As Helaman chapter 7 opens, we see a prophet pleading with God for his people in great agony and heaviness of Spirit. The Gadianton robbers had usurped legitimate authority and taken over much of the government, the people have become corrupted and Nephi is deeply grieved for the wickedness which abounds.
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Maurine and Scot Proctor have taught Book of Mormon for many years in Institute and have spent extensive time in the Arabian peninsula, following Lehi’s trail. They are the creators of a foundation that has sponsored a multi-year archaeological study of the best candidate for Nephi’s Bountiful in Oman. They have written a book on the Book of Mormon, as well as immersed themselves in the culture, history, and geography. of the scripture.
As Helaman chapter 7 opens, we see a prophet pleading with God for his people in great agony and heaviness of Spirit. The Gadianton robbers had usurped legitimate authority and taken over much of the government, the people have become corrupted and Nephi is deeply grieved for the wickedness which abounds. In a video for General Conference a little girl asked President Russell M. Nelson, “Is it hard to be a prophet? Are you, like, really busy?” He said, “Of course it’s hard.” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2020/04/14jones?lang=eng
It wasn’t because he was so busy that Nephi was finding it hard to be a prophet just then. We’ll talk about why today.
Welcome to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. We’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and we love talking with you about these scriptures. Today we are looking at Helaman chapters 7-12 for a lesson called “Remember the Lord.” Maurine loves to wear jewelry that carries a special significance and our daughter, Michaela, has created a beautiful necklace that does just that. It is a sterling silver, gold necklace with the words delicately inscribed on it: Beloved Daughter of Heavenly Parents. It is a reminder you can wear next to your heart of your divine heritage and makes a great gift for you, your daughters or granddaughters. I thought I would give one to every woman, young and older in our family so that they can always remember who they are. They are available for only $19.99 at latterdaysaintmag.com/necklace. That’s latterdaysaintmag.com/necklace. You’ll love this necklace because what identity matters more to us? It’s a gift you can really count on.
The prophet Nephi has returned to his homeland in Zarahemla from the north because the people “did reject all his words, insomuch that he could not stay among them’ (Helaman 7:3). As Nephi poured out his soul to God upon a tower in his garden, he described the utter wickedness where the righteous were condemned “because of their righteousness.” This sounds familiar. And what’s more, “the wicked go unpunished because of their money.” Those Gadiantons who had snatched the government ruled according to their wills to get the gain and glory of the world. In this environment every kind of sin festered, including adultery, theft and murder. (Helaman 7: 5).
“Now this great iniquity had come upon the Nephites, in the space of not many years” (Helaman 7:6). The Book of Mormon continually points out that when conditions are ripe, things can become rotten astonishingly fast.
Nephi laments that he wishes he had lived in the days when “my father Nephi first came out of the land of Jerusalem…Then were his people easy to be entreated, firm to keep the commandments of God, and slow to be led to do iniquity; and they were quick to hearken unto the words of the Lord…But behold, I am consigned that these are my days, and that my soul shall be filled with sorrow because of this the wickedness of my brethren” (Helaman 7: 7,9).
He carries a double burden. He both sorrows for the people who refuse to listen to him, as well as grieves that his own life must be spent in this wicked environment. He says, “I am consigned that these are my days, and that my soul shall be filled with sorrow because of this the wickedness of my brethren” (Helaman 7:9).
Can you imagine the difficult role of a prophet? He must speak the truth as God has given him to speak it to a world that will resist him, reject him, persecute him, even kill him, while all the time, having the eye-view of a seer to know exactly the price people will pay eternally for rejecting his word. No wonder prophets sometimes weep at the loss.
Because the tower on which Nephi stands is right by the garden gate on a main road in Zarahemla, many gather around him gawping at his mournings. He asks, “How could you have given way to the enticing of him who is seeking to hurl away your souls down to everlasting misery and endless wo?… O, how could you have forgotten your God in the very day that he has delivered you? (Helaman 7: 16,20).
As a prophet, Nephi is speaking with sure knowledge about the consequences of their disbelief. “Behold now, I do not say that these things shall be, of myself, because it is not of myself that I know these things; but behold, I know that these things are true because the Lord God has made them known unto me, therefore I testify that they shall be’ (Helaman 7: 29).
Now, listen to the urgency and the pleading in President Russell M. Nelson’s words. “We need to do better and be better because we are in a battle. The battle with sin is real. The adversary is quadrupling his efforts to disrupt testimonies and impede the work of the Lord. He is arming his minions with potent weapons to keep us from partaking of the joy and love of the Lord…
“We know what will give us greater access to the powers of heaven. We also know what will hinder our progress—what we need to stop doing to increase our access to the powers of heaven…Prayerfully seek to understand what stands in the way of your repentance. Identify what stops you from repenting. And then, change! Repent! All of us can do better and be better than ever before
“We all need to repent. We need to get up off the couch, put down the remote, and wake up from our spiritual slumber. It is time to put on the full armor of God so we can engage in the most important work on earth. It is time to ‘thrust in [our] sickles, and reap with all [our] might, mind, and strength.’ The forces of evil have never raged more forcefully than they do today. As servants of the Lord, we cannot be asleep while this battle rages.” (President Russell M. Nelson, “We Can Do Better and Be Better”, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2019/04/36nelson?lang=eng
That is as straightforward as I can imagine coming from the mouth of a prophet that we must repent and do it now because the stakes are so high. He is very clear in these words as well to those who have distanced themselves from the Church. Saying that the Savior invites all to partake of the covenants and live with our families forever, President Nelson warns,
“The anguish of my heart is that many people whom I love, whom I admire, and whom I respect decline His invitation. They ignore the pleadings of Jesus Christ when He beckons, ‘Come, follow me.’
“I understand why God weeps. I also weep for such friends and relatives. They are wonderful men and women, devoted to their family and civic responsibilities. They give generously of their time, energy, and resources. And the world is better for their efforts. But they have chosen not to make covenants with God. They have not received the ordinances that will exalt them with their families and bind them together forever.7
“Now, as president of His church, I plead with you who have distanced yourselves from the church and with you who have not yet really sought to know that the Savior’s church has been restored. Do the spiritual work to find out for yourselves, and please do it now. Time is running out.”
Telling people that time is running out for them to do their spiritual work is a hard thing. Calling people to repentance will never be popular, but being clear and true is the work of a prophet, no matter how difficult that is.
Prophets anciently and today must sometimes bear the burden of being resisted. They will tell us things that we don’t want to hear. Yet an old Yiddish saying goes, “If God lived on earth people Would Break His Windows” As author Duane Boyce points out There is a vast difference that exists between our perspectives and those of God (Isaiah 55:8–9; 1 Corinthians 1:25–29). God perceives not only every thought and intent of every person’s heart but also foresees the eternal consequences of every person’s choices — and not only the consequences of such choices for themselves but also for all others who are affected by them (2 Nephi 9:20). He is also a being of perfect holiness (Moses 6:57; 7:35). He has no moral flaws, no selfish motivations (3 Ne. 12:48; 1 John 1:5). He wants only what is right and pure (Alma 7:20), and His love for us is perfect and unending (1 John 4:8). Not incidentally, His divine purpose is to help each of us become as He is (Moses 1:39).
He continues, “It is hard to imagine how mortals could be less like God in these respects (Moses 1:10). Our natural condition limits our perspectives, subjects us to a constant battle with our selfish impulses, taints our love, and bends our purposes toward destructive ends (Mosiah 3:19). We are perfect at nothing (Matthew 19:17).
Because of these vast differences, it seems reasonable to expect God to behave and think differently about various matters than we do.” (Duane Boyce, “What it Means to Sustain the Brethren”).
Now, when Nephi spoke plainly to the crowd gathered around him, the Gadianton judges were angry with him and cried out to the people “Why do you suffer this man to revile against us?…that these are great cities shall be taken from us and we shall have no place to live in them?”
They said, “We know that this is impossible, for behold, we are powerful, and our cities great, therefore our enemies can have no power over us” (Helaman 8:5,6).
Ah, such naiveté. When we are living so solidly in the here and now and believing that we are the ones in control, we just have no idea how quickly life can change. The wicked do not believe the prophets because dire prophecies don’t look like they will possibly be fulfilled. The wicked are blind to their wickedness.
Nephi asks, “And now will you dispute that Jerusalem was destroyed?” (Helaman 8:21).
Since they will not believe that he is a prophet, he gives them a piece of information they cannot dispute. “Behold it is even now at your doors; yea, go ye in unto the judgment-seat, and search; and behold, your judge is murdered, and he lieth in his blood, and he hath been murdered by his brother, who seeketh to sit in the judgment-seat. And…they both belong to your secret band, whose author is Gadianton and the evil one who seeketh to destroy the souls of men.” (Helaman 8: 27,28).
This seership can be tested immediately so five run to the judgment seat, find the judge murdered, lying in his gore, and they all collapse. What follows is a glance at their very haphazard system of justice. First the five are arrested, but then when it is learned that they had been sent as messengers, Nephi himself is arrested for the crime. They suggest that he has hired an assassin, but Nephi’s prophetic gift is made clear again.
He gives the multitude another sign, that if they go to the house of the judge’s brother, there they will find him with the blood still upon the skirts of his cloak. Nephi can even tell them specifically how the brother will respond—that he will deny it, but go pale and quake in fear so that his guilt his clear and, finally, he will confess.
Nephi says he could have known nothing of this “save it were given unto me by the power of God. And then shall ye know that I am an honest man, and that I am sent unto you from God” (Helaman 9:36).
What’s almost funny is that after all this, some believe that Nephi is a prophet, but others leap all the way to the idea that he is a god, because he knew all the thoughts and intents of their hearts and had knowledge that no one could have. Instead of taking him straightforwardly at his word that he is a prophet, they leap beyond the mark.
This astonishing event leads us to speak about the power of revelation. We know that President Nelson, our prophet, receives revelation. He refers to it often. Again and again he uses that word to refer to new directions, initiatives and changes in the Church.
In 2018, for instance, he said that he was awakened at 2 a.m. with a distinct impression that he should go to the Dominican Republic and within days he was on the plane.
His wife, Wendy, reported at the Rome Temple dedication that on numerous occasions she had witnessed him receiving revelation from the Lord during the night. She said, for instance that early one Saturday morning, she awoke and knew she was to get out of bed. Still sleepy, she felt a prompting to “move out of bed now.”
She said, “So I went downstairs and did some family history research and then puttered with some other things. Two hours later, my husband emerged from our bedroom and said, ‘Wendy, you won’t believe what has been happening for two hours. The Lord has given me detailed instruction about a process I am to follow.”
She also said, “My husband will say during the night, ‘OK, dear, it is happening.’ I remain quiet and then soon he is sitting up on the side of the bed writing.’
She said, “I can say that I am a witness by being present and I am a witness by being absent that the Lord indeed instructs His prophet.” (See https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/church/news/sister-wendy-nelson-shares-her-personal-witness-of-president-nelsons-prophetic-calling-and-ministry?lang=eng)
A prophet receives revelation, but President Nelson has said, “One of the things that the Spirit has repeatedly impressed upon my mind since my new calling as President of the Church is how willing the Lord is to reveal His mind and will.”
Referring to Joseph Smith’s transcendent vision in the Sacred Grove, President Nelson said, “In like manner, what will your seeking open for you? What wisdom do you lack? What do you feel an urgent need to know or understand? Follow the example of the Prophet Joseph. Find a quiet place where you can regularly go. Humble yourself before God. Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father. Turn to Him for answers and for comfort.
Pray in the name of Jesus Christ about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses—yes, the very longings of your heart. And then listen! Write the thoughts that come to your mind. Record your feelings and follow through with actions that you are prompted to take. As you repeat this process day after day, month after month, year after year, you will “grow into the principle of revelation.”9
What President Nelson said next, I remind myself every day. “Does God really want to speak to you? Yes! ‘As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course … as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.’
“You don’t have to wonder about what is true. You do not have to wonder whom you can safely trust…
“I urge you to stretch beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation, for the Lord has promised that ‘if thou shalt [seek], thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.’”
President Nelson continued, “To be sure, there may be times when you feel as though the heavens are closed. But I promise that as you continue to be obedient, expressing gratitude for every blessing the Lord gives you, and as you patiently honor the Lord’s timetable, you will be given the knowledge and understanding you seek. Every blessing the Lord has for you—even miracles—will follow. That is what personal revelation will do for you…
“Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of His mightiest works between now and when He comes again. We will see miraculous indications that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, preside over this Church in majesty and glory. But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.” (President Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for our Lives”
I hear President Nelson pleading with us to grow up spiritually, seek revelation and learn how to receive it. This is stark, that in the coming days “it will not be possible to survive spiritually…without the constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”That suggests that tremendous pressure will be upon us and we must have acquired this gift and skill. President Nelson is talking to us both about a privilege, but also a necessity. It is time to do our spiritual work and not be surprised if it is work. The Lord knows how to put a price upon His gifts. As President Nelson says, “The Lord loves effort.”
But, Scot, you and I have talked to many people who sometimes get discouraged because they say they don’t feel revelation in their lives, even though they seek it. In our own lives, we sometimes feel distant from the Lord and the heavens seem as brass. What do we make of that?
Elder David A. Bednar said, “I have talked with many individuals who question the strength of their personal testimony and underestimate their spiritual capacity because they do not receive frequent, miraculous, or strong impressions. Perhaps as we consider the experiences of Joseph in the Sacred Grove, of Saul on the road to Damascus, and of Alma the Younger, we come to believe something is wrong with or lacking in us if we fall short in our lives of these well-known and spiritually striking examples. If you have had similar thoughts or doubts, please know that you are quite normal. Just keep pressing forward obediently and with faith in the Savior. As you do so, you ‘cannot go amiss’ (D&C 80:3).
“In many of the uncertainties and challenges we encounter in our lives, God requires us to do our best, to act and not be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26), and to trust in Him. We may not see angels, hear heavenly voices, or receive overwhelming spiritual impressions. We frequently may press forward hoping and praying—but without absolute assurance—that we are acting in accordance with God’s will. But as we honor our covenants and keep the commandments, as we strive ever more consistently to do good and to become better, we can walk with the confidence that God will guide our steps. And we can speak with the assurance that God will inspire our utterances. This is in part the meaning of the scripture that declares, ‘Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God’ (D&C 121:45).
Elder Bednar made this comparison, “A light turned on in a dark room is like receiving a message from God quickly, completely, and all at once. Many of us have experienced this pattern of revelation as we have been given answers to sincere prayers or been provided with needed direction or protection, according to God’s will and timing. Descriptions of such immediate and intense manifestations are found in the scriptures, recounted in Church history, and evidenced in our own lives. Indeed, these mighty miracles do occur. However, this pattern of revelation tends to be more rare than common.
“The gradual increase of light radiating from the rising sun is like receiving a message from God ‘line upon line, precept upon precept’ (2 Nephi 28:30). Most frequently, revelation comes in small increments over time and is granted according to our desire, worthiness, and preparation. Such communications from Heavenly Father gradually and gently ‘distil upon [our souls] as the dews from heaven’ (D&C 121:45). This pattern of revelation tends to be more common than rare and is evident in the experiences of Nephi as he tried several different approaches before successfully obtaining the plates of brass from Laban (see 1 Nephi 3–4). [end quote]. (David A. Bednar, “The Spirit of Revelation” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2011/04/the-spirit-of-revelation?lang=eng ).
Nephi’s building the ship was the same process—line upon line. He wasn’t given everything at once. His first question indicated that line upon line approach, “Where shall I go to find ore?” He didn’t ask for the entire set of plans.
In part, God has to wait for us to be in the right place to understand his answers. In part, we have to develop the right question so we can understand what He has to tell us. In part, there are issues of timing and issues of what would be best for our growth.
President Joseph F. Smith explained how this pattern of revelation occurred in his life: “As a boy … I would frequently … ask the Lord to show me some marvelous thing, in order that I might receive a testimony. But the Lord withheld marvels from me, and showed me the truth, line upon line …, until He made me to know the truth from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, and until doubt and fear had been absolutely purged from me. He did not have to send an angel from the heavens to do this, nor did He have to speak with the trump of an archangel. By the whisperings of the still small voice of the spirit of the living God, He gave to me the testimony I possess. And by this principle and power He will give to all the children of men a knowledge of the truth that will stay with them, and it will make them to know the truth, as God knows it, and to do the will of the Father as Christ does it. And no amount of marvelous manifestations will ever accomplish this” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1900, 40–41).
The gift and constant companionship of the Holy Ghost means that we can receive revelation. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “The Holy Ghost is a revelator,” and “no man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 132).
This suggests that if we are seeking revelation, we may be receiving it on a regular basis without even realizing it. We might even be taking credit for our bright ideas that are really revelations from the Spirit. Those little nudges you sometimes feel, the idea that suddenly bursts into your head, the thought that you just can’t let go of—these are manifestations of the Holy Ghost sending you personal revelation. It can be about great things, but it can also be about every day things. The Lord is in the details and He is interested in you.
Zona Cannavo had a remarkable experience with the Spirit. She writes:
“One normal, sunny, Monday morning, after sending my sweet husband out the door for a business trip, and getting my son off to school, I was ready to begin my day!
“I had a day of errands planned and was going to start my day on the treadmill. As I was putting on my second shoe, I had a very strong impression to make cinnamon rolls. I thought, why in the world would I think that?
She said, “Once again the thought came to me to make cinnamon rolls. I thought to myself…I am getting on the treadmill!!
“Then very clear….NO treadmill…do it now, it is urgent!! I started speaking out loud, ‘But I don’t want to make cinnamon rolls…they take forever…who are they for anyway?’
“And the last thought….’I do not make the best cinnamon rolls, who would want them?’
She said, “Needless to say…I did not get on the treadmill that morning. I truly could not make the dough fast enough, and still had no idea who I was making them for. As the dough was rising, I hurried and showered, and speedily got ready.
“I became excited not knowing what was next, and the process seemed to be going so slow. What surprised me, was the love I felt for whomever they were going to. I prepared a box, and made it look pretty. When I took the rolls out of the oven, I was thrilled!! They were the most beautiful, fluffy, perfect rolls I had ever made!
“After frosting them, it was that feeling again–to move fast, hurry, put them in the box…go now!
Zoe said, “The presentation was beautiful, they were warm, and I flew out the door. As I was putting them in the car, one of the kids pulled in the driveway. I said, ‘You have to move your car now.’
“‘Where are you going,’ they asked?
“’I don’t know, but move now please.’ They looked at me like I was nuts! I thought the rolls were going to someone in my ward, yet as I was driving, I was driving away from my ward and stake boundaries. I drove for a few minutes and was coming to a round about.
“Ok… there are four roads here,” she said. “What now? I felt like the car was being driven by someone else. I took the third road off the round about. I went for just a moment when a big SUV pulled out in front of me, almost hitting me!
“My first thought was not nice. Then I got the most overwhelming, peaceful feeling. As I looked at the car in front of me, I recognized the license plate, it was a California plate. Right then I knew my cinnamon rolls were for this vehicle.
“I followed the car closely. Then it turned on a street and parked in front of a home. The lady got out of her car, and I knew her! She had been my visiting teacher in California, and her husband my home teacher, for many years. I loved this family.
Zoe said, “For the 18 years I lived in California they were so good and kind to my family. I wished many times there was something I could have done for them before I moved to Utah.
“We both were shocked to see each other. We hugged. I asked what she was doing? She said her parents lived here, and she was in town because her mom had died.
“She said her dad was having a hard time, and he had said minutes before I arrived that he sure missed his wife’s cinnamon rolls, and wished he had a warm roll to comfort him.
“She had stopped at the home to get her sister in-law to go buy cinnamon rolls. Then she asked what I was doing? I could not speak, because of the emotions that took over. All I could do was hand her the box of warm cinnamon rolls.”
Zoe said she “learned so many things that day:
“1) I did not do anything big or grand that day. The wisdom of the spirit is big and grand!
“2) Heavenly Father knows every detail of our lives including the timing of when things should happen.
“3) Heavenly Father uses regular people like you and me to be his hands to serve here on earth. I know without a doubt he loves us, he notices us, watches over us in ways that we humanly could not do on our own without guidance from above.
“4) I will never argue with or ignore a prompting again. I am so glad I followed the Spirit that day. I am so grateful I did not miss the opportunity to serve, because I am the one that got blessed that day.”
King Benjamin said, “Believe in God; believe that he is, … believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.”
“He comprehends the answers to every question we have, and what’s more, He is willing to give us the answer. It isn’t his will that we travel in the dark. He knows how to spring us from our limitations and lift the roadblocks. Don’t you wonder: How can I love effectively and open my heart to bless those whose lives touch mine? How do I choose between all the possibilities and make the best use of my life? How do I find sustenance for the dry times? What is the song I came to sing? How can I overcome the things that hurt? Who am I? And dear Lord, who art thou?
“The Lord offers us his solutions to all our questions, and he tells us, “I am more intelligent than they all.”19 There is not a problem we can pose to him or a challenge so perplexing that he does not already have the answer. How can some of that light be shed into our own minds?
“The scriptures reveal a pattern for receiving enlightenment—and it is not one we usually talk about: Serious reflection precedes revelation.” The first Nephi who came to the promised land said, “My heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.”
Now our current Nephi, who has been praying on a tower and falsely accused of a judge’s murder returns to his home and he, too is pondering. He is in that mode of serious reflection that precedes revelation and it comes. God tells him something magnificent:
“Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will , and to keep my commandments.
“And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.
“Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people. (Helaman 10: 4,5 6).
Nephi is given the sealing powers and with them seals up the heavens that no rain falls. For these wicked people contentions and wars are replaced by famine and they are finally humbled to repentance and begin to prosper again in the land.
Yet all of Helaman 12 is Mormon’s commentary who says, “And thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men; yea, we can see that the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him” (Helaman 12:1). This is a lesson the Nephites can’t learn for very long, but we have the Book of Mormon so that we can.
Goodbye for now. This has been Scot and Maurine Proctor with Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. Next week we will study Helaman 13-16 “Glad Tidings of Great Joy.” Thanks to Paul Cardall for the beautiful music that begins and ends this podcast and to Michaela Proctor Hutchins for producing the show. See you next week.