Helaman 9

Helaman 9:2 if this thing which he has said...be true...then will we believe

"In setting forth the test for one who prophesies, Moses said, 'If the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken.' (Deu 18:22) Nephi's prediction of the murder of the chief judge was easy enough to check. 'Now we will know of a surety whether this man be a prophet...' (Hel 9:2) Five men went to check and found things precisely as Nephi had said they would be. Isn't it interesting that the five who went were five who were converted when they saw proof of Nephi's prophetic ability? Others in the group were unmoved even after Nephi's predictions were totally proven. Still others, impressed by the irrefutable power that Nephi demonstrated, were not converted to the source of Nephi's power but instead superstitiously concluded that he was a God. (See Hel 9:41) Fortunately, there were some who were converted by the testimony of the five men who first believed Nephi or by the preaching of Nephi himself. (See Hel 9:39)" (Book of Mormon Student Manuel, 1981, p. 367)

Helaman 9:10 the people did assemble themselves together to mourn and to fast

At the stately funeral for the smitten Seezoram, the people demonstrated their grief with mourning and fasting. For us, mourning and fasting don't go together naturally, but this is a typical Hebrew tradition. The Jews mourned and fasted at the death of king Saul (1 Sam 31:13, 2 Sam 1:12). Out of respect, David mourned and fasted at the death of his political enemy, Abner (2 Sam 3:35-38). From the Book of Mormon, we see that the Nephites had once before combined mourning and fasting after the death of thousands of Nephites in a vicious battle (Alma 30:2).

It seems that the fast was associated with mourning as a statement of respect and humility in honor of both God and the deceased. This is the tradition that brought the Nephites together to mourn and fast for a wicked man. Stephen D. Ricks has stated:

"I have...compared the types of and motivations for fasting in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Most interesting is the clear shift in motivation for fasting, identical in both books. In the Old Testament and pre-crucifixion passages in the Book of Mormon, the primary types include fasting as a sign of mourning (Alma 30:2), fasting following a death (Hel. 9:10), and petitionary fasting (Mosiah 27:22).

The first two of these are not mentioned as types of fasting following the appearance of the resurrected Christ to the Nephites. The main type of fasting mentioned in the New Testament and in the Book of Mormon after the visit of Christ is devotional fasting practiced by the whole church." (Ensign, Feb. 1988, p. 12)

In contrast with ancient practices, today, fasting demonstrates to God one's spiritual integrity and sincere desire for specific blessings. In essence, the abstinence from physical food is a plea to God for more spiritual food.

Helaman 9:16 Nephi must have agreed with some one to slay the judge

Neal A. Maxwell

"Enduring is, quite naturally, equated in some respects with holding out or holding fast. It certainly includes the capacity to endure for one moment more. It also includes, as we have noted, enduring customized tests of our trust in God. A Nephite prophet had angered corrupt judges by denouncing them and, by inspiration, advised them of the murder of a judge and the murderer's identity. Surely he knew that by so declaring he could be entrapped and accused of being a 'confederate' in the crime-which indeed happened. Then further inspiration came by which the murderer was caused to confess the crime. Had Nephi been disobedient or lacking in faith or endurance the harvest of souls who came to believe him at that time would not have occurred. (Helaman 8:27-9:41.)" (If Thou Endure It Well, p. 120)

Helaman 9:25 And now behold, I will show unto you another sign

Nephi gives these wicked people another sign, but the people were not righteous enough to deserve another divine manifestation. The fact that Nephi gives them another sign is, for their sakes, a bad sign. Although his precise predictions exonerated himself, the sign also meant that God was angry enough at their wickedness and stubbornness that he was on the verge of destroying them. Their impending destruction is detailed in the next few chapters. Another example of this sort of dramatic demonstration of God's power, happened between Elijah and the priests of Baal.

In a contest of divine power, the God of Elijah was pitted against the pagan god of Baal.  Each god was given the opportunity to bring fire from heaven to consume the offering and demonstrate their power. Of course, it was the offering of Elijah which was consumed, proving undeniably whose god was real (1 Kgs 18:17-40). Such a demonstration of divine power to the wicked was immediately followed by their destruction, 'And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.' We know that it is a 'wicked and adulterous generation' which seeks for a sign, but when a 'wicked and adulterous generation' receives a sign, it means their destruction is imminent.

Helaman 9:38 he was brought to prove that he himself was the very murderer

"Cases of unwitnessed murders presented special problems under the law of Moses. While the two-witness rule would seem to stand insurmountably in the way of ever obtaining a conviction in such cases, such slayings could not simply be ignored...

"Seantum's self-incriminating admission would normally not be admissible in a Jewish court of law. Under the Talmud, no man could be put to death on his own testimony: 'No man may call himself a wrongdoer,' especially in a capital case. But from earlier times came four episodes that gave rise to an exception to this rule against self-incriminating confessions under certain circumstances. Those precedents, each of which involved convictions or punishments based on confessions, were the executions of (1) Aachan (see Joshua 7), of (2) the man who admitted that he had killed Saul (see 2 Samuel 1:10-16), and of (3) the two assassins of Ishbosheth, the son of Saul (see 2 Samuel 4:8-12), as well as (4) the voluntary confession of Micah, the son who stole from his mother (see Judges 17:1-4).

"The ancients reconciled these four cases with their rigid two-witness rule by explaining that they involved confessions before trial or were proceedings before kings or rulers instead of judges. An exception was especially granted when the confession was 'corroborated by an ordeal as well as by the production of the corpus delicti,' as in the case of Aachan, who was detected by the casting of lots and whose confession was corroborated by the finding of the illegal goods under his tent floor.

"Thus, one can with reasonable confidence conclude that in the biblical period the normal two-witness rule could be overridden in the special case of a self-incriminating confession, if the confession occurred outside of court, or if God's will was evidenced in the matter by ordeal, lots, or otherwise in the detection of the offender, and if corroborating physical evidence of the crime could be produced." (John W. Welch, Reexploring The Book of Mormon, p. 243-4)

Helaman 9:39 some...believed because of the testimony of the five

"...back in prison, something marvelous is happening to the five men who were first accused of the murder. The Spirit of the Lord comes upon them and they are converted. And then in Helaman 9:39 it says: 'There were some of the Nephites who believed on the words of Nephi; and there were some also, who believed because of the testimony of the five, for they had been converted while they were in prison.'

"Now, don't ever think your testimony isn't strong, because it is. Every testimony that's born is not born of man, but born of God by the power of the Holy Ghost. When you bear testimony, it's not you. It's not me. It's the Spirit of God, and that's powerful." (Ed J. Pinegar, Especially for Missionaries, vol. 4, chapter 2)

Helaman 9:41 he is a god, for...he has told us the thoughts of our hearts

Neal A. Maxwell

"The Lord in a revelation for John Whitmer spoke of that which was in the latter's heart, which only the Lord and John Whitmer knew, witnessing that God was omniscient concerning the needs of that individual. (D&C 15:3.)

"Paul said to the saints at Corinth, 'And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.' (1 Corinthians 3:20.) In the period just before the flood God saw not only the wickedness of man in the earth, but he saw also 'every imagination of the thoughts' of men's hearts. (Genesis 6:5.) He knows 'the things that come into your mind.' (Ezekiel 11:5.) Jesus himself said before we pray, 'Your father knoweth what things ye have need of.' (Matthew 6:8.) Indeed, as Nephi said, 'God . . . knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows.' (2 Nephi 9:20.)

"Hence omniscience is one of the characteristics of the living God. As we read in Helaman 9:41, 'Except he was a god he could not know of all things.' 'And now, behold, you have received a witness; for if I have told you things which no man knoweth have you not received a witness?' (D&C 6:24.)" (Things As They Really Are, p. 22)