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The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ Part II

Christ’s teachings to the Nephites

The second DVD in the Journey of Faith series discusses the religious milieu, culture, the land, and language surrounding the descendants of Lehi and Sariah in the New World. Lehi’s son, Nephi, begins the Book of Mormon account in 600 bc, preserving it by engraving on metal plates. The narrative did not come to light until the 1820s, when by divine revelation, Joseph Smith was directed to the plates and unearthed them from a hill in upstate New York. From them he translated the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

The Book of Mormon contains accounts by several different people over a thousand years, harmonized into a whole narrative by a father and son, Mormon and Moroni, who lived around 400 ad.  This narrative includes the record of the visit of Jesus Christ to the Nephite people in the Americas after His resurrection. This article looks at the teachings of Jesus in the Book of Mormon.

Jesus Christ talks to Alma

Book of MormonA hundred years or so before the coming of Christ to the New World, the Nephite prophet, Alma received a great lesson from the Savior about His Gospel and the events of the Last Judgment.

For behold, this is my church; whosoever is baptized shall be baptized unto repentance. And whomsoever ye receive shall believe in my name; and him will I freely forgive. For it is I that taketh upon me the sins of the world; for it is I that hath created them; and it is I that granteth unto him that believeth unto the end a place at my right hand. For behold, in my name are they called; and if they know me they shall come forth, and shall have a place eternally at my right hand (Mosiah 26:22–24).

Although more than half the verses in the Book of Mormon refer to Jesus Christ, It is in 3 Nephi 9–30, that we have the majority of His teachings.[1] In these chapters, the Lord Jesus Christ visits and teaches the descendants of Lehi and the other migrating families. These transplanted Israelites had survived the cataclysmic events that attended Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

Cataclysmic Events at Christ’s Crucifixion

The New Testament records three hours of darkness, and following that,

“the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matthew 27:45; 51–53; see also Mark 15:33, 38; Luke 23:45–45).

The Book of Mormon peoples recorded a more extensive event, including “the face of the whole earth became deformed”; “thunderings, and the lightnings, and the storm, and the tempest, and the quakings of the earth.” These lasted three hours, during which time cities took fire and some were sunk and some burned. Whereas the darkness in Jerusalem lasted three terrifying hours, in the New World it lasted three days, during which “there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all” (3 Nephi 8:5–23).

Relief comes with a voice from heaven declaring, “Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name” (3 Nephi 9:15). And immediately He explains that the Law of Moses is no longer in effect, “for behold, by me redemption cometh, and in me is the law of Moses fulfilled. . . . ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 9:17, 20).

During those three days of darkness, Christ again speaks to the people as a voice from heaven. In Matthew 23:37, He had admonished the inhabitants of Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” As He speaks to the inhabitants of the New World, he affirms their Israelite lineage and expands on this teaching. It is interesting to note that He also addresses their brethren in Jerusalem.

O ye people of these great cities which have fallen, who are descendants of Jacob, yea, who are of the house of Israel, how oft have I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and have nourished you. And again, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, who have fallen; yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, ye that dwell at Jerusalem, as ye that have fallen; yea, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not. O ye house of Israel whom I have spared, how oft will I gather you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, if ye will repent and return unto me with full purpose of heart (3 Nephi 10:4–6).

Christ Appears to the Nephites: Day One

Sometime after this, as the faithful are gathering—presumably from all over the affected land—at the temple in Bountiful, as happened a few years before in Jerusalem at Christ’s baptism by John, the Father—Elohim—introduces His Beloved Son to those assembled. “Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him” (3 Nephi 11:7). And the Savior of the World comes—not as a helpless babe in an obscure manger, hidden from the world, but eyewitness accounts record, “they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them” (3 Nephi 11:8).

Jesus immediately bears testimony of Himself and His divine mission, and offers the proofs of His crucifixion and resurrection as He did in Jerusalem, “Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world” (3 Nephi 11:14).

Christ Institutes Baptism and Declares His Doctrine

As all things are done in order in the Kingdom of God, Christ then calls and sets apart Nephi and others to baptize the people “when I am again ascended into heaven.” He then sets forth how baptisms are to be performed (by immersion by one in authority) —a teaching that is followed today in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And then He declares the doctrine of His Kingdom (see 3 Nephi 11:18–41).

After calling and setting apart Twelve Apostles, as He did in Jerusalem, Jesus gives the assembled people a sermon that can be compared to the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5–7). John W. Welch has made an extensive study of both sermons, calling that given in the New World, the “Sermon at the Temple.”[2] As part of this publication, Welch points out several differences between the two orations having to do with, among others (1) a post-resurrection setting; (2) a Nephite setting; (3) Legal ramifications; (4) a Church organizational setting, and (5) Absence of anti-Pharasaical, anti-Pauline, and anti-Gentile elements.[3] The Appendix to this book has a very helpful side-by-side comparison of the two sermons.[4]

Jesus Christ Instructs His Apostles

Jesus concludes the sermon by declaring once again to the assembly that the Law of Moses was fulfilled in Him. He then turns to the Twelve and teaches them directly, explaining the statement recorded in John 10:16, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” Jesus tells them that as descendants of Lehi and the other migrating families, “the Father hath commanded me, and I tell it unto you, that ye were separated from among them because of their iniquity; therefore it is because of their iniquity that they know not of you” (3 Nephi 15:19). And moreover,

Other tribes hath the Father separated from them; and it is because of their iniquity that they know not of them. And verily I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. And they understood me not, for they supposed it had been the Gentiles; for they understood not that the Gentiles should be converted through their preaching. And they understood me not that I said they shall hear my voice; and they understood me not that the Gentiles should not at any time hear my voice—that I should not manifest myself unto them save it were by the Holy Ghost. But behold, ye have both heard my voice, and seen me; and ye are my sheep, and ye are numbered among those whom the Father hath given me. (3 Nephi 15:20–24)

Christ Heals the Sick, Blesses the Children, and Institutes the Sacrament

Third Nephi 16 deals with specific teachings relating to the Gentiles. In chapter 17, having finished his instructions to the Twelve on the first day of His visit, Jesus prepares to leave, “Go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again” (3 Nephi 17:3). But as He looks round, He sees the longing in the faces of the multitude, “I perceive that ye desire that I should show unto you what I have done unto your brethren at Jerusalem, for I see that your faith is sufficient that I should heal you (3 Nephi 17:8). And they bring to Him all those who were sick and afflicted. And He healed them. But that was not all, to cap this supernal day, Jesus asked for their children to be brought to Him. Then He knelt down, and an eyewitness records,

“he prayed unto the Father, and the things which he prayed cannot be written, and the multitude did bear record who heard him. And after this manner do they bear record: The eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father; And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father” (3 Nephi 17:15–17).

In this temple setting, Jesus now blesses the children one by one, after which, “They cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them” (3 Nephi 17:24).

Jesus had one more ordinance to perform before He left them that day. He instituted the sacrament among the Nephites, with bread and wine that he asked His Disciples to bring Him (3 Nephi 18:1–9). Later, Christ would provide the sacramental bread and wine Himself by divine means (see 3 Nephi 20:6).

Day Two

The second day dawns, and because of the all-night efforts of those who witnessed day one, the people have gathered from as far as was possible. The Twelve Apostles divide them into manageable groups, teach them how to pray and join with them in prayers to Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ. They then teach them what Christ Himself taught the previous day, “nothing varying from the words which Jesus had spoken” (3 Nephi 19:8). The Twelve again knelt down to pray to the Father in the name of Christ, “And they did pray for that which they most desired; and they desired that the Holy Ghost should be given unto them” (3 Nephi 19:9).

After they were baptized, this gift was granted to them and again angels surround them, at which time Jesus Christ again comes down to be with and teach them (3 Nephi 19:12–15). Jesus offers prayers to His Father thanking Him for giving them the gift of the Holy Ghost and purifying them (3 Nephi 19:16–36). He then administers the sacrament to them miraculously: “Now, there had been no bread, neither wine, brought by the disciples, neither by the multitude; But he truly gave unto them bread to eat, and also wine to drink” (3 Nephi 20:6–7).

In the following chapters, Christ teaches the assembled Nephites about the scriptures they already have. He quotes Isaiah and affirms His own Divinity and their heritage through the prophets, “from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have testified of me. And behold, ye are the children of the prophets; and ye are of the house of Israel; and ye are of the covenant which the Father made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham: And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed” (3 Nephi 20:24–35). Christ predicts the gathering of Israel when the Book of Mormon would come forth; the growth of America as a nation; and the establishment of a New Jerusalem and the return of the lost tribes (3 Nephi 21). In chapters 22–23, He again exhorts them to study the words of Isaiah, and to continue to record the teachings and the revelations they receive.

Lehi and his family left Israel before the time of Malachi, and so it is important that Jesus gives them the chapters of Malachi that deal with prophecies about His Second Coming, and the importance of paying tithes and offerings (3 Nephi 24–25). After giving them these scriptures,

He expounded them unto the multitude; and he did expound all things unto them, both great and small. And he saith: These scriptures, which ye had not with you, the Father commanded that I should give unto you; for it was wisdom in him that they should be given unto future generations.

And he did expound all things, even from the beginning until the time that he should come in his glory—yea, even all things which should come upon the face of the earth, even until the elements should melt with fervent heat, and the earth should be wrapt together as a scroll, and the heavens and the earth should pass away; . . . Therefore, I would that ye should behold that the Lord truly did teach the people, for the space of three days; and after that he did show himself unto them oft, and did break bread oft, and bless it, and give it unto them. (3 Nephi 26:1–3, 13)

The Name of His Church

There is one final thing that it is important to note, and that is revealed while Jesus is teaching His Nephite Apostles. They asked, “Lord, we will that thou wouldst tell us the name whereby we shall call this church; for there are disputations among the people concerning this matter” (3 Nephi 27:3). His answer is instructive,

Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day; And whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day. Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name; therefore ye shall call the church in my name; and ye shall call upon the Father in my name that he will bless the church for my sake. And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel. (3 Nephi 27:5–8)

Before He left for the last time, as He had done with John the Beloved (see John 21:20–23), Jesus Christ gave a special mission to three of the Nephite disciples, and by so doing taught us more about what happened to John:

Ye shall never taste of death; but ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in my glory with the powers of heaven. And ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in my glory ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality; and then shall ye be blessed in the kingdom of my Father. And again, ye shall not have pain while ye shall dwell in the flesh, neither sorrow save it be for the sins of the world; and all this will I do because of the thing which ye have desired of me, for ye have desired that ye might bring the souls of men unto me, while the world shall stand. And for this cause ye shall have fulness of joy; and ye shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fulness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one; And the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and the Father giveth the Holy Ghost unto the children of men, because of me. (3 Nephi 28:7–11)

Conclusion

This is only a very brief sampling of the teachings of Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon. Journey of Faith as a project aims to bring awareness of the central nature of the Book of Mormon as a testament of Jesus Christ and His Divine Mission. The Neal A. Maxwell Institute has also produced a 7-part series available on DVD and online at BYU TV entitled, Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God.[5] The reader is encouraged to examine not only these projects, but the Book of Mormon itself.

 


[1] The Neal A. Maxwell Institute has several publications that relate to 3 Nephi, but especial notice should be given to Andrew C. Skinner and Gaye Strathearn, eds, Third Nephi: An Incomparable Scripture (Salt Lake City: Maxwell Institute and Deseret Book, 2012).

[2] John W. Welch, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount.

[3] Welch, “The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount: The Differences,” in Sermon at the Temple.

[4] Welch, “Appendix,”.

[5] messiahjesuschrist.org.

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