After Nephi declared that the people must repent or be destroyed, corrupt judges incited many of the people against him. Some people boldly defended him. Nephi taught that the people who rejected his witness also rejected the testimonies of all the prophets who had come before him, all of whom had testified of Jesus Christ. As a testament that he was a prophet, Nephi revealed that the chief judge had been murdered. When Nephi’s words were verified, some people accepted him as a prophet.
Suggestions for Teaching
Corrupt judges attempt to incite the people against Nephi
What are some influences that try to persuade you not to believe the words of prophets?
As students discuss this question, ask a student to write their responses on the board. Invite students to look for insights about what they should do when they face influences like those they will read about in Helaman 8 today.
Remind students that Nephi boldly delivered a message of repentance to his people (see Helaman 7). Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Helaman 8:1–6. Ask the class to follow along, identifying how the judges reacted to Nephi’s teaching. You may want to point out that some of the judges were part of Gadianton’s secret band.
What was the judges’ message to the people? (They tried to persuade the people to be angry with Nephi.)
According to Helaman 8:4, why wouldn’t the judges punish Nephi?
Ask students to think about what they would do if someone tried to persuade them to disregard the words of prophets.
Inform students that some people spoke out against the ideas of the judges. Ask a student to read Helaman 8:7–9 aloud. Point out that, like some people in the crowd, we can raise our voices in support of the prophet, even when it is not the popular thing to do.
Have there been times in your life when you have raised your voice to support the living prophet, even though his teachings have been unpopular? How did this make a difference in your life? How did it influence others?
Ask students to read Helaman 8:10 silently to find how the words of these people made a difference.
What difference did it make when some people supported the prophet? Why do you think it is important for us to do this today?
Invite a student to read the following statement by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“We need to remember Edmund Burke’s statement: ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’ [Attributed in John Bartlett, comp., Familiar Quotations, 15th ed. (1980), ix.] We need to raise our voices with other concerned citizens throughout the world in opposition to current trends. We need to tell the sponsors of offensive media that we have had enough. We need to support programs and products that are positive and uplifting. Joining together with neighbors and friends who share our concerns, we can send a clear message to those responsible” (“Let Our Voices Be Heard,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2003, 18).
How can we resist influences that attempt to persuade us against the words of prophets?
What are some appropriate ways to speak out against evil influences and in favor of the words of prophets?
Invite students to tell about a time when they or someone they know stood up against such influences.
Helaman teaches that all prophets testify of Jesus Christ
Invite a student to read Helaman 8:13 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify what Nephi said the people denied. Show students the picture Moses and the Brass Serpent (62202; Gospel Art Book , no. 16). Ask them to read Helaman 8:14–15 and identify what Moses taught about the Savior.
What are some ways a person can “look upon the Son of God with faith”?
To have a “contrite spirit,” as expressed in Helaman 8:15, is to be humble, repentant, and receptive to the Lord’s will. Why is this attitude essential as we look to the Savior?
How can knowing of the Savior’s mission help us to resist evil?
Invite students to restate the teaching in Helaman 8:15, using their own words. For example, they might say that if we focus on Jesus Christ and exercise faith in Him, we will receive eternal life.
Ask a student to read Helaman 8:16 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, identifying others who have taught the message expressed in Helaman 8:15. Then ask students to quickly search Helaman 8:17–22 for names of other prophets who testified of Christ. Invite students to contemplate the many testimonies of Jesus Christ that they have read or heard from ancient prophets and latter-day prophets.
Explain that many people rejected Nephi and his message. Invite students to read Helaman 8:24–26 and identify what consequences the Nephites faced because they rejected the testimonies of prophets.
Why do you think those who consistently deny the truth and rebel against God face such serious consequences?
When has a prophet’s message helped you turn to the Lord?
Invite students to consider how they can improve in their efforts to turn to the Savior. Encourage them to focus on one way they will improve within the next week.
Nephi reveals that the chief judge has been murdered
Summarize Helaman 8:25–28 by explaining that as proof that the people were in a sinful state and that Nephi spoke the word of God, Nephi revealed that the chief judge had been murdered. Divide the class into pairs. Invite each partnership to imagine they are detectives on the case to determine who murdered the chief judge. Write the following questions on the board or include them on a handout for each partnership.
Day One of the Investigation:
Invite the partnerships to find the answers to questions 1 and 2. When they have had enough time, ask:
When the five men discovered the murdered chief judge, what did they believe? What did they fear? (See Helaman 9:5.)
Invite the partnerships to answer the rest of the questions to complete their investigation. Then ask:
According to Nephi, what would Seantum say after confessing his guilt? (See Helaman 9:36.)
According to Helaman 9:39–41, why did some people believe Nephi?
Invite students to summarize what they have learned from Helaman 9 about the words of prophets. Students may express many different thoughts, but be sure they identify the following principle: The words of prophets will be fulfilled. To reinforce this truth, you may want to have students read Doctrine and Covenants 1:37–38.
What experiences have strengthened your testimony that we have true prophets on the earth today?
Conclude with your testimony that the words of prophets will be fulfilled.
Commentary and Background Information
Helaman 8:14–15. “The brazen serpent”
When Nephi spoke of Moses lifting up a “brazen serpent,” he referred to a time when the children of Israel were plagued by “fiery serpents” (see Numbers 21:6–9; note that the word brazen means brass). The prelude to the Israelites’ trouble was that they had spoken evil of God and His prophet (see Numbers 21:5). Those who looked at the brazen serpent were healed, and those who chose not to look at it perished (see Numbers 21:9; 1 Nephi 17:41).
Like those Israelites, many of the people in Nephi’s day spoke against God and His prophet. When Nephi referred to the account of the brazen serpent, he emphasized that his people “should look upon the Son of God with faith” and live (Helaman 8:15; see also John 3:14–15, in which Jesus Christ Himself referred to the brazen serpent as a symbol of His coming Crucifixion). Nephi then reminded the people that all the prophets had testified of Christ (see Helaman 8:16–23).
Supplemental Teaching Idea
Helaman 7–9. Video presentation
Instead of using the investigation activity in the lesson, you may want to show the video presentation titled “The Pride Cycle,” which is a depiction of the account in Helaman 7–9 and the first few verses in Helaman 10. The presentation is available on Book of Mormon DVD Presentations 1–19 (54011) and LDS.org.