Friday, March 4, 2011

Remembering and building a foundation on Christ: the message behind Nephi and Lehi's mission to the Lamanites

Helaman 5:5-14 gives a number of things that Helaman taught his sons Nephi and Lehi before he died, and it is such a small sample, according to v13, that we should wonder why Mormon chose to include what he did.
5 For they remembered the words which their father Helaman spake unto them. And these are the words which he spake:
6 Behold, my sons, I desire that ye should remember to keep the commandments of God; and I would that ye should declare unto the people these words. Behold, I have given unto you the names of our first parents who came out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them; and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works ye may know how that it is said, and also written, that they were good.
7 Therefore, my sons, I would that ye should do that which is good, that it may be said of you, and also written, even as it has been said and written of them.
8And now my sons, behold I have somewhat more to desire of you, which desire is, that ye may not do these things that ye may boast, but that ye may do these things to lay up for yourselves a treasure in heaven, yea, which is eternal, and which fadeth not away; yea, that ye may have that precious gift of eternal life, which we have reason to suppose hath been given to our fathers.
9 O remember, remember, my sons, the words which king Benjamin spake unto his people; yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world.
10 And remember also the words which Amulek spake unto Zeezrom, in the city of Ammonihah; for he said unto him that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.
11 And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance; therefore he hath sent his angels to declare the tidings of the conditions of repentance, which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls.
12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
13 And it came to pass that these were the words which Helaman taught to his sons; yea, he did teach them many things which are not written, and also many things which are written.
14 And they did remember his words; and therefore they went forth, keeping the commandments of God, to teach the word of God among all the people of Nephi, beginning at the city Bountiful; (Helaman 5:5-14)
In examining these verses, the first thing I notice is repetition of the word “remember.” It is repeated 15 times in nine verses. (You might want to mark those words in your scriptures.) In some places, it is even repeated twice—“remember, remember.” This is not to bore us, but to emphasize the importance of the things attached to those “remember-remembers.” The things Helaman most wanted his sons to remember was:
• There is no other way mankind can be saved than through the atoning blood of Christ (v9)
• Building our foundation on Christ will save us and help us to endure through Satan’s storms (v12)

Something I realize recently was that after giving us these few words of Helaman, Mormon uses the rest of the chapter narrative to tell how Nephi and Lehi’s ministry exemplified enduring Satan’s storms with their sure foundation in Christ. Also, the success of their ministry came from stirring the people up to remember Christ and repent.


Nephi and Lehi start preaching in Zarahemla among the Lamanites (who had at that time taken over much of the Nephite lands), and they confounded many dissenters who had come from the Nephites. The great power of their words reminded the dissenters of the Lord, reminded them salvation only came through Christ, and convinced them to repent and return to the Nephites to make restitution. The dissenters were reminded of the blessings that they had lost and wanted them again.

When Nephi and Lehi were in the Lamanite prison and the thick darkness surrounded the guards who intended to kill them, a dissenter, Aminadab, told the Lamanites to repent and cry to the voice until they believed in Christ “who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeerom” (Helaman 5:41). Aminadab reminded them of something they had learned long ago, and remembering was the first step to acting in faith.

In Helaman 6:3-6, the converted Lamanites went to the Nephites to preach. They declared how they were converted and exhorted them to faith and repentance. They preached with power and it helped the Nephites to remember their own conversion. It brought them to humility so they could depend upon the Lord for their salvation.

In three different cases here, remembering was the first step to reactivation in the gospel. I think this is an important principle that we can use to help reactivate members. We can help them remember what they were once taught. And we can share our own conversion stories with them.

Foundation in Christ

Nephi and Lehi also went through a very tough trial. While they were preaching, they were taken by an army and cast into prison. They were left there many days without food. As their bodies became weaker and weaker day by day, they would have had to contend with thoughts from the adversary that this predicament was directly caused by their preaching. They would have to remember to trust Christ that they had been doing the right thing. They would have to trust that they would still be supported and delivered from their afflictions, whether by miraculous means or by death. Their predicament was certainly one that could have dragged them “down to the gulf of misery and endless wo” (v12) if they didn’t have that foundation on Christ and remember.

Then too, even as the pillar of fire protected them from being immediately taken and executed by the Lamanites, there was also the severe earthquake and cloud of darkness that could be a cause for fear, as it was for the Lamanites. But they evidently called upon God in their extremity and were made visible examples of trust in God, as their faces shone in the midst of darkness as they prayed.

Remember to make Christ your foundation!


Curls said...

When I was a youth I used to be SO arrogant and thought that the repetitiveness of gospel teaching was stupid. But now, Oh I can't believe how often I read a scripture that reminds me of something I already knew-some principle I knew but hadn't been practicing that well. The gospel is SO inspired, if only we are humble enough to implement it.

LeAnn said...

I enjoyed reading your scriptures and the thoughts. Remember is a big important word in our lives and we will need a strong foundation in Christ inorder to survive these last days.
I like your insights.
I just posted on the Joys of the temple you might enjoy reading too.
Blessings to you! LeAnn

Michaela Stephens said...

Kimberly, I know what you're talking about. I used to feel the same way about repetitiveness in the scriptures and the gospel.

LeAnn, thanks for the link to your post. It was very sweet.

Allan said...

Have you ever pondered that possibly the the spiritual light that they saw surrounding Nephi and Lehi and the spiritual darkness surrounding them selves were always there, possibly the only change was that they were allowed to see that spiritual dimension that is always there and around us?
we know that there are other dimensions around us, we are taught that the spirit world and spirits both good and evil are around us, also that there is a veil that someday will be removed. also consider all the references to light and darkness in the scriptures. so maybe they were allowed to see what was always there.

Michaela Stephens said...

Good point, Allan. I think the story is also a great lesson about how the righteous are beacons to those around them, or like a city set on a hill.