Helaman 16:13-18 — LeGrand Baker — ‘it is not reasonable’
Prophets frequently express a sense of fear and deep concern—not for themselves but for others. In this chapter, as is often so, that fear is coupled with an acute sense of urgency.
Samuel the Lamanite had done what few prophets do: he had actually established a time when his prophecy would be fulfilled.
2 And behold, he said unto them: Behold, I give unto you a sign; for five years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God to redeem all those who shall believe on his name (Helaman 14:2).
Now, chapter 16 ticks of those five years one by one, and each shows a worse situation than the last.
The year after Samuel returned to his own people, there was already a sharp division among the Nephites “the more part of the people remaining in their pride and wickedness, and the lesser part walking more circumspectly before God (Helaman 16:10).”
The division became increasingly severe until just before the Savior was born. Positions were clearly definable between those who anticipated his birth, and those who taught “that it is not reasonable that such a being as a Christ shall come.”
As the apostasy became more deeply rooted in the attitudes of the majority, the Lord reenforced the righteous with great signs, wonders, and the testimonies of angels. The record reads:
13 But it came to pass in the ninetieth year of the reign of the judges, there were great signs given unto the people, and wonders; and the words of the prophets began to be fulfilled.
4 And angels did appear unto men, wise men, and did declare unto them glad tidings of great joy; thus in this year the scriptures began to be fulfilled.
15 Nevertheless, the people began to harden their hearts, all save it were the most believing part of them, both of the Nephites and also of the Lamanites, and began to depend upon their own strength and upon their own wisdom, saying:
16 Some things they may have guessed right, among so many; but behold, we know that all these great and marvelous works cannot come to pass, of which has been spoken.
17 And they began to reason and to contend among themselves, saying:
18 That it is not reasonable that such a being as a Christ shall come; if so, and he be the Son of God, the Father of heaven and of earth, as it has been spoken, why will he not show himself unto us as well as unto them who shall be at Jerusalem? (Helaman 16:13-18).
There is something for us to learn in all of this. We are living in a decaying society. The “Victorian morality” of our pioneer ancestors was a strange mix of moral rectitude and unabashed bigotry. Part of the bigotry has been displaced (slavery is no longer legal, women can vote, black Americans have legal full citizenship). Part of the excessive morality has been displaced also (women’s clothing does not have to be neck to ankles, men have lost absolute power in the family because their wives can own property and exercise other legal rights).
But our society is throwing out the baby with the bath water. The line between right and wrong is increasingly blurred: good is called evil and evil good. Bigotry and morality have been culturally redefined. In much of our society there is no standard of excellence. For some the Bible is an old fashioned book of outdated rules and the Constitution an irrelevant document.
Yet, just as in the Nephite society, as the bad got worse the good got better. There are 50,000 young men and women who are so devoted to the Lord that they choose to take two years out of their lives to serve missions. There are more than a hundred temples used by the righteous all over the world. As in the Book of Mormon, the Lord counterbalances evil by a more powerful good.
And the words of today’s prophets echo that same sense of urgency that we find in the words of Jeremiah, Lehi, Samuel the Lamanite, Nephi, Paul, Peter, and others who have watched the internal decay of their own society.
The message to us is clear: as we wade in this moas of conflicting ideals there is only one safe course —- follow the prophet !