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3 Nephi 5


The Lord Confirms the Covenant Way

      Alma 45 -- 3 Nephi 10


3 Nephi 5:8 This Book Cannot Contain Even a Hundredth Part:


     When Mormon abridged the material from the Large Plates of Nephi over to his own plates, he said he did not write "even a hundredth part" of that which was written in their records. Thus, apparently our present Book of Mormon might consist of only about one percent or less of the original Nephite record. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


3 Nephi 5:10 I Have Made a Record of These Things according to the Record of Nephi:


     According to Terrance Szink, we find in the fifth chapter of Third Nephi that Mormon's discussion about his sources led him to testify about his record. This testimony can be best understood when compared to Nephi's statement at the beginning of the small plates. The two have many points in common: the writer or editor:

     (a) declared that he made the plates with his own hand (1 Nephi 1:3; 3 Nephi 5:11),

     (b) gave a short autobiographical statement (1 Nephi 1:1; 3 Nephi 5:12-13),

     (c) briefly stated the source of his information--Nephi wrote "I make it according to my knowledge" J(1 Nephi 1:3), while Mormon wrote: "Therefore I do make my record form the accounts which have been given by those who were before me, until the commencement of my day; and then I do make a record of the things which I have seen with mine own eyes" (3 Nephi 5:16-17),

     (d) testified of his record--Nephi wrote, "I know that the record which I make is true" (1 Nephi 1:3); Mormon testified in almost the same language "I know the record which I make to be a just and a true records" (3 Nephi 5:18), and

     (e) mentioned his language (1 Nephi 1:2; 3 Nephi 5:18).133


     So many similarities cannot be attributed to mere chance. I believe that these two prophets employed what was a specific Nephite formula for giving testimony,. It is difficult to say whether the formula was a literary device or had formed part of the Nephite legal system.

     It is interesting that this was the first time in the Book of Mormon, as Mormon compiled it, that he identified himself by name, for though his name appears in the Words of Mormon, that book was written on the small plates of Nephi.134 One might have expected Mormon to introduce himself and testify at the beginning of the record, as did Nephi in the small plates of Nephi; perhaps such an introduction and testimony were found in the first part of the book of Lehi, which constituted the 116 pages of manuscript lost by Martin Harris.

     Mormon finished his small personal insertion into the text with a short prophecy regarding Israel. He began by declaring that he was a "pure descendant of Lehi" (3 Nephi 5:20), implying that careful genealogy was kept among the Nephites. 3 Nephi 5:21 is a statement of what the Lord had done for israel in the past. This verse is a wonderful example of parallelism, a poetic device used often int he Old Testament.135 The following arrangement illustrates the poetic structure:

     Surely he hath blessed            the house      of Jacob

     and hath been merciful unto      the seed            of Joseph.


     The opening statement is followed by an elaboration and the prophecy concerning each group. The seed of Joseph, a subgroup of the house of Jacob, will again be brought "to the knowledge of the Lord their God" (3 Nephi 5:23). This must have been especially meaningful for Mormon because the seed of Joseph included the descendants of Lehi. The last three verses of 3 Nephi 5 pertain to the house of Jacob as a whole. Its members will again be made aware of the covenant they have made and will come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ. Then they shall be "gathered in from the four quarters of the earth unto their own lands." (3 Nephi 5:26). [Terrence L. Szink, "A Just and a True Record," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 2, pp. 134-136]

     Note* One should also note Mormon's words in his explanatory text to the small plates of Nephi:

           And the things which are upon these plates pleasing me, because of the prophecies of the coming of Christ; and my fathers knowing that many of them have been fulfilled; yea, and I also knowing that as many things as have been prophesied concerning us down to this day have been fulfilled, and as many as go beyond this day must surely come to pass--Wherefore, I chose these things, to finish my record upon them, which remainder of my record I shall take from the plates of Nephi; and I cannot write the hundredth part of the things of my people. But behold, I shall take these plates, which contain these prophesyings and revelations, and put them with the remainder of my record, for they are choice unto me; and I know they will be choice unto my brethren. And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. . . . And my prayer to God is concerning my brethren, that they may once again come to the knowledge of God, yea, the redemption of Christ; that they may once again be a delightsome people. And now I, Mormon, proceed to finish out my record, which I take from the plates of Nephi; and I make it according to the knowledge and the understanding which God has given me. (Words of Mormon 1:4-5)


     Was Mormon guided in his writings by what he found on the small plates of Nephi? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Words of Mormon 1:5 and the Title Page]


3 Nephi 5:11 And behold, I do make the record on plates which I have made with mine own hands (Illustration): Gold Disc of Chichen Itza. Controversy surrounds most of the examples of writing on metal in the New World and more study will be required to document their authenticity. This gold disc, the only completely authenticated piece of New World writing on metal, was exhumed by a 1950's expedition at Chichen Itza; it has a Mayan inscription around the edges. (Peabody Museum--Harvard University. Photograph by Hillel Burger.) Copyright Pres. and Fellows of Harvard College 1979. All rights reserved. [Paul Cheesman, "Ancient Writing on Metal Plates," The Ensign, October 1979, p. 44]


3 Nephi 5:11-12 I do make the record on plates which I have made with mine own hands. And behold, I am called Mormon (Illustration): Chart: "Writings of Mormon." Mormon, the chief abridger and editor of the full Book of Mormon, also added comments of his own to many of the books in that record, besides writing two books within the Book of Mormon that also bear his name (the Words of Mormon and the book of Mormon). As this chart demonstrates, his editorial commentaries, skillfully woven into the text of the primary authors, provide important explanations of human nature, the gathering of Israel, the Book of Mormon in the latter days, and the Savior's visit to the Americas. His own writings include, among other things (not all of which are listed on this chart), an autobiography and important sermons or letters on good works and infant baptism. [John W. & J. Gregory Welch, Charting the Book of Mormon: Visual Aids for Personal Study and Teaching, F.A.R.M.S., chart #20]


3 Nephi 5:12 I Am Called Mormon . . . after the Land of Mormon:


     In 3 Nephi 5:12 Mormon tells us that he was not named after his father, but rather he was named after the land in which a great event took place -- the restoration of Christ's covenant people, Christ's church. According to David Lamb, in Mormon 1:5 Mormon identifies his lineage. He states that he is a descendant of Nephi and that his father's name was Mormon. However, he does not state that he was primarily named after his father and this should not be assumed. Mormon apparently had been taught about his heritage by his parents and understood the sacred significance associated with the name Mormon. Thus, in 3 Nephi 5:12 Mormon gives us a clear indication that the name Mormon is symbolically synonymous with the restoration of the covenant which took place in the land of Mormon by Alma and his people.

     A study of the title page of the Book of Mormon tells us its main purpose is to restore a knowledge of the covenants to the house of Israel. This adds weight to the understanding that the name Mormon was always associated with the place of the restoration of the covenant to the Nephites. In fact, the name Mormon might have became synonymous with the concept of restoring the covenants.

     In light of this understanding, symbolically the Book of Mormon bears the name "Book of the Restoration of the Covenant." Is it any wonder that God used this book to spearhead the Restoration Movement? The purpose of the book as stated on the title page, "that they may know the covenants of the Lord," is confirmed even in the title. [David Lamb, "The Meaning of the Name Mormon," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol 2., p. 45] [Note* Readers should note also the 1986 addition to the Book of Mormon title, "Another Testament [Covenant] of Jesus Christ," reinforces this idea.]


3 Nephi 5:12 I Am Called Mormon, Being Called after the Land of Mormon:


     A group of Nephites who fled from persecution to the land of Mormon entered into covenant with the Lord and were baptized in the waters of Mormon (Mosiah 8:4-16). According to Raymond Treat, this was the first time in several generations that the covenant was established again among the Nephites. From that time forward, the name "Mormon" always reminded the people of the restoration of the covenant and the establishment of Christ's church in the land of Mormon. Mormon, the chief editor of the Book of Mormon, tells us that he was not named after his father, but rather he was named after the land in which the restoration of Christ's covenant and church took place:

           And behold, I am called Mormon, being called after the land of Mormon, the land in which Alma did establish the church among this people: Yea, the first church which was established among them after their transgression. (3 Nephi 5:12)


     Today, we associate the name of the Book of Mormon as did the Nephites of old, with the restoring of the covenant among the people. The name of the book is a type for the purpose of the book: to restore a knowledge of the covenants to the remnant of the seed of Lehi. Therefore, the name, Book of Mormon, symbolically means the Book of the Restoration of the Covenants.

     The purpose of the Book of Mormon is clearly stated in 2 Nephi 3:12. To paraphrase, the seed of Judah shall write (the Bible) and the seed of Joseph shall write (the Book of Mormon); the two writings together will confound false doctrine, stop contention, establish peace, restore a knowledge of the fathers and a knowledge of the covenants of the Lord. [Raymond C. Treat, "Covenants: Key to the Restoration of the House of Israel," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, pp. 52-53]


3 Nephi 5:12 I Am Called Mormon . . . after the Land of Mormon:


     Concerning the meaning of the name "Mormon," Joseph Smith is quoted as saying the following:

           I may safely say that the word Mormon stands independent of the learning and wisdom of this generation. Before I give a definition, however, to the word, let me say that the Bible in its widest sense, means good; for the Savior says according to the gospel of John, "I am the good shepherd;" and it will not be beyond the common use of terms, to say that good is among the most important in use, and though known by various names in different languages, still its meaning is the same, and is ever in opposition to bad. We say from the Saxon, good; the Dane, god; the Goth; goda; the German, gut; the Dutch, goed; the Latin, bonus; the Greek, kalos; the Hebrew, tob; and the Egyptian, mon. Hence, with the addition of more, or the contraction, more, we have the word Mormon; which means, literally, more good. [Joseph Smith, "To the Editor of Times and Seasons," Times and Seasons 4 (May 15, 1843), p. 194]


3 Nephi 5:12 After Their Transgression:


     In 3 Nephi 5:12 we find the following:

           And behold, I am called Mormon, being called after the land of Mormon, the land in which Alma did establish the church among the people, yea, the first church which was established among them after their transgression. (emphasis added)


     According to Rodney Turner, the phrase "after their transgression" refers to the apostasy in the time of Mosiah I, which led to the destruction of the first Nephite nation (Jacob 3:4, Jarom 1:10; Omni 1:12), rather than that of King Noah and his supporters as described in Zeniff's record (Mosiah 9-22). In any case, had there been a functioning church of Christ in the land of Zarahemla, there would have been no need for Alma to organize a second church, nor for Mosiah to grant Alma permission to set up branches throughout that land. In addressing the Nephites in Zarahemla, Alma said: "We were brought into this land, and here we began to establish the church of God throughout this land also." (Alma 5:5; italics added) [Rodney Turner, "Two Prophets: Abinadi and Alma," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, p. 255, 259]

     Note* It seems to me that the "transgression" was three-fold and progressive. In the land of Nephi, the Nephites were governed by a "Church-State" authority resting with the king. Apparently there became sufficient numbers of non-believers ("Lamanites" or "dissenters") that brought the downfall of this type of government. Mosiah fled to the land of Zarahemla and established a righteous Nephite kingship, however the population continued to be predominantly Mulekite non-believers. Zeniff returned to the land of Nephi to re-establish a righteous Nephite kingship, yet from his over-zealous efforts sprang an "church-state" rule directed by an unrighteous king. Thus it seems that no matter which way they turned for relief, the Nephites couldn't find a solution to re-establish the righteous Nephite kingship rule of both church and state that had been lost through the "transgression" of the Nephites in general, and the "Nephite" King Noah in particular. Could this "transgression" in some way be related to the words of Mosiah II found in Mosiah 29:25-27) that if ever non-believers numbered more than believers it would lead to destruction? And how could he say that with so many of the people of Zarahemla (Mulekites) among the crowd? "Now there were not so many of the children of Nephi . . . as there were of the people of Zarahemla, who was a descendant of Mulek" (Mosiah 25:2) [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


3 Nephi 5:20 I Am Mormon, and a Pure Descendant of Lehi:


     According to Hugh Nibley this is a very interesting note on race in 3 Nephi 5:20, "I am Mormon, and a pure descendant of Lehi." Well, I thought everybody was a descendant of Lehi. Oh no, not by any means. It is something to boast about to be a pure descendant of Lehi. The blood of dozens of stocks is all mixed up by now. So when he says he's a pure descendant of Lehi, there's a reason for saying that. It's a kind of boast; he is proud of that. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, p. 304]

     Note* Mormon is of royal birth. His lineage makes him heir to the Nephite records (the record of Joseph). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Mosiah 9:1]


3 Nephi 5:20 He Brought Our Fathers Out of the Land of Jerusalem, and No One Knew It:


     When Lehi and his colony left Jerusalem, their leaving was evidently kept secret from the other people in Jerusalem. Mormon tells us concerning Lehi's departure that "no one knew it save it were himself and those whom he brought out of the land" (3 Nephi 5:20).


Geographical Theory Map: 3 Nephi 3:22-24 Lachoneus Gathers the Nephites Together (17th Year A.S.)

           3 Nephi 4:1 -- 5:20 Robbers Take Possession of Nephite Lands (18th -- 25th Year A.S.)

           3 Nephi 6:1 -- 8:2 The Nephites Prevail & Return to Their Lands (26th -- 32nd Year A.S.)