopelessly outnumbered by their enemies but with no inclination whatsoever to call upon God. "The voice of the people . . . chose evil, . . . therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted" (Helaman 5:2). Nephi gave up the judgment seat in disgust (Helaman 5:4) (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, volume 8, 553-54).
23 And it came to pass in the forty and ninth year of the reign of the judges, there was continual peace established in the land, all save it were the secret combinations which Gadianton the robber had established in the more settled parts of the land, which at that time were not known unto those who were at the head of government; therefore they were not destroyed out of the land.
verse 23 "the secret combinations which Gadianton the robber had established . . . which at that time were not know unto those who were at the head of government" Gadianton and his band had truly gone underground to the point where even the heads of government did not know of their existence. Brother Nibley Comments: "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)" (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, volume 7, 363-64).
24 And it came to pass that in this same year there was exceedingly great prosperity in the church, insomuch that there were thousands who did join themselves unto the church and were baptized unto repentance.
verse 24 The "prosperity" here may well refer to a righteous spiritual prosperity rather than material prosperity.
25 And so great was the prosperity of the church, and so many the blessings which were poured out upon the people, that even the high priests and the teachers were themselves astonished beyond measure.
verse 25 "even the high priests and the teachers were themselves astonished beyond measure" One is reminded of the Lord's revelation to the prophet Habakkuk: "I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you" (Habakkuk 1:5).
26 And it came to pass that the work of the Lord did prosper unto the baptizing and uniting to the church of God, many souls, yea, even tens of thousands.
27 Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name.
verse 27 "Thus we may see" Here again is that phrase which identifies this verse as an editorial comment by the prophet Mormon (see the commentary for Alma 50:19). Mormon's editorial comment extends through verse 30.
28 Yea, thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto all, even to those who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God.
29 Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked-
verse 29 "whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God" To "lay hold upon the word of God" is to study the scriptures and obey the commandments therein.
President Ezra Taft Benson quoted this verse in an address to priesthood leaders of the Church. Before he did so, he asked a question of them: "Are there members of your flock who are deep in sin and need to pull themselves back? Helaman's promise is for them." He suggested that a powerful tool for bringing the wayward back is the "word of God" ("The Power of the Word." Ensign [May 1986] 16:80-81).
The "wiles" of the Devil refers to his tricks and his strategies for deceiving and ensnaring.
What is a "man of Christ"? Certainly it is a man (or woman) who is in tune with and enlightened by the Spirit of the Holy Ghost and who is truly striving to obey and thereby making steady progress in their spiritual growth.
"strait and narrow course" While some may object to the use of the word strait here rather than straight, there is significant justification for its use as discussed in the supplemental article Strait and Straight in the Book of Mormon.
30 And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out.
verse 30 "to sit down with . . . all our holy fathers, to go no more out" Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:
Saved persons remain in their exalted state forever. They cannot fall, but dwell forever in the celestial city, to go out never more at all. Their lot is "to sit down" in the kingdom of heaven "with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out." (Helaman 3:30.) Their inheritance is in that realm from which no friend departs and into which no enemy enters. They are as God, and God is as he is from everlasting to everlasting (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, volume 3, 459).
verses 29-30 Hugh Nibley comments on the complex imagery of these verses, pointing out how this pattern is typical of Near Eastern literature:
Sometimes imagery seems to get remarkably jumbled up in the Book of Mormon, as in Helaman 3:29-30. . . . Here in a single sentence we have the image of the rod or staff ('lay hold'), the sword, the nets, the path, the yawning gulf, the ship, the throne, and the kingdom. To us this may appear rather tasteless and overdone, but it is typical [Hebrew thought] (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, volume 7, 161-62).
31 And in this year there was continual rejoicing in the land of Zarahemla, and in all the regions round about, even in all the land which was possessed by the Nephites.
32 And it came to pass that there was peace and exceedingly great joy in the remainder of the forty and ninth year; yea, and also there was continual peace and great joy in the fiftieth year of the reign of the judges.
33 And in the fifty and first year of the reign of the judges there was peace also, save it were the pride which began to enter into the church-not into the church of God, but into the hearts of the people who professed to belong to the church of God-
34 And they were lifted up in pride, even to the persecution of many of their brethren. Now this was a great evil, which did cause the more humble part of the people to suffer great persecutions, and to wade through much affliction.
verse 34 "And they were lifted up in pride, even to the persecution of many of their brethren" For a discussion of pride, the section "Pride" in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 5, The "Natural Self" and "Spiritual Self." The persecution of more humble members by those who profess membership in the church is a sure sign of spiritual sickness. Some may find it difficult to understand how church members could persecute other church members. Consider the following description of a secular church youth group:
In the study of Elmtown's youth, it was found that religion was remote from the lives of the great majority of them. . . . To most students . . . the church is a community facility like the school, the drug store, the city government, and the bowling alley. And this is in the heart of the Bible Belt. Many of the youngsters attend church functions regularly, but carry their status feelings with them, often in a most un-Christian manner. . . . A socially select gang of girls attending the Sunday night "fellowship" meetings at the most elite church deliberately make any girl of whom they do not approve feel so uncomfortable that she will not attend again.
For the majority of American Christians . . . going to church is the nice thing that proper people do on Sundays. It advertises their respectability, gives them a warm feeling that they are behaving in a way their God-fearing ancestors would approve, and adds (they hope) a few cubits to their social stature by throwing them with a social group with which they wish to be identified (Vance Packard, The Status Seekers, New York: Picket Books, 1971, 174).
Why would the proud be inclined to persecute their brethren? The proud tend to view others as their competitors rather than their equals. Rather than lifting others, they are inclined to try always to outdistance them. They are given to judging others based on strictly worldly criteria. Those whom they judge to be inferior are likely to be treated disdainfully or simply ignored. They are apt to be highly class-conscious, smug, and arrogant. It is not difficult to understand why they might mistreat the more humble among their brothers and sisters.
35 Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.
verse 35 Yet these unpretentious saints, in spite of the mistreatment by the prideful saints, remained humble and grew in the faith. Because of their remaining faithful in the face of much pain and affliction, they were rewarded by the Spirit "with joy and consolation."
"Even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts" For a review of the important process of sanctification, please see Justification and Sanctification, in chapter 17 of volume 1, Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine.
"which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God" Elder Neal A. Maxwell asks a most provocative question: "Are we really ready . . . to accept the reality that there is only one name and only one way whereby we can obtain salvation? (2 Nephi 31:21)" (Not My Will, But Thine, 13).
36 And it came to pass that the fifty and second year ended in peace also, save it were the exceedingly great pride which had gotten into the hearts of the people; and it was because of their exceedingly great riches and their prosperity in the land; and it did grow upon them from day to day.
37 And it came to pass in the fifty and third year of the reign of the judges, Helaman died, and his eldest son Nephi began to reign in his stead. And it came to pass that he did fill the judgment-seat with justice and equity; yea, he did keep the commandments of God, and did walk in the ways of his father.
verse 37 This Nephi is certainly one of God's greatest, though unsung prophets as will become apparent as we read the account of his ministry.