1 Behold, now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he looked round about again on the multitude, and he said unto them: Behold, my time is at hand.
Remember that “behold” means “look,” so it functions as a direct address from the narrator to the reader designed to draw the reader’s attention to the verse. Why might the writer have done that at this point?
Why did the writer call attention to the fact that Jesus looked around him? (Did he learn something from that looking that shaped the next thing he said?) See also v2 on this.
Is there a relationship between the narrator’s “behold” spoken to the audience and the “behold” that Jesus speaks to his immediate audience here?
What work is “it came to pass” doing in this sentence?
What does it mean to say “my time is at hand”? (This is somewhat common in the gospels, where it seems to refer to the short time remaining until Jesus will die. But that clearly is not the meaning here.)
2 I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time.
Was it the looking around that made Jesus perceive that they were weak? Did he not know this before then?
What does “weak” mean here–physical? Spiritual? Emotional? (Does “that ye cannot . . .” explain what “weak” means?)
Why “perceive” and not “observe” or whatever? Is this physical perception (that anyone could have done) or a spiritual perception?
This verse sets up a somewhat unusual situation that the Father is commanding Jesus to tell them stuff that they cannot understand. Why might the Father have done that? Does something similar happen today? When?
Is it their weakness that makes it so they can’t understand? If so, what does this teach us about weaknesses? About understanding?
Here’s Jesus–a resurrected being who has performed the atonement. He’s (still) acting under the authority of his Father and doing precisely what his Father commanded him to do.
Should they have been able to understand what he said? (In another context, we might suggest that the speaker had mis-judged the audience.)
Joseph Smith was quite inexpert in the use the Elizabethan forms. In this case, he has Jesus address a multitude with “ye,” which is the second person singular, or the individual “you.” Certainly Jesus was addressing the complete body of people, and not a single person. The translation ought to have been “you are weak” to be grammatically correct. However, Joseph was imitating a form for which he did not understand all of the rules. Citation
Gardner’s observation is interesting. Thoughts: Is it possible that Jesus was speaking to one person only? If not, what does this incorrect usage suggest to you about the translation of the BoM?
Bruce C. Hafen:
The people in 3 Nephi 17 [3 Ne. 17] had survived destruction, doubt, and darkness just to get to the temple with Jesus. After listening to Him for hours in wonder, they grew too weary to comprehend Him. As He prepared to leave, they tearfully looked at Him with such total desire that He stayed and blessed their afflicted ones and their children. They didn’t even understand Him, but they wanted to be with Him more than they wanted any other thing. So He stayed. Their almost was enough. Apr 04 GC
3 Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again.
Is pondering a solution to weaknesses?
Is “go ye unto your homes” significant? If so, how? What effect is going home supposed to have?
Is pondering and asking the Father the same thing or two different things? What exactly is pondering?
What’s up with “in my name”? Why is this how we ask for things? (My thought: it is as if Jesus were asking for the thing, like when you make a donation to a charity in the name of someone else.) How might this nuance how we think about prayer?
I find it interesting that this verse is both backward looking (as they ponder over what they have been taught) and forward looking (as they prepare for what they will be taught the next day).
Is it the pondering or the asking of the Father that makes it possible for them to understand? What are the implications of your answer?
What precisely should they do to prepare their minds? Is it the pondering and asking that prepares them, or something else?
Joseph B. Wirthlin:
And Jesus admonished the Nephites, “Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand.” (3 Ne. 17:3.) We are constantly reminded through the scriptures that we should give the things of God much more than usual superficial consideration. We must ponder them and reach into the very essence of what we are and what we may become. Apr 82 GC
4 But now I go unto the Father, and also to show myself unto the lost tribes of Israel, for they are not lost unto the Father, for he knoweth whither he hath taken them.
Why did Jesus tell them where he was going to be? Is it just interesting info, or is it related to what they are doing?
This is pretty big stuff-the idea that he will be with his Father and that he will visit the lost tribes. Notice that he is sharing this info with people too weak to understand what they had been taught . . .
Does this verse imply that the lost tribes are with the Father, or that Jesus will be going to two different places? (Does Jesus sleep?) Is this verse thinking of the descendants of the lost tribes (who would have then been alive) or the deceased original members? Or both?
The lost tribes are lost because they intermarried with their Assyrian conquerors and thus lost their identity as covenant people. (Sorry to break it to you–they are neither living in the center of the earth nor at the North Pole.) It is interesting that Jesus would describe this as the tribes having been taken somewhere by the Father, given that it was their own unrighteousness that got them there. (Am I over-reading this, or is Jesus making a point here?)
By saying that they are not lost to the Father, Jesus is making an interesting critique of our perspective on the lost tribes.
Compare v3 where the people go “home” : is Jesus going “home” in this verse? If not, what do you make of the different locales the people and Jesus will inhabit? Is there any relationship between the tasks they will pursue in these places?
5 And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus spoken, he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and beheld they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them.
Skousen has “behold” instead of “beheld” here.
Why are we told that Jesus looked around? Are these just stage directions, or is this ritually (or otherwise) significant? (In general, it seems that this account of Jesus’ ministry gives us more info about his bodily actions [looking, etc.] than virtually any other scripture. Why might our author have been impressed to include this material?)
Why were the people in tears? (He said he’s be back the next day. What are they–toddlers?) Are they sad? Joyful? Weary? Overwhelmed? Not wanting him to leave? All of the above? (See v8 for a possible explanation.)
What does “as if” do: does it mean that the people wanted to ask him to stay, but were afraid to? After all, Jesus has given them a very good reason for him to leave–they need to ponder and prepare, and he will be back the next day. So why do they object to his leaving? Was that a good thing to do?
I’m having a hard time understanding the last phrase–it almost sounds as if Jesus is giving then A Look that means “please ask me to stay.” But that doesn’t sound quite right. What’s going on here?
I realize this is crazy, but I wonder if we are supposed to assume that there is, in fact, an over night break here and the next verse begins the record of what happened on the next day. Because otherwise we are left with (1) Jesus changing his mind, (2) Jesus departing from what he had been commanded, and (3) way more action than could happen in one day. (Or maybe this verse–v5–is the first thing that happened on the next day.)
6 And he said unto them: Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you.
Before you start tittering, “bowels” meant “heart” and “heart” meant “head.” (Funny how we assign different emotional functions to body parts that have nothing to do with them.)
Is it fair to say that their tears triggered his compassion? I’m feeling rather unclear about what is going on here–probably because I don’t understand why they were in tears, so I don’t understand why he has compassion on them.
It appears that their tears have changed his mind (or, at least, delayed his leaving–but I suspect that counts as changing his mind). What might we learn from this? In what situations might it shape our behavior?
What does this verse teach you about compassion?
Was it really compassionate to stay with people who should have been at home pondering and preparing?
Jesus makes a big point of the idea that everything he does is under the command of the Father, but in this action of delaying the departure, we get the sense that he is acting from compassion and not from revelation. (Is that the wrong conclusion to draw?) What should we learn from this?
The cynic asks: Was Jesus not compassionate before they started the waterworks?
7 Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.
This verse sets up Jesus’ healing as a compassionate response to the tears of the crowd. How does this differ from the NT picture(s) of Jesus’ healings? Also, does it mean that the reason they were all teary was because they had people who needed healing? Or not?
What do you make of the shift from teaching to healing?
Article on whether there was leprosy among the Nephites here.
Tangent: most biblical scholars do not believe that biblical leprosy is the same thing as what we now call “Hansen’s disease.” (Note: my FIL is a dermatologist. I asked him about this once and he gave me a book whose pictures still haunt me. So don’t ask.)
Would Jesus not have healed these people if the multitude hadn’t cried?
Notice the repetition: question re sick, command to bring them, question re lame, etc., command to bring them. But then, the second time, Jesus says he will heal them–something he didn’t say about “the sick.” Is this significant? Why is this verse phrased this way? Is Jesus saying the same thing twice? Inviting two different groups? Expanding on the first statement? Or what?
Shouldn’t/doesn’t Jesus already know if/that there are people there who need healing? So why does he ask?
What is the link between compassion and healing and what might we learn from this?
Note the parallelism between v6 and v7: does it mean that compassion and mercy are the same thing?
Note how “the sick” are separated structurally from all of the other afflicted people. Is this significant?
8 For I perceive that ye desire that I should show unto you what I have done unto your brethren at Jerusalem, for I see that your faith is sufficient that I should heal you.
Again with the perception–does this word imply that this is a miraculous sensing, or something more mundane? Does it matter?
So does this mean that these people knew that Jesus had healed people in Jrsm? If so, how would they have known about this? Or did they not know specifically, but they just assumed that Jesus would be able to heal people, given his powers?
Wait a minute–Jesus just said that these people were too weak to understand what he was teaching them and now he says that they have enough faith to be healed . . . how does that work, exactly? What should we learn from this? What is the relationship between faith and weakness?
So is he healing them because he has compassion on their tears or is he healing them because of their faith? What do you make of the fact that two different reasons are given?
What happened–I thought everyone was going home to ponder and pray? Why the change of plans? What are we supposed to take from this? That Jesus was flexible? That he was responsive to his audience? That pondering and praying would be more effective after healing? (If so, why?)
Note the word “desire.” That word was huge in the beginning of the BoM. Why is their desire relevant here, especially since we just learned how weak they are?
9 And it came to pass that when he had thus spoken, all the multitude, with one accord, did go forth with their sick and their afflicted, and their lame, and with their blind, and with their dumb, and with all them that were afflicted in any manner; and he did heal them every one as they were brought forth unto him.
What work is “with one accord” doing in this sentence? What does it mean? (My initial thought was “all at once,” but that doesn’t really make sense given the logistics of the situation as well as “as they were brought forth” at the end of the verse.)
Why is the list of conditions (sick, afflicted, etc.) different in this verse than in when Jesus gave a list in v7?
Note that this is a mass healing, with no individualization. Why is it like this, which is different from the NT accounts? What different effects do these various ways of describing healings have on the reader?
In the NT, healing is dependent upon faith. Is that the case here?
10 And they did all, both they who had been healed and they who were whole, bow down at his feet, and did worship him; and as many as could come for the multitude did kiss his feet, insomuch that they did bathe his feet with their tears.
“Whole” is an unusual word to use in opposition to “needing healing.” We might have expected “healthy” or something. What effect does the use of “whole” have on the reader?
Why the particular mention of those who didn’t need to be healed? We can easily understand why the recently-healed would have felt motivated to worship Jesus at this moment, but why would the never-needed-healing group pick this moment to worship Jesus? What should we learn from this?
Given that those who needed healing no longer need healing, why are they described here as a separate group?
What precisely does it mean to worship someone? (Is it the same as bowing down? Kissing feet?)
Bathing Jesus’ feet with tears is what the woman does in Luke 7:38, although the context is very different. Can you learn anything from comparing these stories?
Does Jesus want people to kiss his feet?
Remember that these people were too weak to be taught anything else. How does that idea mesh with what is happening in this verse? (Are we supposed to be learning something about faith and reason here? Or something else?)
Notice that everyone who needed healing got healed, but only “as many as could come” kissed his feet. Why the difference?
Note that everyone is still crying. But is it for the same reason that they were crying before?
11 And it came to pass that he commanded that their little children should be brought.
Should we be thinking of the children as a group parallel to the sick?
Note that the sick were invited to come forth but the children are commanded. Is this a significance difference?
What else has the BoM had to say about children? (Not much, I am thinking.)
How does this section compare with Jesus’ interactions with children in the NT? (My thought: the children’s parents are far more involved than in most of the NT texts. Some exceptions to that, though.)
Cheryl C. Lant:
We have the account in 3 Nephi of a people who actually saw the face of the Savior in this life. And while we may not see Him now, perhaps we can learn from their experience. After the Savior’s death, He appeared to these people, taught them, and blessed them. And then “it came to pass that he commanded that their little children should be brought” (3 Nephi 17:11). It is our sacred responsibility as parents and leaders of this rising generation of children to bring them to the Savior so that they might see His face and the face of our Father in Heaven as well. As we do so, we also bring ourselves. Apr 10 GC
12 So they brought their little children and set them down upon the ground round about him, and Jesus stood in the midst; and the multitude gave way till they had all been brought unto him.
Contrast the “as many as could come” in v10–it seems like the situation is different with the kids, where every single kid was able to come to him.
Is the setting on the ground significant in some way?
Is “in the midst” significant? (Note the repetition in the next verse.)
Is the giving way of the multitude just boilerplate, or is something significant going on here?
I’m thinking that these have to be very tiny children–one doesn’t set a healthy 7yo, for example, on the ground.
13 And it came to pass that when they had all been brought, and Jesus stood in the midst, he commanded the multitude that they should kneel down upon the ground.
14 And it came to pass that when they had knelt upon the ground, Jesus groaned within himself, and said: Father, I am troubled because of the wickedness of the people of the house of Israel.
What emotion does groaning signify here?
This isn’t what the average reader expects, methinks. I think the expectation would be that Jesus will do something–perhaps pray–to benefit the children, not that Jesus will pray about wickedness. What’s the point of gathering kids close to him for a wickedness prayer? How does it relate to having the multitude kneel?
How does this prayer compare with “The Lord’s Prayer”?
What does it mean to be troubled? Is that the response that we should have to wickedness? What would that look like in real life?
Is it significant that Jesus says “house of Israel” and not “the world” here? What might we conclude from that?
Jeffrey R. Holland:
We cannot know exactly what the Savior was feeling in such a poignant moment, but we do know that He was “troubled” and that He “groaned within himself” over the destructive influences always swirling around the innocent. We know He felt a great need to pray for and bless the children. Apr 03 GC
15 And when he had said these words, he himself also knelt upon the earth; and behold he prayed unto the Father, and the things which he prayed cannot be written, and the multitude did bear record who heard him.
Why does Jesus kneel now and not before he begins to pray?
What does kneeling signify? Does it signify the same thing for the multitude that it does for Jesus?
Is the kneeling related in some way to offering a prayer that cannot be written? If so, how?
Why couldn’t the things that he prayed be written? (Too sacred? Not enough room? Too complicated? Was he speaking in tongues? Something else?)
What do you make of the fact that part of Jesus’ prayer was recorded and part wasn’t?
What does it mean to bear record of something if you can’t write it? Does it mean that it could be spoken of but not written? Or does it mean that they bore record without sharing the contents? (If so, what exactly would that mean?) (See the next verse for the answer to this question.)
16 And after this manner do they bear record: The eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father;
Of course I am thinking, like anyone could even know that, Napoleon. . .
A verse like this has a really weird effect on the reader . . . to get a description of something (and quite the superlative description at that!) that we aren’t going to get details on. It turns the reader into an outsider. This seems especially significant in a set-up where all of the children have been turned into insiders. . .
What is the purpose of having this audience bear record of something that doesn’t include any content?
What was the point of gathering the children up close if it was the multitude that was going to be testifying of what happened? Why don’t the children bear record?
In what ways is it significant that children are the primary audience for the great and marvelous things spoken?
David A. Bednar:
During the Savior’s ministry on the American continent, He directed the people to ponder His teachings and to pray for understanding. He healed the sick, and He prayed for the people using language that could not be written (see 3 Nephi 17:1–16). The impact of His prayer was profound: “No one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father” (3 Nephi 17:17). Imagine what it might have been like to hear the Savior of the world praying for us. Do our spouses, children, and other family members likewise feel the power of our prayers offered unto the Father for their specific needs and desires? Do those we serve hear us pray for them with faith and sincerity? If those we love and serve have not heard and felt the influence of our earnest prayers in their behalf, then the time to repent is now. As we emulate the example of the Savior, our prayers truly will become more meaningful. Oct 08 GC
17 And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father.
But why? Why can’t tongue express this? (Seriously.)
Something about the failure of human language to be able to do what divine communication can do . . .
Something about the contrast between humans unable to conceive but their ability to see and hear . . .
Interesting that the prayer began with trouble over the wicked, but ends with the multitude having joy . . .
Does the “for us” give us a clue as to the content of the prayer? If so, then how does that relate to the idea of wickedness with which he began the prayer?
Given that Jesus is a resurrected being who is here pictured as praying, what does this teach us about prayer? About resurrected beings? About the relationship of the Father and the Son?
I love the idea of Jesus offering a prayer that is unimaginable (“neither can the hearts of men conceive”). There are more things in heaven and earth . . .
Note the repetition of “conceive”: what is the relationship between conceiving of this prayer and conceiving of the joy they felt? How do these ideas relate?
18 And it came to pass that when Jesus had made an end of praying unto the Father, he arose; but so great was the joy of the multitude that they were overcome.
Why was the detail of Jesus’ arising included?
What does it mean to be overcome?
What do you learn about joy from this verse?
19 And it came to pass that Jesus spake unto them, and bade them arise.
Note that the first part of this verse is completely unnecessary; why was it included?
Does this mean that the children don’t stand? Or do they?
Does the command to arise mean that their inability to arise in the previous verse was a choice?
Is “bade” the same thing as “command,” or is there a significant difference between this and the times when Jesus commands the people?
One thing that fascinates me about “the fifth gospel” is the alternating between teaching the disciples and the multitude. With this scene, we get a new wrinkle: Jesus is speaking to the multitude, but it is the children who are (literally) front and center. Why?
20 And they arose from the earth, and he said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full.
What precisely was it that illustrated their faith? Arising? Listening to the prayer? Being filled with joy? Something else? What does this teach you about faith?
Note that just a minute ago, Jesus was troubled and groaning. What changed? How does this change relate to the wickedness of the house of Israel?
What is the relationship between their faith and Jesus’ joy? What does this teach you about Jesus?
Barbara W. Winder:
The Book of Mormon tells a beautiful example of a people who had been through much tribulation and yet had a remarkable experience of feeling eternal joy while in mortality. On the resurrected Savior’s first day among the Nephites, he taught much of his gospel. As he prepared to leave, he saw a people who displayed great faith and who hungered for his words. He was moved with such compassion toward them that he tarried longer and ministered to their personal needs. The scriptures tell us that “no one can conceive of the joy which filled [their] souls” (3 Ne. 17:16–19). The Savior said unto them: “Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full” (3 Ne. 17:20). Joy, it seems, is not only happiness, but the resultant feeling of the Holy Ghost manifest within us. Oct 87 GC
21 And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.
What emotion does weeping signify here? Is it the same as when the multitude was weeping? (This is just a big ol’ sobfest, isn’t it?)
How does the weeping relate to the groaning? (Do these emotions bookend the passage? I’ve noted multiple times that the BoM gives us a lot of info about people’s emotional reactions to events. Why?)
Note that once again the multitude is bearing record of something Jesus does. How do the prayer and the weeping compare?
I think the average reader would have expected the blessing right when the children were gathered. Why does the prayer (and the various emotional reactions) happen first?
What work is “one by one” doing in this verse?
What does it mean to bless these children? Is it the same as praying for them?
How is Jesus’ blessing of the children the same as or different from his healing of the sick?
Note that blessing the children is surrounded by references to Jesus’ weeping. The children are literally surrounded by the multitude. Is this significant?
How do Jesus’ prayers for each child relate to his previous prayer that wasn’t recorded?
22 And when he had done this he wept again;
Why was this included in the record?
Does this verse imply that he had stopped weeping?
Why is he weeping? Is it for the same reason as he was before?
Tangent: I hate it when people cry during talks and lessons. I am probably a bad person because of that, though.
Gordon B. Hinckley:
There is no more tender and beautiful picture in all of sacred writing than this simple language describing the love of the Savior for little children. Citation
23 And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.
“Behold” means “look.” Why would Jesus tell them to do this? What’s the point?
Michaelene P. Grassli:
Jesus specifically directed the attention of the multitude to the children. To me, the word behold is significant. It implies more than just “look and see.” When the Lord instructed the Nephites to behold their little ones, I believe he told them to give attention to their children, to contemplate them, to look beyond the present and see their eternal possibilities. Oct 92 GC
Note that the placement of the little ones (=between the multitude and Jesus) could have been said to create a situation where the people were required to behold the children if they wanted to see Jesus. Is that related to what is happening in this verse?
24 And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them.
Why are they looking toward heaven when Jesus just told them to look at the kids?
What does it mean for the heavens to open?
There’s that “as it were” again that I hate so much! Does it mean fire or no fire? Is fire symbolic here? If so, of what? How does it relate to the fire that encircles the little ones? (Note that there is no “as if” then.)
I think this scripture is unique in showing angels circling people. What should we take from this? What was the point?
Usually, angels are messengers. Is that the role they are filling here? If so, how? If not, then what are they doing?
What does it mean to minister? What did they actually do to/for the children?
Is there a relationship between the angels encircling the children and the fact that the multitude has been encircling the children? (And, of course, everyone has been encircling Jesus.)
Friendly reminder: Jesus told us in the beginning of the chapter that these people were already out way past their bedtimes. And now this? I’d hate to be the one who had to walk home and then get these over-stimulated kiddos to go to sleep (“yes, it was _very_ exciting when the angels came, but now it is time to go. to. sleep.”)
The language here is similar to what happens at the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). What might we learn from comparing these two stories? (Why does the NT one focus on the apostles but this one focuses on children? I actually think we could draw interesting conclusions from the idea that it is children who are the true leaders of the church for the next generation . . .)
How does Jesus’ blessing over and prayer for the children relate to the angels’ ministry unto the children?
Carol B. Thomas:
These children “saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about … ; and the angels did minister unto them.” You may never see angels descending out of heaven, but I can promise you as you bear testimony and pray in your families, unseen angels will minister to you. As you share your talent for spirituality, you will feel the warmth and power of the Spirit governing your life. Apr 01 GC
Robert D. Hales:
Like the sacred fire that encircled the children in 3 Nephi, His light will form a protective shield between you and the darkness of the adversary as you live worthy of it. You need that light. We need that light. Apr 02 GC
His invitation in verse 11 [3 Ne. 17:11] was neither casual nor inconsequential. “He commanded that their little children should be brought.” (Emphasis added.) And notice what verse 11 doesn’t say. It doesn’t say never mind the little ones because they aren’t accountable yet. It doesn’t say the children were to be taken elsewhere so they wouldn’t disrupt the proceedings. And it doesn’t imply that the children won’t understand. But it does teach that children need to learn the significant things of the kingdom. God’s children share with all of us the divine right to spiritual enlightenment. “So they brought their little children and set them down upon the ground round about him, and Jesus stood in the midst.” (3 Ne. 17:12.) Do any of us ever consider serving children to be beneath us? Clearly the Savior felt that the Nephite children were worthy not only to be in his presence, but they were also worthy of his time and his attention. The children needed him, and he stood right in their midst. Verse 12 also indicates that Jesus waited “till they had all been brought to him.” He wasn’t looking for a representative sample, and he wasn’t content with just some of the children. He wanted them all to be there, and he ministered to them all. Then Jesus prayed unto the Father so powerfully that “no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things.” (3 Ne. 17:17.) And the children were there! They heard that prayer; they saw that event, and they were affected by it. Children can understand and should witness marvelous events—events like priesthood blessings, special ward and family fasts, the testimonies and prayers of their parents and leaders, and gospel discussions with people they love. “He took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.” (3 Ne. 17:21.) Jesus was ministering to a group of about 2,500 men, women, and children. Consider how much time it must have taken for him to bless and pray over each child, “one by one.” He must have held many of them in his arms or on his lap. And he wept because he was overcome with joy. “He spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.” (3 Ne. 17:23.) Jesus specifically directed the attention of the multitude to the children. To me, the word behold is significant. It implies more than just “look and see.” When the Lord instructed the Nephites to behold their little ones, I believe he told them to give attention to their children, to contemplate them, to look beyond the present and see their eternal possibilities. “And as they looked to behold … they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them.” (3 Ne. 17:24.) I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the multitude had just looked and not beheld with spiritual eyes. Would they have seen the angels descend? Could they have watched their children encircled about with fire? Would they have been able to observe as the angels ministered to their children? It’s significant to me that later the Savior gave the most sacred teachings only to the children, then loosed their tongues so they could teach the multitude. (See 3 Ne. 26:14.) Is it any wonder that following the Savior’s visit to the Nephites, they lived in peace and righteousness for two hundred years? Because of miraculous instructions, blessings, and attention they and their children received, righteousness was perpetuated by their children’s children for many generations. Oct 92 GC
25 And the multitude did see and hear and bear record; and they know that their record is true for they all of them did see and hear, every man for himself; and they were in number about two thousand and five hundred souls; and they did consist of men, women, and children.
This is the third thing that the multitude is bearing record of. How do the three things (Jesus’ prayer, Jesus’ weeping, and the angels ministering to the kids) relate?
Why don’t the angels minister to the multitude? Why only the children?
Note the commentary on epistemology here–how did they know that their record was true? What should we learn from this?
Note the repetition of see/hear, but that “bear record” drops out of the second iteration. Is this significant?
Note the “man” that is then specified as “men, women, and children.” What should we take from this?
Why are we given the number of people involved here?
The experience recorded in 3 Nephi 11:15 where each person touches the Savior either covered multiple days, or did not actually happen to each individual. With 2500 people, had that single experience been allowed to take twenty four hours, each person would have had thirty four seconds for the experience. In an equatorial country there are only twelve hours of daylight, so having this occur in daylight would cut the experience in half. If each person spent 17 seconds with the Lord, there would have been no time for the Sermon on the Mount, the discourse to the apostles, this great prayer, or the coming establishment of the sacrament. Somewhere in this record there is some alteration of the experience, either in compressing events when they were written, or in exaggerating the participation of all people. Either of these possibilities could explain the chronological “problem” and the record would still be completely true. What is true is the experience, not the details. Citation
Note that children are part of the multitude that bears record. Are these the same children that were ministered to, or older children who weren’t part of that group?
Note that women are fulfilling the role of witnesses here (and probably missionaries).
Why were women and children mentioned specifically here?
Note that if it weren’t for the reference to women at the end, the average reader might not have considered them to be a part of the multitude. I suspect that there are lots of scripture stories like this. We should perhaps assume women are present unless we are told otherwise.
When I taught Institute, here’s an activity I did: Assign verses 1-2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 14, 15, 18, 20, 21 to read and name an attribute of Jesus’, and how you go about developing that attribute. We also explored the gender issues that arose from this discussion. ;)
1 And it came to pass that Jesus commanded his disciples that they should bring forth some bread and wine unto him.
We either need to read in an over-night break that the text doesn’t tell us about (which would be pretty weird, given that the last chapter began with Jesus’ instructions to them to go home) or we need to think that this chapter happens in the next breath after chapter 17 or we need to think that some editorial license has been taken (as Brant Gardner indicated in the last quotation).
What work is “and it came to pass” doing in this sentence?
How should the reference to wine here shape our understanding of the meaning of the Word of Wisdom today?
Is it significant that the sacrament is instituted after the people have been healed and the children blessed? What might we learn from the order of events of Jesus’ ministry here?
2 And while they were gone for bread and wine, he commanded the multitude that they should sit themselves down upon the earth.
Why was it important for our author to tell us that the people were commanded to sit at the time that the disciples were gone for bread and wine? Was this timing significant? (A NT parallel might be where Jesus talks with the Samaritan woman while the disciples have gone off.)
Note that these chapters make a strong distinction between the group of disciples and the multitude (and the little ones). What effect does this emphasis on different groups (with different tasks) have on the reader?
Why did Jesus want the multitude to sit?
Why weren’t the children separated out from the multitude as they were in the last chapter?
Is “earth” significant in this verse?
3 And when the disciples had come with bread and wine, he took of the bread and brake and blessed it; and he gave unto the disciples and commanded that they should eat.
Note that the bread is blessed, not the people. Is this significant? What does it mean to bless bread? What does that teach us about the sacrament?
The use of “commanded” seems a little heavy-handed to me–the BoM Jesus often invites. Why is he commanding here?
4 And when they had eaten and were filled, he commanded that they should give unto the multitude.
What should you take from “and were filled”?
Why do the disciples eat before the multitude does? Does this indicate a higher status? Preference? Something else?
5 And when the multitude had eaten and were filled, he said unto the disciples: Behold there shall one be ordained among you, and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it and give it unto the people of my church, unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name.
Note again that they “were filled.” Does this mean that they ate to capacity, or were filled with the Holy Ghost, or what?
Was only one person ordained? If not, why does Jesus say “one” here?
Why would the person need power to break bread? (We understand why he would need power to bless it, perhaps, but why to break it?)
Note that there are no specifics given here as to what exactly they should believe.
6 And this shall ye always observe to do, even as I have done, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you.
Why do you think Jesus thought it was important to tell them that they would need to do this “always”? (Wouldn’t that have been a given?)
Note again the emphasis on the breaking of the bread. Perhaps this is not significant, but I wonder if there is a link here to Luke 24:35 (“he was known of them in breaking of bread”), with the implication that partaking of this ritual will make it possible for them to know who Jesus is in a way that they otherwise would not.
7 And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.
What do you learn about bodies from this verse?
What does “testimony” mean in this sentence?
Why does Jesus place emphasis on his body in this verse? (Is he making a distinction between his body and himself?)
Given the emphasis on breaking the bread in the last few verses combined with the reference to Jesus’ body in this verse, I think it is safe to conclude that we are to focus on Jesus’ broken body (not his resurrected one?) as the referent for the sacrament emblem. That’s . . . interesting.
Why is remembering Jesus the prerequisite to having the Spirit? (Isn’t it precisely those people who don’t always remember Jesus who most need the Spirit with them?)
8 And it came to pass that when he said these words, he commanded his disciples that they should take of the wine of the cup and drink of it, and that they should also give unto the multitude that they might drink of it.
What work is “of the cup” doing in this sentence?
Is it significant that (apparently) the disciples drink first, before sharing the wine with the multitude?
Compare v3–is this not the second time they partake? If so, why is this?
9 And it came to pass that they did so, and did drink of it and were filled; and they gave unto the multitude, and they did drink, and they were filled.
What does “were filled” mean in this sentence? (Literal or symbolic?)
Dallin H. Oaks:
Let us qualify ourselves for our Savior’s promise that by partaking of the sacrament we will “be filled,” which means that we will be “filled with the Spirit.” That Spirit—the Holy Ghost—is our comforter, our direction finder, our communicator, our interpreter, our witness, and our purifier—our infallible guide and sanctifier for our mortal journey toward eternal life. Oct 96 GC
Notice the parallelism and repetition; why?
Given that the last chapter saw Jesus personally blessings and praying for each person (and before that, each individual was allowed to touch his wounds), why do you think Jesus here delegates the distribution of the sacrament?
10 And when the disciples had done this, Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you.
Does it surprise you that Jesus calls the disciples blessed in this situation?
We usually teach little kids that the sacrament is “about Jesus” but notice how Jesus’ explanation here makes the sacrament about our willingness to follow Jesus.
What do you learn about leadership from this verse?
11 And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.
Is the sacrament something the disciples “do” to the multitude?
According to this verse, should the sacrament only be taken by the baptized?
Is “remembrance of my blood” different from “remembrance of me”?
What is the link between blood and memory? (Is this related to the OT sacrifices?)
Why is remembering Jesus the key requirement for having the Spirit with us? Why is having the Spirit with us the appropriate result of remembering Jesus?
There’s this weird sort of duality in the sacrament–you almost want to treat it as if it were two ordinances (but it is not). Here, we see the same idea–remembering Jesus by partaking, with the same consequence result (having the Spirit). To what do you attribute the duplication? What might we learn from it?
Is it significant that the emblems of the sacrament call our attention to the dying Christ (broken body; spilled blood) and not the resurrected Christ?
12 And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall do these things. And if ye shall always do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock.
Haven’t they already been commanded to do this?
What are “these things”? (Just the sacrament? I think the plural is throwing me here.)
Note that return to the theme of being blessed . . .
What is “my rock” in this sentence? The ordinance of the sacrament? The authority of disciples to administer it? Something else?
13 But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them.
Skousen reads “gates of hell is already open.”
How do you reconcile the condemnation of doing “more or less” in this verse with the idea in D & C 58:
For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. 27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; 28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward. 29 But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.
Notice that doing MORE or LESS than these things is to build on a sandy foundation. This is an interesting nuance to the rocky/sandy foundation thing because we normally wouldn’t think you could build in too strong of a way or on too rocky of a foundation. Is this just where the analogy breaks down, or is there something else going on here?
Why is a storm a good symbol here?
Why is the gate of hell easy to pass through? (How does this relate to Jesus’ yoke being easy and burden light? These images have, at least, a surface contradiction.)
What do you make of the similarities and differences between this passage and 3 Nephi 14:24-27?
14 Therefore blessed are ye if ye shall keep my commandments, which the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you.
Why does Jesus want the audience to know that the commandments come from the Father and not him?
15 Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him.
How does this verse relate to the material before it?
What does it mean to watch? What would that look like?
How do watching and prayer minimize (eliminate?) temptation?
Why is the image of being led away and being a captive a good one for what is described here?
I’m curious about the difference between the gates of hell being open to receive people (which is a passive image; the only reason it is a problem is if you were stupid enough to build on sand) and Satan leading people away captive (which is a very active image).
16 And as I have prayed among you even so shall ye pray in my church, among my people who do repent and are baptized in my name. Behold I am the light; I have set an example for you.
Skousen reads “example before you” here.
Note that Jesus is giving more explanation about the praying idea from the previous verse, but not the watching part (or does he in a less obvious way?).
What from Jesus’ prayer are we to model? Exact wording? Format? Topics? Tone?
Is this verse just about the sacrament prayer (which is the immediate context)? (But note that precise wording wasn’t given for that.) Or the prayers from the last chapter, one of which couldn’t even be written–is that what we are to emulate? (And note that how you answer these questions determines whether you are reading this passage as a continuation of the sacrament discussion or a shift to a new topic–prayer.)
What is “in my church” doing in this verse? Does this just refer to church members, or to when people gather together, or what?
Does this verse define “my church” as “my people who repent and are baptized in my name”?
In what ways does light set an example for us? (And if it doesn’t, then how do you explain the final sentence of this verse?)
17 And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto his disciples, he turned again unto the multitude and said unto them:
I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the things that fascinates me about “the fifth gospel” is the back-and-forth between Jesus speaking to the disciples and the multitude. (I wish I had time to look into this more. I suspect that the back-and-forth is significant in itself. It would also be interesting to compare what kind he says to the crowd with what he says to disciples. Also note that the reader is privileged in the sense that they get to hear what the disciples heard. Another question: I suspect that, logistically speaking, the multitude was able to hear what Jesus said to the disciples. But they have been specifically informed that this message is not for them. What effect would that have had on them? What does it have on the reader? What might it suggest to us about privileged teachings?)
18 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.
Remember that “verily, verily, I say unto you” is an indicator that what Jesus is about to say is really important. Why does he use that here?
Note that this is very similar to v15, except that the audience is different. What’s going on here? (I’m particularly intrigued by the shift from “led away captive” to “sift you as wheat”; is the change related to the fact that the audience is different?)
Does this verse connote that if you watch and pray always, you will not be tempted?
What does the image of “entering into” suggest to you about the nature of temptation?
How does “for Satan . . .” explain (not the “for”) the phrase that comes before it?
Remember that “desire” was a huge theme early in the BoM. Why are we hearing about Satan’s desires here?
What does the image of Satan sifting people as wheat suggest? What does each part of the image represent?
Dallin H. Oaks:
Jesus cautioned that Satan desires to sift us like wheat (see Luke 22:31; 3 Nephi 18:18), which means to make us common like all those around us. But Jesus taught that we who follow Him should be precious and unique, “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13) and “the light of the world,” to shine forth to all men (Matthew 5:14, 16; see also 3 Nephi 18:24). Apr 09 GC
19 Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;
Why doesn’t he follow up on the “watching” the way he does on the “praying”?
What does it mean (no, seriously) to pray in Jesus’ name and why is that important?
I’m a little slow: just realizing now that one way we remember Christ is to pray in his name.
20 And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.
Note the two conditions–why these two? (Why is each important? Why not other conditions?)
How do you know what is right?
Thinking more about the second condition: isn’t there a bit of arrogance in believing that you will receive something, as if you could tell God what to do?
What work is the “behold” in this verse doing?
Does this verse assume that you know what is right before you pray? Or is the point that if you pray for something and get it then you know that it was right? (And if you pray for something and don’t get it then you know that it was wrong?)
Dallin H. Oaks:
Here the Savior reminds us that faith, no matter how strong it is, cannot produce a result contrary to the will of him whose power it is. The exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is always subject to the order of heaven, to the goodness and will and wisdom and timing of the Lord. That is why we cannot have true faith in the Lord without also having complete trust in the Lord’s will and in the Lord’s timing. When we have that kind of faith and trust in the Lord, we have true security in our lives. Apr 94 GC
21 Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.
Note that the NT Jesus does not tell people to pray in their families; in fact, you could easily put together the argument that the NT Jesus is neutral if not hostile to biological families. To what do you attribute the difference here?
Once again, I feel slapped in the face by a reference to “wives and children” in the middle of a discourse. I had thought he was speaking to me this whole time (after all, at the end of the last chapter, the witnesses included women), but apparently he wasn’t and I was eavesdropping. (Actually, I don’t believe that. I believe it is a translation/transcription thingie and Jesus didn’t phrase it this way. I can’t prove that, of course.) I suppose another way of reading this is that there is a generic command to everyone to pray in the previous verses and this verse is an additional command meant to focus the attention of the husband/father on his obligation to seek God’s blessings for his wife and children. There’s an interesting contrast to v20–note that the husband/father doesn’t need to ask if it is right or specifically believe that he shall receive in order to pray this prayer. Also, the idea of praying “in your families” for wives and children is interesting–kind of weird if we followed this practice today and family prayer regularly included prayers for blessings for mom and the kids but never for dad . . .
Again note the emphasis on “in my name.” Why?
Does this verse assume that the topic of the prayer is the blessedness of the wives and children, or is it better to read it as a prayer on other/any topic that results in the blessing of the wives/children.
22 And behold, ye shall meet together oft; and ye shall not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together, but suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not;
Do you think there was something going on in Nephite society that made it necessary for Jesus to tell them not to forbid anyone to join them?
Note the repetition in the command not to forbid people–why was this done?
(How) does this verse relate to the verse before it? (It kind of feels like a new topic, but the next verse brings us back to the issue of prayer.)
23 But ye shall pray for them, and shall not cast them out; and if it so be that they come unto you oft ye shall pray for them unto the Father, in my name.
Note how this verse ties the meeting issue back to the prayer issue. How does it nuance Jesus’ previous teachings about prayer?
Is this verse just simple repetition to make a point, or is there a distinction made between praying for people who come and praying “unto the Father, in my name” for people who come “oft”?
24 Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do. Behold ye see that I have prayed unto the Father, and ye all have witnessed.
Note the “therefore”: how does this verse relate to the verse before it?
How do you reconcile “hold up your light” with not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing?
How does “your light” become “I am the light”? What does this verse teach us about our relationship to Jesus?
Note that the grammar doesn’t quite pan out in the middle sentence. I think “that which ye have seen me do” explains what/how Jesus is the light, but I’m not sure, because I usually think of Jesus as light as more of what he _is_ than what he _does_.
Note that the final sentence once again ties us back to the issue of prayer.
Note that being a witness is something that everyone does here, not something that only a few people do/are.
25 And ye see that I have commanded that none of you should go away, but rather have commanded that ye should come unto me, that ye might feel and see; even so shall ye do unto the world; and whosoever breaketh this commandment suffereth himself to be led into temptation.
I find the “ye see” construction here curious . . . why was this used?
How does the “feel and see” relate to seeing the command at the beginning of the verse?
Is “the world” a third group, alongside the disciples and the multitude? If so, what do you learn from dividing people into these groups? How might this be useful and/or dangerous today?
Is it significant that Jesus says “feel and see” when the more logical (I think) order would be “see and feel.”
The idea of not casting people out (v23) seemed very, very general, but here Jesus is linking into the very immediate, one-time thing of feeling and seeing his wounds.
Jesus tells them to treat the world the same way that he has treated them. That is interesting in itself (what are the implications of it?) but also interesting in that it is particularly tied to the people feeling Jesus’ wounds? What should we do today that would be the analogue of allowing the world to feel Jesus’ wounds? (Or am I asking the wrong question?)
Is this verse saying that people who don’t come unto Jesus are more easily led into temptation?
26 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words, he turned his eyes again upon the disciples whom he had chosen, and said unto them:
Once again, I am fascinated by the frequency with which Jesus shifts audience and the fact that our narrator thought that this needed to be highlighted. What on earth is going on here?
27 Behold verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you another commandment, and then I must go unto my Father that I may fulfil other commandments which he hath given me.
Is this verse making a link between the commandment that he is about to give the disciples and the fact that Jesus also has commandments to follow? If so, what should we take from this?
Do we know what these other commandments are? (If not, why mention them and not tell us? I hate it when people do that in real life! Either tell me or don’t let me know about it!)
28 And now behold, this is the commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily, when ye shall minister it;
I find the tension between this commandment and the commandment that he just gave to the multitude to allow everyone to come unto him to be very interesting. What’s the dividing point?
What does “knowingly” mean in this sentence–does it apply to the disciples or to the unworthy person? (In other words, if the person doesn’t know that they are unworthy [because, for example, they are a new investigator] is it OK for them to partake or does it mean that the leader [who doesn’t know if any random person the missionaries bring to sacrament meeting is worthy or not] is the issue?) (Does the end of v29 settle this question?)
What is accomplished by describing (what we call) the sacrament as “partaking of my flesh and blood”? (Does it imply a more literal interpretation of the sacrament emblems?
I think most people consider “partake” to be the high class version of “take.” But it means “to take a part, portion or share in common with others” (Webster 1828). In other words, the role of the community is emphasized here. Of course, the concept of community is also impacted by the fact that the verse defines certain people (the unworthy) as outside of that community.
Note “minister.” What does that word in this context suggest to us about the meaning of that word in general?
Note that Jesus is only speaking to the disciples here; the multitude does not have any obligation to police the congregation.
29 For whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul; therefore if ye know that a man is unworthy to eat and drink of my flesh and blood ye shall forbid him.
Note the implication that the disciples have an obligation to stop people from damning their own souls. How does this mesh with our belief in moral agency?
Why is there this severe of a consequence for unworthily partaking of the sacrament? (By way of comparison: nothing this dire happens to you if you, for example, pray unworthily.)
Why would someone partake of the sacrament unworthily? (In other words, what are they trying to achieve?)
What’s the boundary line for being unworthy to partake of the sacrament?
What’s behind the idea of damnation as something that you can eat/drink?
Dallin H. Oaks:
The scriptural warning about partaking of the sacrament unworthily (see 1 Corinthians 11:29; 3 Nephi 18:29) surely applies also to those who officiate in that ordinance. In administering discipline to Church members who have committed serious sins, a bishop can temporarily withdraw the privilege of partaking of the sacrament. That same authority is surely available to withdraw the privilege of officiating in that sacred ordinance. Oct 08 GC
30 Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out from among you, but ye shall minister unto him and shall pray for him unto the Father, in my name; and if it so be that he repenteth and is baptized in my name, then shall ye receive him, and shall minister unto him of my flesh and blood.
What does it mean to minister in this verse? (Note that this same word was used for the administration of the sacrament in v28.) What is the relationship between praying and ministering?
Does this verse imply that all of the unworthy people being discussed have not previously been baptized? (Or maybe have been so unworthy as to require rebaptism?)
31 But if he repent not he shall not be numbered among my people, that he may not destroy my people, for behold I know my sheep, and they are numbered.
Note that they weren’t supposed to cast him out, but he is not numbered among Jesus’ people.
Note the implication that an unworthy person numbered among Jesus’ people could destroy his people. (How) is this principle relevant today?
Why is sheep a good metaphor for our relationship to Jesus?
Moderns often think of numbering people as sort of dehumanizing, but that clearly isn’t the connotation here, where the idea seems to be that people are remembered.
Is the numbering “among” people the same thing as numbered sheep? I am thinking there might be a significant difference. If so, what impact would that have on our interpretation of this verse?
“For behold” implies that we are about to get something that will explain the previous thought. Does that happen in this verse? How?
32 Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out of your synagogues, or your places of worship, for unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them.
But isn’t it dangerous (see previous verse) for this person to be in the community? (Or is the idea that members are supposed to be paying a LOT of attention to who is a member-in-good-standing of the community and who isn’t? That’s an idea that’s a double-edged sword if I have ever heard one . . . seems to me the benefit is that we could quit policing each other’s behavior because we would not assume that just because someone who goes to church does something it is right. On the other hand, it seems that we would increase our level of policing each other’s behaviors since we would no longer assume that just because a church member did something it was right.)
Are “return and repent” two different things or two ways of saying the same thing?
What work is “or your places of worship” doing in this verse? Is it Jesus generalizing the comment? Is it the editor (or translator) wanting to be sure that we understood that this is a universal idea? Is it defining “synagogue” for the original audience? Something else?
Note that regardless of a person’s status and choices, our job, and the job of church leadership, is to minister to them.
Curious how our lack of foreknowledge opens up our ability to minister to people . . .
Why is coming unto Jesus modified by “with full purpose of heart” here? (My thought: it implies that even an unworthy person can totally repent.)
I love “heal” here.
“Ye shall be the means . . .” is very interesting to me . . . does this verse set humans up as intermediaries for salvation? (How is this the same/different from what Jesus does for us?)
Interesting that the multitude hears this (so they know what the rules are) but the multitude is not under commandment to police the behavior of the unworthy . . .
33 Therefore, keep these sayings which I have commanded you that ye come not under condemnation; for wo unto him whom the Father condemneth.
Is “keep these sayings” different from “keep these commandments”?
What does it mean for the Father to condemn someone?
What does “condemnation” mean? Is it the same thing as damnation (used previously in this chapter)?
General thought: note that spiritual status is contagious: if you allow someone to partake of the sacrament unworthily, you can become condemned.
34 And I give you these commandments because of the disputations which have been among you. And blessed are ye if ye have no disputations among you.
Skousen adds “beforetimes” to the end of the first sentence.
So what exactly do you think the Nephites were disputing about? (I’m guessing it was whether to allow in the congregation and/or to partake of the sacrament someone who was unworthy.) We also know that they disputed about baptism. First, how does this differ (or does it differ) from the NT where Jesus frequently took “cut the baby down the middle” positions instead of taking one side or the other? Second, why are these disputes specifically mentioned in the text, whereas the NT doesn’t normally reference them?
Are there any commandments that we have today because of disputations? (We could use one to settle Word of Wisdom disputes!)
How does this blessing for no disputations mesh with “wonderful contentions” of Alma 2:5?
35 And now I go unto the Father, because it is expedient that I should go unto the Father for your sakes.
In what ways would it benefit this audience for Jesus to go to the Father?
36 And it came to pass that when Jesus had made an end of these sayings, he touched with his hand the disciples whom he had chosen, one by one, even until he had touched them all, and spake unto them as he touched them.
Is this an ordinance? Why the touching? Is it the same as laying on of hands?
Is there any relationship between what is going on in this verse and the previous incident where the people felt Jesus’ wounds? Or where Jesus healed the people? Or blessed the children?
Is it significant that he is speaking at the same time as he is touching them?
37 And the multitude heard not the words which he spake, therefore they did not bear record; but the disciples bare record that he gave them power to give the Holy Ghost. And I will show unto you hereafter that this record is true.
Presumably the multitude was able to hear all of the other things Jesus spoke to the disciples, so why not this? Why was hearing the the issuing of power to give the Holy Ghost something that the multitude couldn’t hear?
Note the “I” and “you”–this is unusual in scripture.
Why did our writer/editor feel the need to testify to the veracity of the record at this point? (Or, more accurately, promise to do so in the future?) I suspect that it is tied to the fact that the multitude was not able to bear record of this, but that’s also kind of weird because (1) why would we trust the multitude more than the disciples and (2) why would this info have been kept from the multitude if it were necessary for them to testify of it?
38 And it came to pass that when Jesus had touched them all, there came a cloud and overshadowed the multitude that they could not see Jesus.
Usually, the cloud overshadows the heavenly figure, not the audience. Why does it happen this way here?
Is the cloud symbolic? (Is it related to the mists of darkness?)
39 And while they were overshadowed he departed from them, and ascended into heaven. And the disciples saw and did bear record that he ascended again into heaven.
Notice that two things (giving the authority to give the Holy Ghost and Jesus’ ascension) are kept from the multitude. The first is kept by a vocal restriction and the second by a sight restriction. How else do they compare?
1 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had ascended into heaven, the multitude did disperse, and every man did take his wife and his children and did return to his own home.
Is the family shout-out meant to remind us of King Ben’s address? Or something else?
Does this verse relate in any way to the previous chapter’s counsel to pray for wives and children?
2 And it was noised abroad among the people immediately, before it was yet dark, that the multitude had seen Jesus, and that he had ministered unto them, and that he would also show himself on the morrow unto the multitude.
Why mention the bit about before dark? Is it symbolic?
Why “immediately”? (Note that this is one of the key words of Mark’s Gospel.)
3 Yea, and even all the night it was noised abroad concerning Jesus; and insomuch did they send forth unto the people that there were many, yea, an exceedingly great number, did labor exceedingly all that night, that they might be on the morrow in the place where Jesus should show himself unto the multitude.
4 And it came to pass that on the morrow, when the multitude was gathered together, behold, Nephi and his brother whom he had raised from the dead, whose name was Timothy, and also his son, whose name was Jonas, and also Mathoni, and Mathonihah, his brother, and Kumen, and Kumenonhi, and Jeremiah, and Shemnon, and Jonas, and Zedekiah, and Isaiah—now these were the names of the disciples whom Jesus had chosen—and it came to pass that they went forth and stood in the midst of the multitude.
Up to this point, we’ve gotten no names except for Nephi’s. Why do we get the names at this point in the story? Is there something significant relating it to the break between the days?
I love how raising someone from the dead is a throw-away line . . .
So there is no story in the Bible of a raising from the dead that does not involve women as major characters. This might be an exception to that rule, but I’d hold that this isn’t a story per se. The inclusion of women in stories of raisings is, I think, honored in the BoM story of Lamoni’s court, even though that isn’t precisely a death.
Why do we get the family ties for some of the disciples but not others?
Note that the disciples are taking the position that Jesus usually takes by being “in the midst.”
From the FEAST wiki: “In verse 4 we are given the names of the twelve “disciples whom Jesus had chosen.” These twelve go on to preach to the multitude which is divided into twelve groups (v. 6). The text isn’t explicit in identifying these as the same twelve people Jesus gives authority to baptize to as noted in 3 Ne 12:1, but that seems likely from the context. Also it seems likely that these are the same twelve people Nephi sees in a vision described in 1 Ne 12:7-10. Though we may think of these twelve as having a similar role to the twelve apostles, throughout the word “apostle” is never used to refer to these 12. Instead they are consistently referred to as disciples. In fact 1 Ne 12:9 distinguishes these twelve from the twelve apostles by explaining that the twelve apostles will judge the twelve tribes of Israel and this twelve will judge Nephi’s seed.”
5 And behold, the multitude was so great that they did cause that they should be separated into twelve bodies.
Normally in the Bible, twelve is a symbol for leadership. Here, it is applied to the multitude. Is this just an accident of the fact that each group gets its own disciple, or is there something going on here?
So apparently this is a larger group than yesterday, because of the midnight preaching. Is it weird that these people would have missed the previous day’s experiences?
Is the implication that it wasn’t possible for Jesus to teach a group this large? (Because I am not buying that.) Or is this just happening because Jesus isn’t there yet?
6 And the twelve did teach the multitude; and behold, they did cause that the multitude should kneel down upon the face of the earth, and should pray unto the Father in the name of Jesus.
What’s up with the kneeling? Is this just a cultural thing, or what?
I suspect that this is a re-enactment (to some extent) of the previous day’s events, with the disciples taking on Jesus’ role.
7 And the disciples did pray unto the Father also in the name of Jesus. And it came to pass that they arose and ministered unto the people.
What does “ministered” mean in this verse?
8 And when they had ministered those same words which Jesus had spoken—nothing varying from the words which Jesus had spoken—behold, they knelt again and prayed to the Father in the name of Jesus.
I feel like I am on a life-long quest to figure out what the word “minister” means. One interesting data point from this verse is that they are ministering words. What does that mean? Is ministering the same as teaching? Speaking? Performing ordinances? Praying? What?
Note the emphasis on using precisely the same words that Jesus used. Why did they do this? (It is not hard to imagine an investigator reading this and coming to the conclusion that precisely those words should be used, always, when praying.)
Why do they pray twice? Note that there is an identical/communal prayer and then a private/personal prayer. What should we learn from this? (Is this what should happen when the sacrament is administered?)
9 And they did pray for that which they most desired; and they desired that the Holy Ghost should be given unto them.
Note that desire again–a huge and, I think, under-appreciated theme in the BoM.
Does their greatest desire surprise you?
Why did they feel the need to pray for this when they should have known (right?) that it would be given to them?
Reading v10, it becomes clear that in v8-9, the subject is the disciples. But: didn’t the disciples just get authority to give people the Holy Ghost? So why precisely would they pray this prayer?
David A. Bednar:
Do we likewise remember to pray earnestly and consistently for that which we should most desire, even the Holy Ghost? Or do we become distracted by the cares of the world and the routine of daily living and take for granted or even neglect this most valuable of all gifts? Receiving the Holy Ghost starts with our sincere and constant desire for His companionship in our lives. Oct 2010 GC
10 And when they had thus prayed they went down unto the water’s edge, and the multitude followed them.
Narratively, it seems that the multitude desiring baptism is related to the disciples’ prayer that they be given the Holy Ghost. But does that also make sense on a logical level?
11 And it came to pass that Nephi went down into the water and was baptized.
Who baptized him? (Wouldn’t it have made more sense for Jesus to have baptized him?) Are you surprised that Nephi wasn’t already baptized? (Probably this is a re-baptism, something also done by the 19th century church. It is still a little weird that these people had just been given authority to perform the sacrament right before this, however.)
12 And he came up out of the water and began to baptize. And he baptized all those whom Jesus had chosen.
Does “all those whom . . .” just refer to the disciples?
Does Jesus choose people to be baptized?
13 And it came to pass when they were all baptized and had come up out of the water, the Holy Ghost did fall upon them, and they were filled with the Holy Ghost and with fire.
This makes it sound as if the Holy Ghost fell on them the way it did on Jesus at his baptism, not how it does now with the laying on of hands. (Which is doubly weird since the disciples just got authority to do that a dozen verses ago.) What is going on here?
What’s up with the fire? Is that just a symbol for the Holy Ghost, or something else? How does it relate to the water of baptism?
What does the word “filled” convey to you?
14 And behold, they were encircled about as if it were by fire; and it came down from heaven, and the multitude did witness it, and did bear record; and angels did come down out of heaven and did minister unto them.
Skousen reads “do bear record” here.
Does the encircling fire relate to the fire that filled them? If so, how?
What does “minister” mean in this verse?
This is very similar to the incident in the last chapter, except that that one involved children and this one involves recently baptized disciples. What should we learn from this comparison?
15 And it came to pass that while the angels were ministering unto the disciples, behold, Jesus came and stood in the midst and ministered unto them.
What work is “behold” doing in this verse?
Is this verse just stage directions, or is there something significant about the conjunction of events?
How does this arrival of Jesus compare to his departure at the end of the last chapter?
16 And it came to pass that he spake unto the multitude, and commanded them that they should kneel down again upon the earth, and also that his disciples should kneel down upon the earth.
What’s up with all of the kneeling?
17 And it came to pass that when they had all knelt down upon the earth, he commanded his disciples that they should pray.
Note that this is what they were just doing.
18 And behold, they began to pray; and they did pray unto Jesus, calling him their Lord and their God.
Kind of weird to pray to someone who is standing right there . . .
What’s the point of mentioning the titles “Lord” and “God” here? (I suspect that it might be related to the fact that they are praying to someone who is standing right there.)
What Jesus also teaches the people at this time is that God hears our fervent prayers, even if we don’t have the name right. Of course we should understand the true nature of God, but if we do not yet fully understand, it is our faithfulness and intend that carry our prayers heavenward. Even if temporarily misdirected, God still hears and understands those prayers and their importance. Jesus is therefore indicating to God that the prayers show true belief in the Savior, even if they are not completely accurate in the address of the prayer. Citation
19 And it came to pass that Jesus departed out of the midst of them, and went a little way off from them and bowed himself to the earth, and he said:
(I’m surprised they didn’t follow him.)
In the NT, it is totally understandable when Jesus escapes for a little prayer break, because he’s mortal. But here, he just got there! So what’s the point of going off to pray? Is this a private prayer, or does everyone hear it? Is there something going on with the idea of Jesus not being “in the midst” of them?
Is there a significant difference between bowing oneself to the earth and all of the kneeling that has been going on?
Is it right to say that their prayer to him triggering his prayer to the Father?
20 Father, I thank thee that thou hast given the Holy Ghost unto these whom I have chosen; and it is because of their belief in me that I have chosen them out of the world.
Again, does this apply to the multitude or the disciples? (I think v21 implies that it refers to the disciples only, but I’m not entirely sure about that. V24 as well.)
What does “out of the world” mean here? Does this mean that the people who were chosen were chosen to remove themselves from the world or does it mean that the people who were chosen were chosen from the set of people called “the world”? Or maybe something else?
What does this verse imply about what it means to be chosen?
21 Father, I pray thee that thou wilt give the Holy Ghost unto all them that shall believe in their words.
22 Father, thou hast given them the Holy Ghost because they believe in me; and thou seest that they believe in me because thou hearest them, and they pray unto me; and they pray unto me because I am with them.
What does “they pray unto me because I am with them” mean? (Would they be praying differently if he wasn’t there?) Does it explain why they were praying to him and not to the Father?
What does the fact that they were praying to someone in their immediate presence teach us about prayer?
Why was their prayer evidence of their belief?
23 And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words, that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one.
Note the careful linkage between the members of the Godhead and the believer in this verse. We are being invited to join in that relationship.
Brant Gardner suggests that Jesus is re-directing their prayers to the father here. (It had never occurred to me that maybe their prayer to Jesus reflected a lack of understanding. One wonders, though, why Jesus didn’t correct them if that were the case. Also, v24 indicates that what they should pray was given to them.)
Russell M. Nelson:
We too can pray for unity. We can pray to be of one heart and one mind with the Lord’s anointed and with our loved ones. We can pray for mutual understanding and respect between ourselves and our neighbors. If we really care for others, we should pray for them. Apr 09 GC
24 And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus prayed unto the Father, he came unto his disciples, and behold, they did still continue, without ceasing, to pray unto him; and they did not multiply many words, for it was given unto them what they should pray, and they were filled with desire.
Weird: the disciples are praying to Jesus at the same time that Jesus is praying to the Father. I guess Jesus is a pretty good multi-tasker.
I suspect that “multiply many words” means the vain kind and not the strictly literal “lots of words,” because having words given to them wouldn’t do anything to decrease the number of words used.
I find “and they were filled” fascinating. First, how does it relate to being filled with the Holy Ghost? Second, why would being filled with desire be the appropriate outcome for praying unceasingly? Third, why isn’t the desire specified? Fourth, usually we think of the granting of desire as the reward, but here it is the desire itself; what might we learn from that? Does that happen today?
25 And it came to pass that Jesus blessed them as they did pray unto him; and his countenance did smile upon them, and the light of his countenance did shine upon them, and behold they were as white as the countenance and also the garments of Jesus; and behold the whiteness thereof did exceed all the whiteness, yea, even there could be nothing upon earth so white as the whiteness thereof.
Is “countenance” just a fancy word for “face,” or is something else implied here?
What does it mean to say that a countenance smiled? Is this literal or figurative? See v30 for more on this.
We have lots of references to people’s emotions in the BoM, but virtually nothing about their facial expressions. Why is Jesus smiling here?
Is a smiling countenance the same as the light of the countenance smiling, or is that two separate things?
In “and behold they were white,” what is the antecedent of “they”: the multitude? Jesus’ countenance and the light of his countenance?
“And also the garments” feels like a throw-away line; is there something more going on here?
What’s the point of emphasizing the unprecedented extent of the whiteness?
What does this verse teach us about the concept of “whiteness” in the BoM?
26 And Jesus said unto them: Pray on; nevertheless they did not cease to pray.
What’s happening here? (My guess would be that they were tempted to stop praying because they were so amazed by all of that whiteness, but Jesus encourages them to continue.)
27 And he turned from them again, and went a little way off and bowed himself to the earth; and he prayed again unto the Father, saying:
Once again: is the point privacy? Do other people hear this?
Is there a pattern to all of these prayers?
(How) does this prayer relate to the one Jesus just prayed?
28 Father, I thank thee that thou hast purified those whom I have chosen, because of their faith, and I pray for them, and also for them who shall believe on their words, that they may be purified in me, through faith on their words, even as they are purified in me.
Did we know that purification is what had happened before Jesus said this?
What precisely caused the purification: baptism? Prayer? The Holy Ghost? Something else?
Why would faith lead to purification?
How does the concept of purification here relate to its use in the OT?
Note the fascinating parallels and differences with v23.
29 Father, I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me out of the world, because of their faith, that they may be purified in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one, that I may be glorified in them.
Are you surprised that Jesus doesn’t pray for the world?
Does this verse imply that the Father chooses those who will have faith? Is that true? I realize this doesn’t sound kosher, but thinking back over my own conversion experience, I very much feel that I was chosen [ack, that sounds so arrogant and I don’t mean it that way at all] and not the one who did the choosing. [Believe you me, if I had been doing the choosing, I would have been a Unitarian or Reform Jew of liberal Anglican or something.]
What is the relationship between faith and purification in this verse?
How is Jesus glorified? How should this impact how we think about glory in our own lives?
What does this verse teach you about the relationship of the Father and the Son?
30 And when Jesus had spoken these words he came again unto his disciples; and behold they did pray steadfastly, without ceasing, unto him; and he did smile upon them again; and behold they were white, even as Jesus.
Do “steadfastly” and “without ceasing” mean the same thing?
Does this verse nuance how you interpret v25?
31 And it came to pass that he went again a little way off and prayed unto the Father;
Once again, I think the pattern, repetition, and interrelationships between the prayers is of crucial importance here. I just have no idea what it all means. :)
32 And tongue cannot speak the words which he prayed, neither can be written by man the words which he prayed.
So . . . why is this prayer different from the other prayers, where we learned what he said?
33 And the multitude did hear and do bear record; and their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which he prayed.
Why was the multitude allowed to hear this, when they weren’t allowed to hear the conveyance of power to give the Holy Ghost?
Why/how were their hearts opened?
How is the opening of their hearts (=minds, in the Bible) related to understanding what Jesus said?
How does this verse nuance your understanding of what v32 meant when it said that the words could not be written?
Note the re-appearance of the multitude in this text; previously, we’d been mostly focused on the disciples.
Is this verse, finally, the answer to the “weakness” that Jesus identified two chapters ago that made them unable to understand him?
34 Nevertheless, so great and marvelous were the words which he prayed that they cannot be written, neither can they be uttered by man.
. . . but they can be understood. Interesting: so there are things that can be understood, but not written.
35 And it came to pass that when Jesus had made an end of praying he came again to the disciples, and said unto them: So great faith have I never seen among all the Jews; wherefore I could not show unto them so great miracles, because of their unbelief.
Why does he say “among all the Jews,” and not reference the local population?
The faith comparison thing makes me a little uneasy.
What precisely had they done that showed such great faith?
What miracle did he show these people that was greater than, say, raising someone from the dead or making the blind see? (Serious point here: I think giving the Holy Ghost and participating in all of these prayers was a bigger miracle, although perhaps less wow-factor, than those things. I think v36 supports this.)
36 Verily I say unto you, there are none of them that have seen so great things as ye have seen; neither have they heard so great things as ye have heard.
When I taught Institute, we did this: Jot down answers to these two questions: What do I know about prayer? and What do I want to know about prayer? Then read 19:16-32. Then discuss questions and answers.
(1) I think there is a lot of work to be done on the structure of these chapters, particularly the alternating between speaking to the disciples and the multitude, as well as the relationship of the prayers to each other. (I wish I had time to work on that, but not this week!)
(2) In the BoM, Jesus interacts with groups of people (multitude, disciples) but in the NT, he usually (but not always: scribes, Pharisees, multitude) interacts with individuals (Lazarus, woman at the well, etc.). To what do you attribute this difference and what should we learn from it? Is this just a product of redaction, or was his ministry different and, if the latter, why might it have been that way? Some thoughts on the topic here.
(3) Some reflections on these chapters by a (Catholic) scholar.
(4) Some reflections on the twelve.
(5) Article on the importance of children in this narrative here.