Following Nephi and Lehi’s missionary efforts, the Lamanites increased in righteousness. However, the Nephites became wicked and began supporting the Gadianton robbers, and the Spirit of the Lord withdrew from them. Nephi prophesied that if the Nephites continued to live in wickedness, they would perish. He also prophesied that because of the Lamanites’ righteousness, the Lord would be merciful unto them and preserve them.
Invite students to find their pulse on their wrist or neck.
Why does a doctor check a person’s pulse when providing a physical examination? (A pulse indicates how fast a person’s heart is beating and can help a doctor understand the general health of a person’s heart.)
Point out that the heart is essential to our physical survival. It pumps blood through our bodies so oxygen and nutrients can reach all our cells.
Why do you think the scriptures often refer to the condition of people’s hearts? (Help students understand that the heart is “a symbol of the mind and will of man and the figurative source of all emotions and feelings” [Guide to the Scriptures, “Heart,” scriptures.lds.org].)
As students study Helaman 6–7 today, invite them to look for truths about what can damage our hearts spiritually.
To help students understand the context of Helaman 6, remind them that because of the missionary efforts of Nephi and Lehi, thousands of Lamanites in and around Zarahemla had been baptized, and the majority of the Lamanites in the land of Nephi had been converted to the gospel (see Helaman 5:19–20, 50–51).
Ask a student to read Helaman 6:1–3 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for the spiritual conditions of the Lamanites and the Nephites. Ask students to report what they find.
How did the people of the Church respond to the conversion of the Lamanites?
Summarize Helaman 6:4–21 by explaining that many Lamanites preached to the Nephites in Zarahemla. For approximately three years, the Nephites and the Lamanites enjoyed peace. As industry and trade increased between them, both peoples flourished. Then, in the 66th year of the reign of the judges, two chief judges were murdered by the Gadianton robbers. The Lamanites used “every means in their power” (verse 20) to destroy this secret band of murderers, but many of the Nephites united with Gadianton’s band.
Write the following scripture reference on the board: Helaman 6:17, 21, 26, 28–31. Point out that each verse in this reference uses the word heart or hearts, referring to our spiritual hearts. Give students time to study these verses and ponder responses to the following questions. (To save time, write these questions on the board before class or prepare them as a handout for students to refer to while they study the verses listed on the board.)
Why do you think Satan is so interested in the hearts of God’s children?
What did the Nephites do that enabled Satan to take hold of their hearts? (See Helaman 6:17.)
What happens to a person whose heart is influenced or controlled by Satan? (See Helaman 6:21, 28, 30–31.)
Invite a few students to respond to the questions. Then write the following truth on the board: Satan carries on his works of darkness by getting hold upon the hearts of the children of men. Ask students to consider marking the words in Helaman 6:30 that teach this truth.
Ask a student to read aloud the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer (1924–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for ways in which Satan tries to get hold upon our hearts.
“There can be counterfeit revelations, promptings from the devil, temptations! As long as you live, in one way or another the adversary will try to lead you astray. …
“If ever you receive a prompting to do something that makes you feel uneasy, something you know in your mind to be wrong and contrary to the principles of righteousness, do not respond to it!” (Boyd K. Packer, “Personal Revelation: The Gift, the Test, and the Promise,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 61).
Invite students to think of times when they may have had an idea or felt a prompting to do something wrong but chose to not act on it. Encourage them to continue to live righteously so they can prevent Satan from getting hold upon their hearts.
Summarize Helaman 6:32–34 by explaining that because many of the Nephites allowed Satan to get hold upon their hearts, they “did begin to dwindle in unbelief, and grow in wickedness and abominations, while the Lamanites began to grow exceedingly in the knowledge of their God” (verse 34).
Tell students that after Mormon recorded what had happened to the Nephites and the Lamanites, he pointed out lessons we can learn from their experience. Write the following on the board:
Invite students to read Helaman 6:35–36 silently, looking for two contrasting truths Mormon wanted us to learn from this account.
Based on what you read in these verses, how would you state two principles using the words if and then? (Using students’ responses, write on the board two principles that are similar to the following: If we are wicked and harden our hearts, then the Spirit of the Lord will withdraw from us. If we choose to willingly believe in the Lord’s words, then He will pour out His Spirit upon us.)
Draw the following diagram on the board, leaving space both above and below it:
Invite students to come to the board and write above the arrow that is pointing up some attitudes and actions that result in an increase in the influence of the Holy Ghost in their lives. Ask them to write below the arrow that is pointing down some attitudes and actions that result in a decrease in the Holy Ghost’s influence.
Point out that the actions and attitudes on the top half of the board represent willingness to believe in and obey the Lord’s words, while the actions and attitudes on the bottom half of the board represent wickedness and hard-heartedness.
How has doing one of the actions on the top half of the board helped invite the Holy Ghost into your life? (You might also ask students to ponder whether they have done any of the actions or held any of the attitudes listed on the bottom half of the board and to consider how it resulted in a decrease of the influence of the Spirit in their lives. Do not ask students to share these experiences with the class.)
Ask students to write in their class notebooks or study journals one thing they will do to invite the Spirit of the Lord into their lives. Encourage them to follow through with their goals.
Summarize Helaman 6:37–41 by explaining that the Lamanites destroyed Gadianton’s band of robbers from among them, while the Nephites built them up and supported them in their land. This support helped the Gadianton robbers gain control of the Nephite government.
For each of the following questions, invite students to use their scriptures to find answers as quickly as they can. Instruct them to stand when they have found the answer. Call on the first person standing to answer each question. Then ask students to sit down before you read the next question.
According to Helaman 7:1, what was the name of the prophet who returned from the land northward?
Which phrase in Helaman 7:2 describes what Nephi taught the people in the land northward?
According to Helaman 7:3, why did Nephi leave the land northward?
According to Helaman 7:4, who had filled the judgment seats by the time Nephi returned to Zarahemla?
Invite a student to read Helaman 7:5 aloud, and ask the class to identify how the Gadianton robbers ruled the people.
Summarize Helaman 7:6–12 by explaining that when Nephi saw the state of his people, “his heart was swollen with sorrow” (Helaman 7:6). He went up on a tower in his garden to pray and to mourn the wickedness of the people. When the people heard him praying and mourning, a multitude gathered to learn why he was so upset. He used the opportunity to teach them.
Invite students to read Helaman 7:15–16 silently, looking for what Nephi taught the people.
According to verse 15, what had happened to the hearts of the people?
According to verse 16, what was Satan seeking to do?
Invite students to pause and think about the imagery Nephi used. After Satan gains hold on people’s hearts, he then seeks to hurl their souls down to everlasting misery.
Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Helaman 7:17–22, 26–28. Invite half of the class to identify the sins of the Nephites, and ask the other half of the class to identify the consequences Nephi warned would come if the people did not repent.
As the first half of the class reports what they found, point out similarities to what is written on the bottom half of the board. As the second half of the class reports, ask the following questions:
What phrase in Helaman 7:22 indicates something the Lord withholds from those who refuse to repent? (“Strength … to withstand against your enemies.” You may want to suggest that students mark this phrase in their scriptures.)
According to Helaman 7:28, what is the result when people refuse to repent? (They will perish. You might want to explain that in the Nephites’ case, their refusal to repent meant they would perish both physically and spiritually.)
Write the following truth on the board: If we refuse to repent of our sins, we will lose the Lord’s strength and protection.
To help students understand this principle, invite them to explain some ways in which the people in the following situations may lose the Lord’s strength and protection:
A young man refuses to repent of a pornography addiction.
A young woman’s highest priority is to become well known and popular, despite being taught differently by her parents.
Though he has listened to the prophets’ teachings to search the scriptures and pray, a young man refuses to do either.
Invite students to ponder ways they may need to repent. Encourage them to repent so that they can always have the Lord’s strength and protection in their lives.