Jesus again asks His twelve apostles: “What is it that ye desire of me, after that I am gone to the Father?”
Nine of them want to live unto the age of man, and when their ministry is done, desire “that we may speedily come unto thee in thy kingdom.” (2)
Jesus blesses them for their desire and tells them that when they turn 72 years old, they shall return to Him in His kingdom and have rest. (3)
The other three don’t dare speak their desire, but Jesus says:
Behold, I know your thoughts, and ye have desired the thing which John, my beloved, who was with me in my ministry, before that I was lifted up by the Jews, desired of me.”3 Nephi 28:6
That gives me comfort, knowing that Christ knows my thoughts and desires. He tells them they are more blessed for wanting to remain on earth until He returns again.
Does that mean they are better than the other nine?
I don’t think that’s what He meant. He says they are more blessed “for ye shall never taste of death; but ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in my glory with the powers of heaven.” (7)
They will have more mortal experiences, and learn from those things that the other nine won’t know. Maybe that’s why they’re more blessed.
And ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in my glory ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality; and then shall ye be blessed in the kingdom of my Father.
And again, ye shall not have pain while ye shall dwell in the flesh, neither sorrow save it be for the sins of the world; and all this will I do because of the thing which ye have desired of me, for ye have desired that ye might bring the souls of men unto me, while the world shall stand.”3 Nephi 28:8-9
They are more blessed because they are will live longer on earth and will need more blessings. They need the blessing of protection from pain and death. They need the blessing of the Spirit to be with them in their millennia-long ministry. They need more blessings to bring more souls unto Christ through the centuries. They need more blessings of comfort for they will see terrible tragedies as history plays out (especially during the Dark Ages—can you imagine?) and will need to be comforted as millions do not choose Christ, but sin.
Christ tells them that they will suffer pain for the sins of the world, just like we do when we see our loved ones rebel against God and go their own way. It hurts. That is pain that no one, not even God, is immune to.
You can’t love and care for others without risking heartache. But pain like that is good for our hearts. It makes them stronger and softer, so God can heal and touch and change them.
Jesus tells them that after this long mortal ministry ends with His Second Coming, they “shall have fullness of joy.” (10)
We can receive a fullness of joy in life when we choose to serve God and bring others to Christ to receive His saving grace.
Jesus now touches the nine disciples before He departs. Somehow, that touch will translate them at the end of their 72 years on earth. He doesn’t touch the three who want to stay on earth. They are caught up into heaven and “saw and heard unspeakable things.” (13)
I can’t tell if this means the three were caught up to heaven or all of them.
It did seem unto them like a transfiguration of them, that they were changed from this body of flesh into an immortal state, that they could behold the things of God.”3 Nephi 28:15
A couple verses down, it seems to answer my previous question. I think only the three that wanted to stay on earth were caught up into heaven and transfigured because it adds:
And now, whether they were mortal or immortal, from the day of their transfiguration, I know not.
The three transfigured Nephites “did go forth upon the face of the land, and did minister unto all the people, uniting as many to the church as would believe in their preaching; baptizing them, and as many as were baptized did receive the Holy Ghost.”3 Nephi 28:17-18
Not everyone left had seen and heard Jesus preach unto them. Only about 2,500 people had that special experience. There are still many who are hardened from the destruction that had come upon their land.
The transfigured Nephites are “cast into prison by them who did not belong to the church. And the prisons could not hold them, for they were rent in twain. (19) And they were cast down into the earth; but they did smite the earth with the word of God, insomuch that by his power they were delivered out of the depths of the earth; and therefore they could not dig pits sufficient to hold them.” (20)
They are cast into a furnace three times and not burned (21) They’re cast into a den of wild beasts twice and did play with them. (22) Nothing can stop them from spreading the word of God.
And it came to pass that thus they did go forth among all the people of Nephi, and did preach the gospel of Christ unto all the people upon the face of the land; and they were converted unto the Lord, and were united unto the church of Christ, and thus the people of that generation were blessed, according to the word of Jesus.”3 Nephi 28:23
Mormon was about to write the Three Nephites names, but was commanded not to. We know that the three came from these twelve (Nephi, Timothy, Jonas, Mathoni, Mathonihah, Kumen, Kumenonhi, Jeremiah, Shemnon, Jonas, Zedekiah, Isaiah). Mormon has “seen them, and they have ministered unto me.” (26)
Mormon lived almost 400 years later, but they ministered to him and he knew who they were. The three Nephites “will be among the Gentiles, and the Gentiles shall know them not.” (27) “They will also be among the Jews, and the Jews shall know them not.” (28)
And it shall come to pass, when the Lord seeth fit in his wisdom that they shall minister unto all the scattered tribes of Israel, and unto all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, and shall bring out of them unto Jesus many souls, that their desire may be fulfilled (that they can bring souls unto Christ), and also because of the convincing power of God which is in them.
And they are as the angels of God, and if they shall pray unto the Father in the name of Jesus they can show themselves unto whatsoever man it seemeth them good.
Therefore, great and marvelous works shall be wrought by them, before the great and coming day when all people must surely stand before the judgment-seat of Christ.
Yea, even among the Gentiles shall there be a great and marvelous work wrought by them, before the judgment day.”3 Nephi 28:29-32
Mormon inserts that since he wrote that he didn’t know whether the three Nephites were mortal or immortal after they were caught up into heaven, he “inquired of the Lord, and he hath made it manifest unto me that there must needs be a change wrought upon their bodies, or else it needs be that they must taste of death.” (37)
What I learn from this is that whatever question or yearning matters to us, we should not put off going to the Lord about it and inquiring of Him. He might not give us the answer we seek right away—sometimes it might take years or even into the eternities to receive it—but He will give us the peace we need and the knowledge we need and are ready for at that time. In His due time, He will give us all the answers we yearn for, if we live worthy.
Mormon learns that “this change was not equal to that which shall take place at the last day; but there was a change wrought upon them, insomuch that Satan could have no power over them, that he could not tempt them; and they were sanctified in the flesh, that they were holy, and that the powers of the earth could not hold them.” (39)
Our fallen bodies are subject to temptation naturally. That is why we must repent often, even daily.
But something was changed in the three Nephites bodies to make them not subject to normal temptation. It makes me wonder if God wanted us to be more susceptible to temptation while in this mortal probation. There are lessons we can learn only by suffering temptations and falling into sin. That is not to say we should purposely partake of sinful behavior for the “knowledge” of it. But when we have certain weaknesses (addictions, gender issues, emotional or mental challenges), maybe we voluntarily signed up for those in the pre-earth life, understanding that those things would actually give us the experience and lessons we most needed to gain to become gods and goddesses someday.
The part “sanctified in the flesh, that they were holy” stood out to me when I read. Does holiness bring not just spiritual power to us, but physical power as well? The sanctification process their bodies went through made them holy, “that the powers of the earth could not hold them.” They couldn’t be burned, attacked by wild animals, locked up, or a host of other physical things hardened people tried to do to them.
Holiness seemed to strengthen them physically.
Sanctification is a necessary step on the path to salvation, and ONLY Jesus can provide that for us. Jesus changed them to a sanctified state, so they could remain on earth and not be harmed physically or tempted by Satan. Those are unfathomable blessings. No matter how hard we try, or how good we are, we cannot achieve that type of blessing by our own merits. We are fallen. Christ is the only one who can lift us from our fallen state and make us holy, without spot.
After learning about what others desired of Christ, ponder and reflect on your desires. If Jesus came to earth and asked that same question of you that He did His disciples—“What is it that ye desire of me?”—what would you say?
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