CLICK HERE to read Helaman 11.
Contentions grew so much with the Nephites, that wars broke out among the people (verse 1). Secret works continued to stir things up toward destruction and wickedness (verse 2), as opposed to humble works of righteousness that would have built people up in faith and testimony.
So Nephi the prophet did cry out to the Lord (verse 3), asking Him for a famine instead of war (verse 4). This was a righteous prayer because a war meant that the people would be destroying themselves and each other by focused aggression and hardened hearts, while a famine would soften hearts by reminding them to think of their Creator, giving them another opportunity to repent.
The Lord agreed with this, “and so it was done” (verse 5). The earth was made dry, so that grain did not grow (verse 6), and the people “began to remember the Lord their God”, and also the words of his prophet Nephi (verse 7).
They asked Nephi to pray to the Lord for them, begging that the prophecies of their destruction not be fulfilled (verse 8). Nephi witnessed this repentance, and their humble behaviors, and prayed to the Lord in their behalf (verse 9). He told the Lord that the people had repented, even getting rid of the Gadianton robbers that had stirred up so much destruction (verse 10).
God, of course, knew all these things. He had seen the people’s repentance, and He had heard their prayers. But since part of their sin had been denying the words of the prophet, part of their repentance was to return through the prophet. They had, collectively, refused the prophet, and so had, collectively, refused God. They had to collectively return to God through the prophet, collectively.
This is a type of our Father in that when we pray to our Heavenly Father, in the name of Christ, our Heavenly Father does already know our needs and wants, our desires and our concerns. He knows our weaknesses and our struggles, and He knows our triumphs and joys. But if we are His child, and He is our Father, then we express that relationship by talking to Him about these things, and we do that through prayer.
It is also a type of Christ, in that the atonement is already there for us. He has done the work of it already, and it is a gift waiting for us. But still we must claim it – receive it – by enacting it. We receive this gift by asking for it. There can be no mediation without a mediator, and there can be no advocating with an advocate. So the Savior’s great atoning sacrifice is complete, and it we are still learning to apply it and harness its power.
So Nephi prays for the people, mediating for them and advocating for them, telling the Lord that He does not have to be angry at the pride of the people because the people have humbled themselves (verse 11). Their humility is their token of repentance that they offer, and so Nephi asks the Lord to offer His sign of forgiveness: the end of the famine (verse 12). Nephi asks this according to his priesthood duty and office, by the power given to him by the Lord (verse 13). This power was given to him for the purpose of calling the people to repentance (verse 14), and the people have now repented (verse 15). Thus the Lord is bound by what He says (D&C 82:10), even to bless the people (verse 16).
And so the Lord did, and the rains came, and the grains began to grow (verse 17). The people “did rejoice and glorify God”, and they understood Nephi was a prophet with power and authority from God (verse 18). Nephi, and his brother Lehi, continued their ministry, and Lehi “was not a whit behind him as to things pertaining to righteousness” (verse 19).
This is how the Nephites began to prosper again (verse 20), and the church spread throughout the land, and there was peace (verse 21).
The Nephites, however, are just not skilled at being a peaceful people, and will not submit to God to let His grace give them that gift of peace. Instead of growing in the knowledge of God, they argue about doctrine (verse 22). The prophets have to teach them again, preaching to settle the issue and “put an end to their strife” (verse 23).
The Lamanites, just recently praised for their faith and obedience, struggle in the same way. Some are Lamanites by birth, and some are Lamanites by conversion, and these two groups are warring against each other (verse 24).
Some of both groups rejoined the Gadianton robbers, stirring up the desire for wealth and power at any cost (verses 25-26). These people “did make great havoc” among both the Lamanites and the Nephites (verse 27). The Lamanites and Nephites did try some to fight these back (verses 28 and 29), and suffered many losses trying (verse 30). The people had to return to their own lands instead of being pioneers into the wilderness, because of the many robbers (verse 31), who were increasing in numbers every year (verse 32) and carrying off captives of women and children (verse 33).
The experiences of these afflictions again reminded the people to turn toward God (verse 34), for it was the subtle and small things that led to such big problems. When they “did not mend their ways” (verse 36), the people were growing in pride – making the problem worse and themselves more susceptible to these robbers – rather than humbling themselves before God and being delivered from this captivity (verse 37).