Helaman Chapter 8
1 And now it came to pass that when Nephi had said these words, behold, there were men who were judges, who also belonged to the secret band of Gadianton, and they were angry, and they cried out against him, saying unto the people: Why do ye not seize upon this man and bring him forth, that he may be condemned according to the crime which he has done?
2 Why seest thou this man, and hearest him revile against this people and against our law?
verse 2 These evil judges are asking, "Why do you tolerate this man's reviling against you and your laws? In response to Nephi's criticizing the status quo, those with status desired to silence him. They did it by a technique that some might call patriotism. It is actually a false patriotism used by those who wish to put down anyone whom they oppose. The usual tactic is to portray themselves as loyal and patriotic and then cast aspersions on the motives and morals of those with differing ideas. When Nephi spoke out against them, these dishonest judges made it appear that he (Nephi) was the one who was disloyal, charging him with reviling against the people, the law, and the judges.
3 For behold, Nephi had spoken unto them concerning the corruptness of their law; yea, many things did Nephi speak which cannot be written; and nothing did he speak which was contrary to the commandments of God.
verses 2-3 In preaching and warning according to the commandments of God, perhaps Nephi had broken the law of the land. Apparently there was a law against "revil[ing] against this people and against our law." If indeed contempt of institutions was a crime, Nephi was guilty, for he had plainly "spoken unto them concerning the corruptness of their law."
4 And those judges were angry with him because he spake plainly unto them concerning their secret works of darkness; nevertheless, they durst not lay their own hands upon him, for they feared the people lest they should cry out against them.
5 Therefore they did cry unto the people, saying: Why do you suffer this man to revile against us? For behold he doth condemn all this people, even unto destruction; yea, and also that these our great cities shall be taken from us, that we shall have no place in them.
6 And now we know that this is impossible, for behold, we are powerful, and our cities great, therefore our enemies can have no power over us.
verses 4-6 Why did not the judges take matters into their own hands and initiate legal action against Nephi for what they considered treasonable rhetoric against their government? Why did they "durst not lay their hands upon him," and why did they appeal to the people with the question: "Why do you suffer this man to revile against us"? A possible reason has been suggested by Noel B. Reynolds in his article "Book of Mormon, Government and Legal History" (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, volume 1):
At the time the Nephites abandoned the monarchy, Mosiah instituted a major reform of Nephite procedural law. A system of judges and other officers was instituted; lower judges were judged by a higher judge (Mosiah 29:28); judges were paid for the time spent in public service (Alma 11:3); a standardized system of weights and measures was instituted (Alma 11:4-19); slavery was formally prohibited (Alma 27:9); and defaulting debtors faced banishment (Alma 11:2). There were officers (Alma 11:2) and lawyers who assisted, but their official functions are not clear. It appears that ordinary citizens had sole power to initiate lawsuits (otherwise, the judges would have brought the action against Nephi in Helaman 8:1).
There would yet come a time when the judges would acknowledge no such restraints: "Many . . . who testified of the things pertaining to Christ . . . were taken and put to death secretly by the judges, so that the knowledge of their death came not unto the governor . . . until after their death" (3 Nephi 6:23).
verse 6 "therefore our enemies can have no power over us" Supposedly the Nephites and Lamanites existed at this time in a condition of peace (Helaman 6:34-37). So who were the Nephites' "enemies"? Might there have been other, non-Lamanite groups which might have considered to be enemies?
7 And it came to pass that thus they did stir up the people to anger against Nephi, and raised contentions among them; for there were some who did cry out: Let this man alone, for he is a good man, and those things which he saith will surely come to pass except we repent;
8 Yea, behold, all the judgments will come upon us which he has testified unto us; for we know that he has testified aright unto us concerning our iniquities. And behold they are many, and he knoweth as well all things which shall befall us as he knoweth of our iniquities;
verse 8 "he has testified aright unto us" We have recently above discussed the definition of the word aright. It is "in a right form; without mistake or crime; correctly."
9 Yea, and behold, if he had not been a prophet he could not have testified concerning those things.
10 And it came to pass that those people who sought to destroy Nephi were compelled because of their fear, that they did not lay their hands on him; therefore he began again to speak unto them, seeing that he had gained favor in the eyes of some, insomuch that the remainder of them did fear.
verses 11-24 In these verses Nephi will cite examples of past prophets' prophesying of Christ hoping to win support for his own prophecies. His argument is that if his hearers reject his words, the words of a living prophet, then they are rejecting the testimonies of such revered prophets as Isaiah, Moses, Zenos, Jeremiah, Lehi, and others.
11 Therefore he was constrained to speak more unto them saying: Behold, my brethren, have ye not read that God gave power unto one man, even Moses, to smite upon the waters of the Red Sea, and they parted hither and thither, insomuch that the Israelites, who were our fathers, came through upon dry ground, and the waters closed upon the armies of the Egyptians and swallowed them up?
12 And now behold, if God gave unto this man such power, then why should ye dispute among yourselves, and say that he hath given unto me no power whereby I may know concerning the judgments that shall come upon you except ye repent?
13 But, behold, ye not only deny my words, but ye also deny all the words which have been spoken by our fathers, and also the words which were spoken by this man, Moses, who had such great power given unto him, yea, the words which he hath spoken concerning the coming of the Messiah.
14 Yea, did he not bear record that the Son of God should come? And as he lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, even so shall he be lifted up who should come.
15 And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live, even unto that life which is eternal.
verses 14-15 Here again is a reference to that colorful story of the Lord's setting fiery serpents upon the disobedient Israelites (see the commentary for 1 Nephi 17:41and for 2 Nephi 25:20). If the reader desires to review this story, please do so in Numbers 21:4-9. Briefly, because of the sins of the Israelites in the wilderness, the Lord sent among them poisonous serpents. These serpents bit many, and, as a result, many died. Moses petitioned the Lord for a way to save his people from these serpents. In response, the Lord commanded Moses to make a serpent of brass and place it on a pole. Whosoever was bitten by a poisonous serpent could be saved from death by looking upon the brass serpent. The serpent, of course, was a type and symbol of Christ.
One of the ways in which the Book of Mormon is "Another Testament of Jesus Christ" is that it testifies that the mortal ministry of Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of prophecy given in Old Testament times. An example of these Old Testament prophecies includes the fact that the law of Moses was given "and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world . . . are [for] the typifying of [Christ]" (see the commentary for 2 Nephi 11:4). Examples of these types and prophecies, in addition to the brazen serpent, are: the coming of a prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Acts 3:22-23; 1 Nephi 22:20-21); a virgin bearing a son (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; 2 Nephi 17:14); and the suffering servant (Isaiah 53; Mark 9:12; Romans 4:25; Mosiah 13:33 - 15:1). The Book of Mormon "establish[es] the truth" (1 Nephi 13:40) of the New Testament's references to Old Testament prophecies (see John 5:39; Luke 24:27).
16 And now behold, Moses did not only testify of these things, but also all the holy prophets, from his days even to the days of Abraham.
17 Yea, and behold, Abraham saw of his coming, and was filled with gladness and did rejoice.
verse 17 The mortal Christ testified to the Pharisees, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad" (John 8:56-59). The biblical antecedent of this testimony is not found in our present-day Old Testament. It is, however, found in the Joseph Smith Translation: "It came to pass, that Abram looked forth and saw the days of the Son of Man, and was glad, and his soul found rest, and he believed in the Lord; and the Lord counted it unto him for righteousness" (JST, Genesis 15:12). It is also likely that the "Ephraim Bible"-the brass plates of Laban-contained this reference and was the likely source material for Nephi in this verse.
18 Yea, and behold I say unto you, that Abraham not only knew of these things, but there were many before the days of Abraham who were called by the order of God; yea, even after the order of his Son; and this that it should be shown unto the people, a great many thousand years before his coming, that even redemption should come unto them.
verse 18 "the order of God; yea, even after the order of his Son" These phrases refer to the same priesthood that we would call today the Melchizedek priesthood.
"a great many thousand years before his coming" The traditional chronology of the Irish Anglican archbishop James Ussher (AD 1581-1656), places the fall of Adam at 4,004 BC. To arrive at that number, Ussher worked back from known dates using the data for births and deaths given for the various patriarchs in the text of the book of Genesis. Unfortunately, these numbers are not consistent in the various manuscripts and versions of the Bible, and we have no way of knowing which, if any, of these that have come down to us are accurate, except as they may occasionally appear in modern scripture (see D&C 107:42-53). The question here is whether we ought to regard this phrase as simply hyperbole, or whether, in fact, the fall of Adam and the introduction of the family of man to the earth did occur much earlier than 4,000 BC. Only four thousand years before the coming of Christ does not seem to qualify as "a great many thousand years." I don't feel speculation about the age of the earth-and particularly speculation about the duration of the history of the family of man here on earth beginning with Adam and Eve-is entirely appropriate here. It seems certain, however, that the earth's age is far older than the traditional six, or so, thousand years. In fact, it will not be surprising to find that the creation of this earth began even millions or billions of years ago. It is even possible that the history of family of man here on the earth, is also longer than the six thousand years. See "The Duration of Our Premortal Experience" in volume 1, chapter 3, The Creation, in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine.
19 And now I would that ye should know, that even since the days of Abraham there have been many prophets that have testified these things; yea, behold, the prophet Zenos did testify boldly; for the which he was slain.
verse 19 From reading the Book of Mormon, one might conclude that the two dominant prophetic voices recorded on the brass plates were those of Isaiah and Zenos both of whom died as martyrs.
20 And behold, also Zenock, and also Ezias, and also Isaiah, and Jeremiah, (Jeremiah being that same prophet who testified of the destruction of Jerusalem) and now we know that Jerusalem was destroyed according to the words of Jeremiah. O then why not the Son of God come, according to his prophecy?
verses 19-20 Here is a bit of insight regarding those non-Biblical prophets whose writings were presumably found on the brass plates, Zenos, Zenock, and Ezias. They lived and wrote "since the days of Abraham." Since Abraham, Isaiah, and Jeremiah are mentioned in chronological order, we might logically assume that the others are also. Thus it is likely that Zenos, Zenock, and Ezias all lived after the time of Abraham and before the days of Isaiah, and perhaps they lived and ministered in the chronological order just mentioned. Abraham's birth is thought by Bible scholars to have been about 2167 BC. The birth of Isaiah was about 770 BC. For further information concerning these prophets, see the commentary for 1 Nephi 19:10, 1 Nephi 5:16, and the introductory commentary for Jacob 5.
Verse 20 is the only mention of the prophet Ezias in the Book of Mormon. It is possible that Ezias is the same as the one called Esaias, a contemporary of Abraham, one who is twice mentioned in the revelations given to Joseph Smith (D&C 76:100; 84:12-13).
verse 20 It is notable that the Book of Mormon prophets including Lehi (1 Nephi 5:13; 1 Nephi 5:7:14) had access to some of the writings of Jeremiah who was a contemporary of Lehi's in Jerusalem. Obviously these writings of Jeremiah were contained on the plates of brass. Here Nephi indicates that Jeremiah had prophesied of the Messiah's first coming. However, current texts of Jeremiah do not have clear references to this event, underscoring the observation that in the transmission of the biblical text, parts may have been lost, or that Lehi may have possessed a fuller version. This should not be surprising since ancient evidence both from Dead Sea fragments and from the Septuagint version of Jeremiah suggests that the text of his book has not been well preserved (William J. Adams Jr. "Prophecies of Jeremiah," Encyclopedia of Mormonism, volume 2).
21 And now will you dispute that Jerusalem was destroyed? Will ye say that the sons of Zedekiah were not slain, all except it were Mulek? Yea, and do ye not behold that the seed of Zedekiah are with us, and they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem? But behold, this is not all-
verse 21 We know that all the sons of Zedekiah were not slain. There is even evidence that the surviving son of Zedekiah, Mulek, might be mentioned in the Old Testament. Please review the commentary for Mosiah 25:2.
22 Our father Lehi was driven out of Jerusalem because he testified of these things. Nephi also testified of these things, and also almost all of our fathers, even down to this time; yea, they have testified of the coming of Christ, and have looked forward, and have rejoiced in his day which is to come.
23 And behold, he is God, and he is with them, and he did manifest himself unto them, that they were redeemed by him; and they gave unto him glory, because of that which is to come.
verse 23 The pronouns "them" and "they" in this verse refer back to Lehi, Nephi, and "our fathers" in the previous verse.
"he is God" Christ is indeed God. Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: "If we are to envision our Lord's true status and glory, we must come back to the pronouncement of pronouncements, the doctrine of doctrines, the message of messages, which is that Christ is God" (Promised Messiah, 98).
24 And now, seeing ye know these things and cannot deny them except ye shall lie, therefore in this ye have sinned, for ye have rejected all these things, notwithstanding so many evidences which ye have received; yea, even ye have received all things, both things in heaven, and all things which are in the earth, as a witness that they are true.
verse 24 "seeing ye know these things and cannot deny them except ye shall lie" Nephi is able to discern the hearts of some in his audience. The Spirit whispers to him that some of his hearers are sinning against the "pricks" of their consciences.
25 But behold, ye have rejected the truth, and rebelled against your holy God; and even at this time, instead of laying up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where nothing doth corrupt, and where nothing can come which is unclean, ye are heaping up for yourselves wrath against the day of judgment.
verse 25 "ye are heaping up for yourselves wrath against the day of judgment" This is a colorful way of saying that those who rebel against God in this life shall feel the wrath of God at the time of the final judgment.
26 Yea, even at this time ye are ripening, because of your murders and your fornication and wickedness, for everlasting destruction; yea, and except ye repent it will come unto you soon.
27 Yea, behold it is now even at your doors; yea, go ye in unto the judgment-seat, and search; and behold, your judge is murdered, and he lieth in his blood; and he hath been murdered by his brother, who seeketh to sit in the judgment-seat.
28 And behold, they both belong to your secret band, whose author is Gadianton and the evil one who seeketh to destroy the souls of men.