3 Nephi 24

 

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3 Nephi 24:1 Thus Said the Father unto Malachi -- Behold, I Will Send My Messenger:

 

     John Pratt notes that the closing words of the Old Testament contain Malachi's promise that Elijah the prophet would be sent before the Messiah to fulfill an important mission:

           Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

           And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. (Malachi 4:5-6)

 

      Malachi's words were considered so important that the Savior gave to the Nephites all of chapters 3 and 4 of Malachi, which end with this prophecy of Elijah's return. After commanding them to write the words (3 Nephi 24:1), he explained, "These scriptures, which ye had not with you, the Father commanded that I should give unto you; for it was wisdom that they should be given unto future generations." (3 Nephi 26:2). . .

     The promise of Elijah, taught by the scribes in Jesus' day, is still remembered by the Jewish people every year at Passover. A special place is set for him, with a cup of wine. At a prescribed time during the meal, the door is opened for him to enter.

     The origin of the tradition that Elijah would return at Passover seems to have been lost in antiquity. It has been suggested that Elijah's return was associated with Passover, the feast commemorating the redemption of Israel, because it would herald the coming of the Messiah, the Redeemer of Israel. . . .

     The long awaited return of Elijah occurred in the Kirtland Temple on Easter Sunday, 16 Nisan, 3 April 1836. First the Savior appeared, followed by Moses, then Elias, and finally Elijah. . . .

     Thus, the coming of Elijah on 3 April 1836 was to occur after forerunners had returned in the spirit of Elias to prepare the way. (See D&C 27:6-7; 128:20-21) . . .

     Should the date of Elijah's return be anything special? Ancient prophets had revelations concerning the use of astronomy for reckoning time. Abraham, for example, was given to know the "set times" of the earth, moon, and sun, and then was shown that these "lights in the expanse of the heaven" were to be "for signs and for seasons, and for days and for years." (Abraham 3:6; 4:14) . . . Moses received revelations mentioning the use of the sun and moon to reckon time (Moses 2:14), which became very important in determining sacred days according to the law of Moses (see Leviticus 23) . . .

     Even in our day, the Lord has promised that "all the days of their days, months, and years, and all their glories, laws, and set times, shall be revealed in the days of the dispensation of the fulness of times." (D&C 121:31)

     It is intriguing that Elijah's return at the Kirtland temple occurred not only during Passover week, as anticipated by the Jews, but also on an Easter Sunday that was calendrically similar to the proposed date of the Savior's resurrection, being both April 3 on the Gregorian calendar and 16 Nisan on the Hebrew calendar. Was this merely a calendrical coincidence? Or could the timing of Elijah's return have been purposely chosen to correspond to some special Passover in accordance with Jewish tradition? . . . The chance that Easter Sunday would occur on both April 3 and 16 Nisan (as it did in A.D. 33) happens less than once every century. . . . In addition, to the very day, the Easter of 1836 completed a Jewish calendar realignment interval of 1,803 years since the Easter of A.D. 33. . . . In other words, this means that the Easter of 1836 was calendrically the most similar in history to the Easter of A.D. 33. . . . Moreover, the interval of exactly 658,532 days between 3 April A.D. 33 and 3 April 1836 is equal to 100 saros periods of 6,585.321 days each. . . . The saros is a period of 18.03 years known to astronomers as the interval in which solar or lunar eclipses often repeat. . . . That is, if one counts saros periods from the lunar eclipse that occurred on the proposed date for the Crucifixion, 1 April A.D. 33, the first time that a saros would again begin on April 1 would be in 1836.

     It should be emphasized that the fact that the same period of time (1,803 years) can be equal both to a lunisolar calendar realignment interval and to 100 saros periods is very surprising because the length of the saros is also determined by other factors.

     Is there any astronomical significance to the number 100 (saros)? Yes, it turns out that after 100 saros periods, the lunar orbit is in about the same orientation relative to the sun.

     Thus in summary, a period of 1,803 years (658,532 days) is simultaneously two realignment intervals: (1) for the day, week, month, and year of the Jewish calendar; and (2) for the saros and the year.

     The evidence presented above suggests that the timing of Elijah's return may have been arranged to occur on the best anniversary of Easter, calendrically speaking, in history. But for what reason?

     1. Apparently this dispensation could not have fully begun before 3 April 1836, when the keys of Elijah were restored. . . . Thus, on Sunday, 3 April 1836, apparently the time had fully come to open the dispensation of the fulness of times on a special anniversary of the fulness of time of the Resurrection.

     2. It is proposed that on Easter Sunday, 16 Nisan, 3 April A.D. 33, the physical body of Christ was restored, clothed with a fulness of power and glory. (See Alma 40:23) On Easter Sunday, 16 Nisan, 3 April A.D. 1836, the ecclesiastical body of Christ was restored, clothed with a fulness of priesthood authority. Thus, a correspondence is suggested between the restoration of the body of the Savior to a fulness of power and the restoration of the body of the Church to the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood. [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. 60-61] [See the commentary on 3 Nephi 25:4, 5]

 

3 Nephi 24:1 Thus said the Father unto Malachi -- Behold, I will send my messenger (Illustration): Realignment Intervals. [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. 60]

 

3 Nephi 24:1 Malachi:

 

     In 3 Nephi 24:1 Jesus commanded that the words the Father had given unto Malachi should be written. And these words he specifically told them, saying:

           Thus said the Father unto Malachi--Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant . . .

 

     The meaning of the Hebrew name Malachi is literally "my messenger." [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 2, p. 937] [See the commentary on 3 Nephi 25:4, 5]

 

3 Nephi 24:1 Behold, I Will Send My Messenger, and He Shall Prepare the Way Before Me, and the Lord Whom Ye Seek Shall Suddenly Come to His Temple:

 

     Towards the end of his preaching to the Nephites on the American continent after his resurrection, Christ promised that he would return to the earth a second time in the last days. To emphasize this fact, he first had them record, and then he quoted them the words of the Old World prophet Malachi: "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple." (3 Nephi 24:1).

     According to T.J. O'Brien, in a most remarkable coincidence, Hernando Cortez unwittingly chose to visit the Eastern Aztec shores in the year "one reed" and on the day "nine wind" of the Aztec calendar. For the Spaniards this was Good Friday, April 21, 1519; for the natives this was a new century cycle. Even more amazing, it was a year prophesied for the return of the enduring and bearded culture hero, Quetzalcoatl. (Year Prophesied: Carrasco 1984, 194-5)

     If this were not enough to stir native superstition, the very beaches upon which the Spaniards disembarked were the same from which the revered Quetzalcoatl supposedly had departed centuries ago. These two remarkable coincidences make it obvious why the Indians greeted the Spaniards with mixed feelings of apprehension and good will. . . .

     Many spectacular temples to the numerous gods of ancient Mexico pierced the skies of Tenochtitlan (the Aztec capital). One of them was dedicated to a singular god called Quetzalcoatl, the ancient fair skinned culture hero the Aztecs inherited along with other religious beliefs from the Toltecs, who had worshiped him as a prophet and teacher of the arts of civilization and healing. This bearded Toltec deity now resided in the sacred memory of the Aztecs as well, and both cultures represented him with the strange but easily-recognized symbol of a feathered-serpent. Like the coiled serpent, the temple of Quetzalcoatl was also circular in form. The entrance resembled a giant serpent's mouth, bristling with sharp fangs and teeth "diabolically painted" (Serpent temple: Gomara 1964, 165)--probably red to represent fresh blood. Although his temple sounds threatening, Quetzalcoatl was a peacemaker, and no god was held in higher esteem.

     Sacred manuscripts, guarded since Toltec times, insisted that although Quetzalcoatl had left the land centuries before the Aztec emergence, he promised to return some day and resume possession of his empire which had been passed on to the Aztecs from the Toltecs. Each succeeding generation looked forward confidently to his arrival. But in the long silent absence, the Aztecs had replaced him with their own earlier tribal war god. This one, unlike Quetzalcoatl, hungered daily for sacrificial blood and human lives. (Bloodthirsty God: Bancroft 1883, Vol. 5, 482)

     Montezuma painfully remembered the promised return of the fair god, a return awaited by the Aztecs with as much assurance as the Messiah by the Jews or Jesus by the Christians. Rumors of bearded white men along the shores of his domain and of the increasing occurrence in nature of strange signs convinced the disturbed King that the appointed day for Quetzalcoatl's return was finally at hand. He also knew that the revered Lord, Quetzalcoatl, forbade human sacrifices. Yet, daily, the Aztecs now performed these bloody rites to their ravenous war god and his blood-thirsty companion-gods. Some estimates say these sacrifices reached as high as 50,000 humans for the dedication of the great temple. (50,000 Sacrifices: Prescott (Modern library), 48)

     In welcoming Cortez to his capital city, the courteous Montezuma provided some background to the mysterious reception of near-adulation given Columbus by the natives at so many landings. Prescott relates the Montezuma claimed that his own distant ancestors were not natives to this land either, but newcomers. They were led here by a great being, who, after giving them laws and ruling over the nation for a time, had withdrawn to the regions where the sun rises. This great lord had declared on his departure that he or his descendants would again visit them to "resume his empire. This valuable insight to the now-familiar white god legend was recorded by Cortez in a document sent to Spain in 1520."(Return: Prescott (Modern Library), 305-6; Castillo 1972, 204; Pagden 1992, 85,98.) . . .

     The ancient "Indian" belief in a returning fair god was so implanted in the mind of Montezuma that, even when he finally realized that Cortez and the Spaniards were mere mortals, he still pledged allegiance to their sovereign, the King of Spain. Although the Aztec ruler was the highest of high priests, with absolute power over millions of subjects, a power steeped in centuries of unchanging traditions, he was willing to concede to a foreign ruler as the rightful Lord of all and to continue his own rule in the name of the Spanish King. (Rule in Name of King: Prescott (Modern Library), 306) . . . [T.J.O'Brien, Fair Gods and Feathered Serpents, pp. 22-24, 26-27]

 

3 Nephi 24:2 Fuller's Soap:

 

     In the words of Malachi which the Savior ask the Nephites to record, we find the following: "But who may abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap" (3 Nephi 24:2).

     The art of fulling, cleansing and bleaching cloth was of importance because of the high cost of clothing and the need to cleanse the fibers of their natural oil or gums before dying. In some places the fuller was also the dyer.

     It was customary for a fuller to work outside a town within reach of water in which clothes could be cleaned by treading them on a submerged stone. Hence the fuller was characteristically called a "trampler" (Heb. Kabas). At Jerusalem the locality outside the East wall where garments were spread to dry in the sun was called the "fuller's field" (2 Kings 18:17; Isaiah 7:3; 36:2). [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 1, p. 128]

     It is interesting that while we don't know whether the Nephites knew what the term "fuller's soap" mean't before the Savior's visit, we are told that, at this time, Jesus "expounded" the words of Malachi unto them (3 Nephi 24:1), so the cultural meaning would have been clearly brought out to them.

 

3 Nephi 24:9 Ye Are Cursed with a Curse:

 

     According to Roy Weldon, the Book of Mormon is replete with Hebraic phrases. One classification of these Hebraisms involves verbs with cognate nouns. In the Bible some examples are found in Job 3:25 ("Feared a fear") and Jeremiah 46:5 ("Fled a flight"). One good example in the Book of Mormon is found in 3 Nephi 24:9: "Ye are cursed with a curse. [Roy E. Weldon, Book of Mormon Deeps, Vol. III, p. 275] [See the commentary on Alma 1:1]