Helaman3, son of Helaman2, was the record keeper and chief judge in the land of Zarahemla for the fourteen years prior to his death in 39 B.C. Little is known of his personal affairs. He was given charge of Nephite historical records by his uncle, Shiblon, in 53 B.C. (Alma 63:11—13), and the book of Helaman in the book of Mormon takes its name from him.
After the assassination of the chief judge Pacumeni in 50 B.C., Helaman was elected by the people to this highest national office. A murder plot against him was subsequently uncovered, and the would-be assassin, Kishkumen, was mortally wounded. The murderous band, led by Gadianton, escaped into the wilderness. Of Gadianton, Mormon wrote "In the end of this book [Book of Mormon] ye shall see that this Gadianton did prove the overthrow . . . of the people of Nephi" (Hel. 2:13; see also Secret Combinations).
During the three-year period 48—46 B.C., a substantial number of people left Zarahemla—because of unspecified dissensions—and "went forth unto the land northward" (Hel. 3:3). So extensive was the migration that only a fraction of its impact could be discussed in Mormon's record (Hel. 3:14). Despite dissension, emigration, and war, "Helaman did fill the judgment-seat with justice and equity; yea, he did observe to keep the statutes, and the judgments, and the commandments of God; and he did do that which was right in the sight of God continually; and he did walk after the ways of his father, insomuch that he did prosper in the land" (3:20). During his tenure, tens of thousands of people were baptized into the church, even to the astonishment of the high priests and teachers (3:24—25). Through the force of his personality, Helaman maintained peace throughout two-thirds of his political career.
When Helaman died, he left the spiritual responsibilities and the sacred records in the hands of his son, Nephi2 (Hel. 3:37; 5:5—14; 16:25).
Moss, James R. "Six Nephite Judges." Ensign 7 (Sept. 1977): 61—65.
Christine Purves Baker