In the Book of Matthew, Jesus taught us that “Man shall not live by bread alone” but I’d like to add that we all need buttering up occasionally. So let me start by saying it great to be with you again. You are amazing people, and I look forward to every minute that I get to spend with you because of your kindness and goodness. I am an entirely imperfect human being, but being with you every Sunday helps me see where I can improve. Sometimes I feel like a hypocrite, but as someone wisely said, “Come to church even if you feel like a hypocrite—there’s always room for one more.”
I love organ music. There is something about the king of instruments that stirs my soul. Before coming to earth, I signed up for some private organ lessons with Johnny Bach—you might know him as Johann Sebastian Bach—but he got deployed earlier than we expected. He was scheduled to be the keyboardist of Van Halen, but his timelime was adjusted. So there were no lessons, as you can tell. In a few hundred years I suspect we’ll hook up again, but until then, I’ll just listen to great organists.
This week as I was preparing this lesson, I was listening to some Tabernacle Organ music while perusing my usual online Gospel Doctrine teacher resources, trying to prime the pump. My goal was to feel the Spirit so I could figure out what to teach you today. Our assigned reading for today is the rest of 3 Nephi and 4 Nephi—lots of verses in there. We can’t cover them all. So which ones were most important?
I found myself back at the homepage of LDS.org, and there I saw an ad for a video by Stephen Jones, and the title said, “One Question That Puts Life in Perspective.” It intrigued me, and so I watched the 22 minute video to discover that one question. Which morphed into two questions. But I felt the whisperings of the Holy Ghost, tears came to my eyes, and I knew what to focus on today.
As you know, the Book of Mormon was written for us, the inhabitants of a gentile nation who seek to enter into a covenant relationship with God so that one day we can return and live not only with him, but like him. At the center of this, is the magnificent Lord Jesus Christ, and every story and sermon in the Book of Mormon attempt to focus us on him, with specific suggestions that pertain to our time and our circumstances. Our job is to open our hearts and our minds and liken the scriptures to us and apply these teaching in our lives.
I don’t know about you, but as I’ve studied the Book of Mormon this year, I’ve felt one message coming through more loudly and clearly than ever before. And it is this: that the only thing—the only thing—that can save us from giving into the growing anger, and hatred, and conflict, and chaos that is plaguing and poisoning the world in the last days, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As we apply the Gospel in our lives, and receive the protective priesthood ordinances after making sacred covenants with God, and we continue to be faithful to the words of his authorized servants—both ancient and modern, the Savior will wrap his arms around us and save us—literally.
That, my friends, is the message of this lesson. It is the parting message Jesus gives to the Nephite people at the climax of the Book of Mormon. It is the message of all the Lord’s prophets.
Let’s read and talk about it now to make sure we understand it. But before we do that, let me take you back to chapter 26 for just a minute or two.
3 Nephi 26
Chapter 26 verse 13 would indicate that the Savior’s intense ministry was for three days and then he visited periodically after that, always repeating the sacrament ordinance each time he came.
But something remarkable happens again in verse 14. Let’s read this beautiful verse:
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;
So wait a minute. You mean the children— undoubtedly these were the same children who had been ministered to by angels—these children taught their parents something greater than the Savior taught? Whoa.
Of course, that’s not without precedence. Think all the way back to 30 minutes ago. Some of us felt things—profound things—as we were taught by our primary children in sacrament meeting.
Let’s look at verse 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.
So out of all the glorious and magnificent things we have recorded in our scriptures, there were some things that the children and even the infants taught that were so marvelous that they were forbidden to be written. In fact, if we go back up to verse 6, it says:
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;
And why is that? Look at verses 9-11:
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.
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.
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.
Wow. Well, that certainly puts us in our place. And we thought we were all that and then some. Naw. We have lots of room for improvement.
The principle being taught here is we always have to exercise more faith before we can receive more knowledge. Hmm. So knowledge of the divine, without faith in the divine, is quite useless. If we want more knowledge of Christ, we have to exercise more faith in him.
3 Nephi 27
Excellent, now let’s jump into another one of the greatest chapters in the entire Book of Mormon. If we only had chapter 27 of 3 Nephi, we would do quite well. This is definitely in my Book of Mormon top 10, although my top 10 includes 238 other chapters too. But this one deserves some close attention, because, again, this is the climax of the Book of Mormon. So let’s look at it.
This chapter starts off with a meeting of the 12 disciples. They were united in fasting and prayer to try to find the answer to one of their questions. They were wondering what the name of the church should be, after all, they were starting a new dispensation.
In the past they had baptized people into the Church of God. At other times, into the Church of Christ. The Savior said the old was done away. So what should they call the church? They didn’t know and the people were confused, and it was starting to cause some disputations.
Disputations. If there was one thing that was taught by the Savior over and over again in the scriptures it was this—stop disputing. Stop contending. Stop trying to prove to others that you know better. Instead, start believing. If you ever start feeling contention growing in your heart and mind, it is time to take a step back, take a breath, and do some serious reflection.
So in verse 1 they were praying and fasting for revelation and in verse 2 Jesus appears to them, and they explain the problem, and Jesus says, in verse 4:
4 And the Lord said unto them: Verily, verily, I say unto you, why is it that the people should murmur and dispute because of this thing?
One thing I’ve discovered in my life, it that whenever I murmur, complain, criticize, blame, condemn, argue, and dispute, the more I alienate the people I love the most. Those negative behaviors are always relationship killers. Always. And they always chase away the Holy Ghost. Always.
The Savior continues in verse 5:
5 Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day (the last day);
6 And whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day (the last day).
Methinks the Savior is talking not just to the Nephites, but to you and me, members of the church.
7 Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name; therefore ye shall call the church in my name; and ye shall call upon the Father in my name that he will bless the church for my sake.
Only through the Savior may we, as people who sometimes choose to sin rather than choose to obey, only through the Savior can we gain an audience with the Father and receive his blessings.
8 And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man…
Lots of examples come to mind here. There are thousands of churches that have been created by well-meaning men and women that take on their names. Others take on the name of something that describes their defining characteristic or their location. The Internet has even led to shorter church names. Here’s some new churches that have been created recently: The Pursuit, Urban Refuge, Sandals, Cross Culture, Life on the Vine, Immersion, and even Scum of The Earth. Let’s go back to verse 8, shall we?
…but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel.
9 Verily I say unto you, that ye are built upon my gospel; therefore ye shall call whatsoever things ye do call, in my name; therefore if ye call upon the Father, for the church, if it be in my name the Father will hear you;
10 And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.
So this is a sign of the true church. In that church, you will see the hand of God blessing it, expanding it, working miracles amongst its members, performing saving ordinances.
11 But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.
So what is the gospel? You should highlight or mark or flag or memorize verses 13 through 22 because this is the message, this is the good news, this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ explained as succinctly and as beautifully as you will ever find. And here it is:
13 Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.
Notice that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is actually the Gospel of God. Jesus is perfectly reflecting the heart and the mind and the desires of our Heavenly Father.
14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father…
Let me pause there for a second. Sometimes we focus on what makes us unique from other churches, and that includes understanding of what really happened in the Garden of Gethsemane that night.
But notice that Jesus is talking about what happened after that awful event—his crucifixion. The cross is an incredibly important symbol to remember. Because Jesus was lifted up, the Father can now lift us up too. Let me say that again: because Jesus was lifted up, the Father can now lift us up too. Because Jesus paid the price, he is in a position where he can set the terms on who returns to the presence of the Father. He is our judge.
Also, notice that even though people are drawn to the Savior, the Savior wants to make it perfectly clear that it is the Father to whom he worships and adores and to whom deserves all the glory.
Let’s go back to verse 14:
..that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—
15 And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.
Notice that Jesus didn’t just say that we’d be judged by our faith, but by our works. And what are those works?
16 And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled (with the Holy Ghost); and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.
What are we filled with? The Holy Ghost. And if we act in such a way that allows that Holy Ghost to fill our lives, and remain with us until we have endured to the end, then, and only then will we be held guiltless.
And if the members of the church aren’t faithful? What happens? Let’s find out.
17 And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father.
18 And this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men. And for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given, and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words.
19 And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.
So we need to exercise faith, repent, receive saving ordinances, and remain faithful. Got it. Is that it? No. Let’s read on, because the Savior has one more commandment.
20 Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.
21 Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;
22 Therefore, if ye do these things blessed are ye, for ye shall be lifted up at the last day.
So that’s it. We exercise faith, constantly repent, make and keep sacred covenants, receive saving ordinances, endure to the end, and then, we are commanded to do the things that Jesus would do if he were here. Which is, brothers and sisters, why we study the scriptures and sit in these classes. So we can know what Jesus would do, feel the Spirit, and then be guided by the Holy Ghost to go and do those lovely things.
That’s the Gospel. Very good news indeed.
Let me wrap up the rest of chapter 27. Jesus is still teaching the 12 disciples, and he explains that his joy is very great, almost completely full for them, because he says, none of this generation will be lost. And none of the next generation. And none of the next. But the fourth generation—they’re going to sell their testimonies and faithfulness for silver, gold, and stuff that can be purchased with money. Ironically, they will then have to pay the price for their transgressions, and that brings sorrow to our loving Savior because he completely understands the true price.
3 Nephi 28
In chapter 28, before the Savior leaves this meeting, he asks the twelve disciples what they would like to be blessed with after Jesus leaves. Nine of them desire to minister among the people for the rest of their lives and then return to heaven to live with Jesus. The Savior then bestowed this blessing on their heads. But three of the Nephite disciples desired to have the same blessing that was given to John the Beloved, which was to tarry here on the earth, laboring for at least 20 more centuries, ministering to the inhabitants of the earth. This blessing was also granted, and they were translated, given sanctified Terrestrial bodies that don’t corrupt or age or are subject to disease and pain and other Telestial conditions, and are still alive and among us today.
While there is speculation about who they are and where they are and we hear rumors of their appearances from time-to-time, the lesson manual clearly indicates that we are not to engage in this speculation. They are on the Lord’s errand, and the work they do among us is sacred, and very personal. But they are here. So, technically, there are 19 apostles and prophets on the earth today—what a privilege!
If you want to read more about these three Nephites, take a closer look at this chapter. We skipped over some good stuff.
3 Nephi 29 & 30
Chapter 29 explains that the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is a sign that the Lord has started to gather Israel as he promised to do. We’re also given a warning about what will happen to us if we deny Christ and the revelations given to his prophets.
Chapter 30 contains one last commandment that Jesus gave to the prophet Mormon, so that he could write them down for us to read. So let’s read it:
2 Turn, all ye Gentiles, from your wicked ways; and repent of your evil doings, of your lyings and deceivings, and of your whoredoms, and of your secret abominations, and your idolatries, and of your murders, and your priestcrafts, and your envyings, and your strifes, and from all your wickedness and abominations, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel.
So what happens when we keep this commandment? Let’s find out. Turn with me over to Fourth Nephi and let’s read verse 1 through 3.
1 And it came to pass that the thirty and fourth year passed away, and also the thirty and fifth, and behold the disciples of Jesus had formed a church of Christ in all the lands round about. And as many as did come unto them, and did truly repent of their sins, were baptized in the name of Jesus; and they did also receive the Holy Ghost.
2 And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.
3 And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.
Then verse 5:
5 And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of miracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus.
And then let’s jump down to verse 15:
15 And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
16 And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.
17 There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.
This would be a perfect place for a Hollywood ending: and they all lived happily ever after. And they did, for two hundred years! For two hundred years they lived in Zion. Until they blew it. Until they sold their souls to the devil for money, and their protection of divine providence was removed, and their society immediately began to crumble. And four generations later, only the wicked remained and the devil laughed for 1400 years.
There’s a lot more to this story of course, and we’ll study it during the next six lessons before we move on to our next volume of scripture in January and we see how the devil stops laughing on a beautiful spring morning in 1820, when the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost visit a young boy prophet.
Brothers and sisters, I hope you find clarity and insight and inspiration and purpose as you read from the pages of the Book of Mormon. I have. I can’t imagine life without it.