Book of Mormon Lesson 41 (3 Nephi 20-26)
Imagine the experience of having the Savior himself explain the meaning of the scriptures. He did this among the Nephites as he explained the plan of salvation—from the beginning even until the end of time, when He would return in glory to the earth. He also read and corrected the Nephite scriptures. And He explained the prophecies of Isaiah and Malachi as they related to the future blessings of Israel.
CHRIST EXPOUNDS THE SCRIPTURES
The Prophecies of Isaiah
The metaphor of marriage. (3 Nephi 22; Isaiah 54)
— Christ considers his relationship with us to be sacred—like a marriage.
— He uses a marriage metaphor when discussing covenants/blessings.
— Those who seek after other gods are called “unfaithful.”
— Christ is faithful to his promises to us, and he expects us to do the same.
— If we are faithful we become joint-heirs with him of all things.
The “barren wife” will become fruitful. (3 Nephi 22:1–3; Isaiah 54:1–3)
— Israel is called a barren wife—unable to produce spiritual offspring (v. 1).
— She will have many children when restored in the latter-days (v. 3).
— The tent of Israel will have to expand to hold all of them (v. 2).
As the “waters of Noah.” (3 Nephi 22:4–13; Isaiah 54:4–13)
— Israel’s shame will be forgotten in the glorious future that lies ahead (vv. 4–8).
— This promise is like the “waters of Noah” to the Lord (vv. 9–10).
– He promised Noah never to destroy the world again with water.
– This promise to Israel is just as sure as the one to Noah.
— Israel’s great blessings to come (vv. 7, 10–13).
— “Great shall be the peace of thy children” (v. 13).
Zion will be protected (3 Nephi 22:14–17; Isaiah 54:14–17).
— “No weapon . . . formed against thee shall prosper”
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”1
Searching the Scriptures
Isaiah’s honored position (3 Nephi 23:1–3). The Book of Isaiah is one of the longest in the Bible. Isaiah is the biblical writer most frequently quoted in the Book of Mormon, and he is also quoted in the Doctrine and Covenants and the New Testament.
Jesus said of the scriptures: “Ye ought to search these things diligently” (3 Nephi 23:4–5). What does “searching” mean?
—Meditating (Joshua 1:8) — Studying (2 Timothy 2:15)
—Pondering (2 Nephi 4:15) — Hearing (1 Nephi 19:24)
—Feasting (2 Nephi 32:3) — Heeding (1 Nephi 15:25).
President Spencer W. Kimball said, “I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns. I find myself loving more intensely those whom I must love with all my heart and mind and strength, and loving them more, I find it easier to abide their counsel.”2
Correcting the Nephite Record
Samuel’s prophecy of the resurrection: Jesus commanded the Nephites to add to their records a prophecy made by Samuel the Lamanite about the resurrection (3 Nephi 23:6–13).
Jesus then “expounded” (explained) all of the writings of the prophets and commanded them to teach these principles to others (3 Nephi 23:14).
The Prophecies of Malachi
Jesus also provided some of Malachi’s teachings (3 Nephi 24:1–2; Malachi 3:1–2). Malachi lived almost 200 years after Lehi left Jerusalem, and was therefore unknown to the Nephites. The “messenger sent to prepare the way” (v. 1) for the Lord’s Second Coming is the restored gospel, and keys and powers restored by heavenly messengers.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Our Lord is the Messenger of the Covenant. (Malachi 3:1). He came in his Father’s name (John 5:43), bearing his Father’s message (John 7:16–17), to fulfil the covenant of the Father that a Redeemer and Savior would be provided for men. (Moses 4:1–3; Abraham 3:27–28). Also, through his ministry the terms of the everlasting covenant of salvation became operative; the message he taught was that salvation comes through the gospel covenant.”3
The Lord “suddenly coming to his temple” was fulfilled when He appeared in the Kirtland Temple on 3 April 1836 (D&C 110:1–10).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “The temple appearance was fulfilled, in part at least, by his return to the Kirtland Temple on April 3,1836; and it may well be that he will come again, suddenly, to others of his temples. . . . It is worthy of note that whenever and wherever the Lord appears, he will come suddenly, that is ‘quickly, in an hour you think not’ (D&C 51:20).”4
Who will abide the Lord’s coming? He is “like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap” (v. 2). In ancient times as well as now, “fulling” (cleansing and bleaching) cloth was important because of the high cost of clothing and the need to remove natural oils and gums before dyeing. The cleansing effect of the Lord’s coming upon us will be like the cleansing and bleaching effect of fuller’s soap on cloth, leaving us pure and without spot. He also compares this purging of sin to refining and purifying silver.
Levite priests will make sacrificial offerings in the latter-days (3 Nephi 24:3–4; Malachi 3:3–4).
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The offering of sacrifice has ever been connected and forms a part of the duties of the priesthood. . . . These sacrifices, as well as every ordinance belonging to the priesthood, will, when the Temple of the Lord shall be built, and the sons of Levi be purified, be fully restored and attended to in all their powers, ramifications, and blessings.”5
The destruction of the wicked and of the “sons of Jacob” (children of Israel—the members of the Church) who stray away from their covenants (3 Nephi 24:5–7; Malachi 3:5–7).
Blessings and promises of tithes and offerings (3 Nephi 24:8–12; Malachi 3:8–12). There are many elements to this promise, so let us consider them one at a time: Tithing is a voluntary contribution in response to the Lord’s command to sacrifice. The Church does not send out a bill for tithing to its members, nor a collection notice if we fail to pay it.
The purpose of tithes and offerings is that there may be “meat in my house” (v. 10). President Joseph F. Smith said: “The law of tithing is the law of revenue for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Without it, it would be impossible to carry on the purposes of the Lord.”6
We are invited to test the Lord’s word in this matter. (v. 10). There are few other places in scripture where this invitation is given to us, because in general it is sinful to “tempt” (test) the Lord our God. But in the matter of our temporal well-being, he graciously invites us to exercise our faith in this matter and see how we will be blessed.
The spiritual blessings of tithing are that the Lord will open the “windows of heaven” (v. 10). This figure of speech was used anciently to speak of revelation and other spiritual blessings from heaven. These spiritual blessings will be so great that it will seem that there is “not. . . room enough to receive it” (v. 10).
President Harold B. Lee said: “The promise following obedience to . . . [tithing] is that the windows of heaven would be open and blessings would be poured out that we would hardly be able to contain. The opening of the windows of heaven, of course, means revelations from God to him who is willing thus to sacrifice.”7
The temporal blessings of tithing. The Lord promises tithe-payers that he will “rebuke the devourer” for their sakes, and that He will protect the “fruits of your ground” [labors] from destruction (v. 11). The devourer anciently was usually insects or invading armies (which are often equated metaphorically). This suggests that the fruits of our labors will be protected from natural causes like weather, and also from our enemies who might seek to take or destroy those fruits.
The proud reject God and His teachings (3 Nephi 24:13–15; Malachi 3:13–15). They say, “It is vain to serve God, and what doth it profit that we have kept his ordinances. . . . (v. 14). They “call the proud happy” and “set up” (idolize) those “that work wickedness” (v. 15). They “deliver” (excuse) those that “tempt God” from any consequences for their behavior (v. 15). This is the mark of a corrupt society which is ripening for destruction.
The Lamb’s book of life (3 Nephi 24:16; Malachi 3:16). The Lord keeps “a book of remembrance. . .for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name” (v. 16). Our names are, at our birth, placed into this book, showing the Lord’s intention that we be saved and exalted. Those who devote themselves to the Lord earn for themselves the privilege of having their names recorded in the Lamb’s book of life.
God’s “jewels” are those who keep their covenants and do not speak against Him. These are those that the Lord will “spare” (3 Nephi 24:17–18; Malachi 3:17–18).
The “great and dreadful day” of the Lord (3 Nephi 25:1; Malachi 4:1). While there will, indeed, be a day when the wicked will be burned at Christ’s Second Coming, this dualistic prophecy also has reference to eternal families. “Without root or branch” is a figure of speech that means to be left without ancestors or posterity.
The Son of Righteousness will come (3 Nephi 25:2–4; Malachi 4:2–4). Note that in Malachi the Lord is called “the Sun of Righteousness” (emphasis added). This was a figure of speech in the Egypt-dominated culture in which Malachi lived, which relates to the Osiris myth and other symbols of sun worship. The Jews at the time of Malachi would have been familiar with these religious symbols. In the Book of Mormon version which Jesus spoke to the Nephites, this figure of speech is removed and the Lord is called “the Son of Righteousness.”
Elijah will come with sealing keys before the “great and dreadful day” on which the Lord shall return (3 Nephi 25:5–6; Malachi 4:5–6). It is interesting to note that these verses in the Book of Mormon read the same as in Malachi 4:5–6, but when Moroni quoted them to Joseph Smith in 1823 (D&C 2:1–3), he paraphrased them and gave them a more modern interpretation.
Moroni said that Elijah would “reveal the priesthood” (D&C 2:2), which involves much more than just his appearing. He would bring priesthood keys that make eternal families possible. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Some members of the Church have been confused in thinking that Elijah came with the keys of baptism for the dead or of salvation for the dead. Elijah’s keys were greater than that. They were the keys of sealing, and those keys of sealing pertain to the living and embrace the dead who are willing to repent.”8
The promises made to our ancestors (D&C 2:2). Moroni described Elijah’s mission as planting “in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers” causing “the hearts of the children [to] turn to their fathers” (v. 2). What were these “promises made to the fathers?”
The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “The spirit, power, and calling of Elijah is, that ye have power to hold the key of the revelation, ordinances, oracles, powers and endowments of the fullness of the Melchizedek priesthood and of the kingdom of God on the earth; and to receive, obtain, and perform all the ordinances belonging to the kingdom of God, even unto the turning of the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the hearts of the children unto the fathers, even those who are in heaven.”9
This answers the question as to who “the fathers” are and what they were promised. These are our fathers—our ancestors—who lived through the Dark Ages and through all the other eras of this earth’s history and are now “in heaven” (the spirit world).
Without this work, the entire plan of salvation would have been for nothing (D&C 2:3). Moroni changed the last verse to read, “If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming” (v. 3).
Jesus Expounds (Explains) the Scriptures
To expound means to explain carefully and in detail (3 Nephi 26:1–5). Jesus taught the gospel carefully and “from the beginning” (v. 2). His reason for teaching the prophecies of Malachi to the Nephites was so that they could be given unto future generations—meaning us today.
Only a few of Jesus’ teachings are included in the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 26:6–8). Some scripture has been held back to test our faith (3 Nephi 26:9–12).
Their Little Children Speak Marvelous Things
Children see and know more than we think they do. The Lord loosed the tongues of their little children “and they did speak unto their fathers great and marvelous things, even greater than he [Jesus] had revealed unto the people” (3 Nephi 26:14).
Jesus ascended again into heaven (3 Nephi 26:15). This was the second time that he had shown himself unto them.
Their little children taught them on the following day (3 Nephi 26:16). Their teachings were so sacred that it was not possible (or perhaps permissible) for them to be written down.
1. History of the Church, 4:540.
2. The Teachings of President Spencer W. Kimball , 135.
3. Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 488.
4. Mormon Doctrine, 693–694.
5. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 172–173.
6. “Come, Follow Me”, 226.
7. Ensign, November 1971, 16.
8. Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 130.
9. History of the Church, 6:251.