Helaman 4


The Lord Confirms the Covenant Way

      Alma 45 -- 3 Nephi 10



Helaman 4:5-6 All the Lands, Even unto the Land Which Was near the Land Bountiful:


     In Helaman 4:5-6, we find that in the fifty-seventh year, the Lamanites were stirred up by dissenters and came down to battle the Nephites. In the fifty-eighth year, "they succeeded in obtaining possession of the land of Zarahemla; yea, and also all the lands, even unto the land which was near the land Bountiful." One might wonder, Is this phrase saying that the Lamanites had gained control of the local land of Zarahemla, and also all the local lands, even unto the local land which was near the land Bountiful? If so, we might presume that some (here unnamed) lands were located between Zarahemla and Bountiful. In 3 Nephi 3:23 there is again reference to a land which was "between the land of Zarahemla and the land Bountiful." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on 3 Nephi 3:23]


Helaman 4:6 The Nephites and the Armies of Moronihah Were Driven Even into the Land of Bountiful:


     Joseph Allen writes that Mark Cutler, who traveled with him on tour, proposed in a presentation to the travel group that a shift in Church headquarters from Zarahemla to Bountiful apparently took place between 38 B.C. and 30 B.C. By 38 B.C., the Nephites had entered into a great state of apostasy (see Helaman 4:1).

           In the fifty and sixth year of the reign of the judges [36 B.C.], there were dissenters who went up from the Nephites unto the Lamanties; and they succeeded with those others in stirring them up to anger against the Nephites; . . . and in the fifty and seventh year they did come down against the Nephites to battle . . . and in the fifty and eighth year . . . they succeeded in obtaining possession of the land of Zarahemla . . . and the Nephites and the armies of Moronihah were driven even into the land of Bountiful. (Helaman 4:4-6)


     At 30 B.C., Nephi gave up the judgment seat and committed to preach the gospel for the rest of his days (see Helaman 5:4). In Helaman 5:14 we find that Lehi and Nephi "went forth to teach the word of God among all the people of Nephi, beginning at the city of Bountiful."

     According to Allen, it is interesting that as we analyze what was going on in Mesoamerica at this same time period, we can see a shift taking place from Chiapas to Belize, the northern Peten, and southern Yucatan. El Mirador, only thirty miles from Tikal, was very active during this time period, as was Tikal, Lamanai, Becan, Cerros, and many other sites in the region of Dzibanche, a proposed site for the city of Bountiful. Thus we have both textual reasons and cultural reasons for placing Bountiful at Dzibanche. [Joseph L. Allen, "Discovering Bountiful," in The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Vol. III, Issue III (September 2001), p. 6]


Helaman 4:7 From the West Sea Even to the East:


     According to Helaman 4:6-7, "the Nephites and the armies of Moronihah were driven even into the land of Bountiful; And there they did fortify against the Lamanites, from the west sea, even unto the east; it being a day's journey for a Nephite, on the line which they had fortified and stationed their armies to defend their north country. The reader should notice that these verses don't say "from the west sea, even to the east [sea]." An "east sea" is not directly mentioned. Therefore, we are left to wonder just how far this fortification line actually ran.

     The Nephites fortified this line and stationed their armies "to defend their north country." We might wonder if this "north country" mentioned here as being defended by the Nephites is part of the same "north country" that Moroni later refers to in his writings? (Ether 1:1) Or is this "north country" just the lands northward from the fortification line? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

     According to John Sorenson, perhaps this fortification line was more or less in the same sector centuries later called the land of Joshua (Mormon 2:6), which the Nephites occupied during their series of final battles leading up to the battle at the hill Cumorah.


Helaman 4:7 A Day's Journey for a Nephite:


     It is stated in Helaman 4:7 that the Nephites "did fortify against the Lamanites, from the west sea, even unto the east; it being a day's journey for a Nephite, on the line which they had fortified and stationed their armies to defend their north country." We could take the phrase "a day's journey for a Nephite" a number of ways:

     (1) The distance could be related to depth. In other words, in those areas where the Nephites had stationed their armies, it would take a Nephite a day to travel from the front lines to the rear.

     (2) The whole extent of Nephite fortification could have been limited to a distance starting from the west sea--and extending one days journey eastward.

     (3) If the entire land of Bountiful stretched from the west sea across the narrow neck to the east sea, that distance could amount to just one day.

     (4) Perhaps the "day's journey" refers only to the strategically fortified parts of the fortification line (for example: passable territory between mountains, or rivers, or swamps).

     The reader should keep in mind that there is not any location on the continent which extends from a west coast to an east coast that only requires "one day's journey." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps]


Geographical Theory Map: Helaman 4:6-7 Moronihah's Fortification Line (58th Year)


Helaman 4:8 All the Possession of the Nephites Which Was in the Land Southward:


     In Helaman 4:8 it states that "those dissenters of the Nephites, with the help of a numerous army of the Lamanites, had obtained all the possession of the Nephites which was in the land southward." (Helaman 4:8) How do we interpret the words "all the possession . . . in the land southward"? And what does the term "southward" refer to? Southward of what?

     (1) In Alma 22:31-33, Mormon states that "the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful." There was also "a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward." And "the Nephites had inhabited the land Bountiful, even from the east unto the west sea" and had "hemmed in the Lamanites on the south." In view of this, perhaps the meaning in Helaman 4:8 is that the Lamanites had obtained "all the possession of the Nephites [except where they were fortifying--in the land of Bountiful] in the Land Southward."

     (2) Perhaps terms such as "land southward" are relative directional terms which depend upon different geographical points of reference. Here in Helaman 4:8 the reference point might be the Nephite fortification line. Thus, the Lamanites had obtained "all the possession of the Nephites in the land southward [of the fortification line]." If such is the case, other relative directional terms might involve a sea which is located on the west of a particular reference point, and thus they would be referred to directionally as the "west sea" or "sea west" rather than what we might formally name the West Sea. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps]


Helaman 4:13 Because of . . . Their Boasting in Their Own Strength, They Were Left in Their Own Strength:


     According to Daniel Peterson, as a general and as the abridger of covenant Nephite history, Mormon never failed to recognize that the Lord is the ultimate arbiter of human affairs. Mormon never ceased to stress that when the covenant Nephite nation began to boast in their own superiority, the Lord left them "in their own strength" (Helaman 4:13), and they did not prosper. "Except the Lord keep the city," wrote the Psalmist, "the watchman waketh but in vain." (Psalm 127:1.) [Daniel C. Peterson, "Their Own Worst Enemies," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 2, pp. 95-96]


Helaman 4:15 Inasmuch as they did repent they did begin to prosper (Illustration): Chart: The Nephite Cycle. [John W. Welch and Morgan A. Ashton, "Charting the Book of Mormon," Packet 1, F.A.R.M.S.]


Helaman 4:22 They Had Altered . . . the Laws of Mosiah:


     The wickedness of the Nephites apparently had resulted in the deterioration of their system of government by changes in the law. In Helaman 4:21-22 we find that the Nephites "had set at naught the commandments of God; and that they had altered and trampled under their feet the laws of Mosiah, or that which the Lord commanded him to give unto the people; and they saw that their laws had become corrupted . . ." According to Michael Hobby, what is not explicitly written here is that these changes allowed the Mulekites to take over the highest positions in the land. This is brought out in Helaman 5:1 where it mentions that Nephi was compelled to vacate the judgment-seat to Cezoram "for these [changed] laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore, they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted." It should be noted that the name "Cezoram" contains the root "Zoram," which gives one the feeling that it belonged to someone outside of the descendants of Nephi. [Michael M. Hobby, The Mulekite Connection, p. 48]