Helaman 5


The Lord Confirms the Covenant Way

      Alma 45 -- 3 Nephi 10



Helaman 5:1 Nephi delivered up the judgment-seat to a man whose name was Cezoram (Nephite Chief Priests) [Illustration]: Nephite Chief Priests. Adapted from [John W. Welch and Morgan A. Ashton, "Charting the Book of Mormon," Packet 1, F.A.R.M.S., 1997]


Helaman 5:2 They Who Chose Evil Were More Numerous Than They Who Chose Good:


     Daniel Peterson comments that Nephi, the son of Helaman, knew just as well as would the later chronicler Mormon that the fundamental problem of the Nephites at this period was spiritual rather than military. For this reason he decided to devote all his energies to a spiritual solution. In the year 30 B.C., he resigned the judgment seat and, with his brother Lehi, undertook full-time preaching of the gospel.

     The task was urgent if the Nephites were to be saved from themselves. "For as their 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." (Helaman 5;2) This was precisely the situation King Mosiah2 had foreseen as a frightening but remote possibility six decades earlier, when he abolished the monarchy and established the Nephite system of judges. The laws of the Nephites, he had said, were correct and divinely given. Further, he had said, placing the direction of the nation in the hands of a more representative form of government would tend to ensure the continuation of those laws in their correct form, since the majority of the people were unlikely to choose evil over good. But, he had continued, "if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you" (Mosiah 29:25-27.) And now, probably within the lifetimes of some who had heard him give that historic address, his fears had been realized. Mosiah's comments had been recalled a decade later by Amulek, speaking to the people of Ammonihah:

           Yea, well did Mosiah say, who was our last king, when he was about to deliver up the kingdom, having no one to confer it upon, causing that his people should be governed by their own voices--yea, well did he say that if the time should come that the voice of this people should choose iniquity, that is, if the time should come that this people should fall into transgression, they would be ripe for destruction. (Alma 10:19)


     The similarity between the wording of these passages and that of Helaman 5:2 is striking. [Daniel C. Peterson, "Their Own Worst Enemies," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 2, pp. 100-101, 106]


Helaman 5:6 I Have Given unto You the Names of Our First Parents:


     In Helaman 5, we find not just an interesting insight into the names of Helaman's two sons, but a cultural parallel on covenant naming. Mormon makes the following commentary:

           For they remembered the words which their father Helaman spake unto them. And these are the words which he spake:

           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 words; and when ye remember their words ye may know how that it is said, and also written, that they were good. (Helaman 5:5-7)


     According to Jennifer Lane, to understand the significance in the Old Testament [and the Book of Mormon] of the idea of "giving a name," it is essential to appreciate the importance of names to the Israelites. The Hebrew word sem, usually translated "name," can also be rendered "remembrance" or "memorial," indicating that the name acts as a reminder to its bearers and others. The name shows both the true nature of its bearer and indicates the relationship that exists between entities. . . .

     In Genesis 48:14-16 we find a very similar description of covenant naming in the patriarchal birthright blessing of Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, by their grandfather Israel (Jacob):

           And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh's head . . . And he blessed Joseph, and said:

           God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads, and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.


     Thus, in the same manner as Helaman named his sons, Jacob blessed his grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh, recalling the memory of his redemption, and gave them not only his name, but the names of Abraham and Isaac. [Jennifer Clark Lane, "The Lord Will Redeem His People: Adoptive Covenant and Redemption in the Old Testament and Book of Mormon," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 2/2, Fall 1993, pp. 42-44]

     Note* We know that the Nephite "first parents," Lehi and Nephi, were descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob though Joseph (1 Nephi 5:14). We also are told by Nephi, the son of Lehi that the "fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved" (1 Nephi 6:4). In commenting on what Helaman had done in naming his sons Lehi and Nephi, one might wonder if Mormon was alluding to the covenants established not only in the beginning of Nephite history, but also from ancient times in the house of Israel. In other words, if the ancient patriarch Lehi was a representative of Manasseh (Alma 10:3), could Nephi have been considered a covenant representative of Ephraim? If so, then as mentioned above, the ancient covenant blessing which flowed through Jacob and Joseph of old to Ephraim and Mannaseh would be the same covenant blessing that Helaman later would bestow on his sons Nephi and Lehi. It is not insignificant that Helaman charged his sons not only to remember that their names represented their ancestors Lehi and Nephi, but these names also represented "their words." It was Helaman's hope that the names of Lehi and Nephi would be a constant stimulus to his sons so that ultimately they might come to "know HOW that it is said, and also written, that they were good." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Helaman 5:6-8 (Climax)


     According to Donald Perry, parallelism is universally recognized as the characteristic feature of biblical Hebrew poetry. (p. i)

     Climactic forms occur when, in successive clauses or sentences, the same word or words are found at the end of one expression and at the beginning of the next. Climax is a form of staircase parallelism, because it demonstrates to the reader a gradual ascent through the recurrence of several identical words. This duplication of words creates a continuation of thought from one sentence to the next, which adds power through repetition to the discourse, while at the same time connecting the lines into an inseparable body. Climax has been correctly called "gradation," as the structure of a passage presents a feeling of ascension, of going up from one level to the next, by steps. (p. xvii)

     An example of this climactic form is found in Helaman 5:6-8 where Helaman is speaking to his sons Nephi and Lehi:

     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. 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. And 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.

[Donald W. Parry, The Book of Mormon Text Reformatted according to Parallelistic Patterns, p. 348]


Helaman 5:6-12 Remember (Leitworter):


     According to Ronald Anderson, in Helaman 5:1-5, Mormon explains that Helaman's sons Nephi and Lehi, gave up the judgment-seat to preach to word of God for "they remembered the words which their father Helaman spake unto them." Mormon then cites a direct quotation from Helaman in which he repeats the word remember 13 times in seven verses, thus identifying the theme of his counsel to them.

     Behold, my sons, I desire that ye should remember to keep the commandments of God. . . . Behold, I have given unto you the names of our first parents . . . 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. . . . O remember, remember, my sons . . . remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ . . .; remember that he cometh to redeem the world . . . and remember also the words which Amulek spake . . . that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people . . . 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. . . . (Helaman 5:6-12; emphasis added)

     By naming his sons after their ancestors, Helaman hoped to instill in their lives a memory device that would trigger their remembrance to keep the commandments and to build upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, just as their first parents had. [Ronald D. Anderson, "Leitworter in Helaman and 3 Nephi,." in The Book of Mormon: Helaman Through 3 Nephi 8, According To Thy Word, p. 242]


Helaman 5:9 There Is No Other Way Nor Means Whereby Man Can Be Saved . . . Only through . . . Christ:


     [See the commentary on Alma 38:9]


Helaman 5:14 Beginning at the City Bountiful:


     The Mexican word "Tula" (also Tulan or Tollan) has a similar if not identical meaning with that of "bountiful." According to the great historian, Sahagun, "Tulla" means "place of fertility and abundance." Even today there are ruins of a great city in Mexico called Tula, although it was not the original city of Bountiful. The ancient people of Mesoamerica are said to have built many Tulas, trying to recapture the glory that was once part of their ancient theocracy where the white and bearded god came to visit. According to Aztec tradition, the city of Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City) was modeled after the lost capital of their original homeland in the New World. It is also said there were more than twenty cities in Mexico and Central America that bore the name of Tula. Whether they were successful or not we don't know, but we do know that they attempted many times over to duplicate the grandeur and spirit of this great city. [Diane E. Wirth, A Challenge to the Critics, p. 121]


Helaman 5:14-16 Bountiful . . . to the City of Gid . . . to the City of Mulek:


     Here in Helaman 5:14-16 it says that in their missionary journeys, Nephi and Lehi, "beginning at the city Bountiful," went forth "to the city of Gid; and from the city of Gid to the city of Mulek: and even from one city to another." In Amalikiah's initial invasion chronicled in the book of Alma, the city of Gid is mentioned as being taken over by the Lamanites. The chronological order of the cities taken as Amalickiah advanced northward is listed as: Moroni, Nephihah, Lehi, Morianton, Omner, Gid, Mulek (Alma 51:26). The Nephites fortified at Bountiful and stopped the advance of Amalickiah and Ammoron at the city of Mulek. In the subsequent Lamanite retreat (southward along the coast from the city of Mulek), the retaking of Gid is not mentioned. Here in Helaman 5:15, we find that the first city Nephi and Lehi traveled to from the city of Bountiful was the city of Gid and not the city of Mulek. How can that be? Perhaps if the city of Gid and the city of Mulek were approximately the same distance southward from the city of Bountiful (and from each other), and if the city of Gid was inland somewhat, then the more strategic site for military movement along the coast would have been the city of Mulek. Therefore, the Nephite-Lamanite battle was fought over that site.

     The objectives of Nephi and Lehi were gospel oriented; therefore, the city of Gid would have been just as important to them as the city of Mulek. And even more important here than the geographical location of the cities named might be the power of the gospel message. The reader should note that these cities constituted part of the "half" of the Nephite possessions that could not be retaken by force at this particular time (see Helaman 4:10). We are shown here that although these cities could not be retaken by Moronihah with military force, they could be retaken by Nephi and Lehi with the power of the gospel. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Alma 52:17-53:6; Alma 62:26-34]


Helaman 5:21 That Same Prison:


     According to Helaman 5:21, Nephi and Lehi were cast into "that same prison in which Ammon and his brethren were cast by the servants of Limhi." This "same prison" mentioned in Helaman 5:21 probably refers to the events described back in Mosiah 7:6-8, when Ammon and his brethren were discovered at the gates of the city of Nephi after wandering 40 days in the wilderness, and were cast into prison before being brought before king Limhi to explain their reasons for being there. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Helaman 5:23 Nephi and Lehi were encircled about as if by fire (Illustration): "Nephi and Lehi Encircled by a Pillar of fire." Artist: Ronald Crosby. [Church Educational System, Book of Mormon Student Manual Religion 121-122, p. 106]


Helaman 5:23 Nephi and Lehi were encircled about as if by fire (Illustration): Nephi and Lehi Encircled by a Pillar of Fire. "And when they saw that they were encircled about with a pillar of fire, and that it burned them not, their hearts did take courage." Artist: Ronald Crosby. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 465]


Helaman 5:24 They [Nephi and Lehi] were encircled about with a pillar of fire (Illustration): Pillar of Fire [Steven Lloyd Neal, Verse Markers, Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 5]


Helaman 5:33 Again the Third Time the Voice Came:


     According to Richard Rust, essentially every event or person in the Book of Mormon may well remind us of another event or person; the book is like a beautifully composed symphony with repeated themes and motifs. . . . Most significantly, all God-given events or God directed persons in the Book of Mormon are reminders of Jesus Christ or his gospel. This is Nephi's point in saying, "Behold, my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ; for, for this end hath the law of Moses been given; and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him" (2 Nephi 11:4). . . .

     The people within the prison walls hear a voice three times calling them to repentance (Helaman 5:33) and see Nephi's and Lehi's countenances shining as they converse with angels. When they call on Christ for forgiveness, the darkness around them disperses and they are themselves surrounded with the pillar of fire. Their experience anticipates the experience of the people spared destruction following the crucifixion of Christ. After three days of darkness, the remaining people gather at the temple, where a voice from heaven speaks to them. On the third time they hear the voice, they understand the words and remember the prophecies of the coming of Christ (3 Nephi 11). [Richard D. Rust, Feasting on the Word, pp. 196, 205]


Helaman 5:39 Aminadab:


     According to John Tvedtnes, despite the paucity of genealogical details in the Book of Mormon, clearly the people were very concerned about their tribal affiliation. For example, Book of Mormon personal names containing such Semitic patronymic elements as Abi- ("father") and Ami- ("paternal kinsman/clan") fit the biblical pattern and are evidence for a strong patrilineal kinship system. Note the names "Abinadi" (Mosiah 11:20), "Abinadom" (Omni 1:10), "Aminadab" (Helaman 5:39), and "Aminadi" (Alma 10:2). [John A. Tvedtnes, "Book of Mormon Tribal Affiliation and Military Castes," in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 297]


Helaman 5:41 (Zoramites):


     According to Daniel Ludlow, the Book of Mormon does not expressly give the identity of the people who are in the prison at the time of the miraculous manifestation mentioned in Helaman chapter 5. However, a clue as to who these people were is given by Aminadab when he said unto them, "You must repent, and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom " (Helaman 5:41).

     The only time Alma and Amulek and Zeezrom were on a missionary trip together was to the apostate Zoramites who were then living in the land of Antionum (see Alma 31:1-8). The Zoramites later fled from this area and joined with the Lamanites in the greater land of Nephi, and from this statement by Aminadab we learn they had now occupied the land of Lehi-Nephi which had just been deserted by Limhi and his people. Again the Book of Mormon proves to be a very complex book but also a wonderfully consistent one. [Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 241]


Geographical Theory Map: Helaman 4:16 Nephites Reclaim Half of Their Possessions (61st Year)

           Helaman 5:1--6:9 Nephi and Lehi Preach (62nd Year)


Helaman 5:47 My Well Beloved, Who Was from the Foundation of the World:


      According to Michael Griffith, anti-Mormons assert that the Book of Mormon contains almost no Mormonism" (Decker and Hunt 114). By this the critics mean to claim that none or almost none of the more unique doctrines of Mormonism can be found in the Nephite record (Decker and Hunt 114; J.L. Smith 23-30). . . . [One of these allegations involves the preexistence]

     The phrase "from the foundation of the world" is used repeatedly in many passages of the Book of Mormon: 1 Nephi 10:18; 2 Nephi 9:18; 2 Nephi 27:10; Mosiah 4:6-7; Mosiah 15:19; Mosiah 18:13; Alma 12:30; Alma 13:1-7; Alma 18:39; Alma 22:13; Alma 42:26; Helaman 5:47; 3 Nephi 1:14; Ether 3:14; Ether 4:14-19; Moroni 8:12.

     According to Michael Griffith, Helaman 5:47 makes it clear that this phrase refers to the pre-mortal existence. In this verse the Father is speaking of the Son, and says, "Peace be unto you, because of your faith in my Well Beloved, who was from the foundation of the world."

     The doctrine of preexistence can be found in the Bible, in ancient Jewish sources, and in early Christian writings (Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul 1983:19, 37n2, 190, 262-266, 274-276, 397 n43, 346-350; R.G. Hamerton-Kelly, Pre-Existence, Wisdom, and the Son of Man in the New Testament, 1973; Eugene Seaich, Mormonism, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Nag Hammadi Texts, 1980:4-17; Joseph F. McConkie "Premortal Existence, Foreordinations, and Heavenly Councils." in C. Wilfred Griggs, editor, Apocryphal Writings and the Latter-day Saints, 1986:173-198) [Michael T. Griffith, Refuting the Critics, pp. 132-133] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 11:25]