It likely not a coincidence that the culmination of the past 7 months in the world is tied to our study of 3 Nephi and 4th Nephi. It has been a brutal stretch of time for most of us. Almost everyone has been impacted by something, an economic shutdown, a virus, anxiety from protests, riots and political contention, conspiracy theories that are spreading like wildfire, increased societal contention, isolation, and the normal problems of life that are receiving less attention like death, sickness or familial strife. Even though the events are not the same, the fear, isolation, anxiety, and sadness felt very similar in the people of 3 Nephi as it does in the world around me right now.
There is so much in the meat of this post about the things Jesus taught and how those things form the simple foundation of a disciple’s life. I hope that you can find things in the post that make a difference in these troubled days. Mostly, I hope that you can see how peace and happiness are still available for all of us, and even though the sources of information in this world are making us fearful, the truth is that the world is full of goodness and it is up to us to bring the influence of happiness and goodness into it.
Before digging in, I wanted to point out two things that stood out to me about Jesus’s visit to these people that can help us in our current situations.
Number one – the still small voice that bring peace cannot be heard if we are being distracted by the commotion around us. We need to turn our hearts and mind to the Holy Ghost and to the Lord. We need to hear it touch our hearts.
Number two – We have to be agents that counteract Satan’s greatest tool – contention.
“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.”3 Nephi 11:29
The entire structure of the disinformation age disguised as the information age’s communication (television, radio, social media, text, internet groups, etc.) is designed to create echo chambers that pit ideas, groups, and people against each other. The self-righteousness and enmity that is created gives Satan power and distracts us from the still small voice. If you haven’t already, you should watch the Social Dilemma on Netflix for just glimpse into the powers that are set toward dividing us.
Another downside of the the onset of information age is the complacency in developing scripture study and faith. Answers to questions are one click away and it is created not only a people who are low on love, but weaker and weaker on faith. I have seen it affect many people I know and many have been led away from the Lord and it hurts to see.
Satan’s plan is simple, division, distraction, and disinformation.
Although it isn’t perfectly related to this post, I was recently pointed to a podcast episode that was incredible and talks about those who struggle and wander away from the church. I hope you take the time to listen to it. It was really good and thought provoking.
CHAPTERS FOR STUDY WEEK 36-41 – 3 Nephi and 4 Nephi
– Even miraculous spiritual experiences can be drowned out by the sins of inequality, pride, and prosperity.
– Jesus Christ’s mission included ministering to the people in America.
– Love, equality, and unity is the path toward Zion.
History and Context:
– Birth of Christ – Nephi dates it roughly 4-5 BC and historians date it between 4-6 BC.
– Nephi was likely voted out of the political leadership as the community became less religious and so he gave his son Nephi charge over the records and the spiritual leadership of the dwindling amount of followers.
– Gadianton Robbers were less thieves and more like a typical Mesoamerican war cult, whose aims were to plunder, subjugate and then take over politically to grow their influence.
– Nephi, Gidgiddoni and Lechoneus were the spiritual, political, and military leaders of Zarahemla.
– Giddianhi, Zemnarihah and Jacob were the leaders on the Gadiantons. The first two were slain and Jacob accomplished the goal of destroying the government and society, but was killed during the natural disasters at the death of Jesus Christ.
– Timing of Events – There is a lot of speculation about how quickly the events of destruction and the events after the destruction occurred. The only thing that kept occurring to me was the amount of time it would take to write what happened, and when Nephi would have the time and then also how much of the timing would be obscured by Mormon’s abridgement. In my opinion the events definitely were spread out over a period of time, but once they started it probably felt non-stop (similar to 2020 for all of us).
– Ring of Fire – Mesoamerica is located along the famous Ring of Fire, and Volcano activity during this time period is confirmed and did destroy cities in the area.
– One of the greatest evidences of Mormon being a distinct individual with a distinct purpose in his abridgment is 4th Nephi. Mormon has spent thousands of hours and hundreds of pages leading us to the coming of Christ, and for the purpose of showing the downfall of his time. He basically skips through hundreds of years of history that show goodness and peace, because his intention is to show the cycle of destruction, and the witness that Jesus Christ came. Having accomplished his aims, he now will hurry to the final destruction of the people that will end the record from his point of view. This pattern is only found in Mormon and none of the other authors and shows a true human touch.
– Zion is a term that can be used to describe many things in the scriptures. It is used by many prophets of old for different purposes, but the one that feels the most accurate to me is the frame of mind that exists when a group of people are totally connected to each other and God in a way the causes an upward movement in spirituality and happiness. There is one component that exists in two primary examples of Zion – no poor among them. The question is why? I don’t think it is because everyone was rich, or because everyone was not rich. What it feels like to me is that everyone had enough, and it didn’t matter how much else they had because their focus (being of one heart and one mind) was on the collective happiness and goodness of the community. People were truly intent on blessing and serving and making a difference in their community of believers. It is unlikely we can create Zion of the 7 billion people on earth, but we can start in our marriages, families, friendships, wards, and communities. We can make our focus on the things that do matter (not our differences) but upon the things the Lord wants us to focus on (repentance, faith, love, and unity).
– Prosperity Cycle – the destruction of the people comes again for the same reason it has always come. I went into detail on this in a previous post for refreshing https://gospelessays.com/2020/08/30/helaman-1-16-remember-remember/
– Timeline 5 BC – 321 AD
3 Nephi 1-10
After political power over Zarahemla was ceded by Nephi, he leaves the community and his son Nephi in charge of the spiritual welfare of the people. After being perserved by the Lord and the signs of Christ’s birth come to pass many are converted along with Lachoneus who is the leader of the city and still a believer. The Gadiantons, meanwhile, are determined to take Zarahemla, but are rebuffed by the people, particularly those who covenant with the Lord to be faithful. After the war, many are converted to the Lord, but in the space of only a few years the prosperity of the people created what Mormon called “a great inequality” in the land and that began to destroy the faith of the people. In fact, Mormon points out that the main people who stayed faithful were Lamanite converts. As the church crumbled, and the powerful set about to persecute believers, the society becomes even more unstable as the government and the leaders began to work in unison for the destruction of the society and eventually the murder the chief judge and the people separate into tribal factions. Nephi preaches and performs miracles for many tribes and most reject him, but there are many who are converted. At the time of Christ’s death, Samuel’s prophecy is fulfilled when the Land is taken by an enormous storm and other natural disasters. With the destruction subsiding, many people hear the voice of the Lord asking the people to repent and believe, those who hear the words begin to gather together again and they mourn and grieve the loss of their homes and loved ones.
3 Nephi 11-18
A fairly sizeable group of survivors gather in the land of Bountiful and while there are witness to the miraculous coming of Jesus Christ to the American continent. This moment, the witness that Jesus Christ was resurrected by people outside of the old world, is a seminal moment in history and the key to the Book of Mormon’s power in Christianity. On top of that moment, Christ comes to the people and begins to teach many of the same things He taught before his death and resurrection in Jerusalem. I will list the basics of what He did and taught as it feels as though they they are the most important things He would teach us if He visited us today.
- Confirmed the authority and priesthood power of the prophets and apostles who had the priesthood.
- Reiterated the importance of the Doctrine of Christ
- Remove Contention from our lives
- Repent and Believe in Jesus Christ
- Be Baptized
- The Holy Ghost and the Baptism of Fire will come to those who follow this path and believe in God and Jesus Christ.
- Repent and Become like a Little Child (2x)
- The Sermon on the Mount
- Additional revelation will often supplant and make old revelation less relevant. That doesn’t mean the old wasn’t good, only that new was needed for us. As people change the revelations of God will need to change to keep them coming to the Lord.
- Christ’s voice is meant to reach the heart of those who would believe and it should be heard to people of all nations.
- The Gathering of Israel is the next phase of God’s plan now that the Atonement and Resurrection are completed.
- Christ ministers to all the sick, afflicted, and all the children as he can tell they just want to be with Him and feel His love for them.
- The doctrine is great and all, but it is when Jesus connects with the people individually and they feel His love that brings the spirit in its fulness and the fullness of Joy.
- Jesus implements the sacrament in place of animal sacrifice.
- Prayer is how we avoid Satan, deception, and if we pray often the Lord will attend us.
- Doctrine of Christ x2
- Church is essential as a community of believers, it is where we help lift each other to Christ.
3 Nephi 19-27
After Jesus ascends to heaven it is hard to know what the people my have thought. They could have been sad He left, or in awe of the experience, but in either event the spirit whispered to the twelve disciples and leaders that they should pray in gratitude and they followed the spirit and taught the multitude to pray and then they all prayed. This was followed by the people being baptized again as a way of expressing their faith and repentance. They then prayed again and in this situation, Jesus returns to find them praying. He is so overwhelmed with joy at their prayer that he joins their prayer, then separately prays to thank the Lord for their faith. The single-mindedness of gratitude, feeling the Holy Ghost move their words and thoughts, and desire to repent and be at one with God create an upward cycle of spirituality that culminates with the group of people being one with God and Christ.
- Jesus confirms that the people are an important first step in the Gathering of Israel and that their record will bring to pass Isaiah’s prophecies.
- Searching the scriptures and the prophets will show us a pattern of how to live.
- Jesus emphasizes the need to study the scriptures by quoting Malachi and Isaiah. He clearly knows the Book of Mormon will be used for the modern era and those prophecies are intended to emphasized for us to learn.
- The restoration of the gospel is for the purpose of Gathering Israel again.
- The Church is Christ’s and should be named after Christ.
- Doctrine of Christ x3
- “that which you have seen me do shall you do”
- “What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am”
3 Nephi 28-4 Nephi
The twelve disciples begin the full gathering of Israel by preaching and teaching the gospel to all the people that they can find. They are persecuted and rebuffed, but are protected and convert many people to the Lord. Mormon concludes his synopsis of Christ’s ministry by warning us that we must repent and join the House of Israel. Below is the list of conditions that culminated with Zion:
- Repentance, Faith, Baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost
- No Contentions
- Everyone dealt justly with each other
- All things were common – there was no rich or poor, bond or free – all were made free
- Partakers of the heavenly gift = Charity
- Worked for a common purpose – to rebuild their communities and to help each other and their future.
- They married and built families that could contribute to society.
- They met as a church, kept the commandments, and continued in fasting and prayer.
- No contention after the first generation died because the Love of God dwelt in their hearts.
- No envying, strife, tumults, whoredoms, lying, murders, no manner of lasciviousness.
- There were no -ites as the people we just brothers and sisters and children of God.
Eventually disbelief, pride, and a desire to be different overcame the people step by step until there was again inequality and contention and the people began again to forget the Lord and focus on their own jealousies and differences. The change in focus led the people to disbelieve and apostatize from the church and the Lord. The inevitable growth of the Church of Self (order of Nehor, Gadiantons) came and the persecution of the Church of Christ intensified which lead to full scale wickedness and the keeper of the records, Ammaron, hiding the plates in the ground.
At the very end of Christ’s ministry to Bountiful, He asks what He can give them or teach them before He leaves permanently. They ask Him what they should do when He leaves. After talking about the importance of repentance, and baptism again he says “this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do…”
So their charge was to do the things he had just shown them, which included teaching with each other, baptizing, providing the sacrament, praying together, but most of all loving and ministering to those in need. Then before he explains how important it is to become at one with God the Father, Christ and the Holy Ghost he tells them what manner of person they ought to be. He tells them to be like Himself, like Christ. The loftiest of goals, but the most certain of aims.
We misunderstand the Savior if we believe this means for us to be perfect, but rather that the foundations of our purpose is perfect. That our foundation, and our aim are perfect. Then we move along in the right direction with the right purpose and mix with that the doctrine of Christ (faith, repentance, and baptism of water and the Holy Ghost) and even when we mess up we repent and keep going. This leads us on the path that will bring peace, happiness, joy, and the spirit to our lives, the lives of our family and those in our sphere of influence.
We are not meant to all check off boxes of the same checklist, do all the things written in a manual, but rather we are meant to experience our own journeys and with the foundation and direction of Christ’s example at our cores we will become our best selves and unique tools to help those around us that only we could help. Our differences are what make us powerful and useful, our similarities in our love for Christ and the gospel what ground us and help us love each other.
The Book of Mormon is full of the cycles of destruction and prosperity and they all center on what is happening in our cores. Are we seeking to be like Christ and love like Christ, or are preoccupied with what only matters and benefits ourselves. It is a simple question to ask, and a matter of eternity to think about.
I just want to show two equations that kept coming to me over and over as I put this study together, and both are reinforcing equations:
As we matriculate to the end of the Book of Mormon, we have already passed its climax and covered its main purpose (Christ’s coming to America), but now we get to learn more about Mormon and what motivated his writing and purposes, also we get to learn the final things that God would want us to know as those would likely be the final things written to us.
- Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon by Brant Gardner
- The Book of Mormon as History by Brant Gardner
- Understanding the Book of Mormon by Grant Hardy
- The Book of Mormon Made Harder by James Faulconer