3 Nephi 8 The Signs and the Destruction
The signs of the death of Jesus Christ begin, but as always, they are accompanied by “great doubtings and disputations” (verse 4). Then it came: Three hours of “a great storm, such an one as never had been known in all the land” (verse 5), accompanied by “a great and terrible tempest,” “exceedingly sharp lightnings,” thundering, cities burned by fire, others being sunk into the depths of the sea; some covered by the earth, some being shaken until all the buildings fell; also people being carried away in whirlwinds, the face of the whole land being deformed; and all this followed by three days of thick darkness (verses 6-23).
Doubt has been expressed by unbelievers, claiming the impossibility of all these climatological, geological, and cataclysmic events occurring simultaneously. But consider the following from Church News (7 Sept. 2000):
“Bart J. Kowallis, a geology professor at BYU, has suggested a plausible scientific explanation — intense volcanic eruption — for 21 events recorded as having occurred during the destruction in the 3 Nephi account…. Brother Kowallis said, ‘Each of these events has been documented in historic volcanic eruptions.’… Earthquakes, associated as they are with volcanos, last much longer than other kinds of quakes and would be similar to the quaking of about three hours described in 3 Nephi, he noted…. And ash in the air from intense volcanic activity is sometimes so thick it can be felt, and it can hinder or prevent the kindling of fire, he explained. Brother Kowallis said that … it is not likely the Prophet [Joseph Smith] could have invented the story in the Book of Mormon and given it such detail that coincides so strikingly with today’s scientific knowledge.”
As would be expected, all this destruction was accompanied by the people’s “great mourning and howling and weeping” (verse 23), as well as their crying lamentations over their failure to repent and heed the prophets (verses 24-25). It always has been—and always will be—about how we listen to and follow the prophets.
3 Nephi 9:1-12 The Reasons for the Destruction
In this chapter the survivors of the destruction hear the voice of Jesus Christ speaking to them. He tells them that those who died were unrepentant and were guilty of “iniquity and abominations” (verse 2), but that the survivors also had need to repent, to return to the Lord, and be converted and healed (verse 13; see also 10:12). Note that the Lord says six times that He effected this selective destruction for two reasons: (1) To “hide their iniquities and their abominations from before my face;” and (2) “that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come any more unto me against them” (see verses 5, 7-11). Jesus also says fourteen times that He was the one who made all this happen (see verses 3-12).
3 Nephi 9:13-22 The Greatest Invitation We Could Ever Receive
Keep in mind that the Lord’s only motive in all He does is to help bring to pass our immortality and eternal life (see Moses 1:39; see also 2 Nephi 26:24). When His actions cause death and destruction, it can only be to put people in a better position to be able to come unto Him. Go through verses 13-22 and find each of His many invitations, as well as His many promises (see also 10:6). He is indeed “the light and the life of the world” (verse 18), with His “arm of mercy extended” to each of us (verse 14).
3 Nephi 10:9-16 “Their Mourning Was Turned Into Joy”
After three frightful days, the surviving Nephites and Lamanites turned from their mourning, weeping, wailing, and lamenting to joy and to “praise and thanksgiving unto the Lord, Jesus Christ, their Redeemer” (verse 10). Mormon interjects, “And thus far were the scriptures fulfilled which had been spoken by the prophets” (verse 11; see also verses 14-16; 9:16; 11:10). In our day, we can be completely confident that all that has been prophesied will be fulfilled. Jesus will come. He will put down evil and cleanse the earth. He will save His people. He will institute His millennial reign.
3 Nephi 11 Key to Conversion
When missionaries share copies of the Book of Mormon, they often invite the investigators to begin their reading in 3 Nephi 11. Why do you think this is? What powerful truths are in this chapter, which can put someone on the road to conversion?
3 Nephi 11:1-8 “They Heard a Voice”
There are very few times in the scriptures when the voice of God is specifically identified as our Heavenly Father. Among others, these include:
- Matthew 3:17 “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (at the baptism of Jesus)
- Matthew 17:5 “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (at the Transfiguration of Jesus)
- John 12:28 “I have both glorified it [Jesus’s name], and will glorify it again” (as Jesus prays to the Father, three days before His death)
- 3 Nephi 11:7 “Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him” (as Jesus descends to minister to the Nephites, after His resurrection)
- 2 Nephi 31:11 “Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved” (speaking to the prophet Nephi; see also verses 11, 20)
- Joseph Smith—History 1:17 “This is My Beloved Son, Hear Him” (at the beginning of the First Vision)
Find the words in 3 Nephi 11:3 that describe the voice of God, and its effects upon the people. What did the people do in verse 5, in order to understand His voice? What can you do in your life in order to better hear and understand the Lord? In the April 2020 general conference, President Russell M. Nelson taught:
“Our Father knows that when we are surrounded by uncertainty and fear, what will help us the very most is to hear His Son. Because when we seek to hear—truly hear—His Son, we will be guided to know what to do in any circumstance.… In those two words—‘Hear Him’—God gives us the pattern for success, happiness, and joy in this life.… I renew my plea for you to do whatever it takes to increase your spiritual capacity to receive personal revelation.… I promise that you will be blessed with additional power to deal with temptation, struggles, and weakness. I promise miracles in your marriage, family relationships, and daily work. And I promise that your capacity to feel joy will increase even if turbulence increases in your life.”
3 Nephi 11:9-17 “He Stretched Forth His Hand and Spake”
What did Jesus teach and testify about Himself? What did He invite the people to do? What effect did these things have upon them? Why do you think these are the very first things Jesus wanted to teach them? Note that 3 Nephi 17:25 tells us that there were 2,500 people present on this occasion; if each one had only ten seconds to approach and embrace the Savior, the sacred events in verse 15 would have taken seven hours!
3 Nephi 11:18-41 “This Is My Doctrine”
As we saw in 2 Nephi 31, “the doctrine of Christ” is key to our lives on earth and in eternity. Find and ponder the Savior’s use of the following terms in 3 Nephi 11:21-38:
- my doctrine (spoken nine times)
- believe (five times)
- repent (four times)
- baptism (thirteen times)
- Holy Ghost (six times)
- bear record (eight times)
Note Jesus’s instruction in verse 41: “Declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth.” This we are doing, as we share the Book of Mormon and the restored gospel.