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With peace again established in the land, there was no contention among the Nephites “save it were a little pride in the church, which did cause some little dissensions” (verse 1). So again we see that the big problems start out with little things, and that the trouble most often comes from within the church rather than from outside. We must choose peace, and be peacemakers, and not let contention lead to dissension, so that dissension does not destroy us.
The Nephites again settled the contention (verse 2), trying to maintain the peace. But it flared up again later, and so many people left the land (verse 3). They traveled far, even to the waters (verse 4). The people spread out over the land, moving into all the places that had not yet been taken over by people (verse 5). There were some areas they could not move into because there were no trees for shelter, because people had already lived there and since been destroyed (verse 6).
Since trees were hard to find for shelter, the people learned to work cement to use building their homes (verse 7). In this way they spread across the whole land (verse 8), some of them living in tents and some in cement houses, all of them letting the trees grow back again (verse 9). They also began shipping timber from other areas (verse 10), so that they would have furniture and what they needed for their homes (verse 11).
Many of the people from the land of Ammon (converted Lamanites) also moved into this area (verse 12), and they kept good records of their people (verse 13). They wrote about their wars and their preaching, their building of ships and temples and synagogues, their righteousness and wickedness, and all the history of their people (verse 14). The Nephites also kept records, and these were the records that have thus far been passed down in what we now call The Book of Mormon (verse 15).
Excepting that with the contention and dissension, the Nephites became so wicked that “they are no more called the Nephites… even becoming Lamanites” (verse 16). So now we have Lamanites by birth who convert to the Gospel, and so become Nephites – and Nephites who don’t keep their covenants, and so become Lamanites, and this is the story Helaman tells (verses 17-19).
Helaman led “with justice and equity; yea, he did observe to keep the statutes, and the judgments, and the commandments of God; and he did do that which was right in the sight of God continually; and he did walk after the ways of his father, insomuch that he did prosper in the land” (verse 20). He had two sons, naming them after the ancient prophets Nephi and Lehi, and “they began to grow up in the Lord” (verse 21).
So back again to the Gadianton Robbers, who were stirring up contention and dissension (verse 22), without Helaman and his sons knowing what all was happening (verse 23). The church was very prosperous at this time (prospering in the land = having the presence of the Lord), and so many were repenting and converting to the church (verse 24). Many blessings were poured out among the people, so much that “even the high priests and the teachers were themselves astonished beyond measure” (verse 25).
Then something interesting happens: as people were converted (truly converted), they were united in the church (verse 26). Peace came because the people were being peaceful. Unity came because the people were caring for each other. Friendships formed because people loved each other.
“Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name… Yea, thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto all, even to those who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God” (verse 28).
The people could know truth, even in the midst of the cunning words of the Gadianton robbers, because they knew the Scriptures, the “word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course…” (verse 29).
This is the principle: if we study the Scriptures, so that we know them, then we will also know what is not Scripture and what is not of God.
It is like Moses, who recognized the devil simply by noticing what he did not have: the shiny light that is the glory of God. He didn’t know who the devil was, but He knew God’s light was absent (Moses 1:13).
Moses had seen the Light, and so he knew what was not light.
But seeing the Light, by studying our Scriptures, we can be safely led all the way home, regardless of what is going on around us – for we will see what is NOT light, and stay safely on our path, even to “the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven…” (verse 30).
Such confidence leads to peace and joy, with no fear about what happens in the world around us, and no chaos or drama from contention or dissension. So as the people established this peace in the land, they were very happy and filled with joy (verses 31-32).
They remained peaceful, still filled with peace and joy, until they let pride back into their hearts (verse 33), which caused contention in those who were proud and persecuted those who were humble, even causing them “to wade through much affliction” (verse 34).
Despite the affliction, the humble saints remained faithful (verse 35), and “they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purfiying and the sanctification of their hearts which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God” (verse 35).
But those who let pride enter, grew more and more proud day by day (verse 36), which hardened their hearts against repentance, causing contention to grow amongst the people.
When Helaman (the grandson of Helaman) passed away, his oldest son, Nephi, began to reign “with justice and equity; yea, he did keep the commandments of God, and did walk in the ways of his father” (verse 37).