July 31, 2007 - Original Post
Famine and Fasting
Nephi pleads with the Lord that the people don’t die by the sword rather that they die by hunger. In essence, Nephi is forcing the people to collectively fast. Whenever I truly fast, I am greatly humbled. I have found that I am more passive and willing to submit myself to the will of God when I fast. Not only am I more submissive, but I grow closer to the Spirit. My mind is quieter.
As we fast and grow closer to the Savior, we must strive to always remember His sacrifice. After spiritual experiences, we must be wary of temptations. We must avoid what the Nephites did time and time again. They humbled themselves and then studied the scriptures, only to fall away again. Why did they fall away? They fell because they did not follow the counsels of the prophets.
Contentions Concerning Doctrine
In Helaman 11:22, it says they contended over some points of the doctrine which had been laid down by the prophets.
What does this mean? It means that at some point in time before, the prophets clarified some points of the doctrine. Even today we will hear prophets counsel us again and again about points of the doctrine. Many times they are explicit about what we are to understand. They explain to us how we are to interpret the doctrine. They are the living oracles who see further and clearer than we.
The prophets then, as the prophet today, can settle contentions because they receive revelation. During this time in the Nephite history, the prophets were "having many revelations daily." (Helaman 11:23)
How different the Book of Mormon would have been if the Nephites would have followed the prophets!
Regarding contention, Elder Dallin H. Oaks said this, "It is noteworthy that the Savior did not limit his teaching about disputations and contention to those who had wrong ideas about doctrine or procedure. He forbade disputations and contention by everyone. The commandment to avoid contention applies to those who are right as well as to those who are wrong.” (Book of Mormon Symposium Series, 4 Nephi – Moroni, p. 177)
The Nephite Cycle in a Chapter
One time while reading this chapter, I noted what went on in the Nephite history in one decade. Chapter 11 is a perfect example of the Nephite cycle in one decade. The chapter begins in the Nephite year 72.
In year 73, Nephi asks the Lord to bring a famine to the land. Note that it only took one verse for Nephi to ask this of the Lord. Then for the next two years the Nephites suffer. Finally in year 75 the people ask Nephi to ask the Lord to stop the famine. This time, it takes Nephi seven verses to ask the Lord to stop the famine. In year 76, the famine ends.
For four years, the Nephites prosper and have peace. Then in year 80 the dissentions begin again and the GR are reborn. Basically, the GRs are terrorists as verse 32 points out. The Nephites and Lamanites send their armies to destroy the GRs twice, but fail both times. The chapter ends in year 85 with the people “ripening again for destruction.”
So in the space of 13 years (from year 72 to year 85) we see in this one chapter the Nephites go from being wicked, to being humbled, to having prosperity and peace, to dissentions, to war and finally to wickedness again. It took the Nephites thirteen years for one complete cycle.
September 13, 2012 - Addition
A curious thought crossed my mind this morning while reading Helaman 11:10.
The person speaking is Nephi - a prophet of God. A few years earlier, he was granted the sealing power of the priesthood - whatever he sealed on earth would be sealed in heaven. He then used that power, after seeing the desctruction of the war, to plead with God to not let the people be destroyed by war, but by famine. The famine came; the people repented.
In Helaman 10:10, Nephi begins his plea to God to save them from the famine. He tells God that the band of Gadianton has been swept away and has become extinct. This is crucial - there are no Gadianton robbers anymore - they have been wiped out ... as verse 10 states, "they have become extinct." Now comes the curious statement: "they have concealed their secret plans in the earth." Nephi knows they (the people who wiped out the Gadianton robbers) concealed the robbers' plans. But my question is: why did the people or Nephi allow the secret plans to be buried? Why not destroy the plans too?
As we find out in Helman 11:26, the band of robbers is resurrected and then goes on to "search out all the secret plans of Gadianton."