Sunday, August 30, 2020

Samuel the Lamanite (Helaman 13-16) QUESTIONS

Samuel Prophesies of the Destruction of the Nephites

READ Helaman 13:1-4 and Helaman 16:1-5
Why did the Lord send an “outsider” to preach His word when Nephi II was right there ministering to the Nephites?

READ Helaman 13:5, 9-10
What does Samuel mean by the “sword of justice”?
Why is Samuel prophesying of a destruction 400 years away?

READ Helaman 13:6-7
What was it about the angel’s message that had Samuel excited to share it with the Nephites?

READ Helaman 13:8
Why does the Lord say He will withdraw from them because of the hardness of their hearts, rather than because of their wickedness?
What does it mean that the Lord will take away His word from the Nephites?

READ Helaman 13:11-14
Why is the Lord sparing Zarahemla?
When will Zarahemla’s fate be sealed?
Why might they finally cast out the righteous?

READ Helaman 13:17-23
What does it mean to have your heart set upon riches?
How are riches a "false god?"
Why are they cursed “for the peoples’ sake”?
What does it mean to “hide one’s treasures up unto the Lord”?
What does it mean to “hide one’s treasures up in the earth”?
If riches seem to lead so inevitably to pride and the worship of them (and then to wickedness), why does the Lord prosper His people at all?
Among the eight sins we talked about two sessions ago that lead to a fullness of iniquity and destruction, what are the primary sins that the Nephites are committing?

READ Helaman 13:24-29
What are the Nephites doing to true prophets who declare the word of the Lord which they claim they heard directly from Him?
What are the Nephites doing to those who tell them that all is well?

READ Helaman 13:30-33
Why are they repenting in the days of their poverty?

READ Helaman 13:36-38
Are they really surrounded by demons and dark angels and what does that mean?
Why will the day of their probation be past at that point?
Are they damned for what they obtained and kept to themselves or for what they tried to but failed to obtain?
Why can’t you find happiness in doing iniquity?
What are the similarities between making one’s calling and election sure and making one’s destruction sure?

Samuel Prophesies of Christ’s Mortal Ministry

READ Helaman 14:2-4, 28
Why did the Nephites get a sign that all the people could see, while in Israel the sign of the star could only be read by those few who were looking for it and knew how to interpret it?
How did the Nephites know that the sign was given and what does this imply about the sign?

READ Helaman 14:5-6
How did the “Christmas star” just arise at this time and then disappear?
What were the “many” other “signs and wonders” seen in the heavens and why were they given?

READ Helaman 14:7-8
Why will people be so amazed that they will literally fall to the earth when they see the sign of Christ’s birth occur?
Why would anyone NOT believe in Christ after witnessing such an obvious and objective sign coming true?

READ Helaman 14:9-10
Are the Nephites racist?
Why did the Lord choose a Lamanite to give the Nephites this vital message if they would inherently doubt him because he was a Lamanite?

READ Helaman 14:11-13
What do the Nephites need to believe: Samuel’s prophecy of Nephite destruction, or his prophesy of the signs of Christ’s coming, or his testimony of Christ’s ability to redeem them if they will repent and come unto Him?

READ Helaman 14:14-19
Why did Christ have to die and what is the implication?
What happens to those who are cut off, at any time, from the presence of the Lord?
Who will suffer the second spiritual death, being cut off again from God’s presence and His righteousness?

READ Helaman 14:20-27
What is the symbolism of the sign of Christ’s death?

READ Helaman 14:29-31 and Helaman 15:1-3
Why are the signs given?
How is all iniquity done “unto themselves” when people’s poor choices and sins hurt others, too?

Lessons from the Lamanite Conversion

READ Helaman 15:4-10
What does it mean that the Lord has hated someone when He is supposed to be a god of love?
Samuel says “a” change of heart; should it be “the” change of heart?
Why is Samuel still talking about the Ammonites burying of their swords, which occurred 80 years prior?

READ Helaman 15:11-16
What does it imply that Zenos, Samuel and “many other prophets” have witnessed of the restoration of the Lamanites to the truth in the Last Days?

READ Helaman 15:17
Why will the Lord utterly destroy those that have been offered the Fullness of the Gospel but have rejected it?

Lessons from the Nephite Reaction to Samuel

READ Helaman 16:6-8
Where else in the Book of Mormon do we read about a prophet coming out of nowhere to preach repentance or destruction to the people?

READ Helaman 16:13-23
What are the two reactions to the great signs, wonders and words of the prophets beginning to be fulfilled?
Moroni talks about the Gentiles’ destruction and assimilation of the few repentant souls into Israel in the last days; why did the Lord want Mormon to include the prophesy of Samuel the Lamanite in a book meant for our day?
Following this analogy further, who is Samuel called to preach to?
How might we identify a modern day Samuel – coming to preach to us from outside the official and recognized Church hierarchy?

Thursday, August 27, 2020

From Gate to Path to Tree (Helaman 5-12)

Nephi II & Lehi II

READ Helaman 5:10-11
Helaman tells his sons Nephi II and Lehi II that Christ comes to redeem people "from" their sins not "in" their sins - what does this mean?
He will not redeem the unrepentant.
One must truly feel the attitudes of confession (godly sorrow) and forsaking (turning from a life of sin) not just perform the actions of confession and forsaking; in other words, it must come from a change of heart which gives real intent.
This means avoiding "ritual prodigalism" or preconceived sinning followed by planned repentance - as in this you have doubled your sin (the original sins plus mocking the Lord with your false repentance).
Why does the Father send angels to declare the conditions of repentance to people instead of just using missionaries or Church leaders?
Angels cause men to behold Christ’s glory or in other words, they prepare people to enter into His presence in the flesh (which is redemption from the fall – see Ether 3:13) through showing them their standing before Him and their desperate need for Him and then tutoring them in what they must do next with messages directly from the Lord to them (see Alma 12:29).
Clearly fellow humans, regardless of their callings or even spiritual gifts, cannot do this; if they could, the economy of heaven would not require the use of angels to do this work for mortals. 
What does it mean that repentance “bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer”?
Our repentance brings us to Christ’s presence.
Our repentance brings Christ’s power of redemption to bear for us, otherwise we will have to suffer as though there was no redemption made (see D&C 19:15-20; Alma 11:40-41).

READ Helaman 5:12
Why is Christ the only sure foundation upon which you can build?
He is lending us breath from moment to moment; He is completely supporting and enabling this mortal probation we are currently in (see Mosiah 2:21) – He is the master “observer” from quantum physics.
He is the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by Him (see John 14:6).
In order to endure the presence of God, we must be perfect; Christ decrees us perfect in Him through His Atonement, enabling us to abide in God’s presence while we are slowly progressing toward actual perfection (see D&C 1:31; Moroni 10:32-33; D&C 88:75).
He is our example in all things; Christ is the prototype of the saved being because He Himself did not have a fullness at first but progressed from grace to grace, and unless we are precisely like Him, we cannot be saved (see D&C 93:2-14; LoF 7:9, 15-16).
What are you building on the rock of Christ?
The foundation of a “building” or “tabernacle” or “temple” that will become your own Godhood (see TPJS 391:2-393:1).
You are building your salvation, which consists of you becoming precisely like He is, and nothing else.
Why is Christ described as a rock and Satan as a storm and what are we to learn from this analogy?
Christ is the stable foundation, the “sure” thing which will not fail or fall in the chaos of a mighty storm.
Satan rages in our hearts and upon the earth seeking to destroy anything that gets in his way… and by so doing, he provides a test for us to see whether or not we have built our foundation on the rock that is Christ or not; anyone but Christ and those connected to Him with a surety will fail as the storm rises to its apex (see LoF 6:2-5).

READ Helaman 5:16-19
What is unprecedented about Nephi II and Lehi II’s preaching success?
Nephite dissenters almost NEVER repented! (see Alma 23:14; Alma 24:29).
Why did Nephi II and Lehi II have such success preaching?
They taught with great power and authority because they were teaching direct quotes given them from the Lord and were blessed with the Holy Spirit or tongue of angels with which to speak it (see 2 Nephi 32:2-3).
Implied is that angels and the Lord visited them; they were teaching with “authority and not as the scribes” because they had “gazed into heaven” for at least five minutes and they knew of what they spoke with surety (see Matthew 7:29; TPJS 365:1; 3 Nephi 11:14-15).

The Gate: The Lamanite Baptism of Fire

READ Helaman 5:20-25
What are Nephi II and Lehi II encircled by?
The light, glory, intelligence, spirit of God.
By “fire” – or what looked like fire to mortals.
Why were they not burned?
Not because it wasn’t fire that can burn…
His glory is much more terrible and destructive than “real fire” (see D&C 29:9; 1 Nephi 22:15; D&C 63:34, 54; 3 Nephi 25:1-6; JSH 1:36-37).
But you must have the Holy Spirit within you, because that is what the fire is – it is glory, light or intelligence (see D&C 45:57), but if it is already within you (i.e. you are “made” of it yourself, to some degree at least – your cells are “quickened” with glory) and you vibrate at that frequency already, you can abide the day and the “fire” which comes with it.
Would the fire have burned the Lamanites if they had tried to grab Nephi II and Lehi II?
You better believe it!
It is not just an illusion of fire used to scare people; it is the glory of God and would have utterly wasted any who entered it unprepared.
Why does the fire appear as a pillar?
It is contained within a certain area; otherwise they would have all been destroyed except Nephi and Lehi.
They are within the conduit of fire that is a portal between heaven and earth.
Which is why they will soon be visited by and speaking with heavenly messengers.
Also, fire or spirit/glory/light encircles without and also fills within each individual that is not filled with darkness; it is both an “outside” energy shield or aura and a quickening of the cells of the body itself; although they are really one field of light and energy, it’s just that it extends outside the cells of the temporal body.
Why were the Lamanites struck dumb with amazement?
They weren’t “struck” by God – this was the natural consequence of observing what they were observing.
For the unprepared and uninitiated, seeing the spiritual world manifest itself in the physical world is shockingly unexpected, amazing and terrifying.

READ Helaman 5:26-28
Why are the Lamanites overshadowed with a cloud of darkness?
It is symbolic of the state of their darkened minds.
They are being shown their actual state – bound in chains of darkness (see Alma 5:7; D&C 38:5-8).
What is the implication of God “showing” the Lamanites these things?
They are being shown the light and darkness that actually surrounds and is within each respective individual and group, that their “unsighted” eyes usually have the inability to see (see Moses 6:35-36; 2 Kings 6:14-18).
They are being “born again to see” their awful state and the possibility of rescue by light (see John 3:3).
They are being shown the light, which they are afraid of for the danger it (rightly) poses to them; and then they are shown the darkness (which envelopes them) that contains with it an awful fear – but they now have a choice: prepare yourselves to enter the light safely or lose yourself in the fearful darkness and eventually be incinerated by the light when it catches up with you.

READ Helaman 5:29-34
What is the message of the voice from heaven?
Turn from seeking to destroy my messengers.
Turn to Me for My kingdom is at hand.
It is the message of all true prophets.
Why is Christ’s voice like a mild whisper and not a booming shout?
It doesn’t need to be.
The power of His voice, word, will, or intention is such that it will pierce your heart to the soul or cause a destructive earthquake or command sub-atomic elements to create a world or a universe.
Why did the darkness not disperse because of the power of the voice?
The Lamanites must do something to release themselves from the darkness.
Implied is that the darkness is as a result of their own agency and choices; it is the real state of their minds – they have now been “born again to see” the light, and that they are outside of it – but they must repent in order to be born again to enter it themselves without harm.
What does this event in the prison remind you of?
Christ’s message to the Nephites after the destruction of the wicked at the time of His visit to them (see 3 Nephi 8-9; 3 Nephi 11:3-7; 3 Nephi 17:16-25).

READ Helaman 5:35-41
Why does knowledge save a person or why is a person saved no faster than they can get knowledge? (see TPJS 400:2; TPJS 246:1)
Because without knowledge, they won’t know how to be delivered from the darkness that they have chosen to be bound by.
Man’s ways are not God’s ways; God’s ways must be revealed to man or they remain forever unknown (see Mosiah 4:9).
Knowledge is intelligence, truth, light and glory, which we must have to the same degree Christ has, to ultimately be saved; but it is a progression from grace to grace.
What does it mean to cry until you have faith and what would such a cry require?
Repenting is a choice everyone can make – to turn from sin and turn to God.
Crying unto God is a choice everyone can make – to humbly and with your whole soul cry out to God for mercy.
Belief, even in the face of doubt, is a choice everyone can make – to desire to believe and begin to act on that desire with real intent to follow Christ’s commandments and instructions – without having a sure knowledge, and even with doubts in one’s heart.
Faith in Christ is a spiritual gift which must be sought for and received as a result of these other choices: “I will choose to believe even if I doubt, to the degree that I will act – I will repent and cry unto God for mercy and faith in His son, prepared to do whatever He asks of me.”
What is the relationship between receiving faith and the cloud of darkness?
To the degree one receives and exercises faith in Christ, the cloud of darkness will disperse until it is completely gone.
Faith in Christ seems to be the only way to remove the darkness.
Each of us must cry unto God for deliverance and for faith – it is up to us.

READ Helaman 5:42-45
What can we learn from the fact that the darkness did not just disperse but they then opened their eyes to see that they were now encircled by fire?
Because the fire and darkness are mutually exclusive; meaning that to the degree the light is there, the darkness cannot be and to the degree that one is encompassed by darkness, they lack light or glory – fire.
Because fire and darkness are collectively exhaustive; meaning that if you had spiritual eyes to see, you would notice that all people are either encircled by darkness of varying strengths or encircled by light of varying degrees; for example, the fire encircling both Nephi II and Lehi II is described as “a flaming fire” implying that is was brighter and more glorious that the fire that was encircling the others.
Why were they each encircled by a pillar of fire?
Because salvation is a personal matter; a covenant God has with an old prophet in a book or even with your best friend or family member won’t save you if you will not cry unto God yourself.
What is happening to the Lamanites?
The Holy Spirit is entering their hearts and burning away the darkness and “dross” or impurities with its fiery glory.
They are filled with unspeakable joy that cannot be expressed to one who has not also experienced it.
They are given spiritual gifts, including the gift of prophesy.
They are being “baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost”, even though they have not yet been baptized by water! (see 3 Nephi 9:19-20).

READ Helaman 5:46-51
Why has God the Father blessed them with peace and what does this mean?
It is a reward for their faith in Christ.
Peace means they can be “at peace” with regards to their salvation; they are receiving a promise from God Himself.
But unless their mortal probation is finished at this moment, the “peace of the world” is not the promise God is giving them.
How did they receive faith in Christ and what does this teach us?
By crying unto God the Father for it; they received it as a gift from God.
God is just waiting to bless us if we will cry unto Him as directed.
If we cry unto Him, we are blessed with faith and when we receive that faith we are blessed again with salvation.
Did these 300 Lamanites receive a mighty change?
Yes, their “ghosts” or spirits have been made holy through direct contact with the Holy Spirit of God filling them; they have been changed in a mighty way; they are not the same people they were before.
How could this have happened without the Lamanites first being baptized by water – did they receive the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost first and if so, then how?
The answer is yes, as the Lord Himself told the Nephite and Lamanite survivors (see 3 Nephi 9:19-20).
While baptism by water as a symbolic offering of one’s life to God was not required of the Lamanites before receiving the baptism of fire, faith in Christ and repentance was required; likely baptism was performed later as baptism still seems to be a requirement (see 2 Nephi 31:13-14), although the order may not matter as much as we think it does – remember Joseph Smith was encircled in a pillar of fire in the presence of God at 14 years old without baptism or priesthood!
It’s a good question, as is the following: how could Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery be baptized by water and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost without first being confirmed by the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost? (see JSH 1:70-74).
Why did the heavens open and angels came down to minister?
Because past their realization of their awful state, their crying to God for faith and deliverance, and their being filled with and changed by the Holy Spirit, these Lamanites do not know what has happened to them (see 3 Nephi 9:19-20) – they must be taught or ministered to.
If they are to go forth and minister to others, they must understand the doctrine of Christ or in other words, they need a vocabulary to describe what they have experienced and its importance.
After receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, Joseph Smith reported having the scriptures opened to him in a way he had never imagined before; as the journey back to God requires knowledge, a true understanding of the scriptures through the light of the Holy Spirit is critical (see JSH 1:74).
Because these individuals had been changed and made holy through the reception of the baptism of fire and Gift of the Holy Ghost and angels minister to such individuals.
Is it possible for a person to receive the Holy Ghost but for it not to tarry with them and why would this happen?
Yes (see D&C 130:23) – the Holy Spirit testifies of truth – it IS truth; and when one comes into contact with truth, they should feel it.
The visit is conditional and dependent upon the worthiness and desire of the recipient; they can grieve the Spirit by misbehavior and it will depart from them.
However, this is not the same as receiving the Holy Ghost as a constant companion in a gift from God.
What is the Gift of the Holy Ghost?
It is a gift from God to you.
It is the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit.
Receiving the Holy Ghost as a gift from God makes the one receiving it Holy, as it changes them forever – they have no more disposition to do evil but to do good continually; they are sanctified, which brings them into greater contact with God – eventually to receive Christ, through whose blood they are sanctified (see Moses 6:59-60).
This sanctification through the baptism of fire is done upon your body and spirit to render that which it descends upon indestructible, allowing it to have eternal life (see John 11:25-26); while baptism by water unto repentance is done upon the body as an outward show of an inward commitment to come unto Christ and be filled with His Spirit.
Once sanctified, they are prepared to enter the presence of the Father (see D&C 88:75), receive the Fullness (see D&C 93:19-20) and join the Church of the Firstborn as a Son of God (see D&C 76:58, 66-69; 3 Nephi 19:29-33).
It is like the ancient Jewish tradition of the Temple altar that cannot be profaned or made unholy by contact with that which is unclean – in fact, the altar makes the unclean thing holy by touching it (see Isaiah 6:5-8).
Why does the Father say that Christ “was from the foundation of the world”?
He existed from the foundation of the world – He is the “I am”.
He was God from the foundation of the world.
It is not implied, necessarily, that Christ was God before that, in a prior eternity; Jehovah did not have a fullness at first but progressed from grace to grace until He had received a fullness and was prepared to attain to the resurrection and accomplish the Atonement (see D&C 93:6-17; TPJS 391:1-2).
What is the implication of Christ’s journey for us?
If we want to be saved, we must become precisely as Christ is (see LoF 7:9).
One can only become precisely as Christ is if one experiences the same things Christ did and demonstrates the same performance.
We, too, must climb Jacob’s ladder going from a small capacity to a great one or from grace to grace, from eternity to eternity, until we also receive a fullness and are prepared to attain to the resurrection of the dead for ourselves and are able to live in everlasting burnings – and learn to be a God, the way that all other God’s have had to do before us (see TPJS 390-393).
When the scriptures say that Christ is our example in all things, they are speaking literally – in the same way that Christ did nothing but what He saw His Father do first, Christ will become our Father if we will come unto Him and we will one day do all of His works ourselves, or we cannot be saved because we will not be precisely like Him.
In 1843, Joseph Smith said, “The Holy Ghost is now in a state of probation which, if he should perform in righteousness, he may pass through the same or a similar course of things that the Son has” (see “Words of Joseph Smith” p. 245); if the Third Member of the Godhead is still in a probationary state, who is he?
“He” can be any of us if we become sanctified and our spirits or “ghosts” become “holy” through receiving a fullness of God’s Holy Spirit (see Moses 6:61 and LoF 5:2; D&C 76:58-60; Revelation 3:21-22; Moses 1:39) here in this mortal probation.
Note: some people have used this statement to glorify Joseph Smith and suggest that he is the Holy Ghost and was referring to himself; this could not be true as the Spirit was still being felt by many other Saints during the mortal life of Joseph Smith and if he is the Holy Ghost but was bounded in a probationary state, he couldn’t have also been a personage of spirit to dwell within other people; however, if the definition of the Holy Spirit as the mind of God and the light which enlightens all things is used, and if the Holy Ghost is any spirit having a mortal probation that has become truly sanctified and holy, then Joseph WAS the Holy Ghost, to the degree that his spirit had become holy and he was one with God through the connection via the Holy Spirit, which he surely had in abundance (although not in a fullness, like Christ did).  But the same could be said for anyone else (like Hyrum Smith?) living at the same time as Joseph – implied is that there is not one Holy Ghost, although there is one mind of God or Holy Spirit, which is in and through all things. 

The Path: Being Thoroughly Proved Through All Hazards

READ Helaman 6:1-5
What causes gross wickedness?
Rejecting the word of God when it is preached to you.
You leave neutral ground by rejecting what God offers you.
Is it surprising that the fellowship between the Nephites and Lamanites, even in the Church, happened so quickly?
Yes, in that they have been fighting for hundreds of years with only two generations separating them from the last Great War – and there have been other smaller wars between them since that time, 10 years before and 25 years before.
Yes, in that their cultures are different by this point (note: we only see the Lamanites from the Nephites’ perspective in the Book of Mormon; we have little idea about what their culture was like from the inside) and even in the Church, it is difficult for some to separate cultural traditions from the actual gospel of Christ.
No, because when one receives the Fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it makes you one with Christ and thus, one with anyone else who has also received it.
No, because the People of Ammon joined the Nephites in good sized numbers three generations ago and they lived together in peace.

READ Helaman 7:2-5
Why could Nephi II not stay among the people of the Northward country?
It was not just because they had rejected the gospel, he could not stay because they were threatening his life.
When he returns to the Land of Zarahemla, what does he find?
The Gadiantons ARE the government.
They have legitimate and legal power to run the country; they are the law-makers and law enforcers.
How did the Gadiantons “usurp” power in a country that appoints leaders by the voice of the people?
Usurp = to seize and hold in possession by force or without right (see Webster’s 1828 Dictionary).
The Nephites had “united” with the Robbers (see Helaman 6:21, 38-39).
When the voice of the people (the majority) are wicked, then wicked people will be elected or appointed to lead them.
What has been “usurped” and changed is the Nephite Constitution, which was given to King Mosiah and based on the laws of God, specifically the Law of Moses (see Mosiah 29:39; Alma 1:14; Alma 11:1; Jarom 1:5).
How are the government leaders behaving?
Like modern politicians…it is all about their self-interest – obtaining money as a result of their government work (insider knowledge and graft) and staying in power to continue that income stream by encouraging wickedness, changing the law, painting the righteous as intolerant haters who are trying to control people with religion, and flattering the people in their wicked success.

READ Helaman 7:6-9
Is Nephi II romanticizing the “good old days” of Lehi or is he correct in his assessment of relative wickedness?
He is romanticizing the good old days because Nephi I was always getting angry at the “stiff neckedness” of this brothers (see 1 Nephi 15:1-11; 2 Nephi 4:27) and the wickedness of his people (see Jacob 1:7-8, 1516, 19).
There is a danger in romanticizing the old days and their prophets because in can turn into idolatry, especially if the current generation of Church members and leaders are not receiving revelation but are basking in their “chosenness” which they inherited from those that came before.
But Nephi I said they lived after the manner of happiness because of their covenant relationships with Christ (see 2 Nephi 5:26-27), and as they were a much smaller community, having several people (Lehi I, Nephi I and Jacob for sure, and perhaps others) also rending the veil and coming unto Christ would make the percentage of those who knew God and abided by His commandments much higher – and that would influence the society to a greater degree.
And Nephi I saw his descendants in vision reap the judgments of God at the time of Christ’s death, and ultimately be destroyed 400 years later because of their pride and wickedness (see 1 Nephi 12:2-5, 19-20); while Nephi I had some wickedness and rebellion to deal with, his people were not “ripened in iniquity” to the point that they would be swept off, so maybe Nephi II has a good point about relative righteousness.
What does it mean to be “easy to be entreated”?
Entreated = earnestly supplicated, besought or solicited; importuned; urgently requested (see 1828 Webster’s Dictionary).
It means that they were open to being urged or begged away from sin and back to righteousness.
Why speak of them as “firm to keep the commandments”?
Firm = properly fixed; closely compressed, compact or hard; solid; steady; constant; stable; unshaken; not easily moved; not giving way; resolute.
They were steady, constant and resolute in keeping the commandments; they were not easily moved away into sin even when tempted.

READ Helaman 7:12-21
What is the difference between entreating and enticing?
Entreat = see above.
Entice = to incite or instigate by exciting hope or desire; to seduce; to tempt; to urge; to lead astray; to allure (see 1828 Webster’s Dictionary).
To entreat is to beg or ask for something with no obvious reward to the giver (dependent upon mercy; charity), while to entice is to allure or attempt to draw someone to do something usually through some kind of perceived reward to the giver.
Remember that God both entreats and entices people to choose righteousness. 
Why have the Nephites hardened their hearts and forgotten God?
To get gain: praise and riches.
To be comfortable, at the expense of others – as “murder, plunder, steal, false witness” all imply unlawfully or immorally taking from others what rightfully belongs to them.
To “save themselves”, in this world, at least; implied in this is the idea that they are beholden to nothing and no one; they can do whatever they want.
What does it mean to repent?
To turn unto the Lord your God, who is calling after you; it is to listen to God and do His will which requires forsaking all others’ wills including your own; it is usually the opposite of doing whatever you want.
It means relinquishing control of your life to God, which could mean that you will become very uncomfortable, especially as God’s goal for you is to enable your eternal life, which will require you becoming precisely as He is, which will require you doing precisely what He has done… which implies your attaining to the resurrection yourself and suffering an eternal sacrifice for those you love… which is the opposite of comfortable…(see Moses 1:39; LoF 7:9, 15-16; D&C 19:11-20).

READ Helaman 7:22-23
Why will the Lord withdraw his strength from an unrighteous person or people?
Because it would be unfair or unjust to do otherwise.
The Lord honors our agency; if we will not ask Him for strength, which we can gain in return for coming unto Him, He cannot help us – unless we are being prayed for by others who are righteous and for some reason He decides to honor their prayer on our behalf.
This is how the Lord allows the wicked to punish and destroy the wicked: He just removes Himself and lets the natural order of things have full sway.
What is the danger to a nation that has enjoyed God’s strength and protection but then loses it through wickedness?
They don’t realize how much of their former strength and success was because of God’s support and how much was their own doing.
In their wickedness, they are likely to downplay how much God had helped them in the past and be overconfident in their own ability.
Other wicked nations who have never received God’s protection will have a more accurate understanding of their own strengths, which will be an advantage in battle.
Is righteousness relative to one’s knowledge?
Yes, in that one’s accountability before God’s judgement bar for living true to knowledge (i.e. righteousness) is greater the more knowledge one has; the Lord “grades on the curve” of relative righteousness against relative knowledge when it comes to forgiving people and covenanting with them; the question becomes: how well did you live compared to the light you were given (as a result of performance in a first place – see Alma 13:3; D&C 130:18-21) on earth?
No, in that ultimately we must become precisely as God and Christ are or we cannot be saved – end of story!  In this sense, a fullness of knowledge is critical because without it, you will not be able to live perfectly because you won’t know enough to do so; the individual who was true to their little portion of light will have further to go in the eternities than the person who was true to a greater amount of light and knowledge; and to be saved, we must be perfect (see D&C 130:18-21; LoF 7:9, 15-16).

READ Helaman 7:25-29
In what ways might the “good” Church members have united or associated themselves with the Gadianton robbers?
Some may have actually joined the group; remember that the Gadianton’s were the successful, sophisticated, leaders of the society, by this point – they were revered and emulated as the pinnacle of that which is good, just like today. 
But many are likely adopting their practices and rationalizing it to themselves – “am I my brother’s keeper,” “money makes the world go ‘round and I can buy anything with it,” and “a little… won’t matter, as long as I don’t get caught”, plus, “everyone is doing it”.
And all are benefiting from the wealth that the Gadianton-led society is creating as a whole, so don’t upset the apple cart by doing something to ruin the economy – enjoy the fruits of a successful nation. 
And if they were really rationalizing things, “God is blessing us as a people, so things must not be THAT bad…”.
Why is pride such a terrible sin?
To come unto Christ, you must sacrifice your whole soul, which requires a broken heart and contrite spirit and a complete realization of one’s lost and fallen state… pride stops you from even entering the gate to salvation. 
But pride says “sure you have to repent and come unto Christ because you’re not perfect but clearly you’re better or more righteous than most – I mean look at all of the things you’ve done to help people, look at the way you teach people the gospel, look at the exactness with which you keep the Church standards – your sins are nothing compared to all of those people’s”.  Pride places the standard of measurement in the mortal realm instead of where it needs to be to be saved – which is against Eternal Law. 
Pride says “you can take care of yourself because you are a competent and self-reliant individual who has worked hard, educated yourself and ‘multiplied’ the talents God gave you”.  Pride masquerading as good old fashioned Yankee values is the opposite of what King Benjamin taught – that we are less than the dust of the earth and unprofitable servants regardless of how capable we think we are.
Pride says “the things people have done to you are wrong and you are right to demand justice from God – what they did is not fair or even terrible, and they should be punished – and you should not have to love them until they beg for your forgiveness, and even then…”.  Pride stops you from forgiving others in a quest for “justice” and revenge. 
Pride says “I should be better than this”; “I am a loser and I hate myself.”  This manifestation of pride leads to despair not repentance. 
Pride will stop you from offering what is required to come unto Christ and know your Lord – which is the definition of eternal life (see John 17:3); and if the Lord can’t give you eternal life, His work and glory is thwarted and His eternal sacrifice is wasted.
How do riches cause pride?
With money in the bank, one does not feel quite so dependent on God for temporal needs, but at least one is “self-reliant”!
Riches show that the individual is successful or “good” or talented or “profitable” (see Mosiah 2:21).
Blessings in the form of wealth can be interpreted as a show of God’s favor of one’s righteousness or the fact that the path one is pursuing is acceptable to God and is leading directly to your salvation (see 1 Nephi 4:14; 2 Nephi 1:20 and LoF 6:2-7).
Relative wealth makes it easy to judge people and things; everything can be measured, including righteousness/blessings, justice, talent and work ethic, based on this easily observed indicator.

READ Helaman 8:1-6
Why are the judges so angry at Nephi II?
Even if the society is indirectly complicit in and benefiting from Gadianton behavior, it still must be done in secrecy or the “good people” finally rise up and decide that they must do something to stop it due to their guilt of knowing exactly what is going on and thereby being directly complicit (while still benefitting from the wealth the society is enjoying…).
If their deeds are not done in secrecy, it becomes an outright war between rival Gadianton gangs and much of the wealth creation possibilities are lost in the fighting.
What danger do the Nephites have with the Gadiantons running both the political structure and the military?
They have changed the laws to be able to do whatever they’d like – economically, politically and militarily – so that they are the legal leaders of the people and most of their actions are within the legal framework.
As the Gadiantons are completely self-interested, they now have the power to use “legally authorized” warfare to accomplish their goals; failure to comply with the “draft” would result in official government punishment. 
How are the leaders framing what Nephi II is saying regarding the destruction of the Nephites?
They are framing him to be a traitor to the nation.
He is speaking ill of their country – that it will be destroyed, that they the people are somehow wicked, that the law of the land is corrupt, and that the military will be beaten; they are saying that he is “un-Nephite” to suggest such things – he is not a patriot but a malcontent with questionable motives – he is against the government, the law and the people and thus against the nation – he is a traitor.

READ Helaman 8:11-13
Why does Nephi II use Moses as an example of one with the power of God and why is the accusation that they deny Moses’ words such a powerful and insulting one?
Moses was the dispensation head and the law-giver; if Moses did not have the power of God then the religion is false.
Moses clearly had the power of God with him and no one who pretended to religious position would ever dare to deny that publically; if Moses did not have the power of God then the current leaders surely have none of it either.
Accusing them of denying Moses’ words would be like someone telling the modern Brethren that they are denying or not following the words of Joseph Smith – it is an indictment at the bedrock level of what the people believe is the truth of the revealed gospel for their day.
If they have denied the revelations of, and have changed the doctrines taught by the dispensation head, they are indeed in apostasy!
And remember that for the Nephites, the law of God and the law of the land are much more closely related (historically and still culturally) than ours are today.  They still had to appear to be aligned with Moses’ (and Benjamin’s) laws – politically and religiously. 

READ Helaman 8:14-16
What symbolism is Nephi II using here and why?
It is the symbolism of the cross of Christ.
The brass serpent was “lifted up” as was Christ: Israel had to look to the brass serpent which was above them, to be saved from the poisonous snakes; Christ’s crucifixion caused him to be lifted up on a cross, above the people, so that He could “draw all men unto” Him and save them (see John 12:32-34).
The serpent, which we traditionally think of as Satan, was used to symbolize Christ: Satan wants to be the God of this world and has co-opted Christ’s symbol; Christ was a man of grief and was accused on countless occasions of being in league with or possessed by the devil – He was the “serpent” or “worm” who was seen as a thing of naught (see Psalms 22:1-6; 1 Nephi 19:9).
Looking up to Christ as He was lifted up upon the cross is something that all who would become His sons and daughters must do, that their hearts might truly be broken and their spirits become contrite (see Jacob 1:8); Christ viewed His seed while He was hanging there (see Isaiah 53:10; Mosiah 15:10-13), and “prolonged His days” until the deed was finished, so that they could be saved (see John 19:30; John 17:1-10) – it is interesting to think about what this means – did they also see Him, in vision perhaps, but not really because He could see them during that moment in mortal time while on the cross?  Time in this mortal sphere is an interesting thing, especially when informed by some principles of modern science and God’s pronouncements that all things are before His face at once. 
What are “these things” that all the holy prophets have testified of?
That they have all seen Christ, lifted up, in vision – they are witnesses because they are His seed or Sons and Daughters.
That they have faith in Christ because they have been redeemed and know Him (see Ether 3:13; John 17:3).
Because the Testimony of Jesus (see D&C 88:75) is the spirit of prophesy – making them that receive it “prophets”.

READ Helaman 8:17-22
Why does Nephi II mention the testimony of all these prophets?
It is not just his testimony – he is not alone in this knowledge.
He followed the words of the testimony of others to find God for himself (see LoF 2:54-56).
But at the judgement bar at the last day, the testimonies of all these Sons and Daughters of God will stand against anyone who does not believe them – that their testimony of what had happened to them and the promises they had received from the Lord because of His Atonement, was real (2 Nephi 33:11).
Who were the “many before the days of Abraham” who were called after the Order of His Son?
The people of Enoch’s Zion.
The people of Melchizedek’s Zion.
Adam and the seven patriarchs, his descendants (see D&C 107:53).
Noah and Shem.
And perhaps others that we don’t have a record of yet.
Why was Lehi driven out of Jerusalem?
Not just because he testified of destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of Babylon…the eventual destruction of the city is just proof that the words of the prophet were true.  Plus, many others were already testifying of this same thing. 
But because he testified of the reality of His Lord, because he had seen him and had become His Son (see 1 Nephi 1:6-15) – this claim made any other message given by the individual “legitimate” and not easily refuted or marginalized.
What does it mean that all these prophets “looked forward” and “have rejoiced in His day which is to come”?
They are witnesses of Christ.
They have all looked forward in time, in vision, and have seen the birth, ministry, atonement, crucifixion, and resurrection of their Lord and God – they all saw Him “lifted up” and rejoiced in it (see Moses 7:47).

READ Helaman 8:23
How were all of these people redeemed by Christ?
They were redeemed from their lost and fallen state of spiritual death when He manifested Himself unto each of them in the flesh (see Ether 3:13).
What does it mean that they “gave Him glory because of that which is to come” and how does this apply to having faith and hope in Christ?
After they had witnessed His atonement, crucifixion and resurrection in vision, and had been redeemed from the fall by being forgiven and entering again into His presence while in the flesh, they were given a promise of eternal life as a Son or Daughter of Christ.
Because Christ had not yet accomplished the atonement in mortal time, and because they still had to progress through the eternities until they had themselves had attained to the resurrection of the dead and could dwell in everlasting burnings because they were precisely as Christ is – being in jeopardy every hour they are in a mortal condition – they must exercise great faith in the hope or promise Christ has given them that they will be able to some day in some future eternity ascend to His height and be exalted as He is.
And all of that is only accomplished through the merits and mercy of Christ – something to truly give Him glory for!

READ Helaman 8:27-28 and Helaman 9:3, 15-18
Why did Nephi II’s miraculous prophecy persuade the “five” witnesses but did not convert the judges?
Because they refused to be converted; they had their agency (and had used it to perform many “Gadianton” activities, so their hearts were hard and they were filled with darkness) and chose, when confronted with a seemingly miraculous event, to assume that Nephi II was as corrupt as they were.
The five witnesses who ran to see if the Chief Judge was murdered, on the other hand, chose to believe Nephi II; they had the same evidence before them as the judges (i.e. Nephi prophesies and their Chief Judge has been murdered in line with his prophesy) but decided that if they found the Chief dead, that they would believe Nephi II.

READ Helaman 9:21, 25-36
Will this second prophesy, if it plays out the way Nephi II has predicted, convince the judges of his prophetic abilities and by extrapolation, the truth of his message of impending Nephite destruction?
No, they can still choose to disbelieve in the face of all kinds of evidence – they can make assumptions and choose to believe evil intent of Nephi II (see Helaman 10:13).
Or they can think of him as in league with the devil or possessing some great magic or having Godlike supernatural or psychic abilities (see Helaman 9:41).

The Tree: Nephi II’s Sealing Up to Eternal Life

Read Helaman 10:3-11
Why won’t Nephi II ask that which is contrary to the Lord’s will?
Nephi II has become someone who the Lord can have faith in.
He has been tried at all hazards and has come to the point where he has obtained and completely aligned himself with God’s will.
He has become one with God to a great extent; his will has been swallowed up in God’s, meaning that Nephi II has obtained and embraced God’s will, and it is now his will, too.
Why does the Lord begin by saying “Thou art Nephi and I am God…”; what is happening here?
The Lord is “declaring the decree” of His relationship with Nephi II, as a father to a son (see Psalms 2:7; John 1:12).
Nephi is receiving the fullness of the priesthood or the Priesthood After the Order of the Son of God.
His calling and election has been made sure and he has been sealed up to eternal life (see D&C 88:75).
How do we know that Nephi's experience was his calling and election?
"Served with unwearyingness" = "thoroughly proved" and "determined to serve him in all hazards".
Acknowledges to Nephi that he is sanctified such that his will is aligned completely with the Lord's = will “not ask contrary” to God’s will.
Specifies their relationship ("thou art Nephi and I am God, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels…" v6) - covenant language of calling and election with witnesses - proclaims the holy spirit of promise sealing the ordinances already entered into and promises received therefrom.
The Lord will “bless” him “forever”.
Gives Nephi the fullness of the priesthood/sealing power; the power over the elements/material earth is a tip-off that a calling and election has been given.
What is "eternal life"?
It is life in the highest degree of glory in the Celestial Kingdom.
It is life like God's - i.e. it is Godhood, through being a joint-heir with Christ.
What must we do to inherit eternal life?
Exercise faith unto repentance.
Enter the gospel covenant through baptism and live the terms of the covenant by offering your whole soul in sacrifice.
Abide in the covenant at all hazards to the degree that the blessings promised you in the ordinances are realized in your actual life while in mortality.  You enter the Gate by receiving the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost; you walk the path with meekness and charity being tried and proven at all hazards, until the Lord ministers to you and seals you up to eternal life.
When have we "made it” when do we know that we will inherit eternal life?
When we are informed by God in mortality – our initial calling and election is “made sure” through a "more sure word of prophesy" because there is no more “sure” word of a prophesy that will happen in future eternities than when God swears (by His own life) that it will be (see D&C 131:5; D&C 88:75).
What did Nephi II do to receive the assurance of this highest blessing in mortality?
Consecrated his life, lived and preached the gospel covenant with "unwearyingness" (see Helaman 10:4-5).
Not "sought his own life (will)" - gave up the Chief Judge role, risked his life multiple times (with the dissenters, the Lamanites, and the Gadianton Nephites), and did not succumb to despair and seek to end his mortal live prematurely. 
Exercised incredible faith: the miracle in the Lamanite prison, prophesying to the Nephites about the Gadianton Chief Judge conspiracy (see Helaman 5, 8-9).
Obedience to the commandments (see Helaman 10:4).
Obtained the will of the Lord - and submitted his will wholly to the Lord (abide in covenant) to the point that his will had become completely aligned with the Lord's (sanctification) - pure in heart, one in charity, eye single to glory (see Helaman 10:5).
The grand key in making ones calling and election sure is loyalty to or trust in God at all hazards; this loyalty comes from a love for God which dictates all else in your life because it is the deepest desire of your heart (see John 14:15; TPJS 171:2).
What power has the Lord given Nephi II?
The "sealing" power; this is very different from what the sealers have in the LDS temple, which is contingent upon the obedience (to the terms of the covenant) of the couple over their lifetimes.
He has God’s power to use on the earth; he can reach through the veil and command the physical world with the power of the spiritual world because he has God’s seal of approval and an association with the Father Himself; if he commands it, it is done, as if it were God Himself saying it – God will ratify Nephi II’s words and make them so; he has become a “god among us” or Emmanuel (see Isaiah 7:14; John 10:34-35; D&C 121:28-29, 32; D&C 132:37; Psalms 82:6; 1 Corinthians 8:5).
This includes a possible change or renewing of the body to that of a translated being (or at least it works like one…) such that he can teleport, as did Elijah (see Helaman 10:16 and 1 Kings 18:12).

READ Helaman 10:17-Helaman 11:5, 9-17
How did Nephi II use God’s power and what does that teach us about the kind of person that God will trust with it?
Nephi II is extremely meek – in response to being rejected he does nothing, instead he tries to save the lives of those who rejected him by stopping their warfare; also, he continues to defer to God in the use of His power as instead of just pronouncing the famine, he asked the Lord to do it and then to take it away again, even though he has faith that he could do all things, as he has faith in God’s promise to him – Nephi II always left it to the Lord whether the request would be granted or denied and he never demanded anything of the Lord.
Nephi II is filled with charity – he wants his people to repent and come unto Christ and feels that the violence and anger in war will just drive them over the edge, as well as continuing to heap the sins of murder on an already long list, but a famine might humble them enough to turn them back to God; and as soon as Nephi II thinks they might have repented, he intercedes with God on their behalf to stop the famine.
Why are meekness and charity absolute prerequisites to obtaining the sealing power?
God will only give His power to a “Child” who has become like Him – one He can trust.
Think of the unjust and terrible destruction that a person could cause, even in the name of “for your own good”, if they had God’s power to bind or break in heaven and earth but lacked extreme meekness and boundless charity.

READ Helaman 11:23
What does the fact that Nephi II continues to have “many revelations daily” infer about revelation and how much there is to learn?
Even after making his calling and election sure, there is still so much to learn to become like God.
We should NEVER tell God that we have enough revelation and just need to work harder on living what we already have – even AFTER having received one’s calling and election – even more so before.

The Children of Men

READ Helaman 12:1-6
What is the root cause of man’s problems?
It is that in their heart of hearts, they do not desire that the Lord should rule over them, despite ALL He has done for them.
And for many, it is the idea that man really has “dominion” over this creation, not as a gift from God via the Holy Order but because there really is no God and it is up to the survival of the fittest.
While prosperity or money is a great temptation, it is not the root cause.
Why do people forget the Lord at the very time when He blesses them?
Because they are so focused on the things of this world – starting with the basic needs and then extending into creature comforts and exciting distractions.
Because the natural man is an enemy to God and wants to follow his own way and not be beholden to anyone; so when he gets a little money as he supposes, he soon begins to practice “self-reliance” and will turn from God because he feels he can.
So as soon as the vast majority of people receive blessings of prosperity, they are distracted from God or feel they no longer need Him; the timing is quite ironic.
How does the imagery of “trampling” someone “under your feet” describe the people’s relationship with the Lord?
It is an awful image of a mob scene, with people running in a panic to get away from a terrifying enemy or in the excitement of trying to get something before someone else does with no one taking care of their neighbor, and if someone falls (usually the young, weak or old), they may not even be noticed but will be trampled by the masses, as they pursue their single-minded objective.
What behavior separates the children of men (who may all be members of the Church) from the Sons and Daughters of God (who may not all be)?
The children of men require constant chastening and afflictions to help them remember God and all He has done for them.
The children of men are quick to listen to Satan and slow to return to God; they love Satan more than God or they love the things of the world more than God, which is the same thing – that’s where their hearts are set.
The children of men live without God in the world in that their perception of Him (or the lack of Him) leads them to pride; they compare themselves to each other instead of to a perfect, just and holy being who is so far above them (but like whom they must become to be saved) that it is hard to fathom for any man (see Moses 1:10).

READ Helaman 12:7-22
Why doesn’t Mormon add a “but” at the end of verse seven and qualify the sentence with all the ways we aren’t nothing?
We are supposed to learn that we are nothing and that learning is supposed to help us, because we must trust Him when He says that His work and glory is our immortality and eternal life (see Moses 1:39).
If we never open our hearts to learn and accept the truth of not only our fallen mortal condition here but also our general lack of spiritual light in eternity when compared to that just and holy being who is our God, WHO WE MUST BE PRECISELY LIKE TO BE SAVED (see LoF 7:9, 15-16), we will never be willing to do or sacrifice what is required to ever get out of a Telestial state (of which the lone and dreary world in which we now live, is one); we will continue, worlds without end, to be an enemy to God, cast out of His presence and accursed (see D&C 76:109-112, 94).
Mormon doesn’t finish his thought here; how would you finish it?
“…but man will not move or obey at the command of God, which is why he is less than the dust of the earth.”

READ Helaman 12:23-26
If no one is “good” but God, how can people do good?
Only Christ’s works, when He had completed His mission, can be called “good” in this world (see Romans 3:12; Psalms 14:3; Psalms 36:3; Psalms 53:1; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Jeremiah 13:23; 3 John 1:11; Helaman 12:4; Moroni 10:25; D&C 33:4; D&C 35:12; D&C 82:6).
So only those who have come unto Christ in covenant and are judged as being at-one with Him and forgiven by Him, or in other words “perfect in Christ” can say they have “done good”.
How long will their everlasting life and everlasting damnation last?
“Endless” and “eternal” are names of God; endless punishment is God’s punishment and eternal punishment is God’s punishment (see D&C 19:6-12).
Everlasting is a period of “time” (and I say that with some squeamishness, because I don’t know if ‘time’ is the right word), as in “from everlasting to everlasting” or from “eternity to eternity” (see D&C 20:17; Psalm 90:2; Moroni 7:22; D&C 132:20; D&C 76:4).
So their “life” or their “damnation” will last for a period, according to God’s wisdom.


Due to some recent work and life changes, I'm taking a hiatus from the weekly blog.  I will leave the blog up for anyone who would like ...