Helaman 6:1-3

Brant Gardner

Nephi and Lehi have tremendous success among the Lamanites, perhaps paralleling, or even exceeding, the successes of the sons of Mosiah. Along with the historical information, Mormon includes this story because it is one of his themes that the Lamanites are capable of coming to the true faith. Where the picture of the Lamanites on the small plates is almost always negative, Mormon makes certain to include converted Lamanites, not infrequently with the idea that “their righteousness did exceed that of the Nephites.” Because Mormon was writing at the end of the Nephite nation, his hope for the reestablishment of the covenants of Israel among Lehi’s descendants lay with the Lamanites. Mormon does repeat the standard ethnocentric pejoratives associated with the Lamanites, but he also makes certain to include stories of Lamanite conversions.

The contrast between verses 1 and 2 with verse 3 is also a typical literary device. In verses 1 and 2, Mormon praises the Lamanites and, specifically in verse 2, declares that “there were many of the Nephites who had become hardened and impenitent and grossly wicked.” That paints a very dim picture of some of the Nephites. However, he contrasts that with verse 3, where he notes that, “nevertheless, the people of the church did have great joy because of the conversion of the Lamanites.”

Mormon makes a distinction between the people of the Nephites and the people of the church. This is more than part of a literary device. It is a continued underlining of the social, religious, and political divisions among the people of the Nephites. Those divisions have frequently festered into dissention.

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