BMGD #37: 3 Nephi 8-11

September 17, 2012 | 3 comments
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CHAPTER 8

1 And now it came to pass that according to our record, and we know our record to be true, for behold, it was a just man who did keep the record—for he truly did many miracles in the name of Jesus; and there was not any man who could do a miracle in the name of Jesus save he were cleansed every whit from his iniquity—

First person is unusual enough but first person plural is really weird; why does our author/editor use “our” in this verse?  Who constitutes the “our”?

The logic of the verse seems to be that if a “just” person keeps the record, you can therefore know that the record is true.  What does it mean to be “just”?  What does it mean for a record to be “true”?  (Is that the same as accurate, factual, and/or historical?)  Do you agree with the logic of the verse re the link between the just keeper and the true record?

Does the “for” mean that if someone does many miracles, they are “just”?  (If so, what about the idea that “miracles” [or, seeming miracles] can be done through Satan’s power?)

Is it really possible to be cleansed every whit from iniquity, or is this hyperbole?  If literal, is this a universal principle?  Does it simply mean that one has been baptized and then repented of any further sins?  Or is there more to it than that?

Note the repetition of “in the name of Jesus.”  What effect does this have on the reader?

Does this verse define “just” as “cleansed every whit from iniquity”?

Note that what Mormon is doing with this verse is setting up the story of Jesus’ visit.  And he does that by testifying of the truthfulness of the record.

Hartman Rector Jr.:

The prophet Mormon stated very plainly what I like to call the qualification for the performance of miracles. It is recorded in 3 Nephi, the eighth chapter, and the fifth verse: “And now it came to pass that according to our record, and we know our record to be true, for behold, it was a just man who did keep the record—for he truly did many miracles in the name of Jesus; and there was not any man who could do a miracle in the name of Jesus save he were cleansed every whit from his iniquity.” So this is the qualification: we must be cleansed every whit from our iniquity. When I first read this passage of scripture, I felt to say “Hurray for repentance!” for if it were not for repentance, there would be no miracles performed. Apr 1970 GC

2 And now it came to pass, if there was no mistake made by this man in the reckoning of our time, the *thirty and third year had passed away;

Can’t tell you how much I LOVE the juxtaposition of v1 and v2:  we just heard that the man was just, a miracle worker, and completely free of iniquity, and then the very next idea is that he might have made a mistake in the reckoning of time!  Seriously, this is one of the best comments ever on the humanity, fallibility, weakness, whatever you want to call it, of disciples.

 3 And the people began to look with great earnestness for the sign which had been given by the prophet Samuel, the Lamanite, yea, for the time that there should be darkness for the space of three days over the face of the land.

Again, note that Samuel is almost always called “the Lamanite,” despite the fact that there is no one else that we might confuse him with.  Why was this identity so important?

Once again, I think we have Symbolism for Dummies here:  Jesus comes into the world, you get extra light.  Jesus dies, you get extra dark.  That said, I wonder why this sign is related to his death and not his resurrection.

Something about the “which had been given” is interesting to me–it makes it sound as if the sign was given by Samuel, but that isn’t quite right–Samuel prophesied of a sign that would come in the future.  Not entirely sure what to make of this.

Notice the parallelism of “for the sign” and “for the time.”  What’s going on here?

See 1 Nephi 19:10-12 for Zenos’ prophecy of this event.  (Kind of weird to think that he would have prophesied of it so very long ago, and then the idea doesn’t seem to be that big a deal in BoM preaching, but then returns full force with Samuel.)  (Also weird to think about Zenos making this prophecy in the Old World for events that would only happen in the New World.  I wonder if even he, let alone the people who heard him, understood all of that.)

“Space” is an odd word to use to describe time.  Is this just a little awkward, or is something going on here?

Samuel said the signs of the Jesus’ birth would be in five years, but he didn’t give a date (at least in our record) for the signs of his death.   What do you make of that?  How did the people know when to look?  (I realize this will be unpopular, but I think the assumption that Jesus lived for 33 years rests on very weak textual evidence; I think we need to consider whether his life span was of a different length and, no, I don’ t think the BoM solves this problem for us–that may be the entire point of v2!)

4 And there began to be great doubtings and disputations among the people, notwithstanding so many signs had been given.

How do you get from earnestly looking in the last verse to doubt and dispute in this verse?

Does this verse teach you anything universal about the roots of disputes?  (That is, are they always related to doubts?)  If so, how might this be relevant to us today?

What are the other signs that had been given, besides the light at Jesus’ birth?  Are the other miracles mentioned also considered signs?

 5 And it came to pass in the *thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm, such an one as never had been known in all the land.

This kind of incredibly specific time reference (that is, not just the year but the month and the day) is exceptionally rare in the BoM.  This is not unexpected, given that he is about to narrate such an important event, but it may give us hints as to the use of dates to signal important events in the rest of the BoM.

 6 And there was also a great and terrible tempest; and there was terrible thunder, insomuch that it did shake the whole earth as if it was about to divide asunder.

Compare v5:  What is the difference between a storm and a tempest?

Remember the story of Nephi and Lehi in prison?  That story was full of “as if”s.  (It drove me crazy, if you will recall.)  Note the “as if” in this verse.

Should we be reading this verse symbolically–that is, that the death of Christ in some way was as if it were about to divide the earth asunder?  If so, what would this symbolize?  (Or, given the timing, might we tie this to the atonement, Gethsemane, and not the death itself?)

Do we normally think of thunder as shaking the earth?  (In other words, what are we to take from that part of the description in this verse?)

 7 And there were exceedingly sharp lightnings, such as never had been known in all the land.

What does it mean for lightning to be “sharp”?

Throughout these notes, I kind of casually call all of this stuff “natural phenomena.”  Does the “such as never . . .” phrase indicate to you that they did or did not think of these as “natural” events?  (My thought:  I think it would be interesting to see these disasters as a “natural” event in the sense that this is what happens to nature when the God of nature, the creator of heaven and earth, suffers and dies.  But I also think you could see these events as specifically controlled by God to impress upon these people the idea that God is in control of nature.  And there’s an interesting paradox there of a God who allows Jesus to be killed but who can control the very elements.  So I am of two minds about this.)  If the main event is a volcano (which most scholars seem to think), then they can produce lightning (something about the ash in the air), and it would likely be more impressive lightning than a normal storm.  So the “such as never” does not necessarily indicate divine intervention.  I’m still kind of chewing over whether these events are “natural” or “specific divine intervention.”  I can think of good arguments for both sides.  (It would be kind of funny if this were just a regularly scheduled volcanic eruption that just so happened to coincide with Jesus’ death, and so someone in middle management decided to leverage it by letting Sam know about it.  ;) )

8 And the city of Zarahemla did take fire.

Is this symbolic as well as literal?

 9 And the city of Moroni did sink into the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof were drowned.

 10 And the earth was carried up upon the city of Moronihah, that in the place of the city there became a great mountain.

 11 And there was a great and terrible destruction in the land southward.

Why do you think the New World experienced these incredible physical events at this time while the Old World didn’t?  (Was this just a sign to the people, or was there more to it than that?)

 12 But behold, there was a more great and terrible destruction in the land northward; for behold, the whole face of the land was changed, because of the tempest and the whirlwinds, and the thunderings and the lightnings, and the exceedingly great quaking of the whole earth;

 13 And the highways were broken up, and the level roads were spoiled, and many smooth places became rough.

Again, is this symbolic?

This verse seems to echo OT language; was that deliberate?

 14 And many great and notable cities were sunk, and many were burned, and many were shaken till the buildings thereof had fallen to the earth, and the inhabitants thereof were slain, and the places were left desolate.

 15 And there were some cities which remained; but the damage thereof was exceedingly great, and there were many in them who were slain.

 16 And there were some who were carried away in the whirlwind; and whither they went no man knoweth, save they know that they were carried away.

Remember that Alma and Nephi met similarly unknown ends–are we supposed to be making a connection here?

 17 And thus the face of the whole earth became deformed, because of the tempests, and the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the quaking of the earth.

I suspect “deformed” is significant–more than just a physical description of change.  It connotes “messed up.”  What is going on here?  (The death of Christ isn’t a good thing per se, obviously, but it is also part of the atonement and prelude to the resurrection, so why are the signs so “bad” here?)

Is it literally true that the thunder made the face of the earth deformed, or is this a little poetic license?

Note that “whole earth” doesn’t literally mean “whole earth” here.  (Remember that when you read about Noah’s flood.)

 18 And behold, the rocks were rent in twain; they were broken up upon the face of the whole earth, insomuch that they were found in broken fragments, and in seams and in cracks, upon all the face of the land.

“Rent in twain” is the same language used to describe the rending of the temple veil at the death of Jesus in the New Testament.  There, the symbolism is that the separation of God and humans is destroyed, and people now have access to the presence of God because of the atonement of Jesus Christ.  (See Mark 15:38.) Is that the same symbolism here?

 19 And it came to pass that when the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the storm, and the tempest, and the quakings of the earth did cease—for behold, they did last for about the space of three hours; and it was said by some that the time was greater; nevertheless, all these great and terrible things were done in about the space of three hours—and then behold, there was darkness upon the face of the land.

Is the “three hours” significant?  (Mark has Jesus crucified at “the third hour,” which would have been about 9am.)  The destructions last for three hours and the darkness lasts for three days; is this related?

Why the note that some people thought that the time was longer, given that the narrator agrees with the three hour figure?  (Does this have anything to do with the note above about possible errors in reckoning time?)  I wonder if the point is being made that, due to the destructions, it was literally impossible for them to measure the passage of time.  (Of course, this would call Nephi’s assertion that it was about three hours into question . . .)  Maybe one of the things being taken away from them is time itself; that’s kind of interesting to think about.

Wouldn’t there have been darkness during the thunder, lightening, storms, and tempests?  So what does the writer mean to say that after these things ended there was darkness?  Does v20 explain this?

 20 And it came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof who had not fallen could feel the vapor of darkness;

Is there a relationship between the vapor of darkness here and the mists of darkness in Lehi/Nephi’s vision?  (See v22, where “mists” is used.)

What work is “who had not fallen” doing?  (Because isn’t it pretty obvious that the dead people aren’t going to feel the vapor of darkness?)

 21 And there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all;

Nor sure if I am being overly-literal here, but is the point that the darkness was a “vapor” (I’m thinking 100% humidity) mean that they couldn’t have any light?  Are we supposed to be reading this symbolically as well?

“There could be no light” kind of makes it sound as if day #1 of the creation has been undone.  What are the implications of that?  (I wonder if the point is that we are headed for a new creation.)

Some scholars note the “exceedingly dry” alongside the lack of reference to rain in the destructions to make the point that everything that happened seemed to be fire/earth based and not water-based (except that one city that gets covered by the sea).  Interesting, but not sure what to do with that.

Brant Gardner points out that high concentrations of volcanic gases in the air might have made it impossible to ignite wood.

 22 And there was not any light seen, neither fire, nor glimmer, neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars, for so great were the mists of darkness which were upon the face of the land.

V21-22 is super redundant; why do you think the author wanted to hammer the point home that absoposilutely no light was possible?

Should you be finding a symbolic or allegorical element to all of these acts of destruction?

 23 And it came to pass that it did last for the space of three days that there was no light seen; and there was great mourning and howling and weeping among all the people continually; yea, great were the groanings of the people, because of the darkness and the great destruction which had come upon them.

Is there a relationship between the three hours of tempest/storms and three days of darkness?

Is the darkness related the plague of darkness (#9) before the Exodus?

How could they have known how long it was without light to measure the passage of days?

Brant Gardner:

This verse serves to shift the focus away from the natural phenomena and towards the effect that it had on the people. The transition from geological to human moves on the basis of sound. The earth had been making great noises (thunderings) and now the people themselves make great noises. Here we have “mourning and howling and weeping,” and “groanings.” The earth visibly and audibly complains, and now the people echo that sentiment. Citation

24 And in one place they were heard to cry, saying: O that we had repented before this great and terrible day, and then would our brethren have been spared, and they would not have been burned in that great city Zarahemla.

Are they right that their brethren would have been spared if they (the speakers, not the brethren) had repented?  Because this sort of sounds as if other parties were punished for their sins . . . is that what happened here?  If so, how do we reconcile that with the idea of personal responsibility?

Why is the focus in this verse on the city of Zarahemla and not somewhere else or the destruction in general?  Or is it just coincidental that Z. is mentioned here?

 25 And in another place they were heard to cry and mourn, saying: O that we had repented before this great and terrible day, and had not killed and stoned the prophets, and cast them out; then would our mothers and our fair daughters, and our children have been spared, and not have been buried up in that great city Moronihah. And thus were the howlings of the people great and terrible.

Why the reference to mothers (which is very unusual in the BoM here)?

Mothers/daughters/children is an odd grouping–what happened to their wives?  Why mention the daughters twice (since they would be included in the children as well)?

Again, is it true that these things would not have happened if they had repented?  On the one hand, they had been told that they would be destroyed if they didn’t repent.  On the other hand, the timing here–they aren’t just being destroyed.  These signs were timed to happen at the death of Jesus Christ.  So is the sign primarily about the death, or is it about their destruction for not repenting?  Another way to put this:  If they had repented?  Would these signs have still happened?  (It is weird to think that if they had repented then they would not have been given a sign.)  There seems to be some overlap in this story between the idea of a “sign” (which lets you know about something else, in this case that Jesus was born and then died) or a “punishment” (which is how the people are treating it here, but I am not sure if I am supposed to be trusting their interpretation of events).

Again, does this verse picture innocent parties being punished for other people’s sins?  Is that what happened?  If so, is that just?  Does that happen now?

Again, is the Moronihah coincidental, or is there some reason for singling out that city (and Z. in the last verse)?  (This passage reminds me of when a news reporter checks in from a variety of locations with “on the scene” reporting.)

See 10:12:  they are wrong in their assessment of events here.  (I think.)

CHAPTER 9

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:

I feel a tension between “all the inhabitants of the earth” and “all the face of this land,” but it is probably just an indication that I am reading “all . . . earth” as wrong.  (In other words, it doesn’t mean “earth” the way we would think of it.  Take note, universal flood people.)

I wonder if there is something to be made of the fact that first we had the earth making noise, then we had the people making noise, and now we have in this verse the heavens making noise.

There was not originally a chapter break here.  (That may mean that we should see the voice as a response to the lament in the last two verses of the last chapter.  Do you read it differently if you do that?  My thought is that the expression of a desire to repent is what triggers the voice from heaven–the word “repent” in the next verse seems to suggest that, but leading off with a “wo” is interesting.)

 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!

OK, so the first time that you read this, don’t you expect a voice of comfort?  Because that’s what divine voices usually do, right?  They show up and say “fear not”?  We get just the opposite here.  I can’t think of any similar stories in the scriptures, which makes this one all the more surprising.

What effect does the repetition of “wo” have on the reader?

Should we contrast the devil’s happiness with the lament of the survivors at the end of the last chapter?

Does “whole earth” (note that “whole” wasn’t used in the previous verse) mean “whole earth”?  (It sounds like it would, but that is also a little weird since not everyone on the whole earth gets to hear this message.)

What kind of laughing is the devil doing:  happiness, revenge, sarcasm, victory, something else?

Note that this voice says “sons” but the complaint of the people at the end of the last chapter was “daughters” and then “children.”  Is that a significant shift?

Note that they are still “my people.”

So the laments at the end of the last chapter sounded as if the fallen fell because of the sins of those still living.  This verse makes it sound as if they fell because of their own sins.  What is going on here?

Are “iniquity” and “abomination” two different things or two ways of saying the same thing?

Thinking about v1-2, how would you describe Jesus’ attitude toward the dead and under what conditions might we want to model that attitude?

Robert D. Hales:

It is our sins that make the devil laugh, our sorrow that brings him counterfeit joy. Apr 2006 GC

 3 Behold, that great city Zarahemla have I burned with fire, and the inhabitants thereof.

Note that we are beginning a list of destruction.  Why do you think the voice chose to address this topic?  (My thought is that people would have had absolutely no way to know what had happened, and so there is a measure of mercy in giving them facts up front.  It is also a not-so-subtle reminder of the powers of heaven.)

Remember that Z. is the great center of Nephite civilization.  To begin by pointing out that it has been destroyed is to push a pin into whatever balloon of stability we thought we could create of human institutions (nations, banks, armies, social movements, whatever).  This verse is another way of saying, “I am more powerful than that thing that you thought was so powerful.”

 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.

Note that we get the lament of people from Z. (mentioned in the verse before this) and M. (mentioned in the verse after this), but no lament from the people from the city Moroni.  Is that significant?

Is they type of destruction (that is, burning versus sinking versus covering [in the next verse]) significant?

 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.

The “to hide . . .” line makes it sound as if the type of destruction is indeed significant–a “natural justice” kind of thing.  Is that true for the other cities?  If so, why wasn’t that made clear in those verses the way that it is made clear in this one?

The idea that M. was covered so the Lord couldn’t see their sins is, obviously, poetic.  What other parts of this speech should be read as poetry?  What does conceiving of the destruction of M. this way imply about the destructions in general?

The BoM doesn’t use “saints” very much–why does it do so here?

 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;

The absence of an explanation, along the lines of v5′s “to hide their iniquities,” feels pretty obvious here.  Why is there no explanation here?  Or should we be reading the explanation as coming for all of these cities in v7?

 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.

This is the second time we get the idea that they were destroyed so the Lord wouldn’t have to look at their ugly faces.  Do you read this just as a metaphor of their inability to qualify to be in the presence of the Lord?  (Which would be kind of interesting, since it implies that simply being alive on the earth is, in a limited sense, being in the presence of the Lord.)  Or is there something else going on here?

Does this verse imply that their physical destruction is an adequate punishment for killing the prophets and saints?  Is it?  (And I can’t believe that I am going to go here, but does this kinda sorta sound like the doctrine of blood atonement to you?)

Brant Gardner:

The theme of paralleled opposing destructions that was set in verses four and five is now repeated for a larger number of cities. The basic parallel is a city going down into water, and of a land coming up to bury a city. Both of these directional actions are unusual and unexpected. Water might rise up in flood, but we do not expect cities to go down into water. We might go dig down into earth to bury something, but the earth does not rise up to bury anything. The emphasis on these two unexpected “directions” tells us that these examples are representative of a larger purpose. That larger purpose lies in the very incongruity of the directions. This is not “natural,” and therefore it must come at the hand of an “unnatural” being – or from God. The message is that God is behind these destructions. Citation

 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.

Why do you think they were given this laundry list of cities?  What effect it would it have had on them and what effect should it have on you?

Note that some of these cities we have never even heard of before.

“That the blood . . .” becomes a refrain in these verses; what effect does its repetition have on the reader?  (See also v9 and 11.)

 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.

Does this verse imply that sin is quantifiable (“above all the wickedness . . .”)?  Is it?  How literally or hyperbolically do you read this?  (Remember that many ancient cities had slavery, forced prostitution, infanticide as socially acceptable, etc.  So to literally call this the most wicked means that our BoM writers have spared us some pretty gritty details.)

Note “because of their secret murders . . .”  Why would these things qualify as being the worst sins?  Especially the part about combinations?

Does this verse imply that peace and government are supreme values?  (It seems to me that making people live under an oppressive government is a horrible sin, but maybe not in line with individual things like torture, rape, etc.  Unless destroying the govt automatically translated to an increase in those things . . .)

Does this verse imply that burning is a worse fate than being buried, etc.?

Is there poetic justice in the idea that they destroyed the government and so they were destroyed?

 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.

 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.

What, if anything, is this verse saying about the presence of the righteous to preserve a wicked city?  (Kind of like when Abraham bargains over Sodom.  Or maybe that isn’t the point at all; maybe the point is that casting out the righteous was per se an indicator of their wickedness.)

I’m really struck by the repetition in this section–we’ve just heard almost verbatim this verse.  What effect does that have on the reader?

 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?

Again, at the end of the last chapter, these people acted as if innocents had died because of *their* sins.  But here we find out that the survivors are marginally more righteous.  So . . . they were wrong.  Why do you think their inaccurate words were included in the record?  Why do you think they thought that these really guilty people were innocent and thought that they were more wicked?  In other words, to what do you attribute their inversion of culpability?

Is it a universal principle that the righteous are spared?

Note that, despite the fact that they were marginally more righteous, they still needed to return and repent.  They weren’t that good.

Why do you think he is asking a question (instead of issuing a command) here?

There’s this weird thing happening here that the really wicked people die at the same time Christ dies.  That would seem to link the deaths, but that seems a little off.

The cynic asks:  If the people who had died had survived, don’t you think the physical catastrophes and voice from heaven would have led them to repent as well?  Why weren’t they given this same chance?

Does “all ye that were . . . than they” mean that every single survivor was more righteous than every single person who died, or does it mean that, at this moment, the speaker is only addressing the subset of survivors who were more righteous than those who died?

Notice the chain:  return, repent, be converted, be healed.  What do you make of this list?  What kind of healing is envisioned?  What is the difference between returning and repenting?  What does “be converted” mean and why is it item #3 on the list, when I’d think that it would need to be #1 in order to motivate the “returning”?

“Healed” strikes me as an unusual word to use in this context; what does it convey to you?

 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.

It seems that “coming unto me” is way too little to merit eternal life.

In the OT, the arm is usually a symbol for strength or power.

Why didn’t those who were killed in the destructions have an arm of mercy extended to them?

I think “coming” to Jesus is a metaphor.  It shows us moving toward him, perhaps on a journey.  What else can you learn from this metaphor?

 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.

The logical thing is for a speaker to introduce themselves before speaking.  What is accomplished by having the identity of the speaker withheld until this point?

Of all of the various names/titles that could have been used (Lamb, Only Begotten, Savior, Redeemer, etc.), why do you think “Son of God” was used here?

Why is the first thing mentioned that he created the heavens and the earth?  (Is that related to the recent destructions? I’m thinking Bill Cosby:  “I brought you into this world and I can take you out and make another one just like you.”)

What does it mean to glorify your name?  In what ways did Christ do that?

Based on this verse, how would you describe Jesus?

Why didn’t Jesus describe himself in v2 (as he does here)?

What is “the beginning”?  Does it mean the creation of the earth?  Pre-mortal life?  What?  Why would it have been important for these people to know that about Jesus at this point?

What does it mean to be “in” the Father and vice versa?  Is this related to the “glorifying” of a name?

Brant Gardner points out that this material would have been particularly important to the Nephites, who need to begin to understand how the Messiah relates to God.  They would likely not have had this knowledge before this point (hence the reference [before it was corrected] to Mary as the mother of God, etc., in the BoM.)

 16 I came unto my own, and my own received me not. And the scriptures concerning my coming are fulfilled.

Knowing that many of “his own” did receive them (that is, every faithful disciple), how do you understand the first sentence of this verse?

Does “the scriptures” include the words of Samuel the Lamanite?

Is there a warning for us in this verse?

In what sense were the people he came to “his own”?

 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.

Note “become.”  Usually we think of being children of God as something that we automatically are.  What is going on in this verse?

Is there a relationship here between redemption coming and the law being fulfilled?

Does this verse posit that receiving Christ and believing on his name are the same thing?  (Note the “even so;” unless the requirements for the two groups are different, then these have to be the same thing.)

Is believing on his name related to Jesus glorifying the name of the Father?

Why is redemption a good metaphor for what Jesus does for us?

What are the implications of saying that the Law of Moses was fulfilled in Jesus?  (How) is that related to the idea of the scriptures being fulfilled at the end of the last verse?

 18 I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.

Saying “I am the light” takes on extra punch when you remember the experience of darkness that these people are having!

Obviously, “alpha and omega” is a bit of translational license, since these people did not speak Greek.  (But I presume that they had some other phrase that signified “from beginning to end and everything in between” like “alpha and omega” does, and he does explain it by saying “the beginning and the end.”)

What, if anything, does the presence of the phrase “alpha and omega” imply about how Joseph Smith translated the BoM?

This article looks in detail at how Jesus identifies himself in these verses.

Grant Hardy points out that the reference to “the end” may have been especially poignant given that these people might have assumed that they were experiencing the end of the world.

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.

Many BoM prophets taught that the purpose of the law of Moses was to teach about the atonement before it happened.  Now that it has happened, there is no point in performing these ordinances.

Were these people performing temple rituals?  (I ask because they were pretty wicked.  Maybe Jesus is just speaking generally here.)

Is the reference to “the end” in v18 related to Jesus’ explanation of the end of animal sacrifices in this verse?

 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.

So there are still sacrifices–they just aren’t animal sacrifices.  What are the similarities and differences between animal sacrifices and the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit? If the purpose of the law of Moses was to teach about the atonement, then what is the purpose of these sacrifices?  My thought:  They are a sacrifice of human will and desire and attitude.

Note “sacrifices and burnt offerings” in the last verse and “broken heart and contrite spirit” in this verse.  Is sacrifice : broken heart : : burnt offerings : contrite spirit?

Webster 1828 contrite:  “Literally, worn or bruised.”

What is a broken heart?  What is a contrite spirit?  What does it mean to offer these up?  Why would it be a sacrifice to offer them up?

“Broken heart and contrite spirit” are mentioned in Psalm 51:17.  Modern translations usually go for something like “penitent heart” or “repentant spirit” or something.  The more fanciful ones use “shattered pride;” I think the image is correct even if it isn’t literal.

If you read backwards, you might conclude that the purpose of the animal sacrifices was to represent/teach about/prepare people for/symbolize a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  How did it do this?  What might we learn from that that is relevant to how we think about our ordinances today?

What does it mean to baptize with fire?  Is it a different thing from the Holy Ghost?  (Note the phrasing of this verse.)

Does this mean that the baptism with fire happens by this voice, or does it mean that it happens through intermediaries?

That shout-out to the Lamanites is pretty powerful, given the historical enmity between them and the Nephites.

Why was “at the time of their conversion” included in this verse?  (It opens the door for them to lose their faith.)

How is it possible to be baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost and not to know it?  What should we learn from this verse?  What does it teach us about Nephite (well, technically, Lamanite) religion?  Does something similar happen today?

 21 Behold, I have come unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin.

Does “to save the world from sin” explain what “redemption” is?

Does “I have come into the world” refer to his mortal ministry, or to this visit to the Nephites, or what?

Do you normally think of redemption as something that you can “bring”?  (It sounds like Jesus tucked it into a shopping bag or something.)

Why does he say “to save the world from sin” instead of “to save penitent people” or something?  (In other words, I think this phrasing could open up ground to continue the apostate teaching we see more than once in the BoM that people can be saved *in* their sins.  Although I suppose the previous verses about broken heart and contrite spirit should preclude that [mis] reading.)

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.

What does “as a little child” mean?  That is, what characteristics of young children are in view here?  Remember that no ancient society that we know of thought of young children as the pure, joyful, etc. little creatures that we do–they either thought of them as miniature adults or as wicked people who needed the devil beaten out of them.

Does this verse imply that repenting and coming to Jesus as a child are two separate things?  (Or just two ways of saying the same thing?)

I like the way that Jesus’ life is sandwiched by references to our ability to repent.

What exactly is the kingdom of God?

Jesus describes his life as if it were almost a garment that could be laid aside and then taken up again.  What do you learn from this image?

What effect would “ends of the earth” have had on this audience?

General thought:  So this is quite a different introduction to Jesus than the Old World people get.  What can you learn from comparing them?

Another general thought:  Notice what Jesus chose to mention and the order that it was presented in (wos, his identity, fate of wicked, law of sacrifices done away, what they should do now, etc.–and there are probably other ways to parse this and other items to include).  How should this inform your presentation of the gospel to others?

CHAPTER 10

1 And now behold, it came to pass that all the people of the land did hear these sayings, and did witness of it. And after these sayings there was silence in the land for the space of many hours;

Note that there was originally no chapter break here, so what is happening is the immediate result of what Jesus said at the end of the last chapter.

What does it mean to witness of something in this context?

Why mention the silence?  What caused it?  What are we supposed to learn from it?  (See v2 for more on this.)  Note particularly the juxtaposition of “sayings” and “silence.”

Note the “behold”–that means that the author is working hard to call our attention to something.

 2 For so great was the astonishment of the people that they did cease lamenting and howling for the loss of their kindred which had been slain; therefore there was silence in all the land for the space of many hours.

Is astonishment the reaction that you would have expected?  (Shouldn’t they have been rejoicing or something?)

Note that, unlike the destructions, there is not a specific time frame for the silence given here.

3 And it came to pass that there came a voice again unto the people, and all the people did hear, and did witness of it, saying:

Does this mean that the voice deliberately took a break?  If so, why?  Should we be making some distinction between the kinds of things said in the first speech and what is said in the second speech?  (Crazy speculation alert: what if the first speech was pre-resurrection and the second was post?)

Notice that this time, the voice is introduced with the idea that the people are witnesses of it.  But that wasn’t the case last time.  Why the difference?

 4 O ye people of these great cities which have fallen, who are descendants of Jacob, yea, who are of the house of Israel, how oft have I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and have nourished you.

What’s the point of reminding them of their lineage?  Is there any relation to the fact that, the first time they heard the voice, they were told of the voice’s lineage (“Son of God,” etc.)?

Last time, the voice began with wos.  This time, it begins with a comforting message of gathering.  To what do you attribute the change?  (Seriously, this is like an entirely different Jesus.)

Notice that Jesus is comparing himself to a mother hen in this passage.  Why is a mother hen a good image for our relationship with Jesus?

In the last speech, the voice said that he was the creator of heaven and earth. This time, he compares himself to a chicken.  (I know that sounds flippant; I didn’t mean it to.  It is just what the text does.)  How do you explain this shift?

What kind of nourishment does Jesus provide?

The hen image is used frequently in scriptures; usually, the idea is the protection (from weather or predators) that the wings can provide.  Here, particular mention is made of the nourishing aspect of the relationship.

Remember that in the last chapter, we were told to become as little children.  Here, that imagery is, in a sense, continued.

Mae Blanch:

The image of the hen calling after her chickens to come to the shelter and safety of her wings portrays the love of the Savior, his desire to nourish his children, to keep them safe from their common enemy, Satan, to shelter them from the storms of life, to give them the opportunity to grow and fulfill the promise of their nature. The image suggests other ideas as well. The chickens have strayed away from the hen. They have been lured from safety by their desire for adventure or rebellion, out into the tempting world where danger lurks beside every step. The hen calls to her chickens, but they must come of their own volition. They are not forced under her wings; they are invited, even urged, but they must exercise their own agency. In using this metaphor, the Lord designates his call to those of the fallen cities, who are descendants of Jacob, and to those of the house of Israel, who live at Jerusalem, establishing the right of the Savior to issue the call to repentance—they are his people who owe him obedience. And his use of the three verbs: “how oft have I gathered you; . . . how oft would I have gathered you; . . . how oft will I gather you” emphasizes his timeless call to repentance—past, present, and future. The Savior’s love is always there. His arms are always extended in mercy as long as there is any hope for his children to return to him. The true nature of repentance is not a test, not an indulgence, but a gift of love. It is one that we must take—it cannot be forced upon us.  Citation

 5 And again, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, who have fallen; yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, ye that dwell at Jerusalem, as ye that have fallen; yea, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not.

The “again” makes the repetition explicit.  Why was this material repeated?

“Who have fallen” was used in the last chapter to refer to those who had died.  Is it used the same way here?  (That is, is the audience for this speech the dead or the living? Does “whom I have spared” in the next verse imply anything?)

Is the Jrsm reference to the Old World or New World city?

Is Jesus’ goal here to inspire regret?  Or what?

 6 O ye house of Israel whom I have spared, how oft will I gather you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, if ye will repent and return unto me with full purpose of heart.

What does “full purpose of heart” mean?  How can you know if you have it?

Are “repent” and “return” two different things or two ways of saying the same thing?

I think there is a lot to be said about Jesus using an extremely feminized, maternal, nurturing, caretaking type image for himself.  Down with social constructions of gender!

Note the repetition in v4, 5, and 6, but note the tense changes:  v4 is the past, v5 is the contra-factual past, and v6 is the future.

Brant Gardner:

The New World would have been familiar with turkeys, but not chickens. Nevertheless, the imagery would be easily transferred. We might therefore expect that what these New World people heard was their word for turkeys, and Joseph Smith simply translated hen on the basis of the New Testament passages. Citation

7 But if not, O house of Israel, the places of your dwellings shall become desolate until the time of the fulfilling of the covenant to your fathers.

Haven’t their dwelling places *already* become desolate?  So what then would this verse mean?

Does this verse imply that their places will become un-desolate in order to fulfill the covenant to their fathers?  If so, what exactly does that mean?

This seems like an unfinished discourse; I think the first time that you read it, you expect the voice from heaven to continue in the next verse, but it doesn’t.  What’s going on here?

8 And now it came to pass that after the people had heard these words, behold, they began to weep and howl again because of the loss of their kindred and friends.

Thinking about the big structure:  Jesus spoke once, then stopped.  The people responded to that by stopping their mourning and being astonished.  Jesus spoke again, in v4-7.  And then, in this verse, the people resume their mourning.  It almost seems as if Jesus was not happy with their reaction of mourning-stopped-amazement-engaged, and came back to tell them stuff that would make them mourn again.  That doesn’t sound quite right to me, but that’s what it reads like.  What’s going on here?

9 And it came to pass that thus did the three days pass away. And it was in the morning, and the darkness dispersed from off the face of the land, and the earth did cease to tremble, and the rocks did cease to rend, and the dreadful groanings did cease, and all the tumultuous noises did pass away.

What does the first sentence mean?  (I kind of think it implies that the voice continued to speak to them over the three days.)

Remember that the setting here is that Jesus is speaking to them at the time that his body is in the tomb.  How does that impact your interpretation of what is happening here?

Why did we need to know that this happened in the morning?  (Is the point to tie the end of darkness to the resurrection?)

I guess I hadn’t realized that the earth was trembling and rocks rending this whole time until I read this; I thought the last chapter implied that the physical stuff had stopped when the darkness started.

So was all of this noise happening during the silence between the two speeches? (If so, I would visualize the scene kind of differently.  For one thing, the silence isn’t silence; it is the absence of human voices.  For another thing, Jesus is speaking over these ‘natural’ sounds.)

10 And the earth did cleave together again, that it stood; and the mourning, and the weeping, and the wailing of the people who were spared alive did cease; and their mourning was turned into joy, and their lamentations into the praise and thanksgiving unto the Lord Jesus Christ, their Redeemer.

What does the cleaving mean?  (What does “that it stood” mean?)  Does it have to do with the resurrection?  Is it symbolic or literal?  (If you wanted to be really weird, you could take the earth as a symbol for Jesus–the cleaving together would suggest the re-joining of his body and spirit.)

This verse makes it sound as if their mourning wasn’t really mourning (otherwise, I think it would have continued) but more like fear that these natural catastrophic events would spell their own death.  What’s going on here?

It seems that the mourning should have been turned to joy when Jesus spoke with them, not when the earthquake stopped.  Why does it happen this way instead?

Why does it say “darkness dispersed” as opposed to “light shined”?  (If it was a volcano, this might literally be describing the end of the ash cloud.  But that still doesn’t explain how it would work symbolically, where we need to grapple with the idea that the light really was there all along, but we just couldn’t perceive it because of the ash.  How does that work when they have been listening to Jesus speak directly to them–isn’t that a light in the darkness, especially when he says “I am the light”?)

11 And thus far were the scriptures fulfilled which had been spoken by the prophets.

To what is this referring?  (Sam?)

Why was this verse included in the record?

I presume that this is an editorial insertion, but it seems like a weird one.  You have two speeches directly from Jesus to a traumatized people, and your lede is “scripture fulfilled”?

12 And it was the more righteous part of the people who were saved, and it was they who received the prophets and stoned them not; and it was they who had not shed the blood of the saints, who were spared—

Don’t we already know that the more righteous part were saved?

How do we reconcile this verse’s idea of people who received the prophets with what Jesus said about the need of the people to repent and be converted?  (In other words, it almost seems like our editor is making the people out to be morally superior to the way that Jesus described them.)

Thinking about how the principle in this verse might apply today:  what does receiving the prophets spare us from?

13 And they were spared and were not sunk and buried up in the earth; and they were not drowned in the depths of the sea; and they were not burned by fire, neither were they fallen upon and crushed to death; and they were not carried away in the whirlwind; neither were they overpowered by the vapor of smoke and of darkness.

I can totally understand the desire to write an editorial summary, but, really, you think we missed this part of the story?  Why was this included?  (I suspect there is a reason and I further suspect that it is related to the “let the reader understand” statement in the next verse.  But I am not entirely sure what it means.)

14 And now, whoso readeth, let him understand; he that hath the scriptures, let him search them, and see and behold if all these deaths and destructions by fire, and by smoke, and by tempests, and by whirlwinds, and by the opening of the earth to receive them, and all these things are not unto the fulfilling of the prophecies of many of the holy prophets.

Shout-outs to the reader are most unusual.  What effect does this one have on the reader?  Why is it here?

Note the similarity to Mark 13:14:  “But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judæa flee to the mountains.”  What else do these passages have in common.

Note how this verse takes a story about Other People that happened Somewhere Else at Another Time and transfers it into something immediately accessible and relevant to the reader.

Notice how the editor is giving you a homework assignment in this verse; you haven’t just been watching the History Channel; you’ve been reading something that is supposed to directly impact your life.

Maybe I am just reading this wrong, but it seems a little weird to me that Mormon (or whoever’s) take home for us from the last few chapters is “See!   The scriptures WERE fulfilled!” instead of “Jesus died; repent!” or something.  Why do you think Mormon chose to emphasize the scripture-fulfillment angle of this story instead of some other angle?

15 Behold, I say unto you, Yea, many have testified of these things at the coming of Christ, and were slain because they testified of these things.

Note again the “I” and the “you.”  The writer is working really hard here to draw the audience into the story.

There is a bit of poetic justice in that prophets were slain for preaching about the coming of Christ and people who didn’t believe the prophets were slain at the coming of Christ.

Is this just an “I told you so!” verse, or is there more going on here?  (Maybe a warning of what we should expect as we proclaim the truth?)

Brant Gardner:

The important information that Mormon sees is that the coming of the Messiah is associated with destruction.  Citation

. . . and I think he’s right, but it sure sounds weird when you put it that way!  Shouldn’t the coming of the Messiah have been associated with unicorns and rainbows?  You know, good stuff?

16 Yea, the prophet Zenos did testify of these things, and also Zenock spake concerning these things, because they testified particularly concerning us, who are the remnant of their seed.

I think there is something delicious about the fact that this OT prophet Zenos is unknown to us in the OT and only barely known from the BoM.  And yet our writer here is writing about him as if we knew him better than Isaiah.  What effect does all of this have on the reader?  (I suppose you could make the case that we were supposed to get all of this from the allegory of the olive tree, but . . .)

17 Behold, our father Jacob also testified concerning a remnant of the seed of Joseph. And behold, are not we a remnant of the seed of Joseph? And these things which testify of us, are they not written upon the plates of brass which our father Lehi brought out of Jerusalem?

Why rhetorical questions here?  What effect do they have on the reader?

18 And it came to pass that in the ending of the thirty and fourth year, behold, I will show unto you that the people of Nephi who were spared, and also those who had been called Lamanites, who had been spared, did have great favors shown unto them, and great blessings poured out upon their heads, insomuch that soon after the ascension of Christ into heaven he did truly manifest himself unto them—

Note the unusual “I” and “you” again.

If they had great favors, why was the first thing that Jesus said unto them “wo”?

What does the word “poured” suggest to you about blessings?

Note that this verse serves as a preview of coming attractions.  We don’t always get one of those; why do we get one here?

Does “truly manifest” mean that the voice was different than a true manifestation?  (Does the next verse explain this?)

If we read 10:11-18 as an editorial insertion from Mormon, note that what he is emphasizing in the advent of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of prophecy.  On the one hand, this seems logical.  On the other hand, at the Second Coming, do you think there are going to be more people thinking about the fact that Jesus is there or more people thinking about the fact that prophecies have been fulfilled?

19 Showing his body unto them, and ministering unto them; and an account of his ministry shall be given hereafter. Therefore for this time I make an end of my sayings.

Something about the reference to “body” in this verse calls attention to the fact that the last two manifestations were a voice.

What does “ministering” mean?

Some people find a timing conflict in the timing of the appearance; Brant Gardner explores it all here.

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.

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.

Is the temple setting significant? (Were they there to worship? Animal sacrifices?  Or just because it was the public gathering place?)

Was there any destruction in Bountiful?  (I don’t think it was mentioned . . .)  Note that there are “changes” here, but I wonder if that is the same thing.

Grant Hardy points out that there is no time frame given here.  (Further support for my theory that Jesus’ life was not necessarily 33 years.)  I think most LDS readers assume that this visit is pretty much the day after the destructions ended, but there is really no evidence for that.

Something about that picture of them showing each other the changes interests me . . .

Are the physical changes meant to mirror the change from the law of Moses to the gospel?  If so, what might we learn from this?

This article suggests that the phrase “great and marvelous change” refers to the effects of the atonement, not to the physical changes.  I think it would be most likely to be both, and that that is a brilliant bit of Symbolism for Dummies to make the point that the effects of the atonement are as huge as the natural cataclysms that they have experienced.  (Of course, if I were in charge of the world and were going to make that parallel, I’d make the changes a touch  more positive and less deadly–wouldn’t that better reflect the meaning of the atonement?)  If the “change” does refer to the atonement, then what would they have been doing to “show one another” it?  (My thought:  probably animal sacrifices, now that they had a better understanding of what they could mean?)

2 And they were also conversing about this Jesus Christ, of whom the sign had been given concerning his death.

What work is “this” doing in this sentence?

Shouldn’t “of whom . . . death” be obvious to anyone who has been paying the teenist bit of attention?  So why then is it mentioned?

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.

There’s that crazy-making “as if” again.  Does that mean that the voice did not come out of heaven?  (Compare v5.  Does that mean something has changed, or was the “as if” just boilerplate?)

The set-up makes it seem significant that they hear the voice while they are talking to each other about Jesus.  What are we supposed to learn from this?

Why mention the casting about of the eyes?  (Note that there is a lot more stage direction and detail in this verse than we usually get in the BoM.  It make this verse easier to visualize and, I think, adds to its impression of importance by making the events much more concrete in the eyes of the reader.)

Why didn’t they understand the voice?  Does that mean that this voice differed from the voice in the last two chapters?  (Because presumably they were able to understand that voice, right?)

Were they expecting harsh or loud, after the last few chapters?

Again, did the voice in the last chapters not pierce them to the center?  If not, why not?

Does “that did hear” imply that there were some people there who didn’t hear this voice? (Cf. the previous two voices, where we are told that everyone heard it.)

Is the piercing here related to the fact that Jesus was pierced?  (Note that his wounds, including the one in his side, are about to take center stage.)

Is it significant that pretty much as soon as the earth stops quaking, they start quaking?  (Seriously, I think you could read the changes in the earth as a template for the internal changes that should happen:  we have fire to mirror the baptism by fire, we have rent rocks to mirror the broken heart, we have the burning heart like unto the burning cities, etc.)

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.

Echoes of Samuel not recognizing the voice of the Lord on the first few tries here?

What does it mean to “open your ears”?  Presumably, that aids in their understanding, but what exactly does it mean?  I’m having a hard time escaping the image of them mentally tuning a radio dial here.  (I bet my kids don’t even know what a radio dial is.)

6 And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them:

Why do they have a harder time understanding this voice than they did the one in the last chapter?  (Does it have anything to do with it being the Father and not the Son?)

I think most people struggle with being able to identify what is and what is not inspiration.  Is there anything that you see in this passage that might help you in that struggle?

Brant Gardner ties the three hours and three days to the 3x voice here.

7 Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.

How does this compare with the other times that the Father introduces the Son in scripture?

Why doesn’t the Father introduce himself here?

Are “beloved” and “well pleased” two different things or two ways of saying the same thing?

How does the intro that the Father gives the Son compare with the intro that the Son gave himself in the previous chapter?  Are the differences (in content, or in form of having the Father introduce the Son instead of the Son introduce himself) due to the fact that the Son has been resurrected in the interim?

Why do you think these particular three descriptions were chosen?

Note that commands directly from the Father (“hear ye him”) are exceedingly rare in the scriptures.

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.

Why are we told what he is wearing?

Ha!  I didn’t like the fact that “Man” was capitalized in this verse and lo and behold Skousen points out that it was not originally capitalized!  I called that one!

Note that there is an awful lot of attention paid to what the eyes of the crowd are focused on in this story.  Why?

Note that the changes in the landscape were an appropriate topic of conversation for them, but this is not.

Why on earth would they think that an angel had appeared to them when a voice from heaven just told them that it would be the Son?  (This is really bizarre.)

Note that their understanding wasn’t compete (they thought he was an angel!) but rather line upon line.  And note how gently and kindly the Lord is working with them to improve their understanding.

Would it be correct to think that their understanding was required before they could see Jesus?

Is this silence related to their silence after Jesus spoke to them before?

Brant Gardner:

Christ descends dressed in white. When the modern reader sees this passage we immediately understand that the clothing is symbolic of the purity of the risen Lord. There would have been a different cultural assumption for a people who lived in Mesoamerica. As in Asia, the Mesoamerican association of white was with death. Thus one descending in white would be declaring that this was one who was, or had, died. Citation

9 And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying:

Is the stretching forth of the hand ritually significant?

10 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.

This is just like Mormon’s commentary in the last chapter–the emphasis on Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy/scripture.  Why was this theme emphasized so heavily?

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.

Why is a bitter cup a good metaphor for performing the atonement?

What should we learn from the fact that the Father would give his beloved son a bitter cup?

In any other context, we might assume unkind feelings re the idea of introducing yourself re a bitter cup someone else gave you.  Clearly, that isn’t the case here–so why is that language used?

Why would taking on sins glorify the father?

Why is it even possible for one person to take another person’s sins on them?  (Seriously.)

Often in the scriptures, “suffered” means “allowed,” but that doesn’t seem to be the meaning here.

What does “from the beginning” do here?  (It makes it sound as if the suffering wasn’t limited to the atonement but went all the way back to the creation, but that doesn’t sound quite right.)

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.

What emotion is expressed by falling to the earth?

Had they forgotten those prophecies until this minute?

It seems that they are reacting more to the fact that this event fulfills prophecy than they are reacting to the event itself.  What might we learn from that?

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.

Does this verse imply that physical experiences can lead to knowledge in a way that the voice of the Father and the witness of the eyes and ears alone could not?

After 2000 years, we are used to this, but there is something deeply weird about a god permitting people to feel his wounds.  Deeply, deeply weird.

Why would feeling his wounds help them “know” that he was the God of Israel?  Is there anything in that idea that is relevant to us today?

Notice God of Israel, God of whole earth, slain for the sins of the world.  What do you learn from the pairing of those three items.

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.

Notice see, feel, know, bear record.  What might we learn from this?

“Thrust” is a pretty strong, violent word.  (Webster 1828 thrust:  “To push or drive with force”)  Does it have that connotation here and, if so, why?

I sense that there is a huge lesson about embodiment and physicality here.  Also something about the fact that the real way that they identified Jesus was by his wounds (not his power to work miracles or his preaching or whatever).  And the fact that they didn’t know or bear record until they felt his wounds–not after the voice of the Father, not after seeing Jesus descend from heaven, not after hearing him speak.

General question:  In the New Testament, touching Jesus’ wounds is what “doubting” Thomas does.  We are supposed to view that incident, I think, as showing faith inferior to someone who would believe without having touched his wounds.  But in the New World, Jesus makes this offer to the people to touch them, and the execution of it feels almost ritualized and ordinance-like.  (I don’t think there is any indication that their faith was weak.  Or are we just supposed to import that idea from what we know of the NT?)  What’s going on here?

Brant Gardner:

The mathematics of this episode indicate that “until they had all gone forth,” is either hyperbole or we are dealing with a longer period of time than a single day. If each person were to spend a minute with the Lord, only 720 people could come to the Lord in 12 hours of daylight. Obviously cutting the amount of time spent would decrease the amount of time required, but when  we consider that in addition to this event we have various sermons and have no indication of the ending of a session with the Lord until the end of our chapter 18, then we appear to have more events than will fit into a day. Citation

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.

Is this the reaction that you would have expected?

Is there a relationship between touching the wounds on his feet and falling at his feet?

Did their physical experience lead them to belief?  (If so, is that idea problematic?)

If it is true that they increased in faith/testimony when they felt Jesus’ wounds (and that’s why they worship here and not verses earlier), then that implies that neither the destructions, nor Jesus’ voice, not the Fathers’ introduction had the same effect on them as feeling Jesus’ wounds.  What might we learn from this?

Note that they are blessing God’s name here.  Is this related to the idea Jesus articulated of his suffering resulting in the glorification of his Father’s name?

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.

Why do we get the aside that Nephi was among the multitude?  Wasn’t that to be assumed?

19 And Nephi arose and went forth, and bowed himself before the Lord and did kiss his feet.

Interesting that this is Nephi’s account, but he appears to be writing about himself in the third person.

20 And the Lord commanded him that he should arise. And he arose and stood before him.

Notice the slow pacing and detail of this verse and the ones before it.  Why do we get this level of detail?

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.

Why is this the first thing that happens after they feel his wounds?  (How) does it relate to their feeling of his wounds?

Was the power to baptize transmitted via this sentence, or is there a laying on of hands here that we don’t hear about (and given the precise detail of the last few verses, why then would we lack the detail here)?

Are you surprised that this verse wasn’t preceded by a discussion about baptism?  (It seems a little abrupt.)

Wouldn’t Nephi have already had the power to baptize?  What’s going on here?

Is “when I am again ascended” significant?  That is, does Nephi not get this power to later?  If not, why not?

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.

Why aren’t the others named here?

Note that the Lord seems particularly concerned that they not dispute about baptism.  Why might this be?  Why don’t we see something similar in the NT?  (Where the texts, at least as we have them, have sufficient ambiguity re the necessity of and mode of baptism that the disputes have not, as of this writing, yet died down.)

Note that the directions-for-avoiding-dispute aren’t given to Nephi (or:  just to Nephi).  Why might this be significant?

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.

“Through your words” sounds a little weird to me–why do you think it was phrased this way?

What role does “desire” play in this verse?  (That was a huge word earlier in the BoM, but seems to have fallen out of favor in recent centuries.)

Why was it important for them to stand in the water?

24 And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying:

Why do we call someone by name when we baptize them?  

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.

Compare v23 with v25.  Why are we baptized by the authority of only one member of the Godhead but in the name of all three members?

26 And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water.

I would have thought the part about coming out of the water would have been a given.  ;)  Why do you think it was mentioned?

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.

Remember that “behold” means “look.”  In the NT, “verily I say unto you” serves as a sign of the seriousness and authenticity of the words that are spoken.  Combined, this is Jesus speaking in ALL CAPS here.  Why would he have wanted to highlight the words that follow?  How do those words relate to baptism (which, I think, the logic of the verse makes clear that they really do)?  What is it exactly about the proper method for baptism that is related to the fact that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one?

What does it mean to say that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one?  In what sense are they one?  How does that mesh with the idea from the end of the verse that the various figures can be “in” each other?  (Which, it seems to me, means that there is some sense in which they are not one.) Given that this chapter began with the Father introducing the Son in a way that one person would introduce another person, not the way that one person would introduce himself), what does it mean to say that they are one?  And how does this relate to baptism?

Why does the end of the verse emphasize the unity of the Son and the Father but not mention the Holy Ghost.  (This seems particularly noticeable given the reference to the Holy Ghost in the middle of the verse.)

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.

Note that the discussion of the unity of the Godhead is framed by references to baptism.  How should this structure impact how we interpret what this passage is teaching about baptism and what it is teaching about the Godhead?

Had they been disputing about baptism?  (I don’t remember that.)

How might a better understanding of the relationship of the members of the Godhead have led them to dispute less about baptism?  (Or:  How might a lack of that understanding have led them to dispute about baptism?)

This verse makes it sound as if disputes about baptism and disputes about points of doctrine are two entirely separate things.  Is that the case?

We get great detail meant to get rid of the disputes about baptism, but not a word as to what the disputes about doctrine were about, let alone how to solve them.  Why might this be?

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.

Let’s talk about contention.  Is contention always bad?  What should we do in response to contention?  Is it always possible to avoid contention?  (Is it always better to turn the other cheek?)  What is the spirit of contention?

What does the word “father” in this verse suggest?  (Compare the reference to the Father in the previous verse.)

What does the image of hearts being stirred up suggest?

Does the phrase “contend with anger” imply that it is possible to contend without anger?

What work is “one with another” doing in this verse?  (Wouldn’t that have been obvious?  Why mention it?)

Notice that the last verse was about disputes and this one is about contentions.  Are those the same thing?

So let’s say you are a missionary and some of the other missionaries in your area are baptizing incorrectly somehow but claim that what they are doing is correct and you are wrong.  How can you address that without disputing or being contentious?

It is interesting to think of Satan bending people’s ears and encouraging them to baptism incorrectly to cause disputes and contentions.

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.

The word “doctrine” in this passage seems to mean something other than the way we usually use that word.  How would you define it in this section?  (I’m thinking it is more like “policy” or “attitude” or something.)

Compare “one against another” with “one with another” in the previous verse.  Are these the same thing?  Why mention it?

31 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.

Does this verse refer to the one before it or the one after it or both?

Why is this verse here?  (Note that you could go from v30 to v32 and everything would read just fine.)

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.

Notice that he calls it “my” doctrine but says that it comes from the Father.

Notice that Jesus introduces this doctrine with a strong testimony of its authenticity.

Why did Jesus want us to know that this doctrine came from the Father?

What does this verse teach you about the Godhead?

Why do you think “everywhere” was included?  (“All men” seems like it would cover it, so I think the emphasis is intentional.)

What do you make of the shift from talking about baptism and contention to here, where we are talking about repent and belief?

Is the order “repent and believe” significant?  Don’t we usually think of belief as coming before repentance?

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.

What does it mean in inherit the kingdom of God?  Is it the same as being saved?

34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.

What does “damned” mean?  (No, really?)

Do v33-34 present a binary afterlife?  Where’s all the different kingdoms?

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.

Re-read v32-34.  Is this what we usually think of as “doctrine”?  Why do you think that this is what Jesus chose to focus on here?  Remember that he began with the baptism dispute; why was that first?

What does “from the Father” modify in this sentence?

Is it possible to believe in Jesus without believing in the father?  (Why mention this?)

Why would the Father bear record of the Son specifically to someone who already believed in the Son?  (Is that what this verse is saying?)

What does fire mean in this verse?   Is it the same thing as the Holy Ghost?

Jim F. asks why covenants, ordinances, and enduring to the end aren’t mentioned in this passage.

Note the structure of v32-35:  v32 and v35 are very similar, except the person who believes is invited to join in the relationship of the Godhead.  These verses sandwich v33-34, and those verses are a nice antithetical parallelism. There’s a lot going on here.  I hope I’m not going too far to suggest that I think this structure suggests that the difference between being saved and damned is having a relationship with the Godhead–a relationship described in v35 and fundamentally based on whether one chooses to believe in Christ.

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.

Note that this verse says that the three are one, but at the same time sees them acting separately.  So what does “one” mean in this verse?  (I think you could say that this verse describes what it means to be one.  And the answer is:  to be bearing record of each other, one in purpose.)

How do you explain the similarities and differences between v35 and v36?

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.

Why is this material repeated (note the “again”).

In what ways should adults become as children?

What are the things that might be received?

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.

Note the order shift with baptism and becoming as a little child from v37 to v38.  Is this significant?

Note the shift from “receive these things” to “inherit the kingdom of God.” Is that significant?

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.

What would it look like to build on this doctrine?  (What kinds of things might one build?)

It is easy to imagine building on a rock, but harder to imagine the gates of hell (not) prevailing against something build on a rock.  What’s going on in this verse?  (Does v40 clarify?)

What are the gates of hell?  How might gates of hell prevail?  Why are “gates” a good metaphor for (whatever they are a metaphor for)?

Notice the similarity to Matthew 16:18:  “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  What is interesting about that is that “this rock” in that verse is either Peter or revelation (depending on how you read it).  In the BoM context, this rock is “my doctrine.”  Also, in Matthew, Jesus is building a church on the rock but in the BoM, the believer is building (something) on the rock.

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.

Does this verse prohibit declaring anything more than Jesus has just said?  (On the one hand, that seems ridiculous.  On the other hand, that is what this verse says.)

I think the image in v39-40 is this:  if you build on a rocky foundation, you stay in the house you built during a flood.  If you build on a sandy foundation, you pass through the gates of hell, which are open.  What can you learn from this image?

What are the floods and the winds?  (Is this related at all to all of the destruction that they have just experienced?)

41 Therefore, go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth.

How does the “therefore” work in this verse?

General thoughts:

(1) This article explores what natural phenomena might have been behind the signs at Jesus’ death.  As does this article. And this one.  One more.  And another one.  (I can totally understand why it would be important to present a plausible case to critics that this is an authentic historical text.  At the same time, it makes me deeply sad that most of what LDS have written about these chapters has been about the natural disaster angle.)

(2) It is easy to view the God of this section as a God of destruction and vengeance.  Here is a different approach:

 I am a diabetic; my doctor gives me certain laws—do’s and don’t’s—which I must obey to control my illness. I must avoid excessive fats and sugars in my diet and eat only moderate amounts of other foods. I must exercise regularly. I must take insulin injections twice a day and test my blood sugar three times a day. I must avoid undue exertion, get proper rest, and watch carefully for any minor infections, especially on my feet. I need to check in with my doctor on a regular basis to monitor the progress of my disease. If I follow these “commandments,” I may control my illness and receive the blessing of health. If, however, I yield to the temptation of a hot fudge sundae or a Kara chocolate truffle, or decide to stay in bed an extra hour rather than rise and jog, I do not say my doctor is punishing me when my blood sugar climbs to unacceptable levels. And if I continue to ignore his instructions and wind up in the hospital, I don’t expect to say, “I’m sorry; please forgive me” and have my health immediately restored. My repentance must involve both ceasing to break the doctor’s “laws” and changing my attitude, not resenting the restrictions placed on my license to do as I please, nor expecting to avoid the inevitable consequences of my foolish actions. Thus, obedience is required to the laws which the doctor understands are required for me to live and be healthy, and they are given to me for my well-being and to help me achieve my goals, not to complicate my life or deny me pleasure.  Citation

(3) This article compares Moses and Jesus.

(4) What do you learn from the Nephite experience of the coming of Jesus Christ that can help you prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?

(5) The gospels have famously been described as “passion narratives [=the story of Jesus' death and resurrection] with extended introductions.”  We might call the BoM an appearance-of-Jesus-Christ narrative with an extended (oh, you know, about 600 years) introduction.  In that context, I find it fascinating that, when Jesus finally shows up, the very first thing he talks about is disputes over baptism.  Is this what you would have expected?  Why does this happen?  What are we to take from it?  (I don’t think there are any significant disputes over baptism within the church today, as there are about other issues.  On the other hand, this is a big issue for the larger world, and likely to be an issue for investigators.  Maybe that’s why it is there.)

(6) Why do you think that the Old World didn’t see the kinds of natural disasters at the time of Jesus’ death that (parts of) the New World saw?

(7) Grant Hardy points out that when Jesus appears before the Nephites, he never mentions the destructions.

(8) Thomas S. Monson:

In the Western Hemisphere, those long centuries ago, people doubted, disputed, and disobeyed until the fire consumed Zarahemla, the earth covered Moronihah, and water engulfed the land of Moroni. Jeering, mocking, ribaldry, and sin were no more. They had been replaced by sullen silence, dense darkness. The patience of God had expired, his timetable fulfilled.  Must we learn such costly lessons over and over again? When we fail to profit from the experiences of the past, we are doomed to repeat them with all their heartache, suffering, and anguish. Haven’t we the wisdom to obey him who designed the plan of salvation—rather than that serpent who despised its beauty? April 1967 GC

(9)  The NT present four (very different) introductions to the story of Jesus.  The BoM presents a fifth (very, very different) introduction to the story of Jesus.  What different impression is created in the reader by a stylized genealogy (Matthew), a baptism (Mark), a family story (Luke), a cosmic and philosophical story (John), and a whole bunch of natural disasters (3 Nephi)?  What should we learn from the presence of these different portraits?

(10) General thought:  For the Nephites who have the experience of watching the destruction of their home cities and being spared because they are more righteous, they are in a sense re-experiencing the life of Lehi and his family.  (Now, Lehi wasn’t there when Jrsm was destroyed, so the analogy isn’t perfect, but he knew about it through revelation.)  I think these people are put into the position of being their own little Lehis and moving forward from that point.

(11) I normally go through all the entries in the General Conference Citation Index, but this week I got a little sidetracked and didn’t get to it.

3 Responses to BMGD #37: 3 Nephi 8-11

  1. Matt W. on September 29, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    I am teaching this lesson tomorrow:

    Wanted to pick your brain on two things:

    1- do you think the two speeches could possibly be broken up because the first is to the dead and the second to the living? The first would thus be Christ taking accountability for his actions but still offering the opportunity to repent to the wicked dead, while the second is Christ lamenting his actions to the righteous?
    2- Christ arrives in a land where the government was completely overturned, the church was almost wholly abdicated and anarchy ruled supreme. The first thing he does is teach baptism. Do you think that it is possible to read the contention and disputations mentioned here not simply being quibbles about baptism, but possibly referencing the greater anarchy the survivors just escaped? In this scenario, Christ is saying “be baptized AND there will be no disputations among you.”

  2. Clean Cut on September 30, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Really appreciate having this critical thinking/reading/questions to supplant my own experience. We had this lesson today. The level of questioning was closer to “how many times did it take them to understand the voice?”–so big difference.

  3. Clean Cut on September 30, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Whoops, I meant “supplement” rather than “supplant”. You’d think that after spending hours reading the post I could take time to proof read my comment better! (Although maybe that was a subconscious slip since I really was reading this on my phone during the lesson).

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