Brant Gardner

Redaction: Mormon quotes a sermon out of historical sequence as a preface to Nephi’s missionary journey. Mormon has saved these instructions from Helaman2 because, as noted below, Helaman stresses “remember”—and the Nephites are forgetting their God. By quoting Helaman’s admonition, Mormon extends that message past his sons to all Nephites.

Literature: The unusual frequency of “remember” in this passage is a literary technique commented on by Ronald D. Anderson, part-time instructor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University:

According to Robert Alter, repetition of a word or phrase is one of the most common literary devices used in the narrative of the Bible. Martin Buber noted this stylistic element and called it Leitworter, a German word meaning “leading words,” “guide words,” or “theme words.” The Leitwort theory is that when a word, word-root, or phrase recurs significantly in a text, the reader is able to decipher or grasp the meaning of the text by noting these repetitions and thus can determine its theme as well. Alter further explained this repetition of key words or key phrases in a text, stating:
“Michael Fishbane [Nathan Cummings Professor of Jewish Studies in the Divinity School of the University of Chicago] discusses the phenomenon of Leitworter as follows: ‘One particular recurrent and transparent technique is the Leitwort (theme-word). Because Hebrew words are essentially built around triliteral stems, the same stem may recur in one and the same text in different nominal, verbal, and adjectival forms. Such repetition, where it occurs, give a text special texture; and it also serves to highlight major and minor features of content. A reader may thus be guided or provoked towards certain interpretations on the basis of theme-words recurrent in one or several texts which are thereby brought into association. And what applies to words is equally pertinent with respect to larger themes or motifs. Through such stylistic means, latent networks of intra- and inter-textual meaning may be perceived by an interpreter.’”
The main function of such Leitworter seems to be to express the principal theme of a story. The narrative thus provides its own interpretation by repetition of what is essential to its understanding.

Helaman’s emphasis on remembering is Mormon’s reason for quoting it here. The Nephites have forgotten Yahweh. They must remember. President Spencer W. Kimball noted: “When you look in the dictionary for the most important word, do you know what it is? It could be remember. Because all of you have made covenants—you know what to do and you know how to do it—our greatest need is to remember.… Remember is the word. Remember is the program.”

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 5