Helaman Chapter 6
1 And it came to pass that when the sixty and second year of the reign of the judges had ended, all these things had happened and the Lamanites had become, the more part of them, a righteous people, insomuch that their righteousness did exceed that of the Nephites, because of their firmness and their steadiness in the faith.
verse 1 The reader has a tendency to regard the Lamanites as a primitive and uncivilized and even savage culture, yet we sense, by their response to the gospel message a significant sophistication and spiritual sensitivity. In the next several verses, we will read of their desire to share the gospel with their erstwhile enemies, the Nephites. Perhaps the influence of the Nephite dissenters who joined with the Lamanites in previous years contributed to the upgrading of the secular civilization of the Lamanites (see Mosiah 24:4-7).
2 For behold, there were many of the Nephites who had become hardened and impenitent and grossly wicked, insomuch that they did reject the word of God and all the preaching and prophesying which did come among them.
3 Nevertheless, the people of the church did have great joy because of the conversion of the Lamanites, yea, because of the church of God, which had been established among them. And they did fellowship one with another, and did rejoice one with another, and did have great joy.
verse 3 "And they did fellowship one with another, and did rejoice one with another, and did have great joy" We will see that the amicable relationship between the Nephite church goers and the newly converted Lamanites will spread into the secular cultures of both peoples and result in a generally friendly relationship between the Nephites and Lamanites. This will occur in spite of the fact that probably the minority of Nephites were committed to the church. We thus see another illustration of the powerful influence which the church culture had over the civil culture.
4 And it came to pass that many of the Lamanites did come down into the land of Zarahemla, and did declare unto the people of the Nephites the manner of their conversion, and did exhort them to faith and repentance.
verse 4 Apparently the land and city of Zarahemla are now back in the hands of the Nephites (see Helaman 5:52).
5 Yea, and many did preach with exceedingly great power and authority, unto the bringing down many of them into the depths of humility, to be the humble followers of God and the Lamb.
6 And it came to pass that many of the Lamanites did go into the land northward; and also Nephi and Lehi went into the land northward, to preach unto the people. And thus ended the sixty and third year.
verse 6 It is likely that the "land northward" here refers to the northern part of the former land of Zarahemla and not the lands north of the narrow neck of land. The missionaries in this verse likely traveled to the land Bountiful and other Nephite cities near the east coast.
verses 1-6 The Book of Mormon is often perceived as portraying the Lamanites only as a cursed, benighted, and loathsome people. Obviously this is a simplistic and ultimately incorrect perception (see also Helaman 13:1). From this point in the text to its end, there will be a continual erosion of the distinction between the descendants of Laman and Nephi. By the time of the "golden age" following the Savior's personal visit to the Book of Mormon peoples, all distinctions between the former Nephites and Lamanites will have vanished. Subsequently when they separate again into Nephites and Lamanites, it will not be according to their pedigrees or genealogies but whether or not they accepted and lived the gospel of Jesus Christ (see the supplemental article, Book of Mormon Myths).
verses 7-13 These verses describe a most unusual period in the history of Nephite-Lamanite relations in the Book of Mormon. It lasted about five years, from the sixty-second through the sixty sixth years of the reign of Judges, and was characterized by a peaceful coexistence between Nephites and Lamanites, free travel, and prosperity.
These verses, which comprise the annual report for the sixty-fourth year of the reign of judges, have been found to be written in chiastic form (see the supplemental article, Hebrew Language and the Book of Mormon). It is suggested that Mormon likely copied these pages verbatim from the large plates of Nephi. Apparently the contemporary historian, probably Nephi in this instance, used the poetic form of chiasmus to record the events of an extraordinary year in the annals of his people. Using chiasmus would also insure against additions to or deletions from the text, since any alteration would be strikingly apparent.
The chiastic diagram is as follows:
a peace (verse 7)
b freedom of travel and trade in both lands (verses 7-8)
c rich (verse 9)
d gold, silver, precious metals (verse 9)
e south (verses 10)
f Lehi (verse 10)
g north (verse 10)
h Mulek (verse 10)
i son of Zedekiah (verse 10)
i' the Lord (verse 10)
h' Mulek (verse 10
g' north (verse 10)
f' Lehi (verse 10)
e' south (verse 10)
d' gold, silver, precious ores (verse 11)
c' rich (verse 11)
b' prosperity in both lands (verses 12-13)
a' peace (verse 13)
The center of this chiasm involves two individual words. Just as divine names often appear at the center of biblical chiasms, at the very apex of this passage, the words Zedekiah and Lord stand parallel to each other. The parallelism between these two names is intriguing not only because Zedekiah was the king and adoptive royal son of Yahweh, the Lord, but also because the Hebrew word for Lord (YHWH) constitutes the final syllable, or theophoric suffix, -yah, at the end of the name Zedekiah. Thus the central chiastic structure in Helaman 6:10 actually would have worked better and would have been more obvious in Hebrew (or its related Nephite dialect) than in the English translation.
A parenthetical note of some interest: The use of chiasmus has been pointed out in Hebrew scripture and in the Book of Mormon. It has now also been described in ancient Mayan texts (Allen J. Christenson, "The Use of Chiasmus in Ancient Mesoamerica," a FARMS reprint).
7 And behold, there was peace in all the land, insomuch that the Nephites did go into whatsoever part of the land they would, whether among the Nephites or the Lamanites.
8 And it came to pass that the Lamanites did also go whithersoever they would, whether it were among the Lamanites or among the Nephites; and thus they did have free intercourse one with another, to buy and to sell, and to get gain, according to their desire.
verse 8 Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines intercourse as, "Communication; commerce; connection by reciprocal dealings between persons or nations, either in common affairs and civilities, in trade, or correspondence by letters."
It is apparent from this verse and a few others in the text (see Mosiah 24:7; 3 Nephi 6:11-12) that trading for goods and services was a common practice among the peoples of the Book of Mormon. It is likely that trade was carried out both on a "national" level (among their own people, the Nephites and Lamanites) and on an "international" level (with people outside Book of Mormon lands).
It is probably important for the student of the book of Mormon to have at least a rudimentary understanding of the nature of trading practices among ancient Mesoamerican peoples since Mesoamerica is the likely venue of the Book of Mormon story, and studies have been done that have demonstrated an "international" trade among the people of Mexico and Central America at the time of the Book of Mormon story. If the reader has an interest in this topic, I would refer you to the helpful article by Allen J. Christenson, "Nephite Trade Networks and the Dangers of a Class Society" (The Book of Mormon: Helaman Through 3 Nephi 8, According To Thy Word, 223-40). Clearly trading practices do have significant impact on the cultural, social, and religious lives of the people who engage in trade. The Book of Mormon does not, of course, describe in any detail the trading customs of its people, but there are allusions and evidences in the text that suggest that trade was important and contributed to changing important events in the Book of Mormon story.
Most communities are unable to live in complete isolation from their neighbors, since those in any one community do not enjoy all the resources and skills necessary to make themselves fully economically independent. Trade with other areas and other peoples is therefore desirable and even necessary in order to obtain goods and services not available locally.
There is nothing inherently wicked about trading with one's neighbors. There are, for example, times when it is likely that trade flourished, and the people prospered in righteousness (4 Nephi 1:23). There are, however, several possible adverse consequences that may occur and likely did indirectly impact negatively the spiritual well-being of the Nephites and Lamanites. These may be summarized as follows:
1. Often the communities who happen to be in position to engage in active trade, because of their favorable strategic locations along the trade routes, are in position to benefit financially to an unprecedented extent. Within these communities there arises a bureaucracy of wealthy and powerful merchants and officials. This results in a newly rich upper class. This newly and rapidly acquired wealth leads to a gap in wealth between those who participate in the business of trade and those who do not. This leads to the appearance of a relatively poor or underprivileged class (3 Nephi 6:12). The elite class often smugly places themselves in rank and privilege above those with less wealth. The rich often are inclined to deprive the poor of their liberties (Helaman 3:36; Helaman 6:17; Helaman 6:39; 3 Nephi 6:11-14). It appears that at times in the Book of Mormon, not only were the poor denied access to the benefits of lucrative foreign trade, they were even banned from participation in the religious rituals of the elite class as in the instance of the poor Zoramites (Alma 32:5).
2. Among those ancient Mesoamerican societies involved in active foreign trade, there was a powerful tendency for the head of government to be a king with near totalitarian powers rather than an elected official whose influence was limited by checks and balances of a more democratic government. "Unless a state was ruled by an individual powerful enough to strictly control trade relationships, negotiate international economic and social alliances, and enforce impartial justice in the flow of goods from place to place [a king], foreign merchants could not function effectively" (Christenson, Ibid., 227.) Such a king was also in a position to direct the opportunities for trading to those in his society whom he favored, thus enhancing his influence. The king also had an opportunity to benefit financially to an outrageous extent under these circumstances through the selling of these opportunities. There are several instances in the Book of Mormon when there arose a strong desire on the part of some of the people (sometimes called the "king-men") to set up a king at the head of government. It is likely that these instances correlated with the spread of trade networks among the Nephites and Lamanites (Alma 51:5-8; Alma 61:8; Helaman 7:4-5; 3 Nephi 3:10; 3 Nephi 6:30; 3 Nephi 7:1; 3 Nephi 7:12). These king-men were anxious to seize control of the government in order to control the lucrative trading industry. As a result we often find them seeking to establish alliances with the Lamanites, with whom they likely wanted to establish profitable economic ties (Alma 35:2-11; Alma 48:2; Alma 61:8).
3. The establishment of foreign trade was not always a peaceful process. There was considerable wealth at stake and, as might be predicted, unscrupulous people were attracted to the business. One such example was the Gadianton robbers whose motivation was likely primarily economic (see 4 Nephi 1:46 and verses 17-18 of this chapter). In order to benefit fully from the business of foreign trade, they had to seize the reigns of government (Helaman 7:5). It is clear that from their initial appearance in the Book of Mormon their agenda was the acquisition of wealth and power through political control (Helaman 1:9; Helaman 2:8; Helaman 6:15; Helaman 6:18-19; 9:6). Whenever the Gadianton Society was able to grab control they moved to adopt a class-based society based on wealth (Helaman 6:39).
It is clear that the church came out in opposition to the economic privileges of the wealthy and the resulting neglect or abuse of the lower socioeconomic class. Specifically the prophets counseled against class-based societies and the institution of kingship. Consequently the church became a threat to this new economic order.
9 And it came to pass that they became exceedingly rich, both the Lamanites and the Nephites; and they did have an exceeding plenty of gold, and of silver, and of all manner of precious metals, both in the land south and in the land north.
verse 9 The mutual prosperity of both the Nephites and Lamanites because of free trade is a clear cut illustration of an economic law that is well known in our day but unrecognized in Joseph Smith's time. This has been pointed out by Daniel C. Peterson (Studies in Scripture, Volume Eight, Alma 30 to Moroni, 106). Brother Peterson quotes the textbook written by the Nobel laureate economist Paul A. Samuelson (Economics, 8th edition, 668): "There is essentially only one argument for free or freer trade, but it is an exceedingly powerful one, namely: Unhampered trade promotes a mutually profitable international division of labor, greatly enhances the potential real national product of all countries, and makes possible higher standards of living all over the globe."
10 Now the land south was called Lehi and the land north was called Mulek, which was after the son of Zedekiah; for the Lord did bring Mulek into the land north, and Lehi into the land south.
verse 10 When Mosiah, the father of King Benjamin, led the righteous Nephites from the land of Nephi north to the land of Zarahemla about 200 BC, the Book of Mormon lands became divided into the southern land of the Lamanites, the land of Nephi, and the northern Nephite territory, the land of Zarahemla (see the Hypothetical Map of Book of Mormon Lands). Obviously the names of the lands of the Book of Mormon story evolved with time. The original land of Nephi later became the land of Lehi-Nephi, and at this time in the story it has again become the land of Lehi. Apparently the land of Zarahemla is now referred to as the land of Mulek.
11 And behold, there was all manner of gold in both these lands, and of silver, and of precious ore of every kind; and there were also curious workmen, who did work all kinds of ore and did refine it; and thus they did become rich.
verse 11 The identity of this "precious ore" is unknown. John L. Sorenson has speculated that it might have been iron ore used to make polished mirrors or magnetite used to make compasses (An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, 285).
For many years archaeologists have supposed that metals were not used in Mesoamerica prior to AD 900. The current literature shows that between fifty and one hundred specimens from about forty sites predate AD 900. These known fragments date back to at least 100 BC (John L. Sorenson, "FARMS Update" in Insights [May 1992], 2).
"curious workmen" One meaning of the word curious in Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language is, "Accurate; careful not to mistake; solicitous to be correct."
12 They did raise grain in abundance, both in the north and in the south; and they did flourish exceedingly, both in the north and in the south. And they did multiply and wax exceedingly strong in the land. And they did raise many flocks and herds, yea, many fatlings.
verse 12 "flocks and herds, yea, many fatlings" The specific animal species referred to here is unknown. A "fatling" is an animal which has been raised and fattened before it is slaughtered for food.
13 Behold their women did toil and spin, and did make all manner of cloth, of fine-twined linen and cloth of every kind, to clothe their nakedness. And thus the sixty and fourth year did pass away in peace.
14 And in the sixty and fifth year they did also have great joy and peace, yea, much preaching and many prophecies concerning that which was to come. And thus passed away the sixty and fifth year.
15 And it came to pass that in the sixty and sixth year of the reign of the judges, behold, Cezoram was murdered by an unknown hand as he sat upon the judgment-seat. And it came to pass that in the same year, that his son, who had been appointed by the people in his stead, was also murdered. And thus ended the sixty and sixth year.
16 And in the commencement of the sixty and seventh year the people began to grow exceedingly wicked again.
verses 16-17 It had been some twenty-four years since Gadianton had been forced to go underground. Yet, we will learn that it is his group of robbers and murderers that has again surfaced and is responsible for the murder of these two chief judges. It is pertinent to note that this group would likely have remained underground and kept in check were it not for the general moral depravity of the people. Unfortunately, as is noted in this verse, "the people [had begun] to grow exceedingly wicked again" (Helaman 6:16).
17 For behold, the Lord had blessed them so long with the riches of the world that they had not been stirred up to anger, to wars, nor to bloodshed; therefore they began to set their hearts upon their riches; yea, they began to seek to get gain that they might be lifted up one above another; therefore they began to commit secret murders, and to rob and to plunder, that they might get gain.
verse 17 "they began to set their hearts upon their riches" As we have observed on previous occasions in the Book of Mormon, wealth carries with it major risks to the spiritual well being of those who possess it. Wealth may even come to literally possess the wealthy. Here is one of life's great ironies: Those with an abundance of the world's goods tend to become more obsessed with them than those who have to struggle just to make ends meet. Just what is it about wealth that tends to be erosive of one's spiritual growth? Perhaps the best general answer is that wealth makes available things of the world that would not be otherwise available including material possessions, comfort or ease (which is erosive of one's proactive work ethic), and social position. In all of these things of the world, there is a tendency to like them, to appreciate them, to come to depend on them, and to come to want more of them. Another question may be asked: Does any wealthy man ever emerge from his wealth truly unscathed spiritually? Certainly some do, but there can be no doubting the danger of wealth.
"they began to seek to get gain that they might be lifted up one above another" The sequence here is an old familiar refrain. Start with a removal of the Spirit of God. Then with wealth comes the feeling of superiority which results in people's becoming status-conscious. With a feeling of status, comes a greater appetite for more of the same. Then comes a desperate need to acquire the things that will provide that status. Then, these things come to be all important. Then, any scruples that may stand in the way of their acquisition are pushed aside. Even murder may be permissible as long as one is not found out.
Brother Hugh Nibley observed:
The most calamitous effect of wealth, according to the Book of Mormon, is the inequality it begets in any society. Right at the beginning, Jacob sounds the warning: "Many of you have begun to search for . . . precious ores, in the which this . . . land of promise . . . doth abound most plentifully. And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly . . . and because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts. . . Do ye not suppose that such things are abominable unto him who created all flesh? And the one being is as precious in his sight as the other" (Jacob 2:12-13; Jacob 2:21). Jacob then denounces the "grosser crime" of immorality, which in the Book of Mormon as in secular history is the infallible attendant on the pride of wealth. Inequality is not only the result of wealth-seeking: it is sometimes actually its purpose: "They began to seek to get gain that they might be lifted up one above another" (Helaman 6:17) (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, volume 7, 358).
Elder George Q. Cannon taught:
I see young men growing up, and in their growth is the love of wealth, the love of ease and worldly comfort, and the desire and greed for money. I will tell you that the man who has the greed or hunger for money within him, and does not repress it, can not be a Latter-day Saint. A woman who has the love of finery and of earthly ease and comfort within her, and that is the paramount feeling in her heart, can not be a Latter-day Saint. No man can be a Latter-day Saint in truth and in deed who does not hunger after righteousness and the things of God more than he does after everything else upon the face of the earth; and whenever you see or feel this money hunger, this dress hunger, this hunger for worldly ease and comfort in yourselves or others, you may know that the love of God is being withdrawn from you or them, and sooner or later it will be extinguished, and the love of the world will grow until it becomes predominant. I do not know anything more corrupting than this greed, hunger and lust for the things of this life, or anything more degrading and debasing in its effects, except it be the love or lust for women. As a people we believe that lust for women is, next to murder, shedding innocent blood, the most deadly of all sins. Committing whoredom or adultery destroys the man who indulges in it, and next to that, in my estimation, is the love of wealth-the lusting after the things of this life; and there ought to be, and is in every rightly constituted nature, a constant warfare against this evil. We have this to contend with. We should watch it in our children and in ourselves, and we should endeavor to govern and bring all our feelings and desires into such a position that they can be controlled by the love of the truth (Conference talk October 6, 1873).
18 And now behold, those murderers and plunderers were a band who had been formed by Kishkumen and Gadianton. And now it had come to pass that there were many, even among the Nephites, of Gadianton's band. But behold, they were more numerous among the more wicked part of the Lamanites. And they were called Gadianton's robbers and murderers.
verse 18 Kishkumen is, of course, dead (Helaman 2:9) and Gadianton never specifically surfaces again in Mormon's historical account, yet their legacy lives on!
Perhaps it would be helpful to the reader to digress here for a few moments and comment on a present-day issue raised by opponents of the LDS Church. Some have seen a parallel between Gadianton's robber band and the Masons of Joseph Smith's day.
The so-called "environmentalist theory" of the origin of the Book of Mormon has become very fashionable in anti-Mormon circles today. This theory, simply stated, holds that Joseph Smith absorbed the images, attitudes, and conceptions present in the New York rural culture in which he was reared, and he wove them into the Book of Mormon story.
The proponents of this theory hold that the Gadianton robbers are a classic specific example. In almost comical flailing and remonstrating, some Book of Mormon critics have claimed that the term "secret combinations" was strictly confined to the Masons during an anti-Masonic agitation of the late 1820s (Robert N. Hullinger, Mormon Answer to Skepticism: Why Joseph Smith Wrote the Book of Mormon, 114, notes 30 and 31). They therefore have claimed that the "Gadianton robbers" are merely nineteenth-century Freemasons, transparently disguised. They maintain that Joseph's "idea" for the Gadianton robbers came from this secret society in Joseph's nineteenth century environment. They point to several basic parallels between the Gadianton robbers and the Masons of the 1820s: (1) Both groups have secret signs and secret words which aid in mutual identification. (2) Both have oaths for fraternal protection which, when uttered, obliged the members to protect each other. (3) Both claim to have ancient origins. (4) Both groups are referred to as "secret societies" and "secret combinations." The Book of Mormon refers to Gadianton and his band using these terms, and the newspapers of the early nineteenth century used these same terms to refer to Masonry of that period. (5) Both groups were seen as a threat to the institutions of their native lands.
The claim of these critics seems so ludicrous as to demand no explanation, but consider the following observations:
While Joseph obviously became interested in Masonry in the early 1840s in Nauvoo, there is not even the slightest mention of Masonry in any of his earlier writings. He never talked about it, and indeed seemed to have no concern or interest whatever in it during those early years.
Literally thousands of organizations have had their own signs and words used for the purpose of mutual identification and protection. Even the early Christians had such signs. If an early Christian, for example, wanted to identify himself or herself to a brother or a sister, he or she traced with a stick or a toe in the sand a figure of a fish.
People and their organizations have always had a tendency to try to relate themselves to their pristine origins. It has never been particularly desirable to belong to a novel or new organization. The past is the model. Man always tends to look to the past and claim his roots of authority from the past.
Regarding the fact that both groups were regarded as a threat to the institutions of their day, again, we have a very general or generic parallel. Every organization that is considered revolutionary may be seen as a threat to the institutions of its day.
The terms "secret society" and "secret combination" were certainly terms that were "in the air" during Joseph Smith's early years. He couldn't have helped reading and hearing them. Let us never lose sight of the fact that the Book of Mormon was indeed translated by someone who lived in the early nineteenth century. Joseph translated the book into the English that he knew. Certainly we can expect to find evidences of Joseph's vocabulary and terminology and ideas in the Book of Mormon. In addition, Daniel C. Peterson has patiently documented the finding of the phrase "secret combination" in a non-Masonic context written in 1826 (Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 1/1 , 184-88).
It must be a discouraging to be one of those who are constantly railing and flailing against the truth.
19 And it was they who did murder the chief judge Cezoram, and his son, while in the judgment-seat; and behold, they were not found.
20 And now it came to pass that when the Lamanites found that there were robbers among them they were exceedingly sorrowful; and they did use every means in their power to destroy them off the face of the earth.
verse 20 Regarding the Lamanites' successful campaign against the secret combination, Ray C. Hillam, has written: "Initially [the robbers] had found sanctuary among the Lamanites, but the Lamanite leaders, being politically embarrassed by their presence, 'did use every means in their power to destroy them. . .' (Helaman 6:20). Their success in removing them from their midst came through (1) the building of the people's faith in their leaders and obedience to law, (2) the vigorous and forceful suppression and pursuit of the robbers, and (3) a conversion program for those Gadianton rebels who would listen (verses 34, 37). Because of this comprehensive strategy by the Lamanites, the band of robbers was utterly destroyed among them" (BYU Studies, volume 15, number 2, 216).
21 But behold, Satan did stir up the hearts of the more part of the Nephites, insomuch that they did unite with those bands of robbers, and did enter into their covenants and their oaths, that they would protect and preserve one another in whatsoever difficult circumstances they should be placed, that they should not suffer for their murders, and their plunderings, and their stealings.
verse 21 Brother Nibley comments:
Determined to "get gain" at any price, the Nephites soon learned that the quickest way to get rich with a minimum risk and the best way to avoid the inconvenience of the law was to belong to a protective society: "The more part of the Nephites . . . did unite with those bands of robbers, and did enter into their covenants and their oaths, that they would protect and preserve one another." With this type of insurance, an individual could operate with impunity "contrary to the laws of their God," enjoying the protection and priority of another system of laws-the rules of the society or corporation (verses 23-24). This system, Helaman tells us, went right back to the beginning of the race, and took root among the Nephites at the time when they "did trample under their feet the commandments of God . . . and did build up unto themselves idols of their gold and silver" (verse 31). It was not idols, please note, but the gold and silver itself that they worshipped (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, volume 7, 364).
22 And it came to pass that they did have their signs, yea, their secret signs, and their secret words; and this that they might distinguish a brother who had entered into the covenant, that whatsoever wickedness his brother should do he should not be injured by his brother, nor by those who did belong to his band, who had taken this covenant.
verse 22 Brother Nibley continues:
The Gadianton Protective Association soon became the biggest business in America! Card-carrying members (those who knew the secret signs and words) (verse 22) could do about anything they wanted "contrary to the laws of their country and also the laws of their God" (Helaman 6:23), and thus acquire unlimited wealth and power. Nevertheless we must not think of the protective association as a lawless outfit. Far from it! They operated with great integrity, instructing their members in all the company rules and disciplining them in accordance with those rules (verse 24). For them the laws of the land were supplanted by this new code of laws (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, volume 6, 383).
verses 21-22 We may study these verses to learn some of the important characteristics of Satan's covenants with man (for some other key features of these evil covenants, see the commentary for Helaman 1:11-12; Helaman 6:26, 30). These features are:
1. Anarchy (a society without government or laws)-"that they should not suffer for their murders, and their plunderings, and their stealings" Members of this wicked covenant order have a total disregard for the law and for anyone or anything placed over them. They are rebellious and defiant. They seek to produce political and social chaos. When government and the law of the land begins to crumble under their influence and fail to provide adequate protection for the people, those without the evil covenant order feel they have to join with the wicked in order to survive.
2. Extreme humanism-"that they would protect and preserve one another in whatsoever difficult circumstances they should be placed." The people look to other mortals (instead of God) for sustenance and security.
3. Counterfeiting the Lord's system of covenants-"they did have their signs, yea, their secret signs, and their secret words; and this that they might distinguish a brother who had entered into the covenant." Satan's covenants include a blasphemous counterfeit of the Lord's signs and tokens. There is also a brotherhood, and though it will not endure, it is a replica of the priesthood brotherhood that exists in the Lord's church. Satan's brotherhood actually quickly becomes a form of bondage since once a person is in, it is difficult and unsafe to get out.
23 And thus they might murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness, contrary to the laws of their country and also the laws of their God.
24 And whosoever of those who belonged to their band should reveal unto the world of their wickedness and their abominations, should be tried, not according to the laws of their country, but according to the laws of their wickedness, which had been given by Gadianton and Kishkumen.
verse 24 Members of this secret band operated by the rules of their organization and "not according to the laws of their country," which they felt were too confining.
25 Now behold, it is these secret oaths and covenants which Alma commanded his son should not go forth unto the world, lest they should be a means of bringing down the people unto destruction.
26 Now behold, those secret oaths and covenants did not come forth unto Gadianton from the records which were delivered unto Helaman; but behold, they were put into the heart of Gadianton by that same being who did entice our first parents to partake of the forbidden fruit-
verses 25-26 When Alma the younger passed the records along to his son Helaman, Helaman learned that the secret works of darkness were had among the Jaredite peoples. Apparently the blueprint for these wicked secret combinations-their oaths, their covenants, their agreements, their signs, and their secret abominations-were found upon the twenty-four plates upon which Ether had recorded the record of his people. Alma warned his son to keep this part of the Jaredite record from the people lest they "fall into darkness also and be destroyed" (Alma 37:21-32). We know that Helaman was diligent in following this instruction of his father. How then were the secrets of this secret combination passed along from the Jaredites to the descendants of Lehi? Did Gadianton really receive them anew from Satan by revelation? It is more likely that they were passed along in more ordinary ways. John L. Sorenson has addressed this topic:
The Nephite secret combination pattern is obviously very similar to what had been present among the Jaredites. Was there a historical connection? It is true that Alma instructed his son Helaman not to make known to their people any contents of Ether's record that might give them operating procedures for duplicating the secret groups (see Alma 37:27-29). A later writer says that it was the devil who "put into the heart" of Gadianton certain information of that sort (see Helaman 6:26). Yet an efficient alternative explanation of how the later secret groups came to look so much like those of the Jaredites is direct transmission of the tradition through survivors of the Jaredites to the people of Zarahemla and thus to Gadianton. This process probably would have been unknown to Alma or other elite Nephite writers, who must have had little to do directly with the mass of "Mulekite" folk. Support for the idea comes from a statement by Giddianhi, one-time "governor" of the Gadianton organization. Their ways, he claimed, "are of ancient date and they have been handed down unto us" (3 Nephi 3:9) (Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: "When Lehi's Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There", volume 1, Fall 1992, 21).
"by that same being who did entice our first parents" Here is implied another characteristic of Satan's evil covenants, that of false promises. Satan entices by offering "anything in this world" if people will by follow him. He promises further that any worldly thing can be had without guilt or fear of punishment. Yet it is this worldliness which leads one away from the greatest eternal reward and into the curse of captivity to the devil.
27 Yea, that same being who did plot with Cain, that if he would murder his brother Abel it should not be known unto the world. And he did plot with Cain and his followers from that time forth.
verse 27 The brief biblical account of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4 contains nothing of the manner in which Cain entered into a secret covenant with Satan by which Cain became Master Mahan, master of the great secret that he could murder and get gain; thus giving rise to secret combinations on the earth. These truths were obviously contained on the brass plates, Mormon's source for this material. Also we have had it restored to us today by revelation to Joseph Smith as he wrote his inspired revision of the Bible (see Moses 5).
verses 26-27 These verses contain characters and events that we might well take for granted and pass right on by. These characters are Adam and Eve, Cain, and Satan, and the events are the transgression of Adam and Cain's murdering Abel. It is important to know that sophisticated Bible scholars today feel that these were not characters that actually existed and events that actually occurred. Rather they have concluded that these characters and these incidents are merely myths and legends of an ancient culture (Interpreter's Bible, 1:484, 520). Yet the Book of Mormon confirms and re-confirms that fact that these characters did actually live and that these events literally did occur.
Other analogous events and characters, that intellectual Bible scholars explain in mythological terms and which the Book of Mormon validates, include the story of the tower of Babel (see verse 28; Interpreter's Bible, 1:562), Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Helaman 3:30; Helaman 3:8:17; Interpreter's Bible, 1:442-43), and Moses's parting the Red Sea (Helaman 8:11; Interpreter's Bible, 1:834-35).
28 And also it is that same being who put it into the hearts of the people to build a tower sufficiently high that they might get to heaven. And it was that same being who led on the people who came from that tower into this land; who spread the works of darkness and abominations over all the face of the land, until he dragged the people down to an entire destruction, and to an everlasting hell.
verse 28 Commenting on this verse, Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote: "These . . . words tell us who the architect of the tower was and how he caressed mortal egos of his clients for his own purposes. He has not lost that skill" (Plain and Precious Things, 85).
29 Yea, it is that same being who put it into the heart of Gadianton to still carry on the work of darkness, and of secret murder; and he has brought it forth from the beginning of man even down to this time.
30 And behold, it is he who is the author of all sin. And behold, he doth carry on his works of darkness and secret murder, and doth hand down their plots, and their oaths, and their covenants, and their plans of awful wickedness, from generation to generation according as he can get hold upon the hearts of the children of men.
verse 30 "doth hand down their plots, and their oaths, and their covenants, and their plans of awful wickedness, from generation to generation" Wickedness often carries on from one generation to the next by "false traditions" that are difficult to break. If wickedness is already established among a people, Satan's job is greatly facilitated as he seeks to have his secrets and methods passed on.
"according as he can get hold upon the hearts of the children of men" Satan's power and influence depends completely upon the acquiescence of those whom he would attempt to lead. We possess the power to crush him, while he can only bruise us-but only if we allow him to do so.
31 And now behold, he had got great hold upon the hearts of the Nephites; yea, insomuch that they had become exceedingly wicked; yea, the more part of them had turned out of the way of righteousness, and did trample under their feet the commandments of God, and did turn unto their own ways, and did build up unto themselves idols of their gold and their silver.
verses 30-31 Just what is the precise role played by Satan in leading a man down to hell? In what way is he the "author of all sin"? It has been suggested that perhaps Satan gets too much of the blame for a man's failure to respond to spiritual promptings.
Perhaps the man himself is largely to blame. After all, is it not true that the designer of this great mortal experience with all its challenges and opportunities for both spiritual growth and spiritual deterioration was, in fact, God himself and not Satan? And is it not also true that within each of the children of God there is an element of the so-called "natural self" or the "natural man"-that side of each man that possesses a propensity, hidden or overt, to respond to the worldly influences that we encounter during this mortal testing period? Certainly Satan did not have any role in creating men with the characteristics they possess. Even if Satan did not exist, there would still be evil in God's universe because in each man there exists the potential for pride, disobedience, lustfulness, and worldliness. Indeed, while Satan may function as the cheerleader, the facilitator, the role model for wickedness, he did not create it. He is not the inventor of the "natural self" within each of us. Who did create it then? Was it God? Would God or could God ever create something evil? Certainly not. Whence cometh evil in God's universe then? It seems likely that from the time of man's most elementary and primitive state, when he existed as an intelligence-that primordial essence of each of individual-there existed a potential for both good and evil, obedience and disobedience. God did not create the intelligences, indeed they have co-existed with God forever (D&C 93:29; Abraham 3:18). They have always existed, a fact that defies human understanding. From the moment they were swept up into our Father in Heaven's round of creation they began to test themselves against the eternal law. They each possessed agency. Each intelligence also had a "natural self." It was therefore inclined to do the easy and comfortable thing and not the more difficult thing. From the earliest time we can imagine, spiritual growth resulted from doing the more difficult and challenging thing-from obeying God's commandments. Some were more obedient and some less so. When it came time for the spiritual creation, when all intelligences were embodied with a body of spirit matter, some were honored to be embodied with bodies after the image of their heavenly parents, and some were not.
Later on, among those who were spiritual offspring of our heavenly parents in the premortal world, there eventually appeared a great rift. Some were more adherent to God's plan while others forfeited forever their opportunity to be born on earth with a mortal body and continue their progress toward godhood. They were cast out of heaven. Lucifer was their leader, their provocateur, their agitator, but certainly he was not responsible for the evil, "natural" tendencies of his followers.
What then is Satan's part in all of this? Just how does he function? What techniques does he employ? Does he have free access to men's hearts, or does he operate with significant restrictions? Is his role in influencing the thoughts and behavior of men in any way comparable to that of the role of the Spirit of God?
It is true that this earth's mortal obstacle course, with all of its opportunities, challenges, and pitfalls, is just as God would have it. It provides for each individual born into mortality a fitting and proper test of his mettle, and an opportunity to either succeed or fail, based on that individual's own merits, in returning again to the presence of our heavenly parents. By virtue of God's plan for us, we each have the inalienable right to exercise our agency while we are here on earth. Satan cannot interfere with that right, and God also will not interfere with our right to choose. On literally thousands of occasions, here in mortality, we will each have an opportunity to choose good or choose evil. The choice is entirely our own. The choosing of good is inevitably more difficult-more challenging. It requires strength of character. It is in the choosing, that we enable either the Holy Spirit or Satan to prompt us. The role of the Spirit and that of Satan are, in a curious way, analogous, but in diametrically opposite directions.
There are perhaps two specific parts or roles Satan plays in pulling a man down spiritually:
1. Through his ministrations here on earth, he has managed to create a setting where there the evil and purely worldly influences are abundantly and widely advertised. Worldliness is made easily available to all. That worldliness that entices, tempts, and allures is all around us-it is ubiquitous. One need not venture far without encountering myriad opportunities to commit serious sins.
2. His second, and perhaps his most influential role in defeating a man's spiritual resolve is put into action only when a man, faced with the decision to either obey a commandment or to cave in to his natural self and commit sin decides on the latter. Satan is powerless when we obey. It is when we chose to sin that his influenced on us begins. Choosing evil or committing sin not only insulates us from the Spirit of God, but it also renders us more responsive to the whisperings of the devil. As we choose evil he will comfort and affirm us in that chosen path. If sin produces in us discouragement and a low spiritual self esteem, he will attempt to provide us with abundant rationalizations, self-justifications, and reasons why we should not worry. His ministrations will provide us with reassurances that we are "all right," and "it's okay to go ahead and sin again." He will try to instill in us a curious pride in our own strength, a self-sufficiency, and a fierce independence. He would teach us that we need not be reliant on anyone. We can and should stand on our own and not seek or accept counsel from others. Who are they, after all, to presume to teach us anything? At any rate, others are only competitors who would seek to lift themselves at our expense. Humility, Satan would suggest, is not a virtue; rather it is a weakness. He would have us become cynical about any need, on our part, to repent. One might well hear him say, "Are you a child or an adult? Do you need someone telling you what to do, or are you mature enough to choose for yourself? Both of you are old enough-you are two consenting adults; what you choose to do in the privacy of your bedroom is nobody's business. You're not hurting anyone else. Go ahead and do what you want."
Thus we see clearly the nature of Satan's ministrations or "temptations." The farther we go with him down his pathway, the more difficult it is to turn back. As we place ourselves more firmly in his grasp, new and evil ideas may occur to us. He instills these ideas, and in this way, he becomes the "author of all sin." Ultimately his road leads away from our intended and eternal celestial home and toward eternal captivity.
On the other hand, when a righteous choice is made, we make it possible for the Spirit of God to make contact. We also block the potential line of communication between us and Satan. The Spirit's ministrations will allow us to experience true joy and lasting satisfaction. We will be prompted to love, rather than resent, others. We will view our fellow mortal sojourners as individuals, just like ourselves, struggling to achieve their spiritual goals in this difficult world. We will be imbued with a desire to help others whenever it is possible. We will also become inclined, as we respond to the Spirit, to accept and love ourselves in spite of our occasional failings. We will sense the love and concern of others and are grateful to receive their help whenever it is needed. We also become keenly aware of the love of our Father in heaven and of our Savior for us. We are lifted by it and inclined to repent of our "natural" inclinations in order to please the Father and Son and draw closer to them.
Both Satan and the Holy Spirit have limited access to us, and that access is determined exclusively by us. It is true that each of us possesses, as a free gift at our birth, a small yearning for eternal and spiritual things. This is actually a subtle tendency possessed by all men to respond to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and is referred to as the "spirit of Christ" or the "light of Christ." This free gift may prove to be an invaluable influence even in the life of the sinner in serving to invite him back to the road to the celestial kingdom. The sinner, over time, however, may completely "block" or neutralize this subtle gift as he responds repeatedly to Satan's attempts to influence him. He may then completely lose his ability to respond to the Spirit, but will increase in his ability to hear clearly the promptings of Satan. For a more complete discussion of the "natural" and "spiritual" self each of us possesses, and for further discussion of the Role of Satan in our lives, see the following chapters in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine: (1) volume 1, chapter 5, The "Natural Self" and "Spiritual Self," (2) volume 1, chapter 6, The Gospel and the Two Natures of Man, and (3) volume 1, chapter 16, The Role of Satan.
verse 31 "they . . . did turn unto their own ways, and did build up unto themselves idols of their gold and their silver" Money was the name of the game, the ultimate motivation.
32 And it came to pass that all these iniquities did come unto them in the space of not many years, insomuch that a more part of it had come unto them in the sixty and seventh year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi.
33 And they did grow in their iniquities in the sixty and eighth year also, to the great sorrow and lamentation of the righteous.
34 And thus we see that the Nephites did begin to dwindle in unbelief, and grow in wickedness and abominations, while the Lamanites began to grow exceedingly in the knowledge of their God; yea, they did begin to keep his statutes and commandments, and to walk in truth and uprightness before him.
35 And thus we see that the Spirit of the Lord began to withdraw from the Nephites, because of the wickedness and the hardness of their hearts.
verse 35 "because of the wickedness and the hardness of their hearts" See the discussion of hard-heartedness in the commentary for Alma 10:6.
36 And thus we see that the Lord began to pour out his Spirit upon the Lamanites, because of their easiness and willingness to believe in his words.
verse 36 President Spencer W. Kimball, always an enthusiastic supporter of the Native American groups, believed that the effects of this pouring out of the Lord's Spirit has had an enduring effect on the "Lamanites" of today: "Lamanites show great devotion. The converted Lamanite is devout. Few ever apostatize. Some lose their way as they partake of the worldliness about them, but generally the children of Lehi of the twentieth century have inherited that grace and ability to believe like their ancestors of the long ago. We read in Helaman 6:36: "And thus we see that the Lord began to pour out his Spirit upon the Lamanites, because of their easiness and willingness to believe in his words" (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 178).
Today, we understand that most all of the "native Americans"-the "American Indians" are probably not descendants of the Book of Mormon peoples. Oh, that all of the American Indians were like unto the Lamanites described in Helaman 6.
37 And it came to pass that the Lamanites did hunt the band of robbers of Gadianton; and they did preach the word of God among the more wicked part of them, insomuch that this band of robbers was utterly destroyed from among the Lamanites.
verse 37 The Lamanites put into effect a comprehensive plan for ridding themselves of the Gadianton band. It included (1) the building of their people's faith in God and in his statutes. Since these were intimately related to the laws of the land, they also acquired faith in their governmental leaders (verse 34). (2) the vigorous and forceful pursuit and eradication of the robbers, and (3) a conversion program for those Gadianton rebels who would listen. Because of this comprehensive strategy by the Lamanites, the "band of robbers was utterly destroyed from among [them]."
38 And it came to pass on the other hand, that the Nephites did build them up and support them, beginning at the more wicked part of them, until they had overspread all the land of the Nephites, and had seduced the more part of the righteous until they had come down to believe in their works and partake of their spoils, and to join with them in their secret murders and combinations.
verse 38 The greater part of the Nephites had been reduced to believing "in their works" and partaking "of their spoils." In other words, the Nephites began to share in the ill-gotten gain of the Gadianton robbers including their money and material possessions.
39 And thus they did obtain the sole management of the government, insomuch that they did trample under their feet and smite and rend and turn their backs upon the poor and the meek, and the humble followers of God.
verses 38-39 Ray C. Hillam observed, "The Nephites had . . . become particularly vulnerable to infiltration and subversion by the Gadianton rebels. Being soft and permissive, they were soon politically seduced, even 'the righteous until they had come . . . to believe in their [the rebels'] works and partake of their spoils, and to join with them.' And 'they [the Gadianton leaders] did obtain the sole management of the government' of the Nephites (Helaman 6:38-39) and 'usurped the power and authority of the land' (Helaman 7:4)" (BYU Studies, volume 15, Number 2, 217).
verse 39 Brother Nibley wrote:
If the reader has imagined to himself the Gadianton band as abandoned wretches or street Arabs lurking in dark alleys and fleeing from the light of day in dingy and noisome hideouts, let him disabuse his mind of such a concept. They were a highly respected concern that made their handsome profits by operating strictly within the letter of the law, as they interpreted and controlled it. They were the government, the well-to-do, the respectable, and the law-abiding citizens (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, volume 6, 385).
40 And thus we see that they were in an awful state, and ripening for an everlasting destruction.
41 And it came to pass that thus ended the sixty and eighth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi.