3 Nephi Chapter 15
3 Nephi 15:4-5 The law is fulfilled that was given unto Moses. I am he that gave the law.
3 Nephi 15:21 (see John 10:14-16) Ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold.
The Savior has now completed the Sermon at Bountiful. He will now provide in the remaining chapters in 3 Nephi a broad range of additional instructions including answers to questions, priesthood leadership training, patterns for ordinances and prayer, healing of the sick and blessing of children, scriptural exposition, and prophecy.
1 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had ended these sayings he cast his eyes round about on the multitude, and said unto them: Behold, ye have heard the things which I taught before I ascended to my Father; therefore, whoso remembereth these sayings of mine and doeth them, him will I raise up at the last day.
verse 1 "ye have heard the things which I taught before I ascended to my Father" This statement may imply that in the Old World Jesus reiterated the Sermon on the Mount to his apostles once again after his resurrection and before his ascension. Otherwise, he might have said to the Nephites, "behold, ye have heard the things which I taught during my ministry in Palestine"-referring to his Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus's post-resurrection teachings to his apostles in Palestine are often referred to as the "forty-day literature." Jesus instructed them in their priesthood duties, told them about their premortal existence and the creation of the world, taught of the purpose of this mortal life, and explained how they could return to God's presence through obedience to the ordinances of the gospel. He blessed them with an initiation or endowment, generally called the "mysteries," which emphasized garments, marriage, and prayer circles (see Hugh W. Nibley, "Evangelium Quadraginta Dierum: The Forty-Day Mission of Christ-the Forgotten Heritage," in Mormonism and Early Christianity [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1987], 10-44; see also John Gee, "Forty-Day Ministry and Other Post-Resurrection Appearances of Jesus Christ," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 2:734-36.)
During those forty days between his resurrection and his ascension it seems likely that Christ's Old World apostles received an endowment of heavenly power similar to our temple endowment. In Luke 24:49 Jesus's apostles were instructed to remain in Jerusalem "until ye be endued [i.e., endowed] with power from on high." Joseph Smith taught that Peter and John received the "fulness of priesthood or the law of God" at the Mount of Transfiguration and that Peter "washed and anointed" all the apostles and received "the endowment" on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem (Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith [Provo, Utah: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1980], 211, 246, 285 n. 8, 331).
2 And it came to pass that when Jesus had said these words he perceived that there were some among them who marveled, and wondered what he would concerning the law of Moses; for they understood not the saying that old things had passed away, and that all things had become new.
verse 2 It is understandable that the people had trouble understanding that "old things"-the old covenant or law of Moses-had passed away, and that "all things had become new." These Nephites and generations before them had known no other system of gospel living than the law of Moses. All of their worship, religious rites, and church organization were built upon that law.
3 And he said unto them: Marvel not that I said unto you that old things had passed away, and that all things had become new.
4 Behold, I say unto you that the law is fulfilled that was given unto Moses.
5 Behold, I am he that gave the law, and I am he who covenanted with my people Israel; therefore, the law in me is fulfilled, for I have come to fulfil the law; therefore it hath an end.
verses 3-5 Jesus tries to explain and allay their concerns regarding this new order of the gospel. He reiterates his identity as Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, the Law Giver, and thus he documents his authority to change their religious practices.
verse 5 "I am he that gave the law" He was Jehovah, and every law by which the universe was framed, as well as those laws given to the people of Israel, issued forth from him (D&C 88:42). No law is greater than he, for he is the law (3 Nephi 15:9).
The Savior uses the phrase "I am" in connection with his self-identification as the great Jehovah who guided the prophet Moses. This is no accident, since Jehovah was known in ancient times by the name-title I AM (Exodus 3:13-15). I AM is the English rendering of a first-person singular present-tense form of the Hebrew verb hayah ("to be," "to exist"). This divine name is referred to as the Tetragrammaton (Greek: "four letters") and connotes continual or eternal existence, something like "I was, I am, and I will be"-all encompassed in one word. Significantly, the expression I AM is a name-title the mortal Jesus of Nazareth used to testify of his divinity, both before and after his resurrection.
We have previously mentioned that Christ will complete the establishment of his church among the Nephites. This is the third period of an organized church among the Book of Mormon peoples. For a discussion of these three periods, see the commentary for 2 Nephi 6:2.
6 Behold, I do not destroy the prophets, for as many as have not been fulfilled in me, verily I say unto you, shall all be fulfilled.
verse 6 The expression "the prophets" refers to the prophecies and teachings of the previous Book of Mormon prophets as well as the Old World prophets. The Nephites, of course, had access to the teachings of the Old World prophets through the brass plates. As the Nephites heard the Lord speak of fulfilling the law of Moses, doubtless many wondered whether these prophecies and teachings were still valid and relevant. The Lord assures them that they are.
7 And because I said unto you that old things have passed away, I do not destroy that which hath been spoken concerning things which are to come.
8 For behold, the covenant which I have made with my people is not all fulfilled; but the law which was given unto Moses hath an end in me.
verses 5-8 "the covenant which I have made with my people is not all fulfilled" The law of Moses, given by the Lord to the rebellious Israelites about 1440 BC, is fulfilled, but the Abrahamic covenant, made between the Lord and Abraham some 500 years earlier in about 1900 BC has not been fulfilled. For the convenience of the reader, we will review the tenets of the covenant the Lord made with Abraham:
1. Abraham would become the "father of many nations" (Genesis 17:19), and his posterity would be exceedingly numerous-even "as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is upon the seashore (Genesis 17:2; Genesis 22:17-18).
2. Those of the posterity of Abraham were blessed with certain lands as an eternal inheritance. This was the land of Canaan (Genesis 17:8) extending from the Nile River to the Euphrates (Genesis 15:18).
3. Abraham's posterity would prove to be a blessing to all families of the earth (Genesis 12:3). They would do this by bearing the priesthood and preaching the gospel to them. Thus will every family have the opportunity, through the posterity of Abraham, to enjoy the blessings of the gospel, which include the "blessings of salvation, even of life eternal" (Abraham 2:9-11).
4. All of these blessings of the gospel and the priesthood would be offered to all of Abraham's mortal posterity.
The Abrahamic covenant will not find its fulfillment until after the final gathering of Israel in the last days.
9 Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life.
verse 9 "I am the law, and the light. Look unto me" He again testifies of his identity and authority and his ability to forgive sins and grant eternal life. He also emphasizes his role as the great Lawgiver and Exemplar-the supreme example of just how one ought to live.
"for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life" See the discussion on enduring to the end in the introductory commentary for 2 Nephi 31.
10 Behold, I have given unto you the commandments; therefore keep my commandments. And this is the law and the prophets, for they truly testified of me.
verse 10 These instructions I have just given unto you are given by way of commandment. These commandments constitute "the law and the prophets."
Jesus now turns his attention back to the newly called Twelve.
11 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words, he said unto those twelve whom he had chosen:
12 Ye are my disciples; and ye are a light unto this people, who are a remnant of the house of Joseph.
verses 11-12 Throughout the Book of Mormon, the Nephite Twelve are designated as "disciples" rather than "apostles," possibly to distinguish them from the twelve apostles of the New Testament. Although the roles of the two groups are similar, the Nephite disciples have particular stewardship over Nephi's seed. The New Testament apostles are to judge the twelve tribes of Israel (1 Nephi 12:8-10). It seems clear that the Nephite disciples fully functioned as apostles (Moroni 2:1-2).
13 And behold, this is the land of your inheritance; and the Father hath given it unto you.
verse 13 "this is the land of your inheritance" Our current concept of the lands in the Western Hemisphere that functioned as the home of the Book of Mormon peoples is that the entire story occurred in a limited, aproximate 200 by 700-mile segment of central America. So, what land area is the Lord here bestowing on the descendants of Joseph as their "land of . . . inheritance"? This verse obviously does not help with that. Latter-day revelation suggests that perhaps North America may largely have that function. For example D&C 57:1-3 indicates that Missouri is the land designated by the Lord for the gathering of his people to Zion. Furthermore, Independence, Missouri, is the center place of Zion.
14 And not at any time hath the Father given me commandment that I should tell it unto your brethren at Jerusalem.
verses 13-14 Jesus, during his mortal sojourn, was never commanded by the Father to tell his brethren in the Old World explicitly about the existence of the Book of Mormon peoples in the New World.
15 Neither at any time hath the Father given me commandment that I should tell unto them concerning the other tribes of the house of Israel, whom the Father hath led away out of the land.
verse 15 Nor was Jesus commanded to tell those in Jerusalem specifics about those of the ten lost tribes of Israel.
16 This much did the Father command me, that I should tell unto them:
17 That 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.
verses 16-17 Even though he never revealed to them clearly and explicitly the existence of the New World Nephites / Lamanites, he did provide for them a somewhat general and ambiguous clue as to their existence (see John 10:14-16).
18 And now, because of stiffneckedness and unbelief they understood not my word; therefore I was commanded to say no more of the Father concerning this thing unto them.
verse 18 The Jews, because of their "stiffneckedness and unbelief," failed to understand the Lord's somewhat veiled reference to the scattered remnant of the house of Israel in the New World.
19 But, verily, I say unto you that 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.
20 And verily, I say unto you again that the other tribes hath the Father separated from them; and it is because of their iniquity that they know not of them.
verse 20 Again, reference is made to the lost ten tribes who are also separated "from them"-from the Jews. "And it is because of their [the Jews'] iniquity that they [the Jews] know not of them [the lost ten tribes].
21 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.
verse 21 "ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold" John 10:14-16 reads: "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the sheep: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." Most non-LDS scholars have taught that these "other sheep" referred to some future conversion of the Gentiles.
Many Protestant and Catholic biblical commentaries also identify these "other sheep" as the Gentiles (Anchor Bible, 29:396; Dummelow 792; Interpreter's Bible, 8:626-27). The Savior's teachings here in Bountiful provide a second witness of his words to the Jews. "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 15:24). The Book of Mormon people are indeed scattered Israelites.
22 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.
verse 22 "they understood me not" The Lord's Old World apostles failed to understand the Lord's reference to the New World Lehites.
"for they supposed it had been the Gentiles" The Lord's Old World apostles, just as have the secular Bible scholars of today, made the mistake of thinking that Jesus was referring to a future conversion and gathering of the Gentiles.
"They understood not that the Gentiles should be converted through their preaching" The Lord's Old World apostles erred in failing to understand that the eventual conversion of the Gentiles would occur through the direct preachings of the Jewish Twelve. Peter would not receive the revelation to begin preaching to the Gentles until after the Lord's ascension (Acts 10).
23 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.
verse 23 "And they understood me not that I said they shall hear my voice" Jesus says in effect, "My Old World twelve (the first "they" in this phrase) misunderstood my statement that 'they shall hear my voice'" (italics added). The twelve assumed this second "they" was the Gentiles. They thought Jesus was prophesying that he would preach directly to the Gentiles. He would not. The second "they" in this phrase refers to other Israelites-specifically the descendants of Joseph in the New World (the people of the Book of Mormon).
"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" The Old World twelve misunderstood on two counts: (1) Jesus was not saying that the "other sheep" are Gentiles. Rather, he was referring to the New World remnants of scattered Israel. (2) Jesus was not suggesting that he would speak directly to the Gentiles. He implies that anyone with sufficient understanding should know that the "other sheep" who "shall hear my voice" must of necessity be Israelites, for "the Gentiles should not at any time hear my voice" or see the resurrected Christ in person as a group. Even though the gospel would eventually be taken to the Gentiles by the Lord's servants, the Lord would not go in person.
The experience the Book of Mormon people are having here is one that can only occur among Israelites. The Savior's explanation clarifies such scriptural statements as Matthew 15:24: "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel," and 1 Nephi 10:11 which suggests that after his resurrection, Jesus would "make himself manifest, only by the Holy Ghost, unto the Gentiles." That is, he would visit them through the Holy Ghost but not personally.
24 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.
verse 24 "ye have both heard my voice, and seen me" This phrase seems to refer to the two groups of Israelites-those in the Old World and those in the New World.
"and ye are my sheep, and ye are numbered among those whom the Father hath given me" In this phrase the Lord addresses the Nephites there gathered at the temple in Bountiful.