I've always loved chapter 12 in Helaman. I can easily relate to what Nephi is saying, and I can feel the frustration that he's facing as he tries so hard to convince the people to repent. Here are a few of the verses I love the most (and how I relate them to my life):
12:1 "...we can see that the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him."
12:2 "Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people...., doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God..."
It's a sad but true fact that most people who are in fairly prosperous conditions and have most or all of their needs met, often feel no need for God in their lives. We tend to get comfortable and lazy, slowly drifting away from our God who has provided us with everything.
12:3 "And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him."
In modern terms we might say that the Lord chastens us with unemployment, sickness, poverty, mental health issues, anxiety, and trials that wear us down. The Lord doesn't allow these trials to happen to us because He is mean or spiteful. He does the only thing He can that might possibly get us to turn back to Him without taking away our freedom of choice. As long as things are going smoothly, we tend to be less sincere in our prayers, less diligent in our efforts, and less inclined to look for direction and solace in His word. On the other hand, in times of need and heartache we turn back to the source of all good.
12:4 "O how foolish, and how vain, and how eveil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world!"
If you think you're immune to this, think about the last time you went into one of your favorite stores. It doesn't matter if it was clothing, furniture, home improvement, jewelry, electronics, etc. Be honest and think about how quickly you were distracted by something you saw that you wanted. Did thoughts of helping others pop into your mind? Did you think about how many people you could feed with the money it would take to buy that item? Or did you start thinking about how much you would love to have that item, what it would take to get it (how long do I need to save up? do I have the money to spare right now?) and how much you would enjoy it? I'm just as guilty as everyone else in this respect. All of my good intentions and desires to serve others and sacrifice to help those in need somehow fade into the background when faced with the temptation of the "vain things of the world."
12:6 "Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide."
How many of us rankle and rebel at the very idea that someone is going to tell us what to do? How dare they! Who do they think they are to tell us what to do?! Unfortunately, that same prideful response is often aimed at our own Creator. How stupid of us to rebel against the God who desires to rule and reign over us in righteousness, in goodness, and in mercy! Would we really rather take our chances with our own choice of ruler? Are we really so arrogant as to think that we would do a better job of running our lives? How can we provide our own counsel when we can't even control ourselves??
12:7 "O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth.
12:8 "For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God."
When we start to think of ourselves as better than others, or worthy of special privileges, or that we shouldn't be accountable to the same rules or commandments, it might be helpful to remember that not only are we made of the elements of this earth and have no life of ourselves without our Creator, but we are also less worthy and less faithful than the dirt under our feet, because even that dirt obeys God perfectly while we struggle to keep our pride in check and to even desire to follow God's commandments. We are mortal and subject to all of the vanities and temptations of the flesh.
12:23 "Therefore, blessed are they who will repent and hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; for these are they that shall be saved."
In all that God asks of us, His only desire is to save us. He doesn't have a hidden agenda, He doesn't have a need or desire for control, He doesn't want to use us or enslave us. If we can put aside our pride, step away from the vain things of the world, and desire to be close to God, He will meet us at the very first step we take towards Him. He wants to save us, not only from Satan, but from ourselves. We fight against rules and give in to laziness in order to have our own way or to avoid work, but in the end these mortal inclinations will damn us. God does everything He does out of love. He has made salvation and happiness readily available; it's up to us to claim it.