12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
This is one of the most iconic verses in the Book of Mormon. And clearly has significant parallels to the Savior’s biblical teaching about building a house “upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24). But I find it fascinating to consider the differences between these verses.
The savior in Matthew is speaking in the context of keeping Christ’s sayings and teachings. He is contrasting those who are mere listeners to those who will do and act. On the other hand, Helaman seems much more concerned with belief that Christ is the savior. He emphasizes that we must build our faith on the “redeemer” and “son of God.” So Helaman is focused on faith while the savior is focused on behavior.
But perhaps this can be explained by another difference. The Savior talks about a house that is already built. But Helaman is at an earlier stage of development–he is focused on laying the foundation. Once a proper foundation is built, then the house can be built. So Helaman’s focus is on faith in Christ as a prerequisite to building up the house. In other words, Helaman understood that grace s a prerequisite for meaningful sanctification.
Another significant difference is that the source of the storms and the “shafts in the whirlwind” for Helaman is not merely naturalistic. He is well aware of a devil that seeks to destroy lives. As a result of this understanding, the consequences of falling are far more dire in the parable of Helaman. In the savior’s telling the house’s fall is great. But there is no indication of “misery an endless wo.” Helaman puts this story into starker contrast. He makes it clear that this is a lesson with eternal significance.
I am grateful for how these two parables fit together and help us better understand the process of developing faith in Christ and building lives upon his firm foundation.