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We have now seen the Lamanites become a righteous people “because of their firmness and their steadiness in the faith”, and the Nephites begin to fall away because of pride and contention leading to hard hearts, refusals to repent, and rejection of God’s word and prophets (verse 2). The church celebrated the conversion of the Lamanites, and the faithful Nephites that were left welcomed the converted Lamanites into their fellowship with rejoicing (verse 3). The Lamanites strengthened these remaining Nephite believers with their testimony, exhorting them to faith and repentance (verse 4) and preaching with “exceedingly great power and authority” (verse 5). The converted Lamanites went on their missions (verse 6), as is the natural response to true conversion (testifying is the evidence of the testimony), and the people had peace in the land (verse 14).
The Nephite believers could travel anywhere in Lamanite land because there were as one people (verse 7), even in trade and buying and selling (verse 8) so that they grew prosperous together (verses 8-10). The people knew how to work precious metals (verse 11), how to raise grain and flocks and herds (verse 12), and how to make cloth and linen (verse 13).
When the leader was murdered, and also his son (verse 19), it was evidence of the people seeking after wealth and power through secret combinations (verse 15) – which meant the Gadianton robbers had found their way back into the Lamanite people (verse 18). This made the people very sad, and “they did use every means int heir power to destroy them off the face of the earth” (verse 20). But the only way not to be vulnerable was to be righteous, but when the people became rich they forgot God – this led them into pride and wickedness, away from the peace they had found (verse 16). Instead of being humble, the people were “stirred up to anger”; instead of caring for each other, “they began to set their hearts upon their riches” (verse 17). In this way, Satan gained power over them (verse 21).
Those who became involved with these Gadianton robbers used oaths to make false covenants, with signs to recognize each other (verse 22). They protected each other from getting caught, so that any of them could get away with whatever sin they desired or whatever law they broke (verse 23). In this way, they tried to change the laws of the land from being the laws of God (verse 24), that people and families would be destroyed – just as happened with Cain and his followers (verses 27-28). These same evil works with the same oath-dynamics of trying to legitimize, normalize, and protect wrong-doing is still happening today (verse 29), and is stirred up by Satan when we forget God (verse 30).
Satan had been able to stir up the Nephites when they forgot God, so much “that they had become exceedingly wicked”, destroying the commandments of God, doing their own thing, and worshiping and depending on things instead of God (verse 31). This happened quickly, as it did not take the people very long to forget about God (verse 32). This did cause deep sorrow to the righteous (verse 33).
This shows how those who forget God so quickly fall away, and how that causes a loss of testimony. On the other hand, we can receive as much light and knowledge from God as we are willing to receive. So we see “that the Nephites did begin to dwindle in unbelief, and grow in wickedness and abominations, while the Lamanites began to grow exceedingly in the knowledge of their God; yea, they did begin to keep his statutes and commandments, and to walk in truth and uprightness before him” (verse 34). So the Spirit withdrew from the Nephites “because of the wickedness and the hardness of their hearts” (verse 35), but began to pour out upon the Lamanites “because of their easiness and willingness to believe in his words” (verse 36).
As the Lamanites grew in the gospel, two things happened: they testified of what they knew, and they fought what was not of God (verse 37).
As the Nephites fell away, two things happened: they supported the work of wrong-doing, and they normalized it by giving in to the peer pressure (verse 38). This is how they betrayed God, their country, and their own people (verse 39). “And thus we see that they were in an awful state, and ripening for an everlasting destruction” (verse 40).