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3 Nephi 28


Covenant Obedience Brings Peace -

 3 Nephi 11 -- Mormon 7      Disobedience Brings Destruction


3 Nephi 28:1 After That I Am Gone to the Father:


     According to John Tvedtnes, the Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon help persuade us that it is authentic . . . Biblical Hebrew begins subordinate clauses with prepositions plus a word that translates as that, such as in Ezekiel 40:1: "after that the city was smitten." Such a use of that in English is awkward and therefore rare. Yet it appears frequently in the Book of Mormon, another evidence of Hebrew influence. It was even more frequent in the 1830 edition, but many of the thats were dropped from later editions to read more smoothly (for example 2 Nephi 2:26; 4:32; 29:8; 6:5; 1 Nephi 13:15; 16:22 etc.). One example among many found in the Book of Mormon is in 3 Nephi 28:1, "after that I am gone to the Father." [John A. Tvedtnes, "The Hebrew Background of the Book of Mormon," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 86-87]


3 Nephi 28:7 Ye Shall Never Taste of Death . . . Until . . . I Come in My Glory:


     About A.D. 34, Jesus translated the Three Nephites according to their request. Christ said that the Three Nephites were "more blessed" than the other nine disciples who requested to die after their missions were completed. (3 Nephi 28:7) On the other side of the world, John the Beloved asked Christ to translate him which He did. (John 21:21-23, D&C 7) But John was not the only disciple that was translated at that time in the Holy Land for Jesus testified to the people: "There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom [the second coming]." (Matthew 16:28; see also Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27) Obviously, there were others who were translated that we have no record of as Jesus revealed: "Wherefore, I will that all men shall repent, for all are under sin, except those which I have reserved unto myself, the holy men that ye know not of." (D&C 49:8; see JST Genesis 19:15, D&C 45:11-14)

     Apostle Franklin D. Richards believed that when the Three Nephites were translated that the Lord "took them into the heavens and endowed them with the power of translation, probably in one of Enoch's temples, and brought them back to the earth." (J.D. 25:236) It was written that the Three Nephites said of their translation experience: "for it did seem unto them like a transfiguration of them, that they were changed from this body of flesh into an immortal state, that they could behold the things of God" (3 Nephi 28:15). [Vicki Alder, Mysteries in the Scriptures: Enlightenment through Ancient Beliefs, pp. 272-273]


3 Nephi 28:7 More blessed are ye, for ye shall never taste of death (Illustration): Christ with the Three Nephites. Artist: Gary Kapp. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 572]


3 Nephi 28:7 I Shall Come [Again] in My Glory with the Powers of Heaven:


     In 3 Nephi 28:7-8 Christ is addressing the three disciples who desired to tarry. Christ says the following:

           Therefore, more blessed are ye, for ye shall never taste of death; but ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in my glory with the powers of heaven. And ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in my glory ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality.


Thus Christ, the God of heaven and earth promised to come again.

     According to Garth Norman, a tenth-century Mexican culture hero called Ce Acatl Topitltzin Quetzalcoatl took upon himself the title of their deity Quetzalcoatl, the god of heaven and earth. There is good reason to believe that this man-god (Ce Acatl), who was a priest king of Tula, was regarded as an incarnation of the original god Quetzalcoatl, and significant historic events in his life may have been designed to convey that meaning. How else can we account for his birth on 1 Reed (Ce Acatl), his death on 1 Reed, and his promise to return as a Messianic-type resurrected being on 1 Reed (Carrasco p. 34; Bierhorsts 1974, p. 37). Bruce Warren has convincingly correlated this 1 Reed date with Christ's birth (as explained in AAF Newsletter No. 3). So it is reasonable to suspect that the Quetzalcoatl god they were looking for was Christ--and of course Quetzalcoatl Topiltzin who was regarded as an incarnation of the original god Quetzalcoatl. . . . The native belief in Quetzalcoatl's return is documented in Alvarado Tezozomoc's account where Moctezuma II's counselor Tlacaelel reminds the king that it is time to renovate a deteriorated wooden "image of Quetzalcoatl who went to heaven, saying when he left he would return and bring our brothers, . . . and it has to be renovated, to be the god we all wait for, who went to the sea and sky." . . . When we consider the three Nephite disciples at Bountiful being privileged to remain and not taste of death to bring souls to Christ until his second coming (3 Nephi 28:4-9), it is easier to comprehend both the perpetuation of that prophecy down through Mesoamerican historical tradition and the place where it may have occurred. [V. Garth Norman, "The Case for Quetzalcoatl-Christ and Where He Administered Is Growing," in Ancient America Foundation Newsletter, No. 14 September 1998, pp. 6-7] [See the commentary on 3 Nephi 28:12]


3 Nephi 28:12 He Departed [from Them and Ascended into Heaven]:


     Book of Mormon readers will notice that the phrasing in 3 Nephi 28:12 ("he departed") is not only very similar to 3 Nephi 18:39 which says, "he departed from them, and ascended into heaven." but can be understood to imply the same.

     If we assume a Mesoamerican setting, one statement by the 16th Century writer Ixtlilxochitl points out that after Quetzalcoatl had taught his people, he "ascended" from them at Coatzacoalcos. (Ixtlilxochitl:39). The city of Coatzacoalcos today is in the state of Veracruz, Mexico, just across the Coatzacoalcos River by the Gulf of Mexico. We will first address Christ's connection with Quetzalcoatl, and second the connection of Coatzacoalcos with Quetzalcoatl's ascension.

     According to Garth Norman, a tenth-century Mexican culture hero called Ce Acatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl took upon himself the title of the deity Quetzalcoatl. There is good reason to believe that this man-god, who was a priest king of Tula, was regarded as an incarnation of the original god Quetzalcoatl, and significant historic events in his life may have been designed to convey that meaning. . . . We find that the name Coatzacoalcos, the place where Quetzalcoatl Topiltzin went for his departure, is from quequetzalco meaning "successor of Quetzalcoatl." The event and name were so important that a great river where he departed retains the name. Note the implication from this name that Quetzalcoatl Topilzin is "the successor of Quetzalcoatl."

     So who was the original Quetzalcoatl, and did he have anything to do with this territory? The Rio Coatzacoalcos waters the land most serious students of Mesoamerican Book of Mormon geography recognize as the land of Bountiful where Christ ministered to Book of Mormon peoples after his resurrection (see 3 Nephi 11:1). This correspondence implies that the river may have been previously named Quetzalcoatl or another name from which it was translated. The literal meaning of the name Quetzalcoatl is "raised up serpent," which is a dead ringer for the brazen serpent raised on a staff that Moses gave to the children of Israel as an emblem for Jehovah-Christ.

     We previously explored the meaning of the native name Tabasco for the lowland Bountiful territory that borders eastward from the Coatzacoalcos drainage. I showed that Tabasco means Bountiful and can be constructed as a composite of two words in Hebrew, tob and sho'a, that mean Bountiful. (See AAF Newsletter Nos. 5 and 6).

     The implication is all too obvious. The reason Quetzalcoatl Topiltzin made that long journey from Tula to this particular location for his departure has always been a mystery. But it makes perfect sense in a Book of Mormon context as a pilgrimage to the place where the first Quetzalcoatl (Christ) departed (3 Nephi 28:12) and promised to return (3 Nephi 28:7-8). [V. Garth Norman, "The Case for Quetzalcoatl-Christ and Where He Administered Is Growing," in Ancient America Foundation Newsletter, No. 14 September 1998, pp. 6-7] [See the commentary on 3 Nephi 11:1; 3 Nephi 28:7]


3 Nephi 28:12 Three Who Were to Tarry:


     Who were those three remarkable disciples, those "three who were to tarry" (3 Nephi 28:12) who would "never taste of death"? (3 Nephi 28:7) Mormon was about to write their names but was forbidden (see 3 Nephi 28:25.

     According to Douglas and Robert Clark, would it not be reasonable to guess that one of the three translated disciples was Nephi, son and twice-great-grandson of men who had been granted similar blessings according to their desires? . . . One cannot help but recollect that Nephi's forefather Alma the younger himself had wished to be an angel (see Alma 29:1) and had apparently got his wish when he was translated (so it would appear) to continue his ministry (see Alma 45:19). Furthermore, Nephi's own righteous father had disappeared quite like Alma and possibly had also been translated (see 3 Nephi 1:3). Would it not be at least plausible to suppose that Nephi likewise possessed this same desire so prominent among his forefathers to continue their ministry?

     Truman Madsen reports a tradition that Joseph Smith believed that the three translated Nephite disciples included Nephi and his brother Timothy.54 If Nephi was indeed one of the chosen three, his translation into an angelic ministrant would be yet another remarkable reflection and repetition of the possible translation of two of his fathers. In addition, Mormon reports that Christ's three translated disciples were cast into prison, but "the prisons could not hold them, for they were rent in twain" (3 Nephi 28:19). The story echoes the deliverance granted to Nephi the younger's father, Nephi (see Helaman 5) and forefather, Alma the younger (see Alma 14). [E. Douglas Clark and Robert S. Clark, Fathers and Sons in the Book of Mormon, pp. 207-208]


3 Nephi 28:19-22 And They [the Three Nephites] Were Cast into Prison by Them Who Did Not Belong to the Church . . . [etc.):


     According to John Tvedtnes, one of the evidences for Mormon's reliance on extant annals is found in the story of the three Nephite disciples who had been promised by Christ that they would not die. In order to illustrate the effects of this translation, Mormon wrote:

     And they were cast into prison by them who did not belong to the church. And the prisons could not hold them, for they were rent in twain. And they were cast down into the earth; but they did smite the earth with the word of God, insomuch that by his power they were delivered out of the depths of the earth; and therefore they could not dig pits sufficient to hold them. And thrice they were cast into a furnace and received no harm. And twice they were cast into a den of wild beasts; and behold they did play with the beasts as a child with a suckling lamb, and received no harm. (3 Nephi 28:19-22)


     In 4 Nephi, recounting the success of the Church, Mormon writes of the beginning of apostasy, then of "another church which . . . did persecute the true church of Christ" (4 Nephi 1:23-29). Then follows a description of that false church's acts toward the three Nephites, which events are said to have occurred between 210 and 230 years after the birth of Christ (4 Nephi 1:27, 35). This description is very similar to that recorded in 3 Nephi 28. The question then follows: Were these two separate instances of persecution against the three Nephites?

     According to Tvedtnes, it would appear that the recitation of the trials of the three disciples found in 3 Nephi 28 was included merely to illustrate the benefits of their translation. Why, then, did Mormon list them here and repeat them in 4 Nephi? The answer is found in 3 Nephi 28:24, where we read that Mormon intended to stop writing for a time. Indeed, the two chapters that immediately follow this statement comprise exhortations that appear to be closing remarks addressed to a later generation.

     When, at length, Mormon returned to the abridgment and wrote 4 Nephi, he cut the story short. Centuries became but a few lines of text. But this time, at least, he included the story of the afflictions of the three disciples in its proper historical context.

     It is the historian's perspective and access to written records that made it possible for Mormon to refer to the same event in two different parts of his work. These same factors made it possible for him to provide a measure of consistency to the text of his abridgement. [John A. Tvedtnes, "Mormon As an Abridger of Ancient Records," in The Most Correct Book, pp. 16-17]


3 Nephi 28:23 [They] Did Preach the Gospel of Christ unto All People upon the Face of the Land:


     According to a letter written by a Creole priest, Fray Servando Teresa de Mier, and translated by Jace Willard, many Nahuatl (Aztec) names had Hebrew roots:

           According to Torquemada, the first missionaries, in order to write the Aztec tongue . . . that we call Mexican, were in agreement with the wisest Indians created in the School of Santiago Tlatilolco (sic), and as their pronunciation has two Hebrew letters, Sade and Scin, they substitute them in their writing by approximating the first with tz and the second with a soft x. But . . . the majority of the conquistadors, being from Extremadura or Andalucia, or Arab in their pronunciation, strongly pronounced all of the x's written by the missionaries. . . . Because of this the Spaniards said "Mexico" (Mejico), even though the Indians invariably pronounced it "Mexico" (Mescico) with the Hebrew letter Scin. . . .

           Mexico with a soft x like the Indians pronounced it means: "where Christ is worshiped" and [thus the term] "Mexicans" is the same as "Christians." . . . And Mexi, I ask, means what? As the Indians pronounced it, it is a Hebrew word that means, taking it from the Latin unctus, what we call "anointed," taking it from the Greek Chrestous, what we call "Christ," and taking it from the Hebrew Mesci, what we call "Messiah."


[Jace Willard, "Christian Myths in Pre-Columbian Mexico: An Analysis of the Writings of Fray Servando Teresa de Mier" in Joseph L. Allen ed. The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Volume II, Issue V, 2000, pp. 12-13]


3 Nephi 28:25 I Was About to Write the Names of Those Who Were Never to Taste of Death, but the Lord Forbade:


     The prophet Mormon was going to write the names of the three translated Nephites in the Book of Mormon but the Lord would not allow him to give their names because they were to be kept secret from the people. Mormon commented: "Behold, I was about to write the names of those who were never to taste of death, but the Lord forbade; therefore I write them not, for they are hid from the world" (3 Nephi 28:25) One might ask, What was the purpose in keeping these names secret?

     According to Vicki Alder, anciently a person's name was not merely some verbal appellation or label, but was an actual manifestation of the individual. A name was the person and also his character. In antiquity, a name was an integral element and part of a person's being. (Isaiah 30:27) A name represented a person and therefore shared in that individual's power. (John 1:12)

     There must have been a good reason why it was necessary to keep the names of the Three Nephites secret. In ancient thought, to be able to identify a person precisely had the potential of giving someone a measure of control over that person. For that reason, to know a person's name was very important since it was an integral part of their being. [Vicki Alder, Mysteries in the Scriptures: Enlightenment through Ancient Beliefs, pp. 87, 106-107]