glad tidings
Week 36 is scheduled for study August 31-September 6, 2020. Samuel’s original message to the Nephites was one of glad tidings about the Savior’s coming. Unfortunately, the hardness of their hearts caused Samuel to have to proclaim the ultimate rejection and destruction of their society. I am sure that was a message delivered with a heavy heart.

Day 1

Helaman 13 – The Lord gives warnings through His prophets.

As you record your impressions this week, think about how the principles in Helaman 13-16 build on and reinforce other things you have been learning in the scriptures.

I have written several articles on various patterns we can observe from the Lord’s behavior. I recommend you read the latest of these articles to begin today’s lesson. When the Lord gives us warnings, and especially when He gives us warnings of our destruction, there is a pattern He has set up that He always follows. He warns. He waits to see if we change. He warns again. He waits again. If we don’t change then destruction follows. In this article I use this week’s reading as a prime example of how this pattern plays out. And it sometimes plays out through the ministry of more than one prophet simultaneously. In this week’s reading, Nephi and Samuel were contemporaries with each other. Nephi was sent to warn the Nephites to repent, but because they refused to repent, it was Samuel who gave them the final verdict of impending destruction.

Two types of prophesy

When reading this week’s lessons, it occurred to me that there are at least two kinds of prophecy. Many times the prophets tell us of what is to come. That is the first kind of prophecy we think of. But a second kind of prophecy that can accomplish the same thing is for a prophet to tell us how to live so we are prepared for what is to come. This is the type of prophecy that is most prevalent in the latter days. When was the last time the prophet told us of an impending doom rushing to meet us? I can’t remember a single time. But how many times have we been taught by the Brethren what behaviors we need to change, and how many times has the Church made changes years before those changes were needed, so when society changed we were already prepared for those changes?

A good example of this second kind of prophecy is the proclamation on the family given in the 1990’s. At the time it was given I wrinkled my brow and told my family I didn’t understand what the point was. We already knew that these were the gender roles of family members. It was common knowledge. But within 10 years the world had challenged gender roles, and churches that hadn’t already taken a stand on what our roles should be were left scrambling to defend traditional gender roles. Most succumbed to the world’s new definition, and that led to all sorts of unpleasantness in their theology and church structures. The Brethren had made the Lord’s church secure by defining gender roles well in advance.

How many times has President Nelson told us that we need to immerse ourselves in our scriptures, work on our testimonies, become comfortable with personal revelation, etc.? He was very clear when he told us that “now” was the time to become comfortable with personal revelation, because time was quickly running out. In less than a year we were hit with a pandemic that shut down public church going, leaving all of us to be independent learners, self directed Saints, and relying on our own abilities to receive revelation to know what to do next in an ever-changing society.

Right now the Lord’s mouthpiece is telling us what to do to be prepared for what is coming. This is a more mature spiritual approach to prophecy. To simply know what is coming doesn’t tell us how to be ready for what is coming. But to be ready for what is coming doesn’t require we know ahead of time what the exact events are going to be. Whatever happens we will have the spiritual capacity and maturity to handle the events. Why? Because we listened to our prophet and implemented his instructions from the Lord when they were given ahead of time.

Day 2

Helaman 13-15 – The Lord is merciful to those who repent.

As you record your impressions this week, think about how the principles in Helaman 13-16 build on and reinforce other things you have been learning in the scriptures.

There is an aspect of Samuel’s message to the Nephites that can be a little confusing. Samuel’s original mission was to come and bear the glad tidings of the Savior’s coming to the people. The Lord knew that when Samuel went to the Nephites they would reject his message, but then the message was mainly for those who were repentant and had soft hearts. There weren’t too many of those in the city of Zarahemla, so they threw Samuel out of town.

The Nephite’s had already been warned through Nephi’s ministry of impending destruction if they didn’t repent. When Samuel came to them a second time his message was mainly two fold.

First – He was there to tell them that their day of grace AS A PEOPLE was over. He was sent to tell them that the Lord had tired of their constant return to wickedness, so in 400 years their society would be destroyed. That message was non-negotiable. The decision had been made, and their coming end as a civilization was declared by the Lord. Actually, He had already shown this very destruction to Nephi, son of Lehi, in the beginning of the Book of Mormon. This is why Nephi mourned, because he had seen the final destruction of his posterity. The Lord’s promise of the end of their society can be found in Helaman 13:8-10, 38. It actually takes up the whole chapter, but these are the juicy bits.

Therefore, thus saith the Lord: Because of the hardness of the hearts of the people of the Nephites, except they repent I will take away my word from them, and I will withdraw my Spirit from them, and I will suffer them no longer, and I will turn the hearts of their brethren against them.

And four hundred years shall not pass away before I will cause that they shall be smitten; yea, I will visit them with the sword and with famine and with pestilence.

10 Yea, I will visit them in my fierce anger, and there shall be those of the fourth generation who shall live, of your enemies, to behold your utter destruction; and this shall surely come except ye repent, saith the Lord; and those of the fourth generation shall visit your destruction.

38 But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head.

Have you ever wondered about why the Lord would promise destruction that wouldn’t come for four centuries? Who is going to care about what will happen 400 years from now? We would all be long since dead and buried. Interestingly enough, Joseph of Egypt was also told that his people would remain in bondage for 400 years. Why? Because the people they were going to kill and take their land would take 400 years before they were fully ripe in iniquity and needed to be destroyed. The children of Israel couldn’t inherit the land until its current occupants were fully ripe and needed to be destroyed. I just thought that was an interesting comparison, since in both cases there was a 400 year wait time.

Second – Does this mean that no one can repent during that 400 years? Are they all doomed to have wicked lives just because the Lord had already publicly announced the coming end of their civilization? Of course not. The Lord has always welcomed with open arms those who repent. The blessings for those who repented at this time would be the same as those who repent in any other time period throughout history. In fact, the most righteous Nephites and Lamanites to ever live, ever, would live during this 400 year period.

All the Lord is saying to the Nephites is that, as a people, they have failed to live up to His commandments. From the very beginning the Lord had told Nephi that if they did not serve God they would be swept off the land when they were fully ripe. All Samuel was telling them was that, as a people, the Nephites had now proven to the Lord that they couldn’t maintain a state of obedience. Over and over again, for 600 years, they proved they would revert back to wickedness. So despite God’s efforts to redeem His people, they would continue to reject their Savior. This is why Samuel was sent to give them their final notice of eviction. But as is always important to note, his message was loaded with current invitations to turn and come to God and be saved. The invitation and promises of blessings is never taken away until it is rejected by one and all and the people are no longer able to repent, for they have sinned away their day of grace by wholeheartedly embracing evil.

Blessings of Third Nephi

We don’t really see a dramatic display of the Lord’s mercy to the penitent here in these verses. It does tell us that many heard Samuel and believed. They went to find Nephi, who was still laboring to convert the Nephites, and asked him for baptism. The Lord accepted all of them. They were just as blessed as anyone else who repents and turns to the Lord, whether early in life or late in life. The Lord doesn’t care when it happens, only that it does happen. He has always been no respecter of persons, meaning it doesn’t matter to Him who we are, when we live, or when we choose to turn to Him. His only care is that it happens.

The main display of God’s mercy and love will come in the Book of Third Nephi when the Savior visits the Americas after his resurrection. But true to form, the Lord was just as loving to those in Samuel’s/Nephi’s day as he would be when he made his own appearance 30+ years from Samuel’s sermon. One of the great testimonies of God and His Son is the consistency of their love and acceptance of anyone who wants to repent.

Day 3

Helaman 14; 16:13-23 – Signs and wonders can strengthen the faith of those who do not harden their hearts.

As you record your impressions this week, think about how the principles in Helaman 13-16 build on and reinforce other things you have been learning in the scriptures.

If signs and wonders are used as a reward for the faithful, why would the Lord make such an effort to provide all these unbelieving Nephites and Lamanites with signs about the Savior’s birth? The most obvious reason is given in the scriptures. They are given so that the people would have overwhelming physical proof of what the prophets had been teaching them for all their past centuries. This wasn’t something small. This event was the biggest event in the history of all of God’s earthly creations. His Son, the Christ, Himself was being born into mortality, and for the express purpose to die for our sins and bring us the gift of resurrection so we can return to the presence of God. Without this one all-important life and what he would accomplish, we would all be left to be servants of Satan for all eternity.

Think of the signs and wonders God performed in the heavens for the sake of letting everyone know that Christ was being born like you think of why we have parades to celebrate big things, like our country’s independence. The Lord was putting on a show for all His children that was meant to impress and help us know that the time of our deliverance was here, even at the door. Never before, and never after this time would the Lord put on such a demonstration for His covenant children. As far as I know, not until the day Christ returns will we see such wonders as the Nephites were about to see with the birth of Jesus. There will be signs and wonders in the heavens, according to the scriptures, but I don’t know how they will compare with what is described in the Book of Mormon.

Personal signs

The Lord doesn’t just do the big and the grand. He usually does the personal. Salvation comes to us one at a time, just as testimony comes to us one at a time. Peace also comes to us one at a time. So when the Lord gives signs and wonders, most often those will be personal revelations, personal witnesses, and intimate realizations of gospel truths.

Even though the Lord gave the people grand signs in the heavens, because of the hardness of their hearts they explained them away as mistakes, flukes of nature, and after seeing many of them they became so accustomed to them that they felt they were no longer “special.” But to the righteous, when the Lord manifests something to our soul, and we accept it for the miracle that it is, such witnesses become life changing and faith promoting. This is what they are meant to accomplish, for the Lord never does anything just to show off or to do something. Everything has a purpose, and that purpose is always meant to affect good somewhere in someone.

One last note here about why the people rejected all the signs and wonders God sent to them. In Helaman 16:18 it says this:

18 That it is not reasonable that such a being as a Christ shall come; if so, and he be the Son of God, the Father of heaven and of earth, as it has been spoken, why will he not show himself unto us as well as unto them who shall be at Jerusalem?

It is always pride that Satan brings to the table. The people are offended that the Savior is appearing in Jerusalem and not among them. They feel they are every bit as good (in their case, as wicked) as those in Jerusalem. They make excuses for why he couldn’t possibly be real, for they are just as deserving of such a visit as those in far off Jerusalem. It is their pride that drives all their excuses and justifications for sin.

Day 4

Helaman 16 – Following the prophet’s counsel brings me closer to the Lord.

As you record your impressions this week, think about how the principles in Helaman 13-16 build on and reinforce other things you have been learning in the scriptures.

Spoiler alert! I ended yesterday’s lesson with the answer to today’s lesson. In the lesson for today is a quote from Elder Neil L. Andersen.

I have found that as I prayerfully study the words of the prophet of God and carefully, with patience, spiritually align my will with his inspired teachings, my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ always increases.”

My first reaction to this quote was “Why?” Why does this increase in faith take place? I answered this question with more questions. What happens to us when we humble ourselves and exercise patience with what the prophet requires of us? What happens inside of us when we soften our heart and work actively to align our feelings and our intentions with what the prophet of God has taught us? What is the result of prayerfully studying the words of the living prophet, and those past prophets of our dispensation and in the scriptures?

The answers to all these questions show us what is required to obtain a soft heart, one that can be led by the Spirit. It is only when our hearts are soft, our spirit humble, and our mind open to being taught, that the Lord is able to reveal the truths of salvation to us. These are the emotional states that create holiness within us. Humility, the desire to be and do what is right, and the yearning to learn the will of the Lord will bring us closer to God.

This is why the Nephites hardened their hearts and wouldn’t acknowledge all the signs and wonders give them by God at Christ’s birth. They were too proud to submit their will to the Lord. They refused to acknowledge the Lord’s servant as such, they felt imposed upon by the prophet’s instructions. This is why humility will draw us closer to God and pride will push us away from Him.

Think about how you react, how you feel, when the Lord’s prophet gives us instructions during General Conference or in a special letter to all the members of the Church? Do you feel put out? Are his words, his instructions an imposition? Is it inconvenient and a bother? Or do you feel humbled, excited, and even if it is difficult, you welcome the challenge to live up to the Lord’s expectations, because you believe that what the prophet has just declared truly is from the Lord?

FHE/Scripture Study

Helaman 13:38 – Two types of happiness

There are two types of happiness. The world teaches us that power, money, and social influence bring us happiness, for the lack of these things certainly makes us feel miserable. If being at the mercy of someone else more powerful is what makes us miserable then surely being the one with power must be what makes us happy. If poverty is a miserable way to live then having money, and being able to afford more of the things we want and like to have must make us happy. And if feeling like a nobody makes us feel small and unimportant then being socially influential and “important” must make us happy. Right?

What is missing in this definition of happiness is that this kind of happiness is based on only the physical realities of this earthly life. This kind of happiness is based on what we have and can do in relation to the world around us. This is a very limited kind of happiness. The drawback of this happiness is that it can be taken away in the blink of an eye. There is always someone with more money, more power, and more social influence. Our happiness in this kind of life is always precarious, and must be guarded and protected at all times, lest it slip away and leave us miserable.

The Lord’s kind of happiness is not based on how much money, power, nor influence we have in this world. The Lord’s happiness is based on our relationship with Him. When we focus on keeping the commandments we do good to others. For the men, magnifying their callings in the priesthood means to fulfill all the requirements of those callings. And every calling in the priesthood is based on service and doing good to others. It is when we do these things that the Lord rewards us with peace and contentment.

One thing that worldly happiness cannot give is peace and contentment. Those are generated from within, for they are based on eternal principles, eternal goals, and eternal laws. All earthly things end when our time on earth ends. But when we focus on all things eternal, it doesn’t really matter what happens in mortality, for mortality is fleeting and temporary. What we seek is lasting joy, not temporary happiness. For that we need joy that is based on eternal rules of happiness, the same kind of happiness God lives by.

It is when we keep the commandments, which means we are living godly lives of service and goodness, obedience and humility, that we begin to experience the kind of joy the commandments are meant to help us achieve. This kind of peace and contentment comes from Christ, and is only available to those who follow his will and receive his covenants. These are eternal virtues and eternal rewards. We can still be poor, even dirt poor, and be at peace with God and ourselves. We can be a social nobody, and it doesn’t matter, for we mean everything to our God. We can be powerless in the world, and life will be difficult, but we will still be at peace, because we are powerful in the Spirit.

Over and over again in the scriptures the prophets try to make this difference clear to the people. If we choose God over the world we will be happier, but over and over again the people pick what they can see with their physical eyesight, not their spiritual eyesight. It does indeed take a different kind of eyesight to see the advantages of following the Lord.

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BoM Week 36

(Helaman 13-16)