Home > The Book of Mormon > Helaman > Chapters 1-6
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Relationship to Helaman. The relationship of Chapters 1-6 to the rest of Helaman is addressed at Helaman.
Story. Chapters 1-6 consists of ____ major sections:
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Helaman 1-6 include:
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- Hel 1:1-3. Verse 1 tells us that at the beginning of the 40th year of the reign of the judges there began to be a serious difficulty among the people. Verses 2-3 explain that this difficulty was that Pahoran, the chief judge, had died, and 3 of his sons were contending for, or struggling to become, the chief judge.
- Hel 1:6-10: Paanchi. Paanchi was the brother of Pahoran yet he still planned to rebell against his brother when he was not elected to be the cheif governing body over the People of Nephi. Why was his greed so great that he would rebell. Why was his crime so great that he was put to death. How would Pahoran feel about these things that took place. Why is the liberty of the people so important?
- Re: the question, why was Paanchi's crime so great that he was put to death? Verse 8 gives two reasons for his sentence to death. I take these reasons not as separate reasons but two ways to describe the same thing. 1) Paanchi had risen up in rebellion and 2) Paanchi had tried to destroy the liberty of the people.
- I think these are two ways of saying the same thing because Paanchi, by rebelling against what was dictated by the voice of the people, was going against the source of the people's liberty. I think that fact that he was trying to lead the people to this serious type of rebellion, against the state, was the reason that he was punished with death. I think that answers your question. I could be missing something in the question though. Anyway, in my mind I think it pretty common in a culture with capital punishment that treason, or rebellion against the state, would be grounds for death.
- Hel 1:18-33. These verses tell us how the Lamanites were able to overrun the city of Zarahemla despite the fortifications the Nephites had made. Two main reasons are given for the Lamanites' success: 1) because of contention in the land of Zarahemla (v 18), and 2) because the Nephites had concentrated on defending the surrounding cities, assuming this to be where the Lamanites would attack (v 26).
- Hel 2:3. Hel. 1:9-12 relates how Kishkumen murdered Pahoran and made a pact with his band to keep it a secret.
- Hel 2:3: Chief judgeship line. Here Helaman is appointed as the new chief judge. This is interesting because Helaman is a descendant of Alma, the original chief judge. However, the chief judgeship didn't pass directly from Alma to Helaman in an unbroken line. Alma, overburdened with his duties both as Chief Judge and High Priest, delegated the chief judgeship to Nephihah (Alma 4:16-18)).
- Hel 2:14. Where did "the book of Nephi" end?
- Hel 3:29.This verse is telling us that if we will hold onto the word of God (which is the scriptures, Christ, or the Gospel of Christ), we will not be fooled by Satan and we will be led through misery and trials to arrive at God's right hand.
- Hel 3:35: Sanctify. To sanctify means to make holy. We could understand the phrase "even to the ... sanctification of their hearts" (verse 35) to mean "even to making of their hearts holy."
- Hel 3:35. Verse 35 seems to describe how we can become sanctified by humbling ourself in frequent fasting and prayer. The sacrifice of food and water associated with fasting apparently helps us change our spiritual, emotional, and physical nature--giving us a softened heart and willingness to submit to the will of the Lord.
- Hel 3:35. The association of firmness with faith seems to be unique to the Book of Mormon, occurring 9 times (Jacob 3:1, Alma 27:27, Alma 48:13, Alma 57:27, Hel 3:35, Hel 6:1, Hel 15:8, 3 Ne 6:14, Moro 7:30). Here we see that this firmness may be derived from much fasting and prayer--a theme which is also associated with firm faith in the case of the Sons of Mosiah (see Alma 17:3,9).
- Hel 3:35: Fasting. Fasting is mentioned 39 times in the Old Testament (list here and here), eight times in the New Testament (list here) and 20 times in the Book of Mormon (list here). The Book of Mormon seems to fit the Old Testament pattern of more frequent fasting mentions. However, the Book of Mormon gives us a more complete view of fasting as a method for sanctifying our hearts and obtaining knowledge (see again Alma 17:3,9) than we get from the bible. In contrast to the Old Testament view of fasting as infrequent or ceremonial (as in the annual fast on the Day of Atonement), we also see from the Book of Mormon that fasting was a regular and frequent practice when the people were righteous.
- Hel 3:35. When we yield ourselves unto God, we are humbling ourselves and submitting ourselves to his will, whatever that may be. In order to yield ourselves unto God, we must not be prideful.
- Verse 5 begins the thematic of angelic visitation that pervades this chapter. Although many references point explicitly to the Savior's visit to the Americas in 3 Nephi 8-18, many also point to Nephite historical accounts of angelic encounters. We will deal first with the historical experiences, and second with the anticipation of Christ's visit to the Nephites.
- Parallels with other Nephite prophets who saw angels
- v. 4 ~ Nephi yields up the judgment seat in favor of preaching the gospel, similar to Alma (Alma 4:18-19), whose angel experience is recorded in Alma 36:6
- v. 6 ~ Helaman tells his sons that they are named for Lehi and Nephi who came out of Jerusalem, both of whom conversed with angels (1 Ne 1:5-15, 11:14)
- v. 10 ~ Amulek's words are recounted; Amulek's angel = Alma 10:7
- v. 10 ~ Zeezrom; no explicity mention of an angelic encounter for Zeezrom, but he seems to have an experience similar to Alma's--bedridden and miserable until repentance occurs and his sins are forgiven (Alma 15:3-12). Is it possible that he also similarly experiences an angel or messenger sent from God? Perhaps Alma acts as that messenger?
- Events and Details that parallel Nephite historical angel encounters
- "A pillar of fire" (Hel 5:24,44)--the only other time that a pillar of fire is mentioned in the Book of the Mormon is in the first chapter, with Lehi. This phraseology could descend from Exodus, but it also points explicitly to Lehi's vision of the heavens and the throne of God, including "numberless concourses of angels" (1 Ne 1:8)
- "The earth shook" (Hel 5:27,31,33)--this is similar to the shaking of the earth that accompanies Alma's angel experience
- How does this connect with the jail-escape stories in Acts?
- Another jail-escape: Alma and Amulek leaving Ammonihah (which is specifically referenced in Hel 5:10!), as recounted in Alma 14:23-29
- "The faces...did shine exceedingly" (Hel 5:36)--Abindadi was sent as a messenger from God, paralleling Nephi and Lehi sent as angels? Also points to Moses? (Mosiah 13:5)
- "Encircled about," "in the midst of" (Hel 5:44)--reminiscent of Lehi's vision of the angels encircling God's throne; the image of a circle, and eternal round, etc.
- Alma: "encircled about by the bands of death" (Alma 5:7), "encircled about with the matchless bounty of his love" (Alma 26:25), "encircled them in the arms of safety" (Alma 34:16)
- Unspeakable Tongues--"marvelous words which cannot be uttered by man" (Hel 5:33), "they could speak forth marvelous words" (Hel 5:45)--speaking with the tonges of angels? Points back to 2 Nephi 32:3
- Specific mention of the word "angel"
- "The faces of Nephi and Lehi...did shine exceedingly, even as the faces of angels" (Hel 5:36)
- "They do converse with the angels of God" (Hel 5:39)
- "Angels came down out of heaven and ministered unto them" (Hel 5:48).
- It seems likely that Nephi and Lehi are being rendered as angels--their names, explicit references to other men who've encountered angels, their roles as messengers of God, and their apparently easy conversance with the heavens.
- Even more explicit than the past historical encounters, however, is the anticipation of Christ's visitation.
- "Shake the whole earth as if it was about to divide asunder" (3 Ne 8:6), "quakings of the earth" (3 Ne 8:19)
- "The earth shook," (Hel 5:27), "the earth shook exceedingly" (Hel 5:31), "the earth shook again" (Hel 5:32), "the earth shook as if it were about to divide asunder" (Hel 5:33)
- "There was darkness upon the face of the land" (3 Ne 8:19), "there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land" (3 Ne 8:20), "the darkness was dispersed" (3 Ne 10:9)
- "They were overshadowed with a cloud of darkness, and an awfuul solemn fear came upon them" (Hel 5:28), "the cloud of darkness...did not disperse" (Hel 5:31), "cloud of darkness" and "fear" (Hel 5:34), "the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you" (Hel 5:41), "the cloud of darkness was dispersed" (Hel 5:43)
- "A voice heard" (3 Ne 9:1), "there came a voice" (3 Ne 10:3), "a voice as if it came out of heaven" (3 Ne 11:3), "they heard the voice and they understood it not" (3 Ne 11:4), "again the third time they did hear the voice" (3 Ne 11:5)
- "There came a voice as if it were above the cloud of darkness" (Hel 5:29), "the third time the voice came" (Hel 5:33)
- "It was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn" (3 Ne 11:3)
- "It was not a voice of thunder, neither was it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but behold, it was a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul" (Hel 5:30)
- "Except they shall repent" (3 Ne 9:2), "that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come any more unto me" (3 Ne 9:5-11), "repent of your sins" (3 Ne 9:13), "the Father commandeth all men, everwhere, to repent and believe in me" (3 Ne 11:32), "ye must repent" (3 Ne 11:37, 38)
- "Repent ye, repent ye, and seek no more to destroy my servants" (Hel 5:29), "you must repent" (Hel 5:41)
- "Him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost" (3 Ne 9:20), "I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost" (3 Ne 12:1), "they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy GHost, and shall receive a remission of their sins" (3 Ne 12:2), "they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost" (3 Ne 12:6)
- "The Holy Spirit of God did come down from heaven and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire" (Hel 5:45)
- "Round about him, and Jesus stood in the midst" (3 Ne 17:12), "Jesus stood in the midst" (3 Ne 17:13), "midst of fire" (3 Ne 17:24), "encircled about with fire" (3 Ne 17:24)
- "Encircled about, as if by fire" (Hel 5:23), "standing in the midst of fire" (Hel 5:23), "they were encircled about" (Hel 5:44), "as if in the mdist of a flaming fire" (Hel 5:44)
- "They saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending" (3 Ne 17:24), "angels did minister unto them" (3 Ne 17:24)
- "They did lift their eyes to heaven...as if talking or lifting their voices to some being whome they beheld" (Hel 5:36), "they do converse with the angels of God" (Hel 5:39), "they saw the heavens open; and angels came down out of heaven and ministered unto them" (Hel 5:48)
- "Cannot be written" (3 Ne 17:15), "No tongue can speak" (3 Ne 17:17)
- "Marvelous words which cannot be uttered by man" (Hel 5:33)
- Verse 5:12. To build upon the rock of our Redeemer means to have a strong foundation of beliefs, or in other words, faith. We must build faith in the Lord Jesus Christ our everlasting savior, and if we do so we will not be swayed by the tempest of temptation and lies that the great deceiver, even Lucifer, will place in our our path.
- This oft-cited passage uses imagery of "rock" and "foundation" similar to that used in the wise man/foolish man parable to illustrate an important distinction made frequently in scripture, the distinction between reliance on the Lord and reliance on other powers. Reliance on the Lord provides a sure foundation, "on which man cannot fall," whereas faith on any other power leaves one ultimately unprotected from Satan's "shafts in the whirlwind." It also suggests the principle that faith for faith's sake is insufficient, but faith must be directed toward something with real power to deliver the hoped for promises--in this, and all other cases, Christ.
- Different from the wise man/foolish man parable, this scripture does not compare against building upon some other type of foundation (e.g., sand) in order to make its point. Instead it posits the storm itself as the adversary--the purposefully antagonistic force against which we must protect ourselves--not some indiscriminate wind as described in the parable. This more direct approach is consistent with the generally plain and direct tone of the Book of Mormon set by its first author, Nephi, whose soul "delighteth in plainness" (2 Ne 31:3).
- Still, the parallel imagery to the New Testament parable may offer insight into the nature of revelation. As the Lord is the ultimate source of Helaman's teaching in this verse, and of course is the direct speaker in the New Testament parable, use of similar imagery could lend support to an argument that his actual personality can be found even when his teaching comes indirectly through prophets.
- Hel 5:17-19. Nephi and Lehi were given power unto them that they might speak. This Power is the power of speaking with the influence of the Holy Ghost.
- Hel 5:23-25 The Israelites were protected from the Egyptians by a pillar of fire in their flight from Egypt, and here we see a pillar of fire that protects Nephi and Lehi so that the people dare not lay hands upon them.
- Hel 5:41-50: Faith and evidence. Verses 41-47, 50 show an interesting interaction between faith and evidence. It is interesting that the people are given such strong evidences. The scriptures sometimes make it clear that some people who reject prophets, if they were shown more mighty miracles they would still reject the truth. It is interesting that things work differently. Here people who originally reject the prophets are converted.
- Hel 6:11-15. During this time of prosperity the Nephite-Lamanite conflict seems to come to an end, racially speaking. The adversary then seems to begin using the terrorism/robbing of the Gadianton Robbers to destroy the people of God. From the description that we receive of this people we can deduce that they were an active and hardworking civilization. This could be contrasted to idleness that the Gadianton Robbers seemed to prefer.
- Hel 6:16-20. The wealthy at this time seem to become desensitized to the value of human life. Their focus rests upon their possessions and the pursuit of obtaining more.
- Hel 6:25. We are reminded that the Jaredites had experienced the same problem with secret societies and that the knowledge of such was to be kept hidden so that history wouldn't repeat itself.
- Hel 6:31-35. The Spirit of the Lord leaves us when we abandon the Lord and his teachings. The Nephites wilfully rebelled against the Lord and worshiped idols instead.
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- Hel 6:31-15. Can we in this day make idols of our possessions like the Nephites did?
Prompts for further study
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- Hel 1:9. Why did those who supported Paanchi send Kishkumen to kill Pahoran?
- Hel 1:16-20: Who was Coriantumr? What position did he hold with the Lamanites?
- Hel 1:21-25: How was Coriantomrs march through the Land of Nephi equally of great destruction to the Nephites, yet Giving the Nephites a great advantage over the armies of Coriantomr?
- Hel 1:26-30: Why were the strongest of the Nephite armies around the borders of the land?
- Hel 1:31-34: How did Moronihah take possession of the Land of Zarahemla from the power of the Lamanites?
- Hel 3:5: Are we to understand that there had been timber in the desolate lands before the "many inhabitants" used it all up?
- Hel 3:12: What was the fate of the People of Ammon who went to the land northward? Did they remain faithful in the land northward(see Verse 7:3)?
- Hel 3:33: Verse 33 seems to draw a distinction between pride entering into the church of God and pride entering into the hearts of the people who profess to belong to the church of God. What is the significance of this distinction? Is it possible for pride to enter into the church of God?
- Hel 3:35: What does it mean to "fast oft"? Does fasting once a month constitute fasting "oft"?
- Hel 3:35: How does fasting and praying increase our humility and faith?
- Hel 3:35: How does humility and faith fill our souls with joy and consolation?
- Hel 3:35: How does humility and faith lead to the purification and sanctification of our hearts?
- Hel 3:35: What is the relationship between fasting and sanctification?
- Hel 3:35: What does it mean to yield our hearts unto God?
- Hel 4:11-15: Pride. Pride is a recurring downfall in the Book of Mormon. People are always destroyed, spiritually and temporally because of pride. How can we learn to overcome pride and not be destroyed spiritually and temporally like the people in the Book of Mormon?
- Hel 4:12: The verse says destruction came upon the Nephites "because of the pride of their hearts, because of their exceeding riches." Is this saying that riches cause pride? Is it possible to have riches and not be prideful? If so, how can one who has riches be sure he or she is not becoming prideful? (Cf. Jacob 2:19.)
- Chapter 5: Why all the angel references? Is this the only "angel" text in the Book of Mormon? Why is it placed here? Does it show a longing for the outpouring of miracles in the past, similar to what members of the church feel today? Did Mormon make these connections as he abridged the text, or was it in Helaman/Nephi/whoever's orginal record, and Mormon luckily managed to keep the important details?
- Hel 5:9: Kin Benjamin's words. Why does Helaman remind his sons of the words of King Benjamin?
- Hel 5:10: Christ is redeeming us from our sins not in our sins because if we are being redeemed in our sins and we continue to commit them, we have not grown (compare Zeezrom's questioning of Amulek on this in Alma 11:34ff). The idea of coming to earth and using the atonement is that overcoming our sins will refine us and make us better so that we may become more like Heavenly Father.
- Hel 5:11: How are we redeemed "from" our sins? Does this mean that we are redeemed "from" our sins because the sin has already been comitted? We can't take back anything that has been done in the past. All we can do is repent and be saved by Christ from the mistakes that we have previously made.
- Hel 5:17: What does it mean when it says in verse 17, "they were baptized unto repentance?" Do they literally get baptized every time they repent or are they just made clean in their hearts and the eyes of God?
- Hel 5:23: Fire. Is the use of the word fire in this verse literal or figurative? The passage says that the Lamanites were afraid they would get burned, but it also says, "as if by fire", so did it just look like fire or was it literally fire protecting Nephi and Lehi? If the passage means literal fire, is there additional symbolic significance (e.g. does this have any reference to the term, "baptism by fire")?
- Hel 5:32: What does it mean in this context to say that the kingdom of heaven is at hand?
- Hel 5:48: Mormon tells us that angels ministered unto those in the prison. What does minister mean in this context?
- Hel 5:49-51: How should we understand the relationship between the miracles done to the Lamanites and their conversion? Were they converted because of miracles? Why were so many of the Lamanites at this time "convinced ... because of the greatness of the evidences" when others with similar miracles are not?
- Hel 6:7-9: Here the Nephites and Lamanites were at peace, traded goods freely, and became rich. Was becoming rich a result of being at peace? Of trading goods freely?
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- Hel 3:8: If one assumes that covering the "face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north" means that this population covered the entire American continents then this verse would seem to imply that the Nephite population multiplied unimaginably quickly. For a comprehensive analysis of population growth in the Book of Mormon see James E Smith's Nephi's Descendants? Historical Demography and the Book of Mormon (FARMS Review: Volume - 6, Issue - 1, Pages: 255-96).
- Hel 3:29: Across that everlasting gulf. Jacob at the New Cool Thang blog argues that this is analogous to 1 Ne 12:18 and that depictions of Lehi's dream should have tree of life separated from the path leading to it by a gulf (based on this verse and other passages). The crossing of this gulf then is analogous to the crossing of the Red Sea during the exodus and is symbolic of baptism.
- Hel 3:31-37: Fasting. A good non-LDS review of instances of fasting in the Old Testament is here.
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