This chapter has to do with walls. What do walls do? They keep people out. They keep people in. They can stop our progress. Or we can surmount them and use walls to lift us higher. Samuel the Lamanite used the walls keeping him out to climb higher to keep God’s commandments.
This story happens about 6 B.C. The Nephite are still wicked “while the Lamanites did observe strictly to keep the commandments of God, according to the law of Moses.” (1) For almost 600 years, the Nephites have, for the most part, been the righteous followers of God. But now, in an ironic twist, the Lamanites are the more righteous people.
Samuel the Lamanite shows up on the scene to preach repentance until “they [the Nephites] did cast him out, and he was about to return to his own land.” (2)
The walls of the city are closed to him, so he begins to head home. He tried to do as the Lord commanded, but the people’s hearts have walls around them. And they’ve cast him out of the city walls.
A voice comes to him, telling him to return and “prophesy unto the people whatsoever things should come into his heart.” (3) This had to be difficult.
God will ask us to do hard things, maybe even things that seem impossible to our logical minds. He’ll ask us to climb unsurmountable walls that might make us super uncomfortable or even cause us fear.
Samuel’s been blacklisted from Zarahemla. Yet, God tells him to return.
Often, when God commands us to do something, a barrier or wall will stand in our way of obeying. It might be something personal, like pride, selfishness, laziness, or shyness. It might be someone else’s pride, selfishness, or other negative trait. It might be something physical, like time constraints or no resources to obey the command. These type of walls can make it easy to justify not doing the task God has asked of us.
But this is the test.
Will we do God’s will no matter what obstacles bar our way?
Samuel climbs on top of the wall and cries in a loud voice to fulfill God’s command. He doesn’t let the wall stop him. He doesn’t just preach in a normal voice either, but a “loud voice” (4) so all may hear him.
Obeying God’s commands requires faith, and often creativity to think outside the box. Samuel definitely did.
He tells the Nephites that the “sword of justice hangeth over this people; and four hundred years pass not away save the sword of justice falleth upon this people. (5) And nothing can save this people save it be repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ, who surely shall come into the world, and shall suffer many things and shall be slain for his people.” (6)
God never destroys nations without plenty of warning. This isn’t anything new God’s telling them. These are just the basic and simple principles of His gospel.
Through the centuries, prophets have fulfilled their duty when they have warned people of the dangers before them. The Lord’s Apostles are duty bound to watch, warn, and reach out to help those seeking answers to life’s questions.”M. Russell Ballard, God is at the Helm, Ensign, Nov 2015, 25.
Samuel says an angel has told him these things “and he did bring glad tidings to my soul.” (7) He lays out their future (for the next 400 years) if they don’t 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.” (8)Helaman 13:8
They will be visited by the sword and famine and pestilence, fierce anger and utter destruction. (9-10) That’s a dire prediction.
God’s gift to us
But if ye will repent and return unto the Lord your God I will turn away mine anger, saith the Lord; yea, thus saith the Lord, blessed are they who will repent and turn unto me, but wo unto him that repenteth not.”Helaman 13:11
Repentance is a glorious gift God offers us, even when we have willfully rebelled against Him. He keeps inviting us to return to Him through this great merciful gift.
But blessed are they who will repent, for them will I spare. But behold, if it were not for the righteous who are in this great city, behold, I would cause that fire should come down out of heaven and destroy it.”Helaman 13:13
Remember back a couple chapters when Mormon inserted one tiny verse about how Lehi, though he isn’t mentioned much, was not one whit behind his brother Nephi in righteousness? Often, our good works go unnoticed. But God sees each deed. He knows our hearts. Maybe no one will ever know the good we do, but Samuel shows that the power of righteous people inside a city can physically save it from destruction.
Never beat yourself up or think you’re not important. Every good desire we have and deed we do will not go unrewarded by God.
Samuel curses the land. Unless they are righteous and hide their belongings up unto the Lord, their possessions shall be lost. This is because their hearts have been set upon their worldly treasures, with no thanks to God.
Ye do not remember the Lord your God in the things with which he hath blessed you, but ye do always remember your riches, not to thank the Lord your God for them; yea, your hearts are not drawn out unto the Lord, but they do swell with great pride, unto boasting, and unto great swelling, envyings, strifes, malice, persecutions, and murders, and all manner of iniquities.”Helaman 13:22
He talks about how they cast out prophets, but say they wouldn’t have cast out prophets in the old days. But they are worse, for they have cast him out and sought all manner of ways to destroy him. (26) Yet they receive false prophets who flatter them. Samuel asks:
Yea, how long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides?”Helaman 13:29
The world is full of foolish and blind guides, and so many clamor to follow them. Why? How can I protect myself from being deceived by these “foolish and blind guides?”
Samuel says if they don’t repent, it will be too late and they will lament.
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 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.”Helaman 13:38
What we seek after in this life determines our eternal destiny.
If we seek after wickedness, trying to be happy, we will do so in vain and give up all chance of true happiness, which comes through repentance. Let’s climb the walls that separate us from each other and use the walls that have been built to divide to stand upon and preach of Christ instead, to lift others up and unite, not put anyone down.