Samuel the Lamanite warned the Nephites that unless they repented, they would be destroyed. He declared that the Lord would prolong the days of the Lamanites, who had become more righteous than the Nephites. Some Nephites believed Samuel’s teachings and were baptized by Nephi. Those who did not believe Samuel attempted to kill him. But Samuel was protected by the power of God, and he returned to his own land.
Read the following scenario aloud:
For many years a young man has been excited to serve a full-time mission. However, as he approaches his 18th birthday he is surprised and saddened that some of his friends whom he thought would also serve missions have distanced themselves from the Church. This young man attended seminary with these friends and served in Aaronic Priesthood quorums with them. He wonders why his friends did not remain firm in their faith.
What can prevent individuals from remaining firm in their faith?
As students study Helaman 15–16 today, invite them to look for a principle that can help them remain firm and steadfast in their faith.
To help students understand the context of Helaman 15, explain that this chapter contains teachings and warnings that Samuel the Lamanite delivered to the Nephites.
Write the following on the board:
Invite students to read silently the scripture passages listed on the board. Ask students to write two sentences—one summarizing the spiritual condition of the Nephites and the other summarizing the spiritual condition of the Lamanites.
Students may ask about Samuel’s statement that the Lord loved the Nephites and hated the Lamanites (see Helaman 15:3–4). Samuel taught, “The Lamanites hath he hated because their deeds have been evil continually” (Helaman 15:4). Explain that the phrase “the Lamanites hath he hated” refers to the Lord’s displeasure with the Lamanites’ actions. The Lord loves all people but cannot tolerate sin (see D&C 1:31; 18:10). Samuel also said that the Lord “prolonged the [Lamanites’] days” so they could receive the gospel (Helaman 15:4). This willingness to grant opportunities for repentance demonstrates the Lord’s love for the Lamanites.
Draw the following diagram on the board:
Explain that as recorded in Helaman 15:7–8, Samuel the Lamanite described a group of Lamanites as being “firm and steadfast in the faith” and taught how they were able to become that way.
Ask a student to read Helaman 15:7–8 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for how they might complete the diagram on the board. Ask a few students to come to the board to complete the diagram based on Samuel’s teachings. The completed diagram should look similar to the following:
How would you summarize Samuel’s teachings in verses 7–8 as a principle? (Students may use different words but should identify the following principle: When we know the truth and believe the scriptures, we are led to faith in Jesus Christ and repentance, which bring a change of heart and help us become firm and steadfast in the faith.)
Divide students into pairs or small groups. Remind them of the scenario you presented at the beginning of the lesson. Ask them to discuss with their groups how the steps in this principle would help someone become and remain firm and steadfast in the faith. After sufficient time, invite a few students to report to the class what they discussed.
Summarize Helaman 15:9–17 by explaining that because of the steadfastness of the Lamanites, the Lord promised to be merciful to the Lamanites in the latter days. The Nephites, however, had not remained firm in their faith and had rejected even greater witnesses than those the Lamanites had received. Samuel warned the Nephites that if they did not repent, they would be destroyed.
Display the picture Samuel the Lamanite on the Wall (Gospel Art Book , no. 81; see also lds.org/media-library).
Invite a student to read Helaman 16:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the people reacted to Samuel’s message.
How did the people react to Samuel’s message?
According to verse 2, what was the reason the people could not hit Samuel with their stones and arrows?
Hold up a stone. Ask students to imagine they had been present when people were casting stones and shooting arrows at Samuel.
How long do you think it might have taken the people to realize that Samuel could not be hit by the stones and arrows?
When the people saw that Samuel could not be hit, what are some different ways in which they could have chosen to react?
Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Helaman 16:3–8. Ask the class to follow along, looking for different ways in which people reacted when they realized Samuel could not be hit by the stones and arrows.
In what ways did people react when they realized Samuel could not be hit by the stones and arrows?
Write the following incomplete statement on the board: When we see or feel evidence of God’s power upon His prophets, …
Based on the different ways in which people reacted after witnessing the protection Samuel received, how would you complete this statement to form a principle? (Using students’ words, complete the statement on the board so that it conveys the following principle: When we see or feel evidence of God’s power upon His prophets, we can choose to either believe or dismiss that evidence.)
Why do you think people respond to prophets and their messages in such different ways?
What are some examples of God’s power upon His prophets in our day? (Students may mention Joseph Smith’s miraculous translation of the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God or times when Presidents of the Church have received revelation to guide the Church. As students respond, invite them to explain how the examples they mention illustrate God’s power upon His prophets.)
You may want to share your testimony that God’s power is upon His prophets in our day. Encourage students to choose to believe in God’s prophets.
Ask a student to read Helaman 16:13–16 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for further evidence of God’s power and how the people responded to it.
Why did some people dismiss the evidence of God’s power and the fulfillment of the prophecies of the prophets?
Give students a few minutes to read Helaman 16:17–21 silently, looking for additional excuses that the unrighteous made for not believing Samuel’s prophecies. Call on a few students to tell what excuses they have identified in these verses.
Which of these excuses or arguments against the prophets do you think are most common in our day?
Invite a student to read Helaman 16:22–23 aloud, and ask the class to look for what happened when many people continued to ignore Samuel’s warnings. Invite students to report what they find.
What will happen to us if we reject the Lord’s latter-day prophets?
As students answer, emphasize the following principle: When we reject the Lord’s witnesses, we allow Satan to get hold upon our hearts. (Write this statement on the board.)
To conclude today’s lesson, invite a student to read the following statement by President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency. Ask the rest of the class to listen for what we are really choosing when we reject counsel from God, much of which comes through latter-day prophets:
“When we reject the counsel which comes from God, we do not choose to be independent of outside influence. We choose another influence. We reject the protection of a perfectly loving, all-powerful, all-knowing Father in Heaven, whose whole purpose, as that of His Beloved Son, is to give us eternal life, to give us all that He has, and to bring us home again in families to the arms of His love. In rejecting His counsel, we choose the influence of another power, whose purpose is to make us miserable and whose motive is hatred” (Henry B. Eyring, “Finding Safety in Counsel,” Ensign, May 1997, 25).
According to President Eyring, what are we really choosing if we reject counsel from God and His prophets?
Invite students to quietly consider if they have hardened their hearts in any way against counsel God has given through prophets and apostles. Testify of the truths you have discussed in this lesson. Encourage students to be firm and steadfast in living the gospel and in heeding the counsel of the Lord from His prophets.