The Words of Isaiah

3 Nephi 20

In Christ’s ministry to the Nephites as recorded in 3 Nephi, there are three times (3 Nephi 16:17–20; 20:11-12; 23:1–3) where the Savior commends the words of Isaiah to our study, stating that these words shall all be fulfilled. Of all the prophets, Isaiah is the prophet that Christ points to as being important to understand. Now this is particularly noteworthy, because the “Isaiah Chapters” of the Book of Mormon are seen by some as the hardest to be understood. It’s also noteworthy because Nephi and Mormon both saw the words of Isaiah as being of enough value to include entire chapters directly within the texts of the Book of Mormon.

It wasn’t Moses, Ezekiel, Abraham, Adam, Enoch, or any of the other ancient prophets. Isaiah is the one that Christ points to as of being of the most worth.

So Great Faith

3 Nephi 19

Just as this chapter goes into detail in explaining that there are things that cannot be comprehended by the mortal mind, or rather that are forbidden from being recorded, I am at a loss of words to describe the experience that it is for me this morning reading these verses. The feelings that I feel are real, the strength of the Spirit is indisputable. The clarity of my present reality and state of mind is tangible to me, and is a product of spiritual power. But how do I share this with another, the things that I feel?

This chapter has in it a prayer recorded from the Savior that feels a lot like His intercessory prayer recorded in John 17.

I Am the Light

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.

Further Instruction

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.

Through Christ Which Strengtheneth Me

Philippians 4:13

I was contemplating a similar phrase that was in my head, “through Christ who healeth me.” That is not scripture, but it was a more accurate description of my current state. But the actual scripture is richer in meaning. Footnotes take me to 1 Timothy and Alma 26:

And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;

1 Timothy 1:12

I do not boast in my own strength… I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things… they are brought to sing redeeming love, and this because of the power of his word which is in us.

Alma 26:11–13

And then there is this reminder from the Savior himself:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

John 15:4–5

Then these verses back in Philippians 4 remind me of how to abide in the Christ.

…whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

The Eye Hath Not Seen, Neither Hath The Ear Heard, Before, So Great and Marvelous Things

3 Nephi 17

There is phrase in this chapter that has long left me puzzled as to its placement here. It is a lamentation of the House of Israel found in verse 14:

And it came to pass that when they had knelt upon the ground, Jesus groaned within himself, and said: Father, I am troubled because of the wickedness of the people of the house of Israel.

The Savior had just healed the multitude of its infirmities and was now about to bless their children in a most profound manner. However, he first makes this jarring lamentation. Today, as I read this, it strikes me as a realization, or a contrasting of two different groups of people and Christ coming to terms with the lack of faith of the house of Israel (those among whom he ministered for so long), when compared to the profound faith now demonstrated by the Nephite gathering. It is not just a lamentation, but also a realization that he had not done things differently and yet these people were much more faithful than the former, for whom he now prayed. Ever engraven upon his palms, those that didn’t have faith sufficient were still remembered by our Lord, even when about to bless those that did have great faith.

Preparation to Receive Further Instruction

The chapter starts with the Savior’s perception that the people had arrived at their physical limit and were not able to learn further. He had been commanded of the Father to deliver a set of instructions to the Nephite people, but was now not able to go further because of the mortal limitations of his hearers.

It is noteworthy that he took their personal well-being into consideration in the execution of the assignment. He wasn’t checking off boxes on a list. He had been commanded of the Father to teach specific things to these people, perceiving that they could not immediately receive his instruction, he gave other instructions, preparatory instructions, for when he would return.

The Savior’s intermediary instructions then are these:

  1. Go ye unto your homes.
  2. Ponder upon the things which I have said,.
  3. Ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand,.
  4. Prepare your minds for the morrow.

Each of these steps is significant in its order.

Go Ye Unto Your Homes

I was tempted to over look this bit of instruction as merely procedural in nature, but as I ponder it, there is great significance in that he instructed them to get into the environment that would be most conducive to spiritual preparation. He didn’t command them to get to the church house or the temple or anywhere else. He sent them to their homes, a place of refreshing and renewal. Perhaps more importantly, it is a place of intimate communion with closest family members, the smallest most fundamental unity of society where love and nurturing can take place in a why that no other society structure can afford.

Ponder, Ask, and Prepare for the Morrrow

The next two points of pondering and asking the Father for understanding of the things which Jesus taught are complementary to each other. As one takes time to ponder a point of doctrine and then to seek confirmation of that doctrine in prayer, then does the Spirit of God have the substance with which to communicate and affirm truth.

Preparation is not synonymous to pondering and asking, but are complimentary activities.

For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.

Ezra 7:10 (emphasis added)

Preparation then is requisite to receiving the word of God and being enabled to obey it. How does one prepare to receive the word of God with the intent to obey? Submission, humility, repentance, cultivating the ground to receive good seed.

“And He Did Heal Them Every One”

After giving the large group that was there gathered instructions to prepare for tomorrow, Jesus looks out and is filled with compassion toward this people. He senses that they want Him to stay just a little longer with them.

So he proceeds to heal all manner of physical and mental ailment among the people. He heals:

  • the sick
  • the lame
  • the blind
  • the halted
  • the maimed
  • the leprous
  • the withered
  • the deaf
  • the dumb
  • any other form of affliction

What must it have been for any one of those persons individually to have been released from the binding effect of their impaired condition? What burdens had been lifted by those who had been tasked with their care? This very real suffering was removed by the Christ, unconditionally, upon the whole of the gathering.

And they did all, both they who had been healed and they who were whole, bow down at his feet, and did worship him;

Vs. 10 (emphasis added)

“So Great Was the Joy of the Multitude”

Reviewing this account again this morning brings several thoughts to mind.

And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

3 Nephi 12:8

This account moreover stands in the face of the diabolical assumption that man is permanently fallen and can achieve to no good thing in this life. This is the proof that there are hopes and dreams of things greater than this world that should be longed for.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
…But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

Hebrews 11:13-14,16

“Behold, Your Little Ones”

There are two things that stand out to me in this reading. After healing the sick, he turns his attentions to the children. Both are groups that can be overlooked. The children, constitute a special group, entirely defenseless, yet so impressionable and indicative of the future.

So many would oppress childhood, especially for their own personal gain or benefit. There is more to consider here.

The ending of this chapter is a record of the witnesses present. It is a reminder that “we speak of things as they really are” and that the gospel is based upon the testimony of witnesses. What then is faith?

And then there is the topic of the Little Children, of how such are the Kingdom of Heaven. Later in this 3 Nephi account of Christ’s ministry, the children have their tongues loosed so that they can speak, but the words that were spoken, these things were not permitted to be recorded? What where the circumstances at other times when the Savior forbad things to be recorded or published? Why was it allowed to be witnessed in person by the Nephites present, but not permitted to be published?

On the Gathering and Other Sheep

3 Nephi 15:11-24; 16

Now in the second half of chapter 15, the Savior takes pains to say that this people (the Nephite people) were those that Christ said would hear his voice. He repeats this in such a way as to suggest that this was a literal statement of fact. Clarifying the point further, he goes on to explain how the Gentiles would never hear him, but have an opportunity to receive his word through the testimony of others and to receive a witness through the confirmation of the Holy Ghost.

Then after having established the clarity of this point (that there are others that would literally hear him), in chapter 16, the Savior goes on to say that there are yet even others that he must visit and who shall literally hear Him.

The gentiles shall have their chance, but the Gathering of Israel is much bigger than the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles alone. No prophet like President Nelson has emphasized the gathering of Israel. I feel like we are in a significant transition from what once was (the church of the Gentile saints) to what will now be (the church of the Gathering of Israel), all part of this on-going restoration of the Gospel in the latter-days.

Chapter 16, Verse 4 – We ought to pray to know who those other sheep are of whom the Savior also ministered to. The Savior doesn’t say this explicitly, but his words suggest that that was expected action of those at Jerusalem. Then why not of us?

…If it so be that my people at Jerusalem… do not ask… that they may receive a knowledge of you… and also of the other tribes whom they know not of…

The goal of all this, is that the remnant of their seed may also be gathered in.

A couple of additional thoughts and reminders that were inspired of the text: Other sheep that have already heard his voice causes me to contemplate the strength of the Church in other parts of the world presently. I remember the stories of faithful missionaries from the Philippines told by Elder Echohawk in our stake conference the year after my arrival to Missouri.

In the scripture that the Savior quotes twice from the book of John (John 10:16), the Savior states, “…them also I must bring”. The reminder that this is the Lord’s work and he can do his own work sits poignantly in my mind this morning. (See 2 Nephi 27:20-21)

Re-reading chapter 16, the work of the Gentiles in the latter days is the gathering of Israel. The Savior explains that there are others, whom those at Jerusalem failed to inquire of the Lord to learn about. Christ was to go to them so that they could also hear his voice. The record kept here in the Book of Mormon was for the express purpose of helping the Gentiles to understand the scope of their commission in the latter days. These are the descendants of those to home Christ had ministered in very deed. It is recorded in the Book of Momron because he knew that the Book of Mormon would come first to the gentiles.

Him Will I Raise Up

3 Nephi 15:1-10

At the end of the first verse, the Savior gives the promise of being raised up. The footnotes, show that this promise was reiterated by prophets throughout the scriptures, especial in the Book of Mormon and strongly ties obedience to the commandments of the Lord with the first Resurrection.

The next nine verses then offers a clarification on the fulfillment of the law of Moses, and yet future fulfillment of all the prophets had taught. The final crux of all the matter is this: “keep my commandments”. (See verse 10)

See also John 6:35-54

Fulfilling Covenants

When Christ says to the Nephites, “Old things have passed away, and that all things had become new,” (vs. 2-3) He is guiding them to understand the covenants that he has made, and perhaps even the covenants that he will yet make with us individually.

References to the New and Everlasting covenant found here in these verses state very similar outcomes to that which Christ has here promised: being raised up at the last day.

The new and everlasting covenant is the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which gets restored with every new dispensation.

The Rules of the Game

(a parable) All games have rules of engagement. To play the game you need to learn and follow the rules. Without rules, there is no game.

Life also has rules of engagement. In order to live life, you need to learn the laws and commands of God, who created life. If you cannot play by the commandments of God, there is no life. Life cannot be lived unless we abide by the rules of the Life-giver.

I Will Liken Him unto a Wise Man

3 Nephi 14:24-27 (See also Matthew 7:24-27)

In this simple comparison of persons is the powerful illustration of one absolute reality:

Rains will fall, Floods will come, and winds will blow!

In other words, there will be opposition regardless of your spiritual status in life. However, it is the outcome of such opposition that will primarily effect. To the righteous, hard as the rain and winds may still be, their houses remain standing, and the connection to the foundation has actually been strengthened, reinforced by the reality that the only thing that allowed that house to continue to stand was its foundation. The foundation, its quality and strength, the builders have very little to do with, except in the choosing of it.

To those who choose to build upon anything other than the Rock, the Lord assimilates them to a foolish man. Because they will build, and they will erect great edifices, but without a foundation of the Rock, there will be nothing to sustain it in times of storm. The opulence, the excess, “the loftiness of the branches,” these things will all come crashing down, and so the Savior warns: “great was the fall of it.”

I Never Knew You

3 Nephi 14:21-23 (See also Matthew 7:21-23)

These three verses come to me after a week-long study on false prophets. There is for me a lot to unpack in so few verses. Footnotes are taking me in all directions, but the one thing that is really standing out to me this morning is the final statement of the Savior.

And then will I profess unto them: I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Verse 23 (emphasis added)

The final judgment is placed squarely on the Savior’s knowing me! It is not enough for me to think or believe that I am acquainted with Christ, He has to know me in order for me to be saved! There are multiple scriptures that support this statement. And the big question that I am asking this morning is: How or what do I have to do for Christ to know me?

For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?

Mosiah 5:13

So for Christ to know me, I need to serve him. I need to know his will and as far as possible try to understand the thoughts and intent of the Master’s heart.

Mosiah 26 offers a more detailed account of that final judgment. This seems to be a very polarized judgment, which hinges on one simple principle: whether we know Christ or not.

Alma 26:9, Ammon rejoices in the Lamanite converts because of the love that now exists between them, but then also adds this: “For if we had not come up… they would also have become strangers to God.” In other words, Jesus would not have known them in that intimate manner of which we have been discussing here.

In Luke 13, the Savior is reported as having taught the same principle with this slight variation, repeated twice: “I know you not whence ye are.” This is loosely coupled also with the teaching of those who waited for their Lord’s coming. It makes me think of the parable of the ten virgins. Five were ready, five were not. Where were the five that were not prepared? What were they doing there? Why does the location matter?

Perhaps, the better question was where were the five that were prepared? What were they doing there?

And that which fell among thorns… bring no fruit to perfection.
But that on the good ground are they, which… bring forth fruit with patience.

Luke 8:14-15 (emphasis added)

There is a fairly healthy tension within me when I read about bringing forth fruit or good works. That tension is between personal refinement and good works. Both are necessary, but when I read the insight about the parable of the sower from Luke’s account, this particular account suggests that the good fruit leans towards personal refinement.