3 Nephi Chapter 11
Jesus Christ did show himself unto the people of Nephi, as the multitude were gathered together in the land Bountiful, and did minister unto them; and on this wise did he show himself unto them. Comprising chapters 11 to 26 inclusive.
3 Nephi 11-28 Christ's ministry among the Nephites at Bountiful
3 Nephi 11:11 I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.
3 Nephi 11:14-15 The multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet.
3 Nephi 11:29 He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me.
3 Nephi 11:32-34 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me.
3 Nephi 11:38 Ye must become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
The resurrected Savior will deliver to the gathered Nephites three major sermons:
1. The first is similar to the Sermon on the Mount (3 Nephi 12-14).
2. The Savior's second sermon is found in 3 Nephi 15-16, and might be referred to as "The Law and the Covenants discourse." In this sermon, Jesus will declare that he is the one who gave the law to Moses and that he also is the one who covenanted with his people of the house of Israel. He will declare the law of Moses fulfilled.
3. Continuing the next day, the Savior will deliver his third sermon, which may be called "The Covenant People Discourse." Christ will devote much of this sermon to enumerating to Israel those blessings that will be restored to them in the last days. He will promise that as Israel proves faithful, the remnants of Israel will be gathered from the world to their various lands of inheritance. In fact, additional lands of inheritance will be promised the house of Israel in the Americas.
Robert J. Matthews has outlined nineteen subjects Jesus addressed as he taught the gathered multitude. These include:
1. He died and was resurrected.
2. He is the God of Israel and of the whole earth.
3. He will deliver a sermon at Bountiful similar to the Sermon on the Mount.
4. He emphatically declared that he was sent by the Father who told him what to teach and what not to teach.
5. He taught baptism by water and reception of the Holy Ghost.
6. He had fulfilled the law of Moses.
7. He said all the prophecies that have not been fulfilled will be fulfilled.
8. He reaffirmed the covenant made with Abraham and talked of the gathering of Israel in the last days, including the Jews, ten tribes, and the Nephites/Lamanites.
9. He said that the Jews will gather to Jerusalem.
10. The Western Hemisphere is for the descendants of Joseph.
11. A New Jerusalem will be built on the Western Hemisphere.
12. He instituted the sacrament and taught that we must endure to the end.
13. He quoted two chapters of Malachi.
14. He quoted numerous passages from Isaiah and commanded the people to search Isaiah's words.
15. He explained what the name of the Church should be.
16. He commanded that an omission in the record be filled in.
17. He declared that he is the prophet spoken of by Moses.
18. He gave a detailed "in one," (that is, he put it all together-the big picture) declaring that he is the law, the light, and the life of the world.
19. In addition, he performed many miracles, including raising a man from the dead ("Jesus the Savior in 3 Nephi," The Book of Mormon: 3 Nephi 9-30, This Is My Gospel, 31-32).
1 And now it came to pass that there were a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful; and they were marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place.
verse 1 "there were a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple" One cannot help but wonder why this group of Nephites, "with men, women, and children" (3 Nephi 17:25), had gathered near the temple on this day. The gathering is reminiscent of the gathering at the time of King Benjamin, every man with his family, in a traditional Feast of Tabernacles fashion (see the introductory commentary for Mosiah 2). One might suppose these Nephites had gathered for a specific purpose at the beginning of that day. Perhaps they had come to the temple on a scheduled religious festival or holy day. These Nephites would have been strict to observe their traditional religious laws, for they were among "the more righteous part of the people" (3 Nephi 10:12), the wicked part having been destroyed.
Traditionally, all Israelites (and hence obedient Nephites) were instructed to gather at the temple three appointed times each year. These included the feasts of Passover (in the Spring), Pentecost (fifty days after Passover), and Tabernacles (in the Fall): "Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord God" (Exodus 23:17). Also, "at the end of every seven years, . . . in the feast of tabernacles, . . . all Israel [must] come to appear before the Lord thy God" at the temple, "men, and women, and children" (Deuteronomy 31:10- 12). As has been pointed out previously in this commentary, there is considerable circumstantial evidence that the Nephites, who were strict in their observance of the law of Moses "in all things" (2 Nephi 5:10; Jarom 1:5; Alma 30:3; 3 Nephi 1:24) observed these essential Israelite festivals.
If the Nephites were assembled on one of these traditional holy days sometime after the signs of Jesus's death had been given, they probably would have been wondering what they should do next. We know that they observed the law of Moses until Jesus proclaimed its fulfillment, but Jesus's voice had proclaimed the end of the Mosaic law at the time of his death (see 3 Nephi 9:17). No new instructions had yet been given to the Nephites about the law that was supposed to take its place. It seems inevitable that, sooner or later, as they gathered at their temple on the traditional holy days, they would have wondered if it was still appropriate for them to continue using their old ritual order. It seems unlikely that they would have gone twelve months without addressing the implications of Christ's death for the continuation of their public rites and temple practices.
We actually do not know how the Nephite ritual calendar related to the Israelite calendar in Jerusalem, for there had been no contact between the two for over six hundred years. It is impossible to determine which of the traditional festivals would have been observed in Bountiful in the months following Jesus's crucifixion. However, if one can assume that the two ritual calendars had not grown too far apart, the feast of Pentecost would have been celebrated in Bountiful a couple of months after the Passover crucifixion and shortly after Jesus's ascension. Thus, the Nephite feast of Pentecost would make good sense in that Christ appeared in Bountiful "soon after" his ascension (3 Nephi 10:18). This date is close enough after the events of the destruction that the people could still "marvel" and "wonder" about the whole situation as they conversed about Christ and the signs of his death.
It would seem that the conflict between the phrases "soon after the ascension" and the phrase "in the ending of the thirty and fourth year" (both phrases found in 3 Nephi 10:18) remains unresolved.
2 And they were also conversing about this Jesus Christ, of whom the sign had been given concerning his death.
3 And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.
verse 3 "it did pierce them that did hear to the center" Even though they did not understand the words, the Spirit prompted them to know that they were receiving, or they were about to receive, a divine communication.
4 And it came to pass that again they heard the voice, and they understood it not.
5 And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.
verse 5 "they . . . did open their ears . . . and their eyes" Scriptural texts that have reference to opening the eyes and ears of the people often are found in a setting wherein that people are being offered the opportunity to learn particularly sacred things (see Mosiah 2:9). Not all people are intended to hear and know the mysteries of God, only those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. For this reason, Jesus spoke parables to the masses in Palestine-that his sacred meanings might be hidden from those unprepared to receive them. Jesus said to his disciples that it was given for them "to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven . . .. Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear" (Matthew 13:11; Matthew 13:16).
6 And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them:
7 Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name-hear ye him.
verse 7 "in whom I have glorified my name" These words of the Father are a unique addition to the way in which he had previously introduced the Son (see Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5) and likely referred at least in part to the Savior's recent atoning sacrifice.
The three ideas the Father conveys in this introduction are: (1) I love my Son (my "Beloved Son"); (2) My Son pleases me ("in whom I am well pleased"); and (3) My Son has glorified me ("in whom I have glorified my name"). Compare the Father's introduction of the Son with the Son's introduction of himself in verses 10-11.
8 And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, 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.
verse 8 "they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe" The Savior's robes will later be described as being exceedingly white: "there could be nothing upon earth so white as the whiteness thereof" (3 Nephi 19:25).
It is obvious that initially the people were not sure just who it was appearing to them.
9 And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying:
10 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
verse 10 This small verse has profound implications (please review the commentary for Jacob 4:4).
11 And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.
verse 11 Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said of this verse: "Fifty six words. The essence of his earthly mission. Obedience and loyalty to the will of the Father however bitter the cup or painful the price" (Christ and the New Covenant, 251).
"I am the light and life of the world" To review a discussion of the complete significance of this profound statement, please The Concept of Light in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 15.
"I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me" See Mosiah 15:7 which contains the phrase "the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father." Thus we learn that Christ's submitting "even unto death" meant that he submitted to the will of the Father. Paul wrote, in referring to Christ's Atonement, ". . . he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8).
"[I] have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world" The Lord Jehovah was certainly speaking for himself as well as his Father when he said to Moses: "For behold, this is my work and my glory-to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). Thus the Savior has glorified the name of the Father and his own name by atoning for the sins of mankind (see 3 Nephi 11:11) and enabling men to glorify themselves (see 3 Nephi 19:29) (see also Isaiah 53:12; Luke 22:29; and D&C 132:31). In ways that perhaps are not completely clear, when you persist in obedience and inherit a celestial resurrection, you glorify the Father and the Son.
verses 10-11 The Son's introduction of himself includes the following five important ideas: (1) The prophets have testified of me. (2) I am the light and life of the world. (3) I have drunk the bitter cup. (4) I have glorified the Father. (5) I have suffered the will of the Father in all things.
12 And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude fell to the earth; for they remembered that it had been prophesied among them that Christ should show himself unto them after his ascension into heaven.
13 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto them saying:
14 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.
verse 14 Note that the people are instructed first to "thrust your hands into my side." To do this each person would place their hand inside his robe and place it on his chest near his heart. This was obviously a deeply intimate experience. Oh, that each of us may one day have that same intimate experience!
"I am the God of Israel" At this particular time, Israel is divided into three major branches: the Jews, the Nephites, and the lost tribes. In his resurrected body he has already ministered to the Jews, he is now ministering to the Nephites, and he will yet minister to the lost tribes of Israel so that each may know that he is their God (see 3 Nephi 17:4).
15 And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.
verse 15 Even though the power of the resurrection could have-and one day will-completely restore and make new the wounds of the crucifixion, Christ chose to retain these wounds for a purpose. In the last days at his second coming he will show those marks and prove that he was "wounded in the house of [his] friends." The wounds in his hands, feet, and side are signs that in mortality painful things happen even to the pure and the perfect. They are signs that trials and tribulations are not evidence that God does not love us. It is the wounded Christ who comes to our rescue. That evidence of pain in mortality is undoubtedly intended to give courage to others who are also wounded by life, sometimes even "in the house of [their] friends."
Since two thousand five hundred souls were present at this assembly (3 Nephi 17:25), no more than a brief contact would have been possible, and even that would have required some hours.
Here Jesus graphically and publicly demonstrates the reality of his resurrection and hence the reality of the resurrection of all men. Some three thousand years previously the prophet Enoch was told that a record (the Book of Mormon) would come out of the ground in the last days "to bear testimony of [the] Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea and also the resurrection of all men" (Moses 7:62).
16 And when they had all gone forth and had witnessed for themselves, they did cry out with one accord, saying:
17 Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him.
verse 17 Hosanna means "save now, we pray thee (or we beseech thee)." This expression is usually associated with the hope and expectation of the coming of Christ. This is the so-called hosanna shout. Its origins are traceable at least as far back as the Hallel, an ancient Jewish festival hymn. Latter-day Saints use the Hosanna Shout at temple dedications. Here the Nephites are using an expression of profound worship, respect, love and gratitude.
18 And it came to pass that he spake unto Nephi (for Nephi was among the multitude) and he commanded him that he should come forth.
verse 18 The prophet Nephi was "among the multitude" and had obviously not sought any special recognition or attention from the Savior.
19 And Nephi arose and went forth, and bowed himself before the Lord and did kiss his feet.
verse 19 What a sacred and choice privilege for Nephi! His entire ministry had been one of testifying of Jesus, and now he was able to worship him personally and demonstrate his adoration for him. We are reminded of the statement in general conference of Elder Bruce R. McConkie just days prior to his death:
I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears. But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God's Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way (CR, April 1985, 12).
20 And the Lord commanded him that he should arise. And he arose and stood before him.
21 And the Lord said unto him: I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven.
verse 21 Here the Lord sets Nephi apart as mortal head of the Nephite church. Specifically he gives to Nephi the power to baptize. This is the authority that Latter-day Saints usually associate with the Aaronic Priesthood. The reader may recall that following the preaching of Samuel, the Lamanite prophet, many did believe and went unto Nephi and were baptized (Helaman 16:3-4). If Nephi already had authority to baptize, why is it necessary for the Savior to give him that power yet again? Joseph Fielding Smith addressed a related question:
There is nothing strange in the fact that when the Lord came to the Nephites, Nephi was baptized and so was everybody else although they had been baptized before.
The Church among the Nephites before the coming of Christ was not in its fulness and was under the law of Moses. The Savior restored the fulness and gave to them all the ordinances and blessings of the gospel. Therefore, it actually became a new organization, and through baptism they came into it.
We have a similar condition in this dispensation. The prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were baptized by command of the angel John the Baptist. Several others were baptized before the organization of the Church. However, on the day the Church was organized, all who had been previously baptized were baptized again, not for the remission of sins, but for entrance into the Church. In each case the reason was the same (Answers to Gospel Questions, volume 3, 205-06).
There is a principle demonstrated here. Just as baptism was needed following the establishment of the Savior's church on earth, even of those who had previously been baptized, so was a re-ordaining of the brethren to the priesthood. In addition to ordaining Nephi, the Lord will call eleven others and similarly ordain them (see the following verse). At the end of the day Jesus will also give these twelve the "power to give the Holy Ghost" (3 Nephi 18:37), undoubtedly the Melchizedek Priesthood.
It is interesting to note that beginning with this verse and continuing for the next twenty-three verses, the word baptism or some form of that word is found some nineteen times attesting to the importance with which the Savior regarded that ordinance. If the reader wishes to review the full significance of the baptismal ordinance, see Baptism, the Ordinance that Brings Spiritual Growth in volume 1, chapter 18 of Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine.
22 And again the Lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize. And he said unto them: On this wise shall ye baptize; and there shall be no disputations among you.
23 Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words, and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall ye baptize them-Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them.
24 And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying:
25 Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
26 And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water.
verse 26 The practice of baptism by total immersion did not begin with Christ's mortal ministry, rather long before his ministry (see Moses 6:64; Mosiah 18:14-16). Yet, part of the rich symbolism connected with this method of baptism is related to the death, burial, and resurrection of the Savior. Those who performed baptisms prior to Christ's mortal ministry knew and understood that symbolism.
The third and final period of an organized church of Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon record will be established during Christ's visit (see a discussion of these three periods in the commentary for 2 Nephi 6:2).
27 And after this manner shall ye baptize in my name; for behold, verily I say unto you, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one.
verse 27 "the Father and I are one" Jesus had previously spoken of this type of "oneness" when he prayed to his Father that the apostles "may be one, as we are" (see John 17:11; John 17:21-22).
28 And according as I have commanded you thus shall ye baptize. And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.
verse 28 We are not told the nature of the disputations that "have hitherto been" among the Nephites.
29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.
verses 28-30 Brother Byron R. Merrill has provided us a helpful article, "There Was No Contention" (The Book of Mormon: Fourth Nephi Through Moroni, From Zion to Destruction, edited by Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, Jr., 167-83). His article will be utilized in the following discussion. The words contention or contend in scripture actually have two quite separate meanings.
1. In a more positive sense, they mean "to strive," "to dispute earnestly," or "to defend and preserve." This meaning seems applicable in some modern revelation: "Contend thou, therefore, morning by morning; and day after day let thy warning voice go forth" (D&C 112:5). Similarly, see the command to "contend against no church, save it be the church of the devil" (D&C 18:20). Likewise, this meaning may be inferred when Jude admonishes us to "earnestly contend for the faith" (1:3) or when Paul says he was bold "to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention" (1 Thessalonians 2:2).
2. In the Book of Mormon, contention always carries a negative meaning-that of fighting or asserting or defending a position with the added element of anger. Contention is therefore related to disputation. Heated passions play a part. It is this meaning that applies in these verses and in other verses in the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 26:32; Helaman 1:2; Helaman 1:18; Helaman 3:19; Mosiah 19:3; Alma 50:26; Alma 19:28; Alma 22:22; 3 Nephi 7:7 and several others). The word contention is often associated with wars. The absence of contention in the Book of Mormon is mentioned as a quality of a Zion or heavenly people.
To properly understand the concept of contention, it is necessary to understand the negative underpinning of contention which is anger. Anger is "a feeling of sudden and strong displeasure and antagonism directed against the cause of an assumed wrong or injury" (Funk and Wagnells). Anger is a conscious and split-second judgment that an injustice or insult has been committed and it involves a choice as to how one's reaction will be expressed-the reaction is expressed with hostility rather than forbearance or charity. Anger is a conscious and deliberate act. The Lord will provide the celestial law to the Nephites regarding the phenomenon of anger: "Whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment" (3 Nephi 12:22). In this statement by the Savior, he is unequivocal in his condemnation. He does not discuss any particular types of anger such as "quick to anger," or "cannot control anger," or "continues in anger." Even the idea that one may be "angry without a cause," that appears in the King James Version, is missing in the Nephite version. The Savior simply warns against anger of any type. This is difficult doctrine since in some situations of obvious injustice or thoughtlessness, it would seem that anger is warranted. Reference has already been made to the idea that anger is result of judgments quickly made and a hostile reaction chosen. We have been commanded to "judge not unrighteously" (JST, Matthew 7:2). Also the Lord said, "I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men" (D&C 64:10). But the realities of life often prompt us and urge us to judge people by their words or actions. We are actually not in a position to judge others' motivations or render a verdict on the status of their hearts. Only the Lord can do that. The Lord taught the prophet Samuel, "For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).
The Lord's anger or wrath is often referred to in scripture, and it occurs in the context of his exercising a righteous judgment when his people have broken covenants with him. His anger is a feeling of strong displeasure and is obviously warranted and appropriate. We mortals, on the other hand, are simply not in a position to make judgments. Therefore, human anger is not acceptable. On rare exceptions there may be moments when the Lord's Spirit moves us to know his will and to act in his behalf. The Lord has indicated we should "reprove betimes with sharpness," but only in those rare instances "when moved upon by the Holy Ghost" (D&C 121:43). "Betimes" implies in a timely manner-sufficiently early to do some good. "Sharpness" is probably most aptly interpreted to mean in a focused, clear, specific way not condemning the individual as a whole. McConkie, Millet, and Top, in their book Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Volume IV, comment on the word "sharpness" and add a different slant to its meaning: "Testifying with 'sharpness,' as Moroni is here using the word, does not mean he was being contentious or mean-spirited. It means direct and to the point. It means not couched in soft, comfortable language but focused on what needs to be said more than on how to say it" (359).
When we feel anger, we declare ourselves judge, jury, and often, in the flash of the moment, executioner. Perhaps we could paraphrase the Lord's directive to us regarding this matter in these terms: "I, the Lord, will feel anger [i.e., render judgment] toward whom I will; but of you it is required not to feel anger toward anyone."
The book of Proverbs tells us that "only by pride cometh contention" (13:10). Certainly in a prideful, worldly, "natural man" setting, competition abounds. In that setting often when someone wins, someone else loses. This type of setting certainly tends to encourage the expression of anger. In an eternal setting, no one need lose. The irony in this latter setting is that a man "wins" only by helping others to "win." Elder Boyd Packer wrote:
In this life we are constantly confronted with a spirit of competition. Teams contest one against another in an adversary relationship in order that one will be chosen a winner. We come to believe that wherever there is a winner there must also be a loser. To believe that is to be misled. In the eyes of the Lord, everyone may be a winner. Now it is true that we must earn it; but if there is competition in his work, it is not with another soul-it's with our own former selves (That All May be Edified, 84).
31 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.
32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
verse 32 "this is my doctrine" The reader may wish to review the introductory commentary for 2 Nephi 31 regarding the doctrine of Christ. Here the Savior himself will summarize the essence of his gospel or his doctrine.
"which the Father hath given unto me" The Savior reminds us that although we refer to the gospel or doctrine of Jesus Christ, this gospel or plan of salvation did not originate with Jesus, but is indeed his Father's.
33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.
verse 33 The prophet Joseph Smith stated simply, "This eternal truth settles the question of all men's religion. A man may be saved . . . in the terrestrial kingdom, or in the telestial kingdom, but he can never see the celestial kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit" (TPJS, 12).
34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.
verse 34 For a brief discussion of what it means to be damned see the commentary for 2 Nephi 9:24.
35 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.
verse 35 "he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost" For an explanation of the concept of the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, see the commentary for 3 Nephi 19:13-14. Also, see Baptism, the Ordinance that Brings Spiritual Growth in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 18.
36 And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.
verse 36 "for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one" We clearly understand that the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct individuals.
We have been accused by the Evangelical (conservative) Protestants of having "Trinity Doctrine" in the Book of Mormon. They maintain that God is somehow simultaneously three and one, and they have no doubt because they feel the Bible and the Book of Mormon both tell them so. The threeness of God is quite literally an article of faith for the Latter-day Saints: "We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in his Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost" (Article of Faith One). We have neither reason nor interest in arguing against either the threeness of God or the unity of God as witnessed in the Bible or the Book of Mormon. We accept all of these scriptures. The testimony of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon concludes with the line "And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen." The Book of Mormon itself reads at 2 Nephi 31:21: "And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen." Notice that these texts emphasize the unity of the Godhead by using a singular verb for the plural subject: the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is one God. Also, in the Book of Mormon, the prophet Abinadi declares, "God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people. And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son-the Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son-and they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth" (Mosiah 15:1-4). Additional LDS scripture testifying to the threeness and oneness of God can be found in Alma 11:26-29; Alma 11:44, Mormon 7:7, and in D&C 20:21-28.
That the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God is a paramount doctrine of the Book of Mormon. We have always believed in the simultaneous oneness and threeness of God.
We also believe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are separate and distinct persons. We can accept the formula of "one God in three persons." However, we believe that the oneness of these does not imply an ontological oneness (literally one person)-one being. This idea is a creedal addition rather than a biblical affirmation. That is, it originated in the post-biblical creeds (Nicea AD 325, Constantinople AD 381, and Chalcedon AD 451). Rather, their oneness is but a oneness of mind, purpose, power, and intent, and perhaps there are aspects of their oneness we don't even comprehend. The Godhead consists of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, "and these three are one" (1 John 5:7). The three persons are one God. What is not said in the Bible, but is said at Nicea and is rejected by Mormons, is that these three persons are ontologically one being.
Latter-day Saints believe the biblical concept of "oneness" or of "being one" is revealed at John 17:21-23, Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, Galatians 3:28, etc., where the individual disciples can also be "one" in the Father and the Son, or "one" in Christ, or even "one" with each other in Christ-though still remaining separate beings with separate and individual bodies. Mormons accept John 14:11 as much as Evangelicals do: "Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake." But 14:11 should probably be read together with 17:21-22, which illustrates the nature of their oneness: "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one." This cannot imply ontological oneness or "co-inherence," (an Evangelical Protestant term) since the disciples, who are indisputably separate and individual beings, can also be one in the Father and the Son in the same way that the Father and Son are one in each other. And this is not a philosophical extrapolation from the text using nonbiblical terms formulated centuries later. It's what the text actually says!
Latter-day Saints are trinitarians in the sense that they truly believe in God the Father, in God the Son, and in God the Holy Spirit, and also in that they believe these three are one God. But they are not trinitarians in the later creedal sense as defined at Nicea and Chalcedon because those creeds imposed nonbiblical concepts on the biblical data, and they used nonbiblical terms-trinity, homoousios (one essence or one substance), consubstantial (of one substance), ungenerated (not produced by procreation), indivisible, and so forth-in doing it.
37 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.
38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
verses 37-38 The phrase "as a little child" implies the antithesis of the natural man. The natural man, of course, cannot comprehend things of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14).
39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
verse 39 The person who "buildeth upon my rock" has his life anchored to Christ.
40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.
verses 39-40 "And whoso shall declare more or less than this" We in the Church never need equivocate about the fact that our Church is the only true church upon the earth (Ephesians 4:5-6). Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:
That there is and can only be one gospel-one Church, one plan of salvation, one true religion-is as self-evident as any truth known to man. There can no more be two true gospels or two true churches than there can be two true and differing scientific facts. Truth is truth. And truth and salvation and the gospel all are ordained of God. They are what they are; and they are not what they are not. Men either have the truths of salvation or they do not; they either possess the gospel, which is the plan of salvation, or they do not. . . .
Anyone in heaven or on earth, in time or eternity, in Paul's day or ours, anyone who preaches any gospel other than the true one [is accursed]. Why? Because there is no salvation in a false religion. There is no saving power in a man-made system of salvation. . . . And any man-whether mortal or immortal, whether man or angel-who preaches any system other than the very one ordained by Deity, leads men astray and keeps them from gaining celestial salvation (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 2:457-59).
Christ himself is the rock upon which we must build. As we come to believe in him and his teachings then we build upon the rock of Christ so that the gates of hell shall not prevail against us. This concept was taught previously by Helaman to his two sons, Nephi and Lehi: "And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his might winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall" (Helaman 5:12).
One might wonder if Helaman had obtained this concept from the writings on the plates of brass and whether this concept was once also found in the Old Testament. Could it be that Jesus was quoting from other revelations he had given to Old Testament or Nephite prophets when he gave this great sermon on the Mount of Beatitudes and in Bountiful? It seems possible he was.
Neal E. Lambert has pointed out an interesting pattern in the words of the Savior during this first day of his Nephite ministry ("The Symbolic Unity of Christ's Ministry in 3 Nephi," in The Book of Mormon: 3 Nephi 9-30, This Is My Gospel, 196-97). Brother Lambert divides the first day into three segments: first, his appearing and establishing his doctrine; second, his preaching, in which he articulates the application of that doctrine; and third, his demonstrating the blessings of his gospel. Each of these three segments concludes with the same rhetorical figure-that of building upon the rock. This verse, then, marks the end of the first segment. The conclusions of the other two segments are recognizable by the metaphor of the "rock" and the "sandy foundation" (see 3 Nephi 14:24-27 and 3 Nephi 18:12-13).
41 Therefore, go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth.
verse 41 A charge to the missionaries!