3 Nephi 18

 

Covenant Obedience Brings Peace -

 3 Nephi 11 -- Mormon 7      Disobedience Brings Destruction


 

3 Nephi 18:3 He Took the Bread and Brake and Blessed It; and He Gave unto the Disciples and Commanded That They should Eat:

 

     Donna Nielsen writes that biblical peoples (Middle Easterners) have strong associations between covenants and the idea of a covenant meal to seal an agreement. Eating a covenant meal together in biblical times was a way to ratify pacts or treaties. By consuming meals together, they symbolically became members of the same family. This was especially true regarding bread. Through partaking from the same loaf at the same table, even strangers became companions, a word whose literal meaning is "one with whom bread is broken." Some linguists believe that the Hebrew word for "covenant" (berith) possibly had its origin in the Hebrew word meaning "to eat with salt."19 A frequent saying repeated by people from the Middle East is, "There is bread and salt between us," meaning that we are one by solemn agreement. To break a "bread and salt covenant" violates something that is considered sacred. [Donna B. Nielsen, Beloved Bridegroom: Finding Christ in Ancient Jewish Marriage and Family Customs, p. 20]

 

3 Nephi 18:3 He took the bread and brake and blessed it (Illustration): That Ye Do Always. Jesus institutes the sacrament among His disciples in America. Artist: Gary Kapp. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 545]

 

3 Nephi 18:5 There Shall One Be Ordained among You, and to Him Will I Give Power . . . in My Name:

 

     According to Richardson, Richardson and Bentley, historical findings support the Book of Mormon claim that Christ personally chose twelve from among the Nephites to serve as his apostles on the American continent (3 Nephi 12:1-2; 13:25-26; 15:11-12), and that He not only organized his priesthood among the Nephites, but that his priesthood continued among them with new priests being ordained in the name of Jesus (3 Nephi 18:5; Moroni 3:1-4). The name of this priesthood was "the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God" (Alma 5:44, 49; 13:1-16; D&C 107:1-4). The members of this priesthood were required to "take upon [themselves] the name of Christ" (Mosiah 5:7-15; 3 Nephi 27:5).

     Ancient Aztec traditions relate that Quetzalcoatl also founded a priesthood and that priests were named after him. Torquemada says: "He (Quetzalcoatl) had priests whom were called quequetzalcohus, that is to say 'priests of the order of Quetzalcoatl.'" Other sources indicated that these priests "took upon themselves his name." (Harris, Book of Mormon Message and Evidences, p. 146.)20 [Allen H. Richardson, David E. Richardson and Anthony E. Bentley, 1000 Evidences for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Part Two-A Voice from the Dust: 500 Evidences in Support of the Book of Mormon, p. 62]

 

3 Nephi 18:6-7 I Have Broken Bread and Blessed It and Given It unto You . . . in Remembrance of My Body:

 

     Richardson, Richardson and Bentley write that the Book of Mormon teaches that some of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas practiced the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper in remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus' life to atone for the sins of the world (3 Nephi 18:2-9). The true followers of Christ partook of the bread in remembrance of the body of Christ which was slain for us, and drank the wine in remembrance of his blood which was shed for us. To those who worthily partake of the sacrament the Lord promised to send "his spirit to be with them" (Moroni chapters 4 and 5).

     The ancient American prophet Moroni, who recorded the sacramental prayers in the Book of Mormon, ended his record by documenting that his people had become depraved and degenerate, and had perverted the principles of the Gospel and had even become cannibals (Moroni 9:7-15).

     With this in mind it is interesting that among the writings of the Quiche Maya there is a strange legend that tells of eating the flesh of a God who had died:

           And when he had died, thereupon they broke up his body . . . distributed and divided [it] up among all . . . And afterwards it was divided up among them, to each in his order, each year when they ate it. [Each] year [those of] two neighborhoods ate it, and also the old men of two tribal temples And when they divided up among themselves his body [made of] amaranth seed dough, [it was broken up] exceeding small, very fine, as small as seeds. The youths ate it. And [of] this which they ate, it was said: "The god is eaten," and of those who ate it, it was said: "they guard the god."21

 

     A Spanish writer, Jose de Acosta, was sent as a missionary to America in 1571. After his return to Spain, he published a history. Writing about the ancient American version of the sacrament, he assumed that it was introduced by the Devil as a counterfeit to the true sacrament: "In what manner hath the Devil labored in Mexico to counterfeit the feast of the Holy Sacrament and communion used in the holy church." (cited in Cheesman, The World of the Book of Mormon, pp. 17, 74.)22

     The fact that the Spanish assumed that Satan instituted the New World sacrament shows that the Native Americans did not copy the sacrament from the Spanish priests. Herera and Ondegardo, reaffirming the conclusion of Acosta, felt sure that the devil had counterfeited the "sacrament of confession" among the ancient Americans.23 [Allen H. Richardson, David E. Richardson and Anthony E. Bentley, 1000 Evidences for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Part Two-A Voice from the Dust: 500 Evidences in Support of the Book of Mormon, p. 43]

 

3 Nephi 18:7 If Ye Do Always Remember Me Ye shall Have My Spirit to Be with You:

 

     Jesus placed the Nephites in ancient Bountiful under covenant to "always remember" him (3 Nephi 18:7, 11), yet a few verses later this term is put into perspective when Christ says, "Therefore blessed are ye if ye shall keep my commandments" (3 Nephi 18:14). This is one of many instances in which the term "remembrance" or "remember" is used. According to Louis Midgley, by placing emphasis on the concept of "remembering" and its correlate "keeping," the Book of Mormon captures one of the most significant and distinctive aspects of Israelite mentality. Moreover, like the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Mormon uses the expression keep and remember interchangeably

     Brevard Childs demonstrates that more than two hundred instances of the various forms of the Hebrew verb zakher occur in the Old Testament.24 He shows that what is understood in the Old Testament by memory and remembrance goes far beyond the mere mental recall of information. . . . the word in Hebrew thus carries a wider range of meaning than is recognized in English. Indeed, to remember in Hebrew involves turning to God, repenting, acting in accordance with divine injunctions. . . . From the perspective of the Nephites, remembrance included active participation in some form. For them it meant recalling not merely or simply with the mind but also with the heart (the heart being the seat of will, cognition, and memory for biblical peoples). For the Nephites, as for ancient Israel, to remember was to place the event upon the heart, or to turn the heart toward God--to repent or return to him and his ways as their righteous forefathers had done. One demonstrated remembrance through a faithful response to the terms of the covenant--in strict obedience to statutes and ordinances, by keeping the commandments.

     The high density of words for memory and remembrance in the Book of Mormon remains unnoticed by casual readers. Though the range of uses of remembering in the Book of Mormon is perhaps not quite as extensive as that identifiable in the Old Testament, the idiom of remembrance in both books includes warnings, promises (especially those found in the blessings and cursings that accompany covenant making and renewals), threats, pleas, and complaints, and also the same deep connection between memory and action that is so prominent in the Old Testament. As in the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Mormon language of remembrance provides a clear link between the commandments and covenant history. It is linked with the possession of records. It is a special brand of historical memory that establishes the continuity of Israel as God's people.

      By focusing on language which articulates the ways of remembrance, we uncover the presence of yet another deep structure in the Book of Mormon that stands as a witness to Joseph Smith's remarkable prophetic powers. [Louis Midgley, "'To Remember and Keep': On the Book of Mormon as an Ancient Book," in The Disciple As Scholar: Essays on Scripture and the Ancient World in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, pp. 111-122]

     Note* Rather than include the multitude of scriptural references to the various aspects of remembrance in the Book of Mormon included within the text of this article, the reader is strongly advised to read the article and/or make a computer word search. In doing a quick review myself, I have found 158 instances of the word "remember," and 23 occurrences of the word "remembrance." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

3 Nephi 18:8 He Commanded His Disciples That They Should Take of the Wine of the Cup and Drink of It:

 

     Donna Nielsen writes that a knowledge of scriptural marriage imagery can greatly enrich our understanding of how God relates to us through covenants. In the Bible we find that Jesus taught the people using examples of weddings and feasts, and of Himself as the Bridegroom. It was meaningful to the Jews in a way that it is not to us because we lack understanding of their culture

     The marriage covenant was sealed with a cup of wine. Wine represented blood (Matthew 26:27-28) [hence its suitability for covenant making], sacrifice, and also joy. These three elements were intrinsic to the marriage relationship.

     After all the negotiation and talk, a bride price settled, a gift having been offered, the man would then pour a cup of wine for the woman and place it before her. Now came the suspenseful part. At this point, the woman had about thirty seconds to make up her mind. If the woman was willing to receive the man and his proposed condition, she would accept his gift and also drink the cup of wine which sealed the covenant. This showed that she was willing to take his name upon her. This act had to be witnessed by two observers. Technically, once the above conditions were met, they were considered married.25 [Donna B. Nielsen, Beloved Bridegroom: Finding Christ in Ancient Jewish Marriage and Family Customs, pp. 2, 30]

 

3 Nephi 18:10 This [Sacrament] Doth Witness unto the Father That Ye are Willing to Do That Which I Have Commanded You:

 

     We find in 3 Nephi 18 that as part of his temple setting discourse, Jesus first had his disciples administer the sacrament bread and wine to the multitude, and then he spoke to them concerning this ordinance. According to John Welch, although we don't celebrate the sacrament today in our temples, in the Kirtland Temple and in the Nauvoo Temple that was standard. In fact, as a part of the dedicatory service for the Kirtland Temple, after Sidney Rigdon finally got through with his two-and-a-half-hour sermon (Sidney was into long sermons), they broke for the afternoon and came back. Then following the dedicatory prayer and a number of testimonies and speaking in tongues and so on, then the twelve apostles administered the sacrament to all who were present. That was also done in the Nauvoo Temple.

     To us the sacrament is a very open thing. Anyone can come and watch us administer to and pass and partake of the sacrament. What we're seeing here [however, is that] when Jesus finally gets to the pinnacle, the last thing that he is going to present to these people is the sacrament, a very sacred inner ordinance. In early Christianity the love feasts, the agape feasts, the eucharistic experience was kept extremely secret. In fact that was one of the things that led to so much speculation about what the early Christians were doing off in these things. People assumed that since they were called "love feasts" they must be R rated or X rated or something. That was part of the reason that the Christians then made the sacrament a more public event in the second century. I point that out simply to say that whatever those [sacramental] prayers were originally, they were kept very sacred and very secret and that explains, I think, to some extent why we don't know exactly what Peter and Paul would have been using as they went around and administered the sacrament to the faithful there. [John W. Welch, "Sacrament Prayers, Implications of the Sermon at the Nephite Temple," in Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, pp. 147-148] [See the commentary on Moroni 4, 5]

 

3 Nephi 18:35 I Go unto the Father Because It Is Expedient That I Should:

 

     In 3 Nephi 18:35 Christ says, "I go unto the Father because it is expedient that I should go unto the Father for your sakes." John Welch asks, What is expedient about his returning? He is returning and reporting, and it is "expedient"--a word that is used always in the Book of Mormon in connection with the efficacy of saving ordinances. Check the use of that unusual word. It doesn't mean expedient in a sense of "just pragmatic," ("this is an expedient kind of solution, a short cut to get out of a problem"). No, it's expedient meaning "expediting, efficient, effective." [John W. Welch, "Christ at the Nephite Temple," in Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, p. 132]

 

3 Nephi 18:36-37 I Will Show unto You Hereafter That This Record Is True:

 

     John Tvedtnes notes that as an abridger of the Nephite records, Mormon makes several important promises which are later fulfilled. One example is found in 3 Nephi 18:36-37. Here Mormon wrote how Jesus had given the twelve disciples "power to give the Holy Ghost. And I will show unto you hereafter that this record is true." In 3 Nephi 19:13, he told how the Holy Ghost fell on the twelve after their baptism, and in 4 Nephi 1:1, he wrote that those baptized by the twelve "did also receive the Holy Ghost." But it was Moroni who quoted Christ's actual words to the twelve (left out by Mormon in 3 Nephi 18): "ye shall have power that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost" (Moroni 2:2), then adding, "and on as many as they laid their hands, fell the Holy Ghost" [John A. Tvedtnes, "Mormon As an Abridger of Ancient Records," in The Most Correct Book, pp. 9-10]

 

3 Nephi 18:37 And I Will Show unto You Hereafter That This Record Is True:

 

     After recording that Jesus "touched with his hand the disciples" and that "the disciples bare record that he gave them power to give the Holy Ghost," Mormon notes to the reader that "I will show unto you hereafter that this record is true" (3 Nephi 18:37). According to Donl Peterson, it is unclear in what manner Mormon "will show" these things. In chapter 19 which follows, Mormon gives an account of the disciples baptizing people upon whom soon afterward the Holy Ghost "did fall." Yet one might ask, Did Mormon's comment ("I will show you") refer to (1) the fact Mormon showed in chapter 19 that the Twelve actually baptized and that the Holy Ghost fell on those people because the Twelve had that power; or (2) the fact that Mormon intended to include the manner of the Savior's authorization to the Twelve later on in his writings. If the latter was intended, we find that Moroni included the details of this authorization in his writings:

     . . . as he laid his hands upon them . . . he called them by name saying: Ye shall call on the Father in my name, in mighty prayer; and after ye have done this ye shall have power that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost; and in my name shall ye give it, for thus do mine apostles. (Moroni 2:1-2)

 

[H. Donl Peterson, Moroni: Ancient Prophet Modern Messenger, p. 59]