The Lamanites have become more righteous than the Nephites, “because of their firmness and their steadiness in the faith.” (1) The Nephites, on the other hand, “had become hardened and impenitent and grossly wicked; insomuch that they did reject the word of God and all the preaching and prophesyings which did come among them.” (2)
They had once been the enlightened ones. God’s people. Now, in a huge turnabout, the Lamanites come to Zarahemla and preach to the Nephites about their conversion and urge them to repent.
Yea, and many did preach with exceedingly great power and authority, unto the bringing down many of them into the depths of humility, to be the humble followers of God and the Lamb.”Helaman 6:5
The church prospers and has joy in fellowship. Both peoples—Lamanite and Nephite—have “free intercourse one with another, to buy and to sell, and to get gain, according to their desire.” (8) As the church prospers, so do the people. Peace prevails and their economy booms.
It seems that the more wicked a people become, the more walls and barriers they place between themselves and others. This does nothing to build God’s kingdom here on earth.
Love and righteousness tear down walls between people.
A few years pass away in great peace and prosperity. (14) But then Cezoram, the chief judge, is murdered by an unknown assassin. (15) His son takes the judgment seat next, and he is also murdered. Corruption and secret combinations quickly get out of hand and the people fall prey to wickedness again. (16)
It never takes long for this to happen.
For behold, the Lord had blessed them so long with the riches of the world that they had not been stirred up to anger, to wars, nor to bloodshed; therefore they began to set their hearts upon their riches; yea, they began to seek to get gain that they might be lifted up one above another; therefore they began to commit secret murders, and to rob and to plunder, that they might get gain.”Helaman 6:17
Riches aren’t bad. But setting our hearts upon riches is. That leads us to believe we are better than others. It leads to pride.
Gadianton’s band of robbers grows and “were more numerous among the more wicked part of the Lamanites.” (18) The Lamanites sorrow because of this and “use every means in their power to destroy them off the face of the earth.” (20)
They refuse to grow comfortable with sin.
But the Nephites “unite with those bands of robbers, and did enter into their covenants and their oaths…” (21) It talks about how they “did have their signs, yea, their secret signs, and their secret words; and this that they might distinguish a brother who had entered into the [wicked] covenant…” (22)
Anything God uses to promote goodness and righteousness, Satan always makes a decoy. God has us make covenants and gives us signs and tokens and keywords to distinguish ourselves as His saints. Satan mimics this with gangs and secret bands united for evil purposes. They have their own signs and covenants and ways they distinguish each other.
I wonder if the devil uses subtle signs, slogans, apparel, and hashtags to entice regular good people to set themselves up above others in pride and political rivalries. Do we ever get worked up about what someone wears or doesn’t wear? Could Satan use simple everyday things like clothes or hats or other items to turn us against another?
Let’s be careful not to fall prey to the devil’s dividing tactics. Even good things can become bad when they lift us up in pride or hate. Let’s be careful not to fall behind worldly slogans or political causes that might make us hate our neighbor or believe we’re more enlightened or spiritual than them. That does nothing to build God’s kingdom here on earth.
God’s slogan should be the ONLY cause we get behind one hundred percent. And He calls us to love our enemies, do good to those that persecute us. He doesn’t tell us to dress in ways that offend others or rile them up. He asks us to unite. The devil stirs us up to hate and contention.
Mormon talks about how subtle and evil and skilled Satan is, and the history of the nations he has taken down by dividing tactics and getting them to follow him, instead of the Lord. Cain killing Abel. The Jaredites falling into sin and being totally wiped out through wars among themselves.
Satan is “the author of all sin.” (30) Evil can never be used to justify good causes or politics. Evil cannot build God’s kingdom.
What tactics do we use with others at work, in our homes, in our social lives? Are we Christlike? Do we uphold people who do their best to use Christlike tactics?
In one measly year, the Nephites almost all turn away from God and “trample under their feet the commandments of God, and did turn unto their own ways…” (31)
Am I guilty of turning unto my own ways, instead of trusting in God?
And thus we see that the Nephites did begin to dwindle in unbelief, and grow in wickedness and abominations, while the Lamanites began to grow exceedingly in the knowledge of their God; yea, they did begin to keep his statutes and commandments, and to walk in truth and uprightness before him.”Helaman 6:34
Because of their sinfulness, “the Spirit of the Lord began to withdraw from the Nephites.” (35) Their spirituality leaves them. Their power from God leaves them to their own selves.
Yet, I bet if we had been there among them, the Nephites wouldn’t have seen that God had withdrawn from them. I believe they would’ve cried out that they were the greatest nation on earth. Invincible. I bet they would’ve thought they were better than the Lamanites—who historically, had been their enemy and spiritually ignorant.
It is super hard to see our own sin or weaknesses, unless we are humble enough to turn to God, and be humble enough to ask Him to show us our sins. That can be a painful process.
Are we willing to look at ourselves, instead of pointing out the sins or errors of others? Are we willing to repent?
In comparison with the Nephites, the Lamanites sought to eradicate the wicked Gadianton’s from their midst, and “the Lord began to pour out his Spirit upon the Lamanites, because of their easiness and willingness to believe in his words.” (36)
Do I easily and willingly believe in God’s words? Or do I pick them apart and only believe the parts that are not hard for me to accept—and shun or ignore the parts that ask me to see my fallen nature and become humble before God? The parts that show me my sinfulness and my need to repent? The parts that ask me to do hard things that make me look unpopular?
The book of Helaman shows what happens when a people turns to sin, instead of to the Lord. God’s love never stops. He always loves us—even when we turn away from Him. But He can’t walk with us when we choose a path different than the one He has marked. When we leave Him, His Spirit withdraws and we become hardened by the world.
But when we acknowledge Him and keep his commandments and repent and turn to Him, God POURS out his Spirit upon us. To me, that image is glorious. I get more of the Spirit than I can even contain. He just doesn’t sprinkle a few drops into my life…He pours it on so I can feast upon the fruits of the Spirit.
The Lamanites hunt down the Gadianton’s and “preach the word of God among the more wicked part of them, insomuch that this band of robbers was utterly destroyed from among the Lamanites.” (37)
The Nephites however, “build them up and support them” (38). Those robbers take over their government. The people embrace their dark works and uphold them.
And thus they did obtain the sole management of the government, insomuch that they did trample under their feet and smite and rend and turn their backs upon the poor and the meek, and the humble followers of God.”Helaman 6:39
The Book of Mormon should be likened to our day. That’s how it can help us. In a very short period of time, the people went from a prosperous, joyous state where there was much economic growth and spiritual growth, to a time where the robbers gain sole control of the government and trample the laws of freedom, turning their back on the poor and needy, and hating and dividing, even among Church members.
Sounds eerily familiar to what’s happening right now. We’ve gone from a people who were strong, but are now divided into “tribes” and becoming weak.
Learn from the Lamanites
The Lamanites here are the ones we should emulate at this time in their history. They preached the gospel—not politics—to the robbers among them. Christ’s gospel is what eradicated that threat from among them. Preaching Republican ideals or Democrat ideals or whatever worldly political views or philosophies we hold onto won’t save our country or the world. In fact, preaching those philosophies above the teachings of Christ will cause more rifts and hate among us.
Yet, so many good, awesome people are doing exactly that!
Now, before I continue, let’s return to the Come Follow Me question in this week’s lesson. It asked what evidences of pride we see in the Nephites. Then it asked an even more important question…
Do you see similar examples of pride in yourself?
It’s super easy to spot pride in others. It takes humility and repentance to see it in ourselves.
It is good to be active in politics and other causes, but I’ve seen in myself how easily these contentious matters can lead to judgmental and prideful thoughts. We need to beware and check ourselves constantly against our spiritual Rock, our Savior. If He is our foundation–not a political party or social movement or even our family–we will be on firm ground. If we step away from Him, even a little, even for a good cause, we can easily find ourselves sinking in worldly quicksands.
In this time of turmoil, I have learned so much about myself and my Savior as I have turned to Him for peace and direction. I’ve been trying to remember to pray to Him each morning, and begging for the Spirit to be my constant companion–because I need constant guidance to discern between truth and error.
As I’ve prayed for more humility and forgiveness, I’ve been intrigued by how magnificent God is, and in the strange, glorious ways He works. It isn’t always the same in every situation, which means, if I don’t follow Him for even a minute, I might easily make a wrong choice and tear down instead of build up His kingdom by calling good evil, or evil good.
I have had God tell me to stay silent when I wanted to speak out.
I have had Him tell me to vote for someone I thought I opposed in the last election.
I have had Him enlighten me with connections as I’ve taken the time to study both sides of an issue or political matter (even ones I despise), and He has guided me to see things I’ve been blinded to in the past.
In this crazy time we live in, when the hearts of many men have waxed cold and so many preach to lift themselves up, I pray each day that I will be humble enough to listen to Him, who truly reigns over the universe. I pray that I will hear Christ when He speaks to me—even if it means doing something that is hard or goes against my cultural or political upbringing. Even if it means I stand alone among extended family members and Church members who believe differently than me…and who sometimes judge me as evil.
The Lamanites got it right in the book of Helaman. The Nephites had historically been the ones who had believed in Christ and shared His love with others. But in just a few years, they rejected and turned from this light, unto darkness. The Lamanites embraced and held onto Christ’s teachings. They taught this good news to the robbers among them, and converted them.
Christ is who we should emulate and worship—not any man or cause, no matter how good they might seem or say they are. Christ is who will ultimately reign on earth, and it is His kingdom we should be building.
When we begin to build up another worldly kingdom, offending others and putting people down in order to place bricks in the walls of kingdoms that will ultimately crumble when Christ comes again, I don’t think we can simultaneously build the kingdom of God.
We can only build one kingdom at a time. Which kingdom is most important to us?
Of course, Christ wants us to build good communities and nations by being good citizens. But I do not believe He wants us to build these things by using Satanic tactics that lead to division, hatred, bigotry, contention, and name-calling. Those tactics hinder God’s work here on earth. They never help it.
Who’s kingdom will you help build today?