Several years before the birth of Christ in Palestine, another event took place on the other side of the world that would have tremendous consequences. A prophet named Samuel entered the capital city of the Nephites and began preaching to the people. He was a Lamanite whose country was traditionally an enemy to the Nephite nation, yet at this time he was on the Lord's errand and called the people to repentance, speaking to them from atop the walls of the city.
His message was that because of Nephite unrighteousness and disobedience, their civilization was on a course of destruction. Less than four hundred years would pass away, he said, before it would completely disappear unless the people repented. Of course most of them did not take him seriously, undoubtedly because the prediction referred to an event so far in the future. But there was something else he told them that would affect them much more quickly and personally. It had to do with the appearance of Jesus Christ which had been prophesied for many centuries.
"But behold, he said unto them: Behold, I give unto you a sign; for five years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God to redeem all those who shall believe on his name," an event that would occur in Palestine. He then told them about the sign, one to be given at the time of his coming. On the night before he arrives, he said, there will be no darkness. Instead it will be a day and a night and a day as ifit were just one day. This would be a sign unto them: sixty hours of continuous light!
"And behold, there shall a new star arise," he continued, "such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you. And behold this is not all; there shall be many signs and wonders in heaven. " (Helaman 14: 2-6) The stage was set, therefore, and a specific timetable was delivered. All people had to do in the future was believe in what was going to happen, and they would be saved. It was a personal matter, and the decision would be up to them.
An account as recorded in the Book of Mormon tells how many of the people believed Samuel, but there were many who did not, and some began throwing rocks and shooting at him with arrows. Others attempted to apprehend him, but he eluded them, casting himself down from the walls and returning to his own country. Yet his mission had been accomplished, and in a few years the time drew near concerning his prophecies.
But as the years went by, there were those who said the date had passed for the prophet's words to be fulfilled, and the people's hopes were to no purpose. ''Behold the time is past," they cried, "and the words of Samuel are not fulfilled; therefore, your joy and your faith concerning this thing hath been vain." The tumult eventually reached the point where a day was set apart for people to be executed who still believed in the signs. It was a time of panic and climax for many of the Nephite people, and a prophet among them, whose name was Nephi, cried mightily unto the Lord on behalf of those who were about to be destroyed because of their faith.
Then it was that God intervened and spoke words which are among those that are the most memorable in scripture. "Lift up your head and be of good cheer," he said; "for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfill ail that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets." (3 Nephi 1:6, 13)
It was then that what Samuel said came true! When the sun went down that evening, there was no darkness, and the light continued throughout the night and during the following day. A new star also appeared. Those who believed the Lamanite prophet and remained faithful to his teachings rejoiced and welcomed the new prospects of a brighter future. The signs had been given and were now fulfilled, and once again the ancient prophecies came to pass while the faith of a righteous people was again recognized and rewarded!
Written by Clay McConkie.
Click here "Helaman 13:1-39; 14:1-31; 15:1-17; 16:1-8" to read the actual account of this story from the Book of Mormon.