017: Book of Mormon Lesson 40: 3 Nephi 16, 20-21

Am I correct in concluding that these chapters fall in that category of scripture that most members read without comprehension? When we think “Isaiah chapters” 2 Nephi comes to mind, but 3 Nephi has its share as well, with some Micah thrown in.

These chapters in brief talk about how in the latter days Israel (including the descendants of the Nephites) will overthrow the Gentiles if they don’t repent. If you noticed that was in the Book of Mormon, well done.

In this lesson we will explore

  • How we can apply these chapters as individuals and societies–in this scriptural choose your own adventure, are we moving towards Zion or destruction?
  • The idea of “salvation history” including its presentation in the Book of Mormon
  • The role of “Israel and Gentiles” in the last days
  • Conditional prophecies and promises in these chapters
  • Worship: the sacrament and prayer
  • The Biblical context of these passages

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Join Jessica, Emily, Brian and Michael for a thoughtful discussion.


Note: I need to finish going through the Biblical parallels but otherwise my notes are complete. You can access a draft here and I will update them when I am finished.


Many thanks to James Estrada of Oak Street Audio for his hard work in postproduction. And thanks to all who donated, he was able to get his improved software so enjoy the improved production quality!

Latest Comments

  1. SteveS says:

    1) (Repost from Lesson 38, b/c the sermon about other sheep begins in chp. 15) 3 Ne. 15:21-24: Jesus is explaining something about other sheep that would mean very little to the people who heard it. It’s one thing to feel special by being considered part of Jesus’ fold, the house of Israel, the family of God, etc. It is a whole other thing to be told (as were the righteous people in Bountiful in these verses) that Jesus said this to the people in Jerusalem, then explain that those people didn’t understand his words, then tell them that when he said the words about other sheep he really meant the Nephites and other members of the House of Israel scattered throughout the earth. IMO, this may be JS’ doctrinal explanation for Jesus’ visit to the Nephites, but it throws the Gentiles under the bus. Whereas it seems the original statement about sheep not of this fold (John 10:16) seems to predict a Gentile outreach and a radical inclusion of non-Israelites into the fold of God’s covenant, 3 Ne. 15:21-24 seems to rescind that and limit God’s care once again to the House of Israel only. It’s like the Gentiles are there only to advance God’s one true concern for his favorite people. Thoughts?

    2) 3 Ne. 16:10: What does the phrase mean: “behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them [i.e. the Gentiles].” I get tripped up on the verb “bring” connected with the preposition “from”. Usually, you “bring” something “to”, or “take” something “from”. The French translation says “j’emporterai la plénitude de mon Évangile de parmi eux” [I will take away the fulness of my Gospel from among them]. So what is the sequence of events here? The Gentiles get the fulness of the gospel from the Book of Mormon (see v. 4), become wicked and corrupt (v.10), then have the fulness taken from them (v.10), upon which the House of Israel will have the gospel brought to them (v.11-12), whereupon the House of Israel will tread the unrepentant Gentiles underfoot (v.15)? When has this happened? Will this happen sometime in the future? Does this prefigure an apostasy of the restored Church of God in the last days?

    3) So the point of this whole sheep gathering thing is made to show that God makes good on his promises, and Jesus is his executive officer to make sure it all happens. IOW, God’s word is reliable. That’s a big comfort for a lot of people, who put their trust (faith) in God’s promises in a life that is often marked mostly by pain, struggle, sickness, injustice, separation and death. But why must God’s trusty word come at the expense of others with whom he has not made such promises? Here God is still the retributive God who will pay revenge upon those who fought against his people. It contrasts/competes with the image of the weeping God in chp. 17, and the suffering God who made a sacrifice for all that might otherwise destroy the old order of special privilege given to God’s people based on ethnicity. Does the Book of Mormon show and teach that God still cares about your race, and that he still shows favoritism upon those that knew of and loved him first, 3-4 thousand years ago?

    4) 3 Ne. 20:6-7: Wow, another super-miracle, even better than the miracle of the loaves and fishes, or the water to wine in Cana: now Jesus makes bread and wine appear where there was none to begin with! Is this just another example of how Jesus does greater miracles among the people in Bountiful than he could do in Palestine? Is this evidence in support of ex nihilo creation? Or did Jesus’ robes just have exceedingly long sleeves with which he hid the bread and wine used for this magic trick? I get the theological symbolism here, and perhaps I’m being too literalistic and facetious. Yes Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:25-59, which is, interestingly juxtaposed with an account of a multiplication of bread story in vv.1-15 of the same chapter, just like here in 3 Ne. 20) It may just be me, though, but I feel like there’s a bit of a sense of one-upmanship going on here in the text, where everything Jesus says and does among the people in Bountiful is somehow bigger, better, and more impressive than that which he did among the people in Palestine as recorded in the Gospels. Thoughts?

    5) What of the interlude between chp. 16 and 17:10? Jesus was riffing on the House of Israel covenant thing and Isaiah as the Best Prophet Ever! thing, and then all the sudden, we have mass healings, intercessory prayers, angelic ministrations, institution of the sacrament, conferral of priesthood authority, directions for organizing the church, mass baptisms, Pentecostal reception of HG, reverse Gethsemane and Transfiguration of entire people, more sacrament, and then back again to the House of Israel/Isaiah stuff. In the Gospels we see massive evidence for the ordering of stories and teachings of Jesus by the authors in order to frame certain important theological claims about Jesus. Is there a similar attention to the ordering of these events being made here in 3 Nephi?

    6) 3 Ne. 20:23-24: These verses are key to understanding the post-Easter Christian interpretation of the story of the House of Israel leading up to Christ, as well as to the Mormon dispensationalist interpretation of ancient scripture. Herein Jesus tells us that all the prophets since Moses and Samuel have prophesied of him. Even more astonishing, vv. 25-46 show Jesus interpreting himself into Jewish prophecy, commuting the redemption of Israel from the period of Babylonian exile (see Isaiah) to a future time when the Jews will finally accept Jesus as savior and messiah. These prophecies smack of late authorship, because they seek to answer the question about why Jesus’ return hasn’t been imminent over the last two thousand years, as all the early Christians in Palestine and environs clearly believed. Somehow Jesus is giving the people in Bountiful insider information that his return will not be imminent, but rather far into the future, and only after massive gatherings, destructions, chastenings, and dispensations of gospel fulness can take place. In other words, the level of eschatological sophistication seems anachronistic for the setting, indeed somewhat irrelevant for the people who would have heard Jesus give this sermon. Of course, Jesus, with his future knowledge of everything, can say whatever he wants, whenever, and to whomever he wishes. But how could this midrash fit into the claimed historical context?

    7) 3 Ne. 21:22: Somehow the church is established among the Gentiles that do not harden their hearts. Here, membership in a “church” (not a foreign concept to Nephites and Lamanites, who had a church established among them since the days of Alma, but which would have been completely foreign to pretty much every historical culture we know of) is conflated with identity within the covenant of the House of Israel, which was ethnic, familial, and national, not organizational. How does the concept of a “church” matter in the context of “covenant”, unless there are multiplicities of “churches” from which one may choose to belong? How would the people of Bountiful have even possibly understood this statement?

    8) I love the concepts of exile/redemption, scattering/gathering, and remembrance of covenant spoken of in these chapters. It speaks to a deep desire within all of us for belonging, for being known and loved and protected, and for justice. It resonates with a desire within us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves that has the power to change the world for good. I struggle, however, with the emphasis on the destruction of enemies and outsiders, and the vilification of the other that comes along with creating a pure in-group. Is truly what God would want for us? Would God would make such powerful and foreboding promises to protect his favored people at the expense of so many?


  2. Antonio Trevisan says:

    Thanks for this beautiful podcast. I’m glad you have highlighted the potential rejection of the gentiles described in the Bokk of Mormon and the role of Israel in that scenario. A few points I think might be related to the theme:

    1. In JS-H 1:41, teenage Joseph Smith is told by a heavenly messenger “that the fulness of the Gentiles was soon to come in”.

    2. In 1831, a revelation re-states “the time of the gentiles” as related to the restoration of the gospel and also mentions that “in that generation shall the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (D&C 45:28-30).

    3. Is it possible that a biblical generation (Gen. 6:3; Moses 8:17) is being implied? That may be a pushy interpretation, of course. But then verse 25 could also be read as the establishment of the State of Israel. Too literal, perhaps.

    5. Romans 11:25 also refers to a fulness of the gentiles ocurring before a fulness of Israel.

    6. Did Joseph Smith had in mind the members of the Church as the gentiles who are rejected? He acknowledges the fact that church members are “gentiles” (D&C 109:60). So I’m not surprised that most people at church haven’t herad or thought much about 3 Ne 16.

    7. In 3 Ne 16 Christ talks about the fulness of the gospel of the Father, not about the fulness of the gospel of the Son. Is it the same? It sounds as if he were refering to something higher than faith, repentance and baptism.


  3. Megan says:

    Like others, I read 3 Nephi 16:10 and was completely confused.
    The fullness of the Gospel will be taken from the Gentiles? I was always taught that We “the Gentiles” [in the sense that we are generally of the tribe of Ephraim and in BoM-talk, the lost 10 tribes are often lumped in with the Gentiles] were meant to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, that it would never again be taken from the earth, and that this was the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times.

    In the BYU Citation Index, if you look into this chapter, there are several sermons by Orson Pratt that cite these scriptures. It seems to me that OP meant for it to mean that when the Saints were persecuted, rejected and left the known world for Utah, that THAT was when the “Gentiles” rejected the fullness of the Gospel.

    Here is an excerpt from the Journal of Discourses of that OP sermon:

    “And I command you that ye shall write these sayings after I am gone, that if it so be that my people at Jerusalem, they who have seen me and been with me in my ministry, do not ask the Father in my name, that they may receive a knowledge of you by the Holy Ghost, and also of the other tribes whom they know not of, that these sayings which ye shall write shall be kept and shall be manifested unto the Gentiles,”—that is, they should come forth in the latter days, manifested unto the Gentiles as it has been to this great nation—“that through the fulness of the Gentiles, the remnant of their seed, who shall be scattered forth upon the face of the earth because of their unbelief, may be brought in, or may be brought to a knowledge of me, their Redeemer. And then will I gather them in from the four quarters of the earth; and then will I fulfill the covenant which the Father hath made unto all the people of the house of Israel.
    “And blessed are the Gentiles, because of their belief in me, in and of the Holy Ghost, which witnesses unto them of me and of the Father. Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of Israel, in the latter day shall the truth come unto the Gentiles, that the fulness of these things shall be made known unto them. But wo, saith the Father, unto the unbelieving of the Gentiles—for notwithstanding they have come forth upon the face of this land, and have scattered my people who are of the house of Israel; and my people who are of the house of Israel have been cast out from among them, and have been trodden under feet by them; And because of the mercies of the Father unto the Gentiles, and also the judgments of the Father upon my people who are of the house of Israel, verily, verily, I say unto you, that after all this, and I have caused my people who are of the house of Israel to be smitten, and to be afflicted, and to be slain, and to be cast out from among them, and to become hated by them, and to become a hiss and a byword among them.” Has that been fulfilled? Have the Indians been hated? Have they been cast out and trodden under foot? Have they been despised? The people who are acquainted with the history of the Indians can answer this question. “And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel”—that is the Gospel contained in this book which he promised to bring forth unto them—“and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth,”—you can judge whether this is true or not so far as the American nation is concerned—“and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.”
    Now here is a point which I wish to speak upon and explain before I go on to the next sentence, which has a bearing upon something which we have yet got to do. The Lord has told us in this saying that if the Gentiles should not believe in this book—the fulness of the Gospel—and should be lifted up in their pride above all nations, and be filled with all manner of lyings, mischiefs, whoredoms, abominations and every kind of evil, that he would bring the fulness of his Gospel from among them. I wish 3 Ne. 16:10 to state that when I read this in 1830, it was a great mystery to me. Recollect this was written and printed before there was any Latter-day Saint Church in existence, and yet here was a prophecy that the Lord would bring the fulness of his Gospel from among the Gentiles if they did not receive it. When the Lord commanded us to go up and settle in Jackson County I thought to myself—“Well, if we build up a great city here, according to that which is predicted in the Book of Mormon, we shall be right in the midst of the Gentiles, and how will it be possible for that prophecy ever to be fulfilled?” It was a mystery to me, I could not see it. I knew it was true, for God had given me a witness and evidence that I knew as well as I knew that I lived that that book was true; but yet I could not understand how the Lord would bring the fulness of his Gospel from among the Gentiles if we were going to be permitted to build up a city in Jackson County, Missouri, and stay there. But some seventeen years after the rise of this Church circumstances rolled round by which the Lord fulfilled this prophecy in taking the main body of the people from among the Gentiles. Not voluntarily altogether, for we did not all feel perfectly willing to leave our houses. We had been driven four times before from lands and homes, and we did not really feel willing to leave; but still, rather than be shot down and mobbed, as many of our people had been, we concluded to move the fifth time, and we did so because we were obliged to, but little did we think then that we were fulfilling a prophecy in the Book of Mormon, such a thought had not entered into our hearts. But we were brought out west here to these mountains, and I do not know of another place on the face of this vast continent where we could have been so completely isolated from the Gentiles, the wicked who had rejected the Gospel, as we were by coming out en masse to this land. “If the Gentiles shall sin against the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.” It was done, the prediction 3 Ne. 16:10 was fulfilled to the very letter. You might have passed through the land there for hundreds and hundreds of miles, from city to city, and inquired for an Elder who had authority to baptize for the remission of sins and to build up the Church and kingdom of God, and the answer would have been—“There is no such person here.” “Where are they?” “They have gone away beyond the Rocky Mountains,” more than a thousand miles away from civilization as they called it. When we got here and again searched the prophecies we found that the Lord had been as good as his word, and had literally fulfilled that which he had spoken concerning taking his Gospel from the midst of those who had sinned against and rejected it.”

    How does that sit with you? Comments from anyone would be appreciated.


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