As always, use the Official Gospel Doctrine Manual in your preparation, these ideas are supplemental.
1 – “The Lamanites had become … a righteous people” Most of the Book of Mormon describes the Nephite’s and their efforts to teach the Lamanites the gospel, but here the roles are reversed. Did the Lamanites have prophets? Yes – Samuel the Lamanite comes to preach to the Nephites in Helaman 13-15.
7 – “peace in all the land” the fruits of the conversion of many Nephites by the Lamanites brought peace and prosperity.
9 – “they became exceeding rich” while material prosperity often follows spiritual prosperity, it is almost always a “red flag” indicating trouble to come. The gospel teaches that we must build our foundation on the rock of our Redeemer (Helaman 5:12), yet when people become wealthy they are tempted to “relocate” and “set their heart on their riches” instead keeping them on Christ (see Helaman 6:17).
15 – “murdered by an unknown hand” We can only imagine how unsettling it would be for these Nephite citizens to have two of their chief judges assassinated in the same year. Although they enjoyed peace and prosperity for a time, these events indicated something going on behind the scenes.
17 – “the Lord had blessed them so long with the riches of the world” In this verse, riches are called a blessing from the Lord. It is what we do with riches, and our attitude toward them that determine whether the riches remain a blessing or become a curse. Without a vigilant attitude, the Nephite’s riches brought passivity and pride.
26 – “by that same being who did entice our first parents” Mormon does not mention Satan by name, but mentions the many ways through time Satan has tried to thwart the work of God.
34-36 – “thus we see” Mormon wants us to notice the contrast between the progress of the Lamanites and the simultaneous downfall of the Nephites.
37 – “this band of robbers was utterly destroyed” How did the Lamanites destroy the secret combinations among themselves? Aggressive law enforcement? No. By preaching the gospel to them, and evidently, they all repented and forsook the secret combination in this instance. Later on, the Nephites will employ a similar approach among their own people in 3 Nephi 5:4-5. However, some of the Nephites after hearing the gospel message continued to have “secret murders in their hearts” and were punished according to the law. In either case, the first approach is to teach the gospel.
A video called “The Pride Cycle” covers the story line of Nephi’s preaching and prophecies in Helaman 7-10.
4-5 – “letting the guilty and the wicked go unpunished because of their money” Once the secret combination had obtained seats in the government, there was a complete breakdown of justice and the rule of law.
16 – “hurl away your souls” to “hurl” is to throw with violence; to drive with great force” (American Dictionary). This teaches us something about Satan’s attitude toward mankind.
17 – “why will ye die?” Notice that Nephi did not ask, “Why will the Lord destroy you?” but “why will ye die?” implying that they are making the conscious choice to die spiritually. The Lord doesn’t want anyone to die spiritually, he invites them to come and partake of the abundant life! Notice footnote 17a to Ezekiel 18:23, “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?”
18 – “voice of the good shepherd” this name for Jesus Christ is also used in John 10:14.
19 – “instead of gathering you … he will scatter you” While these chapters describe what has been called the “pride cycle,” the scriptures as a whole describe various cycles of scattering and gathering. Wicked societies get scattered, while the righteous are gathered (There might be some exceptions – we might say Lehi and his family were “scattered,” but not because of wickedness – but to preserve a remnant of the seed of Joseph. Ether 13:7).
20 – “How could you have forgotten your God” It’s always instructive to watch for the words “remember” and “forget” as we read the Book of Mormon, since President Spencer W. Kimball mentioned that “remember” might be the most important word in the dictionary.
1 – “the corruptness of their law” We remember that the reign of the judges began with pure laws, or true laws that King Mosiah had given them which were revealed to King Mosiah by God, but at this point, they had “altered and trampled under their feet the laws of Mosiah” (Helaman 4:22).
6 – “we are powerful and our cities great” We would never hear Captain Moroni or Helaman use such language. Captain Moroni always acknowledged God when they were successful in defending themselves, and always took responsibility when they had failures. Sometimes wickedness brings a false sense of strength and security.
14 – “did he not bear record that the Son of God should come?” Nephi testifies of Moses’ prophecy of Christ, but in our Old Testament, we have no such record, only that he raised the brazen serpent. Perhaps the record of Moses and the brazen serpent on the plates of brass included Moses prophecy of the coming Christ (See Numbers 21:9, John 3:14-15).
19-20 – “many prophets have testified these things” Prophets always testify of Christ, it’s the first item on their job description. D. Kelly Ogden and Andrew Skinner have written: “Nephi gave us the most detailed list of those who testified of the coming of the Son of God: Moses, Abraham, Zenos, Zenock, Ezais, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lehi and Nephi, and ‘almost all of our fathers have testified of the coming of Christ.’ We have, indeed, received ‘so many witnesses.’” (Book of Mormon, Verse by Verse, 2:92-93).
27 – “behold, your judge is murdered” This is a remarkable prophecy of an event that was occurring at or near the very time he was praying and preaching to the people. Nephi could have said, “as we speak, your chief judge is murdered.”
16 – “Nephi must have agreed with some one to slay the judge” unbelievers must come up with an alternate explanation for a miracle or prophecy.
20 – “Behold, here is money” Nephi only recently was condemning the actions of the Nephites in focusing on getting gain and setting hearts upon their riches (Helaman 7:21), yet here, they mistakenly think that money will persuade Nephi to confess. As if to say, “Since money motivates us, it will motivate you too.”
21 – “ye uncircumcised of heart” this phrase evidently refers to those who have made covenants outwardly, who performed the physical symbol of the covenant, but their hearts weren’t in it. Jacob also uses this phrase in 2 Nephi 9:33.
1 – “leaving Nephi alone” After such a miraculous, current, “real-time” prophecy which provided details of the entire episode with pinpoint accuracy, we would think that the people who witnessed the fulfillment of Nephi words would gather around him with rapt attention, eager to hear anything and everything he would have to say! Instead, faced with irrefutable proof of his gift of prophecy, and his communication with God, the people simply walked away. Amazing.
4-5 – “with unwearyingness” Nephi personifies the admonition, “be not weary in well-doing” (2 Thess 3:13).
12 – “did not go unto his own house, but did return unto the multitudes” As further evidence of his unwearyingness, Nephi doesn’t even go home and take a rest, but returns to testify to the people. Sadly, the people reject this final opportunity.
14 – “ye shall be smitten even unto destruction” as a consequence of ignoring Nephi’s preaching and even a miraculous sign, their destruction is forthcoming.
4 – “rather, let there be a famine” this in an interesting item for discussion – why would Nephi prefer a famine over a war? One idea is that in a war, you can always blame to other side for all the problems and consequences. But who do you blame when it stops raining? The only option is to turn to God. Also, in a time of famine, all potential combatants are affected, and they have to turn to God as well.
7 – “they began to remember” The old saying is, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Perhaps it works on spiritual hearts as well.
17 – “the Lord … caused that rain should fall upon the earth” the famine which began in the 73rd or 74th year, was broken by rain in the 76th year.
25 – “retreat back into the mountains” The Gadianton robbers used guerilla-warfare type tactics, because they usually did not occupy land or have borders. They were not distinguished by recognizable uniforms, but they would rob and plunder then disappear.
36-37 – “forget the Lord their God” Another full circle of the pride cycle, where only a few years after the famine subsided and the rains fell, the people were once again “ripening for destruction.’
Helaman 12 – here the story line pauses, and Mormon gives his comments on what he has just shared.
1-3 – “thus we can behold” Mormon desires that we see how fallen man reacts to God, even when God has showered material blessings upon them. He concludes that the only way to keep men in remembrance of God is for God to visit them with “death and with terror.”
Speaking of man’s pride, President Ezra Taft Benson observed:
The two groups who have the greatest difficulty following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich. The learned may feel the prophet is only inspired when he agrees with them; otherwise, the prophet is just giving his opinion — speaking as a man. The rich may feel they have no need to take counsel of a lowly prophet. — BYU Speeches of the Year, 1981, pp. 26-30.
In another setting, President Benson observed:
Ours then seems to be the toughest test of all for the evils are more subtle, more clever. It all seems less menacing and it is harder to detect. While every test of righteousness represents a struggle, this particular test seems like no test at all, no struggle and so could be the more deceiving of all tests. Do you know what peace and prosperity can do to a people — it can put them to sleep.” – address to Regional Representatives, Sept 30, 1977; also in Studies in Scripture, Vol. 5, The Gospels, Millet and Jackson, p. 369.
Brigham Young made a fascinating comment about his “worst fear” concerning the Latter-day Saints:
“The worst fear I have about this people is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and His people, wax fat, kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell. This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty, and all manner of persecution and be true. But my greater fear…is that they cannot stand wealth.” (Cited in Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 48)
7-8 – “how great is the nothingness of the children of men” This is an interesting statement, for those of us who grew up in a generation where we were constantly told that we were “saved for the last day” and “a chosen generation” and even “Saturday’s Warriors,” only be told in the Book of Mormon that “man is nothing” and even “less than the dust of the earth.” How is this possible if we are really the sons and daughters of God? The answers lie in verse 8. The dust obeys God. Man rebels. If God tells the dust what to do, the dust obeys, with no pushback.
Footnote 7a directs us to a story in the Pearl of Great Price wherein Moses has a fascinating encounter with God. Three times, Moses is addressed as “Moses, my son.” Yet, after the vision, Moses concludes, “Now I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.” (Moses 1:10). I love this story, because Moses illustrates how we can keep these two ideas, “man is nothing” and “I am a son of God” in perfect harmony. Yes, we are nothing without God, but with God, we can be something.
15 – “it is the earth that moveth and not the sun” a little astronomy here. Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet observed:
Reference is here made to the biblical account that shows Joshua commanding the sun and the moon to stand still so that his army might complete their rout of the Amorites (Joshua 10:12-14). Here a corrective note is added to that account, which supposed the sun to rotate around a stationery earth. (See also Isaiah 38:7-8; 2 Kings 20:8-11.) These verses provide a subtle but certain assurance that the prophet-editor Mormon, like many of the ancient spiritual leaders, was anything but primitive in his understanding concerning God, man, and the universe. (Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 3: 397.)
25 – “I would that all men might be saved” This, of course, is the desired outcome, that all of God’s children might be saved. Nephi said something similar, “And I pray the Father in the name of Christ that many of us, if not all, may be saved in his kingdom at that great and last day” 2 Nephi 33:12. Satan proposed to save all men, but he also sought to destroy the agency of man, which God would not allow (Moses 4:3). Of course, God would like all of us to “choose [him], our father,” (Moses 7:33), but he will “force no one to heaven” (Hymns, Know This, that Every Soul is Free, 240).