Helaman 14


 



MDC Contents

 

 

 Hel. 14:1

1  And now it came to pass that Samuel, the Lamanite, did prophesy a great many more things which cannot be written.

 

Textual: Mormon tells us very clearly that he is selecting information out of Samuel’s prophecies. He justifies the exclusions by noting that they “cannot be written.” We do not know if the “cannot” is due to divine command or the exigencies of space and time on Mormon’s plates. This does highlight, however, the nature of the prophecies that are being written. They are not in the text to make a complete and accurate historical record. We know this because Mormon explains that this is not a complete record. What we have, therefore, are selections that Mormon has made for the specific purpose of his own text.

 

The last chapter contained Samuel’s prophecy of the future destruction of the Nephites. This chapter will contain the prophecies of the birth of the Messiah.

 

Hel. 14:2

2  And behold, he said unto them: Behold, I give unto you a sign; for five years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God to redeem all those who shall believe on his name.

 

The specificity of this prophecy is absolutely unique in the canon of scripture. Even when there have been other time-specific prophecies, such as the 600 years time from the departure from Jerusalem to the time of the Atoning Messiah, and the 400 year prophecy that Samuel just pronounced, they have been such long time frames that no one in the sound of the prophets voice would have been witness to their fulfillment. The 600 year and 400 year prophecies are also in round numbers, and therefore easily susceptible to interpretation as generic rather than absolute. This prophecy, however, if absolute, finite, and testable within the lifetime of virtually all who heard it.

 

The specificity of these dates underscores the detail of the first Nephi’s prophetic vision of the Savior recorded in 1 Nephi 11-12. These details are more elaborate and firm than any other recorded prophecy from the Old World. Why are these Nephite (and now Lamanite) prophecies so qualitatively different than those from the Old World? Ultimately, we do not know. We may speculate, however, that the significant difference behind many of the more detailed prophecies of the New World is that twofold. The first is that they have been translated after-the-fact. Perhaps there was some greater ambiguity in the original that we do not see because Joseph so clearly understood those fulfilled prophecies and therefore couched them in their fulfilled understanding rather than ambiguous foresight.

 

While this might be a partial explanation for some of the detail, it cannot be the complete explanation, as we have Samuel’s very specific five-year prophecy in front of us. The Nephites (and righteous Lamanites) did have a greater specificity in their prophecies. A plausible reason for this difference is the very separation of the hemispheres. The events in Jerusalem that would alter the world took place in the same Jerusalem where the earlier prophets had walked and talked. The Messiah was coming to them, and the nature of agency required that Jesus have the opportunity to become the Messiah through his own actions, not the expectations of those around him. In a very real sense, he became the Messiah in spite of the Messianic expectations of the people.

 

This requirement for the operation of Jesus’ agency did not exist in the New World. Of course the people in this New World required their own agency, but the specificity of prophecy never denied that. As we will see, even this dramatic five-year prophecy has but a short effect on faith, and ultimately serves as a condemnation rather than a salvation for many Nephites.

 

Hel. 14:3

3  And behold, this will I give unto you for a sign at the time of his coming; for behold, there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day.

Hel. 14:4

4  Therefore, there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and this shall be unto you for a sign; for ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also of its setting; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born.

 

The birth of the Messiah is accompanied by heavenly signs in both the Old World and the New World. They are not all the same signs, however, so the differences my have some significance that should be examined.  The first important note for the signs in the New World is that Samuel gives signs for both the birth and death, and they form contrasting parallels. Compare the light at the birth to Samuel’s discussion of the death of the Messiah from later in this same text:

 

20  But behold, as I said unto you concerning another sign, a sign of his death, behold, in that day that he shall suffer death the sun shall be darkened and refuse to give his light unto you; and also the moon and the stars; and there shall be no light upon the face of this land, even from the time that he shall suffer death, for the space of three days, to the time that he shall rise again from the dead.

 

The birth/death pair is dramatically accompanied and “signed” by a light/dark pairing of celestial phenomena. For the New World, the heavens themselves will note the events and will mark them. Significantly and appropriately, light is associated with the birth, and darkness with the death of the Messiah.

When light accompanies the birth of the Atoning Messiah in the New World, it apparently does not accompany the birth in the Old World. Surely had such a phenomenon occurred in the Old World it would have been noted and added to the record of the Savior’s birth by the evangelists who noted other signs and miracles. We must assume that the lighted night was a New World phenomenon, rather than a world-wide manifestation. What might have happened?

 

There are two possible explanations. Nibley suggests that the light was due to a supernova. He notes that there was such a supernova recorded in 1054 that “could be seen all over the world. It was almost as bright as the sun. The supernova exploded and became the Crab Nebula today.” (Hugh Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon--Semester 1: Transcripts of Lectures Presented to an Honors Book of Mormon Class at Brigham Young University, 1988--1990 [Provo: Foundation for Ancient Re 280.)

 

Another possibility has no particular evidence except possible literary parallels. When we examine the evidence for the darkness at the time of Jesus’ death we will find that the conditions described fit the result of a particularly violent volcanic event. It is possible that in the Mesoamerican land of volcanism, that both the birth and death may have been signaled by volcanic activity, with the first providing light in the night sky, and the second providing the clouds of darkness that blocked the light of day. Even though unstated, such a parallel would fit the conceptual light/dark pairing, and would have been a significant cultural event for any Mesoamerican people. Fittingly enough, it would also be an event sufficiently natural that it could be explained away by the unbelievers, as this fulfillment of this prophecy appears to have been.

 

Hel. 14:5

5  And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you.

 

The light at night may have been a localized event, but a new star would be seen all over the world. In the Old World the appearance of the star was both sign and guide for the wise men. There is no “guide” function of the star in the New World. It is a sign only. With the Mesoamerican penchant for astral observation, however, it would be sure to be noticed, and to be seen as significant.

 

Hel. 14:6

6  And behold this is not all, there shall be many signs and wonders in heaven.

 

Cultural: The tradition of seeing omens in the sky is part of the Mesoamerican culture, and heavenly omens were seen as predicting the arrival of the Spaniards. At least one of the recorded celestial omens bears an important parallel to Samuel’s prophecy:

 

“Ten years before the Spaniards arrived here, an omen of evil first appeared in the heavens. It was like a tongue of fire, like a flame, like the light of dawn. It looked as if it were showering [sparks], as if it stood piercing the heavens. It was wide at the base, it was pointed at the head. To the very midst of the sky, to the very heart of the heavens it stood reaching; to the very midpoint of the skies it stood stretched as it was seen. It was there to the east when it thus came forth at midnight; it looked as if day had dawned, day had broken. Later, the sun destroyed it when he arose. For a full year [the sign came forth].” (Bernardino de Sahagun. Florentine Codex. Tr, Arthur J.O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble.  School of American Research and the University of Utah., 1975, Book 12, p. 2-3).

 

It is fairly certain that this reference in the Florentine Codex is to a comet, and does not precisely fit the description of Samuel. The two things that are parallel, however, is the understanding that signs in the heavens could be omens of future events, and the most interesting parallel is that of the brightness of the omen at night. This one does not last the whole night, but nevertheless the description of being like the dawn is suggestive that the native mind did see light in these situations that could be ascribed to a light similar to the sun’s at a time when the sun was not shining.

 

Hel. 14:7

7  And it shall come to pass that ye shall all be amazed, and wonder, insomuch that ye shall fall to the earth.

 

Those who will remember the words of Samuel will know the reason for the omen in the skies, and will fall to the earth. We should remember that the phrase “fall to the earth” is frequently associated with the presence of the Spirit in the Book of Mormon. One of the contexts, therefore, is that those who see and believe will be overcome by the Spirit in recognition of this great event for which they have been waiting.

 

Those who are not believers may still be “amazed, and wonder.” Note the description from the Florentine Codex that shows the reaction of the people to the omen described above:

 

“And when it appeared, there was shouting; there was the striking of the palm of the hand against the mouth. There was fear; there as inactivity.” (Bernardino de Sahagun. Florentine Codex. Tr, Arthur J.O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble.  School of American Research and the University of Utah., 1975, Book 12, p. 3).

 

For a people believing in the ability of the heavens to presage major events, even the unbelievers would have noticed and been amazed. They may not, however, have remembered the reason for the signs in the heavens.

 

Hel. 14:8

8  And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall believe on the Son of God, the same shall have everlasting life.

 

Samuel moves from the prophesying of signs to teaching about the Atoning Messiah who is predicted by the signs. Believers will see and know that the signs indicate that he is coming, but the believer has more advantage than simple forewarning. For those who believe in the Atoning Messiah, the Son of God, their belief in the Atoning Messiah will bring them everlasting life.

 

Hel. 14:9

9  And behold, thus hath the Lord commanded me, by his angel, that I should come and tell this thing unto you; yea, he hath commanded that I should prophesy these things unto you; yea, he hath said unto me: Cry unto this people, repent and prepare the way of the Lord.

Hel. 14:10

10  And now, because I am a Lamanite, and have spoken unto you the words which the Lord hath commanded me, and because it was hard against you, ye are angry with me and do seek to destroy me, and have cast me out from among you.

 

Samuel recaps the story of his ministry. He is called to this mission by an angel from the Lord, something that the Nephites ought to believe and respect. The message was one of repentance, but the people rejected him. Note that Samuel understands that some of their rejection had to do with Samuel’s Lamanite heritage. These Nephites were not able to conceive or accept one who might be righteous who was not from their own ranks. Their own prejudices against the Lamanites blinded them to the potential benefits of accepting a Lamanite prophet.

 

The rest of the reason for rejection was that Samuel taught hard things. He accused them directly. “Because it was hard against [them]” the Nephites reacted angrily. They were not in a spiritually humble frame of mind where the Lord could influence them to accept truth when they heard it.

 

Hel. 14:11

11  And ye shall hear my words, for, for this intent have I come up upon the walls of this city, that ye might hear and know of the judgments of God which do await you because of your iniquities, and also that ye might know the conditions of repentance;

 

In spite of the desire of the Nephites to reject Samuel, and to not listen, Samuel indicates that it is his commission from God to declare the judgments of God against them. For this reason he emphatically states: “ye shall hear my words.” They may not want to hear, but they will hear, and be judged by the fact that they had been warned of God.

 

Hel. 14:12

12  And also that ye might know of the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and of earth, the Creator of all things from the  beginning; and that ye might know of the signs of his coming, to the intent that ye might believe on his name.

 

In the commentary following Helaman 13:27-28 it was noted that the Nephites show all of the signs of following the traditional order of the Nehors. One of the aspects of the Nehorite doctrine was the rejection of a belief in the Atoning Messiah. Their concept that the Lord had created and already redeemed all men (see Alma 1:4) precluded the need for an Atoning Messiah. This is the context for Samuel’s preaching, He speaks that they “might know of the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and of the earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning.” This is the God of the Nephites, and the one who will come as the Atoning Messiah. This is the God that the Nephites have rejected, and therefore Samuel preaches to them.

 

Translation: Just as in the earlier texts from 1 Nephi, we should understand that the use of Jesus Christ and name and title is anachronistic in this context, and almost assuredly an artifact of translation. That was surely the meaning of the text on the plates, but just as assuredly, would not have been the literal words on the plates. The Nephites could easily have had the name Jesus, just as they did Mary. However, the Christ is a title, and comes to us through the Greek. The more direct translation of the same meaning in the Old Testament context is Messiah. While the meaning (“the anointed one”) is the same, the cultural context of the Nephites argues that we would be more accurate using the Messiah designation rather than the term we inherit through the Greek New Testament.

 

Hel. 14:13

13  And if ye believe on his name ye will repent of all your sins, that thereby ye may have a remission of them through his merits.

 

Samuel has identified the Messiah, now he identifies the role of the Messiah. This is the Atoning Messiah, not the Triumphant Messiah. The Nehorites might have continued in a belief in the Triumphant Messiah of the end times, as that role was certainly referenced by brass plate prophets. The conflict in Nephite society has always been this understanding of the Atoning Messiah, and the debates over the Messiah have revolved around his mortal mission, not his final mission at the end of time.

 

Samuel does not directly reference Nephi’s teachings to these same Nephites, but the intent of the two prophets is clearly parallel:

 

Helaman 8:15

15 And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live, even unto that life which is eternal.

 

For Samuel, the phrase is “believe on his name… have a remission of [sins].” For Nephi, it is the Mosaic “look upon the Son of God…. [and] live.” In both cases, the prophet invokes the prophesied Messiah in his role as Redeemer. For both Samuel and Nephi, it is the redemption from sin and death that is the message. For both, the key is the belief in the Savior, either through the sacred acceptance of the name, or the symbolic “looking.”

 

Neither the name nor the serpent symbol is the effective elements. Both stand for our actions, not to dictate our actions. It is for this reason that both prophets also emphasize the necessity of our own repentance, explicitly in Samuel, and implied in Nephi’s “having a contrite spirit.”

 

Hel. 14:14

14  And behold, again, another sign I give unto you, yea, a sign of his death.

Hel. 14:15

15  For behold, he surely must die that salvation may come; yea, it behooveth him and becometh expedient that he dieth, to bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, that thereby men may be brought into the presence of the Lord.

 

Samuel begins to parallel the sign of birth with the sign of death. However, gives us verses 15-19 that are not the sign before returning the concept of the sign in verse 20. The reason for the inserted section that is not about the sign is that Samuel is triggering is discourse on the idea of the death. Samuel needs to explain that the Savior will die. Why?

 

Samuel has just indicated that the Atoning Messiah will be “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and of earth, the Creator of all things from the  beginning” (verse 12). If the Atoning Messiah is such a powerful being, how would it be conceivable that he should die? Should not the creator of all things be immortal? It is this issue that Samuel addresses. Prior to the sign he must explain the reason that this Son of God must die.

 

Samuel expresses the need for the death of the Atoning Messiah in terms of the resurrection of the dead. The Messiah will die so that through death the dead may live. The basic concept of a dying god was not foreign to pagan Mesoamerica. Indeed, the connection between death and life was seen as more directly connected in Mesoamerica than in many cultures:

 

“In Mesoamerican thought death was closely integrated into the world of the living. Life and death were believed to exist in dynamic and complementary opposition. It was widely recognized that because of the basic need for nourishment, killing and sacrifice was a necessary aspect of life.” (Mary Miller and Karl Taube. An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya. Thames and Hudson, London, 1993, p. 74).

 

The mythology of the Aztecs frequently has themes of life coming from death. In one of the myths of creation, the Aztec creator pair, Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl, bring the goddess Tlaltecuhtli down form the heavens and rip her into pieces from which are formed the features of earth (Mary Miller and Karl Taube. An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya. Thames and Hudson, London, 1993, p. 167-8). For the Mesoamericans, bones contained the essence of life and were seen as representing the eventual return to life. In her analysis of the Mixtec Codes given the title Codex Vindobonensis Mexicanus I, Jill Leslie Furst indicates:

 

“Repeatedly in the preceding pages, skulls, skeletal jaws and skeletonization in general have merged not, as might have been expected, as symbols of death but rather of generation and fertility… The apparent contradiction between fertility, generation and rebirth on the one hand and bones on the other is in fact perfectly comprehensible in the context of general Native Mesoamerican ideology, in which the skeletal remains were – and in fact, here and there continue to be – regarded as the seat of the essential life force and the metaphorical seed from which the individual, whether human, animal, or plant, is reborn.” (Jill Leslie Furst. Codex Vindobonensis Mexicanous I: A Commentary. Institute3 for Mesoamerican Studies, State University of New York at Albany. Publication 4. Albany, NY 1978, p.318).

 

Since the concept of life coming from death would not have been foreign to the Nephites, it is the particular functions and differences of the Atoning Messiah’s death that become important to tell the Nephites. Samuel begins with the concept that the death of the Messiah will effect the resurrection. That part of his mission would not have been that foreign to a Mesoamerican, even had they not been apostate Nephites who should have known from what they had been previously taught.

 

Hel. 14:16

16  Yea, behold, this death bringeth to pass the resurrection, and redeemeth all mankind from the first death—that spiritual death; for all mankind, by the fall of Adam being cut off from the presence of the Lord, are considered as dead, both as to things temporal and to things spiritual.

Hel. 14:17

17  But behold, the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind, yea, even all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord.

 

The conceptual difference in a Mesoamerican world was not in the dying and resurrecting God, but in the concept of a spiritual death in addition to the physical death. The Atoning Messiah serves a dual function in the Atonement. One is the reconciliation of the physical death, and the second is the reconciliation of the spiritual death. For Samuel, it is this second aspect of the Atonement that receives the attention because it is the place where there would be the greatest misunderstanding on the part of his audience. Even those who had fallen  from Nephite faith might yet understand a resurrection made possible by a dying God, but they would still miss the essential reconciliation of God and man that comes through the remission of sin. It is this part of the atoning sacrifice that receives Samuel’s concentration. As he is speaking to a people who have apparently adopted the Nehorite doctrine of universal salvation, this is indeed the most critical message about the function of the coming Atoning Messiah.

 

Hel. 14:18

18  Yea, and it bringeth to pass the condition of repentance, that whosoever repenteth the same is not hewn down and cast into the fire; but whosoever repenteth not is hewn down and cast into the fire; and there cometh upon them again a spiritual death, yea, a second death, for they are cut off again as to things pertaining to righteousness.

 

The two functions of the Atonement both deal with a form of death, and the Atonement provides for the return to life after each type of death. The death of the body becomes the resurrection of the body. The spiritual death that separates us from God becomes the ability to return to His presence.

 

The Book of Mormon prophets preach this Atonement, but they also make it clear that while the Atonement accomplishes both of these reconciliations, it does so in two different ways. For the resurrection of the body, we have no participation. This is the free gift to all. It is probably the aspect of the Atonement that led to the Nehorite heresy that all would be saved. In the sense of being saved from death, it is quite true that all are saved. The Nehorite error was in extending this concept past the resurrection, and into the qualitative, moral, reconciliation. It is in the realm of our relationship with God that the Atonement provides, but does not finish. It is this particular aspect of our participation in the Atonement that Samuel emphasizes here.

 

Even in this second aspect of the Atonement, the Atonement is yet a free gift. Even though there are conditions placed on receiving the full benefit of the Atonement for spiritual death, there is no way that it is earned. We cannot Atone for ourselves, so even this conditional aspect of Atonement is yet a free gift from God. 

 

What does this Atonement actually do? It pays for sins ‑ in advance as well as retrospect. The easiest way to understand what the Atonement does in this aspect is to examine the nature of an Atonement for future sin. In the case of future sin, how might one possibly repent of something not yet performed? It is impossible if we view the Atonement as only a payment for something that has happened. The Atonement covers all sin, including the future, and therefore does not easily fit the model of “payment.” What the Atonement does is bring about the ability to repent.

 

It is at this point that Samuel’s statement becomes the most clear exposition of this aspect of the Atonement. Note emphasis in the first phrase, that the Atonement “bringeth to pass the condition of repentance.” It does not bring to pass repentance. We must do that. It does not bring to pass our ability to live the laws of a celestial kingdom (see DC 88:22), but it does bring to pass the condition of repentance. Because of the Atonement, we are able to repent.

 

Note how important this ability to repent is:

 

2 Nephi 9:8-9

8 O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more.

9 And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light, and stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness.

 

While verse 8 is most explicit on the Atonement for physical death, verse 9’s indication that the "spirits must have become like unto him" is the logical consequence of a world in which repentance is impossible. The cumulative weight of unrepented, uncleansed sin, would create such a condition.

 

Theologically, then, the Atonement provides an absolute resurrection, and an absolute condition of repentance. That part of the Atonement is universally available. Whether we do or do not repent, the very fact that it is possible is due to the Atonement.

 

Hel. 14:19

19  Therefore repent ye, repent ye, lest by knowing these things and not doing them ye shall suffer yourselves to come under condemnation, and ye are brought down unto this second death.

 

Samuel is speaking to Nephites who should know about the Atoning Messiah. They should know about this conditional repentance. They have left that teaching in favor of the Nehorite gospel, but it hasn’t been that long since the true gospel has been taught among them. It is this knowledge from prior to their apostasy that brings them to the condition of “knowing these things.” Samuel fears that because they have known, and now reject these teachings, that they will “come under condemnation.” The Lamanites who had never known of the Atoning Messiah are not under condemnation for not believing, but the Nephites have no excuse, and do fall under condemnation for not following the knowledge they have received.

 

Hel. 14:20

20  But behold, as I said unto you concerning another sign, a sign of his death, behold, in that day that he shall suffer death the sun shall be darkened and refuse to give his light unto you; and also the moon and the stars; and there shall be no light upon the face of this land, even from the time that he shall suffer death, for the space of three days, to the time that he shall rise again from the dead.

 

After the inserted discussion of the import of the death of the Messiah, Samuel returns to his theme of signs. Just as his birth was to be indicated by a night that was not night, so his death will be indicated by days that are not days. Miraculous light will accompany his birth, miraculous darkness will signal his death. Even though the birth and death occur on a completely different hemisphere, yet will the entire world take notice, even the heavens themselves.

 

Hel. 14:21

21  Yea, at the time that he shall yield up the ghost there shall be thunderings and lightnings for the space of many hours, and the earth shall shake and tremble; and the rocks which are upon the face of this earth, which are both above the earth and beneath, which ye know at this time are solid, or the more part of it is one solid mass, shall be broken up;

 

The plausible physical events that will lead to these signs will be discussed in 3 Nephi when they occur. At this point it is important to note that they are fairly precise indications of the coming signs of the Messiah’s death, and that they are all aspects of nature to which Mesoamericans were attuned as representing divine action. Compare the description of the coming signs to the following description of general Mesoamerican thought:

 

“Among the most potent and dramatic natural phenomena of Mexico are lightning storms which light up the sky and shake the earth with thunder. In particular, lighning is regarded with special interest.” (Mary Miller and Karl Taube. An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya. Thames and Hudson, London, 1993, p. 106).

 

The first three items mentioned by Samuel are thunderings, lightnings, and trembling of the earth. Those same three descriptions are grouped together as a set in Miller and Taube’s description of Mesoamerican thought. Samuel is telling them that a divine event is coming, and it is one that they will recognize as portentious.

 

Hel. 14:22

22  Yea, they shall be rent in twain, and shall ever after be found in seams and in cracks, and in broken fragments upon the face of the whole earth, yea, both above the earth and beneath.

 

The heaving of the earth described here is associated with earthquakes. In a myth recorded for the Chorti Maya, earthquakes are caused by the gods:

 

“Movements of the Chicchans within the hills cause earthquakes; a tremor indicates the Chicchan is turning in his sleep, and a violent earthquake ensues of the Chicchan turns completely over to like on his other side.” (J. Eric S. Thompson. Maya History and Religion. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. 1976, p. 263).

 

In the Maya creation mythology, earthquakes figure prominently in the destruction of one of the world epics, a tradition continued through Aztec mythology (for the Maya area, see J. Eric S. Thompson. Maya History and Religion. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman p. 271, 332, and 345. 1976, p. 263. For the Aztec myth, the best source is “Leyenda de los Soles” Codice Chmalpopoca. Tr. Primo Feliciano Valazquez, UNAM, Mexico, 1975, p. 121).

 

The moving of the earth would be a tremendous portent, not to mention a terrifying physical experience.

 

Hel. 14:23

23  And behold, there shall be great tempests, and there shall be many mountains laid low, like unto a valley, and there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great.

Hel. 14:24

24  And many highways shall be broken up, and many cities shall become  desolate.

 

The signs are of great destruction, including “valleys which shall become mountains.” These events will occur as stated. They will be discussed at that point.

 

Hel. 14:25

25  And many graves shall be opened, and shall yield up many of their dead; and many saints shall appear unto many.

 

This is the particular prophecy that triggers the statement of the Lord recorded in 3 Nephi:

 

3 Nephi 23:7-12

7 And it came to pass that he said unto Nephi: Bring forth the record which ye have kept.

8 And when Nephi had brought forth the records, and laid them before him, he cast his eyes upon them and said:

9 Verily I say unto you, I commanded my servant Samuel, the Lamanite, that he should testify unto this people, that at the day that the Father should glorify his name in me that there were many saints who should arise from the dead, and should appear unto many, and should minister unto them. And he said unto them: Was it not so?

10 And his disciples answered him and said: Yea, Lord, Samuel did prophesy according to thy words, and they were all fulfilled.

11 And Jesus said unto them: How be it that ye have not written this thing, that many saints did arise and appear unto many and did minister unto them?

12 And it came to pass that Nephi remembered that this thing had not been written.

 

The recording of the fulfillment of this particular prophecy is important as it confirms the power of the resurrection of the Messiah to bring life to the dead, to break the bands of death.

 

Hel. 14:26

26  And behold, thus hath the angel spoken unto me; for he said unto me that there should be thunderings and lightnings for the space of many hours.

Hel. 14:27

27  And he said unto me that while the thunder and the lightning lasted, and the tempest, that these things should be, and that darkness should cover the face of the whole earth for the space of three days.

 

The portents will be tremendous, and will be continuous for three days. The darkness will cover two days and the intervening night.

 

Hel. 14:28

28  And the angel said unto me that many shall see greater things than these, to the intent that they might believe that these signs and these wonders should come to pass upon all the face of this land, to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men—

Hel. 14:29

29  And this to the intent that whosoever will believe might be saved, and that whosoever will not believe, a righteous judgment might come upon them; and also if they are condemned they bring upon themselves their own condemnation.

 

These great signs will be so spectacular that “there should be no cause for unbelief.” This is an unusual situation, for agency usually requires that there be the free option of belief. How is it that this portent will be so great that “there should be no cause for unbelief.” Does this not violate agency?

 

In this case, it creates a terrible agency. For those who believe, their belief will be confirmed. Verse 29, however, suggests that there will be unbelievers still. How could they not believe? The events that are described are tremendous, but associated with natural phenomenon. For the unbeliever who will not see the coincidence of the events and the prophecies, they will ascribe those signs to other reasons, and they will continue to disbelieve. That unbelief in the face of such a powerful sign will “bring upon themselves their own condemnation.” This is a terrible agency because it is a winnowing agency. It will confirm and save those who believe, and it will condemn and destroy those who do not.

 

Hel. 14:30

30  And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.

 

This destruction, this condemnation, will not happen because of God’s intent, but rather because of that which the people choose. Their agency will still work, with terrible results. Those who “perisheth, perisheth unto [themselves].” By this Samuel indicates that they have elected to perish. It is their choices that have led to this result.

 

Even with this dire prediction, Samuel holds out hope. They are still free to choose, they are still “permitted to act for yourselves.” They can still repent. If they choose to repent, they may still be saved through the Atonement of the Messiah who is coming. If they do not, they perish, “unto themselves.”

 

Hel. 14:31

31  He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you.

 

Samuel’s use of the term “restored” is similar to the way Alma used the term in Alma 42:27-28. This doctrine of restoration is not the restoration of the body and soul, but rather the qualitative nature of the resurrection. If we do good, we will receive good. If we do evil, we will receive the wages of evil. This usage of restoration comes as part of Samuel’s emphasis on the salvation from the second death.

 

Textual: There is no chapter break at this point in the 1830 edition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Brant Gardner. Copyright 2002