Peace in the land continued through 40 BC, but their prosperity led to extremely great riches, and the people's hearts became filled with extreme pride. Now Helaman the Younger had two sons named Nephi and Lehi, and he taught them the ways of Jesus. When Helaman the Younger died in 39 BC, his son Nephi became the chief judge, and was righteous like his father.
During the next year there were many arguments within the church that led to bloodshed. The rebellious Nephites were either killed or driven out of the land. Then these rebels went to the Lamanite king and convinced him to attack the Nephite lands again. By 33 BC, the alliance of the Lamanites and Nephite rebels had taken possession of Zarahemla and all the lands of the south.
It was the wickedness and abominations of those who claimed to be members of the church that caused the Nephites to suffer and be struck down to the point of having lost almost all their lands. The Nephite armies had fled to the north. Their leader Moronihah preached and prophesied to them, and he convinced them to repent. Then after a year of fighting, the Nephites retook half their lands.
In 30 BC, the wickedness of the people wore on Nephi, and he gave up his role as chief judge to a man named Cezoram, and went to preach the word of God for the rest of his life with his brother Lehi. They preached in all the Nephite cities and then preached to the Lamanites in Zarahemla—which the Nephites had not retaken—and there baptized 8,000 Lamanites, convincing them that the traditions of their fathers were wicked.
But when Nephi and Lehi traveled to the land of Nephi to preach to more Lamanites, they were captured by the Lamanite army and thrown into prison. They were held there for many days without food. When they were about to be brought out for execution, the Lamanites were amazed to find them encircled by a pillar of fire that did not burn them.
The earth then shook as if the prison walls would collapse, but they did not. Then a voice was heard, like a mild whisper that pierces the very soul, saying, "Repent. Repent and cease from trying to destroy my servants. Repent. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is nearly here." The Lamanites were frightened and they saw that the faces of Nephi and Lehi were shining very brightly, and they seemed to be conversing with someone in the heavens.
One of the Lamanites remembered the words taught by Alma, Amulek, and Zeezrom, and told the others they must have faith in Christ, and so they all began to pray. The Holy Spirit of God came down from heaven and filled their hearts. When they opened their eyes, they saw that all of them were now surrounded in fire without being burned. And the voice whispered, "Peace be on you because of your faith in my Well Beloved."
Then the Lamanites looked up and saw the heavens open up and angels came down and ministered to them. About 300 Lamanites witnessed these things, and they were told to go forth without doubt and preach to the people. And so they did, and a majority of the Lamanites were convinced because of the greatness of the evidence they had received.
And the Lamanites laid down their weapons of war, and let go of their hatreds and the traditions of their fathers. And they returned to the Nephites all the cities of theirs they had captured. By the end of 30 BC, most of the Lamanites had become more a more righteous people than the Nephites.