During this time in Book of Mormon history, the Nephites enjoyed periods of peace but also experienced times of contention. Tens of thousands of Nephites joined the Church during the time of peace. Following this interval of great prosperity, pride began to enter the hearts of the people. However, the more humble members of the Church grew in their faith, despite being persecuted by those who were proud. Because of the wickedness among many of the Nephites, they lost all of their southern lands to the Lamanites.
Suggestions for Teaching
Many Nephites migrate northward, while the Church prospers in the midst of wickedness and persecution
Before class, write the following questions on the board: Am I good enough? Will I really make it to the celestial kingdom?
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder J. Devn Cornish of the Seventy:
“Our members often ask, ‘Am I good enough as a person?’ or ‘Will I really make it to the celestial kingdom?’ Of course, there is no such thing as ‘being good enough.’ None of us could ever ‘earn’ or ‘deserve’ our salvation, but it is normal to wonder if we are acceptable before the Lord, which is how I understand these questions” (J. Devn Cornish, “Am I Good Enough? Will I Make It?” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2016, 32–33).
Ask students to consider whether they have ever wondered if they are acceptable to the Lord or if they will be able to inherit the celestial kingdom.
As students study Helaman 3 today, invite them to look for truths that can help them answer these questions.
To help students understand the context of Helaman 3, remind them that Helaman was serving as the chief judge of the Nephites and had recently been spared from an assassination attempt by Gadianton’s secret band (see Helaman 2).
Invite a student to read Helaman 3:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for occurrences of the phrase “no contention.” Invite students to read Helaman 3:3, 19 silently, looking for words or phrases that indicate how things changed among the Nephites.
What changed among the Nephites?
Summarize Helaman 3:3–16 by explaining that during this time of contention, many Nephites, including many of the people of Ammon, separated from the main body of Nephites and migrated to the north. These people built many cities, and records were kept concerning them.
Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Helaman 3:22–26. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the situation among the Nephites changed.
How would you summarize what happened to the Church at this time?
Remind students that as Mormon prepared the Book of Mormon record, he sometimes indicated lessons he wanted readers to learn from certain accounts. In the case of Helaman 3, he used the phrases “thus we may see,” “thus we see,” and “we see” to introduce his lessons.
Invite students to read Helaman 3:27–30 silently and identify what lessons Mormon wanted us to learn. Ask students to consider marking the lessons or truths they find.
What lessons or truths did Mormon want us to learn?
As students respond, write the following truths on the board:
The Lord is merciful unto all who will call upon His name in the sincerity of their hearts (see Helaman 3:27).
Whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which will lead them to the kingdom of God (see Helaman 3:29–30).
Underline the following phrases in the truths on the board: “the Lord is merciful,” “the gate of heaven is open,” and “lead them to the kingdom of God.”
What do these phrases teach us about Heavenly Father’s desire to bless us and welcome us back into His presence?
Refer again to the truths on the board, and remind students that Mormon recorded these truths after writing that thousands of people had repented of their sins and joined the Church (see Helaman 3:24). Circle the following words in the truths on the board: “all,” “all,” and “whosoever.”
Why are these words particularly important? (Help students understand that God will bless all people, including everyone who has sinned, if they repent and obey His teachings.)
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Cornish:
“The God of heaven is not a heartless referee looking for any excuse to throw us out of the game. He is our perfectly loving Father, who yearns more than anything else to have all of His children come back home and live with Him as families forever. He truly gave His Only Begotten Son that we might not perish but have everlasting life [see John 3:16]! Please believe, and please take hope and comfort from, this eternal truth. Our Heavenly Father intends for us to make it! That is His work and His glory [see Moses 1:39].
“… None of us will ever be ‘good enough,’ save through the merits and mercy of Jesus Christ [see 2 Nephi 2:6–8], but because God respects our agency, we also cannot be saved without our trying” (J. Devn Cornish, “Am I Good Enough? Will I Make It?” 33, 34).
Invite a student to come to the board to underline in the three truths the words that indicate what God expects us to do. Ask students to explain why it is so important for us to do those things.
Share your testimony of the truths listed on the board, and invite students to apply these truths in their lives.
Summarize Helaman 3:31–32 by explaining that these verses describe the peace and great joy that the Nephites experienced after so many of them joined the Church. Point out that after a period of peace, certain problems begain to arise among Church members.
Read the following situations aloud. Ask students to ponder when they have seen or experienced similar situations.
A young woman makes fun of another girl in her ward.
A young man teases a member of his quorum for being too eager to answer questions in class or to volunteer for priesthood duties.
A group of young men in a ward exclude another young man from their conversations and activities outside of church.
A group of young women make hurtful remarks about the clothes that other young women wear.
Invite a student to read Helaman 3:33–34 aloud. Ask the class to identify similarities between the Nephites’ situation and the preceding situations.
How was the Nephites’ situation similar to situations that may occur among Church members today?
Remind students that in this context pride refers to a feeling of being superior to others. “Pride sets people in opposition to each other and to God” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Pride,” scriptures.lds.org).
Invite students to read Helaman 3:35 silently and look for how the humble among the Nephites responded to being persecuted.
Did the faith of the persecuted people increase, decrease, or remain about the same?
What actions did the persecuted people take that contributed to their increase in faith?
Besides an increase in faith, what else did the actions of the humble Nephites lead to?
Write the following incomplete statement on the board: As we ____________________________________________________________________________________________________, He will ____________________________________________________________________________________________________, in spite of the hurtful behavior of others. Ask students to complete this statement based on what they have learned from Helaman 3:33–35. As students respond, complete the statement on the board so it conveys the following principle: As we fast and pray and yield our hearts to God, He will cause our faith in Jesus Christ to increase and will sanctify our hearts, in spite of the hurtful behavior of others.
Remind students of the scenarios you read aloud earlier, and ask:
How do you think prayer and fasting could help a young woman who is being made fun of by another girl in her ward?
How could a young man who is being excluded by members of his quorum outside of church yield his heart to God?
Ask students if they have ever felt their faith increase as they have responded righteously to the hurtful or prideful behavior of others. Invite a few students to share their experiences. You may also want to share a personal experience.
To prepare students to study Helaman 4, explain that the Nephites were increasing in pride, despite the example of the humble followers of Christ (see Helaman 3:36). We learn from Helaman 3:37 that Helaman died and his oldest son, Nephi, became the new chief judge.
Because of wickedness, the Spirit of the Lord withdraws from the Nephites, and the Lamanites conquer all of the Nephites’ southern lands
Summarize Helaman 4:1–8 by explaining that a group of Nephites dissented and joined the Lamanites. These dissenting Nephites convinced the Lamanites to go to battle against the Nephites. This combined army succeeded in taking possession of the land of Zarahemla and driving the Nephite armies to the land of Bountiful.
Divide students into pairs. Ask the pairs to read Helaman 4:11–13, 23–26 together. Instruct one student in each pair to look for phrases that indicate the Nephites’ attitude and actions and the other student to look for phrases that indicate what happened because of these actions.
Invite a few partnerships to report their answers. Ask students to consider marking the following phrases in their scriptures: “they were left in their own strength” (Helaman 4:13), “they had become weak” (Helaman 4:24), and “thus had they become weak” (Helaman 4:26).
According to verse 24, why had the Nephites become weak? (Because the Spirit of the Lord had withdrawn from them. Invite students to consider marking the following statement in verse 24: “The Spirit of the Lord doth not dwell in unholy temples.”)
Ask students what principles they can identify from their study of Helaman 4. Help them identify the following principle: Pride and wickedness separate us from the Spirit of the Lord and leave us to our own strength. Write this principle on the board, and invite students to consider writing it in their scriptures next to Helaman 4:23–24.
In the Nephites’ experience, being left to their own strength meant losing battles and lands. What “battles” might we lose if we do not have the Holy Ghost with us?
What experiences have you had that have taught you the importance of always having the Spirit of the Lord with you?
Ask students to ponder one thing they can do to maintain the companionship of the Holy Ghost in their lives, and invite them to do it.
Commentary and Background Information
Helaman 3:33–34, 36; 4:12. The effect of pride on the Church
Mormon pointed out that pride was not part of the Lord’s Church but that because of great riches, it began to enter into the hearts of some of the members of the Church (see Helaman 3:33, 36).
President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) taught:
“Think of what pride has cost us in the past and what it is now costing us in our own lives, our families, and the Church.
“Think of the repentance that could take place with lives changed, marriages preserved, and homes strengthened, if pride did not keep us from confessing our sins and forsaking them. (See D&C 58:43.)
“Think of the many who are less active members of the Church because they were offended and their pride will not allow them to forgive or fully sup at the Lord’s table.
“Think how temple work would increase if the time spent in this godly service were more important than the many prideful pursuits that compete for our time” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989, 6).