Helaman Chapter 5
Helaman 5 The mission of Nephi and Lehi to the land of Nephi. They have a miraculous experience in a Lamanite prison during which they are surrounded by a wall of fire.
Helaman 5:8-12 Posthumous counsel of Helaman to his sons Nephi and Lehi: Remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
1 And it came to pass that in this same year, behold, Nephi delivered up the judgment-seat to a man whose name was Cezoram.
2 For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.
verse 2 The ominous situation described here was just what Mosiah had warned of some sixty years previously. At that time he abolished the monarchy and established the system of judges. He taught that the laws under which the Nephites then lived were correct and given to them by the hand of the Lord. He taught also that creating a more representative form of government would tend to lead to the continuation of correct laws: "Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore . . . do your business by the voice of the people [majority vote]" (Mosiah 29:25-26). But Mosiah also warned: "If the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction" (Mosiah 29:27). Thus we might conclude that the Nephite people are now ripe for destruction or "ripened in iniquity" (Ether 2:9; Ether 9:20). Amulek, in his preaching to the people of Ammonihah, had also recalled the words of king Mosiah and had issued a similar warning (Alma 10:19).
It is sobering to realize that even a fundamentally sound form of government, such as the constitutional government of the United States of America, may fail in times of wickedness when the majority of people choose that which is morally wrong. In such a government, the majority rules, but if the majority is not morally right, then the government will not protect the righteous, but instead will protect the wicked in their wickedness. President John Adams often expressed his conviction that a nation's liberty is ultimately dependent upon the morality of the people. He said: "[The Constitution] was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other" (Nelson, W. O., The Charter of Liberty [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book] 1987, 101). On another occasion President Adams said: "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion" (Ibid.).
We know that the Book of Mormon was written specifically for our time. It is clear that the Lord knew that the same kinds of dangers to the integrity of government would exist in our day, and he has seen to it that we are appropriately warned. Early signs of significant deterioration of a people's culture might include a loss of respect for authority, a lack of trust in the doctrines of Jesus Christ, a cessation of miracles, a replacement of spiritual things by rationalism, humanism, materialism, and skepticism. In latter-day revelation, the Lord said: "Beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old" (D&C 38:39).
3 Yea, and this was not all; they were a stiffnecked people, insomuch that they could not be governed by the law nor justice, save it were to their destruction.
verse 3 The people had turned from just laws and righteous principles and would not be governed by such. They had become so wicked that the voice of the people chose only those laws that allowed them to do evil. These would surely lead to their physical captivity, destruction, and ultimately spiritual death.
4 And it came to pass that Nephi had become weary because of their iniquity; and he yielded up the judgment-seat, and took it upon him to preach the word of God all the remainder of his days, and his brother Lehi also, all the remainder of his days;
verse 4 "Nephi . . . yielded up the judgment-seat, and took it upon him to preach the word of God all the remainder of his days" Nephi doubtless knew of the similar action of his great-grandfather Alma (Alma 4:15-19).
verses 5-12 Here Mormon cites a direct quotation from Helaman. It has been pointed out by Ronald D. Anderson that Helaman, in counseling his sons, uses the word remember thirteen times in these eight verses. Brother Anderson suggests that Helaman's frequent use of this word is intentional and is intended to identify and emphasize the main theme of his counsel. Brother Anderson further points out that this use of repetition of a word or phrase for emphasis is a common literary device used in the Bible. This literary technique has been called by its German name "leitworter" meaning "theme words" ("Leitworter in Helaman and 3 Nephi" in The Book of Mormon: Helaman Through 3 Nephi 8, According To Thy Word, 241-49).
In studying these verses, the reader should also keep in mind the rich meaning of the verb to remember. To remember means more than simply maintaining a fact in one's memory. It means to be obedient to, to follow, to dedicate oneself to, to prayerfully ponder, to strive, and to act.
5 For they remembered the words which their father Helaman spake unto them. And these are the words which he spake:
verses 6-12 Helaman is here quoted posthumously by the prophet Mormon. This counsel of Helaman was doubtless found on the large plates of Nephi. Helaman's counsel proved to be most influential in the lives of his sons (see Helaman 5:14). The theme of his remarks is "remembrance." Helaman counsels them to remember to keep the commandments, to remember the example of their forefathers, to remember that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ, and to remember that Jesus Christ is our sure foundation. Ultimately remembrance is divine awakening of memories of the spirit. It is a reminder of that which we have previously known. President Joseph F. Smith said:
All those salient truths which come home so forcibly to the head and heart seem but the awakening of the memories of the spirit. Can we know anything here that we did not know before we came? Are not the means of knowledge in the first estate equal to those of this? . . . By the power of the Spirit . . . through obedience, we often catch a spark from the awakened memories of the immortal soul, which lights up our whole being as with the glory or our former home (Gospel Doctrine. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1978, 13-14).
There is apparently a great spiritual significance in this type of remembrance, and, indeed, in pondering these particular subjects. In response to our striving to remember, it would seem that the Spirit stands ready to witness to us the truth of those things we are pondering and seeking and obeying.
6 Behold, my sons, I desire that ye should remember to keep the commandments of God; and I would that ye should declare unto the people these words. Behold, I have given unto you the names of our first parents who came out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them; and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works ye may know how that it is said, and also written, that they were good.
verse 6 "I have given unto you the names of our first parents who came out of the land of Jeru salem" I have named you after Father Lehi and his son Nephi. Jennifer Clark Lane has taught: "In the Book of Mormon, names have importance and significance consistent with Israelite practices recorded in the Old Testament (i.e., a name can be a memorial, an indication of change of character, and a part of a covenant or an adoptive relationship). The Israelite concept that the term name (sem) also means memorial is demonstrated in the passage when Helaman talks with his sons Nephi and Lehi about their names" (Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, "The Lord Will Redeem His People: Adoptive Covenant and Redemption in the Old Testament and Book of Mormon," 47).
"and this I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them; and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works ye may know how that it is said, and also written, that they were good" Regarding the importance of remembering of our forefathers and the Lord's promises to them, Joseph Smith taught:
The ancients . . . obtained from God promises of such weight and glory, that our hearts are often filled with gratitude that we are even permitted to look upon them. . . . If we are the children of the Most High, and are called with the same calling with which they were called, and embrace the same covenant that they embraced, and are faithful to the testimony of our Lord as they were, we can approach the Father in the name of Christ as they approached him, and for ourselves, obtain the same promises (TPJS, 65-66).
Nephi, the son of Lehi, wrote: "My soul delighteth in the covenants of the Lord which he hath made to our fathers; yea, my soul delighteth in his grace, and in his justice, and power, and mercy in the great and eternal plan of deliverance" (2 Nephi 11:5). Previously, this same Nephi had stated with confidence: "The Lord is able to deliver us even as our fathers" (1 Nephi 4:3). In this context, see also the preface to the Book of Mormon, Mosiah 27:16, Alma 29:11-12, and Alma 36:29. As we grow in our understanding of the past, our perception of the present and our vision of the future expand.
7 Therefore, my sons, I would that ye should do that which is good, that it may be said of you, and also written, even as it has been said and written of them.
8 And now my sons, behold I have somewhat more to desire of you, which desire is, that ye may not do these things that ye may boast, but that ye may do these things to lay up for yourselves a treasure in heaven, yea, which is eternal, and which fadeth not away; yea, that ye may have that precious gift of eternal life, which we have reason to suppose hath been given to our fathers.
9 O remember, remember, my sons, the words which king Benjamin spake unto his people; yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world.
verse 9 Helaman likely makes reference here to Mosiah 3:17: "There shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent." The prophet Nephi also emphasized that the name of Jesus Christ is the only name by which man is saved: "Behold I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved" (2 Nephi 25:20).
10 And remember also the words which Amulek spake unto Zeezrom, in the city of Ammonihah; for he said unto him that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.
verse 10 "he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins" (italics mine). Helaman has reference here to Amulek's teachings in Alma 11:34-37. To redeem mankind "in their sins" is to save or exalt everyone without regard to their propensity for righteousness or evil. It was Satan in the premortal world who offered to save all men in their sins. Brigham Young taught: "If you undertake to save all, you must save them in unrighteousness and corruption" (JD, 13:282). Christ's atonement is infinite in its scope. It is endless and eternal in its applications, yet it has limitations. It cannot save an individual in his sins. It cannot bestow power and glory and eternal life in the celestial kingdom upon those who are unrepentant and unclean. The atonement makes it possible for man to be redeemed "from his sins"-they may be blotted out based upon his repentance and obedience.
11 And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance; therefore he hath sent his angels to declare the tidings of the conditions of repentance, which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls.
verse 11 "And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance" Here is a profound concept regarding the divine sonship of the Savior. Jesus lived a sinless life, his motives and love for us were absolutely pure, and he agonizingly atoned in Gethsemane and on the cross. We know his sacrifice resulted in his being enabled to forgive those whom he judged worthy of forgiveness. This authority was given him by those who enforce the law of justice. Yet, here we learn that he could not have become our Savior and he could not have put into effect the great law of mercy without, in addition, "power given unto him from the Father." This final power must have been granted him following his atoning sacrifice.
Other significant powers were vested in him at the time of his birth into mortality by virtue of his relationship with his Father. The body in which he performed his mortal ministry was sired by the Father in the most literal sense. He was not the son of Joseph. He was the literal son of the Eternal Father. He consequently had power over his life-the complete freedom to either lay down his life voluntarily or not do so. It was apparently vital that he be in complete control to surrender to his crucifixion voluntarily or not, as he wished. His sacrifice had to be the voluntary sacrifice of a God, not the sacrifice of a man. He confirmed that this was so: "I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:17-18). He also consequently had the power to endure the physical, mental, and spiritual agony required to complete the process of atoning without succumbing to those extreme adversities.
"the tidings of the conditions of repentance" The "tidings" are the good news: Our Savior has made it possible to have our sins deleted and return to live with God again! Repentance, of course, is essential. Without it there can be no redemption from the spiritual fall.
"which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls" This phrase is clearer if one word is inserted: "which bringeth unto them the power of the Redeemer . . .."
12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
verse 12 There is some danger that the reader may become distracted by the repeated metaphors in this verse. The concept of building one's foundation on the "rock of our Redeemer" is a vital one that deserves a few words of comment and some considerable pondering. How, in a practical sense, does one build one's foundation upon the Lord? Primarily, it would seem, one must strive to acquire one of the most fundamental and vital gifts of the Spirit, that of a revealed testimony of Jesus. One who possesses this gift enjoys a close and personal relationship with the Savior and comes to center one's life around him. The individual who has been so favored is never again the same as before. There comes with a personal testimony of Christ a peace and comfort and confidence in his presence, a dependence upon him, and a daily seeking him out. A few moments' contemplation of the Savior is often accompanied by that particular and unique nudge by the Spirit which each individual comes to know as his own particular indication of divine contact.
As with any of the gifts of the Spirit there is an earthly counterpart for which we must strive "in the trenches" as we "experiment upon the word." It is the diligent seeking after this earthly counterpart that is eventually rewarded by the Spirit with the priceless gift. And how do we "experiment upon the word"? By praying earnestly and often; studying, pondering, and prayerfully reading the scriptures; proactively looking for opportunities to obey his commandments; obediently and humbly responding to any opportunity to serve in his Church; and looking for opportunities to teach others of him and of his atonement, his mercy, and his incomparable grace.
13 And it came to pass that these were the words which Helaman taught to his sons; yea, he did teach them many things which are not written, and also many things which are written.
14 And they did remember his words; and therefore they went forth, keeping the commandments of God, to teach the word of God among all the people of Nephi, beginning at the city Bountiful;
verse 14 It is interesting to note that Nephi and Lehi began their mission in the city Bountiful in the land Bountiful. From here they will travel to the city of Gid and then to the city of Mulek, cities near the borders of the east sea.
"And they did remember his words" This phrase illustrates an interesting editorial technique that was discovered in the Bible following the time of the prophet Joseph Smith called "repetitive resumption." For a description of this technique, see the commentary for Alma 11:20. Repetitive resumption refers to an editor's return to an original narrative following a deliberate interlude. Old Testament writers accomplished this by repeating a key word or phrase that immediately preceded the textual interruption. Here, the editor, Mormon, just prior to this verse had inserted a brief account of Helaman's powerful discourse to his sons Nephi and Lehi (verses 6-12). This insertion was intentionally prefaced by the editorial introduction, "For they remembered the words which their father Helaman spake unto them" (see verse 5). The editor then, in this verse (verse 14), uses the phrase "And they did remember his words" in order to return to his original narrative. This is another example of repetitive resumption.
15 And from thenceforth to the city of Gid; and from the city of Gid to the city of Mulek;
16 And even from one city to another, until they had gone forth among all the people of Nephi who were in the land southward; and from thence into the land of Zarahemla, among the Lamanites.
verse 16 Formerly the "land southward" was the Lamanite land of Nephi, south of the land of Zarahemla. At the time of this verse, the land southward is everything south of the land Bountiful. The definition of the land southward and the land northward changes from time to time depending on the political situation of the moment. The land of Zarahemla, formerly the Nephite capital, is now, of course, under Lamanite control.
17 And it came to pass that they did preach with great power, insomuch that they did confound many of those dissenters who had gone over from the Nephites, insomuch that they came forth and did confess their sins and were baptized unto repentance, and immediately returned to the Nephites to endeavor to repair unto them the wrongs which they had done.
verse 17 It is truly remarkable that Nephite dissenters were moved to re-accept the gospel. Usually, as a group, they are unlikely to be receptive to the promptings of the Spirit.
18 And it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi did preach unto the Lamanites with such great power and authority, for they had power and authority given unto them that they might speak, and they also had what they should speak given unto them-
19 Therefore they did speak unto the great astonishment of the Lamanites, to the convincing them, insomuch that there were eight thousand of the Lamanites who were in the land of Zarahemla and round about baptized unto repentance, and were convinced of the wickedness of the traditions of their fathers.
verse 19 "the wickedness of the traditions of their fathers" See the commentary for Enos 1:14 and Mosiah 10:12-17. See also verse 51 of this chapter.
20 And it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi did proceed from thence to go to the land of Nephi.
21 And it came to pass that they were taken by an army of the Lamanites and cast into prison; yea, even in that same prison in which Ammon and his brethren were cast by the servants of Limhi.
verse 21 "they were taken by an army of the Lamanites" Apparently the Lamanites at times maintained a standing army even when they were not fighting the Nephites.
This Ammon was not the missionary Ammon, the son of Mosiah. Rather this was the Ammon, of Mulekite descent, who had been sent to the land of Nephi nearly a century earlier along with fifteen other men. King Mosiah had dispatched them to inquire after the Nephites who had traveled to the land of Nephi under the direction of Zeniff several years previously. Ammon and his men had been imprisoned by the very people they set out to rescue. Once their identity and purpose were discovered, however, they had been released and were instrumental in rescuing Limhi and his group of Nephites.
22 And after they had been cast into prison many days without food, behold, they went forth into the prison to take them that they might slay them.
verse 22 Be careful to keep the pronouns "they" and "them" straight in this verse and in the three following verses.
verses 23-33 Here the Lord intervenes in a powerful and dramatic way to save these Nephite missionaries. The extent of his intervention suggests that the continued preaching of Nephi and Lehi and the conversion of these Lamanites was of major importance to the Lord's purposes. For most of the remainder of the Book of Mormon, it will be the Lamanites and not the Nephites who are the righteous followers of the Lord.
23 And it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi were encircled about as if by fire, even insomuch that they durst not lay their hands upon them for fear lest they should be burned. Nevertheless, Nephi and Lehi were not burned; and they were as standing in the midst of fire and were not burned.
verse 23 "Nephi and Lehi were encircled about as if by fire" Exactly with what or by whom were Nephi and Lehi encircled about? It is likely that they were encircled by the protective presence of heavenly beings accompanied by the glory and power and brightness of God which gave them the appearance of fire (see verse 39). At the time of the Savior's appearance to the Book of Mormon people, a similar situation will occur. Following Christ's blessing of the little children, the multitude "cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them" (3 Nephi 17:24).
24 And when they saw that they were encircled about with a pillar of fire, and that it burned them not, their hearts did take courage.
verse 24 Doubtless Nephi and Lehi were initially apprehensive and concerned about their own safety when this glorious manifestation began.
25 For they saw that the Lamanites durst not lay their hands upon them; neither durst they come near unto them, but stood as if they were struck dumb with amazement.
26 And it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi did stand forth and began to speak unto them, saying: Fear not, for behold, it is God that has shown unto you this marvelous thing, in the which is shown unto you that ye cannot lay your hands on us to slay us.
27 And behold, when they had said these words, the earth shook exceedingly, and the walls of the prison did shake as if they were about to tumble to the earth; but behold, they did not fall. And behold, they that were in the prison were Lamanites and Nephites who were dissenters.
verse 27 "they that were in prison" These were not the fellow prisoners of Lehi and Nephi. Rather they were those Lamanites who had gone "forth into the prison to take them that they might slay them." We will learn that there were some three hundred of them.
28 And it came to pass that they were overshadowed with a cloud of darkness, and an awful solemn fear came upon them.
29 And it came to pass that there came a voice as if it were above the cloud of darkness, saying: Repent ye, repent ye, and seek no more to destroy my servants whom I have sent unto you to declare good tidings.
30 And it came to pass when they heard this voice, and beheld that it was not a voice of thunder, neither was it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but behold, it was a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul-
verse 30 "it was a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul" Ralph C. Hancock has observed: "Revealed light and natural light [secular learning] are not completely distinct categories. Revelation engages natural reason and indeed may build upon it. It is sometimes described in LDS teaching as 'a still voice of perfect mildness' able to 'pierce unto the very soul' (Helaman 5:30) or as a spirit that resonates with the mind to produce a feeling of 'pure intelligence' or 'sudden strokes of ideas' (TPJS, 151). It is thus appropriate to seek and prepare for revelation by the effort of reason: 'You must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right' (D&C 9:8)" (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, volume 3, "Reason and Revelation").
"it was not a voice of thunder" Elder Neal A. Maxwell comments: "True faith is not to be brought about by overwhelming and intimidating intervention from God, either. The Lord is a shepherd with a 'mild' and 'pleasant' voice-not a shouting and scolding sheepherder" (Not My Will, But Thine, 32).
31 And notwithstanding the mildness of the voice, behold the earth shook exceedingly, and the walls of the prison trembled again, as if it were about to tumble to the earth; and behold the cloud of darkness, which had overshadowed them, did not disperse-
32 And behold the voice came again, saying: Repent ye, repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; and seek no more to destroy my servants. And it came to pass that the earth shook again, and the walls trembled.
verse 32 "repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" Of what is the Lord prophesying here? His mortal ministry, perhaps? Or maybe the post-mortal life of all of us? Is it not true that for each individual this mortal phase is most fragile and transient, and the next phase of our lives is virtually always near ("at hand")? Our mortal experience is so fleeting and so temporary that it is wholly inappropriate to regard the next life to be a long way off. It is the nature of man, however, particularly in his youth to inappropriately regard his mortal life as permanent unless the Spirit whispers to him otherwise or unless calamitous circumstances cause him to realize the truly temporary nature of this mortal phase.
33 And also again the third time the voice came, and did speak unto them marvelous words which cannot be uttered by man; and the walls did tremble again, and the earth shook as if it were about to divide asunder.
verse 33 "marvelous words which cannot be uttered by man" It is not clear whether these words were included on the large plates and Mormon simply chose not to include them here, or whether they were never even recorded because of their sacred nature.
34 And it came to pass that the Lamanites could not flee because of the cloud of darkness which did overshadow them; yea, and also they were immovable because of the fear which did come upon them.
verse 34 This spectacular supernatural display had completely stunned and immobilized the Lamanites. Fortunately an apostate Nephite was nearby whose heart was touched. He was able to explain to the Lamanites how they might find their way out of this "cloud of darkness."
35 Now there was one among them who was a Nephite by birth, who had once belonged to the church of God but had dissented from them.
verse 35 We will learn that this verse refers to the rather enigmatic character Aminadab (see verse 39). The brief episode in his life that unfolds in these few verses should give hope to parents whose child has rebelled and rejected the gospel.
36 And it came to pass that he turned him about, and behold, he saw through the cloud of darkness the faces of Nephi and Lehi; and behold, they did shine exceedingly, even as the faces of angels. And he beheld that they did lift their eyes to heaven; and they were in the attitude as if talking or lifting their voices to some being whom they beheld.
verse 36 This shining countenance has been observed when mortals are transfigured in the presence of the Lord. In the cases of Abinadi and Stephen just prior to their executions (Mosiah 13:5; Acts 6:15) and in the case of Moses coming down from Sinai (Exodus 34:29-35).
37 And it came to pass that this man did cry unto the multitude, that they might turn and look. And behold, there was power given unto them that they did turn and look; and they did behold the faces of Nephi and Lehi.
38 And they said unto the man: Behold, what do all these things mean, and who is it with whom these men do converse?
39 Now the man's name was Aminadab. And Aminadab said unto them: They do converse with the angels of God.
40 And it came to pass that the Lamanites said unto him: What shall we do, that this cloud of darkness may be removed from overshadowing us?
verse 40 Here, the Lamanites' cry for help and mercy is more than merely an appeal to be helped out from under this frightening cloud of darkness. The Spirit had apparently witnessed to them the seriousness of their spiritual plight. They were sinners badly in need of repentance, and the Holy Ghost had made them keenly aware of that fact. They realized that they were lost without someone to redeem or rescue them.
41 And Aminadab said unto them: You must repent, and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom; and when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you.
verse 41 Aminadab may have been addressing here primarily the Nephite dissenters who called themselves Lamanites. Alma, Amulek, and Zeezrom never did preach among the Lamanites per se. They did, however, about 45 years earlier, travel together to preach in the land of the Zoramites who were Nephite dissenters and likely the ancestors of some of those present during this experience in the Lamanite prison. It is interesting to note that following the mission to the Zoramites of Alma, Amulek, and Zeezrom, the Zoramites who remained unconverted "became Lamanites" (see Alma 43:4). It is certainly possible that Aminadab and some of his Lamanite friends were young Zoramites during the mission to the Zoramites, remained unconverted during that mission, and later become Lamanites.
The conversion of Aminadab, formerly an apostate Nephite, should be heartening to parents of rebellious offspring. Usually apostates become and remain the church's bitterest enemies. On occasion they are capable, as was the case with Aminadab, of dredging up and recalling from deep within their memories those truths they believed in former times.
"you must repent . . . even until ye shall have faith in Christ" Here is a reminder of the fundamental process of utilizing faith to acquire gifts of the Spirit-in this case a testimony of Jesus Christ. The process, which Alma has referred to as "experimenting on the word" (Alma 32:27), involves diligent and persistent striving including study, pondering, prayer, and most importantly repeatedly repenting and deliberately obeying the Lord's commandments. This process is called manifeesting one's deliberate faith. Then comes the precious spiritual gifts-the inevitable gifts of the spirit that accompany deliberate obedience. These spiritual gifts are increments of the attributes of Christ. They are received by an obedient individual through revelation and become a second type of faith-the obedient individual's revealed faith. The sum total of an individual's spiritual gifts makes up his or her revealed faith. This faith is the essence of spiritual strength, spiritual character, and spiritual growth. Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught:
When a person has gone through the process that results in what the scriptures call a broken heart and a contrite spirit, that person is not only eligible to be cleansed from sin. He is also strengthened, and that strengthening is essential for us to realize the purpose of the cleansing, which is to return to our Heavenly Father. To be admitted to his presence we must be more than clean. We must also be changed from a weak person who once transgressed into a strong person with the spiritual stature that qualifies one to dwell in the presence of God ("Sin and Suffering." BYU Devotional Fireside Speeches 1989-90, 150-51).
As we repent of our sins, we gain what President McKay termed a "consciousness of victory over self and of communion with the Infinite. Spirituality impels one to conquer difficulties and to acquire more and more strength. To feel one's faculties unfolding, and truth expanding the soul is one of life's sublimest experiences" ("The True Purpose of Life," Improvement Era [December 1963] 66:1057). This exquisite emotional experience is referred to in the scriptures-it is the experience of true joy.
"when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you" Aminadab may be reciting something that he had heard Amulek preach to the Zoramites forty-five years earlier. Amulek had warned the Zoramites that if they did not repent, there would come a "night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed" (Alma 34:33).
42 And it came to pass that they all did begin to cry unto the voice of him who had shaken the earth; yea, they did cry even until the cloud of darkness was dispersed.
verse 42 "they all did begin to cry unto the voice of him who had shaken the earth" In teaching of the process of repentance, President Spencer W. Kimball has taught of the principle of "godly sorrow" (2 Corinthians 7:9-11). This type of sorrow is actually a gift of the Spirit given to the sinner who has assiduously sought and pled for the Lord's forgiveness. In essence, it is a clear and painful insight into one's eternal fate were the blessings of the Lord's atonement never extended. Once the sinner has received the gift of godly sorrow, he is, with profound gratitude, inclined to completely and without condition, submit his will to the Lord. President Kimball has compared this man's heartfelt cry for mercy to a surrender, and he has pointed out that the surrender must be unconditional and not conditional. He observed, "Many of us have not yet surrendered, or if it has been a surrender, it has been a conditional surrender, with many reservations" (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball. Ed. Edward L. Kimball: Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982: 106). We must submit completely to the will of God. We may not know if or when or how the clouds of darkness will disperse. Nevertheless, we must continue to cry unto the Lord. Only through clouds of darkness can our faith be tested and strengthened.
This same unconditional surrender to the will of God may also occur in circumstances that do not involve sin. Referring to the ancient Hebrew captives Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego as examples, Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote:
[Their] response to a persecuting king was, as they were about to be thrown into a fiery furnace heated seven times its usual capacity: "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace . . ." And then the three words: "But if not, be it know unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up" (Daniel 3:17-18, italics added). But if not. There will be times in each of our lives when our faith must not be conditioned upon God's rescuing or relieving us, because in fact he may not-at least, not as we would choose to be rescued. . . . Matching those three young men are three young women whose names we do not have. They are mentioned in the book of Abraham, remarkable young women about whom I am anxious to know more. They were actually sacrificed upon the altar because "they would not bow down to worship [an idol] of wood or stone" (Abraham 1:11) (Not My Will, But Thine. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988, 119-20).
43 And it came to pass that when they cast their eyes about, and saw that the cloud of darkness was dispersed from overshadowing them, behold, they saw that they were encircled about, yea every soul, by a pillar of fire.
44 And Nephi and Lehi were in the midst of them; yea, they were encircled about; yea, they were as if in the midst of a flaming fire, yet it did harm them not, neither did it take hold upon the walls of the prison; and they were filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.
verse 44 "neither did it take hold upon the walls of the prison" The prison walls did not catch fire.
"they were filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory" Ordinarily this joy, which is a marvelous gift which can only be experienced through the influence of the Spirit, is given to those who have earned it by diligent striving and obedience. Here the Spirit gratuitously allows these newly-converted, or re-converted, Lamanites to experience a sampling of it.
No gift of the Spirit should be regarded as being permanent or perfect. One may earn a gift, the gift of a broken heart and contrite spirit for example, through years of diligent striving. That gift should be regarded, however, as always being in a dynamic or fluid state. One can always continue to strive and build upon that gift. In addition one might also backslide and lose part, or all, of the gift one once possessed. In certain circumstances, the Spirit might bestow temporarily some gifts to those he wishes to reward or spiritually affirm. These gifts might be provided as a sign and an encouragement along the road of spiritual growth. The gift of joy in this verse and the gift of prophecy in the following verse might be examples. Ordinarily signs are given as a reward to those who are faithful and not to those inclined to be faithless and skeptical. It is likely that the three hundred or so Lamanites gathered at the prison were not the hardened, cynical apostates from whom the Spirit had completely withdrawn. Certainly there were some of the latter among the Lamanite peoples. Rather, these Lamanites at the prison were more likely individuals inclined to be responsive to promptings of the Spirit. The Spirit is not "casting pearls before swine" here. He is doubtless rewarding those who had already begun to wonder and seek after spiritual things. Obviously the Spirit had been active among the people in this group for some time.
45 And behold, the Holy Spirit of God did come down from heaven, and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words.
46 And it came to pass that there came a voice unto them, yea, a pleasant voice, as if it were a whisper, saying:
47 Peace, peace be unto you, because of your faith in my Well Beloved, who was from the foundation of the world.
verse 47 The gift of peace, comfort, and spiritual security and confidence is yet another gift of the Spirit given to those who sincerely repent of their sins (D&C 59:23). It accompanies the remission of their sins.
Who is speaking here? The Father? The Son? The verse suggests that it is either the Father or, more likely, the Son speaking as though he were the Father by the principle of divine investiture of authority.
48 And now, when they heard this they cast up their eyes as if to behold from whence the voice came; and behold, they saw the heavens open; and angels came down out of heaven and ministered unto them.
verse 48 Who were these "angels"? Joseph Smith taught that "there are no angels who minister to this earth but those who do belong or have belonged to it" (D&C 130:5). Also President Joseph F. Smith observed:
When messengers are sent to minister to the inhabitants of this earth, they are not strangers, but from the ranks of our kindred, friends, and fellow-beings and fellow-servants. The ancient prophets who died were those who came to visit their fellow creatures upon the earth. They came to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; it was such beings-holy beings if you please-who waited upon the Savior and administered to him on the Mount. . . .
In like manner our fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters and friends who have passed away from this earth, having been faithful, and worthy to enjoy these rights and privileges, may have a mission given them to visit their relatives and friends upon the earth again, bringing from the divine Presence messages of love, of warning, of reproof, and instruction, to those whom they had learned to love in the flesh (Gospel Doctrine, 435-37).
49 And there were about three hundred souls who saw and heard these things; and they were bidden to go forth and marvel not, neither should they doubt.
verse 49 "they were bidden to go forth and marvel not, neither should they doubt" These new converts were commanded to "marvel not." In other words they were commanded not to wonder or be surprised or over-awed by what they had seen and heard.
50 And it came to pass that they did go forth, and did minister unto the people, declaring throughout all the regions round about all the things which they had heard and seen, insomuch that the more part of the Lamanites were convinced of them, because of the greatness of the evidences which they had received.
verse 50 Here is an illustration of a general rule. Those who are converted to the Savior, tend to become saviors themselves. He has invited each of us to join him in his ministry to become "a savior unto my people Israel" (D&C 86:11).
The labors of this remarkable force of three hundred Lamanite missionaries resulted in the conversion of "the more part," which we assume is the majority, of the Lamanite people in the land of Nephi! The prophet Mormon will later look back upon this experience of Nephi and Lehi and offer his explanation of what enabled it to happen: "Behold, it was the faith of Nephi and Lehi that wrought the change upon the Lamanites" (Ether 12:14).
51 And as many as were convinced did lay down their weapons of war, and also their hatred and the tradition of their fathers.
52 And it came to pass that they did yield up unto the Nephites the lands of their possession.
verse 52 The Lamanites gave back to the Nephites the lands that the latter had lost in battle. We will learn that this included even the city and land of Zarahemla.