After Pahoran died, contention arose among the Nephites regarding who should be the next chief judge. His son Pahoran was appointed by the voice of the people. However, the new chief judge was murdered by Kishkumen, who acted as part of a secret combination. Taking advantage of this contention and division, the Lamanites conquered the capital city of Zarahemla. The Nephites regained Zarahemla, and Kishkumen was slain while attempting to kill Helaman (son of Helaman), the new chief judge.
Write the word contention on the board. Ask students to think of the last time they either were in a contentious situation or witnessed one.
How would you describe the feelings you experienced in that situation?
Invite students to look for the dangers of contention as they study Helaman 1. Encourage them to privately consider ways contention might be evident in their lives.
Invite a student to read Helaman 1:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what led to contention among the Nephites.
What led to contention among the Nephites?
Draw a path on the board that proceeds from the word contention. Explain that contention can be like a path that leads to other sins and negative consequences.
Divide students into pairs. Invite them to read Helaman 1:3–9 with their partners, looking for what the contention among the Nephites led to.
What did the contention among the Nephites lead to? (After students respond, write the following truth on the board: Contention can cause divisions among families and nations. Invite students to consider writing this truth in their scriptures next to Helaman 1:3–9.)
To help students understand how this truth may relate to their lives, invite them to discuss the following questions with their partners. (Write these questions on the board or on slips of paper to hand out to students.)
If siblings have been contentious, how might their behavior affect their long-term relationship? How might it affect the entire family?
If a young woman has been arguing with her parents about her friends, how might it affect her attitude toward her parents’ counsel in other areas of her life?
Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Helaman 1:10–12. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Kishkumen and those who had sent him did to cover up the murder he had committed. Invite students to report what they find.
Summarize Helaman 1:13–17 by explaining that after Pahoran was murdered, his brother Pacumeni was appointed chief judge. In the next year, the Lamanites assembled a great army, and a man named Coriantumr led this army to battle against the Nephites.
Invite a student to read Helaman 1:18–21 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for other consequences of the Nephites’ contention.
What were other consequences of the contention among the Nephites? (The Nephites had not taken sufficient precautions to protect Zarahemla, so the Lamanites took possession of the city and killed some of its inhabitants, including Pacumeni.)
Point out that we can liken Coriantumr and his army to our adversary, Satan.
Based on what we learn from this account, how can contention negatively influence our ability to withstand the influence of the adversary? (Help students identify the following truth: Contention makes us vulnerable to the influence of the adversary. Write this truth on the board.)
How can contention in a ward or branch make Church members more vulnerable to Satan’s attacks?
How might contentious feelings weaken us when we face temptation?
What are some things we can do to avoid or escape contentious situations?
Give students time to reflect on areas of their lives in which they may be contributing to feelings of contention. Invite them to think of one specific action they will take to avoid contentious behavior.
Summarize Helaman 1:22–34 by explaining that after the Lamanites conquered Zarahemla, the Nephite armies defeated them in a battle in which many were killed.
Explain that in Helaman 2, we read about Kishkumen’s attempt to kill Helaman, the next chief judge. Ask students to imagine that they are journalists assigned to report on the attempt to assassinate the chief judge. Invite them to read Helaman 2:2–9 with a partner and write a headline to summarize what happened. Ask several students to read their headlines to the class.
Explain that the group led by Gadianton became known as the Gadianton robbers.
According to these verses, what is the difference between how the Lord wants us to deal with sin and the way the Gadianton robbers dealt with sin?
What is a truth we can learn from these verses about what Satan wants us to do after we sin? (Help students identify the following truth: Satan wants us to try to hide our sins.)
Why do you think Satan wants us to try to hide our sins?
Invite a student to read the following statement by Elder Richard G. Scott (1928–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Encourage the class to listen for negative consequences of hiding our sins.
“If you have seriously transgressed, you will not find any lasting satisfaction or comfort in what you have done. Excusing transgression with a cover-up may appear to fix the problem, but it does not. The tempter is intent on making public your most embarrassing acts at the most harmful time. Lies weave a pattern that is ever more confining and becomes a trap that Satan will spring to your detriment” (Richard G. Scott, “Finding Forgiveness,” Ensign, May 1995, 77).
How might someone today try to hide his or her sins? (Answers may include lying to parents or in interviews with the bishop or branch president.)
Point out that Kishkumen was not alone in trying to hide his sins and that others “had entered into a covenant that no one should know his wickedness” (Helaman 2:3).
Why would it be unwise to help someone else cover up his or her sins?
What are some examples in the scriptures of individuals besides Kishkumen who tried to hide their sins? (Students may think of King David, Ananias and Sapphira, or another example.) What were the consequences of trying to cover up those sins?
Encourage students to resist the temptation to hide their sins, and to repent as needed. Explain that if they need to repent of serious sins such as sexual transgressions or pornography, they will need to go to their bishop or branch president for help. If they have questions about such sins, they should talk with the bishop or branch president or with their parents. Testify of the forgiveness and peace we can receive as we recognize our sins and repent.
Invite students to read Helaman 2:10–11 silently, looking for the action Helaman took against the Gadianton robbers. Ask students to report what they find.
Explain that Gadianton’s band is an example of a secret combination. A secret combination is “an organization of people bound together by oaths to carry out the evil purposes of the group” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Secret Combinations,” scriptures.lds.org).
Invite a student to read Helaman 2:12–14 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the effect that secret combinations would ultimately have on the Nephites.
What can we learn from these verses about the danger of secret combinations? (As students answer, be sure that the following truth is clear: Secret combinations can lead to the destruction of societies. You may want to explain that in addition to bringing about the destruction of the Nephites, secret combinations led to the destruction of the Jaredites, about whom the students will read in the book of Ether [see Ether 8:20–21].)
Read the following statement by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask students to listen for examples of secret combinations today:
“The Book of Mormon teaches that secret combinations engaged in crime present a serious challenge, not just to individuals and families but to entire civilizations. Among today’s secret combinations are gangs, drug cartels, and organized crime families. …
“If we are not careful, today’s secret combinations can obtain power and influence just as quickly and just as completely as they did in Book of Mormon times. …
“… [The devil] uses secret combinations, including gangs, ‘from generation to generation according as he can get hold upon the hearts of the children of men’ [Helaman 6:30]. His purpose is to destroy individuals, families, communities, and nations [see 2 Nephi 9:9]. To a degree, he was successful during Book of Mormon times. And he is having far too much success today. That’s why it is so important for us … to take a firm stand for truth and right by doing what we can to help keep our communities safe” (M. Russell Ballard, “Standing for Truth and Right,” Ensign, Nov. 1997, 38).
In what ways are the modern secret combinations that Elder Ballard mentioned similar to the Gadianton robbers?
Encourage students to ponder ways in which they can apply the truths they have learned in this lesson. Invite them to write in their class notebooks or study journals about what they will do to apply those truths.