When the storm and destruction hit, it was the first month of the 34th year, on the 4th day of the month (3 Nephi 8:5) Then a couple chapters later, Mormon says:
“And it came to pass that in the ending of the thirty and fourth year, behold, I will show unto you that the people of Nephi who were spared…did have great favors shown unto them…insomuch that soon after the ascension of Christ into heaven he did truly manifest himself unto them. (3 Nephi 10:18)
If their calendar year mimicked ours, that would mean almost a year has passed since the destruction and darkness and the voice they heard, calling them to repentance and faith on Christ’s name.
What have they been doing during this time?
What do we do after disasters strike? We pool our resources and efforts to clean up all the damage and fix what’s been broken. Since their storm was of epic proportions, they probably had a ton of cleanup and restoration to do.
The people are gathered at Bountiful, discussing the great and marvelous changes which had taken place throughout the land. They’re also discussing this Christ that had been foretold about and the signs of His coming and death they have previously witnessed.
As they are conversing one with another, they hear a still small voice, but don’t understand it.
…notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.”3 Nephi 11:3
They hear it a second time, but still can’t understand.
And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.”3 Nephi 11:5
- They opened their ears.
- They cast their eyes towards the sound.
- They steadfastly looked to heaven.
Do I open my ears to hear the words of the prophet?
Do I look to him in all I do, for spiritual direction and guidance?
Do I look to heaven through prayer?
The world does a skillful job of distracting us from looking to the source of heavenly inspiration. But when we give the world no heed, we are capable of listening to prophets and looking steadfastly up to God for direction and guidance. Only by doing this will we prevent ourselves from being deceived. We will hear God’s voice, through the Holy Ghost, pierce us to our very souls.
When they look up and open their ears and eyes, they understand and hear Heavenly Father’s voice introducing His Son.
Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.”3 Nephi 11:7
What a glorious pronouncement. Very few times in the history of mankind has the Father personally introduced His Son. I love these words from our living prophet about how God speaks to us.
The adversary is clever. For millennia he has been making good look evil and evil look good. His messages tend to be loud, bold, and boastful.
However, messages from our Heavenly Father are strikingly different. He communicates simply, quietly, and with such stunning plainness that we cannot misunderstand Him.Pres. Russell M. Nelson, Hear Him, Apr 2020 General Conference
The prophet goes on to say that whenever God has introduced His Son, He does so in “remarkably few words.” Usually, the people in the audience had been in “a state of fear and, to some degree, desperation.” (ibid)
Our Father knows that when we are surrounded by uncertainty and fear, what will help us the very most is to hear His Son.
Because when we seek to hear—truly hear—His Son, we will be guided to know what to do in any circumstance.”(ibid, Nelson)
We live in a day of unprecedented confusion and division. The need to Hear Him is greater than ever.
So many of us worry about the state of our country and politics, but the state of our hearts is much more important.
Our nation and world can’t be saved or healed by politics, no matter how good they may seem. Salvation starts individually in our hearts, with repentance, with love. That’s why when Christ speaks, either in person or through His prophets, the message is always similar: Repent, have faith on Jesus Christ, partake of the saving ordinances of His gospel, love and serve our neighbors. This is His gospel. His word.
If politics become more important than people, which sadly is what seems to be happening lately, we are heading down a dangerous cliff, one no elected official can save us from.
I trust that God already knows the results of elections throughout the world. He knows what other plagues or natural disasters will happen to us. He knows if there will be war or peace, famine or feast, manmade disasters or great scientific discoveries. He knows. So, we don’t need to fear the future, even if it becomes super troubling. He knows what we must become and how we can reach His eternal goals for us. So, if we put our trust in Him, not man, He will lead us safely through conflict to grow spiritually as he desires for us.
Now, back to the Nephites.
They hear Heavenly Father and look up toward the voice.
And behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he came down and stood in the midst of them.”3 Nephi 11:8
They think He’s an angel, until he speaks and identifies Himself.
Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.”3 Nephi 11:10-11
He truly is the light and life of the world. Without Him, all is lost. With Him, we can continue to grow and progress so we can live with the Father and Him again.
The multitude falls to the earth in awe and worship Him. He tells them:
Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.”3 Nephi 11:14
Arise implies action, getting off our duff and doing something, in this case, coming unto Christ.
We all need to arise and symbolically thrust our hands into Christ’s side and feel the prints of the nails in His hands and feet. We need to literally come to know He is our Savior and Redeemer.
They come “one by one” (15), which must have taken a long time. But this shows that Jesus is patient and loving beyond measure. He wanted them to have no doubt that it was Him, so he let each man, woman and child come forth “and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did record that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets that should come.” (15)
He gave them each, individually, what they needed at that moment.
After this amazing experience, they praise Him with the Hosanna shout and “did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him.” (17)
Jesus calls Nephi to come forth, and he goes up and bows before Him and kisses His feet. (19) Jesus gives him power to baptize after he is gone, and others this power as well. He then tells them exactly how baptisms should be performed (which shows that He has a specific way this ordinance should happen, in order to be authorized by Him). He doesn’t want there to be any disputations among the people about this first ordinance of His gospel.
Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words, and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall ye baptize them—Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them.” (23)3 Nephi 11:23
He gives them the wording, saying that they should start by calling the person being baptized by name, and then say:
Having authority given me of Jesus Christ [and note, that He had just given Nephi and others this authority], I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”3 Nephi 11:25
Notice the simplicity of the words. It goes along with what our prophet said earlier, that usually when God speaks to us, it is in “stunning plainness.”
Jesus then tells them how to finish the ordinance.
And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water.”3 Nephi 11:26
I love the beauty and simplicity of this first ordinance, to set us on the path back to Him.
Christ condemns disputations and contention. He tells them he doesn’t want them disputing about the points of His doctrine.
For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.”3 Nephi 11:29
In this time of confusion and great contention, I find myself having to repent daily of hard feelings when I am accused or belittled or judged online (it’s mostly there. For some reason, even good people feel justified in acting cruelly online). It is hard to walk away from a fight (even one of words online). When someone calls you blind or ignorant, you want to fight back.
I am trying harder to remember this counsel from Jesus, to the Nephites, that if I am contending or fighting with anyone (even online), I am following the devil, not my Savior.
Christ’s doctrine shuns contention or anger. He says plainly “that such things should be done away.” (30)
He lays forth His doctrine—“the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.” (32)
Christ’s doctrine is beautifully simple: Repentance, Faith in Him, Baptism in His name, by one who has authority, and Seeking the Holy Ghost to be our constant companion.
And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (33) And those who don’t believe, won’t be saved. It’s as simple as that.
He repeats His doctrine again twice.
And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.”3 Nephi 11:37
These basic principles are vital to remember.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.”3 Nephi 11:39
He tells them to declare these things to the ends of the earth. Missionary work is a commandment. When we are saved, we should want others to be also.
Am I keeping the basic principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that I am worthy to Hear Him speak to me today?
Am I sharing this light to bring others to Christ as well?