This chapter details the story of Samuel, a Lamanite who comes to preach repentance to the Nephites, who aren't very open to what he has to say. Here are my thoughts on some of the verses:
Verse 9: "And four hundred years shall not pass away before I will cause that they shall be smitten.."
For a long time I wondered why God would warn a people four hundred years before something is going to happen. I understand why there have always been prophecies about the Savior, but I didn't really get why he would tell people who wouldn't even be alive about what would happen to their descendants generations down the line. I can see those people saying "who cares what happens in four hundred years? We won't be alive. It's not going to make a difference in our lives!" I think that would be a normal human response. But... I think it's really short-sighted. Even if we haven't received a personal prophesy about our descendants, we have to remember that what we do today, and how we live our lives can have drastic effects on our family line. One righteous person can change the entire course of a family. One wicked person can bring their posterity down to the depths of hell. When we are before the throne on judgment day, do we want to be told that because of our example many were saved and the effects of their righteousness then rippled on throughout the generations? Or would we be comfortable hearing that the way we lived our life prevented our posterity from accepting or maybe even desiring salvation? We can't live with an "it's not going to affect anyone but me" attitude, because ultimately our example reaches farther and goes deeper than we will ever know.
Verse 21: "... ye are cursed because of your riches, and also are your riches cursed because ye have set your hearts upon them, and have not hearkened unto the words of him who gave them unto you."
Verse 22: "Ye do not remember the Lord your God in the things with which he hath blessed you, but ye do always remember your riches, not to thank the Lord your God for them; yea, your hearts are not drawn out unto the Lord, but they do swell with great pride, unto boasting, and unto great swelling, envyings, strifes, malice, persecutions, and murders, and all manner of iniquities."
God is the one who blessed these people with great wealth, so obviously He doesn't count wealth in itself as a sin. The sin comes when we gain riches and forget to show our gratitude to God for them. When we use our resources solely for pleasure or for more gain rather than to benefit our family and others, we have fallen into sin. It's so easy to go from thanking God that we have enough for our means, to being blessed with extra and then focusing more on the things we want to buy with it, and how we want to keep or increase it. It's important to stay focused and remember that all we have comes from the Lord and it belongs to Him. We are only stewards over it for the time that we are in possession of it. And if we think about our wealth as actually being God's... what would we do with God's money? Would that change the way we spend it?
Verse 38: "... your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head."
I think procrastination is a pretty serious sin, because putting off something that we should be doing not only keeps us from the immediate blessings and joy of doing something good, but it also denies blessings to other and keeps us from growing. When we decide to procrastinate we are putting ourselves before God and saying that our time is more valuable than His. Our pride leads us to think that we aren't doing anything wrong by putting things off, because God knows our intentions and will be merciful if we haven't been totally diligent. Wrong. When it comes to the gospel we are reminded over and over that the day to repent is NOW. We are to start and end each day with a renewed commitment to live the gospel... and that leaves no room for procrastination. We can't keep moving forward if we are sitting on our butts!
I'm also impressed by Samuel's statement that the people were trying to obtain the impossible: finding happiness through sin. It's amazing how often we think that we're going to find happiness by doing what's wrong. Satan is very good at his job, and he convinces us that doing something wrong is actually right for us... after all, doesn't it make us feel good (at least temporarily)? But in the end, after the fun or pleasure of the sin is past, we are left feeling empty and more unhappy than we were before. True happiness comes from following Christ. There is no other way.