When God's People Strayed

The Nephites' Folly

The previous lesson of Nehemiah, Rebuild a Wall, Re-Find the Word, was a bright spot in the history of Israel: A beautiful illustration of the promise that when God's people stray, they can return in repentance and He will lavish blessings upon them.

The Book of Mormon also illustrates the blessings of a loving God upon His people. A clear lesson from the Book of Mormon is this:

keep the commandments and you will prosper;

break the commandments and you will not prosper.

Nearly every writer of the Nephites, Israelites (of Joseph's son Manasseh) who emigrated to the Americas, testified of these truths. Here is a sampling of scripture sharing those truths. The scriptures are somewhat repetitive, but that is the point. God repeats this promise repetitively to his people because He wants them to know His desire to bless them:

1 Nephi 1:116 And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying, That inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise.

2 Nephi 1:18 Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land;

2 Nephi 3:8 For the Lord God hath said, That inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land;

Jarom 1:22  But the word of the Lord was verified, which he spake unto our fathers, saying, That inasmuch as ye will keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land.

Omni 1:8 For the Lord would not suffer, after he had led them out of the land of Jerusalem, and kept and preserved them from falling into the hands of their enemies; yea, he would not suffer that the words should not be verified, which he spake unto our fathers, saying, That insomuch as ye will not keep my commandments, ye shall not prosper in the land.

Mosiah 1:12 And I would that ye should keep the commandments of God, that ye may prosper in the land, according to the promises which the Lord made unto our fathers.

Mosiah 1:55 And behold, all that he requires of you, is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments, ye should prosper in the land;

There are other writers who share the same clear message of wisdom. This wisdom was not confined to the time of the Nephites. Rather, it is an eternal principle granted to God's people anywhere, in any age. We in the latter day have access to the same blessings and power, and are subject to the same condemnation should we stray.

Notice Mosiah's emphasis, "All That He Requires Of You is to Keep His Commandments..." Telling, isn't it? Our commission as saints is to keep the commandments. At the end of the day, what else were we to do? Were we to keep our own ideas over God's commandments? As foolish as it sounds, that has nevertheless been the downfall of God's people.

While the cultures surrounding the Israelites in Israel could be blamed for part of their downfall, human lust knows no boundaries. Our own lust for things of the world constantly wars against the spirit. The Nephites rose to spiritual power and fell for many of the same reasons as their cousins across the sea.

But the Book of Mormon gives a chilling reason explaining why these Nephites fell: after God pours out the richest blessings upon His people, in the very day He blesses them, they forget the God who gave them.


It wouldn't be such a problem if God hated us. We wouldn't have to worry about these blesses we stumble over because they wouldn't exist. But we have a God who loves to bless His people spiritually and temporally:

1 Nephi 5:215 And it came to pass that they did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance.

Mosiah 1:88 And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. 89 For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual;

Mosiah 11:104 And the Lord did pour out his Spirit upon them, and they were blessed, and prospered in the land.

But those blessings come with a stern warning:

Mosiah 1:79 And now, I say unto you, my brethren, that after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if ye should transgress, and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in you to guide you in wisdom's path, that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved.

Mosiah 1:19 Yea, and moreover I say unto you, that if this highly favored people of the Lord should fall into transgression, and become a wicked and an adulterous people, that the Lord will deliver them up, that thereby they become weak, like unto their brethren;

So we get blessings because God loves us; we lose blessings and God's Spirit when we go contrary to His ways. The question to ask is whether a process existed that caused the downfall of God's people. The problem is not God's; rather, it is the peoples'. The God who loves to bless us, truly gives us our hearts' desires. Our problem is, once we receive those free gifts, we turn and consume those blessings upon our lusts for wealth, fame, things, instead of using those blessings to further the work and covenants of our God.

The real purpose of wealth, according to scripture, is to use it to do good works. But only after we've obtained a hope in Christ:

Jacob 2:24 And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ, ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them, for the intent to do good; to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick, and the afflicted.


At one point in history, the Nephites had been so blessed, and then corrupted themselves so badly, it took a Lamanite (Samuel the Lamanite) to admonish them in their wicked ways:

Helaman 5:30 Ye do not remember the Lord your God in the things which he hath blessed you, but ye do always remember your riches, not to thank the Lord your God for them;

The shame of our transgression as a people is clearly explained in this passage from Helaman Chapter 4. First, notice that in a few short years, people go from bad to really bad

Helaman 4:44 - Helaman 4:54

4:44 And in the eighty and second year, they began again to forget the Lord their God.

4:45 And in the eighty and third year, they began to wax strong in iniquity.

4:46 And in the eighty and fourth year, they did not mend their ways.

4:47 And it came to pass in the eighty and fifth year, they did wax stronger and stronger in their pride, and in their wickedness; and thus they were ripening again for destruction. And thus ended the eighty and fifth year.

In the four previous years, the people went from bad to ripe for destruction. Can we as a people ever fall as quickly?

Helaman's/Mormon's commentary follows with an apt description of the fallen Christian churchs' condition:

4:48 And thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men; yea, we can see that the Lord in his great infinite goodness, doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him;

4:49 Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people; yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks, and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of precious things of every kind, and art;

4:50 Sparing their lives, and delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; softening the hearts of their enemies, that they should not declare wars against them; yea, and in fine, doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people;

4:51 Yea, 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 exceeding great prosperity.


The remedy for God's people has always been that they get visited with peril and affliction to stir them up if they will not remember him.

4:52 And thus we see, that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death, and with terror, and with famine, and with all manner of pestilences, they will not remember him.

4:53 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;

4:54 Yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world; yea, how quick to be lifted up in pride; yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity;

Losing God's Light. How Does the Process Work?

An eternal principle is revealed describing the process by which God's people fall away, and there are many points to derive from that study.

First, the process of falling away rarely happens overnight; rather, it comes slowly, bit by bit, like the eroding of a river's edge.

Second, God's wrath does not come immediately. God is patient and long suffering, and does not willingly choose to afflict his people (Lamentations 3:33). But the problem here is that when God's people begin to slip into sin, it may be a slight breach of commandment, or entertaining a stray thought, there may not be any obvious consequent. Not that God allows sin to any degree, but his reprimand may not be obvious or apparent in any way. This may give the sinner false security that his infraction was "O. K." because "nothing bad happened." Nothing could be further from the truth.

Any sin starts us on the journey away from God. That is bad whether one realizes a direct punishment for it .Eternal diligence is required to stay on the straight and narrow. The Word of God must be constantly relied upon (not just the 'peace' mantra as did the prophets of Ahab) The principle to understand is that while we are free to make a choice in life, we are never free to choose the consequence of that choice.

The process of losing God's light is explained in this powerful passage:

Helaman 5:10 Therefore thus saith the Lord, Because of the hardness of the hearts of the people of the Nephites, except they repent I will take away my word from them, and I will withdraw my Spirit from them, and I will suffer them no longer, and I will turn the hearts of their brethren against them;

The above passage is one of the most revealing and telling scriptures available to us. We must learn this important lesson.

Notice the process? First iniquity comes. Hard hearts in this case. Because of iniquity, what is lost first? God's Word is taken from them. The Word of God is lost to the people. This doesn't mean that the books of scripture suddenly disappear (although that did happen in the Old Testament) But rather, the hearts of the people begin to not desire the Word anymore. Or at least the whole word. Selected scriptures may be emphasized repeatedly, with disregard for others.

Be careful if your church is dismissing the Word of God as given to it. It may be on this path. It can come by a denial of the scripture itself; it can come from a loss of inspired speaking. The people will drift into wanting the culture (for instance hours a day of television) and only minutes per month of God's word.

Second, God's Spirit is withdrawn. Without the Spirit, the gifts are lost, the power is lost, the blessings of old become just that--old stories of yesteryear

When the Spirit is lost, the while people are not sure what is happening. Groping for meaning, they just adhere to mantras of 'peace' and 'save the planet' and 'social justice.' All fine topics in and of themselves, but without the Spirit, these causes become 'busy work' ideas to preoccupy the people and mask the absence of the true Spirit of God.

Beware of signs such as these in the church. Paul warned of worshipping the creation over the creator (Romans 1:25 ) calling the same problem in his day 'a lie.' Jesus brings social justice when people bow to His ways, not by bowing to the demands of immoral ideas disguised as 'justice' demanded by the Godless culture surrounding the church. Certainly the Sodomites of the Old Testament demanded their equal rights within the church at some point, didn't they? Was God propelling the Sodomites cause? (Sodomites were male prostitutes in the old church). What causes are being propelled in the church today? Is God truly behind those causes?

The understanding to glean is that the biggest punishment God can inflict upon His people is the removal of His Word and His Spirit. Those are the biggest punishments, because without them we are lost. They are also the biggest blessings, and in their presence, everything else follows. Some would believe the loss of their temporal possessions would be the sign of punishment (oh God, please don't take my big screen T.V. As long as I have satellite television, I must be OK with God), but that is not true. The loss of temporal may happen long after His Word and Spirit are removed.

So what is the process of return? Coming back to The Word. Falling on ones knees in humility and repentance. Desiring nothing but the ways of God, even if those ways require sacrifice and suffering. That is the process always required of the church when it strayed in the past.


In light of the Nephite's folly, the question to ask is 'Have we been blessed with prosperity as were the Nephites?' If the answer is Yes, then are we using the blessings of the Lord to further the work of the Lord? Or, are we using those blessings for our own enjoyment. Furthermore, have those blessings caused us to turn our backs on God, and forget Him,as did the Nephites?

Helaman wrote that in the very day God blesses His people, they forget Him. The problem wasn't confined to the age of the Nephites.

When God's people stray, they lose His Word and His Spirit. Period. Every other peril they suffer is merely a symptom of that problem. Conversely, as we saw in Nehemiah's story, when God's people return to Him, they are blessed by His Word and His spirit. Likewise, every blessing is an outcropping from the presence of the same.

A Nephite descendant, Mormon, shares some chilling words for the people of the last days--a people forewarned about these perils--in the next lesson Mormon's Warning to the Latter Days.


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