3 Nephi 27

 

Covenant Obedience Brings Peace -

 3 Nephi 11 -- Mormon 7      Disobedience Brings Destruction


 

3 Nephi 27:5 Ye Must Take upon You the Name of Christ, Which Is My Name:

 

     According to Dallin Oaks, the word name occurs in the scriptures about 1500 times, mostly as references to Deity or to the name of Deity. Instead of directly referring to God the Father or His Son, Jesus Christ, many passages of scripture refer only to "the name of the Lord," to "his name," or to "my name" (for example, see 3 Nephi 8:1). . . . What is the significance of the word name when it refers to Deity? Or more especially, What does it mean to "take upon you the name of Christ"? (3 Nephi 27:5)

     The first dictionary meaning of the word name is a word or words by which a person is identified, designated, or known. Consequently, a scriptural reference to the "name" of the Father or the Son can be simply a reference to God himself (see 2 Nephi 9:52). . . .

     Many scriptural references to the "name" of Jesus Christ seem to be references to the authority or priesthood or power of Jesus Christ. . . . A prominent Bible dictionary observes, "The prophets spoke in the name of the Lord--i.e., with divine authority (James 5:10)"46 . . . For example, the Book of Mormon prophet, Nephi, "[did] many more miracles, in the sight of the people, in the name of Jesus" (3 Nephi 7:20). . . . Dictionaries note that when one person acts in the "name" of another, he acts as the deputy or representative of the other or in behalf of the other.47

     The most frequent single meaning of the scriptures that refer to the name of the Lord seems to be work of the Lord (or His work or My work). . . . The Book of Mormon records an impressive illustration of the use of "name" to not just identify the Lord's Church, but to declare that something more is required:

           And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses' name then it be Moses' church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel. (3 Nephi 27:8)

 

     There is one more meaning of the word name, as applied to Jesus Christ or God the Father, that incorporates all the other meanings and goes beyond. It comes from the meaning of the word name as signifying (or even embodying) the essence of the one named. In this meaning the scriptural words name of the Lord or His name or My name not only incorporate the ideas of His identity, His authority (priesthood), and His work, but also include the idea of His essence, including His Godliness . . . When we read some scriptures to embody this meaning, we also find strong confirmation of the ancient Christian doctrine of deification and of the Latter-day Saint belief in exaltation. . . . There are numerous occasions where the Lord identifies Himself (or His prophets identify Him) by names that describe one of His qualities. [Note* There are over 500 different descriptive titles for Deity in the Book of Mormon alone--see Volume 1, Appendix B] This revealing of the attributes of God has the important purpose of helping us to know God and thereby helping us toward eternal life (see John 17:3)

     In the ancient world, a name represented the essence of the person named. Thus, a prominent Bible dictionary declares:

           In biblical thought a name is not a mere label of identification; it is an expression of the essential nature of its bearer. A man's name reveals his character. . . . Hence to know the name of God is to know God as he has revealed himself.48

 

     The dictionary explains, "Nothing exists unless it has a name. . . . It's essence is concentrated in its name" (Interpreter's Dictionary, 3:501). . . . One of the names of the Lord is "I AM" (Exodus 3:13-14; see also 3 Nephi 9:15; 11:15; 15:5). In English the words I am signify the state of being (the first person present tense of the verb to be). (In Latin, the verb of being is esse, which is the root source of essence.) Thus, when Moses asked to know the name of God, he was asking to know the essence or nature of God, and God answered in those same terms. The Bible dictionary quoted above concludes:

           The uses of the word "name" in the Old Testament are all related to the central conception of name as denoting essential being. This applies with regard to both man and God. . . . The name in the Old Testament is the essence of personality, the expression of innermost being. (Interpreter's Dictionary, 3:501)

     The resurrected Lord taught the covenant concept of "taking upon you the name of Christ" when He appeared to the Nephites:

           Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day; And whoso taketh upon him my name and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day. (3 Nephi 27:5-6).

 

     This reference to taking upon us the name of Christ and being "saved at the last day" is a clear reference to exaltation, which means attaining the essence of Christ. Thus, in the concluding lecture on faith, the Prophet taught that "salvation [exaltation] consists in the glory, authority, majesty, power and dominion which Jehovah possesses and in nothing else; and no being can possess it but himself or one like him." (Lectures on Faith, 7:9) In other words, to be saved we must take upon us--attain to--the essence of Christ. This is the purpose and goal of His plan, including His atonement, His authority, and His commandments, under which we give obedience and service, receive ordinances, and make and keep covenants. [Dallin H. Oaks, His Holy Name, pp. 1-56]

 

3 Nephi 27:7 Therefore, Ye Shall Call the Church in My Name:

 

     People came up to the Lord and wanted to know the name that they should call the Church because they were having "disputations" (3 Nephi 27:3). In response, the Lord said:

           Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day;

           And whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day. (3 Nephi 27:5-6)

 

     According to John Welch, the giving of the name of the church; the explaining of the importance of the name of the church, that it is the church of Christ, and that it should be called after the name of Christ, etc., is not just an idle thing. It is related to the fact that the name of Christ has been taken upon these people by way of covenant and, therefore, the Church describes those people who have entered into this covenant relationship with Christ. [John W. Welch, "Understanding the Sermon at the Temple, Zion Society," in Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, p. 157] [See the commentary on 3 Nephi 5:12]

 

3 Nephi 27:14 My Father Sent Me That I Might Be Lifted Up upon the Cross:

 

     In 3 Nephi 27:14 Jesus declares, "My Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross." According to the Works of Ixtlilxochitl, the symbol of the cross was given to the ancient inhabitants of America by Quetzalcoatl. Ancient pre-Spanish Conquest crosses have been found in southern Mexico in ancient Bountiful-land territory. A beautiful example is the famous cross on the stone altar in the Maya temple at Palenque. Atop that cross sits the quetzal bird, another symbol of the resurrected Lord. That the cross and the quetzal bird appear together is noteworthy. Another cross was found by archaeologists at Yachilan on the Guatemala side of the Usumacinta River. The cross was known and used in Yucatan right down to the time of the coming of the Spaniards. According to Mesoamerican histories, "[He was] the first who worshiped and placed the Cross, which some called quiauhtzteotlchicahualizteotl, and others called Tonacaquahuitl, which means god of rains and health, and tree of sustenance or of life. [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, pp. 210-211]

 

3 Nephi 27:14 My Father Sent Me That I Might Be Lifted Up upon the Cross:

 

     In 3 Nephi 27:14 Jesus declares, "My Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross." According to Warren and Ferguson, shortly before the arrival of the Spaniards in the New World, Chilam prophesied the return of Itzamna-Quetzalcoatl, the bearded, white-robed, white skinned Messiah of his ancient ancestry. When the Spaniards arrived, the Mayas of Yucatan believed at first, as did Moctezuma's people of central Mexico, that the "Fair God" had finally returned as promised (Roys 187). His people thereafter regarded Chilam Balam as a great prophet. Actually, he had merely repeated the ancient prophecy of the Fair God himself who had announced anciently that someday he would return. The prophet Chilam said a number of interesting and important things about Itzamna, the ancient prophecy of Itzamna's return, and Hunab-ku, father of Itzamna:

           "There is the sign of Hunab-ku on high. The raised wooden standard [the cross] shall come. . . . Let us exalt his sign on high. . . . The First Tree of the World [the tree of life] is restored; it is displayed to the world. This is the sign of Hunab-ku on high. You shall be converted to the word of Hunab-ku, Lord; it came from heaven. Oh it is he who speaks to you!" (Roys 167-69)

 

     Peter Matyr D'Anghera, an Italian geographer and historian who wrote in 1516 on the discovery of the Yucatan and the Mayas, observed:

           They worship idols, and some of them, but not all, are circumcised. They have laws, and are extremely honest in trading, which they carry on without money. Crosses have been seen amongst them; and when they were asked, through interpreters, the meaning of that emblem, some of them answered that a very beautiful man had once lived amongst them, who had left them this symbol as a remembrance of him; others said that a man more radiant than the sun had died upon the cross. (MacNutt 7-8)

 

[Bruce W. Warren and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, The Messiah in Ancient America, pp. 81-82]

 

3 Nephi 27:14 My father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross (Illustration): Ancient Mesoamerican crosses: No. 1 is a Serpent Cross; No. 2, Cross shown on Quetzalcoatl's tunic; No. 3, Cross from Mayapan, Yucatan; No. 4, Cross of Teotihuacan (near Mexico City) with Life symbol at the top; No. 5, Cross from the tablet of the Foliated Cross temple at Palenque, Chiapas; No. 6, Cross and Tree of Life from Yaxchilan, Guatemala, with serpent-like tail feathers extending from the tail of the bird at the top of the cross; No. 7, Tree and cross from the tablet of the Cross at Palenque, Chiapas. [Bruce W. Warren and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, The Messiah in Ancient America, p. 80]

 

3 Nephi 27:14 My Father Sent Me That I Might Be Lifted up upon the Cross:

 

     According to Warren and Ferguson, in Mesoamerica the virgin-born and crucified Man-God, Itzamna-Quetzalcoatl, was symbolized by the cross (3 Nephi 27:14), the serpent, the quetzal bird, the Tree of Life, fire, the hand, the shepherd's staff, Venus--the Morning Star, and other appropriate reminders of the Creator Life-God (see illustration). These symbols preceded the earthly ministry of Jesus by many centuries, going back to "the beginning." [Bruce W. Warren and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, The Messiah in Ancient America, p. 22]

 

3 Nephi 27:14 My Father sent me that I might be lifted upon the cross (Illustration): Symbols of the Messiah Common to Both the Old World and the New World. [Bruce W. Warren and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, The Messiah in Ancient America, pp. 25-26]

 

3 Nephi 27:15 For This Cause Have I Been Lifted Up; Therefore . . . I Will Draw All Men unto Me:

 

     T. J. O'Brien notes that in Mexico, feathered-serpent translates into "Quetzalcoatl," the name by which this highly revered god/man was known. The meaning behind that title is basic to comprehending the mission and place accorded the hero.

     Quetzal: The Quetzal is one of the most beautiful birds living in the Western Hemisphere. Inhabiting the tops of trees in the highlands of Guatemala and Chiapas, Mexico, it is seldom seen by humans and is difficult to maintain in captivity. Its iridescent emerald-green plumage, scarlet breast, and unusually long tail feathers are prized for their decorative qualities. In ancient times, the bird's feathers were worn only by royalty, and killing it was considered a crime. . . .

     Symbolically to the ancient Mesoamericans, wings gave birds the same mobility as that possessed by the gods. Birds were considered sacred messengers from heaven. Among many tribes they were seldom killed, and their songs were carefully studied for important omens from the world above. . . .

     Coatl: The Coatl is the ever-present and ever-threatening serpent, usually the rattlesnake. Mexico, the land of the Mexica, could also be called the land of the serpent. This ominous reptile is not only abundant in nature, it appears in every art form all over Mesoamerica: picture writing, ceramic decoration, painted murals, and carvings on temple walls. Large stone monuments were erected to this fearsome, but highly regarded creature, and religious ceremonies were seldom complete without it. . . .

     Forever bound to the earth, and inhabitant of the underground, the serpent (coatl) is considered by many primitive cultures to be supernatural. Its enviable ability to shed an old skin for a healthy new one gave the serpent, in native minds, an association with new life and rejuvenation which also connect the serpent symbol with another symbol for life and regeneration, the sun.49

     As different as a soaring bird might seem from a coiled serpent, they do share certain characteristics: the long, flowing feathers of some birds can recall the similarly sinuous movements of a serpent. Both could resemble the winding path of water--another giver of life.50 . . . Both bird and serpent were believed to have supernatural powers--those of the bird came from above; those of the serpent resided in the mysterious underworld. Serpents and birds both lay eggs, which are a universal symbol of fertility and birth. Both serpents and birds were associated in the Indian mind with other elements of fertility and new growth: water, rain, and vegetation.51

     So what has all of this to do with a bearded visitor? [and also a Messiah who has been "lifted up" and who desires to draw "all men unto me"? -- 3 Nephi 27:15] In identifying with a feathered-serpent, the culture hero advantageously assumes all the amazing qualities attributed to both bird and serpent. The symbolic transformation of earthly scales into more lofty feathers allows the feathered-serpent of mythology to soar. Represented by this symbol, the bearded culture hero is also believed to ascend into heaven and, through a ritualistic process, generously offers his followers a similar privilege. In accepting Quetzalcoatl, the weary native hoped for a release from his limited, serpent-like, earthbound sphere, and expected to eventually become like serpent-bird and god, able to rise toward heaven.

     The combined figure of serpent and bird together united the saving elements of earth and sky. What at first seemed hardly compatible now becomes a fitting metaphor and symbol for the Mexican hero/god. The chief mission of Quetzalcoatl, claims Sejourne, was to "lift his people out of their carnal element and make them divine."52 [T.J. O'Brien, Fair Gods and Feathered Serpents, pp. 52-54]

 

3 Nephi 27:20 Come unto Me and Be Baptized in My Name:

 

     According to T.J. O'Brien, there are examples of the baptism rite all over the Americas, from immersion to sprinklings, and in Mexico, children were baptized in special water in the name of Quetzalcoatl. Considered necessary for everyone, this one-time ceremony was preceded by a special confession of sins to the priests, and it was believed that those who died without it would suffer more in the next life. For those who were baptized, there was a ceremony of remembrance, much like the Christian communion, in which images of his body were made of dough, broken and eaten.53 [T.J. O'Brien, Fair Gods and Feathered Serpents, p. 221]

 

3 Nephi 27:32 The Fourth Generation from This Generation . . . Are Led Away Captive By . . . the Son of Perdition:

 

     In 3 Nephi 27:32 we find the Savior prophesying concerning the future generations of the Nephites:

           But behold, it sorroweth me because of the fourth generation from this generation, for they are led away captive by him even as was the son of perdition; for they will sell me for silver and for gold, and for that which moth doth corrupt and which thieves can break through and steal. And in that day will I visit them, even in turning their works upon their own heads.

 

This 4-generation prophecy builds on the vision of Nephi wherein he saw the following:

     11: And the angel said unto me: Look! And I looked, and beheld three generations pass away in righteousness; and their garments were white even like unto the Lamb of God.

     12: And the angel said unto me: These are made white in the blood of the Lamb, because of their faith in him. And I, Nephi, also saw many of the fourth generation who passed away in righteousness.

     15: And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the people of my seed gathered together in multitudes against the seed of my brethren; and they were gathered together to battle.

     20: And it came to pass that I beheld, and saw the people of the seed of my brethren that they had overcome my seed; (1 Nephi 12:11-12, 15, 20)

 

Nephi also repeats this 4-generation prophecy in 2 Nephi 26:9-11:

           But the Son of righteousness shall appear unto them; and he shall heal them, and they shall have peace with him, until three generations shall have passed away, and many of the fourth generation shall have passed away in righteousness.

           And when these things have passed away a speedy destruction cometh unto my people; for, notwithstanding the pains of my soul, I have seen it; wherefore, I know that it shall come to pass; and they sell themselves for naught; for, for the reward of their pride and their foolishness they shall reap destruction; for because they yield unto the devil and choose works of darkness rather than light, therefore they must go down to hell.

           For the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man. And when the Spirit ceaseth to strive with man then cometh speedy destruction, and this grieveth my soul

 

Almost 500 years later [abt. 73 B.C.], Alma2 came to his son Helaman and repeated this prophecy concerning the destruction of the Nephites. Helaman recorded this prophecy as follows :

     9: But behold, I have somewhat to prophesy unto thee; but what I prophesy unto thee ye shall not make known; yea, what I prophesy unto thee shall not be made known, even until the prophecy is fulfilled; therefore write the words which I shall say.

     10: And these are the words: Behold, I perceive that this very people, the Nephites, according to the spirit of revelation which is in me, in four hundred years from the time that Jesus Christ shall manifest himself unto them, shall dwindle in unbelief.

     11: Yea, and then shall they see wars and pestilences, yea, famines and bloodshed, even until the people of Nephi shall become extinct--

     12: Yea, and this because they shall dwindle in unbelief and fall into the works of darkness, and lasciviousness, and all manner of iniquities; yea, I say unto you, that because they shall sin against so great light and knowledge, yea, I say unto you, that from that day, even the fourth generation shall not all pass away before this great iniquity shall come.

     13: And when that great day cometh, behold, the time very soon cometh that those who are now, or the seed of those who are now numbered among the people of Nephi, shall no more be numbered among the people of Nephi.

     14: But whosoever remaineth, and is not destroyed in that great and dreadful day, shall be numbered among the Lamanites, and shall become like unto them, all, save it be a few who shall be called the disciples of the Lord; and them shall the Lamanites pursue even until they shall become extinct. And now, because of iniquity, this prophecy shall be fulfilled. (Alma 45:9-14)

 

Just previous to the Savior's birth (about 6 B.C.), Samuel the Lamanite included words concerning the Nephite destruction among his prophecies:

     5: And he said unto them: Behold, I, Samuel, a Lamanite, do speak the words of the Lord which he doth put into my heart; and behold he hath put it into my heart to say unto this people that the sword of justice hangeth over this people; and four hundred years pass not away save the sword of justice falleth upon this people.

     6: Yea, heavy destruction awaiteth this people, and it surely cometh unto this people, and nothing can save this people save it be repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ, who surely shall come into the world, and shall suffer many things and shall be slain for his people.

     7: And behold, an angel of the Lord hath declared it unto me, and he did bring glad tidings to my soul. And behold, I was sent unto you to declare it unto you also, that ye might have glad tidings; but behold ye would not receive me.

     8: Therefore, thus saith the Lord: Because of the hardness of the hearts of the people of the Nephites, except they repent I will take away my word from them, and I will withdraw my Spirit from them, and I will suffer them no longer, and I will turn the hearts of their brethren against them.

     9: And four hundred years [A.D. 394?] shall not pass away before I will cause that they shall be smitten; yea, I will visit them with the sword and with famine and with pestilence.

     10: Yea, I will visit them in my fierce anger, and there shall be those of the fourth generation who shall live, of your enemies, to behold your utter destruction; and this shall surely come except ye repent, saith the Lord; and those of the fourth generation shall visit your destruction.

           [Note* This is probably referring to the final battles]

     11: But if ye will repent and return unto the Lord your God I will turn away mine anger, saith the Lord; yea, thus saith the Lord, blessed are they who will repent and turn unto me, but wo unto him that repenteth not.

     12: Yea, wo unto this great city of Zarahemla; for behold, it is because of those who are righteous that it is saved; yea, wo unto this great city, for I perceive, saith the Lord, that there are many, yea, even the more part of this great city, that will harden their hearts against me, saith the Lord.

     13: But blessed are they who will repent, for them will I spare. But behold, if it were not for the righteous who are in this great city, behold, I would cause that fire should come down out of heaven and destroy it.

     14: But behold, it is for the righteous' sake that it is spared. But behold, the time cometh, saith the Lord, that when ye shall cast out the righteous from among you, then shall ye be ripe for destruction; yea, wo be unto this great city, because of the wickedness and abominations which are in her.

     15: Yea, and wo be unto the city of Gideon, for the wickedness and abominations which are in her.

     16: Yea, and wo be unto all the cities which are in the land round about, which are possessed by the Nephites, because of the wickedness and abominations which are in them.

     17: And behold, a curse shall come upon the land, saith the Lord of Hosts, because of the people's sake who are upon the land, yea, because of their wickedness and their abominations.

     18: And it shall come to pass, saith the Lord of Hosts, yea, our great and true God, that whoso shall hide up treasures in the earth shall find them again no more, because of the great curse of the land, save he be a righteous man and shall hide it up unto the Lord.

     19: For I will, saith the Lord, that they shall hide up their treasures unto me; and cursed be they who hide not up their treasures unto me; for none hideth up their treasures unto me save it be the righteous; and he that hideth not up his treasures unto me, cursed is he, and also the treasure, and none shall redeem it because of the curse of the land. (Helaman 13:5-19)

 

     That Mormon was able to include prophecies such as these in his record signifies their importance. That he was able to cite their fulfillment is a testament to his record. The following verses are a direct fulfillment of the vision of Nephi and the timetable prophesied by the Savior concerning the fourth generation:

           (1st generation) In 4 Nephi 1:18 we find that "an hundred and ten years had passed away; and the first generation from Christ had passed away, and there was no contention in all the land."

 

           (2nd generation) In 4 Nephi 1:22 we find that "two hundred years had passed away; and the second generation had all passed away save it were a few."

 

           (3rd generation) In 4 Nephi 1:48 we find that "when three hundred and twenty years had passed away, Ammaron, being constrained by the Holy Ghost, did hide up the records which were sacred--yea, even all the sacred records which had been handed down from generation to generation, which were sacred--even until the three hundred and twentieth year from the coming of Christ."

 

           (4th generation)

           a. In Mormon 1:2 we find that "about the time that Ammaron hid up the records unto the Lord, he came unto me [Mormon], . . . and Ammaron said unto me . . . when ye are about twenty and four years old I would that ye should . . . take the plates of Nephi unto yourself . . . and ye shall engrave on the plates of Nephi all the things that ye have observed concerning this people.

           b. In about the year A.D. 322, "there began to be a war between the Nephites . . . and the Lamanites" (Mormon 1:8)

           c. Mormon writes: "In the three hundred and sixty and second year . . . I Mormon did utterly refuse from this time forth to be a commander and a leader of this people, because of their wickedness and abomination . . . and I did even as the Lord had commanded me; and I did stand as an idle witness to manifest unto the world the things which I saw and heard according to the manifestations of the Spirit which had testified of things to come." (Mormon 3:8, 11, 16)

           d. Mormon writes, "when three hundred and eighty and four years had passed away, we had gathered in all the remainder of our people unto the land of Cumorah. . . . And it came to pass that they [the Lamanites] came to battle against us. . . . [and] they [went] through and hew[ed] down all my people save it were twenty and four of us." (Mormon 6:5, 8, 11, 15)

           e. Moroni writes, "Behold four hundred years have passed away since the coming of our Lord and Savior [A.D. 400?]. And behold, the Lamanites have hunted my people, the Nephites, down from city to city and from place to place, even until they are no more." (Mormon 8:6)

     

As for the rest of the Savior's prophecy, he builds on words which he had taught previously:

           Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor trust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (3 Nephi 13:19-21)

 

     It is interesting to note that Samuel the Lamanite also prophesied of slippery treasures relative to the Nephite destruction (see Helalman 13:17-19). To his credit, Mormon noted the fulfillment of that prophecy (see Mormon 1;19). Moroni also noted the association of slippery treasures (degenerate thievery) among the Jaredites at the time of their destruction (see Ether 14:1-2). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Mormon 1:19; Ether 14:1-2]