3 Nephi 26
Covenant Obedience Brings Peace -
3 Nephi 11 -- Mormon 7 Disobedience Brings Destruction
3 Nephi 26:5 If They Be Good, to the Resurrection of Everlasting Life:
According to John Welch, as Mormon was giving an editorial commentary speech in Helaman 12, he talked about the dust of the earth being greater than man because the dust of the earth will obey. He concluded chapter 12 by saying, "But we read that in the great and last day there are some who shall be cast out, yea, who shall be cast off from the presence of the Lord." We will stand before God to be judged. "They that have done good shall have everlasting life; and they that have done evil shall have everlasting damnation" (Helaman 12:25-26):
And even unto the great and last day, when all people, and all kindreds, and all nations and tongues shall stand before God, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil. If they be good, to the resurrection of everlasting life; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of damnation; being on a parallel, the one on the one hand and the other on the other hand, according to the mercy, and the justice, and the holiness which is in Christ, who was before the world began.
Now it is interesting. Mormon says, "as we read," but he doesn't say where. Where has he read it? He has read it in the account of the Savior's visit, exactly here in 3 Nephi (26:4-5). Now he hasn't yet abridged the account of the Savior's visit as found in 3 Nephi, but he knows it is there. He has read it, and he quotes the text. That's really rather remarkable. Here you have Joseph Smith going along translating in the book of Helaman, and he quotes a text that he hasn't even encountered yet, which he will later find in 3 Nephi 26. [John W. Welch, "Understanding the Sermon at the Temple, Zion Society," in Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, p. 162] [See the commentary on Helaman 12:25-26]
3 Nephi 26:11 The Lord Forbade It, Saying: I Will Try the Faith of My People:
If the purpose of the Book of Mormon is to persuade the world that Jesus is truly the Christ, one might ask, Why did Mormon not continue to write in detail of Christ's Nephite ministry? According to Donl Peterson, the answer is in the text: Mormon wanted to continue; he had planned to, but the Lord forbade him. Mormon explained the situation as follows:
And these things have I written, which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people; and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken. And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them. And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation. Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people. (3 Nephi 26:8-11; emphasis added). [H. Donl Peterson, Moroni: Ancient Prophet Modern Messenger, pp. 12-13]
Note* Students of the Book of Mormon would do well to remember the Lord's counsel to Mormon here. When various pieces of textual data concerning culture, chronology, history, etc. do not seem to fall into place immediately, or if the lack thereof seems to frustrate a more complete understanding of the text, it might be because the Lord inspired Mormon to purposely leave out those details. In essence, the Lord might be trying our faith. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
3 Nephi 26:12 I, Mormon, Do Write the Things Which Have Been Commanded Me of the Lord:
According to Raymond Treat, the principle, "What is in the Book of Mormon is There for a Purpose," is a very important principle to understand about the Book of Mormon. The dictionary tells us that a principle is a general truth on which other truths depend. The recognition of the "purpose principle" is the recognition of a general truth about the Book of Mormon which in turn will lead to other truths. If we ask the question, "Why has this particular information been included?" every time we study a portion of the Book of Mormon we should receive insights that otherwise might be missed.
How do we know that what is in the Book of Mormon is there for a purpose? Because major writers of the Book of Mormon tell us they were directed by God as to what to put in the Book of Mormon and what to leave out. For example, in 3 Nephi 26:11-12 Mormon states the following concerning the words of Christ to the Nephites:
Behold, I was about to write them all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people. Therefore I, Mormon, do write the things which have been commanded me of the Lord. And now I, Mormon, make an end of my sayings, and proceed to write the things which have been commanded me.
The chart "The Contents of the Book of Mormon Were Divinely Controlled" (see illustration) is designed to illustrate this point. The chart gives us information about three major Book of Mormon writers--Nephi, Mormon and Moroni. In each case these writers were told both what to put in the Book of Mormon and what to leave out.
For all practical purposes two of these three writers, Mormon and Moroni, controlled the contents of the entire Book of Mormon. Mormon was directed to add the entire contents of the small plates of Nephi to the Book of Mormon. . . . Nephi was responsible for about 82 percent of the contents of the small plates of Nephi, which strengthens the case even further that the contents of the Book of Mormon were indeed divinely controlled. They also give validity to the principle that what is in the Book of Mormon is there for a purpose. [Raymond C. Treat, "What is in the Book of Mormon is There for a Purpose," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, pp. 172-173]
3 Nephi 26:12 I, Mormon, do write the things which have been commanded me of the Lord (Illustration): Chart: "The Contents of the Book of Mormon Were Divinely Controlled." [Raymond C. Treat, "What is in the Book of Mormon is There for a Purpose," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, p. 172]
3 Nephi 26:13 The Lord Truly Did Teach the People for the Space of Three Days:
According to John Welch, recent scholarship has shown that ancient Israelites may have celebrated, as part of Shavuot (Pentecost in Greek), the giving of the law to Moses and the revelation of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. . . In addition, Shavuot (Pentecost) was a day for remembering great spiritual manifestations. Thus, the Holy Ghost was manifest as tongues of fire to the saints gathered for Pentecost that same year in Jerusalem (see Acts 2:1-4). Shavuot came to be associated with the day on which the Lord came down in smoke and flame on Mount Sinai and appeared to Moses on behalf of the host of Israel. Now Jesus had come down and appeared to all gathered in Bountiful. Indeed, the ancient model for Shavuot was the three day ritual the Israelites observed before the law was given at Sinai (see Exodus 19:15), and Jesus similarly "did teach the [Nephites] for the space of three days" (3 Nephi 26:13; see also 11:1-8; 19:4-15). Thus, while the suggestion that Jesus appeared at Bountiful on Shavuot or any other particular holy day remains tentative, the choice of Shavuot is attractive and symbolically meaningful. [John W. Welch, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, F.A.R.M.S., p. 32]
3 Nephi 26:13 The Lord Truly Did Teach the People For the Space of Three Days:
According to Vicki Alder, the number three has very special significance. Its main purpose appears to lie in presiding. The number three also has special importance in witnessing or bearing record. The frequency of the number three in the life of the Savior is phenomenal.
The infant Jesus was given three gifts from the wise men. (Matthew 2:11) The wedding in Cana where Jesus performed His first miracle and changed the water into wine was held on the "third" day of the week. (John 2:1; JST John 2:1) Apostle Jedediah M. Grant, an early Church leader, taught in Conference that Jesus was married. Apostle Orson Hyde said that the marriage in Cana was Christ's own wedding as anciently the groom was in charge of providing the wine at marriages. (J.M.G., J.D. 1:345-346; O.H., J.D. 4:259-260)
After the Lord's baptism, the devil tempted Jesus three separate times. (Matthew 4:3-11; Luke 4:2-13)
Christ's ministry to the Jews was for three years. (D&C 138:25) On the mount of transfiguration after a heavenly vision, Peter wanted to erect three tabernacles to represent Jesus, Moses and Elias who had been there. (Matthew 17:4; Mark 9:5; Luke 9:33)
Jesus prophesied that Peter would deny Him three times, which he did. (Matthew 26:34, 75; Luke 22:34) When the Lord went into the Garden of Gethsemane to suffer he took three apostles with him. He found them sleeping three times during his agony, and He admonished and spoke to them three times. (Mark 14:33-41; Matthew 26:37-45)
During the trial of the Lord, Pilate asked the people three times to release Jesus and three times the majority of them wanted to crucify Him. (Luke 23:14-23)
Nails were driven into three places in Christ's body during the crucifixion, His palms, wrists and feet. "And it was the third hour, and they crucified him." (Mark 15:25) A superscription was placed over the Lord saying, "This is the King of the Jews" in three languages: Greek, Latin and Hebrew. (Luke 23:38; John 19:19-20) There were three crosses on Golgotha, because Jesus was crucified between two thieves Mark recorded: "And he was numbered with the transgressors." (Mark 15:28; see Isaiah 53:12) At that time in the Americas, there were three hours of tremendous upheaval and earthquakes. (3 Nephi 8:19) At about the same time in Israel, there were three hours of darkness. (Matthew 27:45; Luke 23:44) In the Americas, there were three days of darkness (1 Nephi 19:10; Helaman 14:20, 27; 3 Nephi 8:23), while in Jerusalem the body of Jesus lay in a sepulchre for three days. (2 Nephi 25:13) The resurrection was to take place on the third day. (Matthew 20:19; Luke 24:7; Acts 10:40) Jesus lived in mortality for thirty-three years.
In Israel after His resurrection, Jesus showed Himself to His disciples three times. (John 21:14) Before ascending to heaven, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him and three times He admonished him to feed the Lord's sheep. (John 21:15-17)
When Jesus appeared to the Nephites, the voice of Heavenly Father was heard three times before the Nephites understood what He said. (3 Nephi 11:3-7) Jesus taught the Nephites for three days. (3 Nephi 26:13) The Lord then translated three of the Nephites. (3 Nephi 28:4-9) And afterward, three generations of Nephites passed away in righteousness. (1 Nephi 12:11; 2 Nephi 26:9) It is recorded that Jesus showed himself to three nations after His resurrection, the Jews, the Nephites and the lost tribes of Israel. (3 Nephi 11:8, 15:14-17)
It is apparent that the number three figured prominently in the life of Jesus Christ who witnessed for His Father. The consistency of the use of certain holy and special numbers both in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price is further evidence and testimony that the same God inspired and revealed all of these scriptures for He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) [Vicki Alder, Mysteries in the Scriptures: Enlightenment through Ancient Beliefs, pp. 113-115, 137]
3 Nephi 26:13 He Did Show Himself unto Them Oft:
Jesus told the Nephites on the American continent: "Ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." According to Warren, Yorgason and Brown, although we tend to think of Christ's visit to the Nephites as a single event at Bountiful, 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. Though the Book of Mormon mentions that "he [Christ] did show himself unto them [the Nephites] oft" (3 Nephi 26:13), it is silent on Jesus' other contacts with people on the American continent. However, the Mesoamerican record keepers are not. Ixtlilxochitl was an Aztec prince who took it upon himself to record their history. As part of this history, Ixtlilxochitl wrote about a Toltec priest king called Tolpiltzin, who had taken upon himself the name Quetzalcoatl because of many circumstances in his life which paralleled the original Quetzalcoatl god. He also apparently patterned his life according to those parallels. With this in mind, Ixtlilxochitl's words take on added interest:
He [Quetzalcoatl], having preached . . . in the majority of the cities of the Ulmecas and Xicalancas and in particular in that of Cholula, . . . returned through the same part from when he had come, which was by the orient [east] disappearing through Coatzalcoalco" (Ixtlilxochitl, translation in Hunter and Ferguson 1950:218; Quetzalcoatl's departure, in Kingsborough 1848)
The cities of the Ulmecas (Olmecs) and Xicalancas are in the southern Gulf Coast of Tabasco (which means abundance [Scholes and Roys 1948]) near the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. This region correlates with some major Book of Mormon geographical models as the land of Bountiful and the "eastern" coastal territory near the narrow neck of land. Quetzalcoatl's place of departure ("Coatzalcoalco") is today still named Coatzalcoalcos, and is located east southeast from Cholula, Mexico. Moreover, when Ixtlilxochitl states that Quetzalcoatl visited Cholula of the "Ulmecas" or Olmecs, he is dating the ministry of the Fair God to an early era many centuries before Aztec times. A whole series of Olmec communities were flourishing in Mesoamerica in the days of Jesus, Cholula among them. Thus, if Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl's journeys paralleled those of the ancient Quetzalcoatl, then Christ would have also visited Cholula before returning and departing from the proposed land of Bountiful near Coatzalcoalcos. [Bruce W. Warren, Blaine M. Yorgason, Harold Brown, New Evidences of Christ in Mesoamerica, Unpublished Manuscript]
3 Nephi 26:19 And They Had All Things Common among Them:
In 4 Nephi 1:3 we find: "And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift." According to Andrew Skinner, the most striking thing about the law of the celestial kingdom as it operated among he Nephites and Lamanites, and others as well, was the economic equality that prevailed. The scriptures use the phrase "all things common" to describe the condition. This was not a system of communal ownership such as has been advocated by nineteenth- and twentieth-century secular political theories. Nor did it mean that each person had exactly the same amount of personal goods. The following instruction may help to further clarify the matter:
The scriptural phrase "they had all things common" (Acts 4:32; see also Acts 2:44; 3 Nephi 26:19; 4 Nephi 1:3) is used to characterize those who lived the law of consecration in ancient times. Some have speculated that the term common suggests a type of communalism or "Christian Communism." This interpretation is in error. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught clearly the true nature of having all things common: I preached on the stand about one hour on the 2nd chapter of Acts, designing to show the folly of common stock (holding property in common). In Nauvoo every one is steward over his own (property)." (Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6:37-38)45
Each stewardship is considered private property, and the residues and surpluses consecrated for the storehouse became the "common property of the whole church" (D&C 82:18). It is referred to as the "common property" because every covenant member of the order had access to it, according to his just "wants" and "needs," including the need to improve his stewardship. (Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324-325, 1981, p. 425).
[Andrew C. Skinner, "The Course of Peace and Apostasy," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 2, p. 223]