Book of Mormon Lesson 37
“Whosoever Will Come, Him Will I Receive.”
A. In our last lesson we saw that the Nephite and Lamanites received the sign of Christ’s Birth - the sun went down and it remained light. We saw how quickly the people forgot this sign
B. We read about the chief judge’s murder and the government of the Nephites failing and the whole nation falling into tribal chaos. One small group separated themselves and made a man named Jacob their king.
C. Today we will be reading what happened at the time of Christ’s Crucifixion and about Christ’s actual visitation to the Americas.
D. As missionaries, when we give the Book of Mormon to investigators, what is the first thing we invite them to read? 3 Nephi 11. Why? Not only is it important to establish that the Book of Mormon testifies of Christ, but there are some very important doctrine taught by Jesus in his very first encounter with the Nephites and Lamanites - things that are important for seekers of truth to understand.
II. People again question the prophesies of Samuel the Lamanite.
A. Read 3 Nephi 8:2-4. We see that although these people either witnessed and remembered or were told by reliable sources of the miracle that happened in this hemisphere at the time of Christ’s birth, they were already questioning and doubting Samuel’s other prophesies. Why is it so easy for us to forget what the prophets tell us even when we have ample evidence of their veracity?
1. I don’t know if this recent economic down turn is just a bump in the road or if it will cause more devastation and despair, but if it does, none of us can say that we were not adequately warned by our prophets to prepare for it. Our prophets have been telling us to stay out of debt, live within our means and prepare our food storage for decades.
III. The destruction at the time of Christ’s crucifixion is described.
A. Read 3 Nephi 8:5-10, 14-17.
1. The level of destruction here may have been hard for me to fathom in the past. But with the tsunami a few years ago, and hurricanes Katrina and recent tornados in the Midwest, it is easier for me to understand how entire cities could be washed into the see or completely blown away.
2. I visited Pompeii in 1998. This was an entire city frozen in time when it was completely covered by lava and ash by Mount Vesuvius . In one day an entire city was destroyed. The plaster casts they have done of the people covered with ash and lava are haunting. It is frightening to think how quickly a civilization can be destroyed.
B. Read 3 Nephi 8:19-22.
1. Why do you think God caused this darkness to come over the land?
a. Could it be that he wanted to contrast the darkness of sin with the light of salvation from Christ? Is he illustrating that Christ is the only light of the world.
b. This also contrasts with the sign of light the Nephites experienced at the time of Christ’s birth.
2. Why did the darkness last 3 days? Was this when Christ was in the tomb, in the spirit world, before the resurrection?
3. Although it is not necessary to understand exactly how God made this darkness occur. One explanation could be volcanic activity. My wife lived in Washington state when Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980. She remembers everything being very gray, and not being able to see through people just a few feet in front of her through the ash. People had to get out of their cars and have someone feel the road in front of them in order to drive. You couldn’t see headlights just a few feet away.
IV. They hear the Voice of Christ.
A. In the darkness they hear a voice. Read 3 Nephi 9:1-2. Not a very hopeful message at first. He then list how the different Nephite cities have been destroyed. He indicates that they were destroyed for justice “that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come up any more unto me against them.”
B. Read 3 Nephi 9:13-15. These are the first words of hope they have had in 3 days. Also, the voice announces who he is.
C. Read 3 Nephi 9:17-21.
1. How was the law of Moses fulfilled in Christ?
a. All of the rituals in the law of Moses in some way symbolize Christ.
b. Who knows what Jewish Holiday we celebrated last week? Yom Kippur. Yom means day and Kippur means Atonement = The Day of Atonement. Today Jews spend the entire day in the synagogue fasting and praying. It is a day of repentance. Traditionally Jews wear white, symbolizing purity. When there was a temple the priest used to take a he-goat as a sin offering, kill it and sprinkle it’s blood on the alter and mercy seat in the holy of holies. He took another goat and laid his hands on its head and symbolically placed all the sins of Israel on it and then took it out into the wilderness - signifying Israel’s release from sin by these offerings. It is easy for us to see how this represents the Atonement of Christ. This is just one example of how Jesus fulfilled the law of Moses.
2. What sacrifice does Christ request of us now? “A broken heart and a contrite spirit.” He wants us to humble ourselves before him, be truly penitent and accept his atonement.
V. Christ appears to the Nephites.
A. Read 3 Nephi 11:1-7.
1. Why did it take them 3 times to understand the words? They finally “opened their ears.” Perhaps they first few times they were too shocked to actually pay attention.
B. Read 3 Nephi 11:8-11 and 13-15.
1. Why was in important that Jesus testify and show the people who he was before he started teaching them? The right authority is important when teaching the gospel.
C. Once Jesus has testified of his own authority and shown the people who he is, what is the first thing he teaches them? Baptism.
1. Read 3 Nephi 11:18-26.
2. Why do you think this is the first thing he teaches? Baptism is necessary for salvation.
3. Why does he call Nephi out of the multitude to teach about the manner of baptism? Priesthood authority is necessary for baptism.
4. While the Bible gives us some very good hints about how we should baptize it still leaves room for some confusion. Thus there are hundreds of different ways different Christian churches baptize and none but the Church of Jesus Christ have the authority to do it. (I loved the scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where her fiancé is baptized 3 times in the blow up pool.) But here in the Book of Mormon we get the correct mode of baptism right from Jesus’s mouth. And we were all baptized in this very way using these exact words.
D. Jesus teaches about the spirit of contention.
1. Read 3 Nephi 11:28-30. How can we have honest disagreements amongst ourselves and with people of other faiths and still avoid the spirit of contention?
2. Reading these verses reminded me of Elder Hales talk last week on General Conference. I wanted to quote a bit from it:
Recently a group of bright, faithful young Latter-day Saints wrote down some of the most pressing questions on their minds. One sister asked, “Why doesn’t the Church defend itself more actively when accusations are made against it?”
To her inquiry I would say that one of mortality’s great tests comes when our beliefs are questioned or criticized. In such moments, we may want to respond aggressively—to “put up our dukes.” But these are important opportunities to step back, pray, and follow the Savior’s example. Remember that Jesus Himself was despised and rejected by the world. And in Lehi’s dream, those coming to the Savior also endured “mocking and pointing . . . fingers”. “The world hath hated [my disciples],” Jesus said, “because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world”. But when we respond to our accusers as the Savior did, we not only become more Christlike, we invite others to feel His love and follow Him as well.
To respond in a Christlike way cannot be scripted or based on a formula. The Savior responded differently in every situation. When He was confronted by wicked King Herod, He remained silent. When He stood before Pilate, He bore a simple and powerful testimony of His divinity and purpose. Facing the moneychangers who were defiling the temple, He exercised His divine responsibility to preserve and protect that which was sacred. Lifted up upon a cross, He uttered the incomparable Christian response: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do”.
Some people mistakenly think responses such as silence, meekness, forgiveness, and bearing humble testimony are passive or weak. But, to “love [our] enemies, bless them that curse [us], do good to them that hate [us], and pray for them which despitefully use [us], and persecute [us]” takes faith, strength, and, most of all, Christian courage.
He goes on to say:
When we do not retaliate—when we turn the other cheek and resist feelings of anger—we too stand with the Savior. We show forth His love, which is the only power that can subdue the adversary and answer our accusers without accusing them in return. That is not weakness. That is Christian courage.
He gives ways we can respond to our church being criticized: a kind letter to the editor, a conversation with a friend, a comment on a blog, or a reassuring word to one who has made a disparaging comment. We can answer with love those who have been influenced by misinformation and prejudice—who are “kept from the truth because they know not where to find it” I assure you that to answer our accusers in this way is never weakness. It is Christian courage in action. (So he is not suggesting that we just ignore people when they attack us or misrepresent out beliefs.)
One of the most common and hurtful ways enemies of the church attack us is by claiming we are not Christians. But Elder Hales reminds us “More regrettable than the Church being accused of not being Christian is when Church members react to such accusations in an un-Christlike way! May our conversations with others always be marked by the fruits of the Spirit—‘love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance’”
E. Read 3 Nephi 11:32-36.
1. While these verses may sound like common sense to us, it is important to realize that these few verses explain the nature of the Godhead (trinity) better than any verses in the entire Bible. While other Christians try to claim that Mormons are in error in our understanding of the nature of the Trinity, you can read the Bible from cover to cover and you will not find the word Trinity or Godhead once. There is nowhere in the Bible that explains the Trinity the way it is explained in the Nicene Creed. We are lucky we have these verse where Christ Himself explains how He, the Father and the Holy Ghost are both separate and one in that they testify of each other.
2. I just got finished reading a book called The Great Angel - A Study of Israel’s Second God by a Methodist Bible Scholar named Margaret Barker. She presents overwhelming evidence of how the ancient Israelites believed in a Son of God, “The Great Angel”, who was separate from God the Father but who helped in creation and how the first Christians believed Jesus Christ was a manifestation of this Son of God, separate from God the Father. It’s a very interesting book and I’ll loan it to anyone who wants to read it.
VI. Conclusion. Important things taught in this lesson.
A. Don’t ignore the prophesies and signs from the prophets.
B. Christ fulfilled the law of Moses and the law of Moses testifies of Christ.
C. Christ Himself established his authority before administering to the people. This underscores the importance of the priesthood authority to administer and teach in the church today.
D. Christ taught the correct manner of baptism.
E. Christ taught the nature of the Godhead.
Elder Hales, Robert D., Christian Courage - The Price of Discipleship. October Conference 2008.