3 Nephi 6

 

The Lord Confirms the Covenant Way

      Alma 45 -- 3 Nephi 10


 

3 Nephi 6:8 There Were Many Highways Cast Up, and Many Roads Made:

 

     There are numerous references to highways in the Book of Mormon. One example is in 3 Nephi 6:8 where it says that "there were many highways cast up, and many roads made." According to Glenn Scott (and assuming a Mesoamerican setting), these roads were topped with a lime cement called sascab that hardened under wetting and pressure.136 Maya highways were called sacbe (plural sacbe ob) which according to Sylvanus Morley, meant built-up roads (sac = made-by-hand, be = road). Paul Cheesman offers another interpretation. He says sac means white because of the white material called sascab with which the Maya surfaced those roads (Cheesman and Hutchins 1984, Pathways to the Past, 101). Support for the latter definition comes from Victor von Hagen, who wrote, "On top went a limestone gravel, which when wetted and tamped down, made a hard smooth surface. The result was the white road."137

     T.A. Willard recorded, "The whole face of the road was given a smooth hard coating of mortar cement of lime and finely sifted white earth, known then and today as zac-cab"138 The bottom layer consisted of large boulders. Chinks were filled with small stones hammered into place. The second and third courses were of smaller stones carefully placed. The top layer was fragments pounded level and bound together with a cement grout. The surface was paved with a two-inch layer of lime cement rubbed smooth.139 In swampy areas (bajos) native engineers made sure the foundation was deep and firm. There were no detours to avoid bajos.140 [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, pp. 190-191]

 

3 Nephi 6:8 There were many highways cast up, and many roads made: Maya Highways A schematic map of Maya sacbe ob (highways) which have been identified. (per Victor von Hagen - 1960) [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 192]

 

3 Nephi 6:8 There Were Many Highways Cast Up, and Many Roads Made:

 

     In 3 Nephi 6:8 it says that "there were many highways cast up, and many roads made, which led from city to city, and from land to land, and from place to place."

     According to Joy Osborn, in 1824, six years before the Book of Mormon was published, Joseph Aspdin had patented a process for making portland cement. About this same time John McAdam, in Scotland, had developed the road surface finish still known today as "macadam."

     Willard, in The City of the Sacred Well, said of their ancient cement roads:

           Several thousand of years before the sturdy Scotch engineer John McAdam gave to the world the broken-rock road surface known as "macadam" which has done so much to make communication easier, roads were built in Yucatan that embodied all his sound principles of road-making. And McAdam lived and died without ever having heard of them. In fact, he had been sleeping beneath the green sod of his native kinfolk at least a decade before Europe or North America knew that these old roads of Yucatan existed. The thoroughness and good engineering of their construction rival the famous roads of the Roman Empire or of present-day highways. The old roads, each and every one, went down to bedrock, and upon that solid foundation was built up a ballast of broken limestone, with the larger stones at the bottom. As the surface of the road was reached, smaller stones were used and the crevices were filled in. The whole face of the road was given a smooth, hard coating of mortar cement of lime and finely sifted white earth, known then and today as zac-cab. (pp. 88-89)

[Joy M. Osborn, The Book of Mormon -- The Stick of Joseph, pp. 149-151] [See the commentary on Helaman 7:10]

 

3 Nephi 6:8 Many Roads Made, Which Led from City to City, and from Land to Land:

 

     In 3 Nephi 6:8, Mormon notes that there were "many roads made, which led from city to city, and from land to land, and from place to place." An interesting find was made on the Coba-Yaxuna sacbe: an ancient road roller, a stone cylinder (now broken in two), twenty-eight inches in diameter, thirteen feet long, weighing five tons.141 That sacbe is sixty-seven miles long, averaging thirty-two feet wide. For most of its length it is two to three feet above terrain. Where crossing bajos the roadbed is more than eight feet high with sides of roughly dressed stone. (see illustration)

     Bancroft also recorded, "the remains of ancient paved roads, or calzadas, have been found in several parts of the state." He quoted Spanish travelers, such as Cogolludo, as saying, "In his time, were to be seen vestiges of calzadas which cross the whole kingdom."142 [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 191]

 

3 Nephi 6:8 There were many highways cast up, and many roads made, which led from city to city, and from land to land, and from place to place (Illustration): In recent years, hundreds of miles of roads have been found radiating outward from major population centers throughout much of Mesoamerica. Built-up roads (the Mayan language term was sacbe, "white road") like this remnant at the site of Labna in Yucatan were not primarily for travelers but were routes for ceremonial processions although they were used for routine transport where they were available. Mostly, however, well-worn trails served the surefooted human burden bearers. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 56]

 

3 Nephi 6:11 For There Were Many Merchants in the Land . . . and the People Began to Be Distinguished by Ranks, according to Their Riches:

 

     In 3 Nephi 6:11, Mormon notes that "there were many merchants in the land, and also many lawyers, and many officers. And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning . . ." According to Allen Christensen, as outlined in the books of Helaman and 3 Nephi, the problem was not that the Nephites engaged in long-distance trade relationships, but that they used the profits to create a new elite class which placed itself above those with less wealth and sought to deprive them of their liberty (Helaman 3:36; 6:17,39; 3 Nephi 6:11-14).

     Parallel to Book of Mormon history, the first century before Christ was a crucial time in the economic and social development of ancient American societies. During that century the relatively simple farming communities of Mexico and Central America began to develop new and powerful elite merchant classes which accumulated expensive luxury goods through a complicated system of long-distance trade networks. To control the delicate economic relationships among foreign powers effectively, these communities instituted the practice of kingship. This astonishingly sudden change in Mesoamerican society appeared almost simultaneously over a large area of thousands of square miles of territory, forming a vast network of developing states engaged in economic cooperation and competition on an unprecedented scale.

     Many areas of southern Mesoamerica lack certain essential resources, such as hard stones and obsidian for making grinding and cutting tools, mineral salt, and fine clay for making pottery These items were necessary to maintain the agricultural way of life . . . Kaminaljuyu was blessed with plentiful sources of all these items and was situated in a commanding position to control the movement of goods from the Pacific Coast and other potential sources for desirable trade goods (Parsons 5). . . .

     The Maya Indians of the lowland forest region of Guatemala and Belize were on the opposite end of this system of international trade. Their lands lacked such fundamentally important resources as stone for grinding grain, obsidian for making cutting tools and weapons, and mineral salt for preserving meat and fish. As a result, the inhabitants of the region were forced to obtain these necessary items from foreign sources through long-distance trade. The very survival of the expanding population of the lowland Maya area depended on an efficient system of obtaining these goods. In the first century B.C., when the international trade network was spreading at a rapid rate throughout Mesoamerica, the lowland Maya enthusiastically joined in. [Allen J. Christenson, "Nephite Trade Networks and the Dangers of a Class Society," in The Book of Mormon: Helaman Through 3 Nephi 8, According to Thy Word, pp. 223-231]

 

3 Nephi 6:19 Lachoneus [the son of Lachoneus] did fill the seat of his father (Nephite Chief Priests) [Illustration]: Nephite Chief Priests. Adapted from [John W. Welch and Morgan A. Ashton, "Charting the Book of Mormon," Packet 1, F.A.R.M.S., 1997]

 

3 Nephi 6:20 The Redemption Which the Lord Would Make:

 

     According to John Pratt, the prophets taught that the ordinances of the law of Moses (such as Passover) were symbolic of things to come. For example, Abinadi explained that "there was a law given them [the children of Israel], yea, a law of performances and ordinances, . . . all these things were types of things to come" (Mosiah 13:30-31). He summarized his powerful discourse, which condemned the wicked priests for not teaching the prophetic nature of the law of Moses, with the following closing statement: "therefore, if ye teach the law of Moses, also teach that it is a shadow of those things which are to come -- Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord" (Mosiah 16:14-15; see also 13:30-33). In 3 Nephi 6:20, Mormon termed it "the redemption which the Lord would make for his people, or in other words, the resurrection of Christ."

     The Lord instituted the Passover celebration at the time of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, to commemorate their release from slavery after the angel of death slew the firstborn of Egypt but "passed over" the Israelite homes (see Exodus 12). However, as the symbolism of the Passover is reviewed, it will be clear that the Passover ceremony is not only symbolic of the redemption of Israel from bondage, it also was in similitude of the redemption of mankind from death and sin by the Lamb of God. How was the annual Passover ceremony a shadow of the redemption that would come through Christ? The Passover feast centered on the paschal lamb, which was a sacrificial lamb, a male without blemish and with no broken bone, even after death (see Exodus 12:5,46). Likewise, Jesus was the "Passover," the "Lamb of God" (1 Corinthians 5:7; John 1:29), a male without blemish and with no broken bone, even after death (John 19:36). He was the Firstborn of God in the pre-mortal existence (D&C 93:21), sanctified in the flesh as were the firstborn of Israel (Exodus12:23-24), and slain even as were the firstborn of Egypt (Exodus 12:29).

     The Passover lamb was to be chosen on 10 Nisan, the tenth day of the Jewish lunar month Nisan. It was to be killed by "the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel" on 14 Nisan (Exodus 12:6), which was usually the day of the first full moon of spring. Jewish sources state that the lamb was sacrificed between 3:00 and 5:00 P.M. on that day (Jubilees 49:1 and Josephus -- Wars, 6.9.3).

     Jesus, too, was "chosen" on 10 Nisan at his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when he was hailed as the Messiah (see Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:37-40; John 12:l,12-16), which had been prophesied by Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9). The multitude who had assembled in Jerusalem for Passover later consented to his death when they "all" cried out on 14 Nisan, "Let him be crucified" (Matthew 27:20-23). The Lamb of God died about 3:00 P.M. (Matthew 27:46) on the day of preparation for Passover (John 19:14), 14 Nisan, just when the paschal lambs were also being slain.

     The preparation of the lamb for the feast had to be hurriedly completed before sunset, after which would begin the first day of Passover, 15 Nisan, a day sanctified as a special sabbath day. After sunset, the lamb was eaten with bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and wine. This ritualized Passover meal was also called the feast of unleavened bread; it began a week in which no leavened bread was eaten, symbolic of the haste of preparation which did not allow enough time for bread dough to rise (Exodus 12:18-20,34,39; Leviticus 23:6-8).

     Likewise, the body of Jesus had to be hurriedly prepared for burial before the sunset would commence the Sabbath, which would be a "high day" (John 19:31) because it was not only Saturday, the weekly Sabbath, but also 15 Nisan, the first day of Passover.

     It was on 15 Nisan, after the slaying of the firstborn, that Pharaoh declared liberty to the captive Israelites. After their long period of bondage in Egypt, it must have been a day of great rejoicing. One reason that 15 Nisan was sanctified as an annual feast day was to commemorate that day on which the Lord brought Israel out of bondage and released them from the chains of slavery (Exodus 12:14-17, 29-31; 13:3, 14-15).

     Similarly, on 15 Nisan A.D. 33, the Passover feast day, the Savior declared liberty to the captives in the spirit prison after their long period of bondage (see D&C 138:18,31,42). Before the Savior arrived, they had been "assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death." In fact, they were already "rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death" (D&C 138:16,18). The fact that they were assembled, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance, suggests that they expected his arrival on the Passover feast day, the day of liberation.

     The law of Moses states that "on the morrow after the Sabbath" of Passover, the priest should wave before the Lord a sheaf of the firstfruits of the harvest (see Leviticus 23:10-12). On Easter Sunday, 16 Nisan, the morning after the Jewish Sabbath, the Savior through his resurrection, became "the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:20, 36-38). Jesus had already taught that he was like a kernel of grain which must abide alone until it dies in the ground, whereupon it can bring forth much fruit. (See John 12:23-24) Lehi also explained that the Savior, "being the first that should rise . . . is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved" (2 Nephi 2:8-9).

     Thus, the carefully prescribed elements of the Passover ceremony precisely foreshadowed both the events of the Atonement and the time each would occur. The annual sacrifice of the paschal lamb on 14 Nisan was not only in remembrance of the Israelites' having been saved by the blood of the lamb on the houses in Egypt (Exodus 12:13), it was also anticipating the 14 Nisan when the great sacrifice of the Lamb of God would occur. The feast on 15 Nisan celebrated not only the liberation of the captives of Egypt; that day would also be the time of even more rejoicing when the Savior would declare liberation to the captives in the spirit prison. And the third day, 16 Nisan, was not only the time when the firstfruits of the harvest of barley were presented to the Lord, it was also the glorious day of the Resurrection -- the firstfruits of the harvest of souls.

     When it is thus understood how the Passover ceremony of the law of Moses was fulfilled in the resurrection of Christ, one finds further confirmation of the proposed Resurrection date in what is termed an "argument from typology." For example, the fact that the law of Moses specifically required the lamb to be sacrificed on 14 Nisan argues against a 15 Nisan crucifixion (or any other date). Moreover, when the symbolism of the offering of the firstfruits on the morning after the Jewish Sabbath is understood to symbolize the resurrection of the Savior, then it becomes an indication that the first Easter morning should also have occurred at the same time. It is interesting to note that the Pharisees (and modern Jews) interpreted "Sabbath" as "feast day" and offered the grain on 16 Nisan, the second day of Passover. But the Sadducees interpreted "Sabbath" as "Saturday," the weekly Sabbath, and presented the firstfruits on the Sunday after Passover (see Hoehner, pp. 83-84). Because 16 Nisan fell on Sunday in A.D. 33, both Sadducees and Pharisees presented the firstfruits on the morning proposed for Jesus's resurrection.

     The importance of the Savior's resurrection occurring on Sunday was emphasized when the sanctified Sabbath day was changed from Saturday, the seventh day, symbolic of the day of rest from the labor of the Creation (Exodus 20:11), to Sunday, the Lord's Day (Acts 20:7; D&C 59:12), the glorious day of the Savior's resurrection.

     The Easter story has two main parts: the Savior's suffering and his triumph. The emblems of the sacrament remind us of his suffering, both in body and in spirit (see D&C 19:18; 20:75-79). The Sabbath was changed to Sunday as a reminder of the day of triumph, the day death was conquered. In a sense, one celebrates Easter every Sunday by partaking of the sacrament.

     Thus, it is clear that the Lord uses symbols to remind his people of the key points of the Atonement, even of the day it was completed. The day of Jesus' resurrection was important enough to commemorate beforehand in the Passover ceremony and also to celebrate afterward by changing the Sabbath to Sunday. [John P. Pratt, "The Restoration of Priesthood Keys on Easter 1836 -- Part 2: Symbolism of Passover and of Elijah's Return," in The Ensign, July 1985, pp. 55-58]

     The reader should note that John Pratt proposes the year A.D. 33 as the year Christ was crucified. Only in this year did the Passover dates meet the full type and shadow of Christ's Atonement as described in the Bible. [See the commentary on 3 Nephi 8:5]

     

3 Nephi 6:20 The Redemption Which the Lord Would Make [Illustration]: Correspondence of the Atonement to the Passover. [John P. Pratt, "The Restoration of Priesthood Keys on Easter 1836 -- Part 2: Symbolism of Passover and of Elijah's Return," in The Ensign, July 1985, p. 59]

 

3 Nephi 6:28 And They Did Enter into a Covenant . . . Which Was Given by Them of Old (Secret Covenants):

 

     In 3 Nephi 28-30 we find evidence of ancient wicked secret covenants:

 

           And they did enter into a covenant one with another, yea, even into that covenant which was given by them of old, which covenant was given and administered by the devil, to combine against all righteousness.

           Therefore they did combine against the people of the Lord, and enter into a covenant to destroy them, and to deliver those who were guilty of murder from the grasp of justice, which was about to be administered according to the law.

           And they did set at defiance the law and the rights of their country and they did covenant one with another to destroy the governor, and to establish a king over the land, that the land should no more be at liberty but should be subject unto kings.

 

     Victor Ludlow notes that 17 of the 154 references to "covenant" in the Book of Mormon relate to evil, secret covenants made between men and the devil. Fifteen of these secret covenant references are found in 12 verses in the book of Helaman and the first chapters of 3 Nephi. From the book of Deuteronomy we find that the covenant making process can be divided into the five steps: (1) Historical background (2) Stipulations (3) Blessings and Curses (4) Witnesses (5) Remembrance. These are the same steps that a sovereign ruler would use to establish a covenant or treaty relationship with his vassals in the ancient Near East. These same five steps also exemplify the covenant process between the Heavenly Sovereign of this earth and his children, particularly as demonstrated through baptism and the temple ordinances. We will see that all five of these steps are found among the imitation secret covenants of wicked men as recorded in Helaman and 3 Nephi. Analyzing these specific verses will tell us much about secret, evil vows. . . . The key elements and covenant steps are highlighted in charts (see illustrations). [Victor L. Ludlow, "Secret Covenant Teachings of Men and the Devil," in The Book of Mormon: Helaman through 3 Nephi 8, According to Thy Word, pp. 265-279] [See the commentary and charts for Helaman 1:11-12, Helaman 6:21-22]

 

3 Nephi 6:28 And they did enter into a covenant . . . which was given by them of old [Illustration] Secret Covenant Verse 9 = 3 Nephi 6:28. Secret Covenant Verses 10-11 = 3 Nephi 6:29-30. [Victor L. Ludlow, "Secret Covenant Teachings of Men and the Devil," in The Book of Mormon: Helaman through 3 Nephi 8, According to Thy Word, pp. 276-278]

 

3 Nephi 6:29 Destroy . . . Deliver:

 

     According to Kevin Barney, Hebrew poetry is based on various patterns of parallelism. Parallel lines are in turn created by the use of parallel words, that is, pairs of words bearing generally synonymous or antithetic meanings. Since the 1930's, scholars have come to realize that many of these "word pairs" were used repeatedly in a formulaic fashion. . . . One example (among many) is the word pair "deliver/destroy." 3 Nephi 6:29 says the following:

     and enter into a covenant to destroy them,

     and to deliver those who were guilty of murder

[Kevin L. Barney, "Poetic Diction and Parallel Word Pairs," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Fall 1995, p. 41]