The Nephite Cycle
The "Nephite Cycle" continues in this chapter. After repenting and then prospering for many years, the Nephites again began to be wicked. Verse 17 notes that the Lord had blessed them so long with riches that they were not stirred up to anger and they began to be prideful. In other words, they didn't have time to fight wars nor did they want to fight wars. Everyone was obsessed about lifting themselves above others. (Helaman 6:17)
How Secret Combinations are Introduced
Verse 26 has an interesting lesson. The secret combinations were not thought up by a man; rather those ideas were placed in man's heart by Satan. I remember reading in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith something about how the saint or anyone for that matter does not understand spirits. Joseph Smith said, “there always did, in every age, seem to be a lack of intelligence pertaining to this subject” (page 203). This is related to this verse, because it is through a spirit that we are influenced. I believe that all ideas are inspired. Now those inspirations may come from God or they may come from Satan. The idea of secret combinations was not new. It was placed in man's heart long before it was introduced among the Nephites. Satan simply re-introduced the idea into Gadianton's heart.
Verse 32 – "… space of not many years…" The Nephite cycle was growing ever so shorter with each passing cycle.
Hardened vs. Willing Heart
This morning, I read a blog post by my cousin's wife about her thoughts on Helaman 6:36. She had some really good insight into this verse. So I read Helaman 6:36 as well as the preceding two verses.
Mormon contrasts the hardened Nephites with the willing Lamanites. Helaman 6:34-36 says, "And thus we see that the Nephites did begin to dwindle in unbelief, and grow in wickedness and abominations, while the Lamanites began to grow exceedingly in the knowledge of their God; yea, they did begin to keep his statutes and commandments, and to walk in truth and uprightness before him.
"And thus we see that the Spirit of the Lord began to withdraw from the Nephites, because of the wickedness and the hardness of their hearts.
"And thus we see that the Lord began to pour out his Spirit upon the Lamanites, because of their easiness and willingness to believe in his words."
She cross-referenced the word "willingness" to Exodus 25:2 and 2 Corinthians 8:12. Then she noted that "willingly" in Exodus 25:2 is cross-referenced to the Topical Guide entry of Initiative. She comments, "Do I take the initiative to ask and find out what the Lord wants, rather then wait till the last minute and decide to follow him when things get difficult, or complain and make excuses? I have experienced both scenarios and I can say that I have felt the blessings of taking the initiative and being willing. Not only do I experience great blessings but my faith is strengthened."
Regarding taking the initiative in keeping the commandment and following the will of God, there are two people who are great examples of keeping this counsel … President Henry B. Eyring and our current stake president Gary Riding.
When President Eyring was called to the Apostleship, there was an article in the September 1995 Ensign that talked about his life. There are two sentences I remember from this article. In talking about his father Matthew Eyring said, "My father has told us that there are two things that he prays for every night. The first is, ‘What blessings do I have that I am not aware of?’ and the second is, ‘Whom can I help?’ And,” Matthew adds, “Dad says there has never been a day that his prayers haven’t been answered.” (Gerald N. Lund, “Elder Henry B. Eyring: Molded by ‘Defining Influences’,” Ensign, Sep 1995, 10)
I am such a laid back person that I’m afraid I feel pretty content with what I have been blessed with. But after rereading part of that quote and also what my cousin's wife said, I wonder how many blessings the Lord has for my family and me that I have not asked for. In her post she says, "I think sometimes it is easy to say, "I don't want any more or I have all that I need." I have met many people who have said this. When we have a willing mind, then I believe our minds are enlightened and the power of the Spirit is able to expand our learning and knowledge."
The other person who I think takes the initiative is our stake president Gary Riding. I have heard him speak on more than one occasion of how he prays for guidance from the Lord. Like President Eyring, he specifically asks the Lord what he needs to do that day … who he can serve. Then he would proceed to give examples of how his prayers have been answered.
One example of his that I remember is when was jogging through the park and came across a man who seemed to be in mental anguish. President Riding felt inspired to stop and talk to the man. I don't remember all the details, but I think the man was having some marital and other problems in his life. A missionary moment ensued and the man was later baptized. After President Riding finished his talk, the man stood up after President Riding and testified how his life was changed because of President Riding's prayers and his willingness to listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
So I guess the personal application here is that I need to be more earnest in my prayers, have a willing heart … be willing to accept the Lord's will and then do it, and then be diligent in seeking the Lord's will through daily and constant prayer. Then I need to recognize and heed the promptings of the Holy Ghost through the course of the day. And in order to recognize those promptings, I need to listen. In the July 2008 Ensign in another article about President Eyring, he teaches, "The key to hearing those answers and knowing that God has an interest in our lives, he says, is to develop a listening ear. “We’ve got to be quiet and listen. In my life, when I have failed to receive a clear feeling or have missed the voice of the Spirit, it is because I was too busy, too noisy inside, and too full of my own world.” (Robert D. Hales, “President Henry B. Eyring: Called of God,” Ensign, Jul 2008, 8–15)
Destroying Secret Combinations
How do you destroy secret combinations? The Lamanites had one solution. In verse 37, they hunted the band of robbers and then preached to them the word of God. The verse relates that after teaching them the word of God, the "band of robbers was utterly destroyed from among the Lamanites." This is astounding! Instead of rooting them out and killing them, the Lamanites decided to change the GR's ideologies or beliefs. Once they have different morals, they will no longer want to kill, steal, plunder and so forth. This reminds me of a verse back in Alma 31. Alma 31:5 reads, "the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just … had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword or anything else."
While the Lamanites were "destroying" the GRs with the word of God, the Nephites were uniting with the GRs. The GRs were so powerful that they eventually gained "sole management" of the Nephite government. (Helaman 6:39)