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Consider the immanent gravity of the familial, societal, political, and spiritual circumstances during a particularly difficult time in Nephite history. Mormon writes of the repetitive transition of the people from righteousness to unrighteousness and back again from the fortieth year of the reign of the judges to the ninety-first year, a period of approximately fifty years. During the first several years of this period, Mormon records the following significant events.
A man by the name of Pahoran, son of Pahoran, was appointed by the voice of the Nephite people to be chief judge and a governor of the people following his father’s death. Paanchi, brother to Pahoran the younger, “was exceedingly wroth” that he was not appointed, began to lead an uprising, “was tried according to the voice of the people, and condemned unto death.”
Not long thereafter, Pahoran was murdered as he sat upon the judgment- seat by Kishkumen, the leader of a secret band of Nephites. Kishkumen was in disguise at the time and fled without being captured. Pacumeni, another of Pahoran’s brothers, was then appointed by the voice of the people to be chief judge and a governor. All of this occurred in the fortieth year of the reign of the judges.
While Pacumeni served during the forty-first year of the reign of the judges, the Lamanites, led by a Nephite dissenter named Coriantumr, boldly invaded the Nephite capital city of Zarahemla, which because of the contentions among the Nephites, had been left under-protected. Pacumeni attempted to flee the invaders but was killed by Coriantumr.
Coriantumr and the Lamanite army he led were eventually defeated by the Nephites, and in the forty-second year of the reign of the judges, Helaman, the son of Helaman, was appointed to fill the judgment-seat, again by the voice of the people.
Around this time a man by the name of Gadianton, “exceedingly expert in many words, and also in his craft, to carry on the secret work of murder and of robbery,” became the leader of the band of Kishkumen. Under Gadianton’s flattery, Kishkumen went forth to murder Helaman in an attempt to eventually place Gadianton in the judgment-seat. However, in this instance, Kishkumen’s plans were discovered by one of Helaman’s faithful servants. The servant killed Kishkumen and reported all this to Helaman. When Kishkumen did not return, Gadianton fled with his band into the wilderness, fearing that he should be destroyed. At this point in his abridgment, Mormon makes the editorial observation, “Ye shall see that this Gadianton did prove the overthrow, yea, almost the entire destruction of the people of Nephi.”
Mormon goes on to record that in the forty-sixth, forty-seventh, and forty-eighth years there was “much contention and many dissensions,” “great contentions, and disturbances, and wars, and dissensions,” and “great contention in the land.”
Think of it. In the brief period of approximately eight years, the following took place:
Such wickedness, upheaval, turmoil, and intrigue! This was the familial, societal, political, and spiritual climate within which Mormon introduces Helaman’s sons, Nephi and Lehi. We don’t know the ages of Helaman’s sons at the time, but around year forty-eight of the reign of the judges, Mormon makes the following profoundly insightful observation concerning Nephi and Lehi: “And they began to grow up unto the Lord.” It is hard to imagine in today’s world conditions that could be much worse than those of Helaman’s time. Certainly, we may consider Mormon’s perspective to have direct application in our time.
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