Helaman 8:3 Nephi had spoken unto them concerning the corruptness of their law
"Nephi's little sermon received more than a cool reception. Some judges who happened to be card-holding members of the Protective Association were in the crowd and they immediately demanded that Nephi be brought into court and charged with the crime of '[reviling] against this people and against our law' (Helaman 8:2). And indeed if contempt of institutions was a crime, Nephi was guilty, for he 'had spoken unto them concerning the corruptness of their law' (Helaman 8:3). Still, the judges had to proceed with some care, since they were supposed to be administering justice (Helaman 8:4), and could not be too crude and obvious in their attack, for even among the exceedingly wicked and depraved Nephites the feeling of civic virtue was perhaps as alive as it is in America today; instead of trying to lynch Nephi in fact, the crowd actually protected him from the treatment the judges would have liked to give him (Helaman 8:4)." (An Approach To The Book of Mormon, p. 387)
Helaman 8:4 they durst not lay their own hands upon him, for they feared the people
History repeats itself in the lives of the Lord's servants. Nephi's detractors lacked the integrity to act according to their wicked beliefs. This is a common pattern among those who seek primarily for the praise of men. Herod wished to kill John the Baptist, but 'when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet' (Matt 14:5). Similarly, the popularity conscious chief priests and Pharisees were paralyzed in the presence of the Savior, 'when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet' (Matt 21:46). Certainly, their actions amply demonstrate that 'they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God' (Jn 12:43).
Helaman 8:6 we know that this is impossible, for behold, we are powerful
These judges sound like the people of Ammonihah who boasted in their own strength, 'We will not believe thy words if thou shouldst prophesy that this great city should be destroyed in one day' (Alma 9:4). Such self assurance didn't last long for 'the people of Ammonhah were destroyed; yea, every living soul of the Ammonihahites was destroyed, and also their great city, which they said God could not destroy, because of its greatness. But behold, in one day it was left desolate; and the carcases were mangled by dogs and wild beasts' (Alma 16:9-10).
Helaman 8:12 why...dispute among yourselves, and say that he hath given unto me no power
Millet and McConkie wrote, "In this sermon Nephi seeks to establish himself as a servant of God in the prophetic tradition. If the people believed that God granted miraculous power to Moses and the ancient prophets, why should they think the Almighty unable to do so in their own time? If Moses could prophesy of the Messiah, why could not he, Nephi, prophesy impending judgment if the people would not repent?" (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, p. 374) But the Nephites are like any people. They are more willing to believe in dead prophets than living ones. With the passage of time, the traditions and history surrounding any prophet make him all the more canonized and venerated and all the less mortal. Strangely, the more distant the prophet is, the more believable the message.
Christ faced just this phenomenon among the Jews. They were more than willing to believe in Moses and Abraham, but they were not willing to believe in the God of Moses and the God of Abraham. Jesus said, 'I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you...They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God; this did not Abraham...Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?' (Jn 8:37-53)
Helaman 8:14 he lifted up the brazen serpent
Neal A. Maxwell
"Augmenting the verses in the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon and the other books of modern scripture provide helpful elaboration that aids us not only in understanding more of what happened anciently, but also why, and its significance for us. Note how the writings of Moses and John in the following verses are clarified by the words of Nephi and Alma:
'And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.
And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.
And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.' (Numbers 21:6, 8-9)
'And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.' (John 3:14-15)
'And he did straiten them in the wilderness with his rod; for they hardened their hearts, even as ye have; and the Lord straitened them because of their iniquity. He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished.' (1 Nephi 17:41)
'Behold, he was spoken of by Moses; yea, and behold a type was raised up in the wilderness, that whosoever would look upon it might live. And many did look and live.' (Alma 33:19)
"Divinely deliberate and serious symbolism is involved. Without this needed elaboration, the Old Testament episode of the fiery serpents does not give us a fulness of spiritual insight that can clearly be 'for our profit and learning.' (1 Nephi 19:23) The symbolic emphasis in this episode is upon both the necessity and the simpleness of the way of the Lord Jesus. Ironically, in Moses' time many perished anyway. The promise for the future is as follows: 'And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live, even unto that life which is eternal.' (Helaman 8:15. See also 1 Nephi 17:41; Alma 37:46)
"Thus, now we have the verified and amplified analogy, thanks to the precious and plain things given to us in 'these last records.'
"The whole episode points toward the need to look upon Jesus Christ as our Lord, likewise a simple but unwaivable requirement. How plain and precious in any age! Yet believing in Jesus is sometimes regarded as foolishness. One can imagine the scoffing comments of some in Moses' time concerning the illogicality and foolishness of looking upon a brass pole in order to be healed and saved." (Plain and Precious Things, pp. 21-2)
Helaman 8:17 Abraham saw of his coming, and was filled with gladness and did rejoice
The brass plates must have contained a more comprehensive history of the life and ministry of the prophet Abraham. From Genesis alone, it is difficult to conclude that Abraham had a clear picture of the coming of Jesus Christ. All we know from Genesis is that he exhibited great faith and was taught a lesson from the Lord in the offering of his son Isaac (Gen 22). Joseph Smith restored another simple truth in his translation of Gen 15:12, 'And it came to pass, that Abram looked forth and saw the days of the Son of Man, and was glad, and his soul found rest, and he believed in the Lord; and the Lord counted it unto him for righteousness.' Jesus made reference to the same concept when he taught among the Jews, saying, 'Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad' (Jn 8:56).
Helaman 8:19-20 many prophets have testified these things
"One of the teachings of the Book of Mormon that is well known among the members of the Church is that the Bible has suffered a loss of many plain and precious parts. This fact was revealed to Nephi when he was given the vision his father had seen of the nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles. (1 Ne. 13).
"Other prophets frequently mentioned in the plates of brass include Zenoch, Neum and Ezias. (See 1 Ne. 19:10; Alma 33:16-17; Hel. 8:20; 3 Ne. 10:16.) The Bible itself testifies of the titles of 11 books which are no longer included and of others that are alluded to which do not include those mentioned in the Book of Mormon. (See Dictionary in the 1979 LDS edition of the Bible, "Lost Books" page 725.)
"Because the Lord has granted humans their agency, He has allowed these parts of scripture to be taken away. However, He has compensated for this loss by preserving other records to come forth in the latter days to 'make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away.' (1 Ne. 13:40.)" (Monte S. Nyman, Church News, 01/01/94)
Helaman 8:20 Zenock, and also Ezias
"Zenock was...a prophet of Israel of whose personal history, or to what age he belonged, we know nothing. His writings were familiar to the Nephites as he is quoted by Nephi (I Nephi 19:10); Alma (Alma 33:15); Amulek (Alma 34:7); and Mormon (III Nephi 10:16).
"Ezias was also a Hebrew prophet, referred to by Nephi (Helaman 8:19). Elder Orson Pratt suggests that 'Ezias may have been identical with Esaias, who lived contemporary with Abraham.' (See Doctrine and Covenants 84:11-13)" (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 5, p. 270)
Helaman 8:21 Will ye say that the sons of Zedekiah were not slain, all except it were Mulek?
"Zedekiah was the king of Judah at the time Lehi and his colony fled from Jerusalem. (1 Nephi 1:4) A few years later when the Babylonians besieged Jerusalem, they 'slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes.' (2 Kings 25:7) Most people have assumed all of the sons of Zedekiah were killed at that time; however, the Book of Mormon records that the sons of Zedekiah were slain 'all except it were Mulek.' (Helaman 8:21)
"...Mulek...was spared at the time of the Babylonian captivity and...later came to the Americas. The descendants of Mulek were included among the people of Zarahemla, and later they were numbered among the Nephites. Thus, among the combined Nephite-Lamanite-Mulekite peoples are represented at least three of the twelve tribes of ancient Israel: (1) the tribe of Manasseh, represented by the descendants of Lehi; (2) the tribe of Ephraim, represented by the descendants of Ishmael; (3) the tribe of Judah, represented by the descendants of Mulek." (Daniel Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p.241-5)
Helaman 8:22 almost all of our fathers...have testified of the coming of Christ
"At the heart of [Nephi's] preaching was one vital fact: God had always sent word through his prophets of what his people needed to know to be happy and at peace. Foremost among what they needed to know was that the Messiah, the Son of God, would come to earth to redeem mankind. All who looked to him would live.
"Nephi then listed a number of prophets who had detailed the Savior's advent. Among these prophets were Moses, Abraham, Zenos, Zenock, Ezias, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lehi, and Nephi. Indeed, Nephi pointed out, 'many prophets' over the centuries had testified of Christ. (See Hel. 8:11-22)
"This observation was not unique to Nephi. More than a century earlier, Abinadi told King Noah: 'Did not Moses prophesy ... concerning the coming of the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people? Yea, and even all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began-have they not spoken more or less concerning these things?' (Mosiah 13:33)
"So clear was this understanding that Amulek could tell the apostate Zoramites in 74 B.C. that it was 'impossible that [they] should be ignorant of the things which have been spoken concerning the coming of Christ,' for that fact had been taught to them bountifully. (Alma 34:2) If they weren't aware of Christ's impending mortal ministry, it was because they were unacquainted with God's word.
"An in-depth study of the Book of Mormon reveals this to be true. So clear are the revelations that the Nephites should have known the name by which the Messiah would be called in mortality, when he would be born, where he would be born, the name of his mother, many details of his ministry, how he would suffer and die, and that his resurrection would break the bands of death for all mankind. More importantly, they should have understood how his atonement could reconcile them to God and what they had to do to receive that marvelous gift. All this was known and taught by the prophets on what we know today as the American continent." (D. Kelly Ogden, R. Val Johnson, Ensign, Jan. 1994, p. 31)
Helaman 8:24 notwithstanding so many evidences which ye have received...even...all things
Elder Adam S. Bennion
"'The soul of people hungers for an ideal.' I was impressed that it may be that same hunger that prompts us to believe in God. There are so many evidences, the mystery to me is not that men may believe in God, but as Ballard once wrote, 'the great miracle of mankind is the miracle of unbelief.'
"Dinmore has put it beautifully: 'If no help had ever come from God, the impulse to pray would have died out long ago.'" (Conference Report, Oct. 1955, p. 116)
Helaman 8:25 laying up for yourselves treasures in heaven
"Another image of great importance in the Book of Mormon is treasure. The Book of Mormon has much to say about earthly and heavenly treasures, in the same sense in which the newly found apocrypha do. Of course the image is also found in the New Testament. The Book of Mormon prophets explain many references to heavenly treasures in the Bible. Helaman is fondest of treasures. 'And even at this time, instead of laying up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where nothing doth corrupt, . . . ye are heaping up for yourselves wrath against the day of judgment' (Helaman 8:25). This is the correct concept of what is meant by a treasure; it is a very common idea in the early apocrypha. We find in the many treasure passages that the treasure is the wisdom and knowledge we left behind us when we came down to this earth. In the premortal existence, we left our treasure in God's treasury, in his keeping. There it is, and by our good works here we can add to it; more will be waiting for us when we go back. So let us not try to pile up wealth and possessions on earth. They're not going to do us any good; we can't take them back there. Let us lay up our treasures there - add to our treasure store. We really do have one there, because we had one before we came. We left it behind, and we're going back to it. It's a very vivid concept, and basic to it is the doctrine of the premortal existence. There's a great treasury in heaven which contains all good things; it is to share in this treasury that all seek. But in the Jewish apocrypha, in the Wisdom of Ben Sira, God orders, by his word, the lights in the heavenly height, and by the utterance of his mouth he opens the treasury, where the righteous have a store of good works preserved. These are good works preserved, already done. And they're being preserved; everything we add to our credit is being preserved in God's treasury." (Temple and Cosmos, p. 232-3)