I referred to this old National Geographic I just happened to pick up for one thing, but it is loaded with things, like this, for example. When the Aztecs came to the valley of Mexico, and I quote, "their cities' need for firewood was already denuding the valley of Mexico of trees. An epic famine . . ." We are going to have an epic famine here today, aren't we—great famines and deforestation? What we find is steadily advancing drought in these chapters of Helaman; it's very clearly indicated. All the clues are there, and they all fit together so beautifully, like this one: "An epic famine in the year one of the rabbit decimated the Mexican people. Their empire might well have fallen before they could employ the arts of the wheel or the bronze." We don't know about these other things.
But how about these merchants going around when they got prosperous? They learned a thing or two from the Nephites, started to make money, and got rich. Does that mean they had to be wicked? Here's a very interesting comment, "This was . . . the twin city of the Aztec capital and home of the great merchant traders. These men dressed in deceptively shabby clothes and traveled widely throughout the empire, serving as agents and spies in foreign domains and stealthily brought great riches home in their cargo canoes, arranging to arrive at night." There is something sinister and underhanded about the whole business, isn't there? Well, that's the nature of business; you have to put one over on the opposition. It's competitive, and when you are competing this is a very effective way. What a way of doing it! This is very interesting. In the Book of Mormon the implication is that they necessarily go bad when they start dealing in riches and being very successful. [They] dressed in deceptively shabby clothes, traveling as agents and spies—industrial and technical spies, among other things. They stealthily (why stealthily?) brought great riches in their cargo ships and barges and arranged to arrive at night, keeping it all secret even from their own people.
Well, this is the sort of thing we have in this marvelous book of Helaman, which is the dark book, the book of crime. Let's take chapter 11 of Helaman. After Nephi got out of prison and was delivered, he went on preaching. But it didn't do any good. Things got worse and worse. "And now it came to pass in the seventy and second year of the reign of the judges that the contentions did increase [things only got worse] insomuch that there were wars throughout all the land among all the people of Nephi. And it was this secret band of robbers who did carry on this work of destruction and wickedness."
We mentioned these robber bands before, of which there were many. They have dominated every century of the world. They were merchants too. They were acquiring gain. That was their purpose, power and gain, and they became immensely rich—like the Hospitalers, the Knights of Rhodes, the Knights of Malta, etc. The crusading knights formed sacred societies, very secret brotherhoods that ended up owning half the wealth of Europe. This happened not only there but also in every region of the earth.
Nephi saw the way it was going. This was very bad. He said, "O Lord, do not suffer that this people shall be destroyed by the sword [they had lost all control; when is a famine a blessing?]; but O Lord, rather let there be a famine in the land, to stir them up [to repentance]. . . . And so it was done." There was a great famine. We mentioned a great famine here [in Mexico]. It tells us what the famine was due to, not enough rain. It tells us in verse 6 that it was drouth; they were going into a dry period. These famines can be absolutely devastating. We saw this in Africa two or three years ago. Entire areas of Ethiopia were just wiped out. They had nothing to eat. They would wander for hundreds of miles trying to find a little food. They would drop like flies and whole districts would be wiped out. It's the same thing here. Verse 5: "The work of destruction did cease by the sword but became sore by famine. . . . For the earth was smitten that it was dry, and did not yield forth grain in the season of grain; and the whole earth was smitten, even among the Lamanites as well as among the Nephites, so that they were smitten that they did perish by thousands" as in vast areas of Africa. And it has happened in Europe; there was a great famine in the year 1000. There have been famines that practically wiped out the population of Europe because they had no way of bringing in food. There was the great Chinese famine of the early 1900s. These periodic famines are part of human history, but this was a "beauty."
Now they began to remember their Lord. This is an interesting thing. What is the obsession with the Southwest Indians, the Pueblos and all those others? It's rain—they are always dancing for rain. Look at the place where they live. What would they think about rain? If it doesn't rain the Hopis are absolutely finished. Remember, in all the reservation there they have no running stream. You have to go all the way to Gallup for baptisms. In the Hopi villages they can't baptize. Old Araibi is the only place where there is enough water. Well, there is a sacred spring at the Twin Rocks of the Second Mesa. There is the Jacob's well at old Araibi, but the water there is so foul it can't be drunk. Missionaries always get into trouble when they go down there and try to drink that water. There is not enough water to drink. It has to be brought up from a very few springs by the women in jars on their heads, up to the top of the mesa on the trails. They have to go a great distance to baptize, to Gallup or someplace like that. They are always thinking of that. It's a great concern with them. How do they expect to live? Well, you know how they live. What they do is take five kernels of corn and stick them down twenty inches into the ground with a stick. They just leave them there and hope there will be enough ground water. It has to be in the bottom of a dry wash; Denebito Wash, the great wash there, is where most of the corn comes from. They just stick it down and hope it will grow up. One stock will grow up about eighteen inches and no higher. It will have one ear of corn on it. I've never seen them with more than two ears. It's exotic corn in various colors, all blue, black and white, and everything. They take them and pile them carefully like wood. Everybody knows where the ears of corn came from, and they have it all to share. How they can survive on that is amazing. We couldn't do it at all, and yet they flourish. They are not exactly rolling in luxury or anything like that, but they say it is good for them because it has taught them to live more soberly and more righteously than they did before.
They [the Nephites] began to remember their Lord because this is it—you are always dependent on him. If it wasn't for the sky and the Lord sending rain, you wouldn't last at all. Of course, it's the same thing in Israel. At the end of Zechariah at says [Zechariah 14:17]: "And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain." That is the ultimate curse. That's why you had to go to the temple. That's the meaning of the word liturgy, a prayer for rain. The Romans had it way back in prehistoric times. It had to be done barefooted. All the people would come to pray. The liturgy is done in churches today because it is one in which the congregation, the clergy, and various groups share. It is divided up. They say a line and then the priest or the bishop says a line. It is antiphonal, back and forth. I have been to some liturgies in Germany. The priest will read a line of prayer, and then the people will say, "Hear us." Then the priest will read on. This is done when there is no rain, and they do it in the Romanesque cathedral in Worms. So that's a liturgy. Its original idea is this prayer for rain, but it is an obsession with the human race because our livelihood depends on it. Look what happens.
What about these great foundations of the Southwest, like Gran Chaco? Suddenly they disappeared. They were huge things. The only answer is that they dried up; there was nothing to live on. What about the Anasazi? They were everywhere around here, and all of a sudden they were no longer there. This disappearing in the New World is a strange thing. It's peculiar to the Book of Mormon promises. You don't find that in the Old World. People hang on; they suffer, but they hang on. They don't hang on here; they just vanish.
So we have these litanies. Notice, the chief judges said unto Nephi, "Behold, we know that thou art a man of God, and therefore cry unto the Lord." So they asked the leader to cry unto the Lord, and they were required to join into it, because they came in sackcloth and entered into the thing. It's very much like a rain dance which is performed very faithfully. It has to be. Right now, down at Brianhead they are having Indian rain dances because they want it to snow for the skiing down there. They hire the Indians to come in and dance for the snow, and it always has results apparently. They are doing it right today. They are having a dance to make it snow down at Brianhead for business.
Verse 9: "When Nephi saw that the people had repented and did humble themselves in sackcloth [so the people were together in this ordinance], he cried again unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, behold this people repenteth; and they have swept away the band of Gadianton. . . . They have become extinct, and they have concealed their secret plans in the earth [in other words they have gone underground]. Now, O Lord, because of this their humility wilt thou turn away thine anger. . . . O Lord, wilt thou hearken unto me . . . and send forth rain upon the face of the earth, that she may bring forth her fruit, and her grain in the season of grain."
Question: Nephi said that they had become extinct and they had concealed their secret plans in the earth. You said that meant they went underground? Answer: I mean they literally went underground if they buried their secrets in the earth. They will dig them up later on—don't worry. These things are hid and dug up. You find them. They put them in caves and their sacred places. If you go near those places, you are in real danger because those places are carefully guarded. They have all sorts of things in them. I had quite an adventure in one where you would never expect there was anything at all. They had the whole thing down underground.
Verse 15: "Yea, O Lord, and thou seest that they have repented, because of the famine and the pestilence [so that was necessary, the one thing that could force them]. . . . The Lord did turn away his anger from the people, and caused that rain should fall upon the earth." In nearly all the dances they [Indians] accompany themselves with the scratchy scratch that goes this way, and the drums that rattle. That's the sound of rain, and this is the sound of thunder. They are always imitating rain sounds, thunder sounds, and wind sounds. No matter what the dance, rain is the main theme. They have a dance every weekend.
So it happened. Verse 18: "And the people did rejoice and glorify God, and the whole face of the land was filled with rejoicing. [Lehi, Nephi's brother, was just as diligent as Nephi was in this]. . . . The people of Nephi began to prosper again [uh oh, here it comes] in the land, and began to build up their waste places." This building is a constant activity with them.
At the turn of the twentieth century and just before that, because of the threat that came from the Spanish, the Aztecs, and the Apaches that came in, [the Hopis moved]. All the twelve villages where the Hopis are located today are new. Walpi is ancient, and First Mesa is ancient, but most of them are new. These villages that look so ancient go back to 1900–1906. The villages they came from are standing, but they are ruins now. They moved all at once. They didn't hesitate to move from their ancestral home. They didn't have to move far. Because of the threat that was there, they all moved up to the tops of the mesas. But that wasn't hundreds of years ago; that was quite recently. They are ready to move at a moment's notice; that's a surprising thing. We call them Pueblos, the city Indians, because they are stable. The cities have been there a long time. Sister Theresa Harvey's house has been there for 800 years, since the eleventh century. But they are ready to move whenever they are supposed to. This is the way they do.
"They did multiply and they did cover the whole face of the land, both northward and southward, from the sea west to the sea east." They are still down in the narrow peninsula there. It's a relatively small area, one would suppose. And the church spread among the Nephites and the Lamanites. There were a few contentions on points of doctrine. [Then there was] much strife, Nephi and Lehi having many revelations daily. They preached and put an end to the strife that same year. Then there was a certain number of dissenters who had gone over to the Lamanites. Here is the race question again. They were always mixing themselves up together; there was no distinction. They had "gone over unto the Lamanites, and taken upon themselves the name of Lamanites." Well, that made them Lamanites.
Now there's a new technique here. This is the robbers' roost technique. Utah has a number of nice robbers' roosts, doesn't it? There's one out by Helper. There is one in Capitol Reef, which has Butch Cassidy's name—Butch is spelled out in bullet [holes] on the wall up at the big arch there, when you go back on the trail. There's one in southern Utah. There are lots of robbers' roosts.
Brother Swapp lived right around the corner from me. He was a gigantic man, about seven feet tall. I was his home teacher for years. He used to be the sheriff in Price and in Bluff, of all places. He knew Butch Cassidy very well. They got along famously together. He knew my grandfather very well. My grandfather used to drive down there with a horse and buggy on church and other business. He would drive along with Brother Swapp, and Brother Swapp still remembered all these things that went on. How could these people [the robbers] get away with it? All they had to do was drop back into [the canyons], before they filled [the lake behind] the dam at Glen Canyon and others down south. There's Lake Mead and [Lake Powell]. There were all sorts of places to hide down there, all these little nooks and crannies. Well, you know how it is in the red-rock country. I can remember when very little of it had been explored at all. It was absolutely unknown quite recently. So they would fall back in those, and the Indians still do. The One-Horn and the Two-Horn tribes of the societies hide out there.
These bands of robbers play an important role. This is a technique peculiar to the terrain; they can use it by falling back in these places. Notice verse 25: "And they did commit murder and plunder; and then they would retreat back into the mountains, and into the wilderness and secret places, hiding themselves, . . . receiving daily an addition to their numbers." Well, what opera do you think of there? It's act two of Carmen. The robbers hide out in the mountains, and Carmen plays with the cards—the doom motif. The robbers are hiding out in the mountains, and everything is very secret and hush-hush. Robbers hide out in the mountains of Italy, Sicily, Spain, and Portugal, and in the hills of Scotland. You know the famous Rob Roy and the Sonny Bean family. They were famous ship wreckers. They made themselves rich in the most vicious ways, and always hid out in the highlands. There was no place you could trace them. This has been a technique for which the earth's terrain provides a sort of protection. This isn't just the big city operations—these are specialties. We talked about the Seths, the Riffs, the Vitalian Brethren, the Algerian pirates, the Vikings, the Free Companies, the Bedu, and the Assassins. They all worked in different ways, but this particular technique has been highly developed by some of the Southwest Indians, the robbers' roost technique of the Freebooters. They defied whole armies.
In 1070 A.D. al-Duruzī was the leader of a robber band in Egypt, and he was driven out. So he retreated to South Lebanon and discovered there this marvelous place just like Rock Canyon [near BYU]. They are very steep mountains, which are terraced now, with lots of deep crevices, ravines, and places to hide in. They hid out there in South Lebanon and have been there ever since, known as the Druze. They are very dangerous. I've always wanted to visit the Druze, and I was able to with President Barnes of American University in Beirut years ago. We spent some time up there because he was very popular with them; he got along with them famously. I found out some very interesting things about the Druze. They always intermarry. They are very suspicious. They are beautiful people and are nearly all redheads, showing that they are intermarried. They are the fiercest fighters in the East and completely independent, living in these mountains. Everybody is afraid of them. They can sell their services to Israel or to Islam as they please. There are some interesting things about them. They go way back to early times.
A few years later from the East the Old Man of the Mountain moved into the mountains. He was Ḥassan ibn al-Sabbaḥ, a Persian. He settled at Alamut, which was on a mountain east of there. From there he terrorized all of Europe and everywhere, sending out his assassins. These kids were hopped up with [hashish]. The idea is to have a base or hiding place in the mountains. Incidentally, they [the hiding places] are still being used quite effectively in some parts of southeastern Utah and northern Arizona. I've gone into some of them. Several years ago on March 15, the night of the havawuhti, [I was there]. That's a very important thing. They have no lights; everything is in the dark. If they catch you out there, they will say, "Who are you?" You reply, "I am myself." There are the two societies. The One-Horn society is very sinister and dangerous. Look out for them; they can do anything they want. The Two-Horn society is benevolent and tries to protect you from the One-Horn society. They try to get there first because the One-Horns mean to do damage. They mean mischief.
Question: Are these Lamanite people? Answer: Well, they are Lamanites and Nephites, all this mixture. Of course, they're as near as you can get to Lamanites. Remember, all we've been getting is a mixture. These people we were talking about here [Helaman 11:24] had gone over to the Lamanites and taken upon them the name of Lamanites. These were the people who were plundering. They were Nephites who joined Lamanites. They were all mixed up together. And it's interesting that the Southwest Indians, these Pueblo Indians, are the most citified and were always identified by the early Brethren as Nephites. Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, and Jacob Hamblin always recognized them as Nephites, because of their customs.
They [the robbers] were able to hold their own. Helaman 11:28: "Therefore they sent an army of strong men into the wilderness and upon the mountains to search out this band of robbers." They thought that would take care of them, but it didn't work. They were driven back. (Well, remember the story of Spartacus and the [rebels in Rome]. They hid out for a long time in the crater of Vesuvius. That was their hideout, but it wasn't a secret hideout. People knew where it was then. There they held their own against Roman armies.) Then they did go forth again and destroyed many of them, but they didn't get rid of them. Verse 32: "And it came to pass that thus ended this year. And the robbers did still increase and wax strong [this is like Medell’n now; we are going to see the same thing there], insomuch that they did defy the whole armies of the Nephites, and also of the Lamanites." This bands of robbers could do it, like the Jomsburg. They were the armies [in their opinion]; they were just the other side. "Yea, for they did visit many parts of the land, and did do great destruction unto them [this was a standard practice in the later years among the ones we call 'the wild Indians'] yea, did kill many, and did carry away others captive into the wilderness."
[As mentioned before,] in the thirteenth century the Old Man of the Mountain got established with his assassin organization and the Druze got established almost at the same time, and the militant orders of the Crusades got established. They were just as sinister, greedy, and dangerous [as the others]. They fought each other. After [these organizations] were established, then came the "big boys." In the middle of the thirteenth century came Hulagu and the Mongols. They just wiped out everything. When he came to Baghdad, which was a flourishing city of the Abbasids then at its peak, they killed everybody in the city. These people were systematic. These things going on aren't very pleasant, are they?
They [the Gadiantons] carried them away captive, especially women and children, both for ransom and to keep and build up the numbers and strength of their empire. (That's the way Genghis Khan and the great Khans did; they just sucked them up like a vacuum cleaner so they could count them among their people.) This great evil did finally stir up the people to remembrance. Well, hadn't the drought done that enough? No, it had to be this. When they got on top of the drought, they got the gangs and raids here. It didn't do any good though. In verse 36 the needle is stuck in the same old groove again. "They began again to forget the Lord their God. And . . . they began to wax strong in iniquity. . . . They did not mend their ways. . . . They did wax stronger and stronger in their pride."
What do you conclude from this? Do we have to repeat this so often? That's exactly what Nephi asks in the next chapter. Chapter 12 is wisdom literature. This is a unique and very striking chapter, a typical chapter of ancient literature. It's called the "lamentation or wisdom literature." The most reliable sources we have from Egypt and Babylonia are the lamentation literature. Lambert collected the Babylonian lamentation literature. The literature of the Egyptians is more famous. It goes right back to the beginning, to the earliest times. It's always a man lamenting that the people have no wisdom at all. It's that people are just damn fools is the point. Will they ever get any sense? As Isabella says in Measure for Measure:
Could great men thunder[Jove uses his bolt for objects worthy of it, but the high officials use all their power on weaker people. They work on the soft myrtle.]
As Jove himself does, Jove would ne'er be quiet,
For every pelting petty officer
Would use his heaven for thunder: nothing but thunder.
Thou rather, with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt,
Splitt'st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak
Than the soft myrtle;
but man, proud man![He thinks himself everything.]
Dress'd in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he's most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,[A senseless prancing and display before a mirror]
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,
Would all themselves laugh mortal.
Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, act II, scene 2
They would laugh silly if angels could laugh at seeing what we do.
This is the story we have here [in Helaman 12]: "And thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men; [he lays down a law of human nature or human condition here]. . . . We may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people . . . then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One—yea, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity." Why must it do that to them, and why must they be clamoring for more ease and prosperity? Are we the exception?
Verse 3: "Except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions [they just had a major drought and a crime wave that practically wiped everybody out, then civil war; they are having an awful time—unless that sort of thing happens what do they do?] yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him." Now comes the reflection on human nature. This is a soliloquy, a simple statement of fact: "O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men [there's a nice reflection on human nature]; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world!" Here we are again.
Incidentally, where this lamentation and wisdom literature reaches its peak in Hebrew is in the book of Ecclesiastes. The wisdom literature of the Hebrews is very close to the Egyptian. They quote from each other as a matter of fact. The Wisdom of Solomon and the Wisdom of Amenemhet overlap each other. The latter is a thousand years older. They say the same thing. The human race is just this way, and it's always going to be this way. Since the beginning of the world it has never gotten any better. "Yea, how quick to be lifted up in pride; yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity; and how slow are they to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels, yea, how slow to walk in wisdom's paths!" See this is wisdom literature. This should be capitalized, I suppose. I'll see if it is in an earlier edition of the Book of Mormon. That's the Ḥokhmāh literature of the Hebrews. They always capitalize Wisdom in the Hebrew writings, as if it were a person. And that's so in the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price, too. It's Wisdom and her children.
Verse 6: "Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them." He has given them the law of consecration, for example, and they don't want it. They won't have anything to do with it. The minute you mention it, they will immediately come up with arguments against it. If they liked it they wouldn't do that. "Notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide. [It climaxes in this; Hamlet says the same thing:] O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth."
What a piece of work is a man! . . . in action how like
an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of
the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what
is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me; no,
nor woman neither.
Shakespeare, Hamlet, act II, scene 2
After [Hamlet says] all these wonderful things about what man is, yet he is nothing at all. It's the same thing here. He could have been all these other things, but no—he is nothing. The children of men are nothing. They are less than the dust because the dust obeys. This is a standard statement of wisdom literature. The stars in their courses and all nature obey God's commands. All nature works together. Everything is fitted into a single system, so we have the basic idea of ecology. Everything is there that should be. The predators are there and all the other things are there, the plants and the animals. Everything fits in and works together, except man works against it. Man is the only one who can break up the ecological chain and wreck everything, which, of course, we are doing on a massive scale today. For this reason: The dust of the earth moves hither and thither and remembers. "Yea, behold at his voice do the hills and the mountains tremble and quake." See, all nature obeys what God wants, so all nature is running the same way on the freeway, so to speak. Man alone wants to run in the opposite direction, so he thinks nature is fighting him. He thinks fate is against him. He thinks God is cruel because of these things. How cruel is life! How unjust is life! And we are the ones who are making all the trouble.
Verse 10: "And by the power of his voice they are broken up, and become smooth. . . . By the power of his voice doth the whole earth shake, . . . the foundations rock." Notice, this is all prearranged. It is all timed, so it is by a powerful arrangement. It is on certain principles that have already been set forth, and it does happen. Then there's a very interesting thing. In the wisdom literature a bit of cosmology always comes in, because man has to be fitted into the big picture. Here it comes; he is going to give us some astronomy here [in verse 15]: "And thus, according to his word the earth goeth back, and it appeareth unto man that the sun standeth still; yea, and behold, this is so; for surely it is the earth that moveth and not the sun."
He puts in these little notes with much behind them—ignored subjects like the elements in the rigid editing of the Book of Mormon. We are not going to go into cosmological discourses here, but you can be sure that the Nephites were very much concerned with those things. You won't find astronomical discussions where you expect them in any of the wisdom literature, but then they will come out with something [saying] that man has to work with other things. [Saying that it's] "the earth that moveth and not the sun" shows that he is up on things. He's going to treat this [subject] in verse 18 a little later on. "And behold, if a man hide up a treasure in the earth, and the Lord shall say—Let it be accursed, because of [his] iniquity . . . it shall be accursed." This often happens.
Verse 26: "Yea, who shall be consigned to a state of endless misery, fulfilling the words which say: [What words is he talking about? Well, he is quoting the Memphite code here, the oldest document in existence, the Shabako Stone, which says] They that have done good shall have everlasting life; and they that have done evil shall have everlasting damnation." He tells us he is quoting from the old source here. They are not his words. It fulfills certain words he is quoting here, and you will find the same words in the Memphite text, which we won't go into. It's too long. We have to hurry up to get through with Helaman now.
There is a complete reversal between Nephites and Lamanites here [Helaman 13:1]. Then here's another great episode with Samuel the Lamanite and his preaching. The Nephites remained wicked "while the Lamanites did observe strictly to keep the commandments of God, according to the law of Moses [remember, they are still keeping the law of Moses; that's something]. . . . There was one Samuel, a Lamanite, came into the land of Zarahemla, and began to preach unto the people [that's turning the tables, isn't it?]. . . . Behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him, that he should . . . prophesy unto the people whatsoever things should come into his heart [well, he is persona non grata; they don't want him]. . . . They would not suffer that he should enter into the city; therefore he went and got upon the wall." We have that absurd picture of Arnold Friberg, where he is on a 150-foot wall with a howling wind going, and he is yelling. Of course, nobody could hear a sound from there. The archers are trying to shoot at him at that vast distance. They didn't need walls that high; it's ridiculous. Well, it's dramatic; that sort of thing is good for candy box covers and things like that.
He spoke "whatsoever things the Lord put into his heart." Inspiration is unforced; just let it flow freely. That's exactly the way Solon begins his work of wisdom, which revolutionized the Athenian society. [Samuel said], "the sword of justice hangeth over this people." The same expression is used in Mormon [8:39-41] when it talks about people of our day: "Yea, why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not? . . . Behold the sword of vengeance hangeth over you." It will soon fall to your utter destruction. Helaman: 13:6: "Yea, heavy destruction awaiteth this people [nothing but repentance can save them] And behold, an angel of the Lord hath declared it unto me [an angel again], and he did bring glad tidings to my soul. And behold, I was sent unto you to declare it unto you also, . . . but behold ye would not receive me. Therefore, thus saith the Lord . . . I will take away my word from them. . . . I will suffer them no longer." But then in verse 10 he says "the fourth generation." If we have to wait four generations, that doesn't bother us now; we'll cross that road when we get to it [the people thought]. As Scarlet O'Hara said, "I'll think about that tomorrow." Verse 10: "And there shall be those of the fourth generation who shall live, of your enemies, to behold your utter destruction. [This is just about the time of the birth of Christ, and he is talking about the destruction at Cumorah.] . . . and this shall surely come except ye repent, saith the Lord; and those of the fourth generation shall visit your destruction."
Well, "Après nous le déluge" (after us comes the flood). But that's after us, as the French nobility [under Louis XV] used to say when they were enjoying themselves and getting away with everything. Verse 12: "Yea, wo unto this great city of Zarahemla; for behold, it is because of those who are righteous that it is saved." That's a basic principle of the Talmud. In Sodom and Gomorrah the Lord spares the wicked [for a while] only for the sake of a few righteous. Verse 14: "But behold, it is for the righteous sake that it is spared. . . . When ye shall cast out the righteous from among you, then shall ye be ripe for destruction." When the people in the states cast out the Saints, they were ripe for the Civil War, Brigham Young used to say. And what a destruction that was! "Yea, and wo be unto the city of Gideon [wo be unto all the cities of the Nephites]; . . . a curse shall come upon the land." He really pours it on here.
Now we have a very interesting thing because of the Copper Scrolls. That's 1Q4, the Copper Scroll from the fourth cave of Qumran. Among the Dead Sea Scrolls records was a scroll on bronze plates—just regular sheets, but they were riveted together and then rolled up so they could put them away that way, rather than put them as plates. Each one has three holes to rivet them together that could have been used for rings if they were plates. But they riveted them together and rolled them up. These metal plates were particularly important because they [the people of Qumran] wanted to have these records preserved against all danger and chance of destruction. They gave the information as to where all the other records were hidden. Not only that, but especially where the treasures were hidden. There were treasures under the tile in a certain public place, treasures under the sewer at the temple—at certain streets and corners. It tells us where these things are buried and where to get them. They are great treasures, and they are the treasures that people were hiding up when they were leaving Jerusalem in 70, 130, and 135 A.D. They had to get out and couldn't take their treasures, so they hid them. They hid them up so they could get them back, and this [the Copper Scroll] tells you where to go if you want your treasures back. But only on one condition. They shall be used only for the temple; you can never use them for yourself again. They have been hidden up unto the Lord; they are his now. You can't get them back. Of course, what the people really had in mind was getting them back for themselves. This is exactly what we are referring to here [in verse 18.] When you hide up your treasures with the idea that you will return later, you must hide them up unto the Lord or you will never get them back again. If you get them back and dedicate them to the Lord, that's fine; you get credit. You are expected to do that in Israel anyway, so you are not losing. You are hiding up that treasure. It's yours, but you are getting it back as you should get it back.
Verse 19: "For I will, saith the Lord, that they shall hide up their treasures unto me; and cursed be they who hide not up their treasures unto me [notice how he emphasized this]; for none hideth up their treasures unto me save it be the righteous; and he that hideth not up his treasures unto me, cursed is he, and also the treasure, and none shall redeem it because of the curse of the land." There has been an edited work on this about the treasures. The great Copper Scroll was edited by John Allegro, but we don't have time for it. They were writing on plates, and the writer didn't like it. His fingers had hard work. He complained and broke down, and the symbols become sloppy—just as people who wrote on plates for the Book of Mormon said, if we could only have written Hebrew it would have been much better, but our hands are clumsy. It's painful to write on these plates, etc. They had to write on the plates to preserve them. Verse 20: "And the day shall come that they shall hide up their treasures, because they have set their hearts upon riches [see, they want to go back and get their treasures again—watch out for that]; and because they have set their hearts upon their riches, and will hide up their treasures when they shall flee before their enemies." That's the whole thing; that's why they were hiding these in the Jerusalem story. That's the real history. We actually have the documents today. As they left Jerusalem they hid their treasures, hoping to come back and get them. But the specific statement in the Copper Scroll is: All these are reserved for use in the temple and in the ordinances, and you can't use them for your private purpose. They have been dedicated from now on. "Because they will not hide them up unto me, cursed be they and also their treasures; and in that day shall they be smitten, saith the Lord."
Here is the old routine again in verse 21: "Ye are cursed because of your riches, and also are your riches because ye have set your hearts upon them [that's what cursed them], and have not hearkened unto the words of him who gave them unto you [the economy is all, you see]. Ye do not remember the Lord your God, . . . but ye do always remember your riches." You are always thinking of the economy. There have been other societies like ours, I suppose, that have been completely absorbed in the economy. It's not a particular society; it's a stage of development in a society, which we would call atē—the last stage when they think of nothing but the economy, nothing but the stuff they have, nothing but the perishables. They've got to perish; these things can't last, you know. They [people in such a society] are in a very bad state. "Yea, your hearts are not drawn out unto the Lord, but they do swell with great pride, unto boasting, and unto great swelling, envyings, strifes, malice, persecutions, and murders [it leads to that—this is your prime-time mix again]. . . . For this cause hath the Lord God caused that a curse should come upon the land, and also upon your riches, and this because of your iniquities." This is a curse on the promised land, you see.
Now we come to a very important thing. It looks just like routine platitudes about self-righteousness and the like, but this is a very, very important principle that we overlook. Especially today it should be emphasized, namely this: "And now when ye talk, ye say: If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out. Behold ye are worse than they." Then he talks about this self-righteousness. This is the great obstacle to repentance here; it's the beautiful self-image which we cultivate today. It's the unbreachable wall—no criticism or questioning can penetrate it. You don't have to bring specific charges or anything. You are just sweetness and light. You see it in Iago. Iago is the worst of Shakespeare's villains, and yet he is the most upright. He is always moralizing. He is absolutely convinced of his own righteousness and superiority. He is doing just what's right; he means no wrong to anybody. And in Tartuffe the idea is that the worst possible villain is the most righteous appearing person. He has the most glorious self-image. Remember, with the Lord the worst of them all are those that broaden their phylacteries, love the high places in the banquets and the greetings in the market place, "Good morning, Rabbi"—spreading out their pious ways. They are the worst of them all. [He called them] hypocrites. The worst of those in the Book of Mormon are typical, such as the Zoramites. In Alma 31 we get them. There are many examples here, but this is the point. They are the worst who think they are the best. Alma 31:18: "And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people." Then skip over to verse 28: "Behold, O my God, their costly apparel, and their ringlets, and their bracelets, and their ornaments of gold, and all their precious things which they are ornamented with; and behold, their hearts are set upon them, and yet they cry unto thee and say—We thank thee, O God, for we are a chosen people unto thee, while others shall perish. . . . O Lord God, how long wilt thou suffer that such wickedness and iniquity shall be among this people? O Lord, wilt thou give me strength, that I may bear with mine infirmities."
This is the worst thing you can find, and they were great people too. They were courageous. They were very neat; they had high dress standards. Remember, the people couldn't get into the meetings without them. They were always talking about their righteousness. They were very clever dissenters and very prosperous. This is the kind of people they were. It goes on here, this holy, holy, holy, we believe thou art God. Every Sunday they would come and bear their testimony. "Thou hast separated us from our brethren. Thou has elected us to be thy holy children." Well, what an image they have of themselves! "Behold thou art the same yesterday and today. We thank thee that thou hast elected us." So this is the best possible defense you can have against repentance, and it's the hardest wall to penetrate, once people get this idea. The Zoramites had it. As Joseph Smith said, "Let no man proclaim his own righteousness." That's one of the greatest dangers to Latter-day Saints because we have been blessed, and the Lord recognizes us. There's a reason for thinking that we are pretty good, but look out for that because look what happens. Then there's this other thing, the prosperity. That's what is going to wreck it all.
Now, here's a very good one, a nice culture note here in the verse 26: "Behold ye are worse than they. . . . If a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him."
"Don't tell us what's wrong with America; tell us what's right with America," as Brother Marriott used to say. Well, when you go to the doctor, he says, "You're fine. Your eyesight is 20/20; your digestion is fine; your complexion is good; your teeth are in good condition." As you leave the office, he says, "By the way, you have an advanced cancer of the spleen." He hadn't told you that. Well, you don't come to the doctor to find out what is right with you; you come to find out what is wrong with you. The physician is not sent to the well, as the Lord said, but he is sent to the sick. We don't want that. If he comes and tells you what is wrong with you, "you will say that he is a false prophet, [you don't want to hear what's wrong with you, naturally], and that he is a sinner, and of the devil" and you throw him out. But if a man shall say: "Do this, and there is no iniquity [it's all right]; do that and ye shall not suffer. . . . Walk after the pride of your own hearts [that sounds a lot like standing tall, doesn't it?] . . . and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet."
Then there is a very interesting thing here. The only surviving book from the Mayan civilization of Central America is the Chilam Balam. It tells us that when a man was acclaimed as a prophet, the people would dress him in fine apparel, put him on a sedan chair, lift him up and carry him around town on their shoulders. That is exactly what happens here. If he tells you what you want to hear, "ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance, . . . of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him." Well, this is a picture from the Chilam Balam. The prophet is accepted. He is dressed in fine apparel. You notice the outrageous overdressing of these people. They put him on a sedan chair, lift him up and carry him around town. Well, every word of this rings true. Alas, alas that it should be so. "Yea, how long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides?"
I thought we would get through with Helaman, but we don't want to skip any of these goodies here. We'll take up here the next time. We have six more times; we can cover some ground in that time.