Samuel the Lamanite is a unique and powerful individual in the Book of Mormon. Dennis Largey described him as “one of the most colorful figures in the Book of Mormon,” stating that “few readers can forget the image of this fearless servant of God announcing the dramatic signs of Christ’s birth and death, crying repentance from the walls of Zarahemla.”
The only Lamanite specifically cited by name as being a prophet, Samuel taught doctrine and prophesied to the Nephites in approximately 6 BC. Samuel demonstrated extreme boldness; even after the Nephites “would not suffer that he should enter into the city . . . [Samuel] went and got upon the wall thereof, and stretched forth his hand and cried with a loud voice, and prophesied unto the people whatsoever things the Lord put into his heart” (Hel. 13:4).
Samuel’s prophecies were specific and were remembered. For instance, Samuel provided a precise date of the Savior’s coming, announcing that “five years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God” (Hel. 14:2). His words were taken seriously; even unbelievers carefully monitored his prophecies to see if they would come to pass (see 3 Ne. 1:5). They were so important that the Savior instructed Nephi3 to add their fulfillment to the official scriptural record (3 Ne. 23:7–13). Hundreds of years later, Mormon still referred to Samuel’s words, indicating that they had been both written and remembered (see Morm. 1:19).
Much has already been written regarding Samuel’s powerful discourse. Some have commented on the importance of Samuel’s words to the Savior himself.Others, such as Wayne Shute and Wayne Brickey, emphasize that the unusual circumstances surrounding Samuel’s message (for example, it being delivered from a city wall) may have been viewed as both spectacular and perplexing by the people, perhaps specifically to inspire them to repent. Joseph M. Spencer provides a theological reading of the first portion of Samuel’s speech by analyzing Samuel’s interest in time.
Samuel the Lamanite’s speech has been shown to represent many aspects of prophetic sermons recorded in scripture. Don Parry demonstrates how Samuel uses several prophetic forms of speech common to the Bible that “are indicative of prophetic authority and prerogative,” which would have provided a strong foundation of authority for his speech.Kent Brown focuses on illustrating how Samuel gives two poetic prophetic laments reminiscent of the laments recorded in the Psalms. Brown argues that although Samuel’s laments resemble these biblical laments in structure, composition, and style, they are unique in that they contain prophecies that would later be fulfilled. Edgar Snow’s narrative analysis of Helaman 13–16 reveals a sense of irony at the ministry of a righteous Lamanite to the historically righteous Nephites through Mormon’s narrative juxtaposition of Samuel’s speech with Nephi2’s ongoing preaching and baptism. These studies and other literature show that Samuel the Lamanite’s discourse is a rich example of a prophetic sermon in the Book of Mormon.
While this literature has done much to help readers more fully appreciate the grandeur of Samuel’s sermon, there is an important facet of this discourse that has received scant attention, namely, the possible intertextuality between the words of Samuel the Lamanite and other scriptural sources. To date, limited work has been done that explicitly focuses on this aspect of Samuel’s words. Quinten Barney explores a series of textual connections between Samuel the Lamanite and Christ’s teachings in Matthew 23–24 and speculates that the parallels between the texts could be attributed to Zenos.Shon Hopkin and John Hilton III examine a series of Old Testament phrases that are utilized by Samuel the Lamanite. However, to date, there has been no focused examination of textual connections between Samuel the Lamanite and his Nephite predecessors who preached in the Book of Mormon.
The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that he extensively utilized words from multiple Book of Mormon prophetsas he taught the Nephites from a wall in Zarahemla. In terms of examining connections between Samuel and other Book of Mormon prophets, the most significant work today is John W. Welch’s observation that Samuel appears to have referenced the words of King Benjamin, as evidenced in table 1.
Table 1. Samuel Referencing King Benjamin
|King Benjamin’s Words||Samuel’s Words|
|And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and of* earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary. (Mosiah 3:8)||And also that ye might know of the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and of earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and that ye might know of the signs of his coming, to the intent that ye might believe on his name. (Hel. 14:12)|
* The “of” in “of earth” has been omitted in later editions of the Book of Mormon, but is present in Royal Skousen, ed., The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009).
When working with intertextuality, care must be utilized in order to differentiate between coincidental connections and instances where one author genuinely appears to be borrowing from another. Welch’s above example is a twenty-one-word phrase that appears only in these two verses, indicating a purposeful connection. In a previous BYU Studies Quarterly article by one of the authors of the present study,basic principles of intertextuality were discussed, including the concepts that lengthy and unique parallels, as well as multiple connections in quick succession, increase the likelihood that two passages are related to each other. In the present study, we demonstrate that in addition to textual connections with King Benjamin, Samuel’s words have important relationships with the words of Nephi1, Jacob, Alma2, Amulek, and Nephi2.
In this paper, we discuss textual connections between Samuel and Nephite prophets by looking at some of those that fall into two overarching themes.First, we examine how Samuel uses the words of previous Nephite prophets to directly indict the Nephites. (For listings of Samuel’s borrowings from Book of Mormon prophets, see tables 2a and 2b.) Second, we show how Samuel takes the words spoken regarding various members of the house of Israel and employs them to specifically refer to the Lamanites. Throughout this paper, we consider Helaman 13–15 to consist of Samuel’s actual words, or at least an approximation of those words as recorded by Nephi2 or others who heard them. An alternate possibility is explored at the end of this article.
Table 2a. Samuel’s Statements and Sources from Which He Quotes
|Samuel||Sources Quoted||Discussed on|
|Hel. 13:9||Alma 10:23||p.125|
|Hel. 13:10||Alma 9:18||pp. 125–26|
|Hel. 13:14||Alma 10:19, 23||p. 124|
|Hel. 13:16, 17, 24, 26||Jacob 2:29, 31, 33, 35||p. 132|
|Hel. 13:21–23||Hel. 7:18, 20–22||p. 128|
|Hel. 13:24||2 Ne. 26:3||p. 122|
|Hel. 13:28||2 Ne. 28:21, 25||pp. 123–24|
|Hel. 13:29||2 Ne. 26:10; Alma 9:8, 10:17, 25; Hel. 9:21||p. 138|
|Hel. 13:30||2 Ne. 26:6||pp. 122–23|
|Hel. 13:32, 37||Hel. 11:8, 10–11||p. 129|
|Hel. 13:38||Alma 34:31, 33||p. 127|
|Hel. 14:10||Hel. 9:23–24||p. 129 n. 32|
|Hel. 14:12||Mosiah 3:8||p. 118|
|Hel. 14:16||Alma 42:9, 14||pp. 120–21 n. 17|
|Hel. 15:3||Alma 9:19–20||p. 126 n. 26|
|Hel. 15:5||2 Ne. 5:10||p. 130|
|Hel. 15:11, 13||2 Ne. 10:2||p. 132|
|Hel. 15:11–13, 15||Jacob 3:6–7; Mosiah 1:5; |
Alma 9:16–17; Hel. 7:24
|Hel. 15:12||2 Ne. 6:11||p. 131|
|Hel. 15:13||1 Ne. 22:25||p. 131|
|Hel. 15:14||Hel. 7:23||p. 133|
Table 2b. Samuel’s Sources and Where He Uses Them
|Sources Quoted||Samuel||Discussed on|
|1 Ne. 22:25||Hel. 15:13||p. 131|
|2 Ne. 5:10||Hel. 15:5||p. 130|
|2 Ne. 6:11||Hel. 15:12||p. 131|
|2 Ne. 10:2||Hel. 15:11, 13||p. 132|
|2 Ne. 26:3||Hel. 13:24||p. 122|
|2 Ne. 26:6||Hel. 13:30||pp. 122–23|
|2 Ne. 26:10||Hel. 13:29||p. 138|
|2 Ne. 28:21, 25||Hel. 13:28||pp. 123–24|
|Jacob 2:29, 31, 33, 35||Hel. 13:16, 17, 24, 26||p. 132|
|Jacob 3:6–7||Hel. 15:11–13, 15||p. 135|
|Mosiah 1:5||Hel. 15:11–13, 15||p. 135|
|Mosiah 3:8||Hel. 14:12||p. 118|
|Hel. 7:18, 20–22||Hel. 13:21–23||p. 128|
|Hel. 7:23||Hel. 15:14||p. 133|
|Hel. 7:24||Hel. 15:11–13, 15||p. 135|
|Hel. 9:21||Hel. 13:29||p. 138|
|Hel. 9:23–24||Hel. 14:10||p. 129 n. 32|
|Hel. 11:8, 10–11||Hel. 13:32, 37||p. 129|
|Alma 9:8||Hel. 13:29||p. 138|
|Alma 9:16–17||Hel. 15:11–13, 15||p. 135|
|Alma 9:18||Hel. 13:10||pp. 125–26|
|Alma 9:19–20||Hel. 15:3||p. 126 n. 26|
|Alma 10:17, 25||Hel. 13:29||p. 138|
|Alma 10:19, 23||Hel. 13:14||p. 124|
|Alma 10:23||Hel. 13:9||p. 125|
|Alma 34:31, 33||Hel. 13:38||p. 127|
|Alma 42:9, 14||Hel. 14:16||pp. 120–21 n.22|
Theme #1: Samuel’s Use of Nephite Prophecies to Indict the Nephites of His Day
As a Lamanite called to preach to the Nephites, Samuel found himself in a difficult position. While we do not know details concerning the relationships between the Nephites and Lamanites at this point in time, historically the Nephites had looked down upon the Lamanites (see Jacob 3:5, Mosiah 10:10–17, Alma 26:23–24). Thus, Samuel may have been looking for ways that he could increase the Nephites’ perceptions of the validity of his message. By appealing to the words of both ancient and contemporary Nephite prophets and leaders, Samuel strengthened his message and made his warnings even more ominous.
Samuel’s Use of Nephi1 to Condemn the Nephites
As the eponymous ancestor of the Nephites, Nephi1 would be a primary person for Samuel to draw on when speaking to those in Zarahemla. Nephi1 had spoken stern words regarding his descendants and their situation during the time period of Christ’s mortal ministry. While Nephi1 spoke of signs being given of Christ’s birth, Samuel provides specific details regarding those signs (see Hel. 14:1–6, 20–28). Samuel also uses some of the same text as Nephi to describe these events in greater detail. Speaking of the time of the signs of the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ, Nephi said that at that day, “they perish because they cast out the prophets, and the saints, and stone them, and slay them” (2 Ne. 26:3).
Samuel makes it clear that the day of which Nephi had prophesied had come.Rather than speak in third person, as did Nephi, Samuel speaks in second person: “Yea, wo unto this people, because of this time which has arrived, that ye do cast out the prophets, and do mock them, and cast stones at them, and do slay them” (Hel. 13:24). Although Nephi1 was clearly speaking of the future, Samuel shifts Nephi1’s words from being about the future to being a time that “has arrived.”
Speaking of this same general time period, Nephi1 had warned, “The anger of the Lord shall be kindled against them” (2 Ne. 26:6). Note that Nephi spoke in future tense and in third person in describing a later day and people. Samuel takes Nephi1’s words and again transforms the tense and moves the words to be directly about his audience saying, “The anger of the Lord is already kindled against you” (Hel. 13:30). This event that Nephi1 had prophesied (the anger of the Lord being kindled against them) has already happened.
As Nephi1 contemplated the future destruction of his people, he stated that it would come because the Nephites “choose works of darkness rather than light” (2 Ne. 26:10). While Nephi was describing future people, Samuel takes this phrase and personalizes it for the Nephites of his day, directly asking them, “How long will ye choose darkness rather than light?” (Hel. 13:29).
Thus, in three instances within seven verses, Samuel takes a specific phrase that had been used by Nephi1 when describing the time period of the birth and death of the Savior and informs the Nephites that they are living in the day that Nephi foretold. While each of these connections is significant in its own right,these unique phrases from 2 Nephi 26:3–10 all clustering together in Helaman 13:24–30 does not appear to be coincidental. Thus, Samuel uses a rhetorical strategy of shifting Nephi1’s words from being prophetic utterances about six hundred years in the future into a statement about the current state of Nephite affairs, emphasizing to the Nephites the seriousness of their present situation.
Another phrase from Nephi1 that Samuel appears to use in order to warn the Nephites is “all is well.” While this might seem like a commonly used phrase, in the Book of Mormon it is employed only by Nephi1 and Samuel.Nephi1 had warned that Satan would attempt to “pacify [the people], and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls. . . . Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well!” (2 Ne. 28:21, 25). Nephi1 said that those who believed “all is well” were being cheated by the devil and being led “away carefully down to hell” (2 Ne. 28:21). Samuel extends and specifies the same warnings to those in his audience. Through his rhetoric, Samuel reminds his listeners of Nephi1’s teachings and indicates that they have again fallen into the snare that Nephi1 had warned them against.
While Nephi1 appears to have been specifically talking about latter-day readers (see 2 Ne. 28:1–3), Samuel attributes this same phrase to the Nephites of his day, accusing his listeners of not finding fault with false prophets who come among them and say “that all is well” (Hel. 13:28). The not-so-subtle implication to a Nephite audience would seem to be a stern reprimand—they themselves were articulating the very words of the devil that Nephi had warned against.
Samuel’s Use of Alma and Amulek’s Preaching in Ammonihah and Antionum to Condemn the Nephites
Samuel clearly utilizes the words of both Alma and Amulek’s discourses in Ammonihah to condemn the Nephites. We first examine a series of connections between Samuel and Amulek, both of whom warn against the wickedness of their respective audiences and prophesy that destruction will fall upon them if they cast out the righteous. Both prophets accuse their listeners being a “wicked and perverse generation,” a phrase that appears only in these two pericopes.
Amulek told the people of Ammonihah, “If the time should come that this people should fall into transgression, they would be ripe for destruction. . . . But it is by the prayers of the righteous that ye are spared; now therefore, if ye will cast out the righteous from among you then will not the Lord stay his hand” (Alma 10:19, 23). Samuel almost identically mirrors Amulek’s words, saying to the inhabitants of Zarahemla, “It is for the righteous’ sake that [Zarahemla] is spared. But behold, the time cometh, saith the Lord, that when ye shall cast out the righteous from among you, then shall ye be ripe for destruction” (Hel. 13:14).
Both prophets teach that the people are spared because of the righteous who live among them but warn of what will happen when the righteous are cast out. Ominously, where Amulek’s words were conditional, Samuel’s are not. Amulek said, “If the time should come,” while Samuel says, “The time cometh”—no “if.” Likewise, Amulek said, “If we will cast out the righteous,” but Samuel says, “When ye shall cast out the righteous.”
Amulek specifically warned the people of Ammonihah that God would come against them and then they would be “smitten by famine, and by pestilence, and by the sword” (Alma 10:23). Samuel likewise echoes this warning, as he tells the people that the Lord has said he would visit them “with the sword and with famine and with pestilence” (Hel. 13:9). Not only are the textual parallels between Alma 10 and Helaman 13 significant,but their clustering further adds credence that it is intentional.
Conceivably, Samuel’s words would have been seen by his audience as a direct reminder of the fate of the people of Ammonihah. Not only are Samuel’s words thematically linked to Amulek’s in terms of the prayers of the righteous protecting the people, but Samuel also uses specific phrases such as “cast out the righteous” and “smitten . . . with the sword and with famine and with pestilence” that appear rarely or never in other passages of scriptures.Only seventy-five years had passed since the annihilation of the people of Ammonihah; the destruction of a city in one day had likely left a lasting impression on the people. Through his use of Amulek’s words, Samuel reminds the Nephites of previous destruction that had been both prophesied and fulfilled. He thus implores the Nephites to learn from the past in order to change their future.
In addition to employing Amulek’s words, Samuel also utilizes Alma2’s rebuke to the people of Ammonihah. In Ammonihah, Alma2 preached, “The Lamanites shall be sent upon you; . . . and ye shall be visited with utter destruction; and it shall be according to the fierce anger of the Lord” (Alma 9:18). Samuel stated that the Lord had said of the Nephites, “I will visit them in my fierce anger, and there shall be those of the fourth generation who shall live, of your enemies, to behold your utter destruction” (Hel. 13:10). These passages share both thematic and textual similarities. Alma2 warned the Nephites that if they did not repent, their perennial enemy, the Lamanites, would utterly destroy them because of the fierce anger of the Lord. Samuel echoes these themes; moreover, the phrases utter destruction and fierce anger appear together only in these two verses.
Samuel appears to specifically use the words of Nephite prophets, perhaps to deemphasize himself as a Lamanite messenger. The result is that Samuel’s identity does not detract from his message. In fact, it may be significant that, unlike Alma2, Samuel stops short of explicitly naming the Lamanites as those who would cause the destruction of the Nephites. By employing the words of Nephite prophets who had taught a similar principle, Samuel may have been trying to prevent his listeners from falsely believing that Samuel was simply bearing a message of doom against a group with whom the Lamanites had long had enmity.
Samuel also appears to borrow some of Amulek’s words to the Zoramites.Amulek taught the Zoramites, “Now is the time and the day of your salvation. . . . Therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end” (Alma 34:31, 33). Samuel similarly speaks of the danger of procrastination; however, rather than providing a warning, he tells the Nephites it is too late for them to change: “But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late” (Hel. 13:38).
Samuel thus both shifts and extends Amulek’s statement forward into his own time and context. As he had done previously, he takes a conditional statement from Amulek (“do not procrastinate until the end”) and makes it unconditional (“ye have procrastinated . . . until it is . . . too late”). By transforming Amulek’s statement, Samuel presents a portentous picture of what is to come for the Nephites.
Samuel’s Use of Nephi2 to Condemn the Nephites
In addition to the foregoing examples of Samuel’s use of previous Nephite prophets, Samuel also used text similar to that of his contemporary among the Nephites, Nephi2, whose key recorded prophecies occur between 23 and 16 BC (see Hel. 7–11).Perhaps more than any other prophet Samuel quotes, Nephi2 may have been the most familiar to the Nephite people (since he was alive at the time of Samuel’s appearance); indeed, those who believed Samuel’s words sought Nephi2 for further teaching and baptism (Hel. 16:1, 3). Not only were Nephi2 and Samuel contemporaries in their prophetic mission, Samuel may have seen direct connections between himself and Nephi2. As he did with the words of others, Samuel sought to establish credibility for his message specifically by utilizing the words of a Nephite prophet to rebuke the Nephites.
Nephi2 had chastised the people, saying, “O ye fools, ye uncircumcised of heart, ye blind, and ye stiffnecked people, do ye know how long the Lord your God will suffer you that ye shall go on in this your way of sin?” (Hel. 9:21). Samuel mirrors these words, warning, “Ye stiffnecked people, how long will ye suppose that the Lord will suffer you? Yea, how long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides?” (Hel. 13:29). While some of this may sound like generic language, across all scripture the phrase “ye stiffnecked people” appears only in these two passages, and in the Book of Mormon, the phrases “how long” and “suffer you” also appear together only in these two passages.
Another instance of Samuel’s use of Nephi2’s words illustrates parallels in rebuking the people’s forgetfulness and pleadings with the Nephites to repent and hearken to the Lord. Nephi2 said,
Ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd. . . . O, how could you have forgotten your God in the very day that he has delivered you? . . . Ye have set your hearts upon the riches and the vain things of this world, for the which ye do murder, and plunder, and steal, and bear false witness against your neighbor and do all manner of iniquity. And for this cause wo shall come unto you except ye shall repent. For if ye will not repent, behold, this great city . . . shall be taken away that ye shall have no place in [it]. (Hel. 7:18, 20–22)
Similarly, Samuel stated,
Behold ye, the people of this great city, . . . are cursed because of your riches, . . . because ye have set your hearts upon them, and have not hearkened unto the words of him who gave them unto you. Ye do not remember the Lord your God in the things with which he hath blessed you, but ye do always remember your riches; . . . your hearts . . . do swell with great pride, unto . . . murders, and all manner of iniquities. For this cause hath the Lord God caused that a curse should come upon the land (Hel. 13:21–23).
While none of the specific phrases that match in these passages are extremely unique in and of themselves, the multiple relationships between these verses demonstrate a possible connection. Approximately twenty years had elapsed since Nephi2 delivered these words from his garden tower; Samuel’s use of similar words may be a textual way of indicating that the while Nephites may have briefly demonstrated sincere repentance (see Hel. 11), they had quickly returned to their former state. Moreover, Samuel shifts Nephi2’s words forward in time; while Nephi2 had used the future tense when he stated, “Wo shall come unto you except ye repent,” Samuel speaks in the past tense saying that God “hath . . . [already] caused that a curse should come upon the land” (Hel. 13:23).
Another example of Samuel using a Nephite prophet’s words to condemn the Nephites stems from Nephi2’s prayer to turn away the famine the Nephites suffered a few years prior to Samuel’s arrival. Because of this famine, the people humbled themselves and pleaded with Nephi2, “Cry unto the Lord our God that he turn away from us this famine” (Hel. 11:8). Nephi2 did pray unto the Lord, saying, “Lord, behold this people repenteth. . . . Now, O Lord, because of this their humility wilt thou turn away thine anger” (Hel. 11:10–11).
Although the Nephites repented and the famine abated, within a decade “they did wax stronger and stronger in their pride, and in their wickedness” (Hel. 11:37). Samuel may have alluded to the words we have in Helaman 11 by speaking of the inevitable vainness of crying to the Lord later if the people don’t repent now. Samuel prophesies, “In the days of your poverty ye shall cry unto the Lord; . . . then shall ye lament and say: . . . O Lord, canst thou not turn away thine anger from us? And this shall be your language in those days” (Hel. 13:32, 37). Samuel might have purposefully used this languageto remind the Nephites of their previous pitiable state, when they had cried unto the Lord, pleading for mercy, and in fact had mercy granted unto them. Perhaps by using the very words spoken by both the people and Nephi2, Samuel warns the people that the Lord had already turned away his anger when they cried unto him, but a point will come when “it is everlastingly too late” (Hel. 13:38).
Theme #2: Samuel’s Use of Phrases Regarding the House of Israel to Specifically Refer to the Lamanites
A second key way in which Samuel utilizes the words of previous prophets is by employing their words to describe the Lamanites. Throughout Nephite history, their prophets had spoken about various members of the house of Israel, including the Jews, the Nephites, and the Lamanites. Samuel takes words originally spoken about each of these groups and applies them specifically to the Lamanites, typically to show that the Lamanites are more righteous than the Nephites.
Samuel’s Use of Nephi1’s Words to Describe the Lamanites
In describing his people after their separation from the Lamanites, Nephi1 says they “did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things according to the law of Moses” (2 Ne. 5:10). Samuel takes these words and applies them in his own context by using Nephi1’s earlier words about the Nephites to describe the Lamanites: “I would that ye should behold that the more part of [the Lamanites] . . . do observe to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments according to the law of Moses” (Hel. 15:5). This lengthy use of nearly identical and unique phraseologyindicates intentional usage by Samuel.
It seems that Samuel is poetically stating the Lamanites of his time were just as righteous as Nephi1’s people were at the time of their separation from Laman and Lemuel. Samuel takes Nephi1’s words and shifts them forward in time to describe the Lamanites. The irony is found in the fact that while Nephi1’s people once fled from the Lamanites because the Nephites were those who observed to keep the commandments, statutes, and judgments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, now the Lamanites set the example for the Nephites.
Another example of Samuel’s shifting Nephi1’s words to make them specifically apply to the Lamanites concerns Nephi1’s general prophecy about God’s children being gathered and cared for like sheep and applies it specifically to the Lamanites. Nephi had taught that God “numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture” (1 Ne. 22:25). Samuel makes it clear that this concept applies to the Lamanites, stating that the Lamanites would “be brought to the true knowledge, which is the knowledge of their Redeemer, and their great and true shepherd, and be numbered among his sheep” (Hel. 15:13).Through this statement, Samuel emphasizes that the gathering of which Nephi1 prophesied specifically applies to the Lamanites. As we will see in the following example, it seems that Samuel is emphasizing the fact that the Lamanites are a chosen people who are heirs to great promises and not defined by past iniquities.
Samuel’s Use of Jacob’s Words to Describe the Lamanites
Just as Samuel transforms some of Nephi1’s statements regarding other nations and applies them to the Lamanites, he does the same with some of Jacob’s teachings. Speaking of the Jews, Jacob said, “After they are driven to and fro, . . . they shall be scattered, and smitten, and hated; nevertheless, the Lord will be merciful unto them” (2 Ne. 6:11). Samuel applies these words to the Lamanites, saying, “Notwithstanding they [the Lamanites] shall be driven to and fro upon the face of the earth, and be hunted, and shall be smitten and scattered abroad, having no place for refuge, the Lord shall be merciful unto them” (Hel. 15:12). Samuel utilizes these unique phrasesto assert that the Lamanites are not secondary citizens but rather have a special part in God’s plan. Their role is likened unto the Jews—God’s chosen people who have marvelous promises extended to them in latter days. Samuel’s words emphasize that the Lamanites too are part of God’s covenant people and have the blessings that pertain to that covenant.
Samuel may be utilizing this same approach as he transforms Jacob’s words regarding the descendants of the Nephites into a prophecy about the Lamanites. Jacob had taught, “Our children shall be restored, that they may come to that which will give them the true knowledge of their Redeemer” (2 Ne. 10:2). Samuel applies Jacob’s wordsto the Lamanites, referring to how many prophets have spoken “concerning the restoration of our brethren, the Lamanites, again . . . to the true knowledge, which is the knowledge of their Redeemer” (Hel. 15:11, 13). Thus, Samuel uses Jacob’s phrases in order to indicate that the Lamanites are equal to the Nephites and will receive similar blessings.
Samuel incorporated several of Jacob’s phrases, as illustrated in table 3.
Table 3. Samuel’s Use of Jacob’s Words Regarding the Nephites
|Jacob’s Words||Samuel’s Words|
|This people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes. . . . I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people . . . because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands. . . . I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction; for they shall not commit whoredoms, like unto them of old. . . . Behold, ye have done greater iniquities than the Lamanites, our brethren. (Jacob 2:29, 31, 33, 35)||Wo be unto all the cities which are in the land round about, which are possessed by the Nephites, because of the wickedness and abominations which are in them. And behold, a curse shall come upon the land, saith the Lord of Hosts, because of the peoples’ sake who are upon the land, yea, because of their wickedness and their abominations. . . . Yea, wo unto this people, because of this time which has arrived, that ye . . . do all manner of iniquity unto them, even as they did of old time. . . . Behold ye are worse than they. (Hel. 13:16–17, 24, 26)|
There are multiple connection points between these two quotations. Both employ the relatively unique phrase “saith the Lord of Hosts”to warn that the land will be cursed for the people’s sake because of the wickedness and abominations of the people. In both cases, Samuel and Jacob compare their listeners with others and declare that their audience is the less righteous group. Jacob directly compares his Nephite listeners to the Lamanites; however, Samuel compares his listeners to those (presumably Nephites) of an earlier generation. Significantly, Samuel uses Jacob’s words to indicate that, as in Jacob’s day, the Nephites are currently more wicked than the Lamanites. This message would undoubtedly have been difficult for Nephites to receive, particularly from a Lamanite. Perhaps Samuel felt that by using Jacob’s words to deliver this news he was in a sense shifting the responsibility for his ominous message to previous Nephite prophets.
Samuel’s Use of Nephi2’s Words to Describe the Lamanites
When Nephi2 stood on his tower, he specifically stated to his Nephite listeners, “It shall be better for the Lamanites than for you except ye shall repent” (Hel. 7:23). Samuel echoes this phrase, stating to the Nephites, “It shall be better for them [the Lamanites] than for you except ye repent” (Hel. 15:14). This relatively long phrase is unique in multiple ways. The phrase “it shall be better” appears in these two verses, and the words “better,” “except,” and “repent,” also exclusively appear together in these two verses. It seems like Samuel is specifically using this phrase from a contemporary prophet to emphasize the fact that, due to Nephite wickedness, the Lamanites will ultimately receive a better result than will the Nephites.
Samuel’s Use of Multiple Prophets’ Words to Describe the Lamanites
Perhaps Samuel’s most significant instance of intertextuality describing the Lamanites is his use of the teachings of several previous prophets regarding the Lamanites. Unlike the previous examples, in which Samuel applied to the Lamanites words that had been spoken about other groups, in this instance, he uses the words of previous prophets regarding the Lamanites. He explicitly refers to plural prophets, speaking of the “time [that] shall come which hath been spoken of by our fathers, and also by the prophet Zenos, and many other prophets, concerning the restoration of our brethren, the Lamanites, again to the knowledge of the truth” (Hel. 15:11). Throughout much of Nephite history, prophets had taught that while the Lamanites did not believe in Christ, they were in some respects more righteous than the Nephites, and the Lord will be merciful to them in latter days. This theme is first developed by Jacob, but King Benjamin, Alma2, Nephi2, and Samuel all repeat it. Samuel appears to combine unique phrases from each of these prophets as illustrated in table 4.
Table 4. Samuel’s Use of Multiple Prophetic Statements
Regarding the Future of the Lamanites
|Samuel||The time shall come which hath been spoken of by our fathers, and also by the prophet Zenos, and many other prophets, concerning the restoration of our brethren, the Lamanites, . . . in the latter times the promises of the Lord have been extended to our brethren, the Lamanites; . . . the Lord shall be merciful unto them. And this is according to the prophecy, that they shall again be brought to the true knowledge. . . . For behold, had the mighty works been shown unto them which have been shown unto you, yea, unto them who have dwindled in unbelief because of the traditions of their fathers, ye can see of yourselves that they never would again have dwindled in unbelief. (Hel. 15:11–13, 15)|
|Jacob||[God] will be merciful unto them [the Lamanites]; and one day they shall become a blessed people. . . . Their unbelief and their hatred towards you is because of the iniquity of their fathers; wherefore, how much better are you than they, in the sight of your great Creator? (Jacob 3:6–7)|
|King Benjamin||I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things, . . . that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief, and we should have been like unto our brethren, the Lamanites, who know nothing concerning these things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers. (Mosiah 1:5)|
|Alma2||For there are many promises which are extended to the Lamanites; for it is because of the traditions of their fathers that caused them to remain in their state of ignorance; therefore the Lord will be merciful unto them and prolong their existence in the land. And at some period of time they will be brought to believe in his word. (Alma 9:16–17)|
|Nephi2||For behold, they [the Lamanites] are more righteous than you, for they have not sinned against that great knowledge which ye have received; therefore the Lord will be merciful unto them; yea, he will lengthen out their days and increase their seed. (Hel. 7:24)|
Samuel explicitly states that he is aware of prophecies that have been made by the previous prophets, and he evidently incorporates the text of multiple prophecies while crafting his own.As he has done with the passages previously described in this theme, Samuel uses the words of Nephite prophets to elevate the status of the Lamanites. At the same time that Samuel prophesies of the ultimate destruction of the Nephites, he emphasizes the latter-day restoration of the Lamanites. By using the words of Nephite prophets, he perhaps hopes that his listeners will be more receptive than they would be to words coming from a Lamanite.
We have demonstrated that Samuel the Lamanite has a penchant for quoting from previous Nephite prophets and leaders and that his quotations cluster around indicting the Nephites and building up the Lamanites. Throughout this article, we have assumed that Samuel’s words in Helaman 13–15 are presented just as he said them, but it is possible that Mormon (or another redactor) reshaped Samuel’s discourse. Samuel’s words regarding the people crying unto the Lord and the anger of the Lord turning away (Hel. 13:32, 39) refer to conversations between the Nephites and Nephi2, recorded in Helaman 11. It seems likely that Samuel might not have been privy to such conversations, although we cannot rule out this possibility.Instances such as this prompt us to wonder if Samuel’s speech was edited in order to create or enhance these instances of intertextuality. After all, it would be very difficult for a contemporary listener in Zarahemla to precisely record Samuel’s words as he spoke from the wall.
There are many potential reasons that Mormon (or another redactor) might have created these textual connections. It may be that he wanted to show that the Lord speaks the same message to prophets from multiple nations (both Nephite and Lamanite). Perhaps he intended to emphasize the wickedness of the Nephites by creating a striking framework of comparisons, delivered by a Lamanite, that highlight the distinction between the two nations.
While Mormon or another redactor certainly could be the source of these connections, let us consider the possibility that they originated with Samuel. Why would Samuel so frequently utilize the same words as his prophetic predecessors? Perhaps he felt the Nephites would be more receptive to the words of their ancestors. Alternatively, it may be Samuel felt insecure in his role as a Lamanite prophet and found strength by using the words of other prophets. Moroni2 explicitly mentions his concerns regarding his weakness writing, and Grant Hardy suggests that perhaps this is one reason why Moroni2 may have borrowed so heavily from other prophets.Perhaps a similar phenomenon occurs with Samuel.
Another intriguing possibility behind Samuel’s multiple use of the words of previous prophets lies in a unique phrase spoken of in relation to Samuel. In the scriptures, there are only three instances in which God puts ideas or words into people’s hearts; two of these concern Samuel.After being rejected once by the Nephites, as “he was about to return to his own land . . . the voice of the Lord came unto him, that he should return again, and prophesy unto the people whatsoever things should come into his heart. . . . Therefore he went and got upon the wall thereof, and stretched forth his hand and cried with a loud voice, and prophesied unto the people whatsoever things the Lord put into his heart. And he said unto them: Behold, I, Samuel, a Lamanite, do speak the words of the Lord which he doth put into my heart” (Hel. 13:2–5).
In conjunction with this statement, Samuel uses the phrase “saith the Lord” more than any Nephite prophet.Perhaps the words the Lord put into Samuel’s heart were the words of previous prophets. While this could have happened simply through inspiration, it is also possible that this came as a result of Samuel’s intense study of the scriptures. He can be seen as a role model of the Lord’s injunction to “neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man” (D&C 84:85).
Although we cannot always specifically ascertain which sources Samuel draws from, it is clear that in many instances he weaves together words and phrases from multiple previous prophets. For example, in Helaman 13:29, where Samuel merges distinct phrases from three different prophets: O ye wicked and ye perverse generation (Alma2 or Amulek: Alma 9:8, 10:25); ye hardened and ye stiffnecked people, how long will ye suppose that the Lord will suffer you? Yea, how long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides? (Nephi2: Helaman 9:21) Yea, how long will ye choose darkness rather than light? (Nephi1: 2 Ne. 26:10). It may be that Samuel had treasured up the prophetic word and thus was able to be inspired to use these and other passages as he spoke to the Nephites.