CLICK HERE to read Helaman 15.
Having made sure the people understand what is to come, and what they are choosing, he continues to teach the consequences of those choices (verse 1). He says, clearly, that without repentance “your houses” (and families) “will be left desolate”.
Desolate means empty, as in “depressingly empty”, bleak, and abandoned. It means joy-less, sorrowful, separated from other people. It means neglected and cold, with no warmth or comfort.
This is what happens when we choose poorly: we are scattered, so that we are away from those who would nourish us, away from Him who would nourish us. Without Him, without those we love, we are alone and cold and dreary and lonely. There is a void, a depression, an emptiness in the space where our loved ones should be, where happiness should be, where joy should be.
On the other hand, when we repent and turn to Him, we are gathered instead of scattered. Our lives fill with people, with love, with happiness, with joy, and with peace. We are comforted, and warmed by the presence of others, and by the presence of the Spirit of our Father.
But when we are scattered, our families mourn the loss of us, there is no safe place to rest, no substitute that gives peace or joy or happiness (verse 2).
Samuel says this is what will happen to the Nephites, because they knew better, because they had made covenants and failed to keep them.
Yea, wo unto this people who are called the people of Nephi except they shall repent, when they shall see all these signs and wonders which shall be showed unto them; for behold, they have been a chosen people of the Lord; yea, the people of Nephi hath he loved, and also hath he chastened them; yea, in the days of their iniquities hath he chastened them because he loveth them (verse 3).
He teaches all of us, so that we will know how to choose.
When we choose poorly, He lets us suffer the consequences – even the pains of being separated from those we have lost, or those we have not yet joined – so that we are motivated to choose more wisely in the future.
The Lamanites are different, Samuel says, because they were not taught the things of God. Yet when they received the words of the prophets, they did repent (verse 4). The evidence of their repentance is that “the more part of them are in the path of their duty, and they do walk circumspectly before God, and they do observe to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments…” (verse 5). So while they have not always known the Truth, they are obedient to it since they have discovered it.
Samuel says, “they are striving with unwearied diligence that they may bring the remainder of their brethren to the knowledge of the truth” (verse 6). This testifying is evidence they are keeping the covenants, even premortal covenants they did not remember until their own conversion. Like it is for us, their testifying is the sign of the covenant, and the converts they bring into the church is the token.
So while the Lamanites knew nothing before, because of the “wicked and abominable traditions”, they were “brought to the knowledge of the truth… and led to believe the holy scriptures, yea, the prophecies of the holy prophets, which are written, which leadeth them to faith on the Lord, and unto repentance, which faith and repentance bringeth a change of heart unto them” (verse 7).
The “change of heart” is the evidence of their conversion.
“Therefore, as many as have come to this, ye know of yourselves are firm and steadfast in the faith, and in the thing wherewith they have been made free” (verse 8).
Our own change of heart is also our evidence of our own conversion; or, rather, the degree of change of heart signifies the degree of our conversion. The more we are converted, the more there is that change of heart – the less we want to sin, the less we push limits to see what we can get away with. Samuel compares it to the Lamanites, and how they have buried their weapons of war and will not take them up again (verse 9). Our weapons are of a different sort, but our willingness to lay them down – and bury them – and leave them buried, is the evidence of the depth of our conversion.
And now, because of their steadfastness when they do believe… for because of their firmness when they are once enlightened, behold, the Lord shall bless them and prolong their days… (verse 10).
Then Samuel gives a fascinating promise: that even if the Lamanites dwindle in unbelief, they will be prolonged in days (as a people), until the restoration so that they may be renewed “again to the knowledge of the truth” (verse 11). The people have been so faithful and so deeply converted, giving proof that they are children of the covenant, children of Abraham, that they are given Abraham’s promise: to be remembered at the last day, to be gathered again at the last day. This is a powerful promise!
Samuel says while the Lord will keep His promise, the people – despite their faith – will struggle to keep their promises. When they do, they will be blessed (as we always are). When they do not, they will suffer the consequences: “many afflictions… driven to and fro upon the earth… hunted… smitten and scattered abroad, having no place for refuge”. Yet still, “the Lord shall be merciful unto them” (verse 12).
And in that mercy, the Lord will bring the people “that they shall again be brought to the true knowledge, which is the knowledge of their Redeemer, and their great and true shepherd, and be numbered among his sheep” (verse 13).
But to be numbered, we must repent (verse 14).
And we know better, and we know more, because so much more has been given to us. If they had received what we have, they would not have dwindled in unbelief (verses 15, 17). This is why they will not be destroyed completely (as the Nephites will be), because they will respond when the Lord calls to them, and repent and return to Him (verse 16).
This is our choice: to choose whom to follow.
This is our duty: to give evidence of that choice.
Consequences will come, regardless, but our choices now are what determine them.