True to the Faith: Helaman
The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ has a long list of people who bring life and personality to the stories contained therein to instruct about the dealings of God with humankind. These people are real men and women who have long since died, but their fame (or infamy) lives on to instruct the human family of the best (or worst) qualities of humanity regarding the commandments of God are concerned.
This article is a continuation of a profile of Helaman. This profile is one of several characterizations of Scriptural leaders to provide a connection to the reality of their existence as people and not stories in a book. The main parties in this article are Alma the Younger and his son Helaman.
Keep the Commandments
Before Alma left Helaman with the burden of the church, he shared his view of the gospel message as a father to his son, and as a fellow disciple of Jesus Christ. It comprises chapters 36 and 37 in the record of Alma.
The first thing Alma gave Helaman was a solemn oath. Said he, “give ear to my words; for I swear unto you, that inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land,” [Alma 36:1].
This oath was a promise based on all that Alma represented in life as a man and as a teacher that he gave to his son to appreciate the veracity and severity of the truth and weight intended by what he expressed to Helaman. It was his solemn vow that if Helaman kept the commandments of God he would proser. There were no equivocations or exceptions illuded to in his oath. What did he mean by prosper?
Alma understood the temptations of the world and wanted to make sure that Helaman did not for a second cast the desire that Satan wanted to bring him down aside. Repeatedly as Alms counseled with Helaman he instructed what prospering meant.
- "I beseech of thee that thou wilt hear my words and learn of me; for I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day, [Alma 36:2].
- "This is not all; for ye ought to know as I do know, that inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land; and ye ought to know also, that inasmuch as ye will not keep the commandments of God ye shall be cut off from his presence. Now this is according to his word, [Alma 36:30].
- "If ye will keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land—but if ye keep not his commandments ye shall be cut off from his presence, [Alma 37:13].
- "Be diligent in keeping the commandments of God as they are written, [Alma 37:20].
- "Learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God, [Alma 37:35].
To prosper meant not that Helaman would have not trials or hardships, but that through all of them he would be supported. To prosper is to be supported through:
- Being Lifted Up at the Last Day.
Being lifted up at the last day was not necessarily an allusion to the resurrection, but also an affirmation that at the judgment bar of God, Christ would hold him blameless, lifting him up to the status of a joint-heir with Him in a inheritance in God's Kingdom.
Alma did not want Helaman to experience the sheer dread and horror associated with being the means of some person falling away from God. Alma experienced that. He also understood that he was the means of pulling many souls off the covenant path to happiness.
Alma understood the Plan of Salvation taught to mankind from Adam and Eve up to the moment he spoke to his sons. He understood that all people on this Earth followed God at one point to gain admittance to this life, discussed in the article I Lived in Heaven a Long Time ago; So Did You!.
He contributed to the separation of people from God because of his behavior. He said. “I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror!” [Alma 36:14]
Murder is a serious accusation. Alma effectively stopped the further progress of the souls of people by his bad behavior, which is spiritual death. He could not live in that knowledge. He did not want his son to have that experience.
He loved the peace and forgiveness that followed when God absolved his sins. If he would have listened to his own father he would not have experienced such psychological pain. The most important lesson Alma wanted to impart during that time with Helaman is to keep the commandments of God and trust in Him.
Helaman’s job was to preserve the spiritual integrity of the people through teaching and preaching. The only way he would fulfill his charge was to be free from the devil’s psychological traps by keeping God’s commandments. Alma left never to be heard from again after Helaman took the reins of the church.
Trials of Leading
Giving him the element of humanity that is excluded from the record, Helaman could have wondered, “What if the prophecy is now about to occur? Maybe I misunderstood my father’s words!”
While most prophets did not include their fears or insecurities in the record of The Book of Mormon published presently, they were human. Nephi had moments of weakness that he recorded.
Jesus Christ had a moment of reflection, temptation, or weakens where he asked God to choose another way, if possible than to suffer for the sins of humanity in the manner He did! Surely, this man Helaman had some thoughts that caused Him pause. He, just like Jesus, did not waiver if he did have those thoughts.
Many people would not listen to Helaman and his new clergy. “But they grew proud, being lifted up in their hearts, because of their exceedingly great riches; therefore they grew rich in their own eyes, and would not give heed to their words, to walk uprightly before God,” [Alma 45:24].
Helaman worked tirelessly to dissuade the people from sin. During what I call the war years among the Nephites, Helaman’s missionary efforts to reclaim the lost or inactive members of his church and sure up the faithful are sprinkled here and there with the suggestion by Mormon that those efforts gave the Nephites the psychological support to survive the dissensions and wars.
In fact, Mormon, with his 20/20 view of history and prophetic mantel wrote that during this time there was “prosperity in the Church because of their heed and diligence which they gave unto the word of God, which was declared unto them by Helaman,” and his brethren [Alma 49: 30].
A Different Kind of Leading
Helaman would build up the church upon the works of his father without the need to repair the destruction he caused before his conversion like Alma. Helaman did not have souls lost on his conscience due to his bad example, but there would come lost souls to his conscience because they died at his hands without accepting the gospel.
The battles with the Lamanites grew in intensity to the point where not even the Helaman as the high priest could sit by without intervening after a while. Helaman, who was a youth when his father gave him the charge of the sacred items and records of the Nephites, was now a man of God and an able leader of not only a spiritual army, but a fighting army. Unfortunately for Helaman, and to the hurt of Alma, Helaman would be the means of unprepared souls leaving mortal life. In the next article regarding Helaman, I will discuss his leadership of 2060 young men who changed the meaning of holy war among the Nephites.
© 2018 Rodric Anthony