After the chief judge Pahoran died, there was a serious contention among the Nephites about which of his sons—Pahoran, Paanchi, and Pacumeni—should become the new chief judge. Pahoran was elected by the people as the new chief judge. One of Paanchi’s followers, a man named Kishkumen who was acting for a secret band, murdered Pahoran, and Pacumeni was then appointed as chief judge. Taking advantage of this contention and division, the Lamanites were able to conquer the Nephites’ capital city of Zarahemla and kill Pacumeni. The Nephite general Moronihah regained the city of Zarahemla, and Helaman was appointed as the chief judge. Kishkumen was slain while attempting to kill Helaman, and Gadianton became the leader of the secret band.
Contention over who should be chief judge allows the Lamanites to conquer Zarahemla, the capital city of the Nephites
Think of the last time you had an argument with someone or witnessed others having an argument. What problems does such contention cause? As you study Helaman 1, look for the problems that contention brought upon the Nephites and ponder what you can learn from their experience.
Helaman 1:1–4. What caused contention and divisions among the Nephite people? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
Helaman 1:5–8. Who was appointed chief judge? How did the two brothers of the new chief judge react? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
Helaman 1:9–12. What did Kishkumen do, and what covenant did Kishkumen and his secret band make with each other? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
During this time of contention among the Nephites, a man named Coriantumr led the Lamanites against the city of Zarahemla in battle. Read Helaman 1:18–22, and identify what the Lamanites were able to do as a result of the Nephites’ contention.
One of the truths we can learn from this account is: Contention is divisive and makes us vulnerable to the influence of the adversary. You may want to write this principle in your scriptures next to Helaman 1:18.
To help you better understand this principle, answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
A young woman has been arguing with her parents about her friends. How might this contention affect her attitude toward listening to her parents’ counsel about other areas of her life?
A young man has angry feelings toward someone in his priesthood quorum. How might this contention affect the way he acts at church?
Think of an area in your life in which you feel there is contention between you and other people. What is one specific thing you can do to eliminate this contention from your life? How can you accomplish this?
Helaman 1:22–30 records that after the Lamanites conquered Zarahemla, they began immediately to march toward the city of Bountiful in order to capture it as well. The Nephite armies were able to surround the Lamanites and defeat them. Many Lamanites were slain, and those who surrendered were allowed to return to their own lands.
Helaman becomes chief judge, and his servant prevents a secret band from taking his life
Before you study Helaman 2, think about how a faithful young woman or young man would strive to resolve a mistake or a sin. Would she or he try to cover it up or seek forgiveness from the Lord and from those who were hurt?
After Kishkumen murdered Pahoran, he and the members of his secret band promised each other that they would never tell anyone who had committed the murder. Read Helaman 2:3–4, and pay attention to the phrase “entered into a covenant that no one should know his wickedness.” Then read Doctrine and Covenants 58:43, and look for how the Lord wants us to act when we have done something wrong.
Helaman became the new chief judge after Pahoran’s brother Pacumeni’s death, and then Kishkumen and his secret band decided to kill Helaman as well. A man named Gadianton became the leader of the secret band at this time. Read Helaman 2:2–9, and write in the space below how Kishkumen was killed: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
Read Helaman 2:10–14, and look for what happened to the Gadianton band of robbers. Mormon warned that secret groups like the Gadianton robbers, which were called “secret combinations” (see, for example, Helaman 3:23), would ultimately cause the destruction of the Nephite people. Previous Book of Mormon prophets had also warned against embracing secret combinations (see 2 Nephi 26:22; Alma 1:12). The Book of Mormon teaches this principle: Secret combinations can lead to the destruction of societies.
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles warned of the dangers of secret combinations today. As you read his warning, mark what we can do to stand against secret combinations.
“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. The secret combinations of our day function much like the Gadianton robbers of the Book of Mormon times. … Among their purposes are to ‘murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness, contrary to the laws of their country and also the laws of their God’ [Helaman 6:23].
“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 Book of Mormon teaches that the devil is the ‘author of all sin’ and the founder of these secret combinations [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.
“… [We can] ‘stand as witnesses of God’ by setting an example, keeping Church standards, and sharing our testimony with those around us [see Mosiah 18:9]” (”Standing for Truth and Right,” Ensign, Nov. 1997, 38).
Think of one or more ways you can apply Elder Ballard’s teaching to stand for truth and right in your community and in your country.
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Helaman 1–2 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: