Scripture Study

Our Actions Illustrate Our Beliefs (Helaman 8)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 01 May 2019. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 414

Our Actions Illustrate Our Beliefs (Helaman 8)

A crowd has gathered near Niagara Falls where a man has strung a rope across the falls and is standing on the edge of the falls with a wheelbarrow. He tells the crowd he is prepared to push the wheelbarrow along the rope and walk across Niagara Falls. In order to get the crowd stirred up, the man asks, "Who here believes I can cross the falls, pushing this wheelbarrow across this rope?" Some of the people raise their hands.

The man says, "Well, if you don't really believe I can do it, there's no point in continuing." More hands go up, and some of the people shout, "Yes, we believe you can do it!" The man says, "Are you sure you believe it? After all, I'm risking my life here." The people shout their encouragement even louder, and one man near the front jumps up and down, shouting, "I believe! I believe!"

The man addresses this enthusiastic believer: "Really, you believe I can do this?" The other man replies, "Yes, yes, I believe!" The first man nods his head and says, "OK, then get in the wheelbarrow."

Now Is Our Time (Helaman 7)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 24 April 2019. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 741

Now Is Our Time (Helaman 7)

In Helaman 7, Nephi returns from a missionary trip and is very discouraged. The messages he has preached during the trip were completely rejected. The Nephite people he preached to remain in a state of great iniquity. As he reflects on how the people are "condemning the righteous because of their righteousness [and] letting the guilty and wicked go unpunished" (verse 5), Nephi actually wishes he could have lived during a different period of time:

"Oh, that I could have had my days in the days when my father Nephi first came out of the land of Jerusalem, that I could have joyed with him in the promised land; then were his people easy to be entreated, firm to keep the commandments of God, and slow to be led to do iniquity, and they were quick to hearken unto the words of the Lord." (Helaman 7:7)

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time (Helaman 6)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 17 April 2019. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 455

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time (Helaman 6)

We probably all experience occasions in our lives when negative consequences result from actions we take that may later seem rather questionable. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, someone may even ask us — or we may even ask ourselves — "Why would you do such a thing?" Sometimes, the only answer we can give — as lame as it may be — is, "Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time."

Sometimes, the consequences of doing something that seemed like a good idea at the time are minimal and can be laughed at later. To see a few short videos depicting this, click here.

However, when the actions taken are sinful in nature, the consequences may be such that we won't be laughing when we look back and wonder why we did it. Helaman 6 recalls a few such examples from the scriptures, adding that the devil is the source of these "good ideas":

Saved by Fire (Helaman 5)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 10 April 2019. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 420

Saved by Fire (Helaman 5)

In Helaman 5, Nephi and Lehi, the sons of Helaman, enter Lamanite territory to preach the gospel. They have much success as 8,000 are baptized, but some of the Lamanites become angry and cast Nephi and Lehi into prison. The Lamanite guards later enter the prison to kill them, but they encounter an unusual sight: "Nephi and Lehi were encircled about as if by fire, even insomuch that they durst not lay their hands upon them for fear lest they should be burned" (verse 23).

After a series of events in which the walls of the prison tremble and a voice from heaven urges all to repent, Nephi and Lehi are again encircled by a pillar of fire:

"Yea, they were as if in the midst of a flaming fire, yet it did harm them not…and they were filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory. And behold, the Holy Spirit of God did come down from heaven, and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words." (Helaman 5:44-45)

Our Own Strength (Helaman 4)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 03 April 2019. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 490

Our Own Strength (Helaman 4)

In Helaman 4, the Nephites lose a series of battles that cost them many lives and many cities. According to the record, this great loss was avoidable:

"Now this great loss of the Nephites, and the great slaughter which was among them, would not have happened had it not been for their wickedness and their abomination which was among them; yea, and it was among those also who professed to belong to the church of God." (Helaman 4:11)

A sinful way of life among the Nephite people, including those who were members of the church, appears to have been the root cause of this tragedy. So, does that mean this was a punishment from God? Not exactly. Due to the wicked conditions, God just withdrew, leaving the people without His blessing and protection — "they were left in their own strength; therefore they did not prosper, but were afflicted and smitten" (verse 13).

It's Astonishing What the Lord Can Do (Helaman 3)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 27 March 2019. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 465

It's Astonishing What the Lord Can Do (Helaman 3)

Helaman 3 describes a period of great prosperity in the church. Thousands repent of their sins and are baptized. Untold blessings are experienced by all.

"And so great was the prosperity of the church, and so many the blessings which were poured out upon the people, that even the high priests and the teachers were themselves astonished beyond measure." (Helaman 3:25)

Even the church leaders were astonished as they witnessed firsthand what the Lord could do!

Many of us have also been firsthand witnesses of what the Lord can do. It's summarized nicely in the chorus of one of the Songs of Zion:

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing (Helaman 2)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 20 March 2019. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 570

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing (Helaman 2)

In Helaman 2, the position of chief judge still stands vacant after the murder of the previous two chief judges in the previous chapter. Helaman is elected to fill the position, but a plot is immediately fashioned to murder him — the hit man, Kishkumen, is again hired to do the job.

However, as the planning proceeds, one of Helaman's servants somehow infiltrates the mob in disguise and learns the details of the plot. This servant offers to escort Kishkumen to the judgment seat to perform the murder but instead he kills Kishkumen en route and foils the plot.

In the above story, the assassination team is fooled by someone who dressed like them, spoke like them, and learned how to appear to be one of them. Of course, it was for a good cause in this case, but it nonetheless shows how someone pretending to be part of the team can derail an effort.

I Strenuously Object (Helaman 1)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 13 March 2019. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 552

I Strenuously Object (Helaman 1)

OK, we're going back to the movies today. Here's some dialogue from a popular movie from some years back. The scene takes place during a trial in a courtroom.

Lawyer 1: "Your Honor, we renew our objection to this testimony, and ask that it be stricken from the record."

Judge: "The objection's overruled, counsel."

Lawyer 1: "Sir, the defense strenuously objects and requests a meeting in chambers so that his honor might have an opportunity to hear discussion before ruling on the objection."

Judge (getting annoyed): "Noted. The witness is an expert and the court will hear his opinion!"

Lawyer 2 (taunting Lawyer 1 when the court recesses): "I strenuously object? Is that how it works? Objection. Overruled. No, no, no, I strenuously object. Oh, well if you strenuously object, let me take a moment to reconsider."

In Helaman 1, chief judge Pahoran has died, and there is an election to appoint his successor. The candidates are three of the sons of the deceased chief judge — Pahoran, Paanchi, and Pacumeni. When the votes are counted, Pahoran is the winner and becomes the new chief judge.

Enlarge My Coast (Alma 63)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 06 March 2019. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 1001

Enlarge My Coast (Alma 63)

Some years ago, there was a popular book called "The Prayer of Jabez" that focused on the short prayer recorded in 1 Chronicles 4:10:

"And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested."

The book explores each of the four basic requests contained in the prayer:

  • "Bless me indeed"
  • "Enlarge my coast"
  • "Be with me"
  • "Keep me from evil"

You can probably see how a nice lesson can easily be built around at least three of the four requests, but it might not be as obvious what is meant by "enlarge my coast."

Carrot, Egg or Coffee Bean? (Alma 62)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 27 February 2019. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 838

Carrot, Egg or Coffee Bean? (Alma 62)

In Alma 62, Moroni and Pahoran take back the city of Zarahemla. The united Nephites then defeat the Lamanites in a war. At the end of the war, the writer reflects on how different people were affected in different ways by the war:

"Many had become hardened, because of the exceeding great length of the war; and many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility" (Alma 62:41)

Seeing how some people became hardened because of the war while others became softened by the same war reminds me of a story that I heard years ago. Here's a version of that story:

Resist Evil and the Enemy Will Flee (Alma 61)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 20 February 2019. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 650

Resist Evil and the Enemy Will Flee (Alma 61)

In Alma 61, Moroni finally receives a letter from the chief judge Pahoran, explaining why no supplies or reinforcements have been forthcoming for the Nephite army. He learns that continued in-fighting among the Nephites has resulted in Pahoran and his supporters being driven out of the city of Zarahemla and a king installed in place of the duly appointed government. As a result, Pahoran has no access to any supplies or reinforcements to assist the Nephite army.

In his letter, Pahoran stresses that since his exiled group represents the cause of God, they cannot give up but must do their best to resist the enemy and seek victory for the Lord:

"[God] doth not command us that we shall subject ourselves to our enemies, but that we should put our trust in him, and he will deliver us. Therefore…let us resist evil…that we may retain our freedom, that we may rejoice in the great privilege of our church, and in the cause of our Redeemer and our God" (Alma 61:13-14)

Neglect: When You Can and You Should, but You Don't (Alma 60)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 13 February 2019. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 592

Neglect: When You Can and You Should, but You Don't (Alma 60)

In Alma 60, the Nephite army still finds itself without reinforcements from the government such that their frustration is running high. Moroni sends another letter to the chief judge Pahoran — this one even more forceful than his previous letter — calling out the chief judge for his apparent neglect of the Nephite army. Here are a few passages from the letter:

  • "Great has been the slaughter among our people…yea, great has been your neglect towards us" (verse 5)
  • "Ye have neglected them insomuch that the blood of thousands shall come upon your heads for vengeance" (verse 10)
  • "I fear exceedingly that the judgments of God will come upon this people, because of…the slothfulness of our government, and their exceeding great neglect towards their brethren" (verse 14)

The word "neglect" is used over and over to emphasize that the government has the resources to provide the army, and that they should be supporting the army, but yet no assistance is being provided.

They can help, and they should help, but they're not helping.

Angry With the Government (Alma 59)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 06 February 2019. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 608

Angry With the Government (Alma 59)

In Alma 59, Moroni sends a letter to chief judge Pahoran, requesting reinforcements for the war against the Lamanites. The Nephite army is in need of additional soldiers as well as food and supplies, so Moroni reaches out to the government to provide these needs. However, as time passes, no assistance arrives. In later chapters, Moroni finds out what is happening from Pahoran's perspective, and then he understands why no assistance has been provided. However, at this moment, he is out in the field with his army, fighting for the Nephite cause and hearing nothing from Pahoran. As a result, "Moroni was angry with the government, because of their [apparent] indifference concerning the freedom of their country" (verse 13).

In the United States at this time, it appears that just about everyone is angry with the government in one way or another. People who oppose the current president and what he stands for are angry with him and the government representatives who support him. People who support the position of the president are angry with the government representatives who oppose what he is trying to do. The anger has spilled over such that regular citizens who support one position are angry with citizens who support the opposite position.

Strengthening Our Small Army (Alma 58)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 30 January 2019. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 646

Strengthening Our Small Army (Alma 58)

In Alma 58, Helaman laments throughout the chapter about how small the Nephite army is. He describes their efforts in reaching out to the government for reinforcements and supplies, but the response is limited. Finally, at their moment of greatest despair, they reach out to the greatest source of strength:

"Therefore we did pour out our souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies…Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him" (Alma 58:10-11)

There are many examples in the scriptures of an exceedingly small number of people — even just one person at times — prevailing over overwhelming opposition due to receiving strength from God. Here are a few examples:

Serving God With Exactness (Alma 57)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 23 January 2019. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 816

Serving God With Exactness (Alma 57)

Quite a bit is written in Alma 53 to 57 regarding the 2,000 stripling soldiers led by Helaman. Their claim to fame was that they stepped in for their fathers, who were unable to join the army due to the oath they made to God, and helped defend their nation against the Lamanite army. The stripling soldiers fought in many battles and, though many were wounded, none of the 2,000 were killed in battle.

In Alma 57, Helaman recognizes this group for the great service they have provided. He makes one point in particular to explain their success:

"They did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them" (Alma 57:21)

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