(This article was adapted from the Zion series. Click here to receive free PDFs.)
When I first read the Book of Mormon as a boy, I encountered Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy of “slippery treasures.” After discounting the notion that the treasures were greased, I wondered how they had slipped away. Did the treasures simply vanish? Did the Nephites experience widespread thievery? Over the years, knowing the Book of Mormon was written for us in the last days, I have pondered how the slippery-treasures scenario might play out again.
I need not speculate any longer. The event is upon us. The Book of Mormon story is more than account; it is a prophecy!
Mormon had the ability to foresee our day and marry latter-day troubles with Nephite events. One intriguing entry is Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy of “slippery treasures.”
That Mormon would record Samuel’s words in such detail should signal to us their latter-day import. That Samuel delivered his message only years before the advent of the Savior, listing attendant destruction should add more weight to our latter-day consideration. That the resurrected Jesus would draw attention to Samuel and insist that his missing prophecies be recorded accurately should draw us into Mormon’s account and cause us to dissect and apply the principles.
Let us consider Samuel’s denunciation of the Nephites’ Babylon as that denunciation parallels Babylon today.
Samuel the Lamanite’s Denunciation of the Nephites’ Babylon
A few years before the birth of Christ, Samuel, a Lamanite prophet, entered the land of the Nephites to warn the people, cry repentance and prophesy of simultaneously glorious and catastrophic events. To set the stage, Mormon describes the Nephite world as one of “great wickedness.” Only a few “did observe strictly to keep the commandments of God.” The Nephites’ reaction to the prophet’s preaching ranged from disregard to violence.[i] Immediately, we see our latter-day condition mirroring that of the Nephites.
Frighteningly, Samuel warned that “the sword of justice hangeth over this people…. Yea, heavy destruction awaiteth this people, and it surely cometh unto this people, and nothing can save this people save it be repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.” The Nephites’ condition had resulted from “the hardness of the hearts of the people.” That hardness of heart was being manifested in a variety of ways:
- The misuse of money that the Lord had given them.
- Setting their hearts on acquiring riches.
- Not hearkening unto the Lord or his prophets.
- Neither remembering the Lord nor his blessings nor thanking him for them.
- Always thinking about their riches and how to acquire more of them.
- Their hearts were not “drawn out unto the Lord.”
- “Great pride, unto boasting, and unto great swelling, envyings, strifes, malice, persecutions, and murders, and all manner of iniquities.”
- Mocking and rejecting the prophets.[ii]
Following “Blind Guides”
Another sinful condition of the Nephites was their willingness to follow, idolize and uphold people who flattered their egos-“blind guides,”[iii] Samuel called these deceivers. The Nephites were more interested in the philosophies of these smooth-tongued “guides” than the prophets. The Nephites would enrich these people and canonize their words as if they were scripture.
“But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth–and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet. Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him.”[iv]
“Blind guides” are those people who receive our support and adoration for flattering us with their mouth, but more often with their life-style. We give them riches for what they do not produce or contribute; we give them riches for being famous. These blind guides flatter us by parading the rewards that come from a lifestyle that glamorizes Babylon, and we applaud them for their having legitimized a life of wealth, self-indulgence, power, recognition, and excess.
Ripe for Destruction
The Lord’s spirit cannot abide in such wickedness. In Samuel’s day, only the presence of a few righteous individuals was holding back the judgments. But the clock was ticking. The gathering of the righteous was taking place. Soon the faithful few would be called out (or cast out). Then the wicked would be ripe for destruction,[v] and only the repentant would be spared.
The word ripe is intriguing. A fruit that is ripe will separate itself and fall from its mother tree. Ripeness is an interesting analogy for separating one’s self and falling away from the Tree of Life. In its insistence for a sinful, independent life from the tree, the ripe and fallen fruit can ultimately do nothing on its own except lie on the ground and rot.
Speaking for the Lord, Samuel pronounced a series of curses:
- “I will take away my word from them.”
- “I will withdraw my spirit.”
- “I will suffer them no longer,” that is, I will not allow them to continue living this way.
- “I will turn the hearts of their [enemies] against them.”
- “I will cause that they shall be smitten…with the sword and with famine and with pestilence….I will visit them in my fierce anger.”
- “Whoso shall hide up treasures in the earth shall find them no more…save he be a righteous man.”[vi]
If the people cared little about the first five curses, the last one was sure to get their attention. This curse was aimed at what they loved most: their treasures. The curse stipulated that a righteous person was exempt; he could “hide up” his treasure unto the Lord-consecrate it-and he and the treasure would remain safe.
But a wicked person or a good person who still trusted in Babylon would not be so fortunate. Because he was in the selfish habit of hiding his treasure unto himself and not unto the Lord, he would soon discover to his horror that his treasure had become “slippery.”[vii]
Consequently, the fortunes of those who were wicked or those good people who still trusted in Babylon would slip away from them; the economy would collapse, and financial ruin would result: “And behold, the time cometh that he curseth your riches, that they become slippery, that ye cannot hold them; and in the days of your poverty ye cannot retain them.”[viii]
Vulnerability to Enemies
Then things would go from bad to worse. In the people’s impoverished situation, they would be vulnerable to attack from their enemies, particularly those enemies who constituted secret combinations. We note here that Samuel’s prophecies were followed by the near destruction of the nation by the Gadianton robbers.[ix] Samuel foretold that following the economic collapse the people would “flee before their enemies”[x] Their lamentations should strike fear in every person who trusts in his riches and adores Babylon:
And in the days of your poverty ye shall cry unto the Lord; and in vain shall ye cry, for your desolation is already come upon you, and your destruction is made sure; and then shall ye weep and howl in that day, saith the Lord of Hosts. And then shall ye lament, and say:
O that I had repented, and had not killed the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out. Yea, in that day ye shall say: O that we had remembered the Lord our God in the day that he gave us our riches, and then they would not have become slippery that we should lose them; for behold, our riches are gone from us.
Behold, we lay a tool here and on the morrow it is gone; and behold, our swords are taken from us in the day we have sought them for battle.
Yea, we have hid up our treasures and they have slipped away from us, because of the curse of the land.
O that we had repented in the day that the word of the Lord came unto us; for behold the land is cursed, and all things are become slippery, and we cannot hold them.
Behold, we are surrounded by demons, yea, we are encircled about by the angels of him who hath sought to destroy our souls. Behold, our iniquities are great. O Lord, canst thou not turn away thine anger from us? And this shall be your language in those days.
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 all the days of your lives 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.
O ye people of the land, that ye would hear my words! And I pray that the anger of the Lord be turned away from you, and that ye would repent and be saved.[xi]
First economic collapse then vulnerability to attacks from our enemies!
Failure to Repent
After Samuel’s martyrdom, his prophecies began to be fulfilled. But the Nephites did not repent. Mormon reported that “there was but little alteration in the affairs of the people, save it were the people began to be more hardened in iniquity.” Neither economic cataclysms and vicious attacks from terrorists within their borders prodded them from their insanity.
Even when “great signs [were] given unto the people, and wonders; and the words of the prophets began to be fulfilled,” the Nephites hardened their hearts.”[xii] They simply would not believe the signs or respond to the Lord’s warning to repent.
Mormon identified four reasons why the people did not repent:
1) Prophecies are nothing more than good guesses: “Some things they [the prophets] may have guessed right, among so many; but behold, we know that all these great and marvelous works cannot come to pass, of which has been spoken.”
2) Prophecies do not make sense: “And they began to reason and to contend among themselves, saying: That it is not reasonable that such a being as a Christ shall come.
3) Prophecies are false traditions: “But behold, we know that this is a wicked tradition, which has been handed down unto us by our fathers, to cause us that we should believe in some great and marvelous thing which should come to pass… therefore they can keep us in ignorance.”
4) Prophets deceive us to keep us bound to them: “And they [the prophets] will, by the cunning and the mysterious arts of the evil one, work some great mystery which we cannot understand, which will keep us down to be servants to their words, and also servants unto them, for we depend upon them to teach us the word; and thus will they keep us in ignorance if we will yield ourselves unto them, all the days of our lives.”
Satan’s Great Hold on the People’s Hearts
Mormon informed us that the Nephites “began to depend upon their own strength and upon their own wisdom.” They “imagine[d] up in their hearts” “many more things” “which were foolish and vain.”
Mormon said that the people “were much disturbed, for Satan did stir them up to do iniquity continually; yea, he did go about spreading rumors and contentions upon all the face of the land, that he might harden the hearts of the people against that which was good and against that which should come. And notwithstanding the signs and the wonders which were wrought among the people of the Lord, and the many miracles which they did, Satan did get great hold upon the hearts of the people upon all the face of the land.”[xiii]
It is difficult to read this account and not see the condition of Babylon today.
Clearly, we are mere years away from the Savior’s advent. The prophets are widely mocked, ignored, and often soundly rejected. Only a few Zion people practice righteousness, and perhaps for their sake the Lord is holding back the prophesied destruction.
The condition of Babylon’s citizens is defined by their hardness of heart.
- They love their money and selfishly misuse it.
- They always think about their riches and how to acquire more.
- They will not hearken unto the Lord or his words.
- They will not remember or thank the Lord for their blessings.
- Their hearts are not “drawn out unto the Lord.”
- Their lives are marked with “great pride,” boastings, envyings, strifes, malice, persecutions, and murders, and all manner of iniquities.”
- They follow “blind guides,” who use flattering words to stroke their egos and legitimize a lifestyle that glamorizes wealth, self-indulgence, popularity, power and excess.
Now the curses of the Lord are becoming apparent and the prophecy of the slippery treasures is being fulfilled. Personal treasures are becoming unstable; economies are lying in ruins. In this condition, the people of Babylon are vulnerable to their enemies, especially those of secret combinations. Despite devastating events, they will not repent and return to the Lord. Rather, they find all sorts of reasons not to repent, and they grow in wickedness. Samuel might as well have been warning and prophesying to us today!
Go ye out from Babylon
Knowing the condition and future of Babylon, why do we try so hard to embrace her? The Lord has instructed us implicitly:
Go ye out from Babylon. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord…. Yea, verily I say unto you again, the time has come when the voice of the Lord is unto you: Go ye out of Babylon; gather ye out from among the nations, from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other…. Go ye out from among the nations, even from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon.[xiv]
As we know, Babylon is simultaneously a location, the sum of false philosophies and doctrines, and a vile condition of the heart. While our present circumstances might not involve moving away from physical Babylon, we nevertheless must flee from spiritual Babylon. In unmistakable language, the Lord has commanded us to “forsake the world,”[xv] and “lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better.”[xvi] He charges us to escape for our own safety:
For after today cometh the burning–this is speaking after the manner of the Lord–for verily I say, tomorrow all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, for I am the Lord of Hosts; and I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.[xvii]
If we choose to remain in spiritual Babylon, we do so at our own risk. Most certainly, we will be caught up in the destructions: “…that great whore, who hath perverted the right ways of the Lord, yea, that great and abominable church, shall tumble to the dust and great shall be the fall of it.”[xviii]
Come to Zion
The Lord’s command to leave Babylon is also an invitation to come to Zion with the Lord’s offer to help us arrive safely. Still, there is nothing easy about leaving Babylon and converting to a Zionlike way of life founded on celestial doctrines. Occasionally, we must be “stirred up” so that we might see the truth about Babylon and decide once and for all to leave. Blaine Yorgason writes:
Whether we think we need to give up [the things of Babylon] or not, it seems that the Lord is frequently willing to help us in the giving up of worldly things. He might do this by allowing financial reversals to occur, bringing loss of homes, cars, boats, and incomes; personal or corporate bankruptcy; and so forth. We might also experience a severe loss of health or death of a loved one, which can do the same thing by making worldly things unattractive or meaningless….
This is called being stirred up unto repentance. In this case, however, I will substitute the word humility, which always strikes at the heart of pride, vanity, and worldliness! Behold, the world is ripening in iniquity; and it must needs be that the children of men are stirred up unto humility, both the Gentiles and also the house of Israel’ (D&C 18:6); and, The kingdom of the devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance, or the devil will grasp them with his everlasting chains, and they…perish’ (2 Nephi 28:19). When we experience this divine assistance in leaving behind the things of the world-and to some degree we will all experience it-then above all else we ought to be filled with joy and rejoicing in the Lord’s goodness and mercy (D&C 52:43).”[xix]
Zion is and always has been the safety and security of the Saints. However, having one foot in Babylon and the other in Zion will never work. We simply cannot choose both ways, because Zion and Babylon are mutually exclusive-exact opposites.
Samuel warned the Nephites that they had to choose, and we need only read the account to see the consequences of those who chose Babylon over Zion. The Book of Mormon testifies that the few who chose a Zion way of life were kept safe from the calamities, and shortly thereafter, the Lord came and established Zion among them. And, depending on our choice, so it shall be with us.
This article was adapted from the Zion series. Click here to receive free PDFs.