1 And it came to pass that in this same year, behold, Nephi delivered up the judgment-seat to a man whose name was Cezoram.
2 For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted. [The voice of the people had chosen corrupt laws that Nephi could not in his own conscience enforce.]
3 Yea, and this was not all; they were a stiffnecked people, insomuch that they could not be governed by the law nor justice, save it were to their destruction. [Even the just laws they refused to enforce or obey.]
In our society today such things exist where the laws are not enforced and wickedness is spread through the government and society.
4 And it came to pass that Nephi had become weary because of their iniquity; and he yielded up the judgment-seat, and took it upon him to preach the word of God all the remainder of his days, and his brother Lehi also, all the remainder of his days; [The tradition of their fathers since their great-great-grandfather Alma.]
5 For they remembered the words which their father Helaman spake unto them. And these are the words which he spake:
6 Behold, my sons, I desire that ye should remember to keep the commandments of God; and I would that ye should declare unto the people these words. Behold, I have given unto you the names [Lehi and Nephi’s names] of our first parents who came out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them; and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works ye may know how that it is said, and also written, that they were good.
7 Therefore, my sons, I would that ye should do that which is good, that it may be said of you, and also written, even as it has been said and written of them. [What is good? To be the means to save many souls in the Father’s Kingdom.]
8 And now my sons, behold I have somewhat more to desire of you, which desire is, that ye may not do these things that ye may boast, but that ye may do these things to lay up for yourselves a treasure in heaven, yea, which is eternal, and which fadeth not away; yea, that ye may have that precious gift of eternal life, which we have reason to suppose hath been given to our fathers.
People do not realize the memorialization of the good deeds we perform on earth and how they are monumental in eternity, never forgotten and always witnessed by innumerable souls forever. How is this done? During the course of a life we experience many things. The accomplishments, accolades, wealth, fame, and positions of authority among men have no remembrance in the eternal views of Heaven. However, when we make epic sacrifices for others and to bring souls to Christ, these stand as a memorial which the angels look upon regularly and it never ends. When you help the beggar in need, suffer hardship from your enemies in the name of Christ, or do any kind of selfless act – it is eternal its it scope. I myself have witnessed the same great deeds, as I have been taught from witnessing some of the actual acts of these great men and women.
The Lord Himself has beautiful statues near His Throne which memorialize these great acts. I have seen them! People whose lives are forgotten to time are never forgotten, ever!
9 O remember, remember, my sons, the words which king Benjamin spake unto his people; yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world.
10 And remember also the words which Amulek spake unto Zeezrom, in the city of Ammonihah; for he said unto him that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins. [This means that they do not remain as they were, but are changed. The soul must ascend from the 2nd to the 3rd estate by the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is to be born again. You cannot be saved in your sins or unholy state.]
11 And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance [to fully choose Christ without reservation] ; therefore he hath sent his angels to declare the tidings of the conditions of repentance, which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls. [These “angels” are messengers from both the Heavenly Realm of the spirit, and those sent to teach His Gospel in the flesh. Alma 13]
12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
This is so important. Today, many seek to build their foundation upon good will. They focus upon love, spiritualism, acceptance, philanthropy and charity, and other good things, yet their foundation is not in Christ. There is an unbelief that all religions and people will find salvation in one way or another. If Christ is not the focus, all things will fall. (3 Nephi 14:20-27)
13 And it came to pass that these were the words which Helaman taught to his sons; yea, he did teach them many things which are not written, and also many things which are written.
14 And they did remember his words; and therefore they went forth, keeping the commandments of God, to teach the word of God among all the people of Nephi, beginning at the city Bountiful; [The city of Bountiful was a spiritual center for many of the Nephites.]
15 And from thenceforth to the city of Gid; and from the city of Gid to the city of Mulek;
16 And even from one city to another, until they had gone forth among all the people of Nephi who were in the land southward; and from thence into the land of Zarahemla, among the Lamanites. [These are those who politically identified as Lamanites living in the land of Zarahemla. Many of these who were associated as Lamanites were light skinned.]
17 And it came to pass that they did preach with great power, insomuch that they did confound many of those dissenters who had gone over from the Nephites, insomuch that they came forth and did confess their sins and were baptized unto repentance, and immediately returned to the Nephites to endeavor to repair unto them the wrongs which they had done.
18 And it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi did preach unto the Lamanites with such great power and authority, for they had power and authority given unto them that they might speak, and they also had what they should speak given unto them— [This is the definition of the gift of prophecy. It is not only to speak the Lord’s words regarding future events, but to say that which the Lord commands them to speak. When one is overcome with the gift of prophecy that cannot hardly resist the need to speak and the words are given either before or during their preaching. What did they say to them? Exactly what would cut their hearts like only the Lord can do.]
19 Therefore they did speak unto the great astonishment of the Lamanites, to the convincing them, insomuch that there were eight thousand of the Lamanites who were in the land of Zarahemla and round about baptized unto repentance, and were convinced of the wickedness of the traditions of their fathers.
20 And it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi did proceed from thence to go to the land of Nephi. [A dangerous attempt, like unto the days of the sons of Mosiah. However, the Lamanites were accustomed to fair skin people walking amongst them.]
21 And it came to pass that they were taken by an army of the Lamanites and cast into prison; yea, even in that same prison in which Ammon and his brethren were cast by the servants of Limhi. [In the central northern regions of the Lamanite lands, near eastern Tennessee.]
22 And after they had been cast into prison many days without food, behold, they went forth into the prison to take them that they might slay them.
23 And it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi were encircled about as if by fire [White fire, the glory of God, what is often referred to as a pillar of fire.] , even insomuch that they durst not lay their hands upon them for fear lest they should be burned. Nevertheless, Nephi and Lehi were not burned; and they were as standing in the midst of fire and were not burned.
24 And when they saw that they were encircled about with a pillar of fire, and that it burned them not, their hearts did take courage. [This is the same as a baptism of fire, which occurs each time one mingles with the angels of God or prepares to be in the presence of the Lord. No unclean thing can be in such a presence. Normally, such things cannot be seen by the naked eye, but these men’s spiritual eyes were opened that they could see.]
25 For they saw that the Lamanites durst not lay their hands upon them; neither durst they come near unto them, but stood as if they were struck dumb with amazement.
26 And it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi did stand forth and began to speak unto them, saying: Fear not, for behold, it is God that has shown unto you this marvelous thing, in the which is shown unto you that ye cannot lay your hands on us to slay us.
27 And behold, when they had said these words, the earth shook exceedingly, and the walls of the prison did shake as if they were about to tumble to the earth [A similar sensation that the sons of Mosiah and Alma experienced when the angel appeared to them.]; but behold, they did not fall. And behold, they that were in the prison were Lamanites and Nephites who were dissenters. [both white and brown skinned Lamanites]
28 And it came to pass that they were overshadowed with a cloud of darkness [They could not see what was happening, feeling confused and afraid as the Adversary attempted to gain control.], and an awful solemn fear came upon them.
In scripture when our natural man is unable to spiritually see into the spirit realm, it is considered the “cloud.”
29 And it came to pass that there came a voice as if it were above the cloud of darkness, saying: Repent ye, repent ye, and seek no more to destroy my servants whom I have sent unto you to declare good tidings. [They heard the voice of the Spirit of God speaking to each of them. As the words come forcefully to the mind, they sound like one’s own voice to a degree, yet is a distinct and unexpected signaling of a source beyond one’s own conscious.]
30 And it came to pass when they heard this voice, and beheld that it was not a voice of thunder, neither was it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but behold, it was a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul—
When the voice of the Spirit of God speaks to us it is usually subtle and gentle. It comes with perfect clarity and has an effect of stilling our mind. It may sound like our own voice, yet it is not. For those who live in as busy of a society as we do, it is important that we make room for this voice to have a place in our life.
31 And notwithstanding the mildness of the voice, behold the earth shook exceedingly, and the walls of the prison trembled again, as if it were about to tumble to the earth; and behold the cloud of darkness, which had overshadowed them, did not disperse—
They heard the good voice, yet were still encompassed by the fear and despair of the Adversary. Often in our great suffering we feel that God is close, yet we are encumbered by despair, discouragement, fear, and confusion. Watch how it is overcome in the coming verses.
32 And behold the voice came again, saying: Repent ye, repent ye, [Come unto me! Turn your hearts to me!] for the kingdom of heaven is at hand [Your opportunity to be saved is NOW.]; and seek no more to destroy my servants. And it came to pass that the earth shook again, and the walls trembled.
33 And also again the third time the voice came, and did speak unto them marvelous words which cannot be uttered by man; and the walls did tremble again, and the earth shook as if it were about to divide asunder. [What kind of marvelous words did God utter to them that cannot be shared? It was personal revelation to these men regarding their sins and what God would do for them.]
34 And it came to pass that the Lamanites could not flee because of the cloud of darkness which did overshadow them; yea, and also they were immovable because of the fear which did come upon them.
35 Now there was one among them who was a Nephite by birth, who had once belonged to the church of God but had dissented from them.
36 And it came to pass that he turned him about, and behold, he saw through the cloud of darkness the faces of Nephi and Lehi; and behold, they did shine exceedingly, even as the faces of angels. [His spiritual eyes were opened.] And he beheld that they did lift their eyes to heaven; and they were in the attitude as if talking or lifting their voices to some being whom they beheld. [Who do you think they saw? Were they not conversing with these beings within the pillar of fire? Had they not been so transfigure this could not have occurred. This is a glimpse of what occurs when someone converses with angels. Had it been an ascension to the Throne of Heaven they would have been still or laying down.]
37 And it came to pass that this man did cry unto the multitude, that they might turn and look. And behold, there was power given unto them that they did turn and look; and they did behold the faces of Nephi and Lehi.
38 And they said unto the man: Behold, what do all these things mean, and who is it with whom these men do converse?
39 Now the man’s name was Aminadab. And Aminadab said unto them: They do converse with the angels of God.
Before anything, these Lamanites began to exercise a small degree of faith. They began to believe, they beheld the glory of God and the administering of Angels.
40 And it came to pass that the Lamanites said unto him: What shall we do, that this cloud of darkness may be removed from overshadowing us? [Asking questions is always a preliminary step in receiving any gift of the Spirit.]
41 And Aminadab said unto them: You must repent [turn your heart to God], and cry unto the voice [a physical crying out to God], even until ye shall have faith in Christ [keep at it “until” you receive an answer], who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom [in Ammonihah years ago]; and when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you.
42 And it came to pass that they all did begin to cry unto the voice of him who had shaken the earth; yea, they did cry even until the cloud of darkness was dispersed.
There is great power in approaching the Lord as a group. Some of the greatest outpourings I’ve seen amongst people who have never experienced revelation, visions, prophecy, and healing (and other gifts), occurred in a group gathering. When the baptism of fire comes down upon an entire group it is electric and powerful.
43 And it came to pass that when they cast their eyes about, and saw that the cloud of darkness was dispersed from overshadowing them, behold, they saw that they were encircled about, yea every soul, by a pillar of fire. [This is a sign of having received the gift of the Holy Ghost. If one’s spiritual eyes are not open they will not see it. I have witnessed this on occasion and it appears as a twisting white flame, like plasma, just above the head or around the body.]
44 And Nephi and Lehi were in the midst of them; yea, they were encircled about; yea, they were as if in the midst of a flaming fire, yet it did harm them not, neither did it take hold upon the walls of the prison; and they were filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory. [Joseph Smith described something similar in one of his accounts of the First Vision, as the flames of glory appeared that they would consume the trees, yet they did not.]
45 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. [Another sign of the reception of the gift of the Holy Ghost, that they are given a new heart. It is white and pure, seen with the spiritual eyes. The disposition to do evil is burned away. Their words are spoken by the Spirit, often exhibiting the gift of prophecy and the words (voice) of angels. It is likely that one would shout out praises to God as they are overcome by the Spirit. This is a kind of display, but people may respond differently.]
46 And it came to pass that there came a voice unto them, yea, a pleasant voice, as if it were a whisper, saying:
47 Peace, peace be unto you, because of your faith in my Well Beloved, who was from the foundation of the world. [They received the first portion of the Holy Spirit of Promise, which comes from the Father. This is charity, and prepares them to receive all things.]
48 And now, when they heard this they cast up their eyes as if to behold from whence the voice came; and behold, they saw the heavens open; and angels came down out of heaven and ministered unto them. [Now their spiritual eyes are opened. It is important to see how their faith made this possible. They believed the words spoken to them. They acted upon what they had been told. They “cast up their eyes” believing that what they had heard was more than an epiphany, or some kind of random thought. They did not doubt. They did not question. They did not ask themselves if they were conjuring or using hypnotic suggestions. They simple looked, and the heavens opened.]
49 And there were about three hundred souls [the number 300 represents “chosen of God.] who saw and heard these things; and they were bidden to go forth and marvel not, neither should they doubt. [After such and experience it is common to doubt or wonder. Always seek a confirmation with the Lord, but when the witness is given do not ever doubt.]
50 And it came to pass that they did go forth, and did minister unto the people, declaring throughout all the regions round about all the things which they had heard and seen, insomuch that the more part of the Lamanites were convinced of them, because of the greatness of the evidences which they had received.
51 And as many as were convinced did lay down their weapons of war, and also their hatred and the tradition of their fathers.
52 And it came to pass that they did yield up unto the Nephites the lands of their possession.
What caused this great event to occur? This was the greatest unprecedented conversion that Nephi and Lehi, the sons of Helaman, had ever experienced. It their deepest suffering, while being forced to fast for numerous days, they prayed with great faith for the souls of their captors, the very people they had come to save, and the ones who wanted to kill them. The Lord came in their darkest hour, to anointed servants of the Most High fulfilling a sacred mission, and gave them the power to affect 300 Lamanites to their salvation. They didn’t know what to expect. They simply did as the Spirit commanded them.
In 3 Nephi 9:20 the Lord later revealed regarding this event:
“And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.” (3 Nephi 9:20)