3 Nephi Chapter 18
3 Nephi 18:15-16 The Savior to his twelve Nephite disciples: Ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him.
3 Nephi 18:20 The Savior to the Nephite multitude: Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, it shall be given unto you.
verses 1-14 The Lord introduces to the Nephites the ordinance of the sacrament of the Lord's supper. This is the ordinance in the new law or new covenant that replaced animal sacrifice. Just as the sacrificial ordinances of the law of Moses were rich with spiritual symbolism, so too is the ordinance of the sacrament symbolic of the Lord's atoning sacrifice. The ordinance of animal sacrifices had looked forward in anticipation of the fulfillment of the atonement, while the sacrament looks back in remembrance of the Lord's suffering.
This new ordinance, which the Lord instituted in both the Old and New Worlds, is much more than simply a method for reminding the saints of the Lord's suffering. It is a time of repenting by covenant of our sins and of all those ways in which we fall short of Jesus Christ's teachings and his life and example. It is a moment when the blessings of Christ's atonement may be extended to us, as we struggle to repent. By this extension of the Savior's atonement, we may be absolved of our sins. The process of repentance is incremental, line upon line, and takes place over a lifetime of sacramental ordinances. We may have the blessings of his atonement extended to us not just once in our lives but repeatedly, over and over, as we strive to repent and make our repentance a matter of covenant at the ordinance of the sacrament. Elder John H. Groberg spoke of the ordinance of the sacrament in general conference. He said:
Do you remember the feeling you had when you were baptized-that sweet, clean feeling of a pure soul, having been forgiven, washed clean through the merits of the Savior? If we partake of the sacrament worthily, we can feel that way regularly, for we renew that covenant, which includes his forgiveness (CR, April 1989, 50).
The sacrament is also a time of striving for gifts of the Spirit. These are the myriad incremental characteristics of Christ which we strive for and which we must earn through our diligent obedience in order to progress toward godhood. As we bring our failings and shortcomings and lay them upon the symbolic altar of sacrifice, during the ordinance of the sacrament, we covenant to forsake them as we partake of the emblems of the sacrament. Over time, as the Spirit judges that we are worthy, increments of the light of Christ are planted in our very souls. His characteristics become ours. Referring to the ordinance of the sacrament, Elder Melvin J. Ballard wrote:
I have always looked upon this blessed privilege as the means of spiritual growth, and there is none other quite so fruitful in the achievement of that end as the partaking, worthily, of the sacrament of the Lord's supper. We eat food to stimulate our physical bodies. Without the partaking of food we would become weak and sickly, and fail physically. It is just as necessary, for our spiritual body, that we should partake of this sacrament, and by it obtain spiritual food for our souls. . . . We must come, however, to the sacrament table . . . hungering and thirsting after righteousness, [and] for spiritual growth ("The Sacramental Covenant," Improvement Era, October 1919, 1025-31).
For further discussion of the processes of justification, sanctification, and of the ordinance of baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, see Justification and Sanctification in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 17. Also, Baptism, the Ordinance that Brings Spiritual Growth also in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 18.
The reader should remain alert to the audience the Savior is addressing in this chapter. Often he is instructing his disciples (apostles) alone. At other times he is addressing the multitude.
1 And it came to pass that Jesus commanded his disciples that they should bring forth some bread and wine unto him.
2 And while they were gone for bread and wine, he commanded the multitude that they should sit themselves down upon the earth.
3 And when the disciples had come with bread and wine, he took of the bread and brake and blessed it; and he gave unto the disciples and commanded that they should eat.
4 And when they had eaten and were filled, he commanded that they should give unto the multitude.
5 And when the multitude had eaten and were filled, he said unto the disciples: Behold there shall one be ordained among you, and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it and give it unto the people of my church, unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name.
verse 5 Here is a reminder that the ordinance of the sacrament, like all priesthood ordinances, must be performed by one who is properly authorized.
There are some peculiarities about this sacrament service. First, it is peculiar that the disciples and the multitude had already partaken of the sacramental bread, and yet the Savior says in this verse "there shall one be ordained among you, and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it (italics added)." In other words, he had not yet given the authority to any Nephite to administer the sacrament. There are some additional peculiarities about this particular sacramental meal. The purpose of the sacrament is the renewal of the covenant of baptism, and, as yet, neither the twelve disciples or the multitude had been baptized. The multitude will have to wait until after the Savior's three-day ministry before they are baptized. The twelve will be baptized between his first and second visits. Also notice that all who partook of the sacramental bread (the disciples in verse 4 and the multitude in verse 5) ate bread until they "were filled." That is, they made a meal of the bread. This was also apparently the case with the sacramental wine (see verse 9). While we might suppose that these verses imply that they were "filled" with the Spirit, it seems like they did not need this meal to fill them with the Spirit of God, given the wondrous happenings of that day. Yet another similar sacramental service will occur on the day following this one (3 Nephi 20:3-9). During this one on the following day, the Savior will miraculously provide the bread and wine. It is also thus likely that on the morrow the multitude will eat until they "are filled," though the account in 3 Nephi 20 does not specifically say so.
Because of these considerations, it has been suggested that these two meals of bread and wine were more than simply sacramental services. It has been suggested that these two sacramental meals were also, in the traditions of Israel, "covenant meals" after the pattern of the one recorded in Exodus 24 where Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy princes or elders of Israel went up on the side of Sinai and there saw God and "did eat and drink" (Exodus 24:11). This Old Testament text is almost universally understood as referring to the eating of a covenant meal by the representatives of Israel in the presence of God on the Holy Mountain. The idea of two parties eating and drinking together to formally ratify a covenant is common to both the Bible and the customs of the ancient Near East. To eat together was to be bound by mutual obligation. Such a meal functions as a seal of the alliance between two groups or families. Certainly in this tradition, it was appropriate that these two sacramental services in 3 Nephi 18 and in 3 Nephi 20 be "covenant meals." The place of the meals was the temple. Both meals are in the presence of the God of Israel. The occasion is the introduction of a new gospel dispensation. Symbolically, both represent a ratifying seal of the covenant they have entered into.
After the Lord's three-day ministry it appears that the more traditional sacrament observance became the order of the day. We read that Christ continued to appear on many occasions to break bread and bless it for them (see 3 Nephi 26:13).
6 And this shall ye always observe to do, even as I have done, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you.
7 And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.
verse 7 I have mentioned previously that the word "remember," when used in scripture, has a far richer meaning than simply calling to mind. It implies following and doing and obeying.
The five essential elements of the sacrament prayers are:
1. We covenant to be obedient, to obey the commandments.
2. We covenant to take his name upon us and to maintain that name written in our hearts.
3. We partake of the emblems in remembrance of his body and blood.
4. We partake as a witness to the Father that we remember the Son.
5. He promises that we will have his Spirit to be with us.
Note that here and in verses 10 and 11, all of these elements are mentioned by the Savior himself. The reader may wish also to review Mosiah 5:5-12 where some of these elements are also found.
8 And it came to pass that when he said these words, he commanded his disciples that they should take of the wine of the cup and drink of it, and that they should also give unto the multitude that they might drink of it.
9 And it came to pass that they did so, and did drink of it and were filled; and they gave unto the multitude, and they did drink, and they were filled.
10 And when the disciples had done this, Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you.
11 And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.
12 And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall do these things. And if ye shall always do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock.
verse 12 "for ye are built upon my rock" Elder Melvin J. Ballard provided us with an interesting insight:
No man goes away from this Church and becomes an apostate in a week, nor in a month. It is a slow process. The one thing that would make for the safety of every man and woman would be to appear at the sacrament table every Sabbath day. We would not get very far away in a week-not so far away that, by the process of self-investigation, we could not rectify the wrongs we may have done. If we should refrain from partaking of the sacrament, condemned by ourselves as unworthy to receive these emblems, we could not endure that long, and we would soon, I am sure, have the spirit of repentance. The road to the sacrament table is the path of safety for Latter-day saints ("The Sacramental Covenant," Improvement Era, October 1919, 1025-31).
13 But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them.
14 Therefore blessed are ye if ye shall keep my commandments, which the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you.
verse 14 "blessed are ye" The standard word order for clauses in contemporary English is subject-verb-object/complement (S-V-O/C). By this convention, this phrase would be rendered "Ye are blessed." The technical term for this word order variation is anastrophe. The change is made for rhetorical effect-for meter or style. Other examples include "a written word sent he" (O/C-V-S) in Mosiah 29:4 and "this they have done" (O/C-S-V) in Alma 60:9. This type of word variation is found in many classical literary texts.
verses 15-21 Jesus now turns his attention to teaching of the importance of prayer. In verses 15-16 he addresses his disciples.
15 Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him.
verse 15 To avoid being tempted beyond our capacity to resist, a deliberate watching is vital in addition to regularly praying. It is not reasonable to pray for strength to resist temptation and then recklessly flirt with evil.
16 And as I have prayed among you even so shall ye pray in my church, among my people who do repent and are baptized in my name. Behold I am the light; I have set an example for you.
verse 16 As we have discussed previously, Jesus is our "light" on two levels. First he is our example, our exemplar: "For the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do" (3 Nephi 27:21). Second, he emanates the light of Christ which gives life to all things and which, if we are worthy to partake, enables us to become like him. For further discussion of the light of Christ, see The Concept of Light in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 15.
17 And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto his disciples, he turned again unto the multitude and said unto them:
verse 17 Jesus now turns his attention to the multitude and repeats some of the instruction he has just given to his disciples.
18 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.
19 Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;
20 And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.
verse 20 Again we are reminded that we will inevitably obtain everything we ask for in prayer. But there is a condition. We must be sufficiently in tune with the Spirit, that we only ask for that "which is right"-that which the Lord desires for us (see Moroni 7:26).
We will learn that to selected individuals-to Nephi the son of Helaman (Helaman 10:4-7) and to his Nephite disciples or apostles (3 Nephi 27:28-29)-the Lord will make this same promise, but he will do so without any qualification. This unqualified promise, we will learn, is a part of the sealing power (see the commentary for these scriptural passages).
21 Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.
verse 21 President Gordon B. Hinckley observed: "I feel satisfied that there is no adequate substitute for the morning and evening practice of kneeling together-father, mother, and children" ("The Blessings of Family Prayer," Ensign, February 1991, 2-5).
22 And behold, ye shall meet together oft; and ye shall not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together, but suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not;
verse 22 Meet together often in congregations to teach one another, and extend the hand of fellowship to whoever would wish to meet with you. Herein is the spirit of fellowship and love that ought to exist in every ward unit in the Lord's Church.
23 But ye shall pray for them, and shall not cast them out; and if it so be that they come unto you oft ye shall pray for them unto the Father, in my name.
24 Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up-that which ye have seen me do. Behold ye see that I have prayed unto the Father, and ye all have witnessed.
verse 24 For many of our fellow mortals upon the earth, the only example of Jesus Christ and the fulness of his gospel which they may see is our example. Both individually and as a Church we must hold forth the example of the Savior. Again, on another level we may actually develop the ability to radiate light to other beings on the earth, and thus communicate spirit to spirit, as we partake of the light of Christ. Again, see The Concept of Light in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 15.
25 And ye see that I have commanded that none of you should go away, but rather have commanded that ye should come unto me, that ye might feel and see; even so shall ye do unto the world; and whosoever breaketh this commandment suffereth himself to be led into temptation.
verse 25 "I have commanded that none of you should go away" Here the Savior extends his counsel that we should invite all to participate with us in the fellowship of the saints. Just as he has so commanded us, he emphasizes that he extends the hand of fellowship with him to all men-excluding no one.
"that ye might feel and see" The Savior had offered the Nephites the opportunity to have an intimate physical engagement with him when he invited them to come forth and "feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel" (3 Nephi 11:14). He is so anxious for the salvation of us all that he seems to want each of us to have that same physical relationship with him (see D&C 6:34-37). It has been suggested that his sacrament, wherein we partake of the representation of his body and blood, provides us that opportunity. He desires us to come unto him both physically and spiritually and "partake of his salvation" (Omni 1:26).
"whosoever breaketh this commandment suffereth himself to be led into temptation" It is not entirely clear from the text which commandment is being referred to here. It could be his command to extend the hand of fellowship to all in the gatherings of the saints, or it could be his command to "come unto me" and hold up thy light to the world.
26 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words, he turned his eyes again upon the disciples whom he had chosen, and said unto them:
verse 26 Jesus again turns his attention back to the disciples (apostles) and provides them with valuable instruction.
27 Behold verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you another commandment, and then I must go unto my Father that I may fulfil other commandments which he hath given me.
28 And now behold, this is the commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily, when ye shall minister it;
29 For whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul; therefore if ye know that a man is unworthy to eat and drink of my flesh and blood ye shall forbid him.
verses 28-29 It is not the prerogative of any member of the congregation to forbid an individual to partake of the sacrament because of personal unworthiness. This is solely the responsibility of the "judges in Israel"-here the Lord is speaking only to his apostles.
Is an individual actually harmed spiritually from partaking of the sacrament unworthily? Or, does he simply fail to derive any spiritual benefit? This verse seems to imply that it would be better that he not partake of it if he does so unworthily. Just why is such a man drinking "damnation to his soul"? The ordinance of the sacrament is a catalyst for personal repentance and spiritual improvement. We may certainly conclude that any individual who partakes of the sacrament without any desire to repent or improve spiritually will not benefit from partaking. But to be damned is more than merely being dammed or stopped. Such an individual is "damned," guilty of sin, and condemned. Recall that the sacrament is a covenantal ordinance which requires that the individual participating in the ordinance of the sacrament enter into covenants with the Lord. Any covenant promises great spiritual blessings to him who keeps his end of the bargain. However, for any covenant there is a penalty affixed. And if the covenant maker fails to live up to his covenants, it would be better for him had he not made the covenant in the first place (see the discussion of covenants in Covenants and Covenant Making in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, chapter 3; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:27-29).
30 Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out from among you, but ye shall minister unto him and shall pray for him unto the Father, in my name; and if it so be that he repenteth and is baptized in my name, then shall ye receive him, and shall minister unto him of my flesh and blood.
31 But if he repent not he shall not be numbered among my people, that he may not destroy my people, for behold I know my sheep, and they are numbered.
verse 31 "he shall not be numbered among my people" Any intransigent transgressor who poses any threat to the Church, either spiritual or physical, should be cast out or excommunicated. Church discipline is not only intended to help the sinner repent and return to the Lord, but also is a means of protecting members and safeguarding the integrity and spiritual values of the Church. For additional discussion of the principle of discipline within the church, see the commentary for Mosiah 26:6; Mosiah 26:29-30.
32 Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out of your synagogues, or your places of worship, for unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them.
verse 32 The priesthood leader has an obligation to continue to work with those who have been excommunicated or subjected to any other form of church discipline.
33 Therefore, keep these sayings which I have commanded you that ye come not under condemnation; for wo unto him whom the Father condemneth.
34 And I give you these commandments because of the disputations which have been among you. And blessed are ye if ye have no disputations among you.
35 And now I go unto the Father, because it is expedient that I should go unto the Father for your sakes.
verse 35 Again, we are not told why it is necessary that Jesus go "unto the Father for your sakes."
36 And it came to pass that when Jesus had made an end of these sayings, he touched with his hand the disciples whom he had chosen, one by one, even until he had touched them all, and spake unto them as he touched them.
37 And the multitude heard not the words which he spake, therefore they did not bear record; but the disciples bare record that he gave them power to give the Holy Ghost. And I will show unto you hereafter that this record is true.
verses 36-37 Through his touching his twelve disciples, be bestowed upon them the power to confer upon others the gift of the Holy Ghost. His touching is obviously some form of laying on of hands by which he authorized his apostles to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Just what exactly is the gift of the Holy Ghost? We know that the Holy Ghost prompts those outside the Church-those who have not received the gift of the Holy Ghost (see 1 Nephi 13:12). The usual answer given among the saints is that the gift of the Holy Ghost entitles a member of the Church to the "constant companionship" of the Holy Ghost. It certainly may be true that the Church member who is allowed to partake of the light of Christ may be entitled to a greater quantity of that light because he possesses the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is also likely that receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, the "baptism of the Spirit" by one having proper authority, actually authorizes the receiver to participate in the "baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost," which is the ordinance by which an individual progresses spiritually and becomes sanctified. For further discussion of these points, see "What is the Gift of the Holy Ghost? in The Concept of Light in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 15 and Baptism, the Ordinance that Bring Spiritual Growth in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 18.
38 And it came to pass that when Jesus had touched them all, there came a cloud and overshadowed the multitude that they could not see Jesus.
39 And while they were overshadowed he departed from them, and ascended into heaven. And the disciples saw and did bear record that he ascended again into heaven.
Thus ended the first day. It had been a day never to be forgotten!