3 Nephi 18
(Note: There is a natural man repulsion to the doctrines found in this chapter. I feel that this is the adversary’s affront to some of the most important principles of the Gospel of Christ: Sacrament, Family Prayer, and Ministering. The reality is this chapter is a point of culmination in the Savior’s ministry at the end of the first day.)
Some Bread and Wine
At the start of this chapter is the institution of the Sacrament among the Nephite people, or rather, those that followed the Christ in the Americas. The Spirit of the Lord is constraining me to consider this deeply: the breaking of bread in remembrance of the body of Christ. The observed effect upon those that partook is that they were filled, filled so that their souls did no longer hunger. This should be the observable outcome of participation in this holy ordinance.
It has impressed me that perfection is not the requirement for the companionship of the Holy Ghost as taught by the Savior. The requirement is that we always remember the Christ.
And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.Verses 7 & 11
Then after teaching the ordinance of the Sacrament, Christ then emphasizes its importance by stating that by doing these things, ye shall be built upon His rock, drawing upon the wise man/foolish man imagery of the strong vs. the sandy foundation.
After the administration of the Sacrament, the Savior goes back and forth between the disciples (meaning the twelve that he had called apart) and the multitude. To the disciples he gives specific instruction pertaining to leadership. To the multitude he admonishes them to prayer.
To Sift You as Wheat
How wheat is sifted anciently. (There are some good illustrative videos posted here.)
Christ says to the multitude, Satan desires to sift you as wheat. The sifting of wheat is a violent process of being beaten down and then tossed into the air.
Later he returns to the disciples and gives further instruction on the administration of the Sacrament.
Progression is the purpose of the Sacrament, not perfection. That Christ commands that no one partake of the Sacrament unworthily lends to this point. Because this is about progression, the Sacrament allows for regular and routine check points, having first made the commitment to the correct doctrine and principles. This is also the reason why He instructs them to not cast out anyone who would attend their meetings, even if they were not ready to partake of the Sacrament. (See verses 30, 32)
In all this explanation of ministering principles, there are brief little insights of truth like this:
“For behold I know my sheep, and they are numbered.”Vs. 31
I don’t know why this resonates with me so deeply. Maybe the reality that each of Christ’s disciples is known to Hm. Is it that He would number me individually? Is it that I count enough to be included?
For Your Sake
As the Savior bids farewell to his disciples (the twelve) at the end of this first day, he states:
And now I go unto the Father, because it is expedient that I should go unto the Father for your sakes.Vs. 35 (emphasis added)
There are abundant scriptural passages that here explain how it is that the Savior goes to the Father to claim his rights of mercy as our advocate before the Father. So in very few words, it must needs be that Christ returns to the Father so that he can stand as the legal representative for those that would claim mercy from his name. This is an extremely important behind-the-scenes insight.
At the end of the his public comments to the multitude, he exhorts them to “hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up.” I feel that he is saying that He is the example that we should follow, but He says it differently. His is the light that we hold up for others to see. He chooses to describe it as light.
So there is a connection here between the light, which is Christ, and the three things explained in this chapter: Sacrament, Prayer, and Ministering. These are the things that Christ did. These are the things that we are to do to hold up His light.
With these things in mind, hear what John says:
This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.1 John 1:5-7
In other words, if we say that we are follow Christ, but are not utilizing the Atonement (through the sacrament, through prayer, in ministering to others), then are we not truly in the light, but we are deceiving ourselves. This is why at the end John concludes, if we are doing these things (praying and partaking of the sacrament and encouraging others to do the same), then of course we are being cleansed through the blood of Jesus Christ. The Atonement is working for us. Its doing what it was designed to do: cleanse us all from sin.
Power to Give the Holy Ghost
At the end of the chapter, it is noted that the Lord gave to his American disciples the power to confer the Holy Ghost. The exact words are not recorded, but Moroni notes that he will do so later. The event is referenced several times later in 3 Nephi, but the exact words that Christ spoke were not recorded until we get to Moroni 2.
And he called them by name, saying: Ye shall call on the Father in my name, in mighty prayer; and after ye have done this ye shall have power that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost; and in my name shall ye give it, for thus do mine apostles.Moroni 2:2
Two things are noteworthy for me in this verse: 1) This ordinance should be proceeded by mighty prayer. From now on, whether officiating or standing in the circle or even witnessing this ordinance, I am instructed to offer mighty prayer in preparation that we may have power to give the Holy Ghost. 2) This ordinance is to be perform in the name of Jesus Christ, as did the apostles to whom this responsibility was first bestowed. This suggests the sacred nature of the ordinance because of the name under which the ordinance is performed and because of the office to which this ordinance was first trusted. This was first an apostolic responsibility.