Book of Mormon Lesson 36 (Helaman 13–16)
August 28-September 6
SAMUEL THE LAMANITE
Who Was Samuel the Lamanite?
He was “one of the Lamanites who did observe strictly to keep the commandments of God.” He may have come from among the Ammonites (Anti-Nephi-Lehies), a righteous people who never did, in their entire history, turn away from the Lord or his gospel (Alma 23:6). Or he may have come from among the righteous Lamanites converted by the preaching of Nephi and Lehi. These Lamanites were more righteous than the Nephites and sent missionaries among them. He came to Zarahemla commissioned by an angel to proclaim God’s word.
Why Was a Lamanite Sent to Teach Repentance?
The Nephites already had prophets among them—Nephi and Lehi in particular. There is great irony in this: That a Lamanite would be sent to call Nephites to repentance. It demonstrates the righteousness roll-reversal these two peoples had experienced.
SAMUEL THE LAMANITE’S MESSAGE
Nephite Choices—Happiness or Misery
For many days Samuel attempted to give the Lord’s message to the Nephites (Helaman 13:1–3). he was rejected, dishonored, and cast out from among them. The voice of the Lord came again to Samuel, telling him to return to Zarahemla. This time the message was to be of judgment and justice. Heavy destruction awaited them unless they repented and had faith in Christ.
Samuel the Lamanite prophesied their future (Helaman 13:3–11). The Nephites would not allow him into the city, so Samuel the Lamanite climbed upon the wall of the city, stretched forth his hands, and prophesied (v. 4). He told them that “the sword of justice hangeth over this people; and four hundred years pass not away save the sword of justice falleth upon this people” (v. 5). This, of course, is a clear reference to the final destruction of the Nephite nation that occurred about 400 years later. They could be saved by “repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 6).
The birth of the Savior into the world was now only 6 years away (v. 7). Then came a series of warnings. If they persisted in wickedness, the Lord would withdraw his “word” (prophets) and the Spirit from among them (v. 8). Within four generations (400 years) they would be utterly destroyed (vv. 9–10). Nevertheless, there was still a final opportunity for them to repent (v. 11).
The Book of Mormon speaks often of the hardness of the hearts of the people in that day, and of Satan who gets hold of their hearts (Helaman 6:30–35; Helaman 7:15; Mormon 3:12; 4:11; 2 Nephi 33:2). It also speaks of the consequences when people harden their hearts (Alma 12:9–11 Mosiah 2:36–37). Similar conditions exist today in hearts of wicked men (D&C 10:10, 20), and the prophecies of the Lord will all be fulfilled (D&C 1:38).
The wicked people of Zarahemla were preserved from destruction because of the few righteous among them, but unless they repented as a people this protection would be withdrawn (Helaman 13:12–16).
The Sins of the Nephites:
— Setting their hearts upon riches. As a result, they will be destroyed, the land will be cursed, and their worldly treasures will not be safe (Helaman 13:17–23). God is offended when we do not acknowledge him in the receipt of our blessings (D&C 59:20–21).
— Rejection of true prophets. They killed the prophets of their own day, but said they would not have the slain the prophets of old, as their fathers did (Helaman 13:24–26; Matthew 23:29–39). By following our living prophet we will be protected against the forces of darkness (D&C 21:4–6). President Harold B. Lee said, “There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory. . . .Your safety and ours depends upon whether or not we follow the ones whom the Lord has placed to preside over his church. He knows whom he wants to preside over this church, and he will make no mistake. . . .Let’s keep our eye on the President of the Church.”1
— Acceptance of false prophets. They allowed themselves to “be led by foolish and blind guides” (Helaman 13:27–29). President Harold B. Lee said, “We have some tight places to go before the Lord is through with this church and the world in this dispensation, which is the last dispensation, which shall usher in the coming of the Lord . . . The power of Satan will increase; we see it in evidence on every hand. There will be inroads within the Church. There will be . . . those who profess membership but secretly are . . . trying to lead people not to follow the leadership that the Lord has set up to preside in this church. Now the only safety we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized. We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet.”2
Samuel said the Nephites would live to regret their sinfulness (Helaman 13:32). They would be unable to hold on to their worldly treasures (Helaman 13:33–36). The Nephites “sought for happiness in doing iniquity” and it was now almost everlastingly too late (Helaman 13:37–38).
Their Days of Probation Were Past (Helaman 13:38)
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “In relation to the Nephites spoken of by Jacob, Alma, Samuel, and others, we should remember that these were once members of the Church who had turned away and denied the truth and fought to destroy it. They were not like the people in the gentile nations who never received the truth. These Nephites had received the light, rebelled, and then attempted to destroy it. . . . The Lord established his Church in all its fulness among them, and when they began to rebel they did it knowingly . . . Samuel’s castigation of these Nephites was fully justified in his accusation and prophecy of their punishment.”3
Wickedness Cannot Produce Happiness (Helaman 13:38–39)
The Law of the Harvest is one of the great and eternal principles of the universe—the economy of judgment whereby we receive the things we value most and forfeit those we don’t value. In the end, “whatsoever we ask, we receive of him” (1 John 3:22). We reap precisely what we have sown. In the economy of judgment we cannot expect to receive happiness if we sow sorrow. And sorrow is the unalterably-decreed fruit of unrighteousness.
Satan has nothing to offer but misery (2 Nephi 2:17–18, 27). Therefore, even though he tries to persuade us that happiness and righteousness are undesirable and that wickedness will bring joy, in fact whatever he entices us to do will, sooner or later, make us miserable. Elder Marion G. Romney said, “Satan is evil: totally and always. He ever seeks to defeat the gospel plan and ‘destroy the souls of men.’ (D&C 10:27). . . . Satan is irrevocably committed to countering and overcoming the influence of the Spirit of Christ upon men.”4
Wickedness never brings happiness (Alma 41:10–11). Carnality, bitterness, and iniquity “are. . .contrary to the nature of happiness” (v. 11). The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God.”5
SAMUEL PROPHESIES SIGNS OF CHRIST’S COMING & DEATH
Signs of the Coming of Christ (Helaman 14:2–7).
The Birth of Jesus Christ The Fulfillment
1. Christ to be born in five years (v. 2) 3 Nephi 1:13
2. No darkness for a “day and a night and a day” (vv. 3–4) 3 Nephi 1:15
3. “A new star [to] arise” (v. 5) 3 Nephi 1:21
4. Other signs
a. “Many signs and wonders in heaven” (v. 6) No mention
b. People to “fall to the earth” (v. 7) No mention
We may receive a remission of our sins through the “merits” of Christ (Helaman 14:13). Merits are qualities or actions that entitle a person to claim rewards. It is only through the Savior’s merits that we can be forgiven of sins. (2 Ne 2:7–9, Alma 22:14).
Samuel defines spiritual death (Helaman 14:14–18, especially vv. 16, 18).
Signs of the Death of Christ (Helaman 14:20–27).
The Death of the Lord The Fulfillment
1. Sun to be darkened, moon and stars to not give 3 Nephi 8:19–23
light for three days (v. 20, 27)
2. Signs of the earth
a. “Thunderings and lightnings for..many hours (v. 21) 3 Nephi 8:6–7
b. “Earth to shake and tremble and be broken 3 Nephi 8:12, 17–18
up (v. 21–22)
c. Great tempests, mountains to be laid low, 3 Nephi 8:5–6
valleys raised (v. 23)
d. “Highways [to] be broken up, and many cities 3 Nephi 8:8–11, 13
[to] become desolate” (v. 24).
3. “Many graves [to] be opened, and [people 3 Nephi 23:9–14
resurrected, who] shall appear unto many” (v. 25)
Samuel’s prophecy that many graves would be opened and would yield up their dead at the time of Christ’s resurrection was literally fulfilled (v. 25). When the Savior visited the Nephites following his resurrection, he commanded that Samuel’s prophecy, hitherto overlooked by the record keeper, should be recorded. (3 Nephi 23:9–13).
The Consequences of Agency
“[People] bring upon themselves their own condemnation” (Helaman 14:29–31). It is essential that we be “permitted to act for [our]selves” so we will be accountable for our choices. We are not “victims” or “things to be acted upon,” but children of God with agency who came to earth to make choices and learn from them (2 Nephi 2:26).
Elder Richard G. Scott said, “Parents, don’t make the mistake of purposefully intervening to soften or eliminate the natural consequences of your child’s deliberate decisions to violate the commandments. Such acts reinforce false principles, open the door for more serious sin, and lessen the likelihood of repentance.”6
We are free to choose and God will not force us to heaven, but we cannot escape the consequences of our choices. And Satan has nothing to offer but misery (2 Nephi 2:27).
THE RESPONSE TO SAMUEL’S MESSAGE
The Differing States of the Nephites and Lamanites
The cursed state of the Nephites despite their many blessings (Helaman 15:1–3).
The blessed state of the Lamanites, who had been converted by the Nephites’ efforts and now exceed the Nephites’ righteousness (Helaman 15:4–9).
Samuel prophesied of the coming “day of the Lamanite” (Helaman 15:10–13). President Spencer W. Kimball said, “The day of the Lamanite is here and the gospel brings opportunity. Millions . . . must have the emancipating gospel. Millions in Ecuador, Chile, and Bolivia serve in menial labor, eking out bare subsistence from soil and toil. They must hear the compelling truths. Millions through North America are deprived, untrained, and achieving less than their potential. They must have the enlightening gospel. It will break their fetters, stir their ambition, increase their vision, and open new worlds of opportunity to them. . . . May the Lord bless us all as we become nursing parents unto our Lamanite brethren and hasten the fulfillment of the great promises made to them.”7
The Nephites Reject the Words of Samuel
The Nephites tried to kill him, but couldn’t (Helaman 16:1–3). Nephi also taught and preached to the Nephites, baptizing those who believed (Helaman 16:4–5). But most of the Nephites did not believe (Helaman 16:6). Satan had great hold upon their hearts, and their objections were familiar antichrist themes: (1) “He hath a devil,” (2) his claims are not logical, and (3) he is seeking to gain power over the people. In about 38 years these same people would weep and lament, “O that we had repented” (3 Nephi 8:25).
Elder Richard L. Evans said, “A prophet is seldom popular, and the cost of being a prophet is always great, for he may be called upon to say those things which are not pleasing, . . . and he may find himself fighting against a tide of mass-misconception, and, as history records, be stoned, crucified, banished, ridiculed, shunned, or rejected. For the truth is not pleasing unto all men, and time has proved that majorities are not always right. . . . It is not important that a prophet should say those things with which you and I are in full accord. But it is important that you and I should bring ourselves into full accord with those things which a prophet speaks by virtue of his office and calling.”8
Samuel the Lamanite fled from them and returned to his own people (Helaman 16:7–8). He was never heard from again among the Nephites (v. 8). President Spencer W. Kimball said, “Has the world ever seen a more classic example of indomitable will, of faith and courage than that displayed by Samuel the Prophet . . . ? Visualize, if you can, this despised Lamanite standing on the walls of Zarahemla and while arrows and stones were shot at him, crying out to his white accusers that the sword of justice hung over them. So righteous was he that God sent an angel to visit him. His predictions were fulfilled in due time relating to the early coming of Christ, his ministry, death and resurrection, and the eventual destruction of these Nephite people. So great faith had he that the multitudes could not harm him until his message was delivered and so important was his message that subsequently the Savior required a revision of the records to include his prophecies concerning the resurrection of the Saints.”9
Many signs and wonders began to appear, as promised (2 BC) (Helaman 16:12–14). Despite these signs, most of the people disbelieved (Helaman 16:15–21). Except for the most believing among them, they were arrogant—depending only upon their own strength and wisdom—and they belittled, complained, denied, criticized, and stirred up fear. Satan “stirred them up to do iniquity continually. . . spreading rumors and contentions upon all the face of the land, that he might harden the hearts of the people against that which was good and. . .that which should come” (Helaman 16:22–25).
1. In Conference Report, October 1970, 152–153; Improvement Era, December 1970, 126–127.
2. In Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 152.
3. Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. , 1:79.
4. In Conference Report, Apr. 1971, 24; Ensign, June 1971, 36.
5. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 255–256.
6. Ensign, May 1993, 32–34.
7. Faith Precedes the Miracle , 358.
8. “Being a Prophet,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1939, 672.
9. In Conference Report, April 1949, 109.