3 Nephi 23

 

Covenant Obedience Brings Peace -

 3 Nephi 11 -- Mormon 7      Disobedience Brings Destruction


 

3 Nephi 23:1 A Commandment I Give unto You That Ye Search These Things Diligently; for Great Are the Worlds of Isaiah:

 

     [See the commentary of Words of Mormon 1:5]

 

3 Nephi 23:7-13 Bring forth the record which ye have kept (Illustration): Bring Forth the Record. Artist: Robert Barrett. [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Ensign, April 1985, front and back cover]

 

3 Nephi 23:7 [Jesus] said unto Nephi: Bring forth the record which ye have kept (Illustration): Bring the Record [Robert T. Barrett, Verse Markers, Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 6]

 

3 Nephi 23:7 Bring forth the record which ye have kept (Illustration): Bring Forth the Record. Artist: Robert T. Barrett. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 562]

 

3 Nephi 23:7 Bring forth the record which ye have kept (Illustration): Christ Reviewing the Record. Artist: Gary Kapp. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 570]

 

3 Nephi 23:11 How Be It That Ye Have Not Written This Thing, That Many Saints Did Arise:

 

     After having Nephi bring forth the records, Jesus examined them and found a prophecy of Samuel the Lamanite missing. Concerning this missing prophecy he declared, "How be it that ye have not written this thing, that many saints did arise and appear unto many and did minister unto them?" (3 Nephi 23:11) The meaning of this verse has sparked a debate among scholars relative to the time of Christ's visit to the Nephites in America.

     John Tvedtnes thinks one must allow enough time between the destructions at the time of the crucifixion and the appearance of Jesus at Bountiful for some record keeping to have occurred during the interval, since Jesus reviewed the Nephite records and asked Nephi why they had not recorded "that many saints did arise and appear unto many and did minister unto them" (3 Nephi 23:11). Tvedtnes finds no way to satisfactorily explain why "[Nephi} would have to 'remember' the thing had not been written if the event were only a day or so old" [John A. Tvedtnes, "The Timing of Christ's Appearance to the Nephites," S.E.H.A., p. 13]

     Indeed, when Jesus audited the records of the Nephites on his second day among them, he inspected everything down to that point in time, including the Nephite records regarding events at the time of the destruction. This would require that some record keeping must have taken place between the crucifixion and Christ's appearance.

     Since the Nephites had "gathered together . . . round about the temple" (3 Nephi 11:1) with "men, women, and children" (3 Nephi 17:25), one is reminded of a covenant assembly. Traditionally, Israelites (and Nephites) gathered at the temple at appointed times each year for the feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles: "three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord God" (Exodus 23:17). [John Tvedtnes and Kent Brown ("Jesus Among the Nephites: When Did It Happen?", F.A.R.M.S.]

     Note* Both Tvedtnes and Brown accept the likelihood that the festival of Passover was involved; however, John Welch prefers another festival.

     According to John Welch the Nephites had observed the law of Moses until Jesus proclaimed its fulfillment (3 Nephi 1:24-25; 15:2-8). While Jesus' voice had announced to the Nephites the end of the Mosaic law at the time of his death (3 Nephi 9:17), no new instructions had yet been given. Moreover, Jesus reiterated the fact that the old law had been fulfilled when he spoke to them in person (3 Nephi 12:18; 15;4), but they were still confused about what Jesus meant by this (3 Nephi 15:2-3). Sooner or later, as they gathered at their temple, they would have wondered if their old ritual order was still appropriate. Since it seems unlikely that they would have gone 12 months without addressing the implications of Christ's death for the continuation of their public rites, this would argue that his appearance was probably not so long after his crucifixion.

     If one can assume that the two ritual calendars (Old World and New World) had not grown too far apart, the feast of Shavuoth (Pentecost in Greek) would have been celebrated in Bountiful about two months after Jesus' crucifixion and shortly after the best known ascension of Jesus from Jerusalem, reported in Acts 1. Such a date would make good sense of the reference in 3 Nephi 10:18 to Christ's appearing in Bountiful "soon after" his ascension; plus, that date is not so long after the events of the destruction that the people could still "marvel" and "wonder" about the whole situation as they conversed about Christ and the signs of his death (3 Nephi 11:1-2). Such a date accommodates all of Brown's points about the settled condition of the people, and it also solves Tvedtnes' major problem by allowing time for records to have been kept between the time of the crucifixion and the appearance in Bountiful.

      The hypothesis that Christ appeared at the feast of Shavuoth in Bountiful raises some interesting implications. No more relevant occasion than Shavuoth can be imagined for the day on which to explain the fulfillment of the old law and the issuance of the new. It was on the Feast of Shavuoth, according to recent scholarship, that ancient Israelites celebrated the giving of the law, especially the revelation of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. Given the obvious connections between materials in Matthew 5, 3 Nephi 12, and three of the Ten Commandments, it seems ideal that the day on which the Nephites would have traditionally celebrated the giving of the Ten Commandments should be the time when Jesus could teach the new understanding of those very commandments. In addition, Shavuoth was a day for remembering great spiritual experiences (cf. the Holy Ghost was manifest as tongues of fire to the saints gathered for Pentecost that same year in Jerusalem, Acts 2:1-4). Shavuoth celebrated the day on which the Lord came down on Mount Sinai and appeared to Moses on behalf of the host of Israel. Now Jesus came down and appeared to all gathered in Bountiful. Indeed, the ancient model for Shavuoth was the three day ritual observed by the Israelites before the giving of the law at Sinai (see Exodus 19:15) and Jesus similarly appeared three days to the Nephites (3 Nephi 11:1: 19:1; 26:13). Thus, while the suggestion that Jesus appeared at Bountiful on Shavuoth remains tentative, the choice of Shavuoth could well be considered more deeply. [John W. Welch, "When Did Jesus Appear To The Nephites In Bountiful?," F.A.R.M.S., pp. 5-10]

 

3 Nephi 23:11 How Be It That Ye Have Not Written This Thing:

 

     During the second day of his visit to the Nephites, the Lord asked Nephi to bring forth the records which had been kept. He reminded Nephi he had commanded Samuel to testify that many would arise from the dead and appear to many at the time of his resurrection and noted this had not been recorded (3 Nephi 23:7-13). Accordingly, the missing scripture was added to the record. According to Lynn Johnson, on the surface, this account seems straightforward enough. The Savior shows his concern that the scriptures be complete, and a prior omission is rectified. But what was omitted? Was it a record of the prophecy, or a record of the fulfillment of the prophecy?

     There are several indications that the prophecy was missing in their records. The Savior's question in verse 9 appears to support this interpretation. If the prophecy had been written in the records he had before him, it is doubtful he would have reminded them that they hadn't recorded the fulfillment. Their response, "Yea, Lord, Samuel did prophesy according to thy words" (3 Nephi 23:10), is consistent with a missing record of the prophecy. Such a statement would not have been called for if they were looking at the written prophecy. [D. Lynn Johnson, "The Missing Scripture," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Fall 1994, p. 84-91] [see the commentary on Helaman 14:25]

 

3 Nephi 23:14 Jesus . . . Expounded All the Scriptures in One Which They Had Written:

 

     One might ponder what Nephi (and/or Mormon) had in mind when he recorded that "Jesus . . . expounded all the scriptures in one which they had written (3 Nephi 23:14).

     Almon Fackrell notes that the Lord has used parallels, comparisons, types or examples, throughout the scriptures, to help distinguish between truths and falsehoods, to choose between good and evil, and especially to identify the Messiah, His prophets, and His people the Saints. The more we parallel our lives with the life of the Son of God, with the lives of the prophets, or with the lives of the successful Saints, the better off we will be in the hereafter.

     These parallels give evidence to the age-old theory that "history repeats itself" and the old saying, "There is nothing new under the sun," which is a paraphrase of Ecclesiastes 1:9-10.

     Some of the most obvious examples of these types or parallels pertain to the Messiah:

     a. Abel's sacrificial offerings were the "firstlings" of his flock. (see Genesis 4:4).

         God's sacrificial offering was his "firstborn" Son. (see Romans 8:29 & Colossians 1:15).

     b. Abraham's offering was a "lamb." (see Genesis 22:8)

         Jesus is called the "Lamb" of God. (see John 1:36)

     c. Moses' sacrificial lamb was a male without blemish. (see Exodus 12:5)

         God's sacrificial lamb was a male without blemish. (see 1 Peter 1:19)

     d. Manna was the bread of life for the Israelites in the wilderness. (see Exodus 16:15)

         Jesus is the bread of life for Christians. (see John 6:35)

     e. The rock in the wilderness provided water for the Israelites. (see Exodus 17:6)

         Jesus is the rock which provides living water for Christians. (see 1 Corinthians 10:4)

     f. There would come a prophet like unto Moses. (see Deuteronomy 18:15)

         Jesus was that prophet like unto Moses. (see Acts 7:37).

 

Almon Fackrell, Parallels of Moses, Jesus, and Joseph Smith, pp. 17-19]

 

     Note* To more fully understand these types and parallels which appear in cycles over and over through the history of the earth, the reader might refer back to the words of Nephi at the conceptual chiastic center of his book of First Nephi. These thoughts would chiastically be the most important concepts in all of First Nephi and they are as follows:

           For He is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.

           For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round. (1 Nephi 10:18-19)

[Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

3 Nephi 23:14 Jesus . . . Expounded All the Scriptures in One Which They Had Written:

 

     According to John Gee, in his sermons to the Nephites in the New World, Christ used a series of basic texts with slight changes to clarify his intent, continually alluding to these texts in his explanations by picking up the wording from the passages. He also introduced the writings of prophets that were not part of the Nephite canon (3 Nephi 23:6, 23:13; 26:2). In this fashion, Jesus "expounded all the scriptures in one" (3 Nephi 23:14; see also 3 Nephi 26:1, 3-4). . . [John Gee, "'Choose the Things That Please Me': On the Selection of the Isaiah Sections in the Book of Mormon," in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, p. 82]

 

3 Nephi 23:14 Jesus . . . expounded all the scriptures in one which they had written (Illustration): Table 3: Passages Quoted by Jesus in 3 Nephi. [John Gee, "'Choose the Things That Please Me': On the Selection of the Isaiah Sections in the Book of Mormon," in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, p. 82]