Sign Language (Helaman 14)
A popular method of communicating with people who are deaf or hard of hearing is through a system known as sign language. In this language, words or expressions are represented by specific hand gestures, known as signs. When people learn what the various signs mean, they can then receive messages from other people who know the signs. This communication system allows someone who would otherwise not be in a position to receive communications — whether because of deafness, or being across a crowded room, or for whatever reason — to still be able to receive messages from others.
In Helaman 14, Samuel the Lamanite speaks to the Nephite people in the land of the Americas about the coming of Jesus Christ. Whereas the people living in and around Jerusalem will be in a position to witness the various events in the life of Christ — His birth, His miracles, His preaching, His death and resurrection — the Nephite people on the other side of the world will not be in a position to witness any of it.
God doesn't want the Nephites to miss out on the very important message about the coming of Christ, especially since they need to take action — specifically, repenting of their sins — before it is too late. So, God speaks through Samuel to define a "sign language" for the Nephites to communicate to them at the appropriate times that Jesus has been born and that He has been crucified.
The sign for the birth of Christ is defined as follows:
"There shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and this shall be unto you for a sign…the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born." (Helaman 14:4)
The sign for the crucifixion of Christ is defined as follows:
"The sun shall be darkened…and also the moon and the stars; and there shall be no light upon the face of this land, even from the time that he shall suffer death, for the space of three days, to the time that he shall rise again from the dead." (Helaman 14:20)
Other signs are defined also — a new star at the time of the birth, destruction on the land at the time of His death. All of these signs are later given at the proper times as God communicates to the Nephites the messages that they would otherwise not be in a position to receive.
God is still using sign language to communicate messages to us today:
- In 3 Nephi 21, Jesus tells the Nephites that when their recorded words (the Book of Mormon) shall be delivered to the Gentiles and the teachings of that book are then shared with the Seed of Joseph, "it shall be a sign…that the work of the Father hath already commenced unto the fulfilling of the covenant which he hath made unto the people who are of the house of Israel" (3 Nephi 21:7).
- In Matthew 24, Jesus shared some signs that would indicate that the end was approaching — wars and rumors of wars, natural disasters in various places, etc. He did however qualify that when these signs were given, it would not be the end yet but rather "the beginning of sorrows" (Matthew 24:6-8).
All of the signs identified above are coming to pass at the current time, indicating that we are indeed living in the latter days. It's exciting to be witnessing God's plan unfolding, but the primary purpose of the signs is to encourage action — whether repenting of sins, staying close to God or participating in the plan in some way.
Let's not try to claim ignorance or that we're somehow not in a position to receive these messages from God. The signs of the times are right in front of us — a sign language designed by God. Let's make sure to take whatever action God is expecting of us.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.