There are many important events in this week’s lesson. Kishkumen comes along and sets up the Gandianton robbers, there are great dissensions in the government and the church, as well as thousands getting baptized, and the church itself becomes divided because of pride. We also have a great sermon on founding our faith in Christ. I’ll be focusing more on the doctrine than on the historical aspects of these chapters, so be sure to read them to get caught up on all the intrigue.
Reading Assignment: Helaman 1-5.
Starting from the end
Let’s begin with Helaman 5:12. This verse talks about founding our faith in Christ. Actually, it says we need to found our faith “upon the rock of our Redeemer.” Here is the verse.
12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
This reminds us of the parable about the man who built his house upon either the rock or the sand. Interestingly enough though, this story wasn’t taught until the ministry of Christ, even though the prophets are teaching it a good 60 years before Christ’s ministry. But all this is just an aside. The real question is “What does it mean to found your faith upon the rock of our Redeemer?”
The Savior himself gives us the answer in his parable about the wise and foolish man. Here is his telling of it from 3 Nephi 14:24-27.
24 Therefore, whoso heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock—
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock.
26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them not shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand—
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it.
Our modern prophets have taught us that the rock Jesus refers to is the rock of revelation. Christ’s church is founded or based on revelation. Without revelation there is no church. So think about the philosophy of basing your life on the need for regular revelation. Regular revelation puts us in constant contact and communion with those who live in eternity. The Spirit, the Holy Ghost, is the great revelator. His purpose is to reveal the things of God to the children of men.
Our access to the Spirit, and hence our access to the knowledge of God and of all things of an eternal nature, depend on our ability to keep the Holy Ghost in our lives. With the Holy Ghost ever present in our lives we have access to the peace of God, the knowledge of God, the ability to discern right from wrong, and good from evil. This knowledge puts us on “firm” ground – like being on a rock.
When Satan tries to trick us with deceptive practices, false doctrine, deceitful philosophies of the world, when he tries to convince us we are unhappy obeying the word of God or following the Lord’s anointed leaders, or any other unholy thing he can concoct, we can rely on our source of comfort and wisdom to teach us what is actually true and what is laced with falsehoods.
When the Savior says that the foolish man built his house upon sand, think about the wisdom of the world. Those who rely on the wisdom of man are so sure of themselves, until someone else comes along and points out a piece of their wisdom that doesn’t work. So they rework their philosophy to include this knew knowledge, making it ever more complicated than what they started with. Eventually, they find they have to include everything in their philosophy, or nothing will work at all.
A current example of this is the marriage of gays. The prophets warned us that approving this practice would lead to some terrible consequences. But people argued the “reasonableness” of honoring a person’s love for another person, and did not include all of the ramifications of their argument. Now we have people openly using the exact same argument to support incestuous love. If a person should be free to choose their gender identity and to choose who they love, then why not a mother, father, brother, or sister as well? After all, if we are all consenting adults, etc., etc.
Do you see the slippery slope here? Where do you draw the line? This is what is meant by building your house upon the sand. When water or wind mixes with the sand, it shifts. Anything built upon it begins to slide or crumble. Only life built upon something sure and strong, immovable and impenetrable, can withstand the onslaughts of the wisdom of the world and the temptations of Satan.
How to build our foundation on the rock
Helaman taught his sons Nephi and Lehi that the only sure way to keep safe from Satan and his attacks on us is to build on that sure or safe foundation of Christ. Reread Helaman 5:12 I have printed above. Now read the first verse of 3 Nephi 14:24-27. Christ gives us the key in the first line. He says: “whoso heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock.”
When we do the things Jesus taught us to do, we are building our lives (our house, our destiny) upon his rock, his sure foundation. In other words, we are going to be secure when we obey the commandments. Our obedience invites the Spirit into our lives. Our deliberate choice to stay faithful to the commandments of God will open the windows of heaven and allow the Lord to pour blessings upon our heads.
The companionship of the Spirit is what brings wisdom, true wisdom into our lives. Here is Helaman 3:29-30. Mormon is teaching us the lessons to be learned from the disaster that is being made of the Nephite nation. At this time of pervasive wickedness, many thousands joined the church.
29 Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked—
30 And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out.
How to lay hold
To “lay hold upon the word of God” means to rely on it. To rely on the word of God we have to first read it, study it, and do all that we can to understand it. When we have done this we have to also live by it. Our lives must be governed by what is in the scriptures. This also includes the words of the living prophets. Are we being obedient to all that we know is required of us?
If we are being obedient to all that we know is required of us by the Lord either through the scriptures or through his servants then the promise in verse 29 can be ours. The Spirit will show us what is right, what is wrong, identify to us the snares and traps laid by those who listen to Satan. The “strait and narrow course” doesn’t allow a lot of wiggle room to choose evil and still be good. The Spirit will show us the path to take in our everyday behavior as we continue to seek his help and seek to be and do good at all times.
Make no mistake about it. Laying hold upon the word of God takes effort. But in a world of increasing instability, our only choice is to stay as close to the Spirit of God as we can. Only he can teach us how to be safe, how to implement the commandments of God in a world whose morals are either changing daily or being discarded outright. The wisdom of mankind has many arguments for why their way is best, but their track record is, and always has been set at zero wins.
Only the Lord has knowledge of the way to bring us home. If we put our faith in Christ we will be blessed with knowledge, wisdom, peace, and assurances that we are on the right path back to God, our Father. Trust in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus by repenting of any and all sins. Seek for ways to be and act like Christ each day. We are not perfect, but Christ doesn’t expect us to be perfect right now. All that is expected is that we be willing to repent as often as it is necessary to stay the course until our mortal lives are through.
Divisions in the church
The Nephite world was rocked with divisions. Satan seeks to split us apart. God tries to unite us. This is the way it has always been, and will always be, as long as mortality continues, and people listen to Satan. Helaman 3:33-36 talks about the pride that crept into the church and destroyed the peace they all enjoyed. Now peace had to be enjoyed on an individual basis, because as a whole, the church could not unite.
In verse 35 Mormon tells us that those who did lay hold upon the word of God received the blessings of righteousness. These are they who built their lives upon the rock, the sure foundation of Christ. They lived his gospel and reaped the benefits of that life.
35 Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.
The key to this verse is found in the phrase “yielding their hearts unto God.” This is the proof of what Mormon pointed out in verse 29 that those who lay hold upon the word of God are able to see the lies for what they are. They are able to perceive deception and recognize it for what it is. This is what he meant when he said the “word of God … is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil.”
This is the truth. Hold tight to the word of God, the scriptures and the teachings of the living prophets. Choose to deliberately live according to what God teaches us. Seek to be influenced daily by the Spirit. Pray often, and be believing. These are the things that will secure our lives on the rock of Christ, the revelations of God.