In 52 BC, trouble arose among the Nephite people when their chief judge Pahoran died. There was strong disagreement over which of his sons should replace him—Pahoran the Younger, Pacumeni, or Paanchi. When the people elected Pahoran the Younger, Pacumeni accepted the will of the people, but Paanchi and his supporters became furious.
Paanchi was about to lead his supporters in rebellion when he was arrested, put on trial for seeking to destroy the liberty of the people, and condemned to death. When his supporters found out he was condemned to death, they were angry and they sent one from among them—a man named Kishkumen—to murder Pahoran as he sat upon the judgment-seat.
Kishkumen managed to flee the scene and escape, and no one knew who had assassinated Pahoran because Kishkumen had worn a disguise during the attack and his conspirators had vowed not to tell anyone of their plot. The Nephite people then selected Pacumeni to take the place of his brother as the new chief judge.
Ammoron's son Tubaloth was now king of the Lamanites, and in 51 BC, he sent an innumerable army of men wearing breastplates, helmets, and shields to attack Zarahemla. This army was put under the command of a very wise and mighty man named Coriantumr, an apostate whose ancestors were from Zarahemla.
The Nephites did not suspect the Lamanites would be so bold as to attack their capital, so it was poorly defended. The recent political turmoil and the speed of the Lamanite's approach also left no time for the Nephites to gather their armies in defense. Coriantumr and his men cut down all who opposed them as he took possession of the city.
Chief judge Pacumeni attempted to flee, making it all the way to the city wall, but Coriantumr struck him against the wall, killing him. Once he had control of Zarahemla, the best fortified city in the land, Coriantumr and his army quickly marched to other central cities and took possession of them, slaughtering a great number of men, women, and children.
Moroni's son Moronihah was commander over the Nephite armies, and he had kept them stationed in the cities near the borders, expecting the Lamanites to attack those cities first as they had always done before. He now gathered an army to stop Coriantumr from taking more cities, and at the land of Bountiful the two armies met in an extremely bloody battle.
Many were killed, and among the dead was found Coriantumr. The Lamanites now found themselves in the center of the Nephite lands and surrounded on all sides by Nephite armies. They surrendered and were allowed to return to the land of the Lamanites in peace. The Nephites took back possession of Zarahemla, their capital.
Helaman's son Helaman the Younger was chosen by the Nephite people to become the new chief judge. The secret group who had plotted to assassinate Pahoran the Younger two years earlier was now led by a man name Gadianton who was an expert in words and in the secret work of murder and robbery. He made promises of positions of power to his followers if they helped him become chief judge.
And so they plotted to have Kishkumen assassinate Helaman the Younger as he sat on his judgment-seat. But their plot was discovered by one of Helaman's servants, so when Kishkumen attempted to approach the judgment-seat, the servant went forth and stabbed Kishkumen in the heart, and he fell dead without a groan.
Helaman then ordered the arrest of the members of this secret combination so that they could be legally executed. But when Kishkumen failed to return from his mission, Gadianton feared he would be destroyed, and he and his band fled the land by a secret route into the wilderness. Though Helaman's men searched for them, they could not be found.
There followed about ten years of peace in the land, although disputes caused an extremely large number of people to leave the land of Zarahemla and travel an extremely long distance north to the land that had been left desolate by the Jaredites. Then they spread out, all the way to the sea in every direction. Where there was no timber, they became expert in building houses out of cement.
In Zarahemla, Helaman the Younger continued to judge righteously. 43 BC was a year of extreme prosperity for the church. Tens of thousands joined and were baptized. So many blessings were poured out on the people that even the high priests and teachers were completely astonished.