3 Nephi Watch and Prepare
This book is named for Nephi, son of Nephi, son of Helaman, son of Helaman, son of Alma, son of Alma. In 3 Nephi the righteous follow their prophet and watch for signs, in anticipation of two appearances of Christ: His birth in the old world, followed by His post-mortal ministry in their own land. And again, in chapters 1-7 we can glean parallels for our day as we prepare ourselves for the Second Coming.
3 Nephi 1:4-21 Will He Really Come?
Just as in our day, in 3 Nephi 1-7 things become more pronounced in relation to signs and wonders, as well as in the work of both the devil and the Lord. In addition to the events listed below, look in these verses (and throughout chapters 1-7) for things that we also see—or may yet see—in our day. Consider the high drama of the following:
- “The prophecies of the prophets began to be fulfilled more fully: for there began to be greater signs and greater miracles” (verse 4).
- “But there were some who began to say that the time was past for the words to be fulfilled, which were spoken by Samuel, the Lamanite [concerning the coming of Christ]” (verse 5).
- “And [the unbelievers] began to rejoice over their brethren, saying: Behold the time is past … therefore, your joy and your faith concerning this thing hath been vain” (verse 6).
- “They did make a great uproar throughout the land; and the people who believed began to be very sorrowful” (verse 7).
- “But behold, they did watch steadfastly … that they might know that their faith had not been vain” (verse 8).
- “There was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death” (verse 9).
The timing was heart-stopping, for these verses suggest that it was the day before the believers were to be put to death, when their prophet “cried mightily unto the Lord all that day” and the Lord told Nephi, “Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world” (verses 12-13).
This is the beginning of the “first Christmas” in the new world. The night before His birth, Jesus’s body is in Mary’s womb, while His voice is heard by Nephi in the Americas. And what else did He say?
- “I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets” (verse 13).
- “I come unto my own, to fulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men” (verse 14).
- And Mormon wrote: “And it had come to pass, yea, all things, every whit, according to the words of the prophets” (verse 20).
Surely, we can trust that in these last days our God will do all that He has promised for our salvation, both temporal and spiritual.
3 Nephi 2:14-16 “Their Curse Was Taken From Them”
These verses tell us that the righteous Lamanites were no longer cursed (they gained the Spirit and influence of God in their lives) and that the mark of the curse was also removed (their skin changed).
3 Nephi 3:11-20, 25-26; 4:4, 8, 16, 18, 30-33; 5:1-3 Spiritual and Temporal Protection
To protect themselves in response to threats from Giddianhi (leader of the Gadianton robbers), the Nephites did the following:
- They repented of all their sins and prayed mightily for strength against their enemies (3:12, 15, 25; 4:8, 30, 33; 5:1-3).
- They followed Lachoneus and other inspired leaders (3:16-19, 25; 5:1).
- They gathered together to one place with their families, flocks, and herds; with sufficient food and provisions to last seven years (3:13, 22; 4:4, 18; they ended up needing their food and supplies for about four years before they returned to their various lands; see 3:22; 4:16; 5:7).
- They built fortifications, prepared weapons, put guards in place, and appointed righteous men who had the spirit of revelation as their chief military captains (3:14, 19, 25-26).
- Under the military leadership of righteous Gidgiddoni, they withheld from attacking their enemies, following the principle of only fighting to defend themselves when attacked (3:20-21).
- They recognized God and His “great goodness” as the source of their strength and deliverance (4:30-33).
Let us all consider what we are doing today to protect and prepare ourselves, as counseled by our latter-day leaders.
3 Nephi 1-7 The Final 33 Years
“From this time forth [after the birth of Jesus] there began to be lyings sent forth among the people, by Satan, to harden their hearts, to the intent that they might not believe in those signs and wonders which they had seen” (1:22). The believers now face a 33-year challenge in their quest to remain faithful, converted, and prepared. There were great swings, ups and downs, and a seeming compression of time and events. This is how things went:
A.D. 1-4 Chapter 1
—Nephi taught and baptized; there was peace and continuing signs pointing to Christ’s coming (1:23-26).
—Gadianton robbers still carried on their works of darkness and their numbers grew with dissenters from the Nephites and from Lamanite youth who rejected their parents’ teachings (1:27-30).
A.D. 5-16 Chapter 2
—People began to forget the signs they had seen and heard, and to be “less astonished” when new signs occurred, concluding that they were Satanic deceptions. They became hardened and rejected the doctrine of Christ (2:1-2).
—The people became “strong in wickedness and abominations” and wars broke out, threatening the remaining righteous Nephites and Lamanites with “utter destruction” (2:3, 11, 13, 19).
A.D. 16-18 Chapter 3
—Following Lachoneus (their chief judge and governor) and Gidgiddoni (their military captain) “a great many thousand” of the righteous gathered and worked to protect themselves both physically (from the Gadiantons and their leader Giddianhi, along with his lies, insults, and threats) and spiritually (3:1-26).
A.D. 19-22 Chapter 4
—The righteous (composed of both Nephites and Lamanites) twice defeat the armies of robbers in “great and terrible” warfare. They rejoiced, shed many tears, and praised God for giving them their victories, and “they knew it was because of their repentance and their humility that they had been delivered” (4:1-33).
A.D. 22-26 Chapter 5
—There is a great spiritual reformation among the Nephites, even to the point of teaching, converting, and setting free many of the Gadianton robbers. Others of the robbers had been killed in war or were condemned and punished, “and thus they did put an end to all those wicked, and secret, and abominable combinations” (5:1-6).
A.D. 26-30 Chapter 6
—Peace and prosperity reign among the people (6:1-9).
—In the 29th year pride and persecutions arose, due to “exceedingly great riches” and there being “many merchants in the land, and also many lawyers, and many officers” (verse 11). Great inequality rose up and the church began to be broken up. Many sought power, authority, and riches, and while knowing the will of God, they chose to “wilfully rebel” against Him (6:10-18).
—In the midst of this revolution against God and good, there were faithful saints who “would receive railing and persecution and all manner of afflictions, and would not turn and revile again, but were humble and penitent before God [and] were converted unto the true faith; and they would not depart from it, for they were firm, and steadfast, and immovable, willing with all diligence to keep the commandments of the Lord” (6:13-14).
—In the days of the last of the thirteen Nephite chief judges (Lachoneus II), prophets appeared and boldly began to preach and testify of Christ. Many of these prophets were taken and put to death by wicked men who created a secret combination and conspired “against the people of the Lord.” They also sought to overtake the government and destroy its laws, rights, and liberties (6:19-30).
A.D. 30-33 Chapter 7
—In the last few years before the appearance of Jesus Christ (as the Savior is fulfilling His ministry among the people of the old world), the chief judge Lachoneus II is murdered, the government is destroyed, and the people separate into “tribes.” They “did yield themselves unto the power of Satan [and] the more righteous part of the people had nearly all become wicked; yea, there were but few righteous men among them” (7:1-13).
—They stoned and cast out prophets, but Nephi performed a bold and wondrous ministry. However, few were converted until the 33rd year (the final year before Christ’s coming) when “many” were “baptized unto repentance” (7:14-26).
3 Nephi 7:15-20 Nephi’s Extraordinary Ministry
In these verses the prophet Nephi is visited by angels, hears the voice of the Lord, and is shown by vision the Savior’s concurrent ministry (half-way around the world). Nephi, “having had power given unto him that he might know concerning the ministry of Christ” (verse 15), goes forward, to an extent mirroring the works of Christ that he is seeing (see verses 16-20; note Mormon’s particular emphasis on the word power in these verses, as he recounts Nephi’s words and works). The Lord never leaves His people—however few they may be—without righteous, powerful leadership, along with the gifts of the Spirit.