Helaman died in the last chapter and now his son Nephi takes the judgment seat. It is a time of great strife for the Nephites, because of inner discord. There is much contention in the church and much dissension in their nation that leads to bloodshed among their own.
The Nephites slay most of the dissenters—those that do not support freedom—but the ones left run to the Lamanites. This seems to be a pattern. When an enlightened people rebel against that which they have been taught, they run to their former enemies and unite with them.
The Lamanites don’t listen to the dissenters at first. They’re still scared of the power and might of the Nephites. But two years later, more dissenters arrive. They succeed in stirring up the Lamanites to battle and they succeed in obtaining Zarahemla—the Nephite capital—and all the lands by Bountiful, where Moronihah stations his army.
This shows how our spiritual enemies will never stop stirring up others to hatred against us. They never stop fighting, so we can’t ever think we’re “safe” and let down our guards. We must always stay spiritually strong, so a surprise attack from the dark side doesn’t knock us down and wound our faith in Jesus Christ.
Two years into this war, the Lamanites have possession of many of the southern lands. Moronihah’s armies are fighting hard to recover lost ground, but they only succeed in regaining half of it.
Now this great loss of the Nephites, and the great slaughter which was among them, would not have happened had it not been for their wickedness and their abomination which was among them; yea, and it was among those also who professed to belong to the church of God.”Helaman 4:11
Again, Mormon notes the wickedness of the church members. In the last post, I talked bluntly about looking for pride in myself and how painful, but necessary, that is for each of us to do. I believe the devil is a master manipulator. He can twist our good, righteous desires just enough to allow pride to creep into our minds and hearts. This led to so much grief, bloodshed, and heartache for the Nephites.
It’s easy to point out pride in others.
It’s much harder to see it in ourselves, unless we pray for humility.
When we do this, God helps us see our weaknesses, our pride. This leads to sincere repentance, which leads to the marvelous, enabling power of the Christ’s Atonement working in our lives, making weak things become strong, cleansing pride from our hearts and filling us with humility and love.
And it was because of the pride of their hearts, because of their exceeding riches, yea, it was because of their oppression to the poor, withholding their food from the hungry, withholding their clothing from the naked, and smiting their humble brethren upon the cheek, making a mock of that which was sacred, denying the spirit of prophecy and of revelation, murdering, plundering, lying, stealing, committing adultery, rising up in great contentions, and deserting away into the land of Nephi, among the Lamanites.”Helaman 4:12
Pride always leads to persecuting those you see as beneath you.
It leads to all the other sins outlined above. It is important to point out that riches are not what is evil. It is the love of riches over mankind and God.
When we hoard our bounty, unwilling to share with others, judging the poor as deserving of their fate, persecuting them—even as a nation by closing our walls and ripping apart families and hounding those in dire circumstances—we are not worthy of God’s blessings. He will not support us individually or as a nation, if we do not side with mercy and love.
When pride leads us to hate, calling other groups names, vilifying and making scapegoats of those who don’t believe as us, God will leave us unto our own strength, just as he did the Nephites when they refused to repent.
And because of this their great wickedness, and their boastings in their own strength, they were left in their own strength; therefore they did not prosper, but were afflicted and smitten, and driven before the Lamanites, until they had lost possession of almost all their lands.”Helaman 4:13
How sad. Just a few years before they had been a mighty nation. And only in a few years’ time, they almost lose everything because they were lifted up in wicked pride. Sounds a lot like today.
Moronihah doesn’t just rely on the sword. He preaches to the people. Helaman’s sons, Nephi and Lehi, also preach repentance to the people.
And it came to pass that they did repent, and inasmuch as they did repent they did begin to prosper.”Helaman 4:15
I love how immediate God blesses us when we repent. Maybe our physical circumstances don’t change right away—there are consequences we must pay—but His immediate goodness in lifting our hearts, cleansing our souls, and healing our lives starts immediately with sincere repentance.
For when Moronihah saw that they did repent he did venture to lead them forth from place to place, and from city to city, even until they had regained the one-half of their property and the one-half of all their lands. (16)Helaman 4:16
It is interesting to note that they didn’t recover all they had lost.
When we sin, we lose out on blessings that could have come to us had we not chosen to turn away from God.
If the Nephites hadn’t boasted in their strength and sinned, they wouldn’t have lost almost all their lands to the enemy. Their late repentance blessed them, but it didn’t restore all their lands. Only half of them. When we break laws, we have to pay a price. Jesus Christ has paid the spiritual price for every sin we could commit, but there are still physical laws in place here on earth that bring consequences for all our choices.
…Therefore Moronihah did employ all his armies in maintaining those parts which he had taken.”Helaman 4:19
Sin always sets us back. But repentance and using Christ’s atoning power gets us back on our feet for a second chance. When we repent, we need to employ all our energy and desires in maintaining our spiritual strongholds we do have. Build those up. If we keep on the right path of covenant-keeping with God, He can restore ALL. But He will test us to see if we really stand with Him—always.
The Nephites begin to see their true spiritual and physical state. They realize they have become weak because they have sinned and broken God’s commandments. They have trampled His laws under their feet in the pride of their hearts.
And because of their iniquity the church had begun to dwindle and they began to disbelieve in the spirit of prophecy and in the spirit of revelation; and the judgments of God did stare them in the face.”Helaman 4:23
They begin to see that they have “become weak, like unto their brethren, the Lamanites.” (24) The Spirit of the Lord has stopped preserving them.
Therefore the Lord did cease to preserve them by his miraculous and matchless power, for they had fallen into a state of unbelief and awful wickedness…and except they should cleave unto the Lord their God they must unavoidably perish.”Helaman 4:25
If we do not consistently, daily, rely on the Lord and seek His Spirit, the same can happen to us, “in the space of not many years.” (26) Pride can slip into our hearts and turn us from God.
Faith is either growing stronger or getting weaker, because of pride. It doesn’t stay stagnant. We must fight daily to keep pride out of our lives, so we are not left to our own strength…which is weak.