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Relay of Faith: Helaman

Leaders of integrity or infamy found in The Book of Mormon provide the fodder for spiritual growth and self-improvement. It was made for us.

Who is Helaman

In the 19th year of the Reign of Judges, or judge leadership of the ancient Nephite democracy, (about 76 B.C.) Alma called a personal interview for his son Helaman. During this interview, Alma determined Helaman's allegiance to the teachings of the Church of Christ and his convictions about the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by Abinadi and handed down from high priest to high priest. It is significant because Helaman needed to continue the traditions of his fathers based on the belief that a Savior would come.

In this article, a profile of Helaman follows. This profile is one of several characterizations of Scriptural leaders to provide a connection to the reality of their existence as people and not just stories in a book.

Helaman was a missionary. He was on the errand of the prophet Alma when he received his first instructions regarding his own prophetic calling. As it appears from reading about most people in The Book of Mormon, Helaman was a young man full of potential who had to mature quickly during a time in Nephite history when turmoil seemed to be the rule of law.

Helaman is the son of Alma the Younger, who is the son of Alma the founder of the Church of Christ among the Nephites. Helaman was tasked with the opportunity to carry on the spiritual legacy of his grandfather.

Rendering of Helaman


A Little Family History & Culture

On the cusp of the defeat of the Lamanites in the nineteenth year (73 b.c.), an enemy that had vowed never to return to aggression, the Nephites turned their attention to the social needs of a recovering society. And they had much from which to recover. About the sixteenth year of the reign of Judges, the Nephites absorbed a group of refugees following a terrible conflict with the Lamanites. Thousands of Lamanites converted to the institution of Judaism based on the coming of Jesus Christ and sought to live their lives observing the Law of Moses until Christ fulfilled it. These new converts to the Church of Christ sought asylum among the Nephites. Public authorities provided for the welfare of these people, but it did create a cultural and social strain on the population.

Toward the end of the seventeenth year (75 b.c.) a self-identified antichrist entered the nation creating no small stir for the Church of Christ before he met an unfortunate end. Nephites were on a spiritual and cultural high due to the unyielding efforts of Alma and his supporters. Chief Captain Moroni offered all his devotion to the physical preparation of the Nephites to defend themselves against the Lamanites in the military. Prosperity blossomed with Alma's close relationship to the head of the civilian government and serving as the head of the Church of Christ.

Alma waged battle on a different front because the army that sought to destroy the Nephites that Alma prepared his armies against belonged to an evil source of inhuman nature, the devil, and his angels.

Nephite religious and cultural practices at that time hemmed on an understanding that the Law of Moses was a preparatory function of the higher manifestation of Christianity that would occur after the Atonement of Jesus Christ, one who had been prophesied for centuries among the Nephites.

The key to destroying any great society is to attack their guiding philosophies. Evil attacked the Nephite nation on all fronts--attacking the freedom of the Nephites, just like it attacks the freedom of democratic nations in modern times. God provided the Nephites with a warrior to thwart the physical destruction of the Nephites, but only because their spiritual resolve was high.

Alma, the son of Alma, had guided the cultural and religious aspects of the Nephites for decades. He was the chief judge, the highest civilian office in the land and similar to a US Supreme Court Justice. Alma relinquished his public service position so that he could devote all his efforts to serve the Church. He recommended that a man from the Church Nephihah take the position of Chief Judge, but still maintained a strong connection to civic activities.

During Chief Captain Moroni’s public administration, Alma was an older man. He had also to pass on the authority to officiate for the church, which he planned to bestow on his son, Helaman. It was a custom among the Nephites to pass not only offices of religion to their sons but public offices also—a nepotistic society. This type of culture created no small stir of ambitious men who wanted a piece of that power structure, a cultural climate that the Adversary used to his advantage.

Changing of the Guard

Alma the Younger, as Mormon, the author of the majority of The Book of Mormon referred to him, must have sensed his time among his people as high priest was drawing to a close, so he received the gratification of hearing his chosen son say when asked if he believed the teachings provided him his entire life and if he would keep them, “Yea, I believe all the words which thou hast spoken,” Alma 45:5. And “Yeah, I will keep thy commandments with all my heart,” Alma 45:7.

Helaman's spiritual affirmations came as a pleasure to Alma thinking back to his sordid past of rebellion against the gospel tradition. Though his road led eventually to salvation after many prayers on his behalf by the church, specifically his father Alma, the First, it was the product of a severe repentance process.

With Helaman, there would be no delicate process to endure before he could lead. Alma told Helaman of the struggle he had as a youth rebelling against the gospel with the warning to learn from his errors, and he did. The changing of the guardians of the Church of Christ would go smoothly. Alma the II, could have confidence that the records of the Nephites and the spiritual heritage started by Alma the First would not die.

Alma gave Helaman his charge of the church and blessed him, the church, and the land for righteousness' sake. Alma understood that Helaman faced an uphill battle due to his own revelations of the secret prophecies handed down from the days of Nephi centuries before. The prophecies were not to be revealed to the Nephites by command of God that the Nephite nation would be destroyed due to its rejection of the theological teaching of Jesus Christ four hundred years in Helaman’s future.

As the new high priest, Helaman had to bear the weight of that knowledge, while helping as many of his flock find peace and joy in the teachings that would listen.

He had his work cut out for him. Helaman had to reorganize the church’s leadership positions after he was installed. He called new priests and teachers throughout the nation just in time to witness a dissension rise within the government and without the church among the Nephites. With the prophecy of total destruction of the Nephites looming over his head, it is conceivable that he saw the division among his people with added apprehension.

© 2018 Rodric Anthony