The Rock of our Salvation

From "The Book of Mormon: a Powerful Connection To Jesus Christ". By Benjamin Hyrum White.


In the book of Helaman, the Nephites are more consistently wicked, with their choices circling through the pride cycle for most of the book. God’s blessings of prosperity quickly evaporate as the Nephites ripen in iniquity with pride and wickedness. A wise God then allows the consequences of those decisions to lead to the chastening of destruction. This prompts the Nephites to cultivate humility and repentance until they once again reap the blessings of God. Unfortunately, Mormon writes about how the Nephites linger longer on the prideful side of sin as they quickly “harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One” (Helaman 12:2). This leads to what I affectionately call Mormon’s scorched earth sermon, where he forcefully condemns the Nephites with the fire of frustration, lamenting, “How quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good . . . how quick to be lifted up in pride . . . and how slow they are to remember” (Helaman 12:4–5). The sum effect of this pride cycle is a spiritual dizziness that leaves us disoriented from God and often falling to the ground in a daze of disconnected deficiency.

Mormon exhibits a masterpiece of writing in Helaman 5.

Earlier in the record, Mormon presents Korihor as a foil of evil amidst the miraculous missionary efforts of Alma and the sons of Mosiah. With the pride cycle of sin circling around the Nephites, Mormon provides a foil of righteousness as he recounts the miraculous deliverance of Nephi and Lehi in the land of Nephi. Beautifully woven into the text is what I feel Mormon is trying to show as the solution to the pride cycle. Clearly the antithesis of pride is humility. However, I feel it goes deeper than that. Mormon gives two guiding principles we can use when we are spun around in a world that worships the pride of our own vanity.

The beginning of Helaman 5 will be helpful in setting up Mormon’s masterpiece. Nephi, the son of Helaman, makes a move reminiscent of what his great-grandfather, Alma the Younger, did in Alma 4 after almost a decade of serving as the Nephites’ chief judge. He retires from public service to devote all of his time to the ministry. Part of Nephi’s desire to step down as the chief judge comes because in the chapter previous, the Nephites lose control of their great city Zarahemla for the second time in the book of Helaman. For four years, their military commander Moronihah had tried to regain many of the lands they had lost to the Lamanites.

Unfortunately, he was only successful at regaining half of them. So, in an effort to stanch the Nephites “ripening for destruction,” Nephi and his brother Lehi take it upon themselves “to preach the word of God all the remainder of [their] days” (Helaman 5:2, 4). This effort to spiritually reclaim the people begins with a flashback to Nephi and Lehi’s father, Helaman.

More than fifty years ago, President Spencer W. Kimball said, “When you look in the dictionary for the most important word, do you know what it is?” If you haven’t heard or read this quote, what would you say that word could be? Now, he isn’t saying this word is the most important word in the dictionary; he is simply suggest- ing it could be. A quick search of Helaman 5:5–14 shows this word appears fifteen times! In verse 6 alone, this word appears six times. I’ve marked this word in my scriptures so every time I see this chapter, this word pops off the page. It is the word remember. Why do you think President Kimball would say that remember could be the most important word in the dictionary? “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.”

Nephi and Lehi’s motivation to preach came in part because they remembered the words of their father. Specifically, Helaman taught them, “I have given unto you the names of our first parents who came out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them; and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works ye may know how that it is said, and also written, the they were good” (Helaman 5:6; emphasis added). This father gave his two sons a built-in reminder connecting them to their ancestors as well as to God. Could writings like this have been the reason Mormon possibly named his son Moroni? To remind his own son of the great military commander who had unshakable faith in Christ?

Think about your own given names. Do they help remind you of people from your past and how you can better connect to the Savior in the present? My first name was given to me because my angel mother was studying in the scriptures about King Benjamin at the time of my birth. Benjamin means “son of the right hand,” which is a place I always want to be found relative to my standing with God since His Only Begotten is always found there. The way King Benjamin loved and served his people has always been a constant reminder to me “that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17). My middle name, Hyrum, was spelled the same way as the Prophet Joseph’s brother. Hyrum means “my brother is exalted.” Hyrum Smith was completely loyal to his brother Joseph and ultimately sealed his testimony of the Savior alongside him in Carthage Jail. One of the greatest compliments God has given in scripture comes to Hyrum in Doctrine and Covenants 124:15 and is a constant reminder to me of what I want God to be able to say about me: “Blessed is my servant Hyrum Smith; for I, the Lord, love him because of the integrity of his heart, and because he loveth that which is right before me, saith the Lord.”

The impact of these verses was not lost on me when my wife and I were working together to come up with names for our children. We have been blessed with five beautifully brilliant children, and each of their names reflects a connection to family and/or a spiritual connection to the Savior. Both of our boys got a portion of my name. Two of our girls inherited names from their mother or grandmother. All three of our girls received names that have a derivative of the word grace in them. Grace is God’s divine favor, power, and graciousness to us, and I want all three of my girls to know that the beauty of the Savior attends them everywhere they go; they can be reminded of that simply by hearing their names spoken aloud.

With the memory of their names at the forefront, Helaman now admonishes his sons Nephi and Lehi to remember “that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only though the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world” (Helaman 5:9). So, the first great principle that Mormon shows in helping us to recalibrate from the dizzying effects of the pride cycle is to remember who we are, why we are keeping the commandments, and that salvation is centered in the Savior “to redeem them from their sins because of repentance” (Helaman 5:11).

One of the practical ways we can apply this principle of remembering is connected to the sacrament. Every week we renew our covenants while actively partaking of the bread and water with an eye single to the sacrifice of the Savior. Elder David A. Bednar taught, I want to draw your attention to the second covenantal obligation to “always remember him.” I do not know of a better way to always remember him than to daily study the scriptures. That covenant is not an abstract notion. It can be honored in meaningful, personal prayer every morning and night and in diligent study of the scriptures.

When I served as a stake president and interviewed literally hundreds of members of the Church, I frequently would ask, “Do you remember and keep the covenants you have made?” I do not recall many people answering no. When I would inquire further and ask about their scripture study, some would say, “I do not have time.” Then I would ask about their personal prayers, and the answer often was, “I am not as consistent as I should be.” On some occasions I would then inquire, “Do you, in fact, keep the covenant to always remember Him?”The covenants we make in the waters of baptism are a commitment to always remember him, in part through meaningful prayer and diligent study of the scriptures.

The second principle Mormon teaches to help us avoid the spin cycle of pride starts with our foundation. This is where we get one of the more famous verses from the Book of Mormon combining our need to remember with the source of our strength.
"And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall". (Helaman 5:12; emphasis added).

A clever way to remember that Jesus is our rock is to take the first three letters of rock and use them as an acronym: Now is the time to ROC: Rely On Christ!

In Utah there is an annual event called Parade of Homes in which people purchase tickets to tour extravagant homes. Only slightly less popular is an event called the Parade of Foundations. People come from all over the state to examine the grayish concrete poured into the ground, complete with rebar sticking out of places in the cement. This event is so lame that nobody actually attends it. In fact, I just made this last part up. Why are we so excited to see the homes but so woe- fully underwhelmed about the foundations of those homes?

The foundation of a home is a critically important yet mostly unheralded part of the structure. So essential is it that Christ Himself gave the analogy of building upon the stability of a rock instead of the suspect sliding of a sandy foundation. Ask any contractor about what happens if you have to redo the foundation of a house. The cost can rise so high that it is better, in some instances, to simply tear down the whole house and start over. Getting the foundation right is critical to the later stability of a happy home life.

Therefore, what happens if you build the foundation of your life on science, music, dance, fashion, sports, friends, or even family? All of these things will eventually fail us. Ever notice how the winds of change are constantly blowing? What can be rock-hard reliable today often over time can turn into soft-serve shaky with ever increasing change. Satan is relentless in the storms and whirlwinds he beats us with. Helaman reminded his sons that it isn’t if the devil shall send forth his mighty winds but when. Satan can shake, erode, destroy, and compromise any man-made structure given enough time. The one thing Satan cannot destroy, or shake, is Jesus Christ. That is why the Rock of our Redeemer is the safe one to build a life upon.

The importance of this structural reminder was impressed upon me when Hurricane Michael passed through Florida in 2018. The New York Times ran a story and showed some eye-popping photos of what the destructive power of nature can do. With the devastation of homes littering the view, one house in particular was left largely unscathed. The two owners of this house had specifically built the home to withstand “the big one.” This architectural marvel came at a price of double the cost per square footage when the home was finished. There was poured concrete that was “reinforced by steel cables and rebar, with additional concrete bolstering the corners of the house.”

The result was a house that was able to endure the destruction with minor surface damage but still allow the occupants to reside in their abode after the storm.

With these two principles of connecting to Christ in place— “remember” and “foundation”—let’s turn back to the story in Helaman 5. Nephi and Lehi go from city to city, among the Nephites and the Lamanites, preaching with great power. So great is their preaching that eight thousand Lamanites are “baptized unto repentance, and were convinced of the wickedness of the traditions of their fathers” (Helaman 5:19). The only thing more astonishing than these conversions is the about-face made by Nephite dissenters. Earlier Book of Mormon chapters dealing with war showed that those who had once been part of the faith and turned against it were notably more hostile and violent toward the Nephites. However, with the preaching of Nephi and Lehi, “they did confound many of those dissenters who had gone over from the Nephites, insomuch that they came forth and did confess their sins and were baptized unto repentance, and immediately returned to the Nephites to endeavor to repair unto them the wrongs which they had done” (Helaman 5:17).