Sunday School Lesson 34

September 4, 2004 | 2 comments
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Lesson 34: Helaman 6-12

Chapter 6

Verse 3: How does the attitude of the members of the Church compare here with Moroni’s attitude?

Verse 9: As soon as we read that the Nephites and Lamanites “became exceedingly rich� what do we expect to read about soon?

Verse 17: Why do they want gain? What does it mean to be lifted up above another? What’s wrong with it? How do we lift ourselves above others?

Verse 27: Why is the comparison of the Gadianton robbers to Cain an important one for us? What does it tell us?

Verse 30: What does it mean to say that Satan is the author of all sin? Does that mean I am not the author of any sins? If so, how can I be held responsible?

Verse 37: This verse contains a surprise. It begins by saying that the Lamanites hunted down the Gadianton robbers, so we expect then to read about how the Lamanites killed them. Instead, however, we read that “they did preach the word of God among the more wicked part of them, insomuch that this band of robbers was utterly destroyed.� They destroyed them by preaching to them! Are the situations in our own experience where this might also work?

Verse 38: When they were seduced, the previously righteous Nephites believed in the works of the Gadiantons, partook of their spoils, and joined them in their secret murders. The last of these is easiest to understand: whether or not they committed murder themselves, they joined in the oaths which protected the secret murderers. It is also easy to understand what it means to say that the Nephites partook of their spoils. But what does it mean to say that they believed in the Gadiantons’ works?

Verse 39: What are the signs of Gadianton rule? Notice the progression of ideas. It seems to move up in increasing violence—trample under feet, smite, tear apart—and then the last of the series is “turn their backs upon.� What might that say to us? What are the two groups against whom the Gadiantons act?

Chapter 7

Verse 7: Is Nephi being realistic about what it was like at the time of Lehi or is he thinking about “the good old daysâ€?? (How, for example, does this compare to what the earlier Nephi says about life then? —Cf. verse 8 where this Nephi says in those days he could have had joy in his brethren in the earlier days.) If he is being realistic, what might this say about how things are at the time he speaks? What does “entreated” mean? What does it mean to be easy to be entreated? Why speak of them as “firm to keep the commandments?

Verse 16: Here Nephi speaks of the devil as enticing them. Is there a difference between what “entreat� and “entice� mean? What might that difference signify?

Verse 20: What day is Nephi referring to?

Verse 21: When Nephi says they sin to get gain, to be praised of men, and to get gold and silver, do you think that being praised and getting gold and silver are two ways of getting gain, or is he naming three different reasons for their sins? If he’s naming three different reasons, what does it mean to get gain? What are the riches of this world? What are the vain things? What does it mean to have one’s heart set on these things?

Verse 23: What does the Lord mean when he says, “I will not show unto the wicked of my strength, to one more than the other�?

Verse 24: Notice that the degree of one’s righteousness is a matter of one’s knowledge, so that a person with less knowledge could be more righteous than one with more knowledge, even if the one with less knowledge were obedient to fewer commandments. What might this say to us about deciding the righteousness of others? Of ourselves?

Verse 25: In what ways might members of the Church have united with Gadianton robbers? Obviously, some might simply have joined. But that seems less likely than that they associated themselves in other ways, ways which allowed them to continue to think of themselves as “good people.� What other ways might they have joined themselves? In what ways might we join with today’s Gadianton robbers?

Verse 26: Why is pride such a terrible sin? How do riches cause pride?

Chapter 8

Verse 3: Speaking by the commandments isn’t the same as not speaking what is contrary to them. What is the difference? What might the writer be indicating by saying that nothing Nephi said was contrary to the commandments?

Verses 4, ff.: How do these judges’ motives and methods compare to the motives and methods of the priests of Noah?

Verse 6: What is a danger that those who are prosperous and who have military power run?

Verses 11-13: Why would the story of Moses and Israel be such a powerful example for Nephi? Why might the accusation that they deny Moses’s words be such a powerful accusation?

Verses 14-15: We don’t use the symbol of the cross very much, if at all, but Nephi makes reference to that symbolism here so it is certainly worth thinking about. What kinds of similarities are their between Christ’s crucifixion and the brass serpent on a staff lifted up by Moses? Why, for example, is the serpent used to symbolize Christ rather than Satan? In what senses was Christ lifted up? What might we learn from the symbol of Christ being “lifted up�? What does it mean to “look to� Christ, especially in the context of looking to his crucifixion, the context implied by the metaphor?

Verse 16: To what does the phrase “these things� refer?

Verses 16-22: Why does Nephi mention all these prophets? How will that be convincing? Who would be convinced by such evidence?

Verse 24: Nephi says they have received “all things� as a witness that “they� are true? First, what does the word “they� refer to? I.e. what is it that they know to be true? Second, how do all things, both in heaven and earth stand as a witness that they are true?

Chapter 9

Verse 21: What does it mean to be circumcised of heart? What does it mean to be blind? What does it mean to be stiff-necked? In addition to such things as “stubborn� and “inflexible� (things “stiff-necked� has meant for centuries) during the early nineteenth century, when Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, “stiff-necked� was used to describe a horse who wouldn’t obey the rein. Against what is Nephi warning his people? Against what does he warn us? Can you be specific about that warning? In other words, in what specific ways might we be uncircumcised, blind, or stiff-necked?

Verse 41: In the last chapter we saw that the Nephites remembered Moses and seemed to honor him. However, given the remark they make here, how well did they understand the gospel?

Chapter 10

Verses 4-5: What does it mean to declare the word with unwearyingness? Does that mean Nephi didn’t get tired? He also “has not sought his own life.� What does that mean?

Verse 5: Why won’t Nephi ask that which is contrary to the Lord’s will?

Verse 6: Why might the Lord begin as he does, saying, “Thou art Nephi, and I am God�?

Verse 7: We usually think of the sealing power in connection with such things as eternal marriage. Here we see that it goes beyond that.

Verses 10-14: What does it mean to say that God smites people? Literally “smite� means “hit.� How do we explain what seems here to be vengefulness on the part of the Lord—it is as if he is saying “Do what I say, or else�? Is destruction something the Lord brings on the wicked or is it something he will save them from if they repent?

Chapter 11

Verse 7: What does this verse tell us about Nephite righteousness? If we are righteous because we have been humbled by circumstances and finally see the need for the Lord, how righteous are we?

Verses 9-17: If Nephi has already been given the authority that whatever he says will come to pass, why does he pray to the Lord here, asking that the famine be stopped? Why not just command it to stop?

Verse 19: If Lehi wasn’t a whit behind him in righteousness, can we assume that he too had the sealing power? If not, why not? In either case, why don’t we hear more about Lehi?

Verses 22-23: What points of doctrine do you think they might have disputed? Is there anything we’ve read or which you know is coming up which might suggest an answer to this question?

Verse 24: Notice that Helaman distinguishes between the Lamanites who are descendants of the Lamanites and those who’ve taken the name “Lamanite” because they are dissenters. The distinction between Lamanite and Nephite is becoming more and more a political, cultural, and religious distinction rather than a racial one.

Verses 26-33: Notice too that though we think of the wars in the Book of Mormon as wars between the Nephites and the Lamanites (and for the most part they are), we see here that the Gadianton robbers are neither Lamanite nor Nephite: both nations send armies out against them, and both nations are under seige from them.

Verse 34: In verse 7 they repented because of the famine (which replaced a war), then in verse 23 (four years later) they began to strive with each other again, but Nephi and Lehi were able to bring it under control, so there is relatively little strife among them. The next year the Gadianton robbers reorganized themselves and began to attack the people. This verse tells us that the attacks of the Gadianton robbers were because of the people’s wickedness. What wickedness do you suppose the verse is referring to?

Verse 36: The eighty-first year ended with the Nephites remembering the Lord because of their afflictions. Now we see that the very next year they began to forget him again. There seems to be less and less time between each period of wickedness and each period of repentance. What’s going on?

Chapter 12

Verse 1: The phrase “and thus we see� is one of Mormon’s favorite phrases. This verse begins with a variation of it, so it may well be a section written by Mormon—his commentary on what he is reading. This is the Book of Mormon not only because it is his abridgment, but also because it is his prophetic response to his people’s history. We see that the Lord blesses and prospers those who trust him. In fact, we have seen him bless and prosper those who only “trusted� him because they were forced to it by their suffering. What does this tell us about the Lord?

Verse 2: Do we have ease and prosperity? If so, Mormon seems to feel that what he has seen describes us as well as the people he is reading about. How might this verse apply to us? How has the Lord increased our fields, flocks, and herds? Our silver, gold, and other precious things? How has he spared our lives? How has he delivered us from our enemies? How has he softened their hearts not to declare war against us? How do we harden our hearts? How do we forget the Lord? How do we trample him under our feet? (Think about the power and the horror of that image—we trample our God as a mob might trample someone, perhaps not even noticing he is there in our rush to get something or somewhere).

Verses 3-6: Mormon gives his description of the Lord’s people, not just of some of those people. Is he just a pessimist because of the hard life he has led, or is what he is saying here prophetic? If the latter, these verses describe us as well the people of the Book of Mormon. How do such things fit in with the message of the Book of Mormon for the latter-days? What do they mean to us? What do they say about us?

Verse 7: When we read verses like this (for example, Mosiah 4:5 and 11) we almost always add “but . . . .� Then we explain all the ways in which we aren’t nothing. In the scriptures, however, we don’t find any such addition. Why not? What are we supposed to learn from this verse and others which say we are nothing?

Verses 8-22: What is the point of these verses. In context, what are they to teach us?

Verses 7-23: Compare what Mormon says here with Mosiah 4:5-16.

Verse 24: What does he mean by “God’s great fulness?� What does the phrase “restored grace for grace� mean? Can there be good works without repentance? Repentance without good works?

Verse 26: How do we square scriptures such as this with those such as Romans 3:12: “There is none that doeth good, no not one�? That scripture is a quotation of Psalms 14:3 and 53:3 and it is a common theme in the scriptures. See for example Psalms 14:1; 36:3; 53:1; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Jeremiah 13:23; Romans 3:12; 3 John 1:11; Helaman 12:4; Moroni 10:25; and D&C 33:4; 35:12; and 82:6. What makes it possible to do good works?

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2 Responses to Sunday School Lesson 34

  1. Keith on September 5, 2004 at 10:28 pm

    “Verse 30: What does it mean to say that Satan is the author of all sin? Does that mean I am not the author of any sins? If so, how can I be held responsible?”

    D&C 10 (especially 20-29) may offer an interesting comment here because the Lord says Satan has laid a cunning plan, but that he will hold those responsible who buy into the plan and who fall prey to the flattery that “it is no sin to lie.” Satan starts “authoring” the plan, but those who buy into it, those who are moved by the flattery–do so because they want to: “They love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.” Satan may give us an idea for a “sinful story” if you will (a sin-spiration as some have called it) but it becomes a genuine temptation when we give it real attention as a possibility. We take the story over, if you will, and make it our own. We willfully give sin a specific incarnation.

    I suspect that there are sins we could and do commit without any outside temptation or tempter. So then how, as you ask, could Satan be the author of all sin? Perhaps the idea of rebellion, of not submitting to God’s will would never have occured to humanity without Satan’s rebellion and his subsequent enticement to follow. I’m not certain of that. Nevertheless, we don’t have to follow his enticement and we do follow because we chose to.

  2. Jim F. on September 6, 2004 at 12:28 am

    Keith, yours is a very good response to the question. I’d not thought of the D&C reference and it is quite helpful.

    Thanks.