1. The signs of the Savior’s birth vindicate those who have endured in faith.
3 Nephi 1:7 The people who believed began to be very sorrowful
‘Samuel had prophesied that in five years time there would be a day, a night, and a day without any darkness, and now the wondrous time had come. Those who already hated the Church found in the prophecy an opportunity to terrorize the believers, planning to execute them on the day should the prophecy not be fulfilled.
The scriptures tell us that the people began to be “sorrowful, lest by any means those things which had been spoken might not come to pass” (3 Nephi 1:7). We might see ourselves in a similar circumstance, as sometimes we tremble that God may have forgotten us or that he has overlooked our needs or promised blessings. We sometimes wonder, “Can I trust the Lord to be as good as his word?” So much of our experience is with mortals who mean to do well, but often don’t, whose words are sometimes slippery. We live in a world with people who often break their promises, and so we may be tempted to look at all promises as pie crust-easily made, easily broken.
3 Nephi 1:8 As if there were no night
‘It is very significant that one of the most profound events which to this day echoes through the fibers of native American legends and culture is the glorious emergence of the “Dawn Star.”
Certain cultural traditions of the Aztecs recall a time when in the remote ancient past, all the people of the nation were in expectation; some went upon house tops, others mounted terraces, while others watched from the windows of their homes, all of them waiting for the sign, by which it would be known that a new age had dawned.
According to certain Indian legends and writings, the people of all the tribes beheld a tremendous manifestation in conjunction with the appearance of a great star, called in the Quiche language, the great Icoqui, and also Nima Chumil which means “Great Star,” which illuminated the skies over America. ‘[Ammon O’Brien, Seeing beyond Today with Ancient America, p. 262]
3 Nephi 1: 9 All those who believed…should be put to death
“Church members in another age were being held hostage until certain prophecies were fulfilled-with their lives being forfeit if those prophecies were not fulfilled precisely on time. They, too, were told by the Lord to be of good cheer. Why? Because, said Jesus, ‘On the morrow come I into the world.’ (3 Ne. 1:13.) With His birth, the mortal ministry of the Messiah would, at last, be launched!” (Neal A Maxwell, Ensign, Nov. 1982, p. 66)
3 Nephi 1:11 Cried mightily to his God
‘In that awful hour of waiting, the prophet Nephi “cried mightily to his God in behalf of his people” (3 Nephi 1:11). It is often urgency and crisis that moves us to a different level of prayer. Nephi’s pleas were answered with these glorious words of comfort. “Lift up your head and be of good cheer.” Clearly God does not want us to be anxious and tormented.’ (Maurine Proctor, Meridian Magazine)
3 Nephi 1:15-20 The words which came unto Nephi were fulfilled
‘As the prophesied birth of Jesus drew near, there were those among the ancient Nephite and Lamanite peoples who believed, though most doubted. In due course, the sign of His birth arrived—a day and a night and a day without darkness—and all knew. Even so today, some believe in the literal Resurrection of Christ, and many doubt or disbelieve. But some know. In due course, all will see and all will know; indeed, “every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him.” (D Todd Christofferson, General Conference, April 2014)
2. The Gadianton robbers come to battle against the Nephites.
3 Nephi 2:1 The people began to be less and less astonished
“How quickly [Satan] moves in even where people have had special spiritual experiences, seeking to get people who have seen signs ‘To disbelieve all which they had heard and seen.’ (3 Nephi 2:1-2.) The adversary has a better chance to persuade us that what we believe is foolish if we worry about looking foolish in front of our fellowmen. We read about the subtleties of the devil and that the adversary persuadeth not one man to do good. (Alma 12:4; Moroni 7:17.)” (Neal A Maxwell, Things As They Really Are, p. 41)
3 Nephi 3:1 An epistle
‘With all of the dissensions and disputations going on among the Nephite it is rather astonishing that they had elected a strong religious-oriented governor. His name was Lachoneus.
The righteous judge Lachoneus received a rather amazing letter from the supreme leader of the Gadianton robbers. The letter started out with a classical example of the “flattering words” that criminally-minded confidence schemers are experts in using.’ (Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon)
3 Nephi 3:17-18 Gidgiddoni
‘It was among the Nephite customs to never choose for their military leaders common men like themselves. In fact, they reached out to put their armies under the most spiritual and inspired men they could find among their military forces. And that is how Gidgiddoni happened to be chosen. Notice that Gidgiddoni, as the chief commander of the Nephites, was a prophet with the spirit of revelation.’ (Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon)
3 Nephi 3:25 -26 In one land and in one body
‘The Nephite defences took several forms. As already seen, they gathered into a concentrated and defensible area taking all of their supplies and possessions with them. They launched a coordinated effort to arm themselves; and most importantly, they prepared themselves spiritually by praying that Yahweh “would deliver them.” (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)
3 Nephi 4:3 They had gathered their flocks and their herds
“Since flocks and cattle of every kind have to be fed for seven years, and since horses are only necessary where there is a demand for transportation, it is plain that the Nephites were not all shut up in one city, but united within one land. The area was not enough to support such a host indefinitely but it must have been considerable.” (Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, p. 421)
3 Nephi 4:13-14 Pursue and slay them
‘The Gadianton army, recognizing its defeat, flees toward its homeland. Gidgiddoni follows up the Nephites’ military advantage by ordering pursuit with the goal of continuing to kill. In a weakened state from battle, the Gadiantons would be fleeing for their lives and were probably disorganized. Because fewer Nephite defenders would have been required than Gadianton attackers, it seems possible that the pursuing army had been held in reserve and were fresh troops. The story ends with the death of the Gadianton general, Giddianhi. Mormon communicates some respect for Giddianhi’s prowess (even while he disparagingly calls him a “robber”), since he notes that Giddianhi falls because of weariness, not lack of skill.
This decisive defeat was not the end of the Gadianton robbers. The strength of their position and population is indicated in their ability to quickly mount another offensive.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)
3 Nephi 4:33 Their hearts were swollen with joy
“Recollect the deepest moments of marital and familial joy, whether in rejoicings, reunions, or reconciliations, when ‘because of the great goodness of God’ there was a ‘gushing out of many tears’ (3 Nephi 4:33); when your ‘heart [was] brim with joy’ (Alma 26:11). Yet this was but a foretaste of the ultimate homecoming, when our cups will not only be brim but will run over without ceasing.” (Neal A Maxwell, Not My Will But Thine, p. 143)
3. The Nephites live righteously and prosper, but pride and dissensions arise.
3 Nephi 5:1 There was not a living soul…who did doubt in the least
“…changing circumstances can like wise affect nearly a whole people’s faith…Listen to this verse: ‘There was not a living soul among all the people of the Nephites who did doubt in the least the words of all the holy prophets who had spoken; for they knew that it must needs be that they must be fulfilled.’ (3 Nephi 5:1.)
“Now, listen to this: ‘There began to be great doubtings and disputations among the people, notwithstanding so many signs had been given.’ (3 Nephi 8:4.)
“As I check the years of these two verses, I note that this decline happened in the space of a mere ten years or less! Circumstances changed from one in which ‘not a living soul’ doubted the prophecies to a time in which there were ‘great doubtings.’ It isn’t very confidence inspiring, is it?” (Neal A Maxwell, We Talk Of Christ, We Rejoice In Christ, p. 64)
3 Nephi 6:1-2 The Nephites did all return to their own lands
‘It must have been a glorious season of homecoming as the Nephites once more returned to their respective homes and the cities where they had previously lived. They also brought back their flocks and whatever wealth they had. All this took place in 26 A.D.and applied to those who had migrated from both the land southward and the land northward.
The opportunity for the people to live in prosperity and peace was unlimited so long as they obeyed the commandments of God and remained righteous.’ (Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon)
3 Nephi 6:4-5 Prospering continually
‘As in verse 2, Mormon sees righteousness as resulting in prosperity. Here he spells out that moral. Because of righteousness, the people experience peace, prosperity, “great order,” and just laws (v. 4). As a result, they “wax great” and could prosper “continually”—unless they “fall into transgression.” There is a direct connection between peace, prosperity, and righteousness. Those things go together. Rejection of righteousness reverses the trend and leads to destruction.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)
3 Nephi 6:7-9 Peace
‘The contrast begins. Peace is now troubled by “disputings,” and righteousness is replaced by “pride and boastings.” What Mormon describes is the same cycle all over again. His mention of “great persecutions” signals that this is an internal contention, one seen only because a group sees itself as separate from and superior to another group. We can therefore surmise the return of social hierarchies based on wealth. The Mesoamerican mode of accumulating wealth brings with it the adoption of Mesoamerican worldly values that we have seen repeatedly in Nephite history. The problem is not simply the wealth but that the very definition of wealth carries with it the disease of social segregation, social hierarchies, and persecution of those lacking “wealth.”’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)
3 Nephi 6:12 Prosperity and peace can lead to pride
“A little prosperity and peace, or even a turn slightly for the better, can bring us feelings of self-sufficiency. We can feel quickly that we are in control of our lives, that the change for the better is our own doing, not that of a God who communicates to us through the still, small voice of the Spirit. Pride creates a noise within us which makes the quiet voice of the Spirit hard to hear. And soon, in our vanity, we no longer even listen for it. We can come quickly to think we don’t need it” (Henry B Eyring, in Conference Report, Oct. 2001, 16; or Ensign, Nov. 2001, 16).
3 Nephi 6:17 Carried about by the temptations of the devil
“Surely it should give us more pause than it does to think of how casually we sometimes give to him who could not control his own ego in the premortal world such awful control over our egos here. We often let the adversary do indirectly now what we refused to let him do directly then.
“Thus we can expect no immunity from either trial or temptation, because these are the common lot of mankind. Mortality without the dimension of temptation or trial would not be full proving, it would be a school with soft credits and no hard courses. These features of mortality were among the very conditions we agreed to before we undertook this mortal experience. We cannot renege on that commitment now.” (Neal A Maxwell, We Will Prove Them Herewith, p. 45)
3 Nephi 6:29-30 A covenant given and administered by the devil
‘The seeds of rebellion are now blossoming into revolt. The secret combination does what it has always done. It threatens the government and with it the religion. A clear item on its agenda is establishing a king. Mormon understands that a monarchy represents the destruction of the Nephite political way. Establishing a king would destroy Mosiah’s reforms. Rejecting Mosiah means rejecting his laws and the gospel he preached. There would be no more Nephites.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)
3 Nephi 7:1 They did murder the chief judge of the land
“In A.D. 30, the last chief judge of the once-great Nephite nation was assassinated by a secret combination of judges, lawyers, and apostate high priests. That murder ended the sole republic of the Nephite record and continued a process of social disintegration halted only by the coming of the resurrected Christ. In that process, the unrighteous Nephites destroyed what remained of governmental regulation and divided their society into tribal units. One large band selected ‘one of the chiefest who had given his voice against the prophets who testified of Jesus’ to be their king. (3 Ne. 7:10.) The reign of the judges had lasted only 120 years.” (James R. Moss, Ensign, Sept. 1977, 61)
3 Nephi 7:15 Nephi
“There are some Book of Mormon figures whom we glimpse only briefly, whom we can never know well, but who intrigue us immensely because that brief glimpse seems to show us the tip of a remarkable iceberg. Nephi, the grandson of Helaman, is such a figure for me. He moves very quietly onto the scene and backs very quietly out of it, but he is no ordinary record-keeper. This is the man who was the spiritual leader of the Nephites at the time of the birth of the Savior and during the Savior’s ministry on the American continent. This is the man who wrote the account that Mormon abridged as Third Nephi, one of the most powerful sections of the Book of Mormon. So great was his faith and so vigorous his spiritual power that he raised his brother from the dead and communed regularly with angels.
“Rereading Third Nephi, I have become more and more aware that perhaps our only real access to Nephi‘s character is through Mormon’s perception of him as Mormon reads and abridges Nephi’s record. I think Mormon must have been impressed with Nephi because he keeps interrupting his narrative to pay respect, either directly or indirectly, to the earlier prophet. (See, for example, 3 Ne. 7:15–16 and 3 Ne. 8:1.) Since we can, in effect, know Nephi only secondhand, it seems important that we try to look through Mormon’s eyes, try to see Nephi as Mormon saw him. Careful study of Mormon’s abridgement confirms in both subtle and obvious ways that Mormon knew he had encountered a remarkable human being.
“I have often wondered, in reading between the lines, if Mormon might have been a little reluctant to cut and summarize Nephi’s account. It appears that at times he prefers to omit parts of the account rather than attempt to shorten it. Speaking of Nephi’s ministerings, for instance, he says, ’And all of them cannot be written, and a part of them would not suffice, therefore they are not written in this book. And Nephi did minister with power and with great authority.’ (3 Ne. 7:17.)
“Even in making rather casual references to the record, Mormon adds extra praise for Nephi: ’And now it came to pass that according to our record, and we know our record to be true, for behold, it was a just man who did keep the record—for he truly did many miracles in the name of Jesus; and there was not any man who could do a miracle in the name of Jesus save he were cleansed every whit from his iniquity.’ (3 Ne. 8:1.)
“…Interesting as these kinds of observations are, it is nevertheless Mormon‘s perception of Nephi’s great spiritual stature that really stirs our minds and hearts. More concerned about the well-being of his people than about himself, strong in spirit and will, Nephi kept a record chiefly to bear witness to the divine ministry of Jesus among the Nephites. Moving chronologically through Third Nephi, we become more and more aware of Nephi’s spiritual magnitude, largely, I think, because Mormon was keenly aware of that magnitude. It is somewhat difficult to get even a limited understanding of Nephi’s character because there is so little direct description of him and there are so few explicit references to his activities. I find, however, that as I read Mormon’s account, a picture of a dynamic spiritual leader takes shape because the few statements Mormon does make resound through my mind as I read the book of Third Nephi.” (Marilyn Arnold, “The Nephi We Tend to Forget,” Ensign, Jan. 1978, 69)
3 Nephi 7:21-26 Full conversion
“Each of us has observed how some individuals go through life consistently doing the right things. … When difficult choices are to be made, they seem to invariably make the right ones, even though there were enticing alternatives available to them. We know that they are subject to temptation, but they seem oblivious to it. Likewise, we have observed how others are not so valiant in the decisions they make. In a powerfully spiritual environment, they resolve to do better. … Yet they are soon back doing the same things they resolved to abandon. …
“Sometimes the word converted is used to describe when a sincere individual decides to be baptized. However … conversion means far more than that. … President Marion G. Romney explained conversion:
“‘Converted means to turn from one belief or course of action to another. Conversion is a spiritual and moral change. Converted implies not merely mental acceptance of Jesus and his teachings but also a motivating faith in him and his gospel. A faith which works a transformation, an actual change in one’s understanding of life’s meaning and in his allegiance to God in interest, in thought, and in conduct. In one who is really wholly converted, desire for things contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ has actually died. And substituted therefore is a love of God, with a fixed and controlling determination to keep his commandments’ [in Conference Report, Guatemala Area Conference 1977, 8].
“Stated simply, true conversion is the fruit of faith, repentance, and consistent obedience. Faith comes by hearing the word of God [see Romans 10:17] and responding to it. You will receive from the Holy Ghost a confirming witness of things you accept on faith by willingly doing them [see Ether 12:6]. You will be led to repent of errors resulting from wrong things done or right things not done. As a consequence, your capacity to consistently obey will be strengthened. This cycle of faith, repentance, andconsistent obedience will lead you to greater conversion with its attendant blessings” (Richard G Scott, in Conference Report, Apr. 2002).