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
Write the following words on the board (you may want to do this before class):
People in … (the name of your country)
People in … (the name of your city)
People in my ward or branch
People in my family
Ask students whom, of all the people listed on the board, they feel they can control. Then ask them to raise their hands if they have ever been discouraged because of others’ actions. Have them keep their hands raised if they have been discouraged recently because of the unrighteous actions of others. Explain that as they study Helaman 3, they will find insights about what they can do when those around them do not live according to the gospel.
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, identifying words or phrases that indicate how things changed among the Nephites.
Why do you think the Nephites moved so quickly from a period of no contention to one of much contention?
Summarize Helaman 3:3–16 by explaining that during this time of contention, many Nephites migrated to the north.
Invite a student to read Helaman 3:20 aloud. Ask the class to identify how Helaman was described during this time of contention.
What impresses you about the example of Helaman during this time of contention? (As students answer, you may want to suggest that they mark the word continually in Helaman 3:20.)
Invite students to read Helaman 3:22–26 silently and identify how the situation among the Nephites changed.
What caused the Church leaders to be astonished?
What can we learn from these verses about the potential influence the Church can have on people?
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. After students report what they find, ask:
What did Mormon want us to know about the word of God?
Give students some time to ponder how their study of the scriptures has enabled them to obtain blessings such as those promised in Helaman 3:29. Consider calling on a few students to share their experiences.
Explain that the rest of Helaman 3 recounts how, after the time of great prosperity, pride spread among the Nephites. Many humble members of the Church experienced persecution from other Church members who were proud in their hearts. 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 situations described above. After students have had time to respond, ask the following questions:
Why do you think the persecution of Church members by other Church members was considered “a great evil” among the Nephites?
What gospel principles do we violate when we mistreat or are unkind to other Church members? How can we strengthen our love for our fellow Saints?
Invite students to read Helaman 3:35 silently and identify 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? (They fasted and prayed oft, sought to be humble, and yielded their hearts to God.)
Besides an increase in faith, what else did the actions of the humble Nephites lead to? (Joy, consolation, and purification and sanctification of their hearts.)
Write the following on the board: As we … , our faith in Jesus Christ will increase, despite persecution and trial. Ask students to complete this statement based on what they have learned from Helaman 3:33–35. You may want to invite several students to share how they have completed the statement. Though students’ answers may vary, make sure they express the following truth: As we seek to live righteously, our faith in Jesus Christ will increase, despite persecution and trial. To help students deepen their understanding of the teachings in these verses, you may want to ask the following questions:
How have prayer and fasting helped you in a time of persecution or trial?
What do you think it means to yield your heart to God?
Why is yielding your heart to God necessary in order to increase your faith in a time of persecution or trial?
Ask students if they have ever felt their faith increase as they have responded righteously to persecution. Invite a few students to share their experiences. You may also want to share a personal experience.
To prepare students to study Helaman 4, invite them to read Helaman 3:36 silently. Ask them to identify the general state of the Nephites. (The Nephites were increasing in pride, despite the example of the humble followers of Christ.)
Because of wickedness, the Spirit of the Lord withdraws from the Nephites, and the Lamanites conquer all of the Nephites’ southern lands
Explain that Helaman 4:4–8 tells of a battle that the Nephites fought against the Lamanites and Nephite dissenters. Invite a student to read these verses aloud. Ask the class to follow along, identifying which Nephite lands were conquered during this battle.
Write the following instructions on the board. (You may want to do this before class begins.) Invite students to copy them in notebooks or scripture study journals.
Write three phrases that indicate the Nephites’ attitude and actions.
Write three phrases that indicate what happened because of these actions.
Divide students into pairs. Ask the pairs to read Helaman 4:11–13, 23–26 together, looking for and writing down key phrases according to the instructions on the board.
Invite a few partnerships to report their answers. As students share what they have written, you may want to suggest that they mark the following phrases in their scriptures: “left in their own strength” (Helaman 4:13), “they had become weak” (Helaman 4:24), and “thus had they become weak” (Helaman 4:26).
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. You may want to write this principle on the board. You might also suggest that students write it in their scriptures next to Helaman 4:23–24.
To help students understand this principle, invite one of them to come to the front of the class. Ask the student to imagine that he or she has been enlisted to fight alone in a battle against the Lamanites. Ask the student what chances he or she would have against an army of significant size. Ask another student to come to the front of the class and stand next to the first student. Ask the first student if having the help of the second student would increase his or her chances for victory against the enemy force. (Against an army of significant size, adding a second student would not substantially increase the chances for victory.) Then write The Lord on the board. Ask the first student:
What do you think your chances of winning the battle would be if you had the Lord on your side?
Ask students how this activity relates to the principle identified from Helaman 4. Consider asking the following question:
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?
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. Share your testimony of the importance of the Spirit in your life.
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 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” (“Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989, 6).