The Curse of the Land
Samuel seems to talk a lot about riches, treasures, gold and silver in this chapter. He also tells the people how the land is cursed so that they lose their treasures and they cannot find them when they look for them.
I was trying to think of how this could be applied in our day. While I was reading this chapter, I wondered “why don’t they put their riches in a type of bank or safe?” Then it hit me. Today, a widespread loss of wealth might occur if the stock market crashed or if other financial markets suffered. In a sense, that could be today’s curse of the land.
Wickedness Never Was Happiness
Samuel warns the people that they have sought happiness in doing iniquity. Alma taught this principle earlier when he said that wickedness never was happiness. Samuel warns the people that happiness in doing iniquity is contrary to the nature of righteousness. In other words, there is a difference between joy and pleasure. Finding pleasure in doing iniquity eventually leads to utter sadness while finding pleasure in serving, praying and doing Christ-like things leads to complete and full joy. Samuel warns the people about finding pleasure in doing iniquity. He says that it is contrary to God and therefore contrary to our eternal happiness.
A Great Prophet
I have wondered why is Samuel considered to be such a great prophet? The other times I read about Samuel, I focused on his cry of repentance to the people … a pretty common cry for Book of Mormon prophets. But this time, I noticed all the prophecies of Samuel. Every single one of his prophecies came true. The first one in chapter 13 is about the Nephites being completely destroyed in 400 years (Helaman 13:5). We later read in Mormon that this came true. This is really the only one in this chapter. The rest can be found in the next chapter which I'll document when I get there.
The City of Gideon
Another thing that I wondered about was the city of Gideon (Helaman 13:15). Out of curiosity, I looked up in 3 Nephi 9 where Christ tells the people what happened to the various cities. I expected to find in 3 Nephi 9 that the city of Gideon was burned by fire or that it was flooded or something horrific. But to my surprise, I did not find anything about the city of Gideon. I looked Gideon up in the index and read the references. Gideon was a contemporary to Alma the elder. Gideon led the people against the wicked King Noah. He almost killed King Noah, but was stopped when King Noah plead for his life when he saw the armies of the Lamanites approaching. Gideon spared him. After the people of Alma returned to Zarahemla, the anti-Christ Nehor and Gideon got into an argument in the which they drew swords and Nehor killed Gideon. Later, a city was established in a valley named after Gideon. This city was east of the river Sidon. The last instance of the name Gideon (man, valley or city) is mentioned is in Helaman 13 when Samuel pronounces a 'wo' on the people that inhabit the city of Gideon. Interestingly enough, it is not mentioned in 3 Nephi.
Did the people of the city of Gideon repent after Samuel the Lamanite pronounced a 'wo' on them? We'll probably never know. But the fact that the city of Gideon is not mentioned in the list of destruction in 3 Nephi is a good sign that they may have repented.
Lastly, I wondered why Samuel told the people that their "days of probation are past" (Helaman 13:38). He continues in the same verse, "your destruction is made sure." Why even preach to them if they are already hell-bound?
My explanation would be that he preached to the people because, first, the Lord commanded him to and second, every soul's worth is great (D&C 18). If Samuel's preaching saved a handful of people that heard him that day, then it was all worth the trouble. Also, no matter what we've done in our past, we always have a choice today. As bad as a position the Nephites were in, they still had a choice … they could always choose to repent.
As I stated with the city of Gideon, there is a very good chance that thye decided to change the day they listened to Samuel.
A third reason he preached to the people despite their guaranteed destruction was so that they would know of the signs of the coming of Christ. As will be read in the next chapter, Samuel makes many prophecies about the birth and death of Christ.