Nephi and Lehi speaking with an angel, by Steven Lloyd Neal

Click here to listen to Jared Anderson’t podcast on this lesson and to read his class notes

First, a note on record succession:

At the end of the Book of Alma, we learn that the Nephite records were past on from Helaman2 to Helaman2‘s brother Shibon.  Mormon seems to infer in Alma 63:10 that the plates were going to passed on to Corianton and that Helman2‘s son, Helaman3, was a second choice:  “..it became expedient for Shiblon…” .  It seems that the Nephite record is often passed from brother to brother (ie Nephi to Jacob), but it is often passed on from father to son (ie Jacob to Enos and Alma1 to Alma2).  It is not clear what is (if there was one) the normal process of passing on the records.

In Alma2‘s charge to his son Helaman2, (found in Alma 36-37) Alma2 seems very concerned that Helaman won’t be a good record keeper, thus showing that Helaman2 was the one expected to keep the Nephite record.  He spends 30 verses  in chapter 37 of Alma exhorting his son regarding the records.  At the time of the record transfer Alma2 says, “Believest though the words which I spake unto thee concerning those records which I have kept?” (Alma 45:2)  It seems Alma2 had reason to worry as Mormon’s abridgment of Helaman2‘s record is only 18 chapters long even though it covers 16 years.   Furthermore, it doesn’t appear that Helaman2 made any preparations to transfer the plates: “… Shiblon took possession of those sacred records…” (Alma 63:1)  Usually we get a verse or two about the plates being transferred ie. “I deliver these plates into the hands of my son Omni…” (Jarom 1:15)

Conflict Over the Judgment-Seat:  Helaman 1:1-8

1:2  Often critiques of the historicity of the Book of Mormon will point to the political issues in the Book of Mormon as evidence of a pious fraud because it speaks of a democratic government (judges being elected).  Here we see that the Chief Judge being elected by to  a life-time appointment , which although has a parallel with the U.S. Supreme Court,  the U.S. Supreme Court is not elected by the common people.  Furthermore, the executive and judicial branches of government are not two distinct entities in the Nephite government.

In Mosiah 29:42 we learn that Alma“was appointed to be the first chief judge..”  What does the word “appointed” meant here?  Was he appointed by the voice of the common people (which would be an odd use of the word) or did something else occur?   It is unclear.     Later  in Alma 4:20 we see that Alma“delivered up the judgment-seat to Nephihah…” .  There is no mention of  a democratic election there.  Alma 50:39 says that Nephihah’s son, Pahoran “was appointed to fill the judgment-seat, in the stead of his father…”   Here again it seems that no election occurred.

It leads me to ask, did Pahoran die before he appointed a successor?   That would explain why it was only his sons that are mentioned as possible “candidates” for the Chief-Judgement seat and governorship (it was supposed to be patrilineal?). Did Pahoran see the problem of a patrilineal Chief-Judgeship and thus had democratic election instead of appointing a successor?

PahoranAssasinated: Helaman 1:9-13

1:11  ” swearing by their everlasting Maker…”   Found this on the Jewish Encylopedia web-site:

 Even in judicial oaths, swearing by the name of Yhwh was abolished altogether during the age of the Geonim (which began in 598 BC).

Deuteronomic injunctions expressly command that oaths be taken in the name of God (and, by implication, not in the name of other gods): “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name. Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you” (Deuteronomy 6:13–14; see Deuteronomy 10:20). Indeed, God himself swears by himself or his life (see Genesis 22:16; Exodus 32:13; Numbers 14:21; Jeremiah 22:24; 46:18; Ezekiel 5:11; 14:16, 18, 20; 16:48; 17:19; 18:3; 20:3, 31, 33; 33:11, 27; 34:8; 35:6; Amos 6:8; and Zephaniah 2:9), his great name (see Jeremiah 44:26), or his holiness (see Amos 4:2).

More on ancient oaths:

In addition, oath taking in the name of God to no good intent (Hebrew lassaw, translated “in vain” in the King James Version of the Bible) is expressly forbidden in the third commandment of the Decalogue.  Deceptive swearing is prohibited in the Holiness Code in Leviticus (see Leviticus 19:12).

The most common formula in the witness invocation is “as the Lord liveth,”  which is frequently found with slight modifications, extensions, and variations: “As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth” (1 Samuel 20:3; 25:26; 2 Kings 2:2; 4:30), “as surely as you live” (1 Samuel 1:26; 17:55 NIV). (http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=21&chapid=103)

1:13 Pacumeni being elected by the people leads me to believe that elections for the Chief-Judge only occurred if one had not been previously appointed by the past chief-judge.

The Lamanites Capture Zarahemla: Helaman 1:14-21

1:15 “…and he was a descendant of Zarahemla…” This makes it sound like this uprising was possibly do to some native Zarahemlaites not wanting foreign rule by Nephites.

Lamanites Defeated: Helaman 1:22-34

1:33 “…and caused that the lamanites who had been taken prisoners should depart out of the land in peace.” Pretty amazing that Mormon mentions no retribution for what the Lamanites and Nephite dissenters had done.

The Origins of the Gadianton Robbers: Helaman 2:1-14

2:1,2“…there was no one to fill the judgment-seat…Helaman, who was the son of Helaman, was appointed to fill the judgment-seat, by the voice of the people.” It seems to be coming together for me now. These verses affirm my hypothesis that the primary way the Chief-Judge was chosen was through appointment of the previous Chief-Judge and it was usually patrilineal. If that had not happened before the death of the previous Chief-Judge, the people elected his successor.

2:7 “…and he gave unto him a sign…”   During Joseph’s Smith time, there was a strong anti-Masonic movement, brought mostly in part to what became known as “The Morgan Affair”.  William Morgan was going to publish an expose on Free-Masonry entitled, “Illustrations of Masonry”. In 1826 Morgan disapeared and the Free-Masons were blamed.  Interesting note, Morgan’s widow, Lucinda Pendleton Morgan, later became one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives.

Martin Harris described the Book of Mormon at times as an “anti-Masonic Bible”.  Martin Harris labeling the Book of Mormon as such is mostly due to these chapters that deal with the Gadianton robbers.

2:8 “…and their combination…”

The following list of meanings, though not exhaustive, illustrates some of the ways in which the term secret combination(s) appeared in American discourse during that time period.

1. A covert alliance of princes or states. English historian John Strype states in Annals of the Reformation, published in 1709, that “the chiefest Popish potentates entered into a secret combination to destroy the reformed religion utterly.”   This meaning of the term continued throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1846 a writer spoke of “a secret combination of Catholic princes” arrayed against Luther, and another historian employed the term to describe a secret alliance between Austria and Russia in the 18th century.

2. A conspiracy against a monarch by members of the nobility. David Hume, in his monumental History of England, published in the middle of the 18th century, twice refers to a conspiracy among the barons of King John as a “secret combination.”  In an American short story published in 1837, the term describes a court conspiracy against the Emperor Constantine. In another case it points to the plot to assassinate Julius Caesar.

3. A criminal conspiracy to get gain. Writers frequently referred to predatory criminal organizations as secret combinations. For example, in 1788, during the trial of Warren Hastings for conspiring with native rulers to plunder the provinces of India, English writer and statesman Richard Brinsley Sheridan described the scheme as a “secret combination.”  Frank Soul, an early historian of the state of California, describes the criminal syndicates that sprang up there during the gold rush:

While this constant immigration favored the freedom of criminals from arrest, it also helped to extend their acquaintance among kindred rogues. Wherever they went, they knew there were one, two, or half a dozen noted haunts for fellows like themselves, upon whose aid they could always rely, to execute new outrages, to swear an alibi, or give any kind of false testimony that might be wished; to fee counsel or offer straw-bail, or to plan an escape from pursuit or prison of themselves, or some hotly pressed associate in crime. Thus there was gradually formed a secret combination among the chief thieves, burglars and murderers of the country, minute ramifications of which extended down to the pettiest pilferers.  (http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/?vol=12&num=1&id=310)

2:12, 13 ” …and more of this Gadianton shall be spoken hereafter.. And behold, in th end of this book ye shall see…” This is an editorial interruption that Grant Hardy calls an “editorial promise”.  (Grant Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 97)

2:13, 14  Grant Hardy notes:

Although Mormon is a pervasive editor and a didactic one, he seldom explicitly identifies relationships between various plots and subplots (with the large exception of his insistent comments on fulfilled prophecies).  He only rarely says, “I am reminded here of an earlier incident” or, “This happened in much the same way as that.”  One example occurs in Helaman 2:13-14, where Mormon draws a parallel between the Gadianton Robbers of the first century BC and secret combinations in his own day, the fourth century AD.  A little later, in Helaman 6:15-30, he connects these groups to the secret societies among the Jaredites a millennium earlier, though in this particular case he explicitly denies any direct historical causation;  instad, he provides a supernatural explanation – Satan inspired these groups in similar ways (see Alma 37:26-32;  Helaman 6:25-26).  But this sort of thing is unusual.  More often Mormon indicates parallelism (and thus encourages his readers to make comparisons) through his editing and wording.  The parallel narratives we have examined thus far have taken the relatively simple form  of  “X is like Y,” but here are other more complicated patterns in which the parallel elements point toward more than one analogous narrative or feature unexpected correlations.”   (Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 162-163)

Susan staker has written an interesting essay on the Book of Mormon, but she is mistaken when she asserts that “The Book of Mormon is characterized by [a Bible-like] authoritative third-person discourse” until Helaman 2:13-14, when “quite unexpectedly, the voice of a first-person ‘I’-narrator appears.”  Actually, we have heard this voice all along, starting in Mosiah 1:8 (and the explicit “I” references beginning in Mosiah 8:1(Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 320 footnote 14;  See Susan Staker, “Secret Things, Hidden Things:  The Seer Story in the Imaginative Economy of Joseph Smith,”  in American Apocrypha, ed. Dan Vogel and Brent Lee Metcalfe (SLC:  Signature, 2002), 235-74;  the quotations are from 254.)

2:14 The reference intended by Mormon is uncertain;  perhaps 4 Nephi 1:42, 46 or Mormon 1:18; 2:27,28. (Grant Hardy, The Book of Mormon,  A Reader’s Edition, pg.  440, footnote 14c )

Nephite Migrations:  Helaman 3:1-12

3:6 “Desolate” this is the land of the Jaredites

3:12 “…the people of Ammon…”  First, it is odd that Mormon points out that they were Lamanites by birth after 3 generations of them living in Nephite land. Grant Hardy has this to say about the name, “People of Ammon”:

The phrase “people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi” appears eight times between Alma 23:17  and 27:25 (with the first occurrence being the variant “Anti-Nephi-Lehies”);  “people of Ammon” can be found eighteen times between  Alma 27:26 – when the change was made – and  Helaman 3:12.   One verse,  Alma 43:31,  has both forms as a gloss.  Apparently this sudden shift in nomenclature escaped the notice of Oliver Cowdery, who seems to have used the term “Anti-Nephi-Lehites” in a heading that he added to the top of page 338 of the original manuscript (above the text of Alma 53:10-22) (Hardy, A Reader’s Guide,  pg. 297, note 14;  see also Royal Skousen, ed., The Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon:  A typographial Facsimile of the Extant Text (Provo, Ut:  FARMS, 2001), 439).  

Mormon2 Comments on Nephite Records:  Helaman 3:13-17

3:13, 15  These verses make it sound as if there were other record keepers besides the Nephite Kings and Prophets.

3:14  “..a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people…cannot be contained in this work.” 

the somewhat late introduction of a new major voice [that is, Mormon’s voice,  beginning with the abridgment of the Large Plates] – an editor working at the end of Nephite civilization – means that everything that follows has to be interpreted from the perspective of Mormon.   Careful readers must constantly ask, “Why would Mormon choose to include this?  What might he have omitted?  Is there any significance in the way he arranges events or tells particular stories?  And who is Mormon anyway?” (Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 90)

HL.D.F. Kitto once wrote of Thucydides that, given the amount of source material available to him, “one of his chief preoccupations must have been to leave things out”  (H.D.F. Kitto, Poesis: Structure and Thought (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966, pg. 261).  The Book of Mormon similarly asks us to imagine Mormon poring over piles of ancient records, able only to incorporate “a hundredth part” into his abridgment (Words of Mormon 1:5;  Helaman 3:14;  3 Nephi 5:8, 26:6B).  Consequently, what he leaves out is often as important as what he chooses to include (even if there is an element of hyperbole in his repeated assertion).  Determining what is not there can be a delicate business, but it is clear that Mormon gives more attention to some periods and themes than others.  For instance,  the mass conversion of the Lamanites in  Helaman 5:50-52 (which led to a complete transformation of their society and indeed was much more miraculous than anything accomplished by the Sons of Mosiah in the eleven chapters devoted to their missionary labors). Either Mormon is not interested in the economy, politics, sociology, or religious practices of these periods or he doesn’t think this is what his readers most need to hear.

Actually, the choice to dwell on dysfunctional eras seems odd in a book whose point is to urge readers to embrace the Christian gospel.  We might expect inspirational accounts of the glorious existence possible for nations who repent and come to Christ; instead we get extensive narratives only from contentious and self-destructive periods.  The bulk of the text is devoted to the two hundred years that precede Jesus’ visit, and if Mormon’s narrative has a central focus, it is the church founded by Alma1 at the Waters of Mormon (Mormon follows this institution and its leaders – all descendants of Alma– more closely than the central government, making the Book of Mormon almost a lineage history)  and the military exploits of Captain Moroni,  fighting on behalf of that church (Alma 43:16-63:3).  Mormon has a personal connection to both stories, since he informs us that he was named after the place where the church originated (3 Nephi 35:12) and he apparently named his own son after Moroni,  (Strangely enough, Mormon himself is not a member of the lineage he chronicles;  after eight generations within the same family line of church leaders, the Plates of Nephi are entrusted by Ammaron to Mormon, an outsider whose pedigree is obscure [Mormon 1:1-5;  though he does describe himself as a “pure descendant of Lehi” in  3 Nephi 5:20).

…in general, Mormon chooses details that reflect his characteristic concerns:  divine design, human agency, and the tension between them;  religious and political dissidents;  the dangers of social inequality and government corruption;  secret societies and bands of robbers;  ecclesiastical history;  religious conversions;  charismatic leaders;  argument from fulfilled prophecy;  and warfare.   In addition, there are some significant omissions in the way he writes.  As a military man himself, Mormon never speaks of war figuratively or makes it a metaphor for Christian living.  There is no mention of putting on the armor of God, the good fight of faith, or spiritual warfare against temptation (in contrast to some recent Latter-day Saint readings of the war chapters in Alma [an exception might be Alma 1:1]).  And although Mormon occasionally quotes people who identify certain things or events as “types,” typological thinking is not a major factor in his own understanding of history.  The only time he himself refers to types, he is describing the beliefs of others: “they did look forward to the coming of Christ, considering theat the law of Moses was a type of his coming” (Alma 25:15).  By contrast, Moroni does offer an explicitly typological interpretation in his own voice in Ether 13:6-7. (Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 107, 108)

3:17  That is, the preceding paragraphs were written from Mormon2‘s perspective in about +385 years.

3:16 Notice the absence of any mention of skin color.

The Judgeship of Helaman3:  Helaman 3:18-32

3:24-26 Grant Hardy notes:

There is a dramatic increase in church membership in Helaman 3:24-26  which rapidly dissipates in the next chapter (4:1, 23), but it is only in  Helaman 11:21  that the church encompasses a majority of the people – both Nephites and Lamanites – a situation that lasts for less than fifty years (3 Nephi 6:14).  Of course, the two hundred years following Jesus’ post-resurrection visit are different story, but we know almost nothing about that time period. (Hardy,  A Reader’s Guide, pg. 308, note 26)

3:27 “Thus we see that…”  Grant Hardy calls this editorial interruption a “moral generalization” 

3:30 “…at the right hand of  God..”   “Sit down…in the kingdom of God/Heaven” originates with Matthew 8:11  and  Luke 13:29,  but the phrase is not pervasive in the Book of Mormon; rather, it seems to have been a favorite of Alma’s (Alma 5:24, 7:25, 29:17, 38:15).  The only other instances are from Amulek (Alma’s missionary companion) in  Alma 34:36, Mormon in Helaman 3:30,  and Jesus in 3 Nephi 28:10) (Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 135 & 302, note 25).

Problems with Pride:  Helaman 3:33-37

The Maya believed that clothing could transform a person and a person could transform the garment and is expressed through it, so naturally clothing was of great cultural significance. They would often make textiles to enhance religious power; the most common way of doing this was dressing for the maize gods. Women and men would wear a net overskirt made of jade, the color of life, which represented their high place in society. In order to dress as a maize deity and manipulate the regeneration of the maize plant they would weave serpents onto huipils to symbolize lightning. The lightning god is the god believed to have created maize on the top of Mt. Sustenance. Mayan elite would also wear a shark shell belt and a jade-netted collar to the maize deity costume. Other significant costumes consisted of wearing many quetzal and eagle feathers on headdresses to represent and elite’s power in blue and green tones, which represented the fifth direction, the center of celestial, terrestrial and the underworld levels of the cosmos. Kings would also wear jaguar skin skirts, which signified their connection between the sky and the earth. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_textiles)

Ancient Maya of all social classes filed their teeth in decorative patterns, but jade inlays were usually reserved for the elites. (Courtesy Vera Tiesler)

Beauty was a way to display social, if not moral, value among the Maya. The wealth they invested and pain they endured to create bodies that reflected their social beliefs make our modern-day obsession with beauty seem less excessive (http://www.archaeology.org/0901/abstracts/maya.html)

A Mayan priest as depicted in Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto”

3:33 Here Mormon seems to make a distinction between the metaphorical “spiritual church” and the church as an institution/organization.

3:37  Though the text does not mention transferal of records, the rest of the book of Helaman must have been written by his sons.  See the headnote at Healman 1:1 as well as Helaman 16:25 and 3 Nephi 1:2. (Hardy, Reader’s Edition, pg 444)

Hardy also states:

Usually, a clear transition of record-keepers merits independent status as a separate book.  We can see a deliberately demarcated transition in Alma 44:24,  but Helaman2‘s actual contributions were probably minimal or fragmentary, like those of the record-keepers in the book of Omni.  The book of Helaman, as another counterexample, was considered from first to last as jointly authored by Helaman3 and his sons;  see the headnote to the book as well as  Helaman 16:25,  with a transition implied, rather than specified at Helaman 3:37. (Hardy,  A Reader’s Guide, pg. 305, tnote 45)

Lamanites and Nephite Dissenters Capture the Land Southward:  Helaman 4:1-10

4:1  See above note for Helaman 3:24-26.

4:5 “land of Zarahemla”  is different from the “city of Zarahemla” (Alma 1:27)

4:5-10 see above commentary to Helaman 3:14

…”If only everyone could be like Moroni”, [Mormon] tells us.  Perhaps for this reason he is particularly drawn to Moroni’s achievements, and he lavishes fourteen chapters on his career.  In the next generation, a similar Lamanite invasion conquers vast tracts of Nephite territory (including again the capital, Zarahemla), and another army, led by Moroni’s son, retakes about half of their lost possessions, city by city.  This five-year conflict is recounted in just six verses (Helaman 4:5-10, with another seven verses of spiritual reinterpretation of these same political events).  So also, one of the most remarkable occurrences in  all of Nephite history is passed by in a single verse:  the rest of the lost Nephite lands are simply returned by the Lamanites after they are converted to the gospel. “And as many as were convinced did lay down their weapons of war, and also their hatred and tradition of their fathers.  And it came to pass that they did  yield up unto the Nephites the lands of their possession.” (Helaman 5:51-52; the missionaries in this case were the Lamaite guards from the prison where Nephi2 and Lehi4 were freed by divine intervention)

Based on an analysis of form – taking into account Mormon’s selection, arrangement, and phrasing – it appears that what interests him [Mormon] is not mundane events or astonishing miracles so much as the contrast between these two modes of existence.  (Hardy,  A Reader’s Guide, pg. 179)

Mormon’s Spiritual Interpretaion of Nephites Losses and Victories:  Helaman 4:11-17

This section offers another perspective on the events of verses 4-10.  Note that verses 10 and 17 both end in the sixty-first year (Gardy, Readers Edition, pg 445, footnote 11b).

Grant Hardy notes:

…The regular march of time is also interrupted when the  same event is told more than once, as in Helaman 4:10 and 17,  where the sixty-first year of the judges ends twice.  This might seem like a mistake, but verses 11-17 offer a recapitulation or summary in which the military achievements of the year are reinterpreted in spiritual terms – one of the examples of Mormon commenting directly when he felt that the religious meaning of a story was insufficiently clear. (Alternatively, the connection between vv. 10 and 16-17 could be regarded as an example of resumptive repetition) (Hardy,  A Reader’s Guide, pg. 103-104).

….[there is] a somewhat more complex cyclical theory of historical development in which people are blessed with prosperity and as a result become proud and divisive.  The contentiousness leads to political troubles, and when things get bad enough, the people humble themselves, repent, and call upon the Lord, who then delivers them and blesses them with renewed prosperity.  There is a regular ebb and flow of obedience and wickedness though the book of Alma, but with the book of Helaman  this particular cycle becomes even more pronounced as the transitions come more regularly and frequently.  We see a complete cycle at Helaman 3-4 with Mormon’s explicit interpretations in Helaman 4:11-17.  The same basic sequence is evident again in Helaman 5-12…Nephite history has become linear rather than cyclical (Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 114). 

The Nephites Recognize the Cause of Their Weakness:  Helaman 4:18-26

4:21 “Yea, they began to remember the prophecies of Alma…”  This reference is uncertain.  “…and also the words of Mosiah…” Perhaps this latter reference is to the the teachings in Mosiah 29.

4:23  See above note for  Helaman 3:24-26. 

Nephi2 Yields Up the Judgement-Seat:  Helaman 5:1-4

5:1, 2, 4  “Delivered up…yielded up…” these are different terms than what has been used in the past.  Usually the words are/is “appointed” or “appointed by the voice of the people”.    Verse 2 & 4 seem to indicate that the judgement-seat was relinquished by Nephisomewhat unwillingly.   The text also seems to indicate that the laws had been changed (vs. 2) to allow the people to elect the successor of the Chief-judge prior to his death, where the practice before was that the chief-judge appointed his successor;  the successor being elected by the people only if the prior chief-judge had died without appointing a successor.

5:2 “…for the laws had become corrupted.”  see Mosiah 29:26, 27.

Remembering the Words of Helaman2:  Helaman 5:5-11


…Given the comprehensive chronological framework of the Book of Mormon, it is always interesting when Mormon presents things out of sequence.  For instance, in Helaman5:5-13, Mormon quotes a speech of Helamannot at the time it was originally given but instead by having his two sons remember it many years later (perhaps not coincidentally, the subject of that discourse was remembrance) (Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 103).  

5:6 “..that they were good.”   Perhaps this is a reference to 1 Nephi 1:1

5:9 compare with Mosiah 3:17  King Benjamin’s speech must have been a day of national significance since people were still talking about it a century later – and in intervening years there had been many more oblique references to it.

5:10 compare with Mosiah 11:34, 37.

“Redeem his people”  occurs nine times in the Book of Mormon; of those, five references belong to two narratives (Mosiah 13:33; 15:1, 11;  Alma 11:40;  Helaman 5:10; the last is a quotation of Amulek at Ammonihah) (Hardy,  A Reader’s Guide, pg. 307, note 15).

Nephiand  LehiPreach to the Nephites and Lamanites:  Helaman 5: 14-19

5:16 “…and from thence into the land of Zarahemla, among the Lamanites.”   Remember that the Nephites did not regain all of their land back (see Helaman 4:10, 16,18)  It appears that the Nephites initially lost the city of Zarahemla, but later got it back – “…and had taken the capital city, which was the city of Zarahemla…”(Helaman 1:27), And, had lost part of the land of Zarahemla – “…insomuch that they began to retreat back towards the land of Zarahemla.” (Helaman 1:29).  The Nephites get the city of Zarahemla back (Helaman 1:33), but it appears that the Lamanites were able to maintain at least part of the land of Zarahemla.  That is why Nephi and Lehi go and preach to the Lamanites in the land of Zarahemla, all of which use to belong to the Nephites.

Nephi2 and Lehi2 in a Lamanite Prison;  the Nephites Regain Their Lands:  Helaman 5:20-52

5:21 see Mosiah 7:7, 21:23

Grant Hardy notes three distinctive connections between Helaman 5  and 1 Nephi 17.  He is unsure why these connections exist:

“durst not lay their hands upon them/”neither durst they lay their hands upon me” Helaman 5:25; 1 Nephi 17:52

“still voice”/”still small voice” Helaman 5:30; 1 Nephi 17:45 (cf.  1 Kings 19:12)

“the earth shook as if it were about to divide asunder/”cause the earth to shake as if it were to divide asunder”  Helaman 5:33; 1 Nephi 17:45

(Hardy,  A Reader’s Guide, pg. 307, note 19)

5:41 The people in the prison must have been Zoramites.  See Alma 31:6-7.  (Hardy, A Reader’s Edition, pg. 450, footnote 41a)

5:45-48 “they were filled as if with fire…and angels came down out of heaven and ministered unto them”  There is an obvious parrallel between this event and what occures sixty-five years later when the children whom Jesus blessed have a similar experience (3 Nephi 17:24).  Grant Hardy states, “It is remarkable that within God’s providential design, which includes a hierarchical church organization,  there are nevertheless times when children, and even Lamanites, take precedence over God’s chosen ones” (Hardy, A Reader’s Guide,  pg. 199).

5:50-52 see above commentary to Helaman 3:14 

5:51-52 see above commentary to Helaman 4:5-10

5:51 “…did lay down their weapons of war…”

Mormon’s literary ambitions can also be seen in the organization of his narratives.  While theological implications are never far away, the exact meaning to be gained from comparing similar stories is often left to readers, while Mormon’s skill (and delight) in constructing narratives is clearly evident…it seems that many of the major narratives in the Book of Mormon come in pairs, such as the mass conversions of the Lamanites in Alma 23-24 and Helaman 5-6 (both episodes include a ceremonial burying of weapons, in  Alma 24:15-19  and  Helaman 5:51,  with a later reference in  Helaman 15:9(Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 110).

…The above parallel takes the form of fairly extensive narratives, with numerous structural and verbal correspondences.  Mormon may have meant for his readers to make comparisons, but it is harder to be sure of his intentions here – one can always draw distinctions between good and bad kings, or between successful prophecies and martyrs.  Nevertheless, the sheer abundance of specific narrative repetition in Mormon’s abridgment suggests not only deliberate selection and shaping but also that, in the working out of God’s will, certain kinds of events are likely to recur.  Hence there are two cases where a pair of prophets are cast into prison and then miraculously escape (Alma 14, Helalman 5)….In light of Mormon’s artistic structuring of his account with deliberate editing, parallel narratives, and specific verbal connections, Latter-day Saints may want to rethink their long-held assumption that the circumstances of Mormon’s life forced him to write hurriedly.  The intentionality implicit in the literary aspects of his history suggest that, from a believer’s perspective, he did not compose as he engraved, but rather transmitted to the plates a text previously written and carefully revised, a process that can thereby explain the many intricate interweavings separated by long passages of text.  For outsiders, there will naturally be a higher threshold of skepticism for the identification of large-scale patterns and deliberate allusions – repetitions can always be ascribed to Joseph Smith’s limited vocabulary and imagination – but that imagination may turn out to be more expansive than is generally assumed. (Hardy,  A Reader’s Guide, pg. 110-111).

5:51 “traditions of their fathers” 

Several  Book of Mormon authors refer to the “traditions of the Lamanites” (see Mosiah 1:5;  Alma 3:8, 9:16-17, 60:32;  Helaman 5:51, 15:4),  and belief in the correct traditions of the Nephites seems to have been the most important criteria in deciding who was or was not a Nephite (apparently this acceptance of tradition was of more significance than actual lineage;  see  Alma 3:11), but only Zeniff goes to the trouble of specifying exactly what the “traditions of the Lamanites” were (Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 301, note 16). 

Miguel is a Guatemalan-American Mormon living in the Northwest with his family. He is one of the proprietors of the Rational Faiths blog.

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