Sunday, September 27, 2020

Come Follow Me: 3 Nephi 17-19

 Come Follow Me: 3 Nephi 17-19

Pondering upon the words of Christ
3 Nephi 17

“Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again” (3 Nephi 17:3).

Jesus is giving the Nephites a temple experience.  They have seen God.  He gave them new power and authority, as well as a new baptism ordinance.  He received them by this covenant (and soon will do so with the Sacramental bread and wine), healed their sick, invited all believers to touch his hands and feet as a witness that he is the Christ.

Now, he wants them to go home and ponder this experience.  As with the modern temple initiate, the first experience with the endowment is like drinking from a fire hose.  One cannot understand it all in one sitting.  We do not begin to understand Jesus’ teachings in the scriptures, from his prophets in Conference talks, the temple ordinances and covenants, or our own personal revelation, without pondering it. It is through pondering and meditating upon the things of Christ, we receive personal inspiration. God can clarify our experience, making it meaningful to us. A scripture we read in our childhood means something entirely different today, simply because our experiences in life have changed us. Continuing personal revelation is necessary to keep the gospel fresh, alive and growing in mortality. Those who lose their way, often are lost because they did not spend the time pondering and seeking personal revelation. The gospel becomes irrelevant, old, musty, and out of step with changing times, when we are focused on the world. However, as we meditate on the sacred, we find living waters and the breath of life flow through us and refresh us spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally. 

Prayer is important, but without meditation, it is just words. Oliver Cowdery sought to translate a portion of the Book of Mormon, and was allowed to try. When he failed, the Lord explained that he wasn't able to translate, because Oliver thought he only had to pray about it, rather than ponder upon each character that appeared to him and determine a possible translation for himself before asking if it were right (D&C 9). We often fail ourselves in the same way. Why don't we receive more revelation? Because we don't seek after it as did Joseph Smith and others who do have things revealed to them.

Meditation on the things we learn gives understanding. Without understanding, truly understanding, what we now know, we are unable to receive more.  We must understand what we now have, so we can then prepare our minds to receive more.  If a person does not understand multiplication and division, that person will be unable to understand algebra or calculus.  To not seek to understand what we are taught today, we are not ready to receive more knowledge and truth.  Perhaps this is one of the biggest reasons why so many people do not receive a testimony of the gospel of Christ: they have not prepared their minds sufficiently in the right manner – through prayer, meditation and faith.
The first weekend in October is General Conference, where we will hear from the prophets and apostles of Jesus Christ. Are we preparing our minds to hear them on the morrow?

Jesus prayed and wept

Jesus knelt with the people and prayed to God for them.  

“And after this manner do they bear record: The eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father;
 And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father” (3 Nephi 17:16-17).

Previously, Jesus told them how to pray.  Now, he is demonstrating to them how the highest form of prayer is done.  The prayer is so deep and moving that there are no words to describe it.  We do not know whether the things Jesus said cannot be spoken or written because they are forbidden or too sacred to write, or whether they are just so powerful they cannot be put down in mortal terms.  Clearly it was not in the Nephite language, which could be written, but in a heavenly language they could understand – even though it still was something their hearts could not fully conceive. 

I wonder: how often do we pray so intensely that it makes such an impact on the hearers and on the heavens, whether angels are moved, our families on both sides of the veil are blessed, our fellow worshipers, or even just each of us alone are illuminated?

The children join the Divine Council

Jesus then had the children come forth and blessed them.  Unlike the adults present, who were still in the process of repentance (remember the wickedness and destruction they just went through?), the children were pure, innocent and holy in Christ. Of such are the kingdom of heaven.  The adults were tasked with pondering the teachings given them – they were not ready to receive more just yet. The children, however, were ready.

And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.
And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them” (3 Ne 17:23-24).

Isaiah is the prototype prophet to enter into and join the Divine Council. Not only did he hear the angels give God praise, but Isaiah engaged in their heavenly work (Isaiah 6).  It reminds us of the original Divine Council, wherein Christ responded to God's question, "whom shall I send?" (Abraham 3). In 1 Nephi 1, Lehi had a vision wherein Christ and his 12 apostles descended to him, and included him in the Divine Council of angels.  The brothers Lehi and Nephi, sons of Helaman, also had angels descend in the midst of fire to them in the Lamanite prison (Helaman 5), where they conversed.  Now, we have the children of the Nephites become part of the Divine Council.  In essence, this was their temple endowment, bringing them back into the presence of God and other divine beings.  The adults likely saw their children surrounded by holy burnings and seraphim, but were not allowed at that time to join the experience.  As with Alma the Younger when he was saved from his sins, he saw Lehi with God and wished he could be there with him (Alma 36). We can view this event from the adult side of things.  They were allowed to watch from a distance, but not participate.

Again, this is one of the key concepts in the Book of Mormon: the great Theophany, bringing people back into the presence of God.

The Sacrament
3 Nephi 18

Next, Jesus implements the sacramental bread and wine.  This is noted to be particularly for those who have been baptized, as a continuation of the covenants made with God and Christ.  Remember from the previous lessons that Christ’s purpose is to have all the Nephites become one covenant community, united in all things.  While baptism can be seen as an individualized ordinance, the Sacrament is an ordinance and covenant shared by the community.  It is what brings our individual baptisms together into one whole as believers who seek to build Zion, a people of one heart and mind.

Why are we not to partake of the sacrament unworthily?  Because the Sacrament reflects all of our covenants we make with God and the community.  In partaking of the Sacrament unworthily or without believing, we mock the sacrifice of Christ and his atonement.  We are to bring forth a contrite spirit and broken heart.  Those who are unworthy bring forth pride and rebellion to the Sacramental table.

Note that the Sacrament also symbolizes the table of shewbread in the Tabernacle/Temple of ancient times.  The bread represented the manna sent from heaven to feed Israel while they were exiled in the wilderness.  As manna had to be gathered each day, so the shewbread was replaced daily.  Also found on the table was wine.  These were an offering to God, as well.  In this we see the Sacrament has a connection with the ancient temple, as well as with the temple of Christ’s body. 

In partaking worthily of the Sacrament, Christ promised us to have the Holy Ghost always with us.  The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead.  This is how all initiates begin to enter into the presence of the Godhead, by first receiving the Holy Ghost.  We receive the Holy Ghost, as well as the atonement of Christ, by covenant and an ordinance.  These prepare us for further interaction with the Godhead, until we enter fully into their presence.

Prayer again

Christ again speaks on prayer.  This time he expanded upon his previous teachings: where, when and how to pray.

In conjunction with teaching the Sacrament, Jesus is explaining that both bring unity.  Pray for our wives, children, those who are unworthy to partake of the Sacrament.  Jesus teaches and re-teaches the key things to make us one with the Godhead.

The Disciples teach the people
3 Nephi 19

Once Jesus had ascended, the people went back to their homes and spread abroad that the Lord would return the following day. Many sought to be there for his return.  While awaiting the return of Christ, the apostles were actively teaching and performing ordinances. What exactly did the 12 disciples teach?

They divided the great crowd into 12 groups.  They taught the things Jesus taught the day before.  They had them kneel and pray.  

And when they had ministered those same words which Jesus had spoken—nothing varying from the words which Jesus had spoken—behold, they knelt again and prayed to the Father in the name of Jesus.
 And they did pray for that which they most desired; and they desired that the Holy Ghost should be given unto them” (3 Ne 19:8-9).
Jesus provided a rote script for the disciples to teach, then a simple prayer that all shared. This was communal teaching and praying. The people were united in prayer and belief.

The initiates, now prepared with prayer and basic teachings, were ready to go into the waters of baptism and then receive the Holy Ghost, the thing they desired most of all.  Interestingly they would desire the Holy Ghost.  Why not to see Jesus or God the Father? Because the 12 taught them the proper order of things.  They would first learn to know the Spirit before ascending into the presence of the Son and Father.  As they were baptized, the people were filled with the Spirit of God, making them holy.They were sanctified and made clean, thus ready to receive Jesus.

“And behold, they were encircled about as if it were by fire; and it came down from heaven, and the multitude did witness it, and did bear record; and angels did come down out of heaven and did minister unto them.
And it came to pass that while the angels were ministering unto the disciples, behold, Jesus came and stood in the midst and ministered unto them” (3 Ne 19:14-15).

As with the pure and holy children from the day before, now the baptized and purified initiates are worthy to join the Divine Council of heaven.  This time, they experienced the divine angels, who ministered to them, making them more holy.  Only then did Jesus come down and they received of a fullness. They were in the Presence of the Lord.

It is worth noting that the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood include the “ministry of angels”, while the Melchizedek Priesthood’s keys include the “mysteries of godliness” and seeing the face of God.  This is noted in the ordinances connected to each priesthood (D&C 84:19-26).  We see baptism as an ascending from a telestial state to a terrestrial state, with the guidance of the Holy Ghost.  From there, we may receive the ordinances and covenants of the higher priesthood, today connected to the temple, and enter the presence of Christ.  Finally, Jesus will lead us into the presence of the Father.  All of this ties directly into our modern temple’s teachings, ordinances and covenants.

Again, Jesus prays to the Father concerning the Nephites, who have now prepared their minds and received baptism, and so are ready for the blessings and visions they have received.  This is the pattern: Faith in Christ, repentance, baptism/ordinances/covenants, receiving the Holy Ghost (or Christ, or Father in certain instances).  In following the pattern, we become one even as the Godhead is one.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Book Review: Mosiah, a Brief Theological Introduction by James Faulconer


Book Review: Mosiah - a Brief Theological Introduction, by James E. Faulconer

Note: this is the fifth book in a series by the Maxwell Institute covering the Book of Mormon. 

Different from many other series on the Book of Mormon, this one is a primer for new students of theological studies. 




James Faulconer is perhaps my favorite Latter-day Saint theologian and philosopher. He has an innate ability to take difficult concepts and lay them out in a way that makes those concepts understandable, while still engaging and stretching the reader. In his book on Mosiah, Faulconer doesn’t disappoint.

The book contains the following chapters:

  1. Why this Structure?
  2. Good Kings and Bad Kings: the Futility of Politics , the Necessity of the Atonement
  3. Salvation as Creation from Nothing
  4. Are We Not All Beggars?
  5. God Himself Shall Come Down

Faulconer notes that there are so many things going on in the Book of Mosiah that he could only discuss a few in this introductory book. However, the concepts he shares are illuminating, bringing out key concepts from the book that are very relevant to society today.


“Whatever else we say about the theology of Mosiah, that message is at its core, as it is at the core of the Book of Mormon as a whole. The Book of Mormon comes to us promising that what was true anciently continues to be true today. God’s children are not cast off forever; they will be redeemed.

“What does it mean to read the book of Mosiah with an eye to its message of comfort 

and redemption? It means to read theologically.” (pg 6)

This, perhaps, is one of the best definitions of what theology (the study of God) is. We can study

 the book to guess at where it happened. We can study it as literature. We can study it in a variety of ways. To study it theologically means we seek to understand God and our relationship with God.

 The book begins by giving a chronological timeline of the book of Mosiah. This is important. Faulconer shows that the book of Mosiah is a fragmentary document. First of all, its first few chapters were lost along with the other 116 pages that Martin Harris misplaced. We can infer some of the things missing from the lost section: history of King Mosiah 1 and the reign of Benjamin.  

 The book is fragmented in other ways. While it begins with King Benjamin’s sermons, this event occurs 20 years after the story of Zeniff begins. The book jumps around from one group to the next. It can seem complicated to keep the various story lines separated. In this same way, Faulconer notes that one of the book’s points is that government and civilization is also fragmented. The Book of Mormon discusses the fragmentation of peoples throughout the book: Lehi fleeing Jerusalem, Nephi escaping the Laman, Mosiah leaving the land of Nephi, Nephite dissenters going over to the Lamanites, Gadiantons, the list goes on.  It is this fragmentation or division with which both kings Benjamin and Mosiah2 are concerned. Benjamin will seek to unite his people through unity in Christ, while Mosiah2 will attempt to unify the people by also establishing the rule of judges.

However, as Faulconer notes, “Benjamin’s answer to the question of unity, the question which the book of Mosiah begins, is repentance and keeping covenant rather than a form of government.” (pg 24)

This concept is very important in today’s intense political wrangling and division (2020). The true answers for governmental and civil success are not in the policies we gain from Congress, 

Parliament, or any ruler in today’s world. It comes through personal repentance and making individual and communal covenants with God. Imagine if all people everywhere would strip themselves of hubris, anger and self-righteousness, and repent. Then, as with the people of Benjamin, join together in making a covenant of unity (Mosiah 4:1-5).

 Faulconer explains that this begins with Benjamin’s sermon - which is likely why Mormon placed this event prior to the story of Zeniff - in explaining just how civilization must be built and maintained.

Interestingly, he gives us a new definition of the word “nothing.” Benjamin teaches us to view our own “nothingness,” which often is confusing for modern Latter-day Saints, as we often teach that we are of infinite importance and children of loving Heavenly Parents. As Benjamin ties his speech to the Creation, Faulconer suggests that we view “nothing” from that same Creation story aspect. Unlike traditional Christianity, Latter-day Saints believe that God created the earth and universe from existing materials. These materials exist in chaotic form. Formless matter is “nothing” compared to the ordered creations of God. So, when we view ourselves as nothing, we can view ourselves as being in a chaotic, formless state, ready for God to bring us out of the void and into a holy and ordered state. Such understanding of this term ties it closer to modern Latter-day Saint views of us being children of God. We are his children, but require God to take us out of our confusion and chaos, and bring us into new life through Christ. Benjamin takes us from our personal Creation to our Fall into sin and formless chaos, and then our rebirth through Redemption through and by Jesus Christ.

Faulconer explains how faith and a view of our own nothingness leads to remission of sins, which naturally leads us to service to others, which equates to service to God. Why? Because it creates unity and civility among us. Again, governments cannot save mankind, only a turning to Christ. His discussion on this topic is fascinating and helps tie many important Book of Mormon concepts together, all leading to our personal and communal relationship with Father and Son.

 Abinadi’s sermon has one of the most difficult sentences in the Book of Mormon, in that it isn’t a complete sentence, but a series of somewhat connected clauses:

“And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people. And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son— The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.” (Mosiah 15:1-2)

I’ve pondered for decades on these verses, always feeling that some of its meaning was escaping me. Faulconer breaks down this confusing mess in chapter 5. In doing so, he notes the difficulties and points out the portions that are easily understandable, and which are open for possible interpretation. He offers the possibilities and shares his own views on what each clause means to him. In this, he goes into detail on how Jesus is both Father and Son, while still distinct from Heavenly Father. While many have viewed this fragmentary sentence as Trinitarian, Faulconer shows how it is uniquely Latter-day Saint teaching, bringing up the history of the Trinity, Arianism, and the restored understanding of the Godhead through modern revelation.

In his conclusion, Faulconer reemphasizes key points of the book of Mosiah:


“This fragmentary book about a fragment people is obsessed with the question of unity. How are the people of God to avoid the internal divisions that tear them apart and make them no more God’s people? The things we learn int he book of Mosiah should be read through the lens of that question about preserving the community, the church. As part of answering that questin, the book of Mosiah shows us good kings and one especially bad king, and it shows us Mosiah2’s reform of the Nephite government in response to his concern about bad kings. But it is clear that reform is not the point.” (pg 112)

Faulconer notes that the point is unity, and unity only comes through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, receiving a remission of sins, and following Christ in service and unity with our fellow man.

I learned much about the book of Mosiah from Faulconer’s brief introduction to the book. I now will be viewing the sermons by Benjamin, Mosiah2 and Abinadi in a very different way. During this very intense political period, I’ll examine my own views, how I treat others who disagree with me politically, and know that the answer to our divisions, poverty, and disasters is not through government, but through and in Jesus Christ. Knowing my own nothingness, or chaotic form I often find myself in, I can look to being reborn and recreated in Christ.

Brother Faulconer, thanks for again bringing light and understanding to me. It has changed me, and I know any that read this book will also be changed both intellectually and spiritually. 

Mosiah, a brief theological introduction by James Faulconer, is available through the Maxwell Institute:

Also available on Amazon:


Come Follow Me: 3 Nephi 12-16

Come Follow Me: 3 Nephi 12-16

In this lesson, we continue with Jesus’ teachings.  A key to understanding his teachings to the Nephites, is that it is leading the people to understand how to be one with each other, and so one with the Godhead.

The Sermon at the Temple
3 Nephi 12

As I work on this article (9/20/2020), I ponder the recent death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, justice of the Supreme Court. She was a lightning rod for both the right and left on the political spectrum. Some mourn her death, while there are several I've seen on social media who are celebrating it, primarily because of politics. She had a very special and close friendship with Judge Antonin Scalia, who died a couple years ago. She as a liberal Democrat and he as a very conservative Republican. Many of their votes on the Supreme Court canceled each other out. Still, they had a deep friendship and respect for each other, finding unity in many many things. I think this is a true example of what Christ is teaching in 3 Nephi regarding unity.

After establishing the “doctrine of Christ” in 3 Nephi 11 (faith in Christ, repentance, baptism/ordinances, Holy Ghost as the steps to being a united covenant people), Jesus then shared the Beatitudes he taught to the Jews in Matthew 5.  However, he adds to the Beatitudes up front, giving a new way to understand the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount..

Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am. “And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am. Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins” (3 Ne 12:1-2).

In chapter 11, Jesus established his “doctrine of Christ” as a covenant for the people to become a Zion people, one with each other and one with the Godhead. Here, the Beatitudes begin by blessing those who give heed to the apostles of God, because they can enter into the covenant with the Godhead (“in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost”).  Next, those who are present who believe in Jesus will be blessed when they enter the covenant.

Interestingly, those who believe on the words of the average witness are “more blessed”, because they have humbled themselves enough to join the covenant without being compelled to believe.  How compelled?  Either from the destructions that signified Jesus’ death or the appearance of the resurrected Jesus, himself.  These Nephites believe because they saw Jesus descend from heaven and show the wounds in his hands and feet.  It is a faith based on knowledge, not necessarily on humility and a spiritual witness.

In comparing the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 with these, we find two main differences:
Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (3 Nephi 12:3, see also vv 19-20).

Here, the Lord has added, “who come unto me”, or who have entered the covenant through baptism.  These are promised God’s kingdom of heaven: basically to have a broken heart and contrite spirit and entering into a covenant with Christ that he may rescue us from death and hell.
And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 12:6).

In verse 6, we see the difference with Matthew 5 as “with the Holy Ghost.”  Once we enter into the covenant, we need to continue seeking after Christ.  As we do so, he gives us the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, which fills us with greater faith. The Holy Ghost sanctifies us, making us holy. This sanctification is what causes the saints to be united, and to become one with the Godhead.

In becoming one with the Godhead, the teachings continue to show us important concepts to become united.  We must be the light of the world. We must be the salt of the earth.  Not only must we not kill, but not be unrighteously angry with others.  We cannot commit adultery in our heart. We are to walk two miles with him who compels us to walk one.  
And behold it is written also, that thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy; But behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven” (3 Nephi 12:43-45).

To be the children of Father in heaven, we must be one. We must learn to not only tolerate others, but to love our enemies.  As Christ blesses both the good and bad, we are to learn to bless all of them, as well.  In praying for those who persecute us, we are becoming one, even as the Godhead is one.

Forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors
3 Nephi 13

Here, Jesus continues focusing the Sermon at the Temple towards teaching the believers how to be one.  Whether in teaching alms or prayer, we learn it is not about us, but about the covenant people as a group.  Our alms are done in secret, so our right and left hands do not see what the other is doing, yet our almsgiving does two things: first it blesses the community, and second it teaches us to be selfless.

In King Benjamin's sermon (Mosiah 2-5), Benjamin notes that we are nothing. James Faulconer suggests that this "nothingness" is more akin to being formless, as in God creating the universe out of chaotic matter. In this instance, we are as the dust, which Adam was made from. God brings chaos/nothing into his order/Creation. In doing so, we are then to be one as a covenant people, taking care of the beggar and the poor. It is in doing such service to others that we serve God.

Jesus shows demonstrates Prayer as a way to connect with Father.  Note that it is also a teaching moment. We pray not only to be forgiven our debts, but that we must also be god-like in forgiving others.  The prayer pleads that God’s kingdom come, so that the earth is like heaven. How is heaven different than the earth?  The world, in its current state, follows Satan’s doctrine of contention.  We fight and strive to overcome others. Compare this with heaven, where God promises to share all he has with his children. The City of Enoch and the Nephite saints in 4 Nephi show that we can have heaven on earth, by being like the Godhead in the way we love and serve one another.  Unity, oneness, is what is behind Jesus’ “at-one-ment” and the Godhead’s being one God.

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness...” is how we create heaven on earth, “...and all these (heavenly) things shall be added unto you” (3 Nephi 13:33).

The Covenant
3 Nephi 15
Behold, I do not destroy the prophets, for as many as have not been fulfilled in me, verily I say unto you, shall all be fulfilled. And because I said unto you that old things have passed away, I do not destroy that which hath been spoken concerning things which are to come. For behold, the covenant which I have made with my people is not all fulfilled; but the law which was given unto Moses hath an end in me. Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life. Behold, I have given unto you the commandments; therefore keep my commandments. And this is the law and the prophets, for they truly testified of me” (3 Nephi 15:6-10).

The Law is the law of Moses.  According to the early Jewish scholar, Maimonides, there are 613 laws. Some of these deal directly with the temple. These include the dietary laws, laws on what could not be done on the Sabbath, etc.  

The Prophets are the teachings of the prophets in the Old Testament.  Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and Ezekiel had prophesied of things in their day, often with future events to still occur. These had not yet been fulfilled.

For Jesus, the Ten Commandments were not fulfilled in his resurrection.  The many little laws of Moses were fulfilled.

The Covenant is the thing that has not been fulfilled. What covenant? The covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We enter this covenant at baptism. Components of this law include a promise of land, posterity, and priesthood power.  These have both a temporal and spiritual side to them.  Through Lehi and Nephi, the Nephites received a new Land of Promise, but they would someday receive the heavenly Promised Land.  Nephi was promised posterity, but the real posterity is an eternal one.  Priesthood power is a blessing in this life, but limited, compared to the great works and creations God performs.  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob represent an earthly symbol of the Godhead.  For those who seek the covenant of Abraham, they become “the seed of Abraham” (D&C 84:34) here on earth, and the seed of God in heaven. 

I have other sheep
3 Nephi 16

Jesus told the Nephites that they are the other sheep, whom he referred to when speaking to the Jews.  Yet, now we find that the Nephites are not the only “other sheep.”  These primarily include the other lost tribes of Israel.  However, the Lord seems to add an additional Beatitude here:

“And blessed are the Gentiles, because of their belief in me, in and of the Holy Ghost, which witnesses unto them of me and of the Father” (3 Ne 16:6).

The Gentiles may also be blessed, even as Israel is when they believe and obey.  While they cannot see the Lord without the power of the Melchizedek Priesthood (D&C 84:19-26), they can feel the witness of the Holy Ghost as it testifies of the Father and Son.  Note that this is not just a promise to the Gentiles among the Latter-day Saints, but to all Gentiles.  When missionaries testify of God, Christ and the restored gospel to people, it is the Holy Ghost that witnesses of these truths.

The Holy Ghost testifies not only of celestial truths, but also of the truths of terrestrial things.  The Law of Moses and Aaronic Priesthood are terrestrial.  They received the key to the ministering of angels, who speak by the power of the Holy Ghost.

It is too easy and simple to think that because God restored the fullness of the gospel through Joseph Smith that God cannot speak to others, as well.  In Alma 29:8, we find that the Lord delivers to each people and nation the amount of light and truth they are ready and willing to receive.  Most Christian churches are good and inspired to the level in which they accept God’s truth.  Even the Restored Church of Jesus Christ, with its continuing revelation, recognizes that it does not have all truth, only a fullness of it.  This means we have enough to bless and exalt people.  It does not mean we have all the answers.  So, we see Jesus tell the Nephites:

Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of Israel, in the latter day shall the truth come unto the Gentiles, that the fulness of these things shall be made known unto them” (3 Ne 16:7).

God gives them a fullness of “these things” meaning of spiritual truths, covenants and ordinances.  It does not mean a fullness of all things nor all truth.  From Adam to Joseph Smith to our modern prophet, all have to deal with the human struggle to gain revelation, and then to understand that revelation.

Gentiles reject the Gospel

And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them” (3 Ne 16:10).

This isn’t a question of IF the Gentiles will reject Christ, but WHEN.  Note the signs of their apostasy from Christianity: pride, lying, dishonesty, murder, priestcraft, whoredoms and secret combinations. Today, we find Europe is basically non-Christian. The United States is increasingly changing from religious to spiritual, where people believe in God but do little about that belief.  Marriage covenants are replaced with marriages of convenience, which may be broken on a whim.  Many live together, rather than be burdened with the marriage covenant.  Sex is everywhere and all too common, replacing true love with just a physical attraction. Dishonesty and lying are spreading, as the wealthy, the poor, presidents and Congress seek to hide their secret dealings.  Murders increase around the globe.  Many churches have replaced the 10 Commandments with the 10 Suggestions in order to be popular and rich.  Secret combinations abound in gangs, governments, unions and big business. Socialism and Fascism - two great secret combinations - are both on the rise.

If we have not yet reached the end of the Gentiles’ time to enjoy the fullness of God’s blessings, we are rapidly approaching it.  In that day, physical Israel (including the Lamanites) and spiritual Israel (righteous Christians) will gain power over the disbelieving Gentiles of Europe and America.  They will trample down those who oppose them.  God will redeem Israel, and Isaiah tells us that in that day,

The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God” (3 Ne 16:20).



James Faulconer, Mosiah-a brief theological introduction:  Available at Amazon


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Come Follow Me: 3 Nephi 8-11

Come Follow Me: 3 Nephi 8-11


Most Mormons believe that the great Nephite destruction occurred, three days of darkness passed, and then Jesus showed up for lunch the next day.

However, the Book of Mormon’s text actually clues us in on the actual time frame involved here.

“And it came to pass in the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm, such an one as never had been known in all the land” (3 Nephi 8:5).

“And it came to pass that in the ending of the thirty and fourth year, behold, I will show unto you that the people of Nephi who were spared, and also those who had been called Lamanites, who had been spared, did have great favors shown unto them, and great blessings poured out upon their heads, insomuch that soon after the ascension of Christ into heaven he did truly manifest himself unto them—” (3 Nephi 10:18).

The destructions occurred almost a year before Jesus appeared to the people.  Such a time delay would allow Jesus to perform his works in Jerusalem among his apostles after his resurrection, begin the work for the dead in the Spirit World, and organize the work among those who resurrected with him..

The Great Destruction
3 Ne 8-10

We find in the great destruction the probability that it was the result of a volcano, or perhaps several volcanoes erupting at the same time.  The darkness that prevented fires from being kindled could come from the thick ash that would float in the air for several days.  Volcanic eruptions have been known to cause storms, including tornadoes and lightning.  In a significant eruption, earthquakes can cause cities to be buried, covered in ash, or sink into the ocean or a large body of water, such as Lake Atitlan in Central America (where at least one sunken city has been found).  Tsunamis along the oceans could occur, destroying or sinking coastal cities.  

We should note that a list of cities burned by fire, including Zarahemla and Jacobugath, could have been founded in the shadows of volcanoes, or new volcanoes may have arisen at that time, sending smouldering rocks and debris down upon the inhabitants.

Sixteen cities are mentioned that were destroyed.  Likely, others received damage.  This is suggestive of a Limited Geographical Model, wherein the events in the Book of Mormon occurred in a limited area of the Americas, rather than the entire hemisphere.  Most Latter-day Saint scholars today do believe in a limited geography for the Book of Mormon happening in Central America, though some place it elsewhere in the Americas.

The New Law of Sacrifice
3 Nephi 9

The Nephites heard a voice in the darkness that spoke to them of what had occurred.  The wicked were destroyed, with the remainder surviving only because they did not stone the prophets nor cast them out.

Yet the Lord called to them saying that their animal sacrifices were no longer accepted.  A new sacrifice would be required of them:

“ And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.
And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not” (3 Nephi 9:19-20).

We learn a few things here. First, not everyone who is filled with the Holy Ghost recognizes the event for what it is.  Often, they just know that something is different, and they believe.

But the new sacrifice now required is a change of heart.  Humility is required.  In Alma 32, Alma noted that the poor were compelled to be humble, but more blessed are those who humble themselves without having to be compelled.  Here we see the people have also been compelled to be humble through a great disaster.  Now they are commanded to replace their pride and intellect with a recognition that God is greater than them all.  King Benjamin’s teaching that we are less than the dust of the earth, comes to mind.

It is a broken heart and contrite spirit that lead us to believe in Christ, to repent, and to receive the ordinances and covenants of salvation.  It opens us to receiving the Holy Ghost as a constant companion.  Such contrition by Alma the Younger caused him to believe and repent, and in so doing, was rescued from hell (Alma 36).

We know that the days leading to the Second Coming of Christ will be similar to these events among the Nephites.  The sun will be darkened and the moon will turn to blood prior to the Lord’s coming in power and glory (Joel 2:31, Revelation 6:12).  Great destructions will occur that will destroy the wicked off of the earth.  Only after such horrendous events will those that remain be ready to turn to Christ with a contrite spirit and broken heart, prepared for the long period of peace.

The Gathering of Israel
3 Nephi 10

The Lord offers a statement he made to Jerusalem:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” (Luke 13:34, Matt 23:37).

Matthew notes this in context:

“Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:
That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar” (Matthew 23:34-35).

The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD by the Romans, which left the place desolate, also came upon the Nephites for killing and persecuting the prophets, shedding innocent blood.  We can suppose that this warning equally applies to the Desolation that wiped out the Jaredites, and will destroy much of the earth at the coming of Christ in glory.

The Doctrine of Christ
3 Nephi 11

Perhaps the greatest teaching in the scriptures is found in this chapter, and reflected in 2 Nephi 31-33. Both Nephi and Jesus call it the “doctrine of Christ” and it is the foundational doctrine for the entire gospel.

We find that the Nephites had been debating over the issue of baptism.  Joseph Spencer suggests that the debate involved the differences in baptism taught by Nephi and Abinadi/Alma.  Nephi’s baptismal covenant was one that combined everyone into a community covenant with God.  Alma’s baptismal covenant was one focused on the individual and his/her actions as a member of the church.

The Lord will reiterate Nephi’s teachings.  It isn’t that Alma’s baptism was wrong, but perhaps was incomplete.  As it is, Jesus called the disciple Nephi forward, giving him authority to baptize (even though he had been baptizing people previously), so they could be baptized into a higher understanding of the ordinance and covenant.

We could say that Alma taught baptism on the level of the Mosaic/Aaronic level, while Nephi’s baptism was based on the higher Melchizedek law itself.  Alma’s baptism counts, but there is a better way still.

Jesus begins by teaching that contention is the doctrine of Satan.  He uses contention to divide and conquer.  As we’ve seen in previous lessons, the Christian church collapsed because of contention and pride.

Jesus teaches the Nephites the correct form for this higher baptism:

“Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen” (3 Ne 11:25).

This is significantly different than the baptism of Alma and Abinadi:

“Helam, I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world” (Mosiah 18:13).

Jesus then explains the difference between the two baptisms, explaining the Doctrine of Christ:

“And after this manner shall ye baptize in my name; for behold, verily I say unto you, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one” (3 Nephi 11:27).

Jesus will continue explaining this.  In Alma’s baptism, it is a covenant for the individual with Christ. For Jesus and Nephi it is a covenant with the Godhead.  In many of the Book of Mormon lessons, I’ve discussed theophanies (man being in God’s presence) as a key theme throughout the book.  Here we gain some very important concepts in regards to this..

When Lehi (1 Nephi 1), Isaiah (2 Nephi 16) and others saw God, they often saw him in conjunction with the Divine Council of heaven.  God on his throne, surrounded by divine angels.  Lehi was invited to join the divine council, when they descended and brought him a book to read, containing his mission call to Jerusalem.  Isaiah found himself in the heavenly temple, and once cleansed was able to speak with God, who asked “Whom shall I send”, with Isaiah being part of the divine council in responding “Here am I, send me” (cf Abraham 3:27).  Isaiah and Lehi become symbolic of Christ, prophetic messengers sent to deliver a message of deliverance from the divine council.

That message is this: the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one. They are united in all things. Christ had “suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning” (3 Ne 11:11). .The Nephites are now called upon to also learn to be one. No contentions.  Unified in the first principles and ordinances of the gospel.  The baptismal covenant ties the initiate to both the Godhead and the covenant people as one.  Only in becoming one as a people, can they ever hope to be one with the Godhead.  Jesus prayed that his disciples would be one, even as the Father and Son are one (John 17), in hopes that they would also become a united and holy people.

Moses sought such unity of the people, so he could bring them into the presence of God (D&C 84:19-26).  Here we see that the ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood teach us the “mysteries of godliness” and to prepare to see the face of God.

Enoch taught his people diligently until they became Zion:

“And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18).

Only then was the city lifted up to heaven, because the people were ready to become one with God and the divine council.

In the Latter-day Saint temples, we receive the higher ordinances of the gospel.  Baptism is the door to the Celestial Kingdom, and the temple ordinances teach and prepare us further on how to be one with the Godhead and each other.  In the temple, we make promises to serve God and to consecrate all we have to God and to Zion.  We learn to pray together in one voice.  We enter into the Celestial room, representing the presence of God, where we can quietly contemplate his greatness along with others who have entered, representing the divine council of heaven.  We are sealed for eternity to our spouses, children, grandchildren and ancestors as one family.  We are sealed to God, Christ and the Holy Ghost, being one with them as they are with one another.

In the following lessons on Jesus’ teachings, we are going to see that they all focus on creating a united people of covenant, a Zion people.  In Jesus’ teachings here, we catch a glimpse of the real promises made to us in baptism and the priesthood and temple covenants, as we learn to become one covenant people, and part of the divine council of God.


Samabaj, Sunken city at Lake Atitlan:

Sunken cities:

Limited Geographical Theory/Model:

“An Other Testament: on Typology”, Joseph Spencer: