Book of Mormon Lesson 33
“A Sure Foundation”
A. Before we start the Book of Helaman I just wanted to say a few more words about Captain Moroni. The Book of Alma says that “if all men had been and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold the very powers of hell would have ben shaken for ever, yea the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.” No matter how much we study the scriptures and how deep into doctrine we immerse ourselves, the message we ultimately get often comes down to “who do I want to be like?” When we read the scriptures I ask my daughter, “who do you want to be like, Nephi or Laman?....Abinidi or King Noah?” I have a friend who was told by his mother the whole time he was growing up, “everything you have seen your Grandpa Allred (her father) do, you do the opposite and you’ll be OK.” (She’d had a hard childhood.) How do you want to be described when you’re gone? Like Captain Moroni or Grandpa Allred?
B. The Book of Helaman.
1. We are starting the Book of Helaman today. It starts out with Helaman, the son of Helaman, the son of Alma, the son of Alma as prophet.
a. We once again see how important Abinidi’s mission the people of King Noah was (although it didn’t turn out to well for him.) Already 4 generations of leaders of leaders of the church have come from his preaching.
C. Today we will be introduced to Kishkuman and Gadianton. We will hopefully learn how to avoid secret combinations.
II. Succession problem.
A. Pahoran died (he is the one to whom Moroni sent the nasty letter). He had 3 sons that contended for the judgement seat. (We see that although this is described as a democracy, the people still acted as though it were a monarchy - the got to choose from one of Pahoran’s sons).
1. Notice that Pahoran had one of those families where they named all their kids with the same first letter - his sons were Pahoran, Paanchi and Pacumeni. (His other sons were named Pedro and Paco.)
2. Pahoran was chosen chief judge. Pacumeni gave up his claim to the judgement seat.
3. But Paanchi was a sore loser. He rose up in rebellion against his brother and was arrested and executed.
4. We see that this seemingly minor succession crisis will eventually lead to the downfall of the whole Nephite Nation.
B. Followers of Paanchi were angry at their inability to gain power.
1. They had an assassin named Kishkuman dispatched to the judgement seat and he killed Pahoran. Kishkuman was pursued but not caught.
2. He returned to his fellow conspirators and they swore an oath of silence. Read Helaman 1:11.
a. Does it seem strange that such a wicked group would swear by their God?
b. Many evil groups have religion at their pretext.
i. The word Assassin comes from a religious group who killed for political and religious gain in the medieval Islamic world.
iii. Burning saints in the Mafia.
c. What is the significance of this oath? It is the beginning of the Gadianton Robbers.
d. When one person does something evil it does not always make a big impact. But when he gets protection from others it can make societies fall.
3. When I had been on my mission in South Texas for about a year I was zone leader in Brownsville, Tx. We went to a mission conference and as part of the program each zone leader got up and reported their zone’s baptisms from the previous month. I had a greeny companion and we had worked very hard and had baptized a family of 3 that month. But no one else in my zone had baptisms. I got up and reports our success, which was not stellar, but not bad. Then the other zone leaders got up and reported 20-30 baptisms. That was very unusual for our mission. If a zone had 7 that was a usually a good month. I wondered what was going on. After the conference I noticed several of the other zone leaders hanging around together with their heads close together, talking to each other but not to me. Some of them had been my companions and friends before and I felt a little left out. I wondered what they were doing to have such great success. A few months later I found out. There was a popular book for missionaries in the 1980s, written by a prominent LDS leader. It advocated a “big net” strategy of missionary work - get them all in then sort them out. It was interpreted by some as justifications of “day baptism” - meeting people, teaching them the basics of the gospel, and then taking them down to any body of water and baptizing them, even before they had been to church. That is what these guys in the other zones were doing. When the local leaders started complaining that they had never met the people that were now on their ward lists, the elders started destroying the pink slips that went to the wards so they never heard about them. If it had only been one missionary companionship that was doing this the damage would have been small. But there were 15-20 missionaries conspiring to do this and keeping it secret. Before long, because they had the protection of secrecy, they began to break other mission rules. They decided to take a road trip to Monterey, Mexico with some “investigators” who happened to be 18-19 year old girls. Because they had limited miles on their mission cars they disconnected the odometers (breaking a federal law). Then, since they already had unlimited miles and the protection of secrecy they started driving all around Texas and Mexico and getting together as often as they liked. They finally got together at a club at South Padre Island with some “investigators.” They started drinking and hooking up with girls and finally several of them wee sent home dishonorably for sexual immorality. It took our mission several years to recover from this disgrace. We can see from this example how easy it can be to enter into secret combinations and how dangerous and damaging they can be.
III. The Lamanites come against the Nephites.
A. The Lamanites take advantage of the unrest among the Nephites.
1. The king of the Lamanites was Tubuloth - son of Ammoron and Nephew of Amaliki.
2. The Lamanite Army was lead by Coriantumr, another Nephite dissenter.
3. Joseph Smith said: the Messiah’s kingdom on earth is of the kind of government, that there has always been numerous apostates.....Strange as it may appear at first thought, yet it is no less strange than true, that notwithstanding all the professed determination to live godly, apostates after turning from the faith of Christ, unless they have speedily repented, have sooner or later fallen into the snares of the wicked one, and have been left destitute of the Spirit of God, to manifest their wickedness in the eyes of multitudes. From the apostates the faithful have received the severest persecutions....When once that light which is in them is taken from them, they become as much darkened as they were previously enlightened, and then, no marvel, if all their power should be enlisted against the truth, and they, Judas like, seek the destruction of those who were their greatest benefactors.”
B. The Nephites were only fortified in the perimeters of the land. Once the Lamanites broke through these fortifications it was as easy for them to conquer Zarahemla as it was for Hitler to march into Paris.
1. But once they did this they were surrounded and could not retreat. So they finally surrendered.
IV. Helaman becomes chief judge.
A. Helaman became chief judge. Things have come full circle. Remember that his grandfather Alma gave up the judgement seat to be full time leader of the church and missionary. Now Helaman has become chief judge and leader of the church - presumably because there was no one else to do the job.
B. Read Helaman 2:3-5
1. We are introduced to Gadianton
2. Helaman had his own intelligence service and one of his spies kills Kishkuman and alerts Helaman to the plan to assassinate him.
3. Gadianton realizes that Kishkuman is not coming back and takes his band and flees.
4. Read Helaman 2:12-14.
a. How did the Gadianton Robbers lead to the end of the Nephites?
b. Are there groups like this today?
5. When I was in college I was a teaching assistant for a research psychology class. My professor warned us to pay close attention to the frat boys because they had very well organized cheating networks. They had files at their frat houses of papers they could copy for different classes. One of my friends who was in a fraternity told me he and a friend took a class together and just took turns studying for the tests and the other would just copy the others. He also told me how one of his frat buddies payed him $500 to take and entire Spanish class for him. This isn’t killing or stealing, but it is in the same spirit as the Gadianton Robbers.
A. Chapter 3 of Helaman talks about the Nephite’s expanding and migrating. Until now they were in a very small area. It is from this chapter that we get some of the hints to Book of Mormon geography, for better or for worse.
VI. Pride enters the Church.
A. Read Helaman 3:34.
1. Is pride a problem in the church today?
2. Should church membership ever be a status symbol?
a. Recent statistics came out that showed members of the LDS church were right in the middle among religious groups in education and wealth. We are solidly middle class. (The Marriotts and Romneys didn’t pull us up enough.) That bothered me for a while. I thought as a group we would be more educated and affluent. I had to check myself and realize that this was my own pride. I was worried about how my affiliation with the church affected my social standing. We should be in the church only to become better people, to serve others and for our salvation - no for what it does for us socially.
3. Hugh Nibley said: “The worse offenders in those days were ‘those who professed to belong to the church of God. And it was because of the pride of their hearts, because of their exceeding riches, yea, of their oppression of the poor, withholding their substance from the hungry,’ and so on that ‘in the space of not many years’ the Nephites were reduced to a sorry, materialistic people, hopelessly outnumbered by their enemies but with no inclination whatsoever to call upon God. ‘The voice of the people...chose evil,...therefore they were ripened for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted’”
B. How did the humble members react to this? Read Helaman 3:35.
1. There are many opportunities to be offended in the church. It is important that we not allow ourselves to be offended and leave the church to kick against the pricks.
VII. Nephi and Lehi’s missionary work
A. Helaman dies and Nephi becomes chief judge. (5th generation from Alma the Elder).
B. There were more dissensions and wars with the Lamanites.
C. The Lamanites conquer Zarahemla.
1. Where were the Nephites conquered? Read Helaman 4:11-13.
3. Elder Sterling W. Sill said: “in 1835 a French visitor, by the name of Alexis de Tocqueville, made a detailed study of our national operations. Later he wrote in his book: ‘America is great because she is good. And if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.’ (That was the last nice thing any Frenchman ever said about America) This is a divine law that applies to all nations and to all individuals. But it applies particularly to us, because our extraordinary power and our extraordinary mission give us extraordinary responsibilities.
VIII. Helaman Chapter 5.
A. Nephi gives up the judgement seat to be a missionary - just like his great-grandfather. He sets out with his brother Lehi.
B. Read Helaman 5:2
C. Nephi and Lehi remember the words of their father Helaman
1. Read Helaman 5:9
2. Read Helaman 5:12
3. On what foundation do we build our lives? Career? Education? The pursuit of wealth? The only “sure foundation” is Christ.
D. Nephi and Lehi have success teaching the Lamanites. This is the first time that the righteousness of the Lamanites exceeds that of the Nephites.
A. I hope today we have learned how to recognize and avoid secret combinations, apostasy and pride. I testify that it is only through building our lives around Christ that we can have peace in this world and salvation in the life to come. Amen.