013: Book of Mormon Lesson 36: 3 Nephi 1-7

The beginning of 3 Nephi overflows with intense extremes as it describes the decades leading up to the appearance of Jesus to the Lehites. The sign of Jesus’ birth is given; people believe then disbelieve. A protracted war with the Gadianton robbers forces the people to prepare and unite. Society is rebuilt and then collapses. Discussion points will include:

  • Signs of Jesus’ birth
  • Lessons from the Gadianton war
  • Insights from Mormon’s autobiographical aside
  • What led to the collapse of society?
  • More comments on the devil
  • Wickedness and Righteousness at extremes
  • 3 Nephi as a type of the Second Coming

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Look forward to discussion with TJ, Chawntelle, Wagner, and Aaron, and please feel free to continue the discussion here on the blog.

You can access my Lesson Notes here.

I will be including the links about wealth inequality shortly.


Much thanks to James Estrada of Oak Street Audio for his hard work in postproduction.

Latest Comments

  1. michael says:


    Sorry I haven’t been more active recently. You are a week ahead of my ward and always a few days ahead of my posts. This is all I have for the discussion and it has to do with failed prophecy:
    Looking at the dating in the Book of Helaman for when the signs of Jesus’ birth were supposed to be fulfilled and when they are actually fulfilled in 3 Nephi is a bit problematic.

    Helaman 13:1 begin in, and Helaman 16:9 ends in the 86th year of the reign of the judges which is negative 6 years from the birth of Jesus. In Helaman 14:2, Samuel said that Jesus’ birth would come after five more years. This apparent discrepancy casuses problems in 3 Nephi 1:4-9 – the sign should have come in the 91st year, not the 92nd year. Woops!! A whole year after the prophecies were supposed to be fulfilled. You can then understand why things were getting a little heavy for the believers.


  2. michael says:

    Oh, and I have no frickin’ idea why my wife’s avatar keeps showing up with my comments. Not that I mind. She’s much easier on the eyes than my ugly mug!!


  3. SteveS says:

    1) What does 3 Ne. 1:14 mean? in particular, what does this phrase mean: “and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh.”? I’ve read this countless times, and I’m still unsure how that works, either syntactically or theologically. It seems a strange Trinitarian construct.

    2) Have their been any significant unexplained celestial phenomena observed in the modern era? Pre-modern cultures read all kinds of omens into changes from the normal astronomical patterns they observed from day to day. Strange occurrences included comets, meteor showers, eclipses of the moon and sun, possibly the appearance/disappearance of stars, exploding supernovae, red suns or moons, etc. But nothing akin to the singular event of 36 hours of light (except near the poles, both of which were undiscovered in Nephite times). We might be able to explain away the celestial “signs” of pre-modern cultures, but how do believers in the “same” faith traditions of these same pre-modern cultures account for the absolute paucity of celestial phenomena “signs” in our day in age, which supposedly is on the precipice of apocalyptic end-times, and for which many prophecies of celestial signs have been made? Has God changed his MO now that scientific observation has demystified astronomical phenomena? In some ways, I’m wistful for this loss of mystical and sublime explanation for natural events. Think of it: that day and night and day would be burned into your memory forever if it happened to you. That new star would serve as a constant reminder of God’s faithfulness in making good on a promise. And yet, imbuing meaning into celestial phenomena through faith doesn’t make them a proof of God’s existence, power, and care. These events all have natural explanations. Is this why we see so many reject the sign of the day and night and day without darkness so quickly in the Book of Mormon? Does faith make the miracle, or does the miracle make the faith?

    3) Giddianhi, governor of the society of Gadianton, makes an appeal to tradition fallacy in 3 Ne. 3:9 as he says that he knows that society and works are good at least in part because they are “of ancient date”. This is a pretty transparent fallacy, but is sometimes used in argument whenever both parties are using the same fallacious appeal to make claims on the rightness of their system of belief. I read this statement as a challenge to Lachoneus and the Nephite worldview, which certainly regarded the ancient tradition of their beliefs as evidence of their authority (c.f. 2 Ne 29, and Alma 30, wherein Korihor also points out this logical fallacy to Alma). So if we as the reader of Giddianhi’s letter in 3 Ne. 3 are meant to challenge Giddianhi’s assertion that the secret combinations of the Gadiantons were good because they were ancient, shouldn’t we also be willing to challenge claims to goodness, authority, or truth whenever appeals to tradition are being made? IOW, Christianity and Mormonism (or any other religious tradition) cannot be deemed true simply because they are old, or that they draw upon ancient tradition. They must stand or fall on the merits of their theology, doctrine, and practices as they interface with observable, repeatable, experiential reality.

    4) In 3 Ne 3:12-14, Lachoneus “circles the wagons” in anticipation of war with the Gadianton robbers. This “we are besieged” mentality, and this initiative to gather at a place of safety and strength has strong resonance, even among the modern LDS Church. And yet, there has been a distinctive drop off in rhetoric and discourse that used to be so prevalent in previous generations of LDS Church members. You all know the prophecies and expectations of members that one day they would be called back to Adam-Ondi-Ahman, to gather in preparation for the times of tribulation. Many expected these events to occur on or around the turn of the millennium. But that time has come and gone. Still, many LDS look to the stories leading up to Christ’s visit to the Nephites in 3 Ne. as a blueprint for the events leading to his second coming. It is plausible that Lachoneus’ gathering of the people to one place could be interpreted as the eventual(?) return of faithful LDS to Missouri. And yet, we haven’t heard anything about this aspect of prophecy and doctrine for many years now. What happened?

    5) 3 Ne. 5:18: how does Mormon know that the record he makes is “just and true”? Is he saying that he has made a faithful abridgment of the records to which he had access (i.e. he hasn’t made up stories or mis-characterized individuals in the histories)? or is his conviction based on “truthiness”–a feeling in his gut or the spirit telling him that he got it right? This statement gives us insight into the mindset of the editor as we attempt to use his words to understand the individuals and actions represented as they would have existed in historical context. Mormon is the filter (or is it JS?), and he makes a claim as a reliable one. But how does he measure his reliability?

    6) I don’t know what to make of 3 Ne. 7:15-26. Nephi is very clearly being described as a second Jesus here, teaching with power and authority (so that people cannot disbelief and are therefore more fully condemned for their disobedience, just like Pharisees) and performing many miracles (including raising someone from the dead) and baptizing for the remission of sins and ordaining men to his ministry. These events begin in earnest in the thirtieth year (the same year Jesus began his ministry in Galilee, according to the NT). For me, this begs the question of the necessity of Jesus’ visit to the people a couple chapters hence: if Nephi was already saying and doing and organizing in the same ways we would expect him to as a Christian, why did Christ have to cause so much destruction and then perform a huge collective parousia in physical form? I suppose he had to organize his “Church”, but really, Jesus didn’t even do this among his people in Palestine. Was it the institution of the sacrament? I don’t know. Why did the Nephites get the special treatment of both almost complete destruction, miraculous visitation, and overt organization of religion?


  4. michael barker says:

    Helaman 3:12 “…therefore he did not hearken to the epistle of Giddianhi…” I love it!! Much better than how Captain Moroni handled the epistle from Ammoron (see Helaman 54). Lachoneus is kind of like, “Ya.. Whatever dude.”


  5. Carl Youngblood says:

    The subject was discussed about how the unbelievers felt justified in putting the believers to death. I was thinking that it probably was based on Deut 18:20-22, which says that prophets whose prophecies do not come to pass should be put to death. Perhaps those who followed such prophets were also seen as worthy of death. Still reprehensible but perhaps not without precedent in the law.


  6. C, says:

    I liked the discussion on equality and how LDS wards may or may not play into the spiritual leveling of the field. I grew up in a military/diplomatic family and saw some really interesting examples of this, both good and bad.

    Once my family was in a branch where the local Air Force general was a primary teacher, while an enlisted man was the branch president. Non-members who found out about it were often thrown to see a man who was literally as high as he could go in one hierarchy be willing to take a “lower” status in another. As far as we could tell, the general found his responsibilities very fulfilling and was well loved. Our lay ministry does produce problems (that’s a topic I could ramble on about at length), but this was, to me at least, a really great example of how people should lay aside outward statuses and not allow privilege or rank to get in the way of serving in the church.

    Unfortunately in another area of the world, wealth and poverty lines were drawn straight down the middle of the ward resulting in the most ludicrous backbiting, sabotage, and outright refusal to work with individuals across racial and class divides. Really poor experience.


  7. Joseph says:

    3 Ne 6:15 does seem odd in the apparent emphasis on Satan, and I found the discussion about it useful to think about why Mormon (via Joseph Smith) might have worded it this way at this point. I just want to go back to the anchor that we shouldn’t take any verse of the scriptures too much out of the whole context. So the Book of Mormon also has plenty of other verses that emphasize that all is dependent on man’s agency, like 3 Ne 7:5, Hel 14:30-31; Alma 3:19,27 (more editorial comments by Mormon that this time emphasize individual agency). It seems like Book of Mormon theology is that we have agency, but in order to function, our agency must respond to some type of external force or enticement, good or evil; as described for example in 2 Ne 2.


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