Thursday, September 30, 2010

Helaman 3

This is one of many chapters that convince me that Joseph Smith could not have translated the Book of Mormon. In this chapter, Mormon summarizes several years history from the point where we are at in the story to the end of the Nephite nation and to where any Nephites left after the last war are assimilated in the Lamanite people.. The flow of language and events is so smooth and concise, and the place Mormon chooses to place this aside in the narrative is so natural, it would be difficult for a person skilled in writing to accomplish this without spending hours and hours of writing and refining. We know from witnesses that Joseph translated from beginning to end without ever going back to change anything. Each time he would take a break, he would come back and begin right where he left off. We know from letters that he wrote, and from letters people received from him, that his language skills, especially his grammar and vocabulary were far too weak to write something as sophisticated as this. Even scholars outside the church scratch their heads when it comes to figuring out how Joseph did it, and did it in 60 days.

Forget about maintaining a thousand year narrative with consistency and just compare the beautiful language of this chapter with this entry Joseph made in his journal in 1832: "this day I been unwell done but litle been at home all day regulated some things this evening feel better in my mind than I have for a few days back." It wasn't common for most people to use punctuation then, and this isn't that bad, but it doesn't compare with the use of the language found in the Book of Mormon.

There are two beautiful passages of verses in this chapter that are among my favorites. One passage is verses 27-28 which say that the Lord is merciful to those who in sincerity call upon his holy name, and if we believe, the gate of heaven is open. This is about prayer, but it is also about the power of the Lord's name and our opportunity to invoke his name into what we do. Rich blessings await those are willing to pay the price to learn that this is true. Those who do find that their efforts are magnified and their successes are increased as well as their understanding.

The other passage is verse 35 where Mormon tells us that the Nephites, in the midst of persecution, fast and pray often and as a result, they become more humble and this leads to their being firmer and firmer in their faith. Their hearts are filled with joy in spite of the opposition they are facing; their hearts become more pure and sanctified and they do all of this because they are willing to yield their hearts to God. Satan would have everyone believe that when you yield your heart to God that you must give up everything enjoyable and live in a strait jacket. But those who do yield to the Lord in their lives find that they have more freedom than they ever thought possible. The burdens of life become so much easier to bear.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Helaman 2

Kishkumen is killed by a servant of Helaman as Kishkumen is attempting to murder Helaman. Helaman is now the leader of the Nephites and holds the judgment seat. Gadianton is the leader of Kishkumen's followers and they are forced to go into hiding. The description of Gadianton is important. We will hear more, but note the adjectives Mormon uses to describe him: expert in many words, expert in his craft which is murder and robbery, he flatters people. Gadianton represents many people in our day. We cannot be naive concerning the nature of many who would be our leaders. We have to be wise in being able to perceive and know those who are sincere and have the true cause of their country at heart as opposed to those who are "expert in words" and "flatter the people" in order to obtain their own selfish gains.

Gadianton is a person who will always stay in hiding because he is a coward. People who will not openly stand for the principles they believe in are cowards. Many leaders today are cowards because they hide behind their rhetoric, say only those things that will advance themselves. There craft is to convince the people that what they are doing is a service when the people are the furthest things from their minds. They will represent the impoverished but those in poverty are never aided by them. They will be valiant in the fight against racism but they never provide solutions to the problem. This is because by perpetuating the problems, they perpetuate their positions.

The two things that motivate evil people are money and power. Those were the aims of the followers of Gadianton and they are the aims of those who are most dangerous to our country today. Mormon states: "Ye shall see that this Gadianton did prove the overthrow, yea, almost the entire destruction of the people of Nephi." Mormon knew our times and knew who would be reading his words. I believe he's emphasizing these things for our behalf.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Helaman 1

Pahoran dies and his three sons compete in an election for the judgement seat. The three sons are Pahoran, Paanchi, and Pacumeni. This causes a division among the people. When Pahoran wins, Pacumeni and his followers unite behind Pahoran, but Paanchi is so upset he is not the leader that he begins to organize a rebellion. His plans become known and he is tried and convicted for seeking to destroy the freedom of the people and is sentenced by Pahoran to death. Since Pahoran is a righteous man, having to try and sentence is own brother must have been difficult. But some followers of Paanchi hire Kishkumen to murder Pahoran and he is able to get away without being caught. The people choose Pacumeni to be their leader and by this time, there is so much division and fighting among the people that the nation is a mess and do not realize that the Lamanites have amassed a huge army and are coming to war. The Nephite forces are taken by surprise because they assumed the Lamanites would never attack Zarahemla but that is the first city the Lamanites take. Their leader Coriantumr leads their army in a very swift attack forcing Pacumeni to flee but he is caught and killed by Coriantumr. Buoyed up by taking the Nephites strongest city, the Lamanites proceed to the center of the land to take the city Bountiful. The next largest city, but his big tactical mistake by Coriantumr. Moronihah, the military leader of the Nephites, is able to surround the Lamanites and defeat them and both he and Coriantumr are killed in the process. In the end, the selfish act by Paanchi not only caused the death of two righteous leaders and much loss of life and suffering among the people, but laid the foundation for the destruction of the Nephite nation at the time of the Savior's death.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Alma 63

In this last chapter of Alma, there are three basic things that happen. Some dissenters of the faith and Nephite way of life join the Lamanites and help bring another war against the Nephites without success. The records pass from Helaman to Shiblon to Helaman's son who is also named Helaman who desires to see that all of the people have access to the records except those portions that the Lord had commanded Alma not share with everyone. These are the 24 plates that were brought to King Mosiah to be translated, the same 24 plates that Joseph Smith was commanded not to translate that were sealed. They evidently contain much sacred information but also contain the secret oaths and signs that are wicked and designed to destroy the people, the same ones that the Gadianton robbers use. Third, there are migrations north by some large groups of people. Some set sail into the western Pacific and no one knows what happened to them, and others go by land. Corianton, who I assume is the same Corianton that was the son of Alma, sails by ship northward to take supplies to the people who have migrated there.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Alma 62

Moroni goes to Pahoran and on the way recruits thousands of additional soldiers. When he joins the forces of Pahoran, they go to Zarahemla and defeat Pachus, who has made himself king, and his forces. The importance of freedom in the Lord's eyes is shown by the fact that those who will not surrender with an oath to not fight against the Nephites are executed. Those who are willing to live in peace are free to do so. 4,000 Lamanites request to live with the people of Ammon and enjoy the same freedom they do. Moroni and Pahoran then take their forces and one by one reclaim the cities and lands that the Lamanites had gained control of until all the Lamanite forces are gathered in one spot. Losing his own life in the process, Teancum slays the Lamanite king Ammoron and the next day, the Lamanites are defeated in a last battle and are either killed or driven from the land.

There is one interesting verse in this chapter. Verse 41 says that the Nephites, after so many years of war, hardship and loss of life, reacted in one of two ways. Some hardened their hearts because of their afflictions while others humbled themselves and turned to the Lord. It reminds me of Sidney Rigdon and how he reacted to being in Liberty Jail as compared to Joseph and Hyrum. After their release, Sidney was a different person and seemed hardened and filled with anger. Joseph and Hyrum were humbled and became more loving and sensitive to those around them. It's a good lesson for each of us in how to react when hard times come.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Alma 61

We learn how magnanimous Pahoran is. He has been removed from this throne by an insurrection of men who have also made a pact with the Lamanites so that their leader can be king of the Nephites. Moroni would not have known this. But Pahoran says, “You have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart.” That is not the kind of leader we see in most of our politicians today. There would be retribution for Moroni’s words. There would be a campaign to discredit him as a leader and destroy his reputation. No one is better at breaking the commandment “thou shalt not bear witness” than today’s politicians. They will be held accountable for the false things they say about others. They will pass it off as “just politics.” But when you lie or hint at something false and untrue about another person, in order to have them perceived as someone different than they really are, that isn’t politics, that is bearing false witness. Truth builds, lies destroy. No wonder those who lie are condemned to hell by the Lord.

Alma 60

Moroni delivers a scathing letter to Pahoran. He accuses him of being thoughtless, wicked, power hungry, traitor, sitting idle while thousands and thousands die, loving and seeking glory and the vain things of the world, and then he tells Pahoran he will come himself and end the starvation and defeat of his people. Moroni is a man that will do whatever is necessary to save his people as long as he knows he is in the right. He is obviously fearless, a real hero. To have served under him must have been inspiring. He is not a person how is seeking fame, honor, glory or power.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Alma 59

At the end of Helaman's letter to Moroni, he tells Moroni he doesn't understand why the government has not supported them more than they have and he's praying that things will improve. I like Moroni because he isn't going to just pray about it, he's going to take on the entire government and Pahoran, the chief judge over the land, and do whatever he has to to change the situation. He sees what has to be done and he's going to do it regardless of what others may think. The city of Nephihah is lost and this is significant. Moroni and all of his military leaders are concerned that the wickedness of their people is inhibiting their ability to win the war. It's a clear message that an unrighteous people will always have difficulty succeeding even in righteous causes.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Alma 58

This is the end of Helaman's epistle to Moroni that began in chapter 56. The armies are depleted and not being sufficiently re-enforced and resupplied. The situation is dire and the Nephites are left to pray for God's support and protection. They pray that they will be able to retain the cities they have taken back from the Lamanites that were theirs to begin with. The Lord answers their prayers and gives them assurance that he will keep them protected from the Lamanites. As a result, the Nephites are able to outfox the Lamanites and take back a key city, Mani, without shedding any blood.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Alma 57

The war situation is gradually changing to the favor of the Nephites and it's because the Nephites are fighting for a righteous cause. And because they are fighting for the right reasons, are more educated, and live to a higher standard, they possess more wisdom and skill. When you do something out of anger or hate, it blinds the senses and rather than dealing intelligently with a situation, it's dealt with emotion and emotion will only carry you so far. And then it helps to have 2,060 soldiers who "did obey and observe to perform every word with exactness." It would be hard to underestimate their dedication, strength and unity. I would not wanted to have had to face them in battle. The Nephites will still face more crisis before the wars finally end, but writing is on the wall for the Lamanites.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Alma 56

This chapter is the letter of the Helaman to Moroni telling him about the 2000 sons of the people of Ammon who fight so their fathers do not have to break their covenant with God that they would never take up arms again. I think it shows how seriously we should consider our covenants. These young men are evidently quite young and quite courageous. Having seen and read quite a bit about our own armed forces, I think they are much like how these sons of the Ammonites were. They have a deep and abiding love for our country and what it represents. They are very courageous and unselfish in battle. Helaman says "never have I seen so great courage... they did not fear death." That is true of our soldiers today. I find them just as inspiring as these 2000 warriors in the Book of Mormon. I think it shows that when young people are raised on correct principles and are taught to value those things which we should cherish, namely freedom, they will always rise to the occasion. Free agency was the focus of the war in heaven, it was the focus of these wars in the Book of Mormon, and it is the focus of all wars today. I'm grateful for those who have the courage to risk their lives so we can enjoy the freedom we have.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Alma 55

The key verse in this chapter to me is verse 31 where it says, "The Nephites were not slow to remember the Lord their God in this their time of affliction." They have lost many of their cities to the Lamanites and now the tide is turning because of that very thing. When we forget to consistently do the little things that keep us spiritually rooted that we lose the Spirit and doubt enters in. With a lack of faith, we begin to play Russian roulette with life, taking our chances on this or that. Evil and the bad things of this world will always cause us problems, but we can always maintain the upper hand and come out on top if we remember to keep the Lord in our life, rely on his guidance and have faith in his outcomes.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Alma 54

The strength of Moroni's commitment, his ability to see through the false
premises of the Lamanites, and many of his other personal qualities are
evident in the epistle he sends to the Ammoron, the leader of the Lamanites.
Moroni is a man I would always want on my side and in my fox hole. By the
way, if you take one "M" out of Ammoron's name you get A moron. Very
appropriate I think. Leaders must be cognizantly aware of the motives,
especially ulterior motives, of enemies. People who want total rule of a
civilization are always cooperative until the noose is around the neck.
Deception is one of the main tools that is used. This has been so
throughout history and it's no different now. Notice how in A moron's reply
to Moroni's letter he insists that it is the right of the Lamanites to rule
over the Nephites. Despots are never satisfied to rule just their own
people. And they are never satisfied to rule people with fairness and

Monday, September 6, 2010

Alma 53

Everyone always points to verses 20-21 in this chapter where it talks about the courage and faith of Helaman's stripling warriors. But I think the key verses are 8-9. In these, Mormon tells us that because of the iniquity and dissensions within the Nephites, the Lamanites had gained much ground and taken control of many cities. For example Mormon says, "And thus because of iniquity amongst themselves, yea, because of dissensions and intrigue among themselves they were placed in the most dangerous circumstances." The same can be said for individuals. When we leave the charted and true courses of righteous living, we can place ourselves in dangerous circumstances. This is something our parents told us in so many ways growing up. "Don't play in the street, it isn't safe." "Those aren't people you want to be with, they can get you in trouble." "Don't stay out too late." I'm sure you can think of your own that you use with your kids. The commandments are no different. Just like kids question the wisdom of the parents because they aren't getting what they want, we often question the wisdom of some commandments (usually the ones we don't want to keep) and ignore the possibility of unseen consequences. And while some say that keeping the commandments takes free agency out of life, I think that it actually increases free agency and makes life much more adventurous. Getting back to the Book of Mormon, if the Nephites had not had their dissensions and iniquity, the stripling warriors would not have been induced to fight in place of their fathers who had taken the oath to never take up arms again.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Alma 52

It's important to note the difference between the purposes of the two armies. The Lamanites are seeking to take land that isn't theirs, to subject people and rule over them so that they can use them as slaves to support themselves and their way of life. The Nephites seek only to defend what is theirs, to maintain their liberty and their right to worship as they please. In battle, the Nephites slay only those who will not surrender their arms and promise not to fight. They try to avoid bloodshed in every possible way. Because the Nephites seek to have all of their actions be based on righteous principles, they are able to execute everything they do on a higher level, physically, emotionally and mentally. Their way of life enables them to be physically stronger. Emotionally, they have more confidence and faith in the purposes for which they fight, and their approach to life enables them to be mentally prepared in ways the Lamanites cannot contend with. So while a few battles may be lost, the war is won by the Nephites. It's the same way in our own lives. If we live righteously, we are able to physically, mentally, and emotionally deal with the challenges of life in a much more effective way. We may lose a few battles here and there along the way, but we will win the war. Knowing that makes it much easier to have more confidence in yourself and more assurance in the direction your life is taking.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Alma 51

Right when things are difficult for the nation, a group of people campaign to overthrow Pahoran and change the form of government so that the nation is governed by kings. It’s a form of government that would remove the liberty and freedom of the people and put them under the power of a few individuals. It’s interesting that the people pushing for this are those of high society and want to exercise power and control over the people. If it’s like today, the promises are that all of the people’s problems will be solved, the king will take care of them and life will be much easier. The people are smart enough to vote this down. Showing their true colors, when the Lamanites come to battle against the Nephites, those who support the idea of a king refuse to fight. We might cringe a little at the action Moroni took. He killed any king-men, as they were called, who would not fight to protect their nation. But had Moroni not ended the divisions in his own people, it is most likely they would have been destroyed by the Lamanites. I have to say I’m not disappointed when Teancum was able to sneek into the camp of the Lamanites and kill Amalickia. He was the cause of much wickedness and murder.