Book of Mormon Lesson 35 (Helaman 7–12)
THE PRIDE CYCLE
Mormon Illustrates a Repeating Pattern
Step 1: Righteousness, Peace and Prosperity
For three years the people lived in peace and growing prosperity. The majority of the Lamanites became a righteous people, and many Lamanite missionaries preached to both Nephites and Lamanites (Helaman 6:1–6). The result was complete peace, security, and prosperity (Helaman 6:7–14).
In 28 BC, Lamanite missionaries came down from their homeland in the land of Nephi and testified among the Nephites at Zarahemla concerning “the manner of their conversion, and did exhort them to faith and repentance” (v. 4). They preached with “exceedingly great power and authority” and brought many Nephites “into the depths of humility, to be the humble followers of God and the Lamb” (v. 5). After this, these Lamanite missionaries continued on to “the land northward” to continue their preaching, as did Nephi and Lehi (v. 6).
As a result of this preaching and repentance “there was peace in all the land,” allowing Nephites and Lamanites to freely co-mingle and enjoy “free intercourse one with another, to buy and to sell, and to get gain, according to their desire” (v. 8). The natural result of such peace was prosperity, and they all 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” (v. 9). The Book of Mormon here (v. 10) clarifies the names of the geographic regions in which these people lived:
All of the Nephite and Lamanite lands—north and south—were full of “all manner of gold . . . and of silver, and of precious ore of every kind” (v. 11). In their state of peace, their craftsmen were able to “work all kinds of ore and. . .refine it; and thus they did become rich” (v. 11).
Their agriculture also prospered, and they were able to “multiply and wax exceedingly strong in the land,” raising “many flocks and herds,” and making “all manner of cloth, of fine-twined linen” (vv. 12–13). These are the fruits of peace—something which we all wish for, but which escapes our grasp so long as we remain divided, oppressive to the needy, and war-like. Peace is the fruit of righteousness, and only the preaching of the word of God will bring it about. Only through mankind’s acceptance of the gospel of Jesus Christ will men and nations overcome the difficulties that seem to plague them in every age.
President David O. McKay said, “No peace, even though temporarily obtained, will be permanent unless it is built upon the solid foundation of eternal principles. . . . Men may yearn for peace, cry for peace, and work for peace, but there will be no peace until they follow the path pointed out by the living Christ.”1
Step 2: Pride and Wickedness
After the Nephites became prosperous, many of them began to forget God and seek after riches and other worldly things. All too often, when the Lord prospers people, Satan creeps into the hearts of the people and “lulls them into carnal security and leads them carefully down to hell” (2 Nephi 28:20–22).
President Ezra Taft Benson said, “Great civilizations have died by suicide. . . . We must never forget that nations may—and they usually do—sow the seeds of their own destruction while enjoying unprecedented prosperity.”2
Gadianton Robbers flourished again among the Nephites (Helaman 6:15–19). In the 66th year (26 BC), Cezoram, the chief judge, was murdered, and his son who succeeded him was also murdered. The Nephites began to “set their hearts upon their riches,” and the Gadianton robbers began to flourish (v. 17). Prosperity often leads to wickedness,
Characteristics of Secret Combinations (Helaman 6; Ether 8)
1. The devil is the inspiration and source of all such organizations. (vv. 26–30). Satan is the grand conspirator, the real organizer of all such organizations.
2. They display a wickedness “above all the wickedness of the whole earth.” (3 Nephi 9:9; Ether 8:18) While individuals may rob, steal, plunder, and murder, the truly vast crimes of mankind involve plunder and killing on a national or an international scale involving millions of lives.
3. They flourish and thrive when the majority of the people are wicked and seek to benefit from the spoils of such wickedness (vv. 38, 21).
4. Secrecy is one of the basic operating tenets of such organizations (vv. 22, 25, 26).
5. Their secrecy also involves covenant making—a vow to maintain the secret of the conspiracy (vv. 22, 25, 26).
6. Their objectives are power or gain or both. (v. 38; Ether 8:22; Moses 5:31–33). Since the government is a source of great power, it is not surprising that often the target of their action is to take over the reins of government. (Helaman 1:1–4; 2:4, 5; Ether 9:1–6; 13:18).
7. They use immorality, money, and violence to achieve their ends, including assassinations of government leaders to bring their own people to power (vv. 15, 17; Ether 8:10).
8. The only way to stamp them out, once they are established and begin to flourish, is through conversion of the people to righteousness. (v. 37; 3 Nephi 5:4–6).
The Lamanites responded to the Gadianton robbers by teaching the gospel to them (Helaman 6:20–21). The Nephites responded by joining with them in their corruption, and the “more part” of the Nephites’ corruption came within one year (Helaman 6:32). The Spirit “withdrew from the Nephites,” while the Lord “poured out his Spirit upon the Lamanites” (Helaman 6:35–36).
A similar situation exists in our own day (D&C 1:31–35). Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “Now because of the wickedness of the world, that Spirit [of Christ] has been withdrawn, and when the Spirit of the Lord is not striving with men, the spirit of Satan is. . . . The conditions prophesied in D&C 1:35 have been realized.”3
As a result of the Nephites’ support of the Gadianton robbers, they lost control of their government to the Gadianton band and ripened for an everlasting destruction (Helaman 6:39–40).
Godless terrorists care not a whit about the poor and oppressed. The Gadiantons during this period of Book of Mormon history “did trample under their feet and smite and rend and turn their backs upon the poor and the meek” (v. 39). The Book of Mormon records that the Nephites “were in an awful state, and ripening for an everlasting destruction” under these conditions (v. 40).
The Lord Sends Nephi to Preach Repentance
The Nephites rejected the words of Nephi when he returned from his mission and called them to repentance (Helaman 7:1–3).
General Corruption in Government: The Gadianton robbers, similar to organized criminals and terrorists today, controlled the government. They usurped power and set aside the commandments of God (Helaman 7:4–6).
The Reason: Secret societies flourished among the Nephites because of the general wickedness of the people (Helaman 2:13–14). Ultimately secret societies proved the destruction of the Nephite civilization.
Nephi sorrowed over his people and prayed from his tower that was in his garden, which was by the highway that led to the chief market of Zarahemla (Helaman 7:6–12).
Nephi challenged the people to repent and told them why God had forsaken them (Helaman 7:15–16), and he explained why wicked people allow wicked rulers to govern them (Helaman 7:18–21).
President Ezra Taft Benson said, “The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich. The learned may feel the prophet is only inspired when he agrees with them; otherwise, the prophet is just giving his opinion—speaking as a man. The rich may feel they have no need to take counsel of a lowly prophet.”4
When Nephi rebuked them for their wickedness—many remained unrepentant (Helaman 8:1–10). Nephi cited the many witnesses of the Savior (Helaman 8:11–24), including Moses’ brazen serpent in the wilderness, which symbolized the saving power of Christ (vv. 13–15; Numbers 21:6–9, John 3:14–16).
The Nephites were now ripening for destruction (Helaman 8:24–27). By prophecy, Nephi revealed an assassination plot against their chief judge (Helaman 8:27–28). Five men verified the correctness of Nephi’s prophecy, and were arrested for murder. They protested their innocence (Helaman 9:1–15). The judges arrested Nephi and accused him of the murder, knowing full well that one of their own compatriots had committed the murder (Helaman 9:16–23).
Nephi provided another prophetic sign by which the real murderer—Seantum, the brother of Seezoram—could be identified (Helaman 9:24–36). Seantum confessed to murdering his brother, the chief judge (Helaman 9:37–38 ).
The people debated whether Nephi was a prophet or a god (Helaman 9:39–10:1). Then they left him standing alone (v. 39). There were some of the Nephites who believed on the words of Nephi and said he was a prophet (v. 40), while others said he was a god (v. 41).
The Steadfastness of Nephi
The Lord blessed Nephi commended his unwearyingness and steadfast service to God (Helaman 10:4–5). Nephi received the sealing power. Nephi was promised he would be blessed forever. He would be made mighty in word and deed, and the Lord would grant him anything he asked because he knew Nephi would ask nothing contrary to his will (Helaman 10:6–1).
Step 3: Unrepentant Nephites Face Warfare and Famine (Helaman 10:2–11:6).
Calamities humble people (v. 4). Nephi fought the destructive works of the Gadianton robbers by calling for a famine to humble the people (vv. 5–8). Nephi’s prayer was answered (v. 7). They repented, but it was not lasting. Their hearts were set on worldly things and they never really became righteous (Helaman 12:3).
In these last days, the Lord will also teach the people of the world through disasters, both natural and man-made (D&C 45:29–33). Calamities will also be sent to cleanse and purify the earth of evil (D&C 88:88–91).
Step 4: Humility and Repentance
The Lord answered Nephi’s prayer to end the famine (Helaman 11:10–17). The people were blessed once again for their faithfulness (Helaman 11:20–21).
The Cycle Repeats
After a short-lived period of humility and righteousness (13 BC), the people begin to contend about doctrine. Nephi, Lehi, and their brethren put an end to this by teaching “true points of doctrine” (Helaman 11:22–23).
Dissenters among the Lamanites started a terrorist guerilla war against the Nephites (12 BC). Nephi and his brethren helped the people repent and turn to the Lord (Helaman 11:24–27). The Nephites fought against the terrorists with very little success (12 BC) (Helaman 11:28–34).
The following year (11 BC), they “did go forth again against this band of robbers, and did destroy many; and they were also visited with much destruction” (v. 30). They were “obliged to return out of the wilderness and out of the mountains unto their own lands, because of the exceeding greatness of the numbers of those robbers who infested the mountains and the wilderness” (v. 31).
This was classic terrorism, of the kind that we are all to familiar in our own day. The terrorists “did still increase and wax strong, insomuch that they did defy the whole armies of the Nephites, and also of the Lamanites; and they did cause great fear to come unto the people upon all the face of the land” (v. 32). They caused “great destruction” among them in “many parts of the land,” and “did carry away others captive into the wilderness. . .more especially their women and their children” (v. 33).
This evil came upon them because of their wickedness (Helaman 11:35). It had taken only three (11 BC) years for the entire cycle of pride to occur among them. Two years later, the Nephites “began again to forget the Lord their God” and this time they do not repent (Helaman 11:36–38).
Comparisons to our own day can be found throughout this period of Nephite history, and Moroni spoke plainly of the seriousness of our situation (Ether 8:23–26). Can there be any doubt that the Book of Mormon was written for our day?
Conclusions About the Pride Cycle
Mormon’s summary: The Lord blesses and prospers those who trust him (Helaman 12:1–7). Then they sometimes harden their hearts and reject God “because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity” (vv. 4–7). We are “less than the dust of the earth” because the dust of the earth obeys God (Helaman 12:8–17). Mormon also explained how people can break away from the pride cycle (Helaman 12:23–24; Alma 62:48–51).
— The fate of those who disobey (Helaman 12:25–26).
— The fate of those who repent and obey the Lord (Helaman 12:23–24, 26).
President Gordon B. Hinckley said about the Book of Mormon, “No other written testament so clearly illustrates the fact that when men and nations walk in the fear of God and in obedience to his commandments, they prosper and grow, but when they disregard him and his word, there comes a decay that, unless arrested by righteousness, leads to impotence and death.”5
1. The Improvement Era, October 1960, 703.
2. A Nation Asleep ; 13, 20.
3. The Predicted Judgments, 5–6.
4. The Teachings of President Ezra Taft Benson , 138.
5. In Conference Report, Oct. 1979, 10; or Ensign, Nov. 1979, 8.