3 Nephi 10


The Lord Confirms the Covenant Way

      Alma 45 -- 3 Nephi 10


3 Nephi 10:9 The Darkness Dispersed:


     According to Alvin Benson, since the verb disperse implies breaking up and scattering, the terminology in 3 Nephi 10:9, "the darkness dispersed," could refer to the eventual dispersion of a volcanic ash cloud. That verse also indicates that the trembling of the earth continued throughout the three-day period of the Savior's entombment, suggesting continued volcanic activity and many aftershocks. Also, volcanic ash may have been coming forth all that time to sustain the thick darkness. [Alvin K. Benson, "Geological Upheaval and Darkness in 3 Nephi 8-10," in The Book of Mormon: 3 Nephi 9-30, This Is My Gospel, p. 65]


3 Nephi 10:9 The darkness dispersed . . . and the earth ceased to tremble (Illustration): Dark clouds block the light of the afternoon sun as a storm builds around Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. . . . Apparently during the three days of darkness, there were numerous aftershocks, for, in the morning, as the darkness began to disperse, "the rocks did cease to rend, and the dreadful groanings did cease." [Scot and Maurine Proctor, Light from the Dust, p. 167]


3 Nephi 10:9 The Earth Did Cease . . . the Dreadful Groanings . . . the Tumultuous Noises:


     In the 3 Nephi 10:9 eyewitness account of the great upheaval, three terms are used concerning the quake: "rocks did rend," "dreadful groanings," and "tumultuous noises."

     In another eyewitness account, Mr. E. J. Houston says:

           After the actual quaking of the earth, the most wonderful and impressive thing is the great variety of sounds and noises. These occur not only while the earth waves are passing through the crust at any place, but also long before the principal shocks reach the place as well as long after they have passed." ("The Atmosphere," chapter 24)


     Henri Fabre, French naturalist, says:

           Earthquakes are often preceded by subterranean noises, announcing the catastrophe to come. First there is the dull rumble that reminds one of distant thunder, swelling in volume, then diminishing, then swelling again, as if some storm were beginning to break far beneath the earth's surface. At this sound, so full of mysterious menace, everyone falls silent, mute with fear, and every face turns pale.

           Warned by their instincts the very animals are seized with alarm; dogs howl with terror, and the plowhorse appears to brace himself by planting his hoofs farther apart. Meanwhile the noise increases and one seems to hear a long line of wagons, heavily laden with old iron, rumbling over a hollow roadway of brass, while a whole battery of cannon is discharged. And then the ground trembles, rises and falls, whirls round, opens and a frightful abyss yawn before the terrified observer. In the presence of such scenes, the stoutest heart is panic-stricken. (Henri Fabre--"The Earth is Ours")

[Roy E. Weldon and F. Edward Butterworth, Book of Mormon Claims and Evidences, Vol. 2, p. 65]


3 Nephi 10:12 It Was the More Righteous Part of the People Who Were Saved:


     In 3 Nephi 10:12 it says that "it was the more righteous part of the people who were saved." According to Alvin Benson, in the more righteous cities, lethal concentrations [of volcanic gases] may not have been present a few feet above the ground allowing the more righteous to survive. [See the commentary on 3 Nephi 10:13] [Alvin K. Benson, "Geological Upheaval and Darkness in 3 Nephi 8-10," in The Book of Mormon: 3 Nephi 9-30, This Is My Gospel, p. 65]


3 Nephi 10:12-13 Earth . . . Sea . . . Fire . . . Whirlwind:


     According to Richard Rust, the Book of Mormon is prophecy designed specifically and intentionally for our day (see Mormon 8:35; 3 Nephi 26:12; 2 Nephi 3:19). When I say "designed," I mean not only planned with a purpose but shaped artistically so that form and content are totally integrated. . . . I have come to realize that the literary aspects of the Book of Mormon are essential to its purposes. . . . Imagery helps teach memorably and vividly the covenants of the Lord. For example, faith in Jesus Christ the Creator, the Son of God, is shown in the contrast of light and dark and in reference to the four major elements of earth, air, fire, and water. These are brought together in the section of the Book of Mormon that prefigures the Second Coming of Christ. The chaos of things splitting apart and intense darkness--the opposite of creation--is associated with the death of the Creator. Cities are sunk in the sea, Zarahemla is burned, and Moronihah is covered with earth. We are told:

           It was the more righteous part of the people who were saved. . . . And they were spared and were not sunk and buried up in the earth; and they were not drowned in the depths of the sea; and they were not burned by fire, neither were they fallen upon and crushed to death; and they were not carried away i the whirlwind; neither were they overpowered by the vapor of smoke and of darkness. (3 Nephi 10:12-13)

[Richard D. Rust, "The Book of Mormon, Designed for Our Day," in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 2, 1990, pp. 2,14]


3 Nephi 10:13 Neither Were They Overpowered by the Vapor of Smoke and of Darkness:


     According to Alvin Benson, in 3 Nephi 10:13, inference can be drawn that some people died from suffocation from "the vapor of smoke and of darkness." Warren and Ferguson record that when the ash from a volcanic eruption "begins to fall back toward the earth, it is accompanied by many gases, including hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, carbonic acid, carbon dioxide, and ammonia. If the ash fall is heavy, people will naturally suffocate, not only from the ash content itself but from these gases, which are lethal in large quantities" (42). In several modern cases, volcanic gases have collected in low spots after an eruption, killing people, animals, and vegetation (Montgomery 105-106; Macdonald 251-52, 257) . . . Because most volcanic gases are heavier than air, they tend to hug the ground; hence, at ground level, concentrations could have been high enough to prevent ignition of the Nephites' dry tinder. However, in the more righteous cities, lethal concentrations may not have been present a few feet above the ground allowing the more righteous to survive. [Alvin K. Benson, "Geological Upheaval and Darkness in 3 Nephi 8-10," in The Book of Mormon: 3 Nephi 9-30, This Is My Gospel, p. 65] [See the commentary on 3 Nephi 8:21; 10:12]


Geographical Theory Map: 3 Nephi 9:1 -- 10:9 Many Cities Destroyed (34 A.S.)


3 Nephi 10:16 The Prophet Zenos . . . and also Zenock Spake . . . Concerning Us, Who Are the Remnant of Their Seed:


     According to Daniel Ludlow, the prophets Zenos and Zenock are quoted several times by the prophets of the Book of Mormon. A possible reason for this propensity in quoting them becomes evident in this reading assignment: the Nephites are descendants of the prophets Zenos and Zenock! The historian records, ". . .the prophet Zenos did testify of these things, and also Zenock spake concerning these things, because they testified particularly concerning us, who are the remnant of their seed. (3 Nephi 10:16). [Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 260] [Refer to the commentary on 1 Nephi 19:10; Jacob 5]


3 Nephi 10:18 In the Ending of the Thirty and Fourth Year . . . He Did Truly Manifest Himself unto Them:


     According to Bruce Warren, we can approximate the date of the appearance of the Messiah to the Nephites. Although we are told that the destruction signifying His death began on the fourth day of the thirty-fourth year and only lasted for three days, 3 Nephi 10:18-19 indicates that it was not until "the ending of the thirty and fourth year" that Christ "did truly manifest himself unto them." His appearance to the Nephites was apparently almost a full year after the great destruction.

     3 Nephi 11:1-8 states that "a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful . . . and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven." The account that follows is of Christ's visit and teachings among the Nephites. From the Book of Mormon, the information we have to work with is as follows:

     (1) The Savior's appearance was in the ending of the thirty-fourth year of the Nephite calendar--Table 1 shows that the first day of the Nephite thirty-fifth year would have been March 29, A.D. 34 on our Gregorian calendar, so the ending of the thirty-fourth year would almost certainly have been in A.D. 34 as well. That gives us the year of His appearance: A.D. 34.

     (2) The Nephites were gathered in a great multitude at the temple in the land of Bountiful. Regarding the purpose of their gathering, it is perhaps instructive to note that the week of the Passover for A.D. 34 would have been from Tuesday, March 21 (the 15th of Nisan) to Monday, March 27 (the 21st of Nisan).


     The fact that the Nephites were still following the Mosaic Law at the time of Christ's appearance would explain what they were doing at the temple in Bountiful. Given that the dates for the Passover celebration would have fallen, according to the Book of Mormon description, "in the ending of the thirty and fourth year" (or more specifically as shown on the bottom half of Table 2, in the last week of the thirty-fourth year), they were very likely gathered for the week of the Passover feast.

     Considering the message that the Savior was bringing to the Nephties, Passover would certainly have been a timely opportunity for His visit. This message was actually given in part during the third day of darkness at the beginning of the year when He declared, "by me redemption cometh, and in me is the law of Moses fulfilled" (3 Nephi 9:17).

     If even after this the Nephties were still gathered to observe Passover at the end of the year, then they had not understood what the savior had told them. In fact, among the first things He teaches them after His arrival is a variation of this first statement. At the end of chapter 12 he says, "those things which were of old time, which were under the law, in me are all fulfilled. Old things are done away, and all things have become new" (3 Nephi 12:46-47).

     Even this was apparently not enough explanation for some of the more tradition-bound Nephites, for 3 Nephi 15:2 reveals that "there were some among them who marveled, and wondered what he would concerning the law of Moses; for they understood not the saying that old things had passed away, and that all things had become new."

     In response, the Savior repeats several times, "the law is fulfilled that was given unto Moses. Behold, I am he that gave the law; therefore it hath an end. . . . the law which was given unto Moses hath an end in me" (3 Nephi 15:4-8).

     What more effective context than that of Passover could the Lord have used to officially notify the Nephties about the end of the Mosaic Law and inaugurate the Law of the Gospel? [Bruce W. Warren, "1 Ben 6 Mak: Part Two," in Jace Willard ed. The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Volume II, Issue III. Orem: Book of Mormon Tours, 1999, pp. 4-5]


3 Nephi 10:18 In the Ending of the Thirty and Fourth Year:


     Mormon states:

           In the ending of the thirty and fourth year, behold, I will show unto you that the people of Nephi who were spared, and also those who had been called Lamanites, who had been spared, did have great favors shown unto them, and great blessings poured out upon their heads, insomuch that soon after the ascension of Christ into heaven he did truly manifest himself unto them--


     We tend to think of Christ's visit to the Nephites as a single event at Bountiful, but we cannot rule out the possibility that Christ might have visited and ministered to some of his "other sheep" in Mesoamerica at the same time.

     According to Bruce Warren, dating the appearance of the resurrected Messiah-Redeemer to the Nephites begins with 3 Nephi 10:18-19 pointing to "the ending of the thirty and fourth year," when Christ "did truly manifest himself unto them." In other words, there might have been nearly a year between the signs of Christ's death in Jerusalem and his appearance in Mesoamerica. With these two points in mind (date and location), the following Indian tradition as recorded by Spanish friar Juan de Cordova proves interesting:

           On the day we call Tecpatl [the Aztec name for the day sign flint knife] a great light came from the northeastern sky. It glowed for four days in the sky, then lowered itself to the rock; the rock can still be seen at Tenochtitlan (Teotitlan) de Valle in Oaxaca. From the light there came a great, very powerful being, who stood on the very top; of the rock and glowed like the sun in the sky. There he stood for all to see, shining day and night. Then he spoke, his voice was like thunder, booming across the valley (Shearer 1975, 72).


     What does all this mean? First, in the ritual calendar, from the day Flint (Tecpatl or Etznab) to the day Crocodile (Imix) would be four days, and the following day would be Ik or Wind, the last day of the year and a day associated with Quetzalcoatl. Thus, the light would have appeared in the sky above Oaxaca on the day Flint and remained visible until it descended and Christ stepped out of it four days later on the day Imix. These days would correspond to the period of time from March 24 to March 27 in the Passover week of the year A.D. 34. Second, the name Teotitlan preserves the actual sacred place of this visitation, because in Nahuatl Teo means god, and titlan means "to send a messenger" (Kartunen 1983). Thus, the visit of Christ to the Nephites on the American continent might have followed this scenario:

           On the sixth day of Passover, 6 Ahau 3 Mak, Sunday, March 26, A.D. 34, Christ would have appeared to the Nephites in Bountiful. This day would have been the Passover sabbath birthday of his resurrection the year before.

           During the early part of the next day, Christ would have appeared in Oaxaca and then returned to Bountiful.

           The third day of Christ's visit on 8 Ik 5 Mak, Tuesday, 28 March, was the last day of the Nephite-Maya Long Count 34th year (see illustration). Thus, Christ would have completed his three-day ministry at the exact end of the 34th Nephite year as is implied in 3 Nephi 10:18-19.


     One might also wonder, If Christ did appear initially to the Nephites on the sixth day of Passover, 6 Ahau 3 Mak, Sunday, 26 March A.D. 34, was this to notify the Nephites of the end of the Mosaic Law and to inaugurate Sunday Sabbath observance as well as all the other elements of the Law of the Gospel? [Bruce W. Warren, Blaine M. Yorgason, Harold Brown, New Evidences of Christ in Mesoamerica, Unpublished Manuscript] [See the commentary on 3 Nephi


3 Nephi 10:18 In the ending of the thirty and fourth year (Illustration): Calendar Correlations from a Mesoamerican Perspective Relating to Christ's Visit to the Americas. [Bruce W. Warren, Blaine M. Yorgason, Harold Brown, New Evidences of Christ in Mesoamerica, Unpublished Manuscript]