CLICK HERE to read Helaman 8.
Nephi’s testimony and prophecy so angered the people (because they did not want to repent) that they decided to try him for crime (verse 1). The people accused him of not agreeing with the law of the land (which had been changed from how it had been established according to God’s laws) (verse 2). Nephi did not break the law, but he did point out how the law was corrupt and contrary to God’s laws (verse 3). The people were angry because he spoke about this plainly and directly, and they did not want to repent (verse 4).
This is always the indicator of a humble and penitent person, that they will receive correction and are willing to confront their flaws so they can be made more righteous. They do it because they understand the doctrine, and understand it is part of the process. They understand it is not a condemnation of who they are, but rather a refining process to remove from them what is not of God. We must be a repentant people, for it is the only way God can work in us to change us from what we have been to who we were created to be.
For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. (Hebrews 12:6)
The love of the Savior is unconditional, but His presence – to be with Him, to be like Him – that is conditional upon our response to Him.
We must be bold as Nephi in confronting what-is-not-of-God in ourselves and in those who have “gathered around us”. Those gathered around us are relationships and friendships built by love and hard work, for the very purpose of refining us and making us more than we are on our own. We need each other, and true friendship and deep relationships include the skills of being able both to call to repentance and to respond to repentance.
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend (Proverbs 27:17).
When we do this for each other in good and loving ways, even when it is direct and bold – for “direct and bold” do not have to be negative, ugly experiences – then we are gathered together even more than before, grow in our intimacy, and learn repentance and forgiveness together. This is mutual edification, because we are both giving and receiving.
Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together (D&C 50:22).
When one fails to give that feedback to those with whom they are gathered, they are failing to testify, which is failing to keep their covenants.
When one fails to receive that feedback from those with whom they are gathered, they are then choosing not to be gathered – and so are scattered, usually through anger or bitterness (signs of pride), and most often through contention (a way of blaming instead of accepting responsibility by evading and distracting from the original call to repentance).
This is what happens with the Nephites (verse 5). Instead of listening to what the Prophet had to teach them, they instead accused him of saying mean things about them. Instead of being humble, they are proud and declare themselves to be insulted. Instead of repenting, they accuse the prophet of being the one who is doing wrong (by insulting them with his confrontation that urged them to repent).
Instead of receiving the call to repentance by agreeing with the declaration about what wrong they have done, they instead argue with him and declare their own perspective of why they are not wrong (verse 6).
Instead of quietly submitting to the truth and letting themselves be changed, they started the drama of involving everybody else around them, stirring them up in anger also, and “raised contentions among them” (verse 7).
Some people tried to point out that the prophet was right, and that he had important things to say, and that he had testified against them so they should respond by doing something about it. They knew they should respond with repentance “for we know that he has testified aright unto us concerning our iniquities. And behold they are many, and he knoweth as well all things which shall befall us as he knoweth our iniquities” (verse 8). These people even knew this call to repentance was a call to follow the prophet (verse 9).
Since some people began to respond, Nephi continued speaking to those people (verse 10). He reminded them of the prophet Moses (verse 11), and reminded them that God still uses prophets as He always has (verse 12). Since this is true, then rejecting the prophets of today is also rejecting the past prophets, and the one who has sent them all (verse 13). It is a simple thing, he reminds them, just to look, just to listen, just to do – and be healed, gathered, saved (verses 14-15) – and this is what the prophets have always said, and still say (verse 16).
Specifically, all the prophets – then and now – have testified (do testify) of Christ (verses 17-20).
These are the warnings, physical destruction that precedes spiritual destruction, a physical scattering that precedes a spiritual scattering.
These are the blessings: physical life as much as spiritual life, and a physical gathering as much as a spiritual gathering.
We know that what the prophets of the past have said has come true (verse 21), so why would we not listen to the prophets of the present who speak of the future yet to come?
But when we do not listen to the prophets – whether the current Prophet, ancient Prophets or the prophets all around us – those with testimonies (see Revelation 19:10) – then we, like those in the past, drive them away (verse 22).
When we do listen to the prophets, we rejoice!
We rejoice because then God does manifest himself to us, and because we understand what is to come (verse 23).
And now, seeing ye know these things and cannot deny them except ye shall lie, therefore in this ye have sinned, for ye have rejected all these things, notwithstanding so many evidences which ye have received; yea, even ye have received all things, both things in heaven, and all things which are in the earth, as a witness that they are true. But behold, ye have rejected the truth, and rebelled against your holy God… (verses 24-25).
And so the decline of the Nephites continued as they headed to destruction by refusing to listen to God and doing more and more and more of what was not-of-God (verse 26).