Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Book of Mormon Lesson #35 (Helaman 13-16)

Posted by NathanG on September 21, 2008

We went over Samuel the Lamanite this week.  There is a lot in it that was surprisingly complex, or at least surprisingly different, and I found myself struggling with the answer of “why” (i.e. why was it worded this way, why did they receive this message).


The first part of my notes will be questions that perhaps some of you will be able to answer.  Then I’ll share a few other thoughts from the lesson.


The very first thing that Samuel teaches (on his second visit) is found in Helaman 13:5.  He states “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.”  Why is this given?  If I were there would I say, “So, it doesn’t affect me?”  Did this impact the Nephites, or was this just a prophecy to be thrown out so it could be recorded?  I imagine that it did impact the Nephites, and I think this would be easier to understand if I didn’t live in an individualistic society.  If self-identity is more on the community and posterity than on individual, then it probably would have a great impact.  It leaves me wondering though, if the Gadianton robbers had this type of sense of community.

Why did Samuel give this prophecy at this time?  This is not the first time that the destruction of the Nephites is given.  Alma told Helaman that it would happen and commanded that it be written, but not revealed to the people.  Nephi knew of the destruction of his people.  Why did Samuel get to give this revelation to a group of wicked people?


Samuel had preached to the Nephites and then left and the voice of the Lord commanded him to return to preach more.  This also happened with Alma and Ammonihah as well as Abinidi and king Noah.  Is there something significant about the return visit?  Each of these return visits dealt with a more definitive prophecy of destruction.  Is a return visit needed because we tend to give up too easily when trying to preach to wicked people?  Were they shirking their duty?  Perhaps they did an adequate job, but this is God’s way of giving a final chance for people to repent.


13:17  And behold, a curse shall come upon the land, saith the Lord of Hosts, because of the peoples’ sake who are upon the land, yea, because of their wickedness and their abominations. 

Is “because of the peoples’ sake” a transcription error?  Does that make grammatical sense to anybody?  Could it read “for the peoples’ sake” or “because of the peoples’ sins or iniquities”?


14:15-19 deals with why Christ must die.  In verse 16 it says, “yea, behold this death bringeth to pass the resurrection, and redeemeth all mankind from the first death—that spiritual death; for all mankind, by the fall of Adam being cut off from the presence of the Lord, are considered as dead, both as to things temporal and to things spiritual.  17.  But behold, the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind, yea, even all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord.”  He then goes on to talk about the second death “but whosoever repenteth not is hewn down and cast into the fire; and there cometh upon them again a spiritual death, yea, a second death.”

Have I always missed this way of describing the first death, or do people typically think that the first death is a physical death, and the second death is a spiritual death?  I think this is a fantastic passage, because I think it adds more than what I had considered.  The first death is the consequence of Adam’s transgression, and all will be saved from the consequence of his transgression, meaning we will all be resurrected and brought back to stand before God.  We then have to stand judgment for our faith and our works, and if we refuse to repent, then we suffer the second death, or a second spiritual death.


In chapter 15 he compares Nephites and Lamanites and in verse 3-4 he states that “the people of Nephi hath [the Lord] loved, and also hath he chastened them” and then “the Lamanites hath he hated”.  Obviously when Samuel is giving this, the Lamanites are in good standing with God and the Nephites, as a whole are not.  Why then does he make this statement of love and hate?  What does it really mean to say if the Lord loves or hates someone.  Is Samuel playing on how the Nephites may have thought about things?  Does the Lord really hate any person?  Could the love and hate refer more to covenant status?  The Nephite’s may have been more of the covenant people, and when they broke their covenant, they were chastened.  If it’s covenants, then we still have to consider the promises made by Lehi to Laman and Lemuels children.




Just a couple other thoughts.


Samuel spends a lot of time discussing Nephite and Lamanites.  At this point in the history what is a Nephite and what is a Lamanite?  There has been so much mixing, that it is hard to know.  We get characters who state their lineage, so apparently the people knew.  After 4 Nephi is over, what is a Nephite and what is a Lamanite?  After there is so much mixing, why does this distinction remain important?


Suffer is used in 13:8, 29.  “I will suffer them no longer” “how long will ye suppose that the Lord will suffer you” and “how long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides?

Definition of suffer from Websters 1828 dictionary

  1. To feel or bear what is painful.
  2. To endure, to support, to sustain, not to sink under
  3. To allow, to permit, not to forbid or hinder
  4. To undergo, to be affected by
  5. To sustain, to be affected by, as to suffer loss or damage


How do the different definitions help understand this phrase?


The prophecies of Christ’s birth and death are given by Samuel and he discusses an angel giving them to him.  However, he also mentions the writings of Zenos in 15:11 and 1 Nephi 19:10-12 contains Zenos’ prophecy about the darkness and storms and earthquakes and fires that would come at the time of the death.  Did the Nephite’s also know?  Was Samuel’s more important contribution the fact that he was putting a definite time to the event (five years)?


Helaman 15:7 contains a nice description of how a change of heart can come about. 




3 Responses to “Book of Mormon Lesson #35 (Helaman 13-16)”

  1. robf said

    As others have commented, 400 years equals one baktun in the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar, which was becoming more popular at just this time. So basically, Samuel was possibly saying something like “One Baktun shall not pass away…”.

  2. NathanG said

    Thanks for the link.
    So which came first? The prophecy of 400 years or the baktun? Did Nephite/Lamanite culture influence this time unit, or were they influenced by this time unit?

    I still wonder, though why Samuel begins with a prophecy of destruction that is one baktun away, rather than beginning with a more pressing need to repent immediately for the benefit of the individual.

  3. Dan Knudsen said

    I’ve always used “suffer” as the 3rd definition, which seems to work best–allow.

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