(This article was adapted from the Zion series. Click here to receive free PDFs.)
When I first read the Book of Mormon as a boy, I encountered Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy of “slippery treasures.” After discounting the notion that the treasures were greased, I wondered how they had slipped away. Did the treasures simply vanish? Did the Nephites experience widespread thievery? Over the years, knowing the Book of Mormon was written for us in the last days, I have pondered how the slippery-treasures scenario might play out again.
I need not speculate any longer. The event is upon us. The Book of Mormon story is more than account; it is a prophecy!
Mormon had the ability to foresee our day and marry latter-day troubles with Nephite events. One intriguing entry is Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy of “slippery treasures.”
That Mormon would record Samuel’s words in such detail should signal to us their latter-day import. That Samuel delivered his message only years before the advent of the Savior, listing attendant destruction should add more weight to our latter-day consideration. That the resurrected Jesus would draw attention to Samuel and insist that his missing prophecies be recorded accurately should draw us into Mormon’s account and cause us to dissect and apply the principles.
Let us consider Samuel’s denunciation of the Nephites’ Babylon as that denunciation parallels Babylon today.
Samuel the Lamanite’s Denunciation of the Nephites’ Babylon
A few years before the birth of Christ, Samuel, a Lamanite prophet, entered the land of the Nephites to warn the people, cry repentance and prophesy of simultaneously glorious and catastrophic events. To set the stage, Mormon describes the Nephite world as one of “great wickedness.” Only a few “did observe strictly to keep the commandments of God.” The Nephites’ reaction to the prophet’s preaching ranged from disregard to violence.[i] Immediately, we see our latter-day condition mirroring that of the Nephites.
Frighteningly, Samuel warned that “the sword of justice hangeth over this people…. Yea, heavy destruction awaiteth this people, and it surely cometh unto this people, and nothing can save this people save it be repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.” The Nephites’ condition had resulted from “the hardness of the hearts of the people.” That hardness of heart was being manifested in a variety of ways:
Following “Blind Guides”
Another sinful condition of the Nephites was their willingness to follow, idolize and uphold people who flattered their egos—“blind guides,”[iii] Samuel called these deceivers. The Nephites were more interested in the philosophies of these smooth-tongued “guides” than the prophets. The Nephites would enrich these people and canonize their words as if they were scripture.
“But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth--and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet. Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him.”[iv]
“Blind guides” are those people who receive our support and adoration for flattering us with their mouth, but more often with their life-style. We give them riches for what they do not produce or contribute; we give them riches for being famous. These blind guides flatter us by parading the rewards that come from a lifestyle that glamorizes Babylon, and we applaud them for their having legitimized a life of wealth, self-indulgence, power, recognition, and excess.
Ripe for Destruction
The Lord’s spirit cannot abide in such wickedness. In Samuel’s day, only the presence of a few righteous individuals was holding back the judgments. But the clock was ticking. The gathering of the righteous was taking place. Soon the faithful few would be called out (or cast out). Then the wicked would be ripe for destruction,[v] and only the repentant would be spared.
The word ripe is intriguing. A fruit that is ripe will separate itself and fall from its mother tree. Ripeness is an interesting analogy for separating one’s self and falling away from the Tree of Life. In its insistence for a sinful, independent life from the tree, the ripe and fallen fruit can ultimately do nothing on its own except lie on the ground and rot.
Speaking for the Lord, Samuel pronounced a series of curses:
If the people cared little about the first five curses, the last one was sure to get their attention. This curse was aimed at what they loved most: their treasures. The curse stipulated that a righteous person was exempt; he could “hide up” his treasure unto the Lord—consecrate it—and he and the treasure would remain safe.