3 Nephi Chapter 9
3 Nephi 9-10 The Lord's voice is heard out of the darkness following the period of destruction at the time of the Savior's crucifixion.
1 And it came to pass that there was a voice heard among all the inhabitants of the earth, upon all the face of this land, crying:
verse 1 "there was a voice heard among all the inhabitants of the earth, upon all the face of this land" This is the voice of the Savior himself. The expression "among all the inhabitants of the earth" is hyperbole, as the verse refers to "all the inhabitants . . . upon all the face of this land."
The Lord will testify in verses 1 through 22 of this chapter that the destructions that have befallen the Nephites were divinely orchestrated because of the wickedness of the people. He will also teach of his relationship with the Father and of his role as Creator of the heavens and earth. He will declare that he is the Redeemer of the world and that in him the Mosaic law is fulfilled. He will also extend an invitation to "the ends of the earth" to come unto him and be saved on conditions of faith and repentance.
2 Wo, wo, wo unto this people; wo unto the inhabitants of the whole earth except they shall repent; for the devil laugheth, and his angels rejoice, because of the slain of the fair sons and daughters of my people; and it is because of their iniquity and abominations that they are fallen!
verse 2 "Wo, wo, wo unto this people; wo unto the inhabitants of the whole earth except they shall repent" Here the Lord is speaking to the people in the midst of the destructive storm. He gives them yet another chance to repent. On this occasion his voice is a terrifying one and not a gentle and comforting one. It is probably safe to say that the world has never known a more dramatic teaching moment. After he speaks here, there will follow silence from heaven for many hours, then the Lord will speak a second time (3 Nephi 10:4-7).
"for the devil laugheth" Bruce R. McConkie has described the various meanings of "laughter" in the scriptures. In this particular instance, he suggests that it signifies scorn and derision, as when the righteous are mocked for their good deeds and intentions (Alma 26:23; 2 Kings 19:21; Nehemiah 2:19; Job 12:4; Matthew 9:24; Mark 5:40; Luke 8:53). This kind of laughter is inspired of and practiced by the devil. When calamities befall the inhabitants of the earth, "the devil laugheth, and his angels rejoice" (3 Nephi 9:2). At the second coming of Christ, "they that have laughed" in this scornful and derisive manner shall see their folly. And calamity shall cover the mocker, and the scorner shall be consumed (D&C 45:49-50) ("Laughter" in Mormon Doctrine, 432).
"because of the slain of the fair sons and daughters of my people" Those slain were the seed of those with whom he had covenanted. He had brought the Book of Mormon people to this new land. He had entered into a covenant with them to protect them so long as they were obedient. Those people with whom the Lord enters into covenants are his people.
"it is because of their iniquity and abominations that they are fallen" This expression refers to those inhabitants of the Book of Mormon lands who failed to repent and were thus destroyed during the great "storm" following the Savior's crucifixion. There is no question that this great geological upheaval was intended not only to destroy the wicked but also to serve as a sign to the "more righteous" (verse 13) among the Nephites that the atonement, death, and resurrection of the Savior had taken place. Elder Bruce R. McConkie pointed out, "It is perfectly clear that these destructions came as a just judgment upon the wicked, and that they are in similitude of the outpourings of wrath that shall come upon the whole world at the second coming" (The Promised Messiah. Deseret Book, 1981, 541).
verses 3-10 There follows in these verses a recitation of the great cities of the land which had just been destroyed. These were destroyed because there were no righteous among them and because they had soiled themselves with the blood of the Lord's prophets and saints.
3 Behold, that great city Zarahemla have I burned with fire, and the inhabitants thereof.
4 And behold, that great city Moroni have I caused to be sunk in the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof to be drowned.
5 And behold, that great city Moronihah have I covered with earth, and the inhabitants thereof, to hide their iniquities and their abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come any more unto me against them.
verse 5 "that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come any more unto me against them" When a murderer sheds blood, and the murder has not yet been avenged-the murderer has not yet been punished-the blood of the murder victim "cries from the ground." Under the law of Moses "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed" (Genesis 9:6). The unpunished murderer "defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it" (Numbers 35:30-34). If a murderer could not be found, city elders were to offer sacrifice and testify that they had neither shed the blood nor seen who did it. Then they were to plead, "Be merciful, O Lord . . . and lay not innocent blood unto thy people of Israel's charge. And the blood shall be forgiven them" (Deuteronomy 21:1-9).
Here the voice of Christ avers that the punishment has indeed been rendered to the guilty (see also verses 7-9, 11).
6 And behold, the city of Gilgal have I caused to be sunk, and the inhabitants thereof to be buried up in the depths of the earth;
verse 6 "Gilgal" For commentary on the name Gilgal, see the supplemental article, Names in the Book of Mormon. See also Mormon 6:14.
7 Yea, and the city of Onihah and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Mocum and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Jerusalem and the inhabitants thereof; and waters have I caused to come up in the stead thereof, to hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come up any more unto me against them.
verse 7 "waters have I caused to come up in the stead thereof" Compare this description of the destruction of these three cities-Onihah, Mocum, and Jerusalem-to that of the destruction of the city of Moroni: That "great city Moroni have I caused to be sunk in the depths of the sea" (3 Nephi 8:9; 3 Nephi 8:9:4). There is textual evidence to suggest that Jerusalem was near the waters of Mormon (Alma 21:1-2), and perhaps that body of water was involved in the destruction of Jerusalem, and perhaps the destruction of Onihah and Mocum as well. The Waters of Mormon must have been a very large body of water to be able to rise and cover a whole city, and possibly three cities. From the text, this body of water was located in a highland setting, in or near the land of Nephi, and it therefore must be a large lake.
8 And behold, the city of Gadiandi, and the city of Gadiomnah, and the city of Jacob, and the city of Gimgimno, all these have I caused to be sunk, and made hills and valleys in the places thereof; and the inhabitants thereof have I buried up in the depths of the earth, to hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up any more unto me against them.
9 And behold, that great city Jacobugath, which was inhabited by the people of king Jacob, have I caused to be burned with fire because of their sins and their wickedness, which was above all the wickedness of the whole earth, because of their secret murders and combinations; for it was they that did destroy the peace of my people and the government of the land; therefore I did cause them to be burned, to destroy them from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up unto me any more against them.
verse 9 "Jacobugath" For a discussion of this city and for a suggestion as to its modern-day identity, see the commentary for Alma 63:4.
Reynolds and Sjodahl have suggested that gath means a wine press, and the city of Jacobugath may have received its name from the fact that wine was made there, causing the wickedness for which it was finally destroyed (Commentary on the Book of Mormon, volume 2, 321).
10 And behold, the city of Laman, and the city of Josh, and the city of Gad, and the city of Kishkumen, have I caused to be burned with fire, and the inhabitants thereof, because of their wickedness in casting out the prophets, and stoning those whom I did send to declare unto them concerning their wickedness and their abominations.
verse 10 "city of Josh" For a discussion of this peculiar name, see the commentary for Mormon 6:14. See also the supplemental article, Names in the Book of Mormon.
"because of their wickedness in casting out the prophets, and stoning those whom I did send to declare unto them concerning their wickedness and their abominations" The Lord's decrying of this particular sin suggests that he is willing to extend mercy to those who follow the admonitions of the prophets and repent of most any sin. However, when they cast out the prophets whom the Lord has sent to declare repentance, then they incur the wrath of God.
11 And because they did cast them all out, that there were none righteous among them, I did send down fire and destroy them, that their wickedness and abominations might be hid from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints whom I sent among them might not cry unto me from the ground against them.
12 And many great destructions have I caused to come upon this land, and upon this people, because of their wickedness and their abominations.
13 O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?
verse 13 "O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they" Those who were spared included those who did not stone the prophets or shed the blood of the saints (see 3 Nephi 10:12).
"repent of your sins" Here is the Lord's call to repentance issued to the "more righteous" Nephites. Just how are we to regard this phenomenon of repentance? It is clear that the opportunity to repent is a free gift, indeed a gift of love from God to his people. It is a gift given to us by a God whose love for us is beyond our understanding. While the opportunity to repent of one's sins is free gift, the desire to repent and the motivation and effort necessary to complete the process are hardly "free." A sinner never comes to possess the desire to repent lest he work for and acquire a gift of the Spirit which may be called "godly sorrow." See a discussion of this important concept in the commentary for Mosiah 26:29 (see also 2 Corinthians 7:9-11).
"that I may heal you" Bruce R. McConkie has expanded our understanding of the phenomenon of healing:
Even more important than the healing of mentally and physically afflicted persons is the spiritual healing of those who have been dead to the things of righteousness. Those so healed are restored to a state of purity, integrity, and righteousness. Their healing comes about through conversion to the truth and adherence to the principles of righteousness. Thus there is the scriptural promise that Christ "shall rise from the dead, with healing in his wings; and all those who shall believe on his name shall be saved in the kingdom of God" (2 Nephi 25:13; 2 Nephi 26:9; Malachi 4:2). That is, spiritual sickness and spiritual death vanish for those who turn to him through whose atoning sacrifice all men have power to become whole spiritually or in other words to be healed from every spiritual malady that would keep them out of the celestial world. Thus the Lord's call to all men is, "Return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you" (3 Nephi 9:13; Hosea 14:4) (Mormon Doctrine, "Healings," 345).
In this verse the Lord is addressing those who were spared destruction because they were sufficiently righteous, yet they were obviously in need of repentance. We may tend to dissociate ourselves from this group of ancient Nephites and Lamanites. Elder Spencer W. Kimball in his address in general conference in October 1961 has reminded us that many of us may fit nicely into this same category:
It seems that rather than fast and pray, we prefer to gorge ourselves at the banquet tables and drink cocktails. Instead of disciplining ourselves, we yield to urges and carnal desires. Numerous billions we spend on liquor and tobacco. A Sabbath show or a game or a race replaces solemn worship. Numerous mothers prefer the added luxuries of two incomes to the satisfactions of seeing children grow up in the fear of God. Men golf and boat and hunt and fish rather than to solemnize the Sabbath. Old man rationalization is with us. Because we are not vicious enough to be confined in penitentiaries, we rationalize that we are pretty good people; that we are not doing so badly. The masses of the people are much like those who escaped destruction in the ancient days of this continent. The Lord said to them: "O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they [the slain ones], will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?" (3 Nephi 9:13).
14 Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me.
verse 14 "Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you" This verse along with the preceding verse bring to mind the well-known painting by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel of the creation of Adam.
verses 15-18 What glorious and profound simplicity is contained in these verses, yet the world does not understand these truths.
15 Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name.
verse 15 "I am Jesus Christ the Son of God" It is important to note here that the Savior refers to himself as "Jesus Christ the Son of God." Monte S. Nyman has pointed out that in 3 Nephi there are eleven such designations or titles Christ gives himself ("The Designations Jesus Gives Himself in 3 Nephi," The Book of Mormon: 3 Nephi 9-30, This Is My Gospel, 41-58). While the entire Book of Mormon contains many more than these eleven, these few are of particular importance because they are authentic declarations from the Savior's own tongue. Consequently they reflect the ultimate authoritative appraisal of his various roles in ministering unto us mortals. In addition to "Jesus Christ the Son of God," these titles include also "the Creator" (3 Nephi 9:15), "I was with the Father from the beginning" (3 Nephi 9:15), "I am in the Father and the Father in me" (3 Nephi 9:15), "in me hath the Father glorified his name" (3 Nephi 9:15), "Redeemer" (3 Nephi 16:4), "I am the light and life of the world" (3 Nephi 9:18; 3 Nephi 9:11:11), "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end" (3 Nephi 9:18), "I am the God of Israel" (3 Nephi 11:14), "I am the God of the whole earth" (3 Nephi 11:14), and "I am [he] whom the prophets testified shall come into the world" (3 Nephi 11:10). Yet a twelfth title is implied: "I am the good shepherd" (3 Nephi 15:17).
Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua or Jeshua and means God is help or Savior. The title Christ is of Greek origin and means the anointed one. The Hebrew equivalent of this title is Messiah. The Savior thus declares that he is the Messiah. The title Son of God implies that his mortal body was partly of divine origin, that he obtained his divine characteristics directly from his Father in Heaven. These include the ability to atone for our sins, to break the power of death, and become the Savior of all mankind.
"I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are" While Jesus does not refer to himself in this verse directly as the Creator, that designation is certainly implied. President Joseph Fielding Smith taught: "Under the direction of his Father, Jesus Christ created this earth. No doubt others helped him, but it was Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, who, under the direction of his Father, came down and organized matter and made this planet, so that it might be inhabited by the children of God" (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:74). In what sense did Jesus create "the heavens . . . and all things that in them are"? While we are not given to know exactly the extent of his creations, we know that his creations were extensive-"worlds without number" (Moses 1:31-35).
"I was with the Father from the beginning" The "beginning" is the premortal life (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1). There the Father selected the most brilliant and capable of all the intelligences who was then "begotten" into a spirit body after the image of the Father. This individual was, of course, Jesus Christ who was thereafter known as the Firstborn. Jesus was then tutored and tested, and he developed from "grace to grace" and eventually received a "fulness of truth" (D&C 93:11-14). The fulness of truth is defined in scripture as "a knowledge of things past, present, and future" (D&C 93:24). There, the Son became a God and was placed in charge of the creation or organization of all the rest of the Father's kingdom (Moses 1:32-33). He even somehow assisted with the creation of the spirit bodies of all men (D&C 93:10). This clarifies the Genesis account of "let us make man in our image" (1:26, italics mine). The plural pronouns us and our in Genesis must refer to Christ being with his Father from the beginning and being involved in the plan to people the earth. Other roles Jesus fulfilled in the beginning with the Father were: (1) He carried out the foreordinations of men to bear the eternal priesthood of God, which priesthood was named after him, "the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God" (D&C 107:3). The premortal spirits were also the beneficiaries of many other foreordinations. (2) He directed the preaching of the gospel to others in the premortal state: "In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God. The same was in the beginning with God" (JST John 1:1-3).
"I am in the Father and the Father in me" This seems to be an expression of the perfect unity that exists between the Father and the Son. It also carries the idea of the divine investiture of authority that the Father has bestowed upon the Son. The scriptures seem to support the idea that Jesus is "in the Father" in the sense that he submits his will completely to that of the Father. The "Father is in me [Jesus Christ]" in that the Son is imbued with the divine nature and the authority of the Father.
"in me hath the Father glorified his name" 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.
16 I came unto my own, and my own received me not. And the scriptures concerning my coming are fulfilled.
verse 16 "I came unto my own" To whom does the Savior refer here? Who are "my [or his] own"? Jesus was born a Jew. And thus he had come unto the Jews. They are "my own."
"And the scriptures concerning my coming are fulfilled" The Book of Mormon passages that foretell his coming are numerous. Those in the Old Testament are few and far between, but we know that at the time of Christ's ministry in the Old World, the scriptures available to those people (the Old Testament) testified clearly of Christ (see Luke 24:25-27; John 5:39).
17 And as many as have received me, to them have I given to become the sons of God; and even so will I to as many as shall believe on my name, for behold, by me redemption cometh, and in me is the law of Moses fulfilled.
verse 17 "the sons of God" All mortal men and women are, of course, sons and daughters of God the Father in that he sired their spirit bodies. It is not this relationship, however, that is being referred to here. These "sons of God" are those spirit children of God who are heirs of the celestial kingdom.
"by me redemption cometh" In this simple phrase, the Lord states a most profound truth. There is no other name in the universe by which man may receive a kingdom of glory save it be that of Jesus Christ himself.
18 I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.
verse 18 "I am the light and the life of the world" What does this expression really mean?
The Savior is the "light" in that he is the beacon or signal toward which man must navigate as he works out his eternal destiny. On another occasion he said to the Nephites: "Behold I am the light; I have set an example for you" (3 Nephi 18:16). He then admonished them: "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" (verse 24). Thus, Jesus was the light of men through his teachings and his example-through his gospel.
There is more, however, to Jesus's being the light because of his example. For a more complete insight into why Jesus is the "light and life of the world" see The Concept of Light in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 15.
Jesus will later say to the Nephites: "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: (3 Nephi 15:9). He is the "life" in the sense that he is the giver, indeed the source of eternal life.
"I am Alpha and Omega" This phrase, of course, consists of the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet and means "the beginning and the end." Christ began the work of bringing "to pass the immortality and eternal life" of humankind here on earth. He was ordained by the Father to be the Creator, the organizer of the intelligences and the elements which comprise our earth and other worlds. He will conclude this mortal phase at his second coming when all the keys of all dispensations will be returned to him and he will begin his millennial reign. He is the hope of our victory in the beginning of the plan and the evidence of our triumph at the end of it.
In a little broader sense, this title reflects the eternal and all encompassing nature of the Lord's existence, work, and glory. All life, all light, all progress, and all salvation come in and through him.
Some Book of Mormon critics have wondered what Greek letters were doing in a Hebrew Book of Mormon. "Alpha and Omega" is a perfectly good English expression and undoubtedly expressed well the meaning of the phrasing found on the plates, which contained no Greek. Joseph Smith might also have appropriately used "A and Z" without implying even for a moment that English letters occurred on the plates of Mormon.
19 And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.
verse 19 Here the Savior declares that the law of Moses is fulfilled. The symbolic animal sacrifices that served as a type or symbol of the Savior and his atoning sacrifice are now done away. There is now a new meaning to the concept or eternal covenant of sacrifice. Rather than outward sacrifice, we are commanded to have the proper inner attitude as stated in the following verse-one of a "broken heart and contrite spirit."
We do understand, however, that animal sacrifices will be re-instituted for a season as part of the "restitution of all things" (see D&C 13:1; D&C 84:31; D&C 84:124:39).
20 And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.
verse 20 "ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit" Here we have the new law of sacrifice. Instead of animal sacrifices, we are to sacrifice, actually come to possess, "a broken heart and a contrite spirit." But what is this broken heart and contrite spirit? This is also a gift of the Spirit that must be earned, over time, through obedience to the gospel law. As we obey, and as we contemplate the Savior's atoning sacrifice, our hearts will break as we come to understand his selfless sacrifice. It naturally follows, then, that we will surrender our will to his will-our spirits will become contrite. We will become truly willing to sacrifice things of the world and become responsive to the Spirit's promptings to continually repent of the myriad ways in which we fall short of the Savior's character and example. In place of outward and visible sacrifices, this new law involves inward changes of attitudes and feelings of our heart.
"him will I baptize 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.
"the Lamanites . . . were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not" The process of becoming sanctified through the operation of the ordinance of "the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost" is an incremental, gradual, and step by step one. A righteous man is not proud or even cognizant of his own spiritual progress as he is blessed by this sacred ordinance. His incremental sanctification occurs so insidiously and incrementally that it is to him virtually imperceptible. His attentions are turned outward rather than inward.
21 Behold, I have come unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin.
verse 21 The Savior's earthly experience can be conveniently divided into three categories, namely his message, his ministry, and his mission. Only the events associated with his mission, however, imposed the absolute requirement that he appear in person on earth. Thus, his mission, the atoning sacrifice, became the compelling reason for his condescension.
Certainly it was a great blessing to have the Savior personally preach his gospel message, but that was not the essential reason for which he came. Others have been his spokesmen, both before and after his mortal advent. His ministry included the working of miracles, but Enoch, Moses, Elijah, and others had performed similar wonders before his birth. Peter, Paul, and others would perform like miracles after his ascension.
While others could preach the Savior's message and even perform a ministry of miracles and priesthood ordinances, only he could accomplish that divinely appointed mission, namely the redemption of the world. This is the prime reason he came to the earth (see also 3 Nephi 27:13-16; D&C 49:5; D&C 76:40-42). Perhaps it ought to be added that President Joseph F. Smith spoke of another reason Christ came to earth: "Christ came not only to atone for the sins of the world, but to set an example before all men and to establish the standard of God's perfection, of God's law, and of obedience to the Father" (Gospel Doctrine, 270). This is consistent with the observation of Peter: "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps" (1 Peter 2:21).
22 Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved.
verse 22 "whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child" During his Nephite ministry, the Savior makes frequent use of the metaphor of children. As one contemplates the nature of children and their relationship with spiritual things, one is left with the impression that it is vital that each of us contemplates that relationship and strives to become more childlike (see 3 Nephi 10:3-6; 3 Nephi 10:11:37- 38; 17:21-24).