(Draw a basic map on the board with Bountiful on the right, Zarahemla on the left, Desolation at the top, and Nephi at the bottom. Review Nephi's and Lehi's missions from the previous lesson: First they went to Bountiful and converted "tens of thousands" of Nephites; then to Zarahemla where they converted 8,000 Lamanites; then to Nephi, where they were imprisoned and sentenced to execution by the Lamanites but miraculously saved with fire, earthquake, darkness and the voice of God. The miracle assisted in the conversion of the majority of the Lamanites in the land. Then they and many of these Lamanites wwent north to Desolation to do missionary work among the Nephite emigrants there.)
Sometimes we get frustrated as we do repetitive jobs. We finish the dishes, only to find six more in the sink. We mow the lawn and it grows again. We fix things around the house and they break again. We exercise today and have to do it again tomorrow. Gospel teaching is the king of all frustrating repetitive chores, as we can easily see in this section of the Book of Mormon.
They had peace and freedom and wealth and the gospel in all the land. For a few minutes.
"And in the commencement of the sixty and seventh year the people began to grow exceedingly wicked again. For behold, the Lord had blessed them so long with the riches of the world that they had not been stirred up to anger, to wars, nor to bloodshes; therefore they began to set their hearts upon their riches; yea, they began to seek to get gain that they might be lifted up one above another; therefore they began to commit secret murders, and to rob and to plunder, that they might get gain." (Helaman 6:16-17)
The Gadiantons were back. Two chief judges in a row were murdered. The Gadianton "mafia" infiltrated both the Nephite and the Lamanite societies. The Lamanties (verse 37) hunted them down and either destroyed them or converted them to the gospel. The Nephites (verse 21) figure, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." (Helaman 6:35-36)
Nephi and Lehi had to witness the frustration and despair of witnessing the massive fruits of their labors going down the tube so quickly. Nephi bemoaned (Helaman 7:7-9) that his life would have been better had he lived in the time of his and his brothers' namesakes because then he would have had joy in the righteousness of his brethren. Doesn't this strike you as funny? The original Nephi had the continual frustration of dealing with Laman and Lemuel.
VIDEO SEGMENT "THE PRIDE CYCLE"
This excellent video from the Book of Mormon Video Presentations (available online at the link above) does not include all the details of the story; they are too many. So there is one particularly important thing we should note from the scriptures: Right at what would be the end of the movie, as Nephi is proven right, the people started to debate what Nephi was. And it wasn't whether he was a devil or a prophet; it was whether Nephi was a prophet or a god. (Helaman 9:40-41). A prophet or a god! Those are both pretty high opinions! Yet what did they do, even with those opinion? (Helman 10:1) They just walked away.
These people had had the gospel in their lives. They had been taught correct principles and had turned their backs upon them. These are the people who are the most hardened, the most difficult to bring back to God. Nephi had to prophesy dire things concerning them. But amidst all of it, there is one repetitive phrase which offers hope.
(Put blanks on the board for the letters of the phrase "except they repent". Have class members take turns guessing a letter until the entire phrase is revealed.)
Nephi was such an amazing servant of God, so in tune with the Spirit, that the Lord conferred upon him the sealing power (Helaman 10:7) Nephi was told in the next few verses, that he could choose whatever means he wanted to smite the people for their wickedness: break the temple in two, flatten mountains, whatever, but there was one requirement. He had to include the phrase "except ye repent." (Helaman 10:11)
APPLICATION TO US
In chapter 12 we can find the moral of the story clearly earmarked with the phrase "And thus we can behold" and similar phrases. There are three parts to this moral.
(Erase the board and write at the top of it "12:9-21"; at the bottom left of it "12:1-8"; and in the middle left of the board "12:21-26." Ask the class to look over those passages and report what they perceive to be the messages. Give them 1 minute for each passage. Then write next to the references on the board something like the following.)
- Helaman 12:2-3 "How low men are"
- Helaman 12:9-21 "How great God is"
- Helaman 12:21-26 (Draw an arrow from "men" to "God" to indicate the possibility of reconciliation initiated by men)
We see these Nephites going through three complete cycles of great righteousness to great wickedness in a period of only 23 years and we ask, Why can't they see what they are doing? Why do they keep going back to their old ways? Why can't they enjoy happiness and peace when they find it instead of wandering off to find something else?
But then, we need to remember the reason why this story was recorded. It was so that we could ask the more pertinent question, which is always, Am I like them?
- Do I forget God when things are going great?
- Do I think I earned these material blessings myself?
- Do I wish I had more stuff?
- Is it hard for me to pay tithing?
- Is my fast offering measly?
- Does the prophet's counsel ever disagree with me?
- Are my prayers better when I have afflictions than they are when I only have things to be grateful for?
- Do I realize how happy I am when I am living close to the Lord?