3 Nephi 27:1-12 The Name and Characteristics of the True Church
The Twelve were “united in mighty prayer and fasting,” seeking an answer regarding the name of the church (verses 1-3). Jesus told His disciples that His church should bear His name (verses 4-7). He then outlined four vital characteristics of His church:
- Its members take upon themselves Christ’s name (verses 5-6).
- The church is called in His name (verse 8).
- It is built upon His gospel (verses 8-11).
- The works of God are shown forth in it (verse 10).
Jesus also stated that besides the church of God, there are also churches built upon the works of men, and churches built upon the works of the devil, but they will not last (verses 11-12). What “works” of the Father (verse 10) do you see in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
3 Nephi 27:13-22, 27 “This Is the Gospel”
These verses outline the core, eternal truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ—also known as the doctrine of Christ—and are similar to what we saw in 2 Nephi 31 and 3 Nephi 11 (see also D&C 76:40-42, 50-53; Moses 6:50-68):
- Jesus came into the world, being sent by the Father to do His will, and He fulfilled it by completing the Atonement (verses 13-14).
- Jesus’s atoning sacrifice draws us to Him; and one day, we will stand before the Father to be judged of our works (verses 14-15).
- In addition to faith in Christ, we are called upon to repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end, which will allow us to be washed clean by the blood of Christ, and enter into His rest (verses 16-17, 19-20).
- We must strive to do the works we see Jesus do, and to become as He is (verses 21-22, 27).
3 Nephi 28 The “Three Nephites”
In this chapter we are given a precious glimpse into the lives and ministry of the three Nephite disciples, who asked Jesus to allow them to remain on earth indefinitely so that they could continue to bring souls unto Him (verses 1-6, 9; see also the case of John the Beloved in D&C 7). And, we learn about the nature and work of translated beings (although verses 15, 17 use the word transfiguration, in our latter-day terminology the words translation or translated are more appropriate; see the chapter heading). Look for the following:
- Find in verses 7-10, 37-40 the nature or condition of their bodies, which will continue until “the judgment day of Christ” (verse 40).
- Find in verses 18-23, 26-32 the details of their amazing ministry—many parts of which are still in the future.
It seems apparent that for the Three Nephites (as we have come to call them) to fulfill their ministry, they must have personal interactions with mortals (see verse 30; see also D&C 7:6). See more about the ministry of these three disciples (even up to about 265 years later) in 4 Nephi 1:14, 30-33, 37, 44.
3 Nephi 29-30 Mormon’s Stern Denunciations and Sweet Invitations
After ending his account of Jesus’s visits among the Nephites, Mormon warns his future readers, using the word wo several times (“wo” can be a lament, a curse, or a threat). What things did Mormon say in these two chapters that attest to his inspired foreknowledge of the conditions and attitudes of our day?
Then, after decrying sin and hard-heartedness (29:2-9; 30:2), Mormon—like all prophets—proposes the remedy with his powerful invitations in 30:1-2, using the words hearken, hear, turn, repent, come unto me, be baptized, receive a remission of your sins, be filled with the Holy Ghost, be numbered with my people. What warnings, counsel, or invitations do you seem to be hearing repeatedly from today’s living prophets?
4 Nephi Packed with History and Lessons for Us
This book may be considered a microcosm or “miniature version” of the entire Book of Mormon, for in few words we see the full patterns of blessed righteousness and abominable wickedness that are so prominent in the full Book of Mormon; complete with many lessons for us today.
The book of 4 Nephi was written by Nephi, son of Nephi (who was the chief apostle called by Christ in 3 Nephi 12; see also 3 Nephi 19:4). It was later abridged by Mormon into its current form, marking the end of Mormon’s abridgement of the plates of Nephi, which began with the book of Mosiah. The book of 4 Nephi covers 287 years of Nephite history in only four pages. By comparison, the books of Mosiah through 3 Nephi cover about 165 years and fill 320 pages.
Nephi is succeeded as the record-keeper by his son Amos; then his son, also named Amos; then Ammaron (brother of the second Amos), who eventually passes on the plates to Mormon (see Mormon 1:1-4). Mormon is succeeded by his son Moroni, the last Book of Mormon author (see Mormon 6:6; 8:1-4).
4 Nephi 1:1-18, 23 Everything Was Going Great …
The word all (verses 1-3, 5, 13, 18) highlights the extent to which these people chose to live the gospel. From verses 1-18, make a list of the blessings and conditions that resulted from their choices. What things on your list impress you most? Your list may include these characteristics of a “Zion” people:
- Full conversion to the gospel (verse 2)
- No contention nor disputations (verses 2, 13, 15, 18)
- No relative wealth nor poverty, because all are living the law of consecration (verse 3)
- Living in peace (verse 4)
- Many healings and other miracles (verses 5, 13)
- Material prosperity (verses 7, 23)
- Strong family life (verses 10-11, 23)
- The love of God in their hearts (verse 15)
- Abundant happiness (verse 16)
- Unity among themselves and with God (verse 17)
Note that among a people who are all living the gospel, there is still need for an organized church (verse 12), allowing them to pray and worship together and “to hear the word of the Lord.” As we anticipate the millennial era, with Jesus Christ as our King, we can prepare for and look forward to a life similar to—even exceeding—the life described in these verses.
4 Nephi 1:20, 24-46 … Until This Happened
To get a people into a “Zion” society, it took a positive “revolution” (such as that described in 3 Nephi, chapters 8-28). Their Zion lasted some 165 years, but then, according to 4 Nephi 1:20, it took another revolution to destroy it. It began with “a small part of the people” who didn’t simply ease into lethargic apathy; they “revolted.” This was followed by people becoming “lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world” (verse 24; note that in 3 Nephi 27:30-32, when Jesus prophesied the apostasy of this “fourth generation,” He said that their turn to worldliness and materialism would be tantamount to selling Him “for silver and for gold”). Their depravity and decay became widespread, leading to the following counterpoints to the characteristics listed above:
- Instead of conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ, they “revolted from the church” (verse 20; verse 38 uses the word rebel) and they did “deny the true church of Christ” (verse 26).
- Instead of “no contention,” they divided into classes (verse 26) and persecuted the true believers (verse 29).
- Instead of the law of consecration, they embraced worldliness (verse 24) and “did have their goods and their substance no more common among them” (verse 25). They also became “proud in their hearts, because of their exceeding riches” (verse 43), and “gold and silver did they lay up in store in abundance, and did traffic in all manner of traffic” (verse 46; this is the antithesis of a Zion economy).
- Instead of living in peace, Satan “did get hold upon their hearts” (verse 28) and “the wicked part of the people began to build up the secret oaths and combinations of Gadianton” (verse 42).
- Instead of healings and miracles, churches were built up “to get gain” (verse 26) and they despised those in the true church of Christ “because of the many miracles which were wrought among them” (verse 29).
- Instead of mutual prosperity, “they did dwindle in unbelief and wickedness” (verse 34; see also verse 40).
- Instead of strong families of faith, “they did wilfully rebel against the gospel of Christ; and they did teach their children that they should not believe” (verse 38).
- Instead of prevailing love, “they were taught to hate the children of God” (verse 39); even seeking to kill the three Nephite disciples who were still living among them (verses 30-33).
- Instead of abounding happiness, “they did receive all manner of wickedness” (verse 27; Alma 41:10—wickedness never was happiness).
- Instead of living in unity, “there was a great division among the people” (verse 36).
This is a sad tale, yet within it are shining examples of a few righteous people of God (verse 40) who are humbly enduring within an evil society. What do you learn from verses 29 and 34 about living among and responding to wickedness and persecution?