“Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name-Hear ye him.” (3 Nephi 11:7)
There have been only a few times in recorded scripture where we get to hear the voice of our Heavenly Father speaking to the people. Very few. This was one of those times.
After hundreds of years. After wars and bloodshed. After prophecies and martyrdom, Jesus Christ is showing himself, his perfect, eternal and resurrected being to the remaining people of in the Americas.
In the decades preceding the arrival of Jesus, there was a period of the most constantly intense cycle of humility and then pride among the people in the land, Nephites and Lamanites. By the time of the Crucifixion on the other side of the world in Jerusalem, most of the people were wicked. Not just slightly bad, but wicked. Following after Satan and rejecting the truth of the Gospel that they had believed in merely years before.
When Christ was killed, there was 3 hours of darkness in Jerusalem. What was not known to the Tribe of Judah, was that the tribe of Joseph was receiving a serious weeding out. For those same 3 hours, entire cities were burned or buried under mountains or broken off and sunk in water. Some others were flattened by earthquakes, others leveled by tornadoes. The entire face of the land was forever changed. 16 cities in all were completely destroyed because of the wickedness of the people. There were none in those cities righteous enough to be saved. How incredibly sad. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions died in the course of 3 hours because of pride and willfully turning away from the Lord.
This was not all, after this for those righteous enough to survive, there was 3 days of darkness. Not just any darkness, but a “vapor” of darkness so thick that you couldn’t light any fires or see your hand in front of your face. Like one of Moses’ plagues. 3 entire days. It was then that they wished that they had repented. All too late.
There is a voice heard among all the people, explaining why the cities were destroyed. They killed the prophets and the people of God. They were wicked. Secret combinations had destroyed the peace of the people and the government. The people who remained are told that they were “spared because they were more righteous than they” (3 Nephi 9:13)
The voice is Jesus Christ and all he wants to do is heal them. “…will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you? …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.” (3 Nephi 13-14)
The darkness disperses. The people gather around the temple. Our Father in Heaven praises his Son and then the Son appears in the flesh to the people. His glorious, resurrected being. Jesus the Christ lives!
He asks them to come and feel his hands, feet and side to show them the marks that were left as a reminder of the sacrifice he gave for us, even his life.
And then he gets to work.
The namesake prophet whose book this is named after is among the crowd. This Nephi was a remarkable man. In the years before the appearance of Christ, he was stoned, raised his brother back to life, ceaselessly proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ and was ministered to daily by angels to support him. And he was sitting in the crowd. Such humility! Christ calls him forward and ordains him an Apostle with 11 others. He then makes it crystal clear what his doctrine is so that there can be no doubt again. Then charges them to declare those words to this people.
Now, here, our Lord and Master turns to the crowd and begins afresh the Sermon on the Mount, only for the Nephites it’s the Sermon at the Temple, for that is where they are gathered. His sermon is also almost exactly like the Sermon he gave to the Jews years before. And when I say “almost” that means that a few words are different and a couple of verses are reversed, which makes more sense.
In the most basic sense, Jesus is telling us plainly what we need to do to be able to return to live with him again. Such as:
- The beatitudes
- to be the salt of the earth
- to be a light
- to not be angry
- to not lust and have unclean thoughts
- to turn the other cheek
- the Golden Rule
- to perform our alms in secret
- to pray in secret
- to forgive all
- to lay up treasures in heaven
- that we can not serve two masters
- to not judge
- to ask, knock and seek
- to ponder
This was an extremely abbreviated description of what Christ says in 5 chapters, but I would be here for days expounding on them all. So for now, this will suffice and if you want to go and read it thoroughly, you can start reading from here.
Now, what do we do with all of this information?
In a talk given by Elder Mark E Petersen (April 1977 General Conference), he quotes some verses from these chapters and makes some exceptional insights. He says,
Why is the Lord so strict in requiring detailed obedience from us? It is because he expects us to become perfect as he is. The very object of our existence as children of God is to become like Him. But no unclean thing may enter his presence. Therefore we must perfect ourselves, beginning here in mortality, keeping in mind that we cannot achieve perfection through imperfect means.
That is why God is so strict. That is why he cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.
One of our great failings is that often we are slothful in complying with the commandments. With respect to this he said: “It is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. …
“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.” (D&C 58:26, 29.)
The Prophet Abinadi gave us further understanding of this vital principle in these words: “The Lord redeemeth none such that rebel against him and die in their sins; yea, even all those that have perished in their sins ever since the world began, that have wilfully rebelled against God, that have known the commandments of God, and would not keep them; these are they that have no part in the first resurrection. …
“For salvation cometh to none such; for the Lord hath redeemed none such;yea, neither can the Lord redeem such.” (Mosiah 15:26–27.)
But nevertheless the Lord invites all to come unto him on conditions of repentance, and says: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden,and I will give you rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28–30.)
So what are we to do? We are to “seek … first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” (3 Ne. 13:33.) We are to give our religion first priority in our lives,and then serve God with all our hearts and do unto others as we would be done by as we travel down the road to Jericho.
This was a long post, but I felt it would be a disservice to not give these chapters the respect they deserve.
All of us want to return to live with our Heavenly Father and Savior again. By following these chapters, we will be able to. The Lord was transparent with what is expected. There is no way around it. We can not rationalize anything. Anything less than our absolute best is required. We are to become perfected, like them.
But this won’t happen all at once or even all in this life. It comes line upon line and precept upon precept. Here a little and there a little. It comes when we strive to master ourselves daily through diligent, thoughtful and specific acting on a principle. Not someday or tomorrow or in a little while. Now. This moment. What can I do to change. To become.
For blessed are we IF….
What is your IF? What do you need to work on this moment?