Helaman 14:2 five years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God
Rarely are prophecies specific regarding the timing of events, but Samuel prophesies the exact timing of the coming of the Son of God in the flesh. We might wonder why the exact time of the coming of the Second Coming is not given. Wouldn't it be nice if the prophet said in General Conference, "Brothers and Sisters, we have five years before the Lord is going to come again"? Some of us almost expect him to say something like this, but our hopes will not be realized. The Second Coming is a time of judgment, especially for the wicked. In the parable of the ten virgins, the wise virgins had to watch and wait to be ready. No specific time could be given, otherwise they could have purchased oil for their lamps right before the appointed time.
Helaman 14:3-4 this will I give unto you for a sign...there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day
Signs are rarely given to the wicked to convert them. However, the signs at the birth and death of Christ were given for the explicit intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men (v. 28). The wicked, however, used this prophecy as a ruse to persecute the believers. They had planned the wholesale, mass murder of the righteous if Samuel's prophecy did not come true, Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the sign should come to pass, which had been given by Samuel the prophet (3 Ne 1:9).
The very next day, the sign was given, and the people were astonished and frustrated. Most of them converted in spite of Satan's efforts to explain away the signs. However, a testimony built on signs alone is the weakest of all testimonies. The wonder and amazement of a sign fades as quickly as mortal memory. Accordingly, within a span of several years, the Nephites were back to their wicked ways (see 3 Ne 1-2).
Helaman 14:5 there shall a new star arise
Bruce R. McConkie
"In listing the signs to attend the birth of Jesus, Samuel the Lamanite prophesied: 'There shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld.' (Hela. 14:5.) That this new star was seen by the whole Nephite nation at the actual time of the heavenly birth, is also recorded in the Book of Mormon. (3 Ne. 1:21.) There is, however, no comparable Messianic prophecy in the Bible as we now have it. The nearest allusion to such is found in the prophecy of Balaam who, speaking of Messiah himself, said: 'There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel.' (Num. 24:17.)
"But there can be little doubt that others besides the Nephites knew by revelation that great signs and wonders, including the rise of a new star, were to attend Messiah's birth. The language of the wise men, upon reaching Jerusalem, clearly assumes that the Jews were just as aware that a new star would bear record of the holy birth as they were that the birth itself should take place in Bethlehem." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, p. 103-4)
Helaman 14:9 Cry unto this people, repent and prepare the way of the Lord
The spirit and power of Elias is to act as a forerunner, to prepare the way of the Lord. Obviously, John the Baptist is the best example of an Elias in this sense, but Joseph Smith made it clear that there were many others who acted with the spirit of Elias. Therefore, we see that Samuel the Lamanite also prophesied according to the spirit of Elias for he gave the same message, a call to repentance and an invitation to prepare the way of the Lord.
"... the spirit of Elias was a going before to prepare the way for the greater, which was the case with John the Baptist. He came crying through the wilderness, 'Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.' And they were informed, if they could receive it, it was the spirit of Elias...The spirit of Elias is to prepare the way for a greater revelation of God, which is the Priesthood that Aaron was ordained unto. And when God sends a man into the world to prepare for a greater work, holding the keys of the power of Elias, it was called the doctrine of Elias, even from the early ages of the world." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 335-6)
Helaman 14:14 I give unto you...a sign of his death
The timing of Christ's death is not specified in Mormon's abridgement of Samuel's prophecy, but Samuel apparently prophesied the approximate lifespan of Christ. This is evidenced by the fact that the people in AD 34 began to look for the sign of his death, the thirty and third year had passed away; And the people began to look with great earnestness for the sign which had been given by the prophet Samuel, the Lamanite, yea for the time that there should be darkness for the space of three days over the face of the land (3 Ne 8:3). It is truly remarkable that the Lord allowed Samuel to give the exact timing of such an apocalyptic event. What is even more remarkable is that the people did not repent in preparation. Rather, they continued in their wickedness arguing about what those signs were to mean until it was too late and they were destroyed (3 Ne 8:4-23).
Helaman 14:16 redeemeth all mankind from that first death-that spiritual death
The second death, or spiritual death, is defined as being cut off from the presence of God. This means that you cannot see the face of God, you cannot withstand the presence of God, you will not enjoy the visitation of the Son, and you are not worthy of the smallest portion of the spirit of the Holy Ghost. It is a total and complete separation from God. As described in the scripture, this state happens to those who suffer in hell. It also describes the state of the Sons of Perdition who are cast out after the last soul is resurrected. Therefore, the second death has power upon all those who suffer in hell until the resurrection of the wicked. At that point the second death applies only to the Sons of Perdition, These are they who shall go away into the lake of fire and brimstone, with the devil and his angels-And the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power (DC 76:36-7).
One might be inclined to think that the "first death" must be the death of the mortal body. This is not the case. The Lord explains that the first death is also spiritual and occurs when we leave his presence and come to earth. This is symbolized by the fall of Adam, I, the Lord God, caused that he should be cast out from the Garden of Eden, from my presence, because of his transgression, wherein he became spiritually dead, which is the first death, even that same death which is the last death (or second death), which is spiritual, which shall be pronounced upon the wicked when I shall say: Depart, ye cursed (DC 29:41). Our mortal death is a mere byproduct of the first spiritual death. Hence, Samuel states we are considered as dead, both as to things temporal and to things spiritual, by virtue of the fact that we have been cut off from the Lord's presence.
Joseph F. Smith
"But I want to speak a word or two in relation to another death, which is a more terrible death than that of the body. When Adam, our first parent, partook of the forbidden fruit, transgressed the law of God, and became subject unto Satan, he was banished from the presence of God and was thrust out into outer spiritual darkness. This was the first death. Yet living, he was dead--dead to God, dead to light and truth, dead spiritually; cast out from the presence of God; communication between the Father and the son cut off. He was as absolutely thrust out from the presence of God as was Satan and the hosts that followed him. That was spiritual death. But the Lord said that He would not suffer Adam nor his posterity to come to the temporal death until they should have the means by which they might be redeemed from the first death, which is spiritual. Therefore angels were sent unto Adam, who taught him the Gospel and revealed to him the principle by which he could be redeemed from the first death, and be brought back from banishment and outer darkness into the marvelous light of the Gospel. He was taught faith, repentance and baptism for the remission of sins, in the name of Jesus Christ, who should come in the meridian of time and take away the sin of the world, and was thus given a chance to be redeemed from the spiritual death before he should die the temporal death." (Conference Report, Oct. 1899, p. 72)
Russell M. Nelson
"Therefore, spiritual (or the second) death becomes a matter of great importance to us while we sojourn here in mortality. Even the Savior cannot save individuals in their sins. He will redeem them from their sins, but then only through their repentance. Only rarely may we be responsible for physical death, but we are solely responsible for spiritual death.
"Whether spiritual death be numbered as the second or the first death is incidental. The real objective is to avoid it." (The Gateway We Call Death, p. 14)
Helaman 14:20 the sun shall be darkened...for the space of three days
Jesus Christ is the Light of the world. He said, As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world (Jn 9:5). Yet, the world rejected this light, this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil (Jn 3:19). From these scriptures we can infer a beautiful symbolism in the signs given by Samuel the Lamanite. At the birth of Christ, when the Light was given to the world, the sign was a light that lasted for 36 hours. At his death, that great light was taken from the world. Accordingly, the sign of his death is the withdrawal of light, even for three days.
That the darkness lasted for three days is also symbolic of the time between the Savior's death and Resurrection. In the Old World, the sign of his death was the same, except for the interval, for the darkness only lasted for three hours (Lu 23:44-45).
Bruce R. McConkie
"While our Lord's body lay in the tomb, while his eternal Spirit preached among the righteous dead, darkness enshrouded the Americas. Far removed though they were from the criminal events, no Nephite and no Lamanite would be unaware that their prophets had foretold the death of their Messiah and said that it would be known by three days of dooming darkness. Where else in all the history of the earth have continents been enveloped in darkness for three days? How could such an event do aught but witness the truth of the promised event?" (The Promised Messiah, p. 540)
Joseph Fielding Smith
"Surely no one who believes in the scriptures and is acquainted with the great and varied miracles performed by Jesus when on the earth, can consistently feel that he could give eyesight to the blind, cleanse lepers, command the storms to cease, and raise the dead, and would be unable to control the light and the darkness on any part of the earth. It would be just as easy for him to cause darkness on one hemisphere for three days as it would on the other for three hours." (Answers to Gospel Questions, vol. 3, p. 45)
Helaman 14:21-24 thunderings and lightnings...the earth shall shake and tremble...great tempests
Bruce R. McConkie
"It is perfectly clear that these destructions came as a just judgment upon the wicked, and that they are in similitude of the outpourings of wrath that shall come upon the whole world at the Second Coming, but they also came as a sign and a witness to the righteous who remained and who were not destroyed." (The Promised Messiah, p. 541)
Helaman 14:25 many graves shall be opened, and...many saints shall appear unto many
By some error of scriptural bookkeeping, the grand and glorious fulfillment of Samuel's prophecy was not recorded as it should have been. The oversight was not missed by the Lord, who takes a personal interest in the consistency and continuity of the scriptures. When he appeared to the righteous remnant, He corrected them saying, How be it that ye have not written this thing, that many saints did arise and appear unto many and did minister unto them? And it came to pass that Nephi remembered that this thing had not been written. (3 Ne 23:11-12)
Helaman 14:30 whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself
The most natural response when accused of wrongdoing is to make excuses, to blame others, and to deflect any personal responsibility. Therefore, at judgment, the tendency to make excuses for sin will still be there. However, with the perfect remembrance of guilt which accompanies the resurrection, the wicked will be forced to exclaim that all of God's judgments are just (Alma 12:15). Though they had spent their entire lives blaming others, their feverish fault finding will only be satisfied when the finger of blame is pointed back on themselves, for whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself. Therefore, they are left without excuse, and their sins are upon their own heads (DC 88:82).
"The great misery of departed spirits in the world of spirits, where they go after death, is to know that they come short of the glory that others enjoy and that they might have enjoyed themselves, and they are their own accusers." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 310-11)
Helaman 14:30 ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves
Boyd K. Packer
"'Remember, my brethren...ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.' (Helaman 14:30.)
"If you feel pressed in and pressured and not free, it may be for one of two reasons. One, if you have lost freedom, possibly it has been through some irresponsible act of your own. Now you must regain it. You may be indentured-indentured to some habits of laziness or indolence; some even become slaves to addiction. The other reason is that maybe if you are not free you have not earned it. Freedom is not a self-preserving gift. It has to be earned, and it has to be protected.
"For instance, I am not free to play the piano, for I do not know how. I cannot play the piano...The ability to play the piano, the freedom to do that, has to be earned. It is a relatively expensive freedom. It takes an investment of time and of discipline. This discipline begins, as discipline usually does, from without. I hope that you do not have contempt for discipline that originates from without. That is the beginning. A parent usually presses a youngster to practice the piano. But somewhere, it is hoped, practice grows into self-discipline, which is really the only kind of discipline. The discipline that comes from within is that which makes a young person decide that he wants to be free to play the piano and play it well. Therefore, he is willing to pay the price. Then he can be free from supervision, from pressure, from whatever forms of persuasion parents use."(That All May Be Edified, p. 254)
David O. McKay
"'Remember, my brethren, . . . ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.' (Helaman 14:30.)
"These words taken from the Book of Helaman indicate the purport of what I should like to say this afternoon...Among the immediate obligations and duties resting upon members of the Church today, and one of the most urgent and pressing for attention and action of all liberty loving people, is the preservation of individual liberty. Freedom of choice is more to be treasured than any possession earth can give. It is inherent in the spirit of man. It is a divine gift to every normal being. Whether born in abject poverty or shackled at birth by inherited riches, everyone has this most precious of all life's endowments -- the gift of free agency; man's inherited and inalienable right.
"Free agency is the impelling source of the soul's progress. It is the purpose of the Lord that man become like him. In order for man to achieve this it was necessary for the Creator first to make him free. 'Personal liberty,' says Bulwer Lytton, 'is the paramount essential to human dignity and human happiness.'" (Conference Report, Apr. 1950, p. 32)
Richard G. Scott
"Parents, don't make the mistake of purposefully intervening to soften or eliminate the natural consequences of your child's deliberate decisions to violate the commandments. Such acts reinforce false principles, open the door for more serious sin, and lessen the likelihood of repentance." (Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 391)
Helaman 14:31 He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil
Boyd K. Packer
"Another scripture is very important for a teacher to understand: 'All men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil.' (2 Nephi 2:5; Helaman 14:31.)
"Parents and teachers need to know that a youngster can tell right from wrong. This knowledge may be distorted or perverted or covered up in unfortunate life experiences, but intuitively, as a part of the spiritual endowment of all humanity, there is a knowledge of right from wrong.
"That gives me great hope, for then I understand that every child of God, however reprobate he may have become, however degenerate he may seem to be, has hidden within him the spark of divinity and a sensitivity to that which is wrong as compared to that which is right." (Teach Ye Diligently, p. 99-100)