018: Book of Mormon Lesson 41: 3 Nephi 22-26

These chapters function as a sermon and reflection about the scriptures. Jesus quotes from Isaiah 54 and Malachi 3-4. He recommends the writings of Isaiah and urges Nephi to supplement his own records. Then in a bittersweet twist, we are excluded from the climax of the story–Mormon tells us that Jesus reveals all things, that the mouths of children and infants are opened and they also teach the people. But he is forbidden to record these sublime teachings even though he wanted to.

In addition to going over the meaning of these quotes both in their Book of Mormon and Biblical context, we will take this opportunity to explore the question of scripture. What is scripture? What are the implications of our “open canon”? Can we have personal scripture? How do activities like journal writing and family history tie in? Oh, and we talk a bit about the end of the world and tithing too.

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Join an engaged discussion with Emily, Whitney, Michael and Jeff.


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

Latest Comments

  1. SteveS says:

    1) 3 Ne 22:1-14 (Isa. 54:1-14): The redemption of Israel is framed in language placing God (or is it Jesus?) in the role of the faithful husband who reaches out to protect the women, widows, and children. Some may these verses as tender and gentle, and significant in their attention given to some rather starkly under-represented groups (women and children). But the roles played here are so patronizing toward the women. God (or is it Jesus) forsakes the woman for “a small moment” to teach her a lesson! I have no idea how God or Jesus would characterize the relationship between themselves and human beings, either individuals or in groups, but I’m extremely uncomfortable with this model, not only for its theological implications (which seem to challenge the more expansive theories of divine potential of humans taught by Joseph Smith), but for the way it has given license to men to exercise dominion over women for millennia. Thoughts?

    2) 3 Ne. 22:16: Really evocative imagery in this prophecy in which a blacksmith brings forth an instrument that will do God’s work. Equally evocative is the phrase that follows: “I have created the waster to destroy.” What/who is this instrument? What/who is the waster? Is this sort of a Shiva thing? Is God the author of destruction. Or is this all just metaphorical language?

    3) 3 Ne. 23:9-14: Passive-aggressive Jesus seems obsessed by his public image, enough to call out the disciples for not having recorded Samuel’s prophecies in their time, and then have them record the story of their castigation for the ages as an immortal cautionary tale about taking prophecies seriously and the virtues of careful record-keeping. But this raises issues about the reliability of narratives that are separated by decades from the actual events. What court of law would admit and rely upon the testimony of an eyewitness forty years after the events transpired? Is it even possibly to be a reliable witness for historical events, even for events in the recent past? Do you remember what you ate for breakfast last Thursday, for example, or how many times you passed through a construction zone the last time you drove on a freeway? (btw, these questions apply equally to the story of Samuel the Lamanite as much as to all four of the Gospels in the New Testament, all of which were written somewhere between 30-75 years after Jesus’ death) So what we have in Samuel the Lamanite is apparently a story about a prophet whose prophecies weren’t written down until almost forty years after he made the prophecies, written after the prophecies had all come to pass so they could be written to show how they were conveniently all fulfilled, then later edited by Mormon as he prepared the Book of Mormon manuscript. Yikes! But does 23:9-14 actually subvert all the complexity of the creation of scriptural narratives by encouraging an uncritical approach to the stories as accurate portrayals of real historical events? After all, in these verses Jesus highlights the important elements of Samuel’s prophecies, and gives them the reason why Samuel’s prophecies are important (because they confirm the truth of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and atonement, the visit to the people in Bountiful being the “proof” that all the other stuff was real, even though no one in Bountiful could know for certain whether the guy visiting them was in fact the Jesus of Nazareth foretold by prophets past). IOW, why worry about *where* the stories came from or *how* they were remembered and constructed; what matters is that they confirm the truths that are most important for us. Is there really any way to reconstruct objective reality, or will we always be ingesting narratives constructed to confirm previously-held beliefs of one person or another?

    4) 3 Ne. 23:14: how does one “expound all the scriptures in one”? This phrase is reminiscent of the stranger on the road to Emmaus (hint: it’s Jesus in disguise), who “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27). Here the stranger/Jesus is rekindling hope in the disciples of Jesus, who is shown through the scriptures as having fulfilled prophecies of the Messiah’s death. These words, and the sign of the stranger breaking bread, open the eyes of the disciples as they realize that Jesus is not dead, but has triumphed over death and will live on. Jesus may be doing a similar thing here with the people in Bountiful. Other ideas about expounding all the scriptures include parallels with Ammon (Alma 18:38) and Aaron (Alma 22:13), missionaries who use scriptures to recount the history of the world and God’s plan for humans to Lamanite kings. Thoughts?

    More to come later.


  2. SteveS says:

    5) 3 Ne. 24, 25: So Malachi 3-4 is so super important that Jesus quotes these chapters from the Hebrew canon, the only other full chapter quotes besides Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. Can you give us all some historical and theological context for the tithing verses (vv.7-12)? How does the concept of tithing interface with 3 Ne. 26:19: “and they had all things in common among them”? They seem two separate economic principles, one that requres 10 percent, the other requiring 100 percent.

    6) 3 Ne. 25:12: The day comes where the wicked will be burned as stubble. These may have been really important verses for either Joseph Smith or Mormon. This verse has syntactic parallels in 1 Ne. 22:15 and 23-24, 2 Ne. 15:24, and 2 Ne. 26:4,6 and 9, as well as three more verses in the D&C, and perhaps most significantly, quoted directly by Moroni in his visit to the young Joseph on Sep. 21, 1823. The references in 1 and 2 Nephi, however, are anachronistic (they were quoted before Malachi had a chance to use them first in a prophecy, not to mention the use of KJV word constructions in every quotation), complete with the follow-up image of the Son of Righteousness rising with healing in his wings (2 Ne 26:9) and the calves in the stall (1 Ne. 22:24). Still the “burning as stubble” image seems the dominant image for Joseph; all the D&C and PoGP uses of the image don’t include the redemption images. So why is this such a compelling image for Joseph? Is it simply due to it’s prominence as the last chapter of the Old Testament? Is this the apocalyptic vision that drives the urgency of the “restoration” movement started by Joseph Smith? Is that why it was important enough for Jesus himself to quote to the people in Bountiful who wouldn’t see this prophecy fulfilled? Or does it resonate with them simply because so much of their civilization were burnt as stubble, and they had been witness to a Son of Righteousness rising with healing in his wings (remember the hen gathering the chicks under her wing!)?

    7) The second half of Malachi 4 is just as important for Joseph as the first: the “great and dreadful day of the Lord” is referenced in Alma (another anachronism), four times in D&C, and of course, by the angel Moroni in that important visit in 1823. The vision of Elijah returning to turn the hearts is another resonant prophecy: Elijah was going to return to restore a priesthood or a sense of identity/responsibility for the traditions of the ancestors. Is this evidence of a focus on religious primitivism: the old ways being restored one final time in the lead-up to the Second Coming?

    8) 3 Ne. 26: I’m really sad about Mormon claiming that he had no more space to write any more of the 100 times more worth of teachings of Jesus that he taught to the people of Bountiful (even though most of it apparently had been written in the Plates of Nephi). I’m even more sad that apparently, the Lord forbade it (3 Ne. 26:11). Why? to “try the faith of my people.”. 😦 I can’t shake a feeling like this is simply a convenient way for Joseph Smith to say how awesome and wonderful Jesus was without needing to invent any new teachings of Jesus. How convenient! In reality, it has got to be pretty hard to invent authentic-sounding words for Jesus. In the wrap-up of this story cycle of Jesus’ visit, chp. 26 contains no fewer than four references to marvelous words that were forbidden to be written (see vv. 11, 14, 16, and 18). Is there any way to interpret this sudden drop-off in teaching, just as it was getting to the marvelous and new?


  3. Mark A. Clifford says:


    I have nothing smart to say except that I love what you are doing here.

    I listen faithfully. You do a wonderful job of approaching the scripture with attention, respect, and the intellectual and emotional integrity that it demands.
    I can not imagine the effort that this requires of you, but please please keep doing. You are modeling a productive, deeply faithful (that is, as opposed to “superficially faithful” because I think there is such a thing as that, too) wrestle with the Book of Mormon that inspires me.

    And, I am a fellow upstate New Yorker! Who would have guessed that there could be more than one Mormon from that neck of the woods?

    Godspeed. You are good, and good for us…

    Mark Clifford


  4. geoffsn says:

    Great podcast. During the tithing discussion, I was wishing I could have added this quote from Lorenzo Snow in General Conference:

    “But as regards the law of tithing, it is in force upon the poor as well as the rich, and it seems that it acts almost unequally in some respects. There is a widow, whose income is ten dollars; she pays one for tithing, and then has to appeal to the Bishop for support. Here is a rich man who has an income of one hundred thousand dollars, and pays ten thousand for his tithing. There remains ninety thousand, and he does not need it, but the poor widow requires much more than she had before complying with the law of tithing. Now what would be the operation of the celestial law? The widow has not enough for her support, therefore nothing is required of her by the celestial law, or the law of the United Order.

    This rich man, with his ninety thousand dollars, continues to increase his riches, pays his tithing fully, and yet wholly disregards the law of stewardship, or the law of temporal union. I cannot believe that a Latter-day Saint is justified in ignoring the higher law. For, as we have read, “Behold none are exempt from this law who belong to the Church of the living God.” There is not a man within the sound of my voice who is exempt from this law, nor will he ever be until Jesus, the Son of God, comes in the clouds of heaven to set all things right: “Yea, neither the Bishop, neither the agent who keepeth the Lord’s storehouse, neither he who is appointed in a stewardship over temporal things.” This will apply to the Bishops who reported there yesterday, and to every Latter-day Saint. We are under this law. We should act in the spirit of this law according to the light of God that is within us.”


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