Helaman 16

 

The Lord Confirms the Covenant Way

      Alma 45 -- 3 Nephi 10


 

 

Helaman 16:1 [Samuel the Lamanite] Spake upon the WALLS of the City [of Zarahemla]:

 

     According to John Sorenson, one should be careful in one's expectations of archaeological finds confirming huge walls that correspond to proposed Book of Mormon sites in Mesoamerica in every instance. For example, there was a huge stone wall built by the Spaniards in colonial days in the Valley of Mexico. They utilized over two million people in the project. But despite its historical recency and huge scale, no surviving traces of the structure have been noted by archaeologists or historians. The same is true of the six-mile long wall which the Tlaxcalans had built between them and their Aztec enemies and which Cortez described. It was huge, nine feet high and 20 feet thick with a breastwork atop it,85 yet no archaeologist has discovered any remnant of it, as far as is known.

     A look at Zarahemla's wall according to the text is instructive. According to the book of Alma (see the commentaries on Alma 50:1-6; 53:4; 62:21-22), we might presume that excavated soil was thrown against a wall of upright timbers, yielding a cross-section, from outside to inside, or ditch, sloping face, and vertical inner face. The timber was to "the height of a man." However, we are nowhere told how long the wall at Zarahemla stretched nor how far it lay from the center of the city.

     Additionally, after the Amalickiah/Moroni wars no mention is made of renewed needs for walls, although of course it is possible that they kept them up. (The failure of Zarahemla's wall to protect against Coriantumr's lightning attack (see Helaman 1:21-22) could have persuaded the Nephites that some of the walls were no longer worth the cost to maintain.) As soon as the timbers rotted without being replaced, the earth piled against them would have slumped inward. Erosion would subsequently spread the earth both into the ditch and over the inner surface until the remaining earthen bank would be only on the order of three feet high.

     It is interesting that the initial finding of a fortified wall at the great Maya center of Tikal was accidental. What at first appeared to be merely a hillock and adjoining arroyo several miles from the site turned out to be weathered remnants of an earthen fortification wall and parallel ditch that stretched for miles. The little elevation was too slight to show up on an aerial photograph. Besides, at that time "everyone knew" that the Maya did not engage in wars,86 so who was focused on fortifications? Unfortunately for the proposed site of Santa Rosa as the city of Zarahemla, the discovery of walls and warfare came after the archaeological work at Santa Rosa was finished and after the site was covered with water. [John L. Sorenson, "Viva Zapato! Hurray for the Shoe! in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 6, Num. 1, pp. 350-352]

 

Helaman 16:2 Many shot arrows at him [Samuel] as he stood upon the wall (Illustration): Samuel the Lamanite on the Wall. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gospel Art, #314]

 

Helaman 16:7 And Did Flee Out of Their Lands [Hands]:

 

     While the LDS edition has the phrase, "and [Samuel] did flee out of their lands, yea, even unto his own country," we find that the Printers Manuscript has the phrase, "and [Samuel] did flee out of their hands." [Zarahemla Research Foundation, A Comparison of the Manuscripts and Editions of the Book of Mormon, p. 205]

     Note* Because the text says that Samuel fled out of their "hands" instead of out of their "lands," we are left with some questions: (1) Helaman 13:2 notes that "Samuel, a Lamanite, came into the land of Zarahemla, and began to preach." So does the term "land of Zarahemla" refer to a local land or a general land? The narrative seems to imply that although Samuel prophesied concerning a number of cities (see Helaman 13:15-16) he apparently only visited the city of Zarahemla (see Helaman 13:4,12,21) This might imply that the term "land of Zarahemla" is a local term. However, the local land of Zarahemla was also the seat of power for the larger land of Zarahemla. (2) To what "country" did the Lamanite Samuel flee to (or come from)? The text only says that he "came into the land of Zarahemla" (Helaman 13:2). (3) The superscription just before the present chapter 13 reads: "The prophecy of Samuel the Lamanite to the Nephites." If Samuel fled out of their hands "even to his own country," then how was it that apparently his exact words got into the hands of Mormon the abridger?

     If people from the land of Zarahemla had gone into the land Northward (Alma 63:4; Hel 3:3-4) and if the people of Ammon went into the land northward (Helaman 3:13), and if the people of Ammon "never did fall away" (Alma 23:5-7), could Samuel have been one of the righteous Lamanites from the people of Ammon sent to save the Nephites from destruction? Note in Helaman 15:4 he says: "But behold my brethren." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes; see also the commentary by Jerry Ainsworth on Helaman 3:13]

 

Helaman 16:15 The People . . . Began to Depend upon Their Own Strength . . . Saying: Some Things They May Have Guessed Right . . . etc.:

 

     Mormon records that "there were great signs given unto the people, and wonders; and the words of the prophets began to be fulfilled. And angels did appear unto men" (Helaman 16:13-14). Yet despite all this, "the people began to harden their hearts, all save it were the most believing part of them . . . and began to depend upon their own strength and upon their own wisdom, saying: Some things they may have guessed right, among so many; but behold, we know that all these great and marvelous works cannot come to pass, of which has been spoken. . . ." (Helaman 16:15).

     Regarding this lack of acceptance of the many signs of the Lord's work, at the end of his book containing many cultural ideas shared by the American Indian natives and the Book of Mormon, Ammon O'Brien makes some interesting statements. He states that we must acknowledge, that there is assembled a potential wealth of evidence which demonstrates the veracity of the Nephite record known as the Book of Mormon. In spite of this, we arrive at a paradox: It seems that no matter how many examples are listed supporting a given aspect of the Book of Mormon, these are all forgotten, negated, and disregarded upon the slightest unanswered question.

     If we shall contend therefore, that the information presented is insufficient to be taken as proof or at least evidence that the Book of Mormon is true, then we must ask, What is wanting? Perhaps more proof, would convince us. I don't think so. . . . [After presenting what should be veritable evidence] we turn to Mr. Skeptic saying "there is the additional proof you requested. All is settled now isn't it?" "Well, those things don't really prove anything." says Mr. Skeptic. [Ammon O'Brien, Seeing beyond Today with Ancient America, pp. 369-370] [See the commentary on Moroni 10:4-5]

 

Helaman 16:22 The People Did Imagine Up in Their Hearts:

 

     According to Roy Weldon, there are 118 superfluous prepositions in the Nephite record--a very evident Hebraic usage. One good example is found in Helaman: "And many more things did the people imagine up in their hearts . . ." [Roy E. Weldon, Book of Mormon Deeps, Vol. III, p. 271] [See the commentary on Ether 8:17]