During April 2023 General Conference, we received very clear direction to study 3 Nephi. As I perused the talks, I found that 17 talks directly or indirectly, through scripture references, referred to 3 Nephi. There may be more that I missed.
There is not time to speak of all the remarkable events of that glorious day and the days that followed [when the resurrected Christ appeared to His people on the American continent.] But it is clear that 3 Nephi contains some of the most moving and powerful passages in all scripture. It testifies of Jesus Christ, His prophets, and the doctrines of salvation. At this Easter time, what a blessing it would be if every family would read together 3 Nephi, discuss its sacred contents, and then determine how they can liken it unto themselves and apply its teachings in their lives. ~Ezra Taft Benson, The Savior’s Visit to America, April 1987.
As I’ve launched into 3 Nephi again, I wanted to look at it through a variety of lenses. One approach involved studying only the chapter headings. I used chapter headings to gain insight into what those creating the chapter headings found most instructive in the chapter. I’ve read 3 Nephi many times but was especially struck as I looked at the contents from a top-level approach at how 3 Nephi testifies of Jesus Christ and His mission, instructs on covenants—how and why to make and keep them, and what happens if you do or don’t—and discusses the gathering of Israel at great length. Everything in the book fell into those categories to me in a way I hadn’t previously considered.
Nephi, the son of Helaman, departs out of the land, and his son Nephi keeps the records—Though signs and wonders abound, the wicked plan to slay the righteous—The night of Christ’s birth arrives—The sign is given, and a new star arises—Lyings and deceivings increase, and the Gadianton robbers slaughter many. About A.D. 1–4.
- Wickedness and abominations increase among the people—The Nephites and Lamanites unite to defend themselves against the Gadianton robbers—Converted Lamanites become white and are called Nephites. About A.D. 5–16.
- Giddianhi, the Gadianton leader, demands that Lachoneus and the Nephites surrender themselves and their lands—Lachoneus appoints Gidgiddoni as chief captain of the armies—The Nephites assemble in Zarahemla and Bountiful to defend themselves. About A.D. 16–18.
- The Nephite armies defeat the Gadianton robbers—Giddianhi is slain, and his successor, Zemnarihah, is hanged—The Nephites praise the Lord for their victories. About A.D. 19–22.
The Nephites repent and forsake their sins—Mormon writes the history of his people and declares the everlasting word to them—Israel will be gathered in from her long dispersion. About A.D. 22–26.
- The Nephites prosper—Pride, wealth, and class distinctions arise—The Church is rent with dissensions—Satan leads the people in open rebellion—Many prophets cry repentance and are slain—Their murderers conspire to take over the government. About A.D. 26–30.
- The chief judge is murdered, the government is destroyed, and the people divide into tribes—Jacob, an anti-Christ, becomes king of a secret combination—Nephi preaches repentance and faith in Christ—Angels minister to him daily, and he raises his brother from the dead—Many repent and are baptized. About A.D. 30–33.
Tempests, earthquakes, fires, whirlwinds, and physical upheavals attest the crucifixion of Christ—Many people are destroyed—Darkness covers the land for three days—Those who remain bemoan their fate. About A.D. 33–34.
- In the darkness, the voice of Christ proclaims the destruction of many people and cities for their wickedness—He also proclaims His divinity, announces that the law of Moses is fulfilled, and invites men to come unto Him and be saved. About A.D. 34.
- There is silence in the land for many hours—The voice of Christ promises to gather His people as a hen gathers her chickens—The more righteous part of the people have been preserved. About A.D. 34–35.
The Father testifies of His Beloved Son—Christ appears and proclaims His Atonement—The people feel the wound marks in His hands and feet and side—They cry Hosanna—He sets forth the mode and manner of baptism—The spirit of contention is of the devil—Christ’s doctrine is that men should believe and be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. About A.D. 34.
- Jesus calls and commissions the twelve disciples—He delivers to the Nephites a discourse similar to the Sermon on the Mount—He speaks the Beatitudes—His teachings transcend and take precedence over the law of Moses—Men are commanded to be perfect even as He and His Father are perfect—Compare Matthew 5. About A.D. 34.
- Jesus teaches the Nephites the Lord’s Prayer—They are to lay up treasures in heaven—The twelve disciples in their ministry are commanded to take no thought for temporal things—Compare Matthew 6. About A.D. 34.
- Jesus commands: Judge not; ask of God; beware of false prophets—He promises salvation to those who do the will of the Father—Compare Matthew 7. About A.D. 34.
Jesus announces that the law of Moses is fulfilled in Him—The Nephites are the other sheep of whom He spoke in Jerusalem—Because of iniquity, the Lord’s people in Jerusalem do not know of the scattered sheep of Israel. About A.D. 34.
- Jesus will visit others of the lost sheep of Israel—In the latter days the gospel will go to the Gentiles and then to the house of Israel—The Lord’s people will see eye to eye when He brings again Zion. About A.D. 34.
- Jesus directs the people to ponder His words and pray for understanding—He heals their sick—He prays for the people, using language that cannot be written—Angels minister to and fire encircles their little ones. About A.D. 34.
- Jesus institutes the sacrament among the Nephites—They are commanded to pray always in His name—Those who eat His flesh and drink His blood unworthily are damned—The disciples are given power to confer the Holy Ghost. About A.D. 34.
- The twelve disciples minister unto the people and pray for the Holy Ghost—The disciples are baptized and receive the Holy Ghost and the ministering of angels—Jesus prays using words that cannot be written—He attests to the exceedingly great faith of these Nephites. About A.D. 34.
Jesus provides bread and wine miraculously and again administers the sacrament unto the people—The remnant of Jacob will come to the knowledge of the Lord their God and will inherit the Americas—Jesus is the prophet like unto Moses, and the Nephites are children of the prophets—Others of the Lord’s people will be gathered to Jerusalem. About A.D. 34.
- Israel will be gathered when the Book of Mormon comes forth—The Gentiles will be established as a free people in America—They will be saved if they believe and obey; otherwise, they will be cut off and destroyed—Israel will build the New Jerusalem, and the lost tribes will return. About A.D. 34.
- In the last days, Zion and her stakes will be established, and Israel will be gathered in mercy and tenderness—They will triumph—Compare Isaiah 54. About A.D. 34.
- Jesus approves the words of Isaiah—He commands the people to search the prophets—The words of Samuel the Lamanite concerning the Resurrection are added to their records. About A.D. 34.
The Lord’s messenger will prepare the way for the Second Coming—Christ will sit in judgment—Israel is commanded to pay tithes and offerings—A book of remembrance is kept—Compare Malachi 3. About A.D. 34.
- At the Second Coming, the proud and wicked will be burned as stubble—Elijah will return before that great and dreadful day—Compare Malachi 4. About A.D. 34.
- Jesus expounds all things from the beginning to the end—Babes and children utter marvelous things that cannot be written—Those in the Church of Christ have all things in common among them. About A.D. 34.
- Jesus commands that the Church be called in His name—His mission and atoning sacrifice constitute His gospel—Men are commanded to repent and be baptized that they may be sanctified by the Holy Ghost—They are to be even as Jesus is. About A.D. 34–35.
- Nine of the twelve disciples desire and are promised an inheritance in Christ’s kingdom when they die—The Three Nephites desire and are given power over death so as to remain on the earth until Jesus comes again—They are translated and see things not lawful to utter, and they are now ministering among men. About A.D. 34–35.
- The coming forth of the Book of Mormon is a sign that the Lord has commenced to gather Israel and fulfill His covenants—Those who reject His latter-day revelations and gifts will be cursed. About A.D. 34–35.
- The latter-day Gentiles are commanded to repent, come unto Christ, and be numbered with the house of Israel. About A.D. 34–35.
Return, Repent, Be Converted and Healed
Quoting from 3 Nephi 9:13-14, President Russell M. Nelson made a plea for us to study 3 Nephi and apply its promises in our lives:
I also invite you to study again the account of the Savior’s appearance to the Nephites in the Americas, as recorded in 3 Nephi. Not long before that appearance, His voice was heard among the people, including these words of supplication:
“Will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?
“… Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive.”3
Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ extends that same invitation to you today. I plead with you to come unto Him so that He can heal you! He will heal you from sin as you repent. He will heal you from sadness and fear. He will heal you from the wounds of this world.