In one of the more moving narratives found in the Book of Mormon, a group of Lamanites are miraculously prevented from killing the prophets Nephi and Lehi in a prison. The Lamanites and Nephite dissenters are then redeemed from their own spiritual bondage when they are converted to Christ.
In what is a key element of their conversion, the Nephite dissenter Aminadab reminds his fellow Lamanites that Alma, Amulek, and Zeezrom had taught them faith in Christ nearly 45 years earlier (Helaman 5:41), presumably during the mission to the Zoramites.1 Shortly after this mission, the Zoramites who remained unconverted "became Lamanites" (Alma 43:4). Assuming that some of the dissenters in the prison had heard these prophets preach to the Zoramites, several elements of the prison narrative in Helaman 5 would have both recalled and graphically reinforced for them those earlier prophetic teachings. Indeed, this possible connection between the two events is strengthened by the parallel language in both narratives.
In his words to the dissenting Zoramites years before, Amulek warned that if they procrastinated the day of their repentance, there would come a "night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed" (Alma 34:33). Regarding the prison account, the record states that the would-be attackers were "overshadowed with a cloud of darkness, and an awful solemn fear came upon them" (Helaman 5:28). So profound was the fear generated by this darkness that they were unable to harm Nephi and Lehi and unable to even move (Helaman 5:34). Might these descriptions of the Lamanites recall the language previously used by Amulek?
Alma taught Zeezrom, who accompanied Alma on his mission to the Zoramites, that it is the devil who seeks to "encircle you about with his chains, that he might chain you down to everlasting destruction, according to the power of his captivity" (Alma 12:6). And Amulek taught the Zoramites that when the wicked repent, the Lord "encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice" (Alma 34:16). Employing similar imagery, the account in Helaman states that while in the prison, Nephi and Lehi were "encircled about" by a protective fire that literally separated them from their persecutors, who in contrast were surrounded by darkness (Helaman 5:23-25, 28). It is only after the Lamanites began to pray and to repent that they were "encircled" by the same protective fire (Helaman 5:42-44). Much as Amulek had taught, the now-repentant Lamanites were included in the circle of safety.
Alma taught the Zoramites about the bronze serpent that Moses raised up as a "type" in the wilderness, "that whosoever would look upon it might live. And many did look and live" (Alma 33:19). He also urged the Zoramites to "cast about [their] eyes" in order that they might begin to have faith in Christ (Alma 33:21-22). The prison narrative in Helaman echoes this concept of "look and live." The dissenter Aminadab "turned him about" and saw the faces of Nephi and Lehi within the pillar of fire (Helaman 5:36). "And it came to pass that this man did cry unto the multitude, that they might turn and look. And behold, there was power given unto them that they did turn and look; and they did behold the faces of Nephi and Lehi" (Helaman 5:37).
Furthermore, in urging the Zoramites to cry unto God for all of their needs, Amulek said, "Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance. . . . Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save" (Alma 34:17-18). Similarly, when the Lamanites asked what they must do in order to remove the awful cloud of darkness, Aminadab reminded them, "You must repent, and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom; and when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you" (Helaman 5:41). Aminadab's counsel repeats what the Nephite dissenters likely heard years before but apparently had only now learned.
These considerations may suggest that Aminadab and some of his fellows were Zoramites who as young men had heard those Nephites preach. More significantly, the account of their conversion shows how God can confirm the words of his servants the prophets in mercy as well as in judgment.
By Matthew Roper
1. The only time when these three prophets are specifically said to have served together was during the mission to the Zoramites (Alma 31:6), though it is possible that they served together at other times as well.