“Whosoever Will Come, Him Will I Receive”

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The Signs of Jesus’ Death:  3 Nephi 8:1-25

These signs are prophesied by Samuel2 in Helaman 14:14-28

8:1  “…and now it came to pass that according to our record, and we know our record to be true, for behold, it was a just man who did keep the record…”   The “just man” referred to here is Nephi3.  Why would Mormon see the need to point out that he knew the Nephite record to be true?  This is also an editorial interruption by Mormon which Grant Hardy calls “notes on sources”. 

One possibility for Mormon making this statement can be understood by reading this passage within the context of MesoAmerican society.   I recently listened to an interview with Dr. Mark Wright, PhD in Mayan Studies in which he spoke briefly about Mayan Day Keepers.  In brief, Mayan Day Keepers were men that kept track of the days; they  were calendar priests.   Could Mormon be referring to  the Mayan Day Keepers in 3 Nephi 8:1 and not referring to the prophet Nephi?  Click Here to watch a youtube video of Dr. Wright speaking about the Day Keepers.  Click here to listen to an interview with Dr. Wright.

8:20  “And there could be no light, because of the darkness…” This is an odd sentence structure.  It makes it sound as if the darkness prohibited any light from working.    How could this be?  Was there something in the air from the earhtquakes and other natural disasters  that prevented fire from burning?

Here is an interesting article by Dr. Bart Kowallis, a geologist, makes the argument that the destruction described was due to volcanic activity.  Click here to read his article. 

Latter-day Saints, trying to make sense of this in scientific terms, have speculated that the darkness may have been the result of volcanoes spewing large amounts of ash into the atmosphere.  The darkness, variously described as a “vapor” or “mists” that could be felt, was associated with suffocating smoke, which made it impossible to light fires (Grant Hardy,Understanding the Book of Mormon:  A Reader’s Guide, pg. 309, note 1).

There are many connections between the Helaman 5 prison narrative of Ammon and the coming of the resurrected Jesus in Third Nephi,  at least in terms of distinctive narrative elements and key phrases (though of course we cannot  know this until later, after we are well into Third Nephi; this is an interpretation accessable only to rereaders of the text, and it entails a shift in their perception of exactly which narrative exhibit the most significant parallels):

3 Nephi 8:6/Helaman 5:33 the earth shook “…as if it were/was about to divide asunder…”

3 Nephi 8:19-22/Helaman 5:28-34  a cloud of vapor of darkness

3 Nephi 10:9/ Helaman 5:43 the darkness disperses

3 Nephi 11:3-5/Helaman 5:29:33 a voice comes three times

3 Nephi 11:3/Helaman 5:30 it was not a loud voice, but rather one that was “still” or “small”  and “it did pierce…to the very soul” 

3Nephi 11:5/Helaman 5:48 they look up to see “from whence the voice/sound came”

3 Nephi 11:8/Helaman 5:48 angels/Jesus came down “out of heaven” 

 As always the first question to ask when presented with such a list is, “Are these parallels intentional or are the connections coincidental?”  The second question is, “If Mormon has indeed worded his narratives so that readers are supposed to recognize parallels, what might that mean?”  All of the phrasing in common between the prison episode and Jesus’ arrival in the New World occurs in the words of the narrator;  it is Mormon’s descriptions that make the incidents parallel, which means the connections wil be more obvious to us than to the actors themselves.  Or, the poetics of the narrative is reserved for the reader’s viewpoint and interpretive operations (Grant Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon:  A Reader’s Guide, pg. 163-165).

Mormon often draws an implicit connection between prophecies and their fulfillment by reporting events in the language of the original prediction.  His chapter-long acount of the destruction among the Nephites at the time of Jesus’ death borrows heavily in its wording not just from Samuel’s prophecies but also from Nephi’s  (1 Nephi 12, 2 Nephi 26) and Zenos’ (1 Nephi 19).  The following is  a list of the prophecy’s fulfillment, when and by whom they were first intimated, and what the similarity in wording is:

3 Nephi 8:10/1 Nephi 19:11 (Zenos) – a “mountain” “carried up”

3 Nephi 8:13, 17/ 2 Nephi 26:6 (Nephi) – “thunderings, and lightnings, and earthquakes”

3 Nephi 8:13, 17/ Helaman 14:21 (Samuel) – “thunderings, and lightings and earthquakes” 

3 Nephi 8:13/Helaman 14:24  (Samuel) – “highways broken up”

3 Nephi 8:14/1 Nephi 12:4 (Nephi) – “many cities…sunk…burned”  and collapsed

3 Nephi 8:14/Helaman 14:24 (Samuel) – “many cities [became] desolate”

3 Nephi 8:16/2 Nephi 26:5 (Nephi) “whirlwinds shall carry them away”

3 Nephi 8:18/Helaman 14:21-22 (Sameul) – rocks “rent in twain…[and] were found in seams and in cracks, and in broken fragments upon the face of the whole earth/land” 

3 Nephi 8:20-23/1 Nephi 19:10-11 (Zenos) – “vapor of darkness” lasting for three days

3 Nephi 8:22/Helaman 14:20 (Samuel) – no light from sun, moon, orstars for three days

3 Nephi 8:22/1 Nephi 12:4 (Nephi) – “mists(s) of darkness”

(Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 188, 189)

A Voice Proclaims the Extent of the Destruction:  3 Nephi 9:1-12

9:1 “…and it is because of their iniquity and abominations that they are fallen!”  Is it still part of Mormon theology that God will use natural disasters to punish the wicked?   One has to be careful when doing so.

“Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it,” Robertson said. “They were under the heel of the French … and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French.'”

“True story,” he continued. “And the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’ Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after another”  –  Pat Robertson.    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-6096806-503544.html


“Of the cities listed, Jerusalem was in the Land of Nephi, Zarahemla was the capital, Mormoniha (and perhaps Mormon) were in the Land Bountiful, and Jacobugath was a new city in the North.   Most of the others, all unmentioned elsewhere in the Book of Mormon, were probably in the Land Northward.  The burning of Zarahemla was prophesied in Helaman 13:12-14” (Grant Hardy, The Book of Mormon:  A Reader’s Edition, pg. 503, footnote 1a).

9:2  There are dozens and dozens of passages where phrases are used exclusively in similar situations, signaling a deliberate allusion to an earlier event.  For example, when surveying the aftermath of the last great battle of the Nephites, Mormon mourns the many “fair sons and daughters” who had fallen (Mormon 6:19).  In using this locution, he brings to mind the only previous occasion we have encountered it, that is, when a voice from heaven enumerated the cataclysmic destructions at the time of Christ’s death, lamenting “the slain of the fair sons and daughters of my people” (3 Nephi 9:2)  (Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 109).

Like the Israelites at Sinai, the righteous Nephites had heard the voice of God amidst “thunders and lightnings,” fire, smoke, earthquake, and “thick darkness” (Exodus 19:16-18; Deuteronomy 4:11-12).  The Israelites, terrified at hearing the voice of God, requested only Moses, as their representative, be brought into God’s presence.  In Third Nephi, however, the Nephites at Bountiful will soon transcend the Sinai precedent as they hear and then see and even touch the Lord.  And like Moses, when they are with God he gives them a new law  (Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 190).

9:5, 7, 8, 9, 11 “…that the blood of the prophets and saints…” This seems to be a big justification for the natural disasters that happened upon the people.

9:9 “…was inhabited by the people of King Jacob…”   See 3 Nephi 7:8-13

The Voice of Jesus Christ Proclaims His Mission:  3 Nephi 9:13-21

9:13 compare with Malachi 24:17

9:15 “Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God.”  Is this a different voice that what is heard in verses 1-12?

9:15 compare with Ether 12:8 “..glorified his name…” vs. “… glorified the name of the Father…”

9:20 “…even as the Lamanites…” See Helaman 5:43-50.  This parallel will repeat itself later in 3 Nephi 17:24 and 3 Nephi 19:13-14. 

9:22 “I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again.”   Jesus mentions his crucifixion only once and it is in a conversation with the twelve, but not in his sermons to the multitude (there is an oblique reference to being lifted up by the Jews in 3 Nephi 28:16).

9:17 “..in me is the law of Moses fulfilled.”

Long before, Nephi had written that “notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled” (2Nephi 21:24)  – a principle reiterated by Abinadi, Amulek, and Mormon himself (Mosiah 13:27-28;  Alma 25:15-16;  30:3;  34:13-14).  This doctrine was well enough known that there was some confusion at the time when the Nephites saw the signs of Jesus’ birth.  Some thought that “it was no more expedient to observe the law of Moses,” though they soon came to understand that their interpretations of scripture were in error, that “the law was not yet fulfilled,” and that it would not be until Christ’s death (3 Nephi 1:24-25; cf. Alma 34:13-14) (Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 193).

A Voice Speaks of Unaccepted Mercies:  3 Nephi 10:1-7

10:1-7 “…how oft have I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens…”  A friend of mine proposed a question the other night. “How much agency does one really have if God destroys you for not obeying his commandments?”  The reason I love the imagery of the hen gathering her chicks is because it speaks of the long-suffering which God has for his children.  He prods, coaxes, asks, pleads, and allows us to disobey; He give us unaccepted mercies.    After some time of disobedience, he will deliver the contingent punishments.     Yet, the question still remains, “How much agency does one really have when a gun is pointed at your head?”  Sure, you can say no to the person, but he will kill you if you say no.  So, do you really have agency then?

I like Dr. Teryl Givens’ sophisticated approach to agency:

Now, one way that you can destroy or deny agency is by force, but that is a rather brute and certainly  not the most sophisticated or effective way to deny people their agency.   The early brethren recognized this and The Book of Mormon contains hints as well that the satanic strategy to destroy agency was to deny consequences of our choices;  not to coerce the choices themselves.   That is what the whole Satan, saved in your sins controversy, of Amulek with the anti-Christ, Zeezrom,  is about.   If that is the case, then what Mormons should be advocating, to be in line with that theology, is a society, a culture, a government, that moves in the direction of affirming the sanctity of choice and the role of personal accountability for those choices.
In other words, if I give you a choice, but then I don’t honor the consequence of that choice, I have effectively rendered your choice null and void;  in that way I have abrogated your agency.   So whether I don’t give you something that you choose or give you a heavenly reward that your actions showed you didn’t choose, in either cases I have nullified your agency.  That is a much more sophisticated approach then this caricature of brute force, which is not likely to have attracted a third of the hosts of heaven.   So, I think the way this plays out in practices is not always simple.
….You tend to see only one half of that philosophical principle [separating choice from consequence].  If you have a child and you say to your child, “Look, you do your homework, you can go to the movies tonight.”  And, the child does the homework, and then you say, “Nope!  Changed my mind.  You can’t go to the movies.”    That child would say, “Well that is not fair!”   What the child actually means is, “You’ve denied me my freedom.  I acted with reasonable expectation that my choice would be conducive to a certain end and you denied that end.  So, you have taken away my freedom.”     But few children would similarly reason that if, “I don’t do my homework and you let me go to the movies anyhow, by that very same principle, you have also denied me my freedom.”   Even though, who is going to complain about getting something they didn’t earn or choose?  (Dr. Teryl Givens interview Faith and Politics,  Founding Principles in Today’s Politics podcast, 10:13, 24.07).

The Reaction of the People:  3 Nephi 10:8-10

10:10 What was the cause of their joy?   Was it because they realized how patient the Lord had been with them?  Was it because the natural disasters ceased? Or, some other reason(s)?

Mormon2 Remarks on the Fulfillment of Prophecy:  3 Nephi 10:11-19

“As Mormon weaves his account around this overarching theme (prophecy and its fulfillment), he begins to insert longer comments into his narrative, which contrast with the quick observations about editing, sources, or ethical implications that we have seen throughout his writings.  There are four substantial editorial interruptions in 3 Nephi:  3 Nephi 5:7-26, 10:11-19, 26:6-12, and 28:24-30:2.  These are discrete, readily identifiable sections each of which contains the phrase “I make an end of my sayings/speaking”  (Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 184, 311 – note 12). 

10:11 Compare with 1 Nephi 12:4-5, 19:10-12;  Helaman 14:20-27

10:14 “…are not unto the fulfilling of the prophecies…”  Here Mormon is making a very explicit plea for the legitemacy of prophecy.

Prophecies provide connections between larger episodes, and even between books….In addition, prophecies are often integral to the stories themselves:  the destruction of major cities is always preceded by recent prophetic warnings, prophets occasionally foretell the movements of enemy troops. …There is a double climax to Mormon’s history, both elements of which were prophesied about extensively.  The first is the coming of Jesus to Palestine, with the unmistakable signs in the New World of his birth and death, quickly followed by a dramatic postresurrection appearance of Christ to the Nephites.  The second culmination of prophecy occurs with the destruction of the Nephites as a people some four hundred years later”

…this passage demonstrates the persuasive power of fulfilled prophecies:  because some of Samuel’s predictions had come to pass, one could reasonably expect that his other prophecies would be fulfilled as well (and not just Samuel’s proclamations, but “all things…which had been spoken” by “all the holy prophets”)  (Hardy,  A Reader’s Guide, pg.113, 187).

10:16 “…the prophet Zenos…and also Zenock..”  See 1 Nephi 19:10-12;  Alma 33:15-16.  One wonders if there was additional information about these men included in the lost 116 pages.  Apparently the two prophets were ancestors of Lehi (3 Nephi 10:16), which may explain how their words got into the Brass Plates.  That collection was a lineage record of some sort, complete with genealogies (1 Nephi 5:14-16).

10:17 See Alma 46:24

10:18  “…I will show unto you…” This is an editorial interruption which Grant Hardy calls  a “narrative foreshadowing”.

10:19 “…an account of his ministry shall be given hereafter.”  This is an editorial interruption which Grant Hardy calls an “editorial promise”.

Jesus’ Teachings to the Nephites:  3 Nephi 11:1-29:12

Jesus Appears to the Nephites:  3 Nephi 11:1-17

 11:1 “…round about the temple…”

John Welch, Illuminating the Sermon, 23-122.  Welch puts forward the idea that the Sermon on the Mount, and even more so the Sermon at the Temple, can be read coherently as a ritual text that bears a striking resemblance to LDS temple ordinances.  This type of analysis may be of interest to Mormons, but his argument relies heavily on inference, suggestion, and the liberal use of specific phrases from the LDS endowment ceremony.   It seems unlikely that an outsider trying to ritualize the Sermon on the Mount or imaginatively reconstruct a ceremonial context would come up with anything like the Mormon temple experience.  Rather than being a central concept, the “temple” appears only twice in Third Nephi: once in a quotation of Malachi 3:1 (3 Nephi 24:1 ), and once in  a description of the setting (3 Nephi 11:1) which sounds conventional rather than integral to the meaning of the sermon.   Jacob, Benjamin, and Limhi all addressed their people at temples (Jacob 1:17, 2:2, 11;  Mosiah 1:18, 2:1, 5-7, 7:17)  (Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 313, note 26).

11:3  This is the fourth time they have heard a voice.   It is only the second voice that Mormon explicitally says to whom it belonged (Jesus);  the other two he does not.  Now, this fourth one is the voice of God the Father. If they had heard a voice three other times, what made it so difficult to hear this voice?


“Mormon begins his account of Christ’s visit to the Americas with a headnote.  As in the past, this device signals the beginning of a discrete section of narrative, but rarely has the break been so thorough.  The scene has shifted to the land Bountiful, a region that has thus far not played a prominent rold in the story and about which we know little (other than that it was the site of battles described in Alma 51-52 and Helaman 1);  Jesus’ words and actions show few connections to what came before;  and Mormon, usually a meticulous recorder, does not tell us exactly when Jesus appeared.  We know the cataclysmic destructions occurred “in the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month” (3 Nephi 8:5), but after his editorial interruption Mormon does not offer a date for the most momentous event in Nephite history, when people in Bountiful were gathered at the temple, marveling at the extent of the devastation and talking of Christ, and then suddenly heard another voice from above and saw a heavenly figure descending.  Although most Latter-day Saints have assumed that Jesus appeared right after the three days of darkness – as can be seen in LDS artistic depictions of the event – some have suggested that the destruction and visitation could have been separated by several weeks or even months.

The lack of a precise date means that it is hard to determine whether Jesus’ sermons interrupted rescue operations, consoled bereaved survivors, or encouraged rebuilding efforts already under way.  When he healed all that were “lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed” [3 Nephi 17:17], was he repairing injuries that were sustained in the recent disasters?  The resurrected Jesus never mentions the death and ruin that preceded his arrival, even though that would have been on everyone’s mind, even months later.   Rather than these types of narrative connections, what Mormon does provide are excerpts from two sermons that were delivered on two consecutive days” (Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 192, 193)

11:13 “…thrust your hands into my side…feel the prints of the nails in my hands…”  Looking at the post-resurrection narrative as we find it in the New Testament, Jesus’ wounds are listed in a different order.  It is first the nail prints that are mentioned followed by the wound in Jesus’ side (see Gospel of John 20:20, 25, 27).  I think there might be some significance to the ordering of the signs.  In the Old World, crucifixion was a well known way of death, but (as far as my research has found) it was not so in mesoAmerica.  In MesoAmerica, human sacrifice was known, particularly the cutting out of someone’s heart:

“The methods of sacrifice vary dramatically, and may be particular to different contexts in which sacrifice was employed. Heart excision, beating with thorny branches ,being thrown down the sides of temple structures, and voluntary acts, such as jumping into cenotes are some methods of ritual sacrifice described.

“…Human sacrifice was a pervasive theme interwoven into Maya life. It became so embedded into parts of the Maya area, namely Yucatan, Chiapas, and Guatemala, that sacrifice continued, albeit in secrecy, after the Spanish conquest, and prevailed into the Colonial period, and eventually into the nineteenth century (Soustelle 1984:2). The incorporation of human sacrifice into political agendas is what stabilized the existence of sacrifice in the life of the Mayas. Demarest (1984:228) states that Classic Maya human sacrifice existed as a mode of legitimization and sanctification of the elite’s political power.” (click here to read rest of article)

William P. Palmer has the following to say about the Ah Nacom (those that performed Maya sacrifice):

“Among the duties of priesthood was human sacrifice, a rite performed by a priest called the nacom. Elected for life, the nacom would cut out the heart of sacrificial victims during ceremonies.”   (http://library.umaine.edu/hudson/palmer/Maya/society.asp)

Joyce Marcus in her paper, Archaeology and Religion: a Comparison of the Zapotec and Maya, wrote the following:

“We also  have good evidence for human sacrifice in the archaeological record.  For example, on Stela 11 at Piedras Negra a victim is shown stretched over a stone altar at the base of a ladder leading up to the temple, where the ruler is seated on his throne;  instead of blood emanating from the open wound of the victim there are long feathers which Thompson suggests are quetzal feathers, symbolizing something precious -a definition the Maya applied to human blood.  In the Dresden Codex, a tree is shown emanating from the wound after the removal of the victim’s heart.  On a gold disk recovered from the Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza, a victim is stretched over a stone alter with the gaping wound clearly shown;  four assistants hold down the limbs of the victim,  most probably the chacs or “lightning impersonators’.   This form of sacrifice seems to be the most common form, although others are known.  Immediate sacrifice of victims taken in raids was a common practice, as was the offering of children and adults  to the chacs, lighting beings that were purported to live in the cenote at Chichen Itza.”(Joyce Marcus, Archaeology and Religion:  a Comparison of the Zapotec and Maya,   pg 186)

From the Dresden Codex

Stella 11 at Piedras Negras. Notice the feathers spewing out of the chest of the person sacrificed

 So, why all of this talk about Mayan human sacrifice?  It seems to me that possibly those in the Book of Mormon lands would have been familiar with the ceremony of removing the sacrificial victim’s heart and unfamiliar with crucifixion.   So,within the cultural context of MesoAmerican human sacrifice, could Jesus be saying, “I am the last and the ultimate sacrifice”? And, the symbol of that would have been the wound (similar to the wound left from removing the sacrificial victim’s heart) in his side (not the print in his hands)?

11:16 “Hosanna” 

The word hosanna is etymologically derived from Latin osanna, hosanna which itself was derived from Greek ὡσαννά, ὠσαννά, representing Hebrew הושיעה־נא, הושיעה נא‎ hôšâ‘-nā’ which is short for hôšî‘â-nā’ from Aramaic הושע נא‎ meaning “save, pray”. Christian usage has come through the Greek Bible, giving it the form ὡσαννά, hōsanná.

“Hoshana” (הושענא) is a Hebrew word meaning please save or save now.  In Jewish liturgy, the word is applied specifically to the Hoshana Service, a cycle of prayers from which a selection is sung each morning during Sukkot, the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles. The complete cycle is sung on the seventh day of the festival, which is called Hoshana Rabbah (הושענא רבא, “Great Hosanna”) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hosanna).

These Nephites in Bountiful, having entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ, are permanently changed and never fall away (3 Nephi 27:30-31).


Nephihimself had been very actively engaged in baptizing in the years that preceded Jesus’ coming (3 Nephi 1:23;  7:23-26) and he is the first to initiate the new baptisms ( 3 Nephi 19:11-12 ).  We might reasonably ask what authority Nephi now has that he was formerly lacking, or how the ordinance has been transformed.  Clearly something has changed, but Mormon does not provide an explanation.  Believers and critics alike have rushed to fill the gap, suggesting that the rebaptisms were “Christocentric” rather than “penitent” – a distinction that does not exactly holdup in the text – or that they were necessary in light of a newly reorganized church, or that they represented a renewal of covenants in a new age.  Brent Metcalfe, in an article seeking to demonstrate Joseph Smith’s authorship, argued that Christocentric baptisms occurred only in portions of the Book of Mormon that were dictated later (including 2 Nephi ), however Matthew Roper has identified a number of counter examples  ˆ(Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 313, note 23).

11:22, 28 “…there shall be no disputations among you…”   Why did Mormon leave this issue (of disputations regarding the mode of baptism) out of the record prior to Jesus’ visit to the Americas?

11:29  “…contention is not of me, but is of the devil…”  This aphorism of Jesus gets abused within our Mormon culture.   There is a difference between contention, and a lively, robust conversation.

It seems obvious that the climax of the Book of Mormon is Christ’s three-day visti to the Nephites.  Jesus is the central figure of the book’s theology, and his earthly ministry and redemptive sacrifice had been prophesied, discussed, and anticipated among the Nephites since the time of Lehi.  With such a buildup, it is easy for readers to be disappointed in what follows.  If archeologists in Palestine discovered a previously unknown account of Jesus’ teachings dating back to the first or second century, the world would hardly be able to contain its excitement, yet our desire for novelty and fresh insight is thwarted in the Book of Mormon when Jesus delivers a slightly revised version of the Sermon on the Mount of the Nephites, followed by extended quotations from Isaiah, Micah, and Malachi….Third Nephi often amplifies the miraculous aspects of the gospel, but it never reaches the fantastic heights of  Buddha’s sermon in the Lotus Sutra – when before an audience of hundreds of thousands of both mortal and heavenly beings, flowers rained down from heaven, perfume filled the air, the earth shook, and the buddha emitted a ray of light that illuminated eighteen thousand worlds, in each of which another Buddha was preaching.  Instead, the Book of Mormon generally stays close to the parameters of biblical supernaturalism as it literalizes and expands upon familiar stories. 

In light of this, it may be tempting to write off the Book of Mormon’s account of Jesus’ coming to the New World as merely derivative, especially when on recognizes that the scriptures he quotes are all adapted from the King James Version. Although the Book of Mormon contains some three dozen prophecies of Christ’s coming, the vast majority concern his life in Palestine. Only five passages indicate that his ministry would include a postressurection visti to the New World.   Nephi spoke plainly on the subject (1 Nephi 12:4-7; 2 Nephi 26:1-9; 32:6), but these prophecies apparently did not have wide distribution.  As late as 83 BC Alma explicitly states that he does not know whether Jesus will come to the Nephites (Alma 7:8), though he later receives a revelation that this would be the case (Alma 45:10), and Mormon reports that other prophets at the time “taught that he [Christ] would appear unto them after his resurrection” (Alma 16:20).   Some have seen in this disjunction evidence that Joseph Smith was inventing the story as he went along, with  Nephi’s  predictions being so much clearer because his words were dictated after Third Nephi had already been written.  In any case, there was not a strong expectation of Christ’s coming to the New World on anyone’s part, even after the time of Alma. 

Just before the book of Third Nephi begins, Samuel the Lamanite offers very specific prophecies about signs in the Americas of Jesus’ birth and death, yet he never mentions Christ’s visit.   In fact, some of his listeners complain that they are being asked to believe in a figure who will live “in a land which is far distant,” and they wonder, “Why will he not show himself unto us as well unto them who shall be at Jerusalem?” (Helaman 16:18, 20).   In short, the Book of Mormon story is not structured around a straightforward expectation of Jesus’ postresurrecton appearance among the Nephites that is satisfied and brought to an unambiguous conclusion;  the workings of prophecy and God’s providence are portrayed as being a bit more enigmatic.

There are still other ways in which the Book of Mormon’s report of Jesus’ visit  does not match our expectations.  He clearly came as the Redeemer, introducing himself as the one who had “glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world” (3 Nephi 11:11), but he does not clarify what this means or how it came about – the word atonement is never used and he nowwhere mentions Adam, Gethsemane, Glgotha, or the empty tomb.  He never even  explains how he received the wounds he invites the multitude to examine.  Jesus announces that he has come to fulfill prophecy, but the scriptures he cites are all from Old World prophets;  he does not explicitly quote the predictions of Nephi, Alma, or Samuel the Lamanite.  And a great deal of his preaching concerns events of the distant future, when the Gentiles would aid in the final gathering of Israel.   One might have thought that the Nephites, in the aftermath of terrible destructions or facing the challenge of completely rebuilding their society, would have had more pressing concerns.

  Yet if Third Nephi seems disappointing or frustrating, it may be that our expectations are at odds with Mormon’s own objectives. It   is easy to imagine how he might have shaped his story differently in order ot provide an account that was more integrated either in historical terms (by explicitly connecting events and describing how people at the time understood and responded to them) or from a literary vantage (by building up the drama through clearer foreshadowing, anticipation, suspense, and the resolution).   Mormon, however, seems to be after something else.   Both history and literature matter to him [Mormon], but as he brings his record to its culmination, his main concern is increasingly theological.  Because the narrator’s theological priorities here converge with the words of Jesus himself, a comprehensive overview of Third Nephi offers a unique opportunity to identify and evaluate the main religious themes of the text.  At its theological climax, what does the author(s) of the Book of Mormon most want to communicate?  The one issue that most seems to connect the divers parts of Third Nephi is prophecy and fulfillment, particularly as it concerns the destiny of the House of Israel.  As Mormon weaves his account around this overarching theme, he begins to insert longer comments into his narrative, which contrast with the quick observations about editing, sources, or ethical implications that we have seen throughout his writings.    (Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 182-184).

The Doctrine of Jesus:  3 Nephi 11:31-41

11:31, 32 “…this is my doctrine…repent and believe in me…” I love how simple and clear this statement is.  It is so uncluttered!!

11:37 There is  a difference between being childish and child-like.

11:39 “…and whoso shall declare more or less than this, and estabish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock.”  How does Mormonism, with all of its do’s and dont’s, compare to what Jesus says here?

Miguel is a Guatemalan-American Mormon living in the Northwest with his family. He is one of the proprietors of the Rational Faiths blog.

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