3 Nephi Chapter 5
1 And now behold, there was not a living soul among all the people of the Nephites who did doubt in the least the words of all the holy prophets who had spoken; for they knew that it must needs be that they must be fulfilled.
2 And they knew that it must be expedient that Christ had come, because of the many signs which had been given, according to the words of the prophets; and because of the things which had come to pass already they knew that it must needs be that all things should come to pass according to that which had been spoken.
3 Therefore they did forsake all their sins, and their abominations, and their whoredoms, and did serve God with all diligence day and night.
verse 3 As I read through these verses again in November 2012, I am struck with the marked differences between the Nephite society being described herein and the present-day culture of the United States of America. Today, our priorities, in general, have excluded God and his commandments and purposes. I sense that America today is far to the right in the "prosperity-pride-destruction cycle," and it is most disquieting to contemplate the possible consequences that await.
"Abominations" are perverse doctrines and practices, especially those associated with idol worship. These are particularly abominable or detestable in the eyes of the Lord.
"Whoredoms" are sexual sins.
verses 1-3 The Nephite nation will remain together for three more years after the defeat of the Gadianton robbers. Apparently they were still living off the provisions which they had stored (see 3 Nephi 4:4). These three years constituted a sort of mini-golden era for the Nephites.
4 And now it came to pass that when they had taken all the robbers prisoners, insomuch that none did escape who were not slain, they did cast their prisoners into prison, and did cause the word of God to be preached unto them; and as many as would repent of their sins and enter into a covenant that they would murder no more were set at liberty.
5 But as many as there were who did not enter into a covenant, and who did still continue to have those secret murders in their hearts, yea, as many as were found breathing out threatenings against their brethren were condemned and punished according to the law.
verse 5 The fact that there were some who would not abandon their previous wicked secret oaths when faced with certain condemnation and punishment provides evidence of the unusual devotion to the Gadianton society of some of its members.
6 And thus they did put an end to all those wicked, and secret, and abominable combinations, in the which there was so much wickedness, and so many murders committed.
7 And thus had the twenty and second year passed away, and the twenty and third year also, and the twenty and fourth, and the twenty and fifth; and thus had twenty and five years passed away.
verses 8-26 These verses comprise a most interesting editorial comment by the abridger of the large plates of Nephi, the prophet Mormon. Before reading it, you may wish to refresh your memory of the plates of the Book of Mormon by reviewing the supplemental article, Those Confusing Book of Mormon Plates. In these verses Mormon clarifies his identity, his sources, his purpose, and his inspiration for editing the account onto the plates of Mormon. He also testifies as to the accuracy of his record. This type of commentary has been referred to previously in our study of the Book of Mormon as a "colophon." For a discussion of the significance of colophons in ancient literature, see the commentary for 1 Nephi 1:1-3.
Why is this comment placed here in 3 Nephi 5? Wouldn't it have been more logical to insert this editorial comment following his abridgment of his own writings on the large plates of Nephi? This would have resulted in this multi-verse editorial comment's being placed following Mormon chapters 1-7. Perhaps he placed his own editorial account and testimony here because he was not certain he would live to write his own account of his day.
8 And there had many things transpired which, in the eyes of some, would be great and marvelous; nevertheless, they cannot all be written in this book; yea, this book cannot contain even a hundredth part of what was done among so many people in the space of twenty and five years;
verse 8 "this book" Mormon refers here to his abridgement onto the plates of Mormon. He then makes specific reference to the preceding twenty-five year period beginning at the time of the Savior's birth. Mormon maintains that he was unable to record less that one percent of the events that took place during this period (see also Words of Mormon 1:5; 3 Nephi 26:6; Ether 15:33). The phrase "a hundredth part" is likely hyperbolic and perhaps should not be taken literally. Mormon intends to say that his record contains only a very small part of the events of this period.
9 But behold there are records which do contain all the proceedings of this people; and a shorter but true account was given by Nephi.
verse 9 Here Mormon seems to be commenting on only the twenty-five years following the Savior's birth.
"records which do contain all the proceedings of this people" This phrase has reference to the collection of plates called the large plates of Nephi and all entries onto these plates regarding the events of this twenty-five year period of time.
"a shorter but true account . . . given by Nephi" Does this phrase refer to the small plates of Nephi? It apparently does not, since the small plates of Nephi do not apply to the twenty-five years since the Savior's birth. Rather, it refers to the writings of Nephi, the son of Nephi, the son of Helaman, which were recorded on the large plates of Nephi and which contained the account of the happenings of this twenty-five year period. It was from this account that Mormon obtained the materials from which he wrote his abridged account of this quarter century (see the following verse).
10 Therefore I have made my record of these things according to the record of Nephi, which was engraven on the plates which were called the plates of Nephi.
verse 10 The "record of Nephi" refers to writings of Nephi, the son of Nephi on the "plates of Nephi"-the large plates of Nephi. Mormon will abridge this record and his abridgment will be called by us Third Nephi or 3 Nephi.
At this point the prophet Mormon pauses in his narrative and bears testimony of his own record, the plates of Mormon. In doing so, he follows a formal pattern. Terrence L. Szink has found that Nephi, the son of Lehi, followed this same pattern as he bore testimony of his own record, the small plates of Nephi.
Each of these two writer-engravers: (1) declared that he had made the plates with his own hands (1 Nephi 1:3; 1 Nephi 1:3; 3 Nephi 5:11); (2) provided a concise autobiographical comment (1 Nephi 1:1; 3 Nephi 5:12-13); (3) briefly stated the source of his information (1 Nephi 1:3; 3 Nephi 5:16-17); (4) testified of his record using almost identical language (1 Nephi 1:3; 3 Nephi 5:18); and (5) made mention of the language in which their plates were written (1 Nephi 1:2; 3 Nephi 5:18). Brother Szink comments: "So many similarities cannot be attributed to mere chance. I believe that these two prophets employed what was a specific Nephite formula for giving testimony. It is difficult to say whether the formula was a literary device or had formed part of the Nephite legal system" (Studies in Scripture, Volume Eight, Alma 30 to Moroni, 134-35).
11 And behold, I do make the record on plates which I have made with mine own hands.
verses 10-11 "I do make the record" Mormon engraved his record or abridgment onto a separate set of plates "which [he] made with [his] own hand"-the plates of Mormon.
12 And behold, I am called Mormon, being called after the land of Mormon, the land in which Alma did establish the church among the people, yea, the first church which was established among them after their transgression.
verse 12 "I am called Mormon, being called after the land of Mormon" It is interesting and surprising that this is the first time in the writings on the plates of Mormon that Mormon introduces himself. One might have expected him to do so earlier in the book, even at the beginning of the record as did Nephi at the beginning of the small plates of Nephi. Perhaps such an introduction was contained at the beginning of the book of Lehi which was the first part of the plates of Mormon and which was contained on the 116 pages of manuscript lost by Martin Harris. Mormon does identify himself by name in the Words of Mormon, but that book was found at the end of the small plates of Nephi and was translated after the translation of the plates of Mormon was complete.
"the first church which was established among them after their transgression" Mormon refers to the restoration of the church among the Nephite peoples by the senior Alma in 145 BC which occurred after the apostasy of king Noah and his people in the land of Nephi (see the commentary for Mosiah 18:17). The land of Mormon was undoubtedly the land that contained the waters of Mormon, where Alma performed the first baptisms of "the restoration."
13 Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.
verse 13 "I am a disciple of Jesus Christ" Mormon has been called as a special witness of the Savior-as an apostle (D&C 107:23). When Christ appears personally to the Nephites following his resurrection, he will call twelve Nephite disciples or apostles. We can presume that a succession of this priesthood office persisted down to the time of Mormon (see 4 Nephi 1:14; see also Moroni 2:1-2).
14 And it hath become expedient that I, according to the will of God, that the prayers of those who have gone hence, who were the holy ones, should be fulfilled according to their faith, should make a record of these things which have been done-
verse 14 "the prayers of those who have gone hence, who were the holy ones" Who are these "holy ones"? They are those righteous prophets and disciples of the Book of Mormon who prayed that the Book of Mormon plates would be preserved so that they might come forth unto those of the latter days. They include the likes of the prophet Enos who did "cry unto God that he would preserve the records; and he [the Lord] covenanted with me that he would bring them [the record of the Book of Mormon peoples] forth unto the [latter-day] Lamanites in his [the Lord's] own due time" (Enos 1:16).
15 Yea, a small record of that which hath taken place from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem, even down until the present time.
verse 15 "even down until the present time" It is interesting to speculate as to which point in time this editorial comment by Mormon was actually written. He is obviously in the process of abridging the materials written by Nephi, the son of Nephi-the book he will call Third Nephi. But what else had he written? For example, had he recorded the record of his own day onto the large plates of Nephi. I'm not certain it is possible to answer that question-read on!
16 Therefore I do make my record from the accounts which have been given by those who were before me, until the commencement of my day;
verses 15-16 Here Mormon refers again to his abridgment of the large plates of Nephi written onto the plates of Mormon. He refers to his abridgement in the prior verse as "a small record" (see also Mormon 5:9). His abridgement was small relative to the volume of plates in the set we call the large plates of Nephi.
"until the commencement of my day" Here the prophet Mormon refers to all of the Book of Mormon prophets who recorded onto the large plates of Nephi from Lehi to his own day-to the end of 4 Nephi.
17 And then I do make a record of the things which I have seen with mine own eyes.
verse 17 In this verse Mormon apparently refers to his own writings, the writings of his own day, which he will enter or has entered onto the large plates of Nephi (see Mormon 1:4; Mormon 2:18). After he does so, he will then abridge his own record and enter that abridgment onto the plates of Mormon. Those writings-that abridgement-is now found in Mormon 1-7.
18 And I know the record which I make to be a just and a true record; nevertheless there are many things which, according to our language, we are not able to write.
verse 18 "I know the record which I make to be a just and a true record" We might try to differentiate here between the meanings of "just" and "true." "Just" means that it contains a reliable and correct account of valid eternal principles. "True" means that it is authentic, that it is what it purports to be.
"there are many things which, according to our language, we are not able to write" The prophet Moroni will later teach: "We have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech. And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew . . . . and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record" (Mormon 9:32-34).
19 And now I make an end of my saying, which is of myself, and proceed to give my account of the things which have been before me.
verse 19 "I make an end of my saying, which is of myself" Mormon will begin to conclude his editorial comment.
"and proceed to give my account of the things which have been before me" Perhaps Mormon means to say here that he will conclude his editorial comment and resume his abridgement of those events that occurred in the Book of Mormon prior to his own day.
20 I am Mormon, and a pure descendant of Lehi. I have reason to bless my God and my Savior Jesus Christ, that he brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem, (and no one knew it save it were himself and those whom he brought out of that land) and that he hath given me and my people so much knowledge unto the salvation of our souls.
verse 20 "and no one knew it save it were himself and those whom he brought out of that land" Nephi, the son of Lehi, taught that the Lord had maintained a protective hand over the family of Lehi as they departed Jerusalem so "that the Jews might not know concerning our flight into the wilderness, lest they should pursue us and destroy us" (1 Nephi 4:36).
verses 21-26 Now, in the verses that follow, Mormon concludes his tiny personal editorial and self introduction with a prophecy regarding the future of the house of Israel.
21 Surely he hath blessed the house of Jacob, and hath been merciful unto the seed of Joseph.
22 And insomuch as the children of Lehi have kept his commandments he hath blessed them and prospered them according to his word.
23 Yea, and surely shall he again bring a remnant of the seed of Joseph to the knowledge of the Lord their God.
verse 23 This verse refers to something that lies in the future as compared to the time of Mormon's life. Perhaps this refers to the latter-day introduction of the gospel to the descendants or "remnants" of the Book of Mormon peoples. Or, as suggested by the following verse, perhaps he prophesies of the eventual restoration of the gospel to other remnants of the scattered tribe of Joseph and other tribes of Israel.
24 And as surely as the Lord liveth, will he gather in from the four quarters of the earth all the remnant of the seed of Jacob, who are scattered abroad upon all the face of the earth.
verse 24 This refers to the latter-day gathering of all the house of Israel in preparation for the Lord's second coming.
25 And as he hath covenanted with all the house of Jacob, even so shall the covenant wherewith he hath covenanted with the house of Jacob be fulfilled in his own due time, unto the restoring all the house of Jacob unto the knowledge of the covenant that he hath covenanted with them.
verse 25 Here we learn that Abraham's posterity is promised a full knowledge of God's covenants with the house of Jacob-they will come to fully understand the nature of their covenant relationship with God. And just how is a knowledge of these covenants going to be communicated to Jacob's descendants in the last days? It will be revealed in the pages of the Book of Mormon! The resurrected Lord will provide these details about his covenant promises with the house of Israel in two important discourses delivered by the resurrected Christ and recorded in the Book of Mormon: "The Law and the Covenant Discourse"-3 Nephi chapters 15 and 16, and "The Covenant People Discourse"-3 Nephi 20:10 to 23:5.
26 And then shall they know their Redeemer, who is Jesus Christ, the Son of God; and then shall they be gathered in from the four quarters of the earth unto their own lands, from whence they have been dispersed; yea, as the Lord liveth so shall it be. Amen.
verse 26 "then shall they know their Redeemer, who is Jesus Christ, the Son of God; and then shall they be gathered in from the four quarters of the earth unto their own lands, from whence they have been dispersed" We have discussed previously the gathering of Israel (see the introductory commentary for 1 Nephi 20). There we concluded that there is both a spiritual gathering and a temporal gathering. The spiritual gathering occurs when a people accept Christ and join his church. The temporal gathering consists in moving to that location where the saints have gathered (2 Nephi 9:2). The sequence of gathering generally is first to Christ and his church, and then to specific locations.