3 Nephi 26
3 Nephi 26:1
1 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had told these things he expounded them unto the multitude; and he did expound all things unto them, both great and small.
As the citation of Malachi ends, the Savior picks up with explanatory discourse. Interestingly, Mormon elects to give us the inserted texts, but not the explanation of those texts. This opening verse serves as a general statement of the discussion that follows the Malachi citations. As an introduction to material, it is a collective statement, and not a statement of order. Thus we may suppose that what we have as verse 2 was the immediate aftermath, and the other things, “both great and small,” are described following our verse 2.
Textual: In the 1830 edition this information followed the citation of Malachi, and is intended to explain both the import of that text and the aftermath. Orson Pratt was required to move verses 1-5 to the beginning of the next chapter rather than keep them as a chapter ending because he wanted to be able to replicate the chapter and verse for Malachi to make for easier reference.
3 Nephi 26:2
2 And he saith: These scriptures, which ye had not with you, the Father commanded that I should give unto you; for it was wisdom in him that they should be given unto future generations.
Malachi wrote after Lehi led his family out of Jerusalem, so they Nephites could not have had these texts. When they heard them, they would have heard them for the first time. However, to have the impact necessary, the Savior must have introduced them in some way as scripture. Perhaps to create anticipation he announced that they were scripture, and did not explain until afterward that they were scriptures that they did not have. Given that the Savior expected that the people would recognize passages from Isaiah, he would assume that they had at least some recognition of the major received scriptures, and he would have know that they would listen to Malachi intently, trying to place it in their memory of scriptures they had heard.
3 Nephi 26:3
3 And he did expound all things, even from the beginning until the time that he should come in his glory—yea, even all things which should come upon the face of the earth, even until the elements should melt with fervent heat, and the earth should be wrapt together as a scroll, and the heavens and the earth should pass away;
The explanation given by the Savior of the things “both great and small” covered the discussion of his coming as the Triumphant Messiah.
Reference: The theme of the last days had already been touched upon, and this would be a conclusion or reemphasis of those points. The concluding sentences combine verbal elements from KJV texts with which Joseph would have been familiar.
2 Peter 3:10
10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
4 And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.
It is interesting that the particular language of the scroll is inaccurately applied to this new context. Note that the Isaiah imagery has heaven being rolled as a scroll, an imagery also found in Revelation 6:14. The reference here is to the Hebrew conception of heaven as a tent over the earth keeping out the celestial waters (see also 3 Nephi 24:10; Malachi 3:10). It is easy to see how a tent might be envisioned as rolling up like a scroll. The imagery of the Old Testament is one of the division between heaven and earth being removed.
The 3 Nephi context has the rolling as a scroll applied to the earth. Unlike the KJV models where only the heavens pass away, the 3 Nephi text has both heaven and earth passing. The only reference in which this altered has place is the earth as a sheet of metal under intense heat. Under that scenario, the earth could be as a flattened piece of metal that under the conditions of heat might be rolled as a scroll. This interpretation is particularly interesting for two facts. The first is that this fits much better into the imagery of Malachi where the refiner’s fire is purifying the elements. The second is that the Book of Mormon Nephites would not have had scrolls for their records, but they did have sheets of metal. When the metaphor is shifted to this new context, the purification of the fires creates something purified out of the original, and the old earth and heavens passing away into renewal through the refiner’s fire is a more tangible metaphor in the New World context.
3 Nephi 26:4
4 And even unto the great and last day, when all people, and all kindreds, and all nations and tongues shall stand before God, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—
The Atoning Messiah is expounding his future mission as the Triumphant Messiah, which takes place at the end of times when the judgment of the nations will take place.
Reference: The language of this passage echoes Revelation:
9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
The quadruple occurrence of people, kindreds, nations, and tongues certain owes that particular collection of descriptions to Revelation. The context of judgment also fits this particular verse in Revelation. While the verse is not a direct citation, the vocabulary of the verse served as the model for Joseph’s translation of the meaning that was on the plates.
3 Nephi 26:5
5 If they be good, to the resurrection of everlasting life; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of damnation; being on a parallel, the one on the one hand and the other on the other hand, according to the mercy, and the justice, and the holiness which is in Christ, who was before the world began.
Reference: The language of this verse is influence by the gospel of John:
29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
This same set of meanings was also used to express similar ideas in the book of Mosiah:
11 If they be good, to the resurrection of endless life and happiness; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of endless damnation, being delivered up to the devil, who hath subjected them, which is damnation—
The importance of this basic conception of the differing resurrections attached to good and evil also shows in Alma 40:11 and in the Doctrine and Covenants:
Doctrine and Covenants 76:17
17 And shall come forth; they who have done good in the resurrection of the just; and they who have done evil, in the resurrection of the unjust.
The theme is clearly important, and Joseph Smith tended to couch that message in similar terms in the Book of Mormon and later in the Doctrine and Covenants.
Textual: This is the end of a chapter in the 1830 edition.
3 Nephi 26:6
6 And now there cannot be written in this book even a hundredth part of the things which Jesus did truly teach unto the people;
3 Nephi 26:7
7 But behold the plates of Nephi do contain the more part of the things which he taught the people.
3 Nephi 26:8
8 And these things have I written, which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people; and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken.
These verses begin a new chapter in the 1830 edition, and they mark a change in the nature of the text. To this point, Mormon has been working with the abbreviated text of Nephi (3 Nephi 5:10). In verse 7 Mormon notes that his current account is abbreviated and leaves out many of the words of the Savior. He notes that much of this information was available, but that it was contained on official plates of Nephi.
At this late point in his text, Mormon tells us the reason he is writing. According to verse 8, he has written the part of the Savior’s message that he wrote “to the intent that the may be brought again until this people, from the Gentiles.” It is safe to assume that not only this particular section, but his entire work is written to that end. He specifically mentions it in this context because that time period, and particularly the relationship of this message and the Gentiles has been the subject of the parts of the Savior’s discourses that have been added.
This further substantiates the idea presented in the analysis following Words of Mormon 1:1 that Mormon’s original introduction to his work was lost with the 116 manuscript pages, and that function of introduction was not replaced with the small plate material was translated.
3 Nephi 26:9
9 And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them.
3 Nephi 26:10
10 And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation.
Verses 9 and 10 are Mormon’s personal testimony about the importance of the record he is writing. He has included the information from the visit of the Savior that concentrates on the written record and its role in the future history. As the creator of this particular record, Mormon cannot help but add his perspective on the work in which he is involved.
[and when they shall have received this]: “They” are the Gentiles, and “this” is the Book of Mormon. In this context, the modern Latter-day Saints are the Gentiles.
[which is expedient that they should have first]: The Book of Mormon comes first to the Gentiles, and from them to the House of Israel, including the descendants of the people of the book.
[to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them.]: Whenever we see the phrase “try faith” is it best to see it in the light of the Psalm:
10 For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried
In a modern English connotation of the phrase “try faith” it might appear to be an intentional attempt to damage faith by providing a difficult test. The purpose of the Lord is never to damage our faith, but to refine it. When our faith is “tried” as is silver, it is purified through the heat of the refiner’s fire. There may be difficulties, but they exist to polish and purify our faith, not to see if we might lose it.
[if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them]: The opportunity of the Gentiles with respect to the Book of Mormon is the same promise the Lord always makes to his children. For those who may be faithful in a few things, greater things may be added. This is the entire focus of the parable of the talents:
14 ¶ For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.
19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
In this parable, those who are successful husbands of what they have been given receive an increase. The one who was not had that which had been given taken away and given to another. The promise of potential greater things is a promise given implicitly to Joseph Smith as the translator of Mormon’s record. The experience of the restoration which followed the translation of the Book of Mormon suggests that there were indeed many “greater things” that were given after the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.
3 Nephi 26:11
11 Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people.
3 Nephi 26:12
12 Therefore I, Mormon, do write the things which have been commanded me of the Lord. And now I, Mormon, make an end of my sayings, and proceed to write the things which have been commanded me.
This is an interesting glimpse into the process by which Mormon created his text. Mormon does not often explicitly tell us how he makes his decisions to include or exclude some information. Doubtless there were times when those decisions were left to him. He tells us that in this case, the limitations of the text that we have is the direct result of instruction from the Lord. This helps us to understand why Mormon chose the smaller account when a more complete account was available. Without this explanation we would be left wondering why Mormon was not so impressed with all the words of the Savior that he recorded every one. This is the same Mormon who was impressed to combine the small plates of Nephi with his own text. This is the same Mormon who has entered fairly long citations from his text, and even full letters in the later chapters of Alma. Certainly he would have appreciated every word that the Savior spoke. Unquestionably, he did. He did not include them because he was instructed not to include them.
This makes it even more important that we attempt to understand the reason that the Lord would ask Mormon not to write words that were important enough to be spoken, and then recorded in the large plate tradition. We know that there were some things that were so sacred that they could not even be written (3 Nephi 17:17). That which was not written, Mormon could not have produced in any case, so Mormon’s decision was not whether to write that most sacred information, for it was not even available to him as text. What he had, however, were those things that had been written, and he indicates that there was significantly more than what is now available.
The Lord limits the text to “try the faith of my people.” Even with our understanding of “trying faith” as a purifying process, we must understand that faith is not tried until is is tested against some stress. Muscles are not built unless they work against resistance, and the muscle becomes stronger and healthier for overcoming that resistance. It is an interesting question, and one without a complete answer, as to what there is about the existing text of the Savior’s appearance in the New World that becomes a resistance against which our faith is tried.
Perhaps the nature of this text tries our faith because of the limitations of the way we receive it. Certainly there have been many in the modern world who had disbelieved in the Book of Mormon because our text contains such obvious insertions of KJV material. Many of those same disbelievers and pointed out the possible problems of the appearance of the Sermon on the Mount as a literary whole in 3 Nephi, when the scholarly community sees it as a Matthean construction from traditional materials.
The fact of the appearance of the Savior to the people of the New World has been a comfort and a building block of faith for many who accept the Book of Mormon. The confirmation of the value of the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount and the other cited scriptures is an important confirming witness of their value and spiritual power. What we do have has been for many a point of faith, not a test of faith. Perhaps therein lies the test itself. In seeing the words of the Savior, the test may be what we see. If we see the spiritual value, we gain spiritual insight. If we see the scholar’s concerns, we begin to see darkness, and soon we stand in danger of losing the value of the entire text.
3 Nephi 26:13
13 Therefore, I would that ye should behold that the Lord truly did teach the people, for the space of three days; and after that he did show himself unto them oft, and did break bread oft, and bless it, and give it unto them.
Mormon continues with his personally testimony. In this he gives us important information about the Savior’s visit to the Nephites in Bountiful. There were three days in a row in which the Savior was with them, but the experience of the New World saints was not limited to three days. The Savior also appeared “oft.” We do not know what “oft” means, other than it certainly indicates a continuation of the experience. Interestingly, Mormon tells us very little of the events of the third day. Verses 14 and 16 below comprise our only information. In contrast that third day, we have all of chapters 27 and 28 that refer to events from Jesus subsequent appearances to the apostles only.
3 Nephi 26:14
14 And it came to pass that he did teach and minister unto the children of the multitude of whom hath been spoken, and he did loose their tongues, and they did speak unto their fathers great and marvelous things, even greater than he had revealed unto the people; and he loosed their tongues that they could utter.
3 Nephi 26:15
15 And it came to pass that after he had ascended into heaven—the second time that he showed himself unto them, and had gone unto the Father, after having healed all their sick, and their lame, and opened the eyes of their blind and unstopped the ears of the deaf, and even had done all manner of cures among them, and raised a man from the dead, and had shown forth his power unto them, and had ascended unto the Father—
3 Nephi 26:16
16 Behold, it came to pass on the morrow that the multitude gathered themselves together, and they both saw and heard these children; yea, even babes did open their mouths and utter marvelous things; and the things which they did utter were forbidden that there should not any man write them.
Mormon’s sequencing is confusing at this point. In verse 14 we have the children speaking under the influence of the Spirit, and then in 15 the ascension after the second day. Then Jesus returns, and in verse 16 we have the children speaking. Are there two incidents of the children speaking? Probably not. Mormon has been giving a summation, and in this case began summarizing an event that occurred chronologically on the day after his most recent text. At some point in writing he understood that he might be confusing the chronology, and he straightens it out. Verse 14 is a reference to the same event as verse 16, and they come on the third day of the Savior’s visit.
3 Nephi 26:17
17 And it came to pass that the disciples whom Jesus had chosen began from that time forth to baptize and to teach as many as did come unto them; and as many as were baptized in the name of Jesus were filled with the Holy Ghost.
Mormon has ended his discussion of the Savior’s visit to the multitude at Bountiful. From this point on we will have only information on the Savior’s more limited appearance to the apostles. Chronologically, there is an indeterminate passage of time indicated here. At the end of the intense three day experience with the Atoning Messiah, the apostles begin their task of teaching the gospel and baptizing believers and giving them the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
3 Nephi 26:18
18 And many of them saw and heard unspeakable things, which are not lawful to be written.
Even though Mormon does not write what these things were, he wants us to know that they did happen. The appearance of the Savior was a transformational experience for all who were there, but most particularly for the twelve specially appointed men. Mormon indicates that they were faithful in their transformation by indicating that they had tremendous experiences with the Spirit, even if the particulars could not be given.
3 Nephi 26:19
19 And they taught, and did minister one to another; and they had all things common
among them, every man dealing justly, one with another.
The establishment of the gospel community in the New World mirrored the social construction of the earliest Christian communities in the Old World:
44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
Even though the language is the same, we should not suppose that the precise economic and social conditions prevailed. The economic conditions of the early Christians in Jerusalem were quite different from the Nephites, and the economic background against which their new community would be contrasted also differed. For the Jerusalem Christians, they were a small community inside a larger community that did not share their ideals. They created a community of commonality inside a society that accepted social hierarchies.
In the New World the Nephites were still agriculturally based, so the holding of all in common was a more natural and simple thing. There was less that was not in common in the first place. Secondly, the Nephite ideal has long been social equality, and the institution of such social equality through commonality of economics was not foreign to the Nephite conditions. For the Nephites, this statement is almost more of one that suggests that the began to live well the principles that they had long espoused.
3 Nephi 26:20
20 And it came to pass that they did do all things even as Jesus had commanded them.
3 Nephi 26:21
21 And they who were baptized in the name of Jesus were called the church of Christ.
In the ancient world, the naming of a thing was very important and significant, for the name and the thing named shared an essence. When a person was baptized they did not join a club, but they literally became something else. When they named themselves as a church of Christ they were literally taking his name upon them. They were identified by that name and they were to be like Christ, for they shared his name.
Textual: There is no chapter break at this point in the 1830 edition.
by Brant Gardner. Copyright 2002