CLICK HERE to read Helaman 12.
This repeated cycle of the people falling into the pattern of the Gaddianton Robbers until nearly being destroyed, repenting and being delivered and blessed, and then becoming proud and seeking after wealth and power again until falling into the pattern of the Gaddianton Robbers shows how very weak we are. We also see how merciful God is to so quickly forgive us, and what grace He has toward us to provide the way.
And thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men; yea, we can see that the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him (verse 1).
So, Nephi says, we see how every time the Lord does try to prosper his people, even with temporal increase (physical and financial blessings), and show them mercy (delivering them from the destruction they chose), and “doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people”, that is when the people – when we, who are so very weak – “do harden their hearts and do forget the Lord their God, and to trample under their feet the Holy One” (verse 2).
This – our own bad behavior and poor choices and neglect of each other – requires chastening, which the Lord sends to us through afflictions, so that we remember Him (verse 3).
O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men (verse 4).
We look to Him for blessings, but when they come then we become proud in ourselves and are bad stewards of what we have received (verse 5). We ignore His counsel, and will not do what He says (verse 6). His commandments are not oppressive or limiting, but rather ensure that we retain our freedom and our happiness. What we think sets us “free” by breaking His commandments is only an illusion, actually dragging us down into captivity and bondage.
Even the dirt, Nephi says, is more obedient than we are (verse 7). It blows where it is supposed to (verse 8), and the earth quakes when it is told (verses 9-15, 17). There is rain or drought at His commands, and the seas stays where it is put or leaves its bounds when told (verses 16). The earth hides treasure if it is told to do so (verses 18-19), but people will simply not obey.
But even if people think they do not have to obey God, it does not make God any less God than He is. If He afflicts them to get their attention, He is still God, and still loves them, and is still trying to rescue them – even if they do not believe in Him, do not agree with Him, or do not listen to Him.
Yet still, the law is the law, and if they do not respond to Him, then they will miss His presence (verse 21).
But those who do respond, will be rescued and enjoy His presence (verse 23).
And we need His presence, even His Spirit, to become.
And may God grant, in his great fulness, that men might be brought unto repentance and good works, that they might be restored unto grace for grace, according to their works (verse 24).
The “grace for grace” is talking about what God gives us.
Mercy is NOT giving us what we deserve.
Grace is giving us what we do NOT deserve.
It is by grace that we receive spiritual gifts, and these are what we need to become like Him.
He makes our weaknesses strong by granting us gifts that are the opposite of our weaknesses, so that we can – by Him – overcome them and become more like Him.
And so it is by whether we claim and use these gifts (or not), and practice them and develop them, that we give evidence that we have accepted His gift.