These Things Were to Be Kept Sacred – Alma 63:12-13

12 Now behold, all those engravings which were in the possession of Helaman were written and sent forth among the children of men throughout all the land, save it were those parts which had been commanded by Alma should not go forth.
13 Nevertheless, these things were to be kept sacred, and handed down from one generation to another; therefore, in this year, they had been conferred upon Helaman, before the death of Shiblon.

In the last chapter of Alma, after spending 17 chapters recounting the story of the great war between the Nephites and the Lamanites, Mormon gives us a brief update on the status of the sacred record. Helaman died and gave the plates to his brother Shiblon. Mormon writes about this transfer of responsibility as a significant event:

And it came to pass in the commencement of the thirty and sixth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, that Shiblon took possession of those sacred things which had been delivered unto Helaman by Alma.
And he was a just man, and he did walk uprightly before God… (Alma 63:1-2)

Three years later, just before Shiblon’s death, he passed the record on to his nephew, Helaman. Mormon also describes this transfer as a significant event: “It became expedient for Shiblon to confer those sacred things, before his death, upon the son of Helaman” (Alma 63:11).

As Mormon tells us in the passage above, Helaman’s responsibility for this sacred record was twofold: publish it and keep it safe. He apparently made copies of some but not all of the text, which were distributed to the people. Alma had apparently identified some portions of the record which were not to be shared, consistent with his teaching that those who know the mysteries of God “are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him” (Alma 12:9).
Additionally, Helaman was responsible to keep the entire record sacred, both the portions that had been published and the portions that were not for public consumption. His efforts to preserve the record would benefit the lives of future generations, including us. The word of God was sacred and needed to be preserved in order to enable people to examine it, unfiltered and unpolluted by the interpretations and opinions of those who would transmit it.
Today, I will remember the reverence and integrity of Shiblon and Helaman in guarding the sacred records of the Nephites. As I study the words of prophets, and as I share them with others, I will be grateful that those records were carefully preserved so that we could have the word of God as delivered to prophets many years ago.

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