Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:
“No single historical event in the whole Book of Mormon account is recorded in so great detail or at such extended length as the fulfillment of the signs signifying that Jesus had been lifted up upon the cross and had voluntarily laid down his life for the world” (The Promised Messiah, 572)
Pause for a moment to consider that statement; read it one more time; ponder WHY.
Take your time… look away from the screen. Look over some of the things you marked in 3 Nephi 8-10 and ponder how they relate to Elder McConkie’s statement.
Did you notice any patterns? Were there any key words or phrases that kept coming up? Why would Mormon include such detail concerning the signs that accompanied the death of the Savior?
Could it be that Mormon intends these chapters to serve as a pattern for what is to come before the Second Coming? Is it possible that Mormon is trying to warn the people in the latter days?
Around thirty-three years after seeing the sign of the Savior’s birth, the Nephites began to look for the sign that Samuel the Lamanite had prophesied of the Savior’s death. Although many signs were given, doubts and disputations arose among the people. Within the next year, Samuel’s prophecy was fulfilled. After great storms, earthquakes, and other calamities caused widespread destruction, darkness covered the land for three days. In the darkness, the people who had survived the destruction heard the voice of Jesus Christ. He invited them to repent and return to Him. When the darkness dispersed, the peoples’ mourning turned to joy and praise of Jesus Christ.
I found three particular phrases that stood out to me in these three chapters. Each one helps me to better prepare myself for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. As you read each of these phrases in their complete verse, you will see how each of them seem to be related to one another. And if these chapters are a pattern and a warning for us as we approach the Second Coming, then I need to make sure that I am not delaying my repentance and that I accept His invitation to come unto Him and be covered by His Atonement.
3 Nephi 8: The lamentation, “O that we had repented before this great and terrible day…” (vv. 25 & 25). I have always loved the following account related by President Spencer W. Kimball of an experience he had with a young man who was not quite sure he was ready to repent:
“In an interview with a young man in Mesa, Arizona, I found him only a little sorry he had committed adultery but not sure that he wanted to cleanse himself. After long deliberations in which I seemed to make little headway against his rebellious spirit, I finally said, ‘Goodbye, Bill, but I warn you, don’t break a speed limit, be careful what you eat, take no chances on your life. Be careful in traffic for you must not die before this matter is cleared up. Don’t you dare to die.’ I quoted this scripture:
“Wherefore, if they should die in their wickedness they must be cast off also, as to the things which are spiritual, which are pertaining to righteousness; wherefore, they must be brought to stand before God, to be judged of their works.
. . . And there cannot any unclean thing enter into the kingdom of God; wherefore there must needs be a place of filthiness prepared for that which is filthy. (1 Ne. 15:33-34.)
“A slow death has its advantages over the sudden demise. The cancer victim who is head of a family, for instance, should use his time to be an advisor to those who will survive him. The period of inactivity after a patient learns there is no hope for his life can be a period of great productivity. How much more true this is of one who has been involved in deliberate sin! He must not die until he has made his peace with God. He must be careful and not have an accident.” (Miracle of Forgiveness, pp.145-6)
3 Nephi 9: The invitation, “Come unto me…” (vv. 14 & 22). The following quote from President Thomas S. Monson is a faithful echo of the Savior’s continual invitation to come unto Him:
“Our Heavenly Father rejoices for those who keep His commandments. He is concerned also for the lost child, the tardy teenager, the wayward youth, the delinquent parent. Tenderly the Master speaks to these and indeed to all: ‘Come back. Come up. Come in. Come home. Come unto me.'” (President Thomas S. Monson, “The Race of Life”)
3 Nephi 10: The illustration, “As a hen gathereth her chickens…” (vv. 4, 5, & 6). Christ used the image of a common chicken to communicate his loving care and covenant relationship to his children. The following is taken from the Deseret News, Saturday, Oct. 11 2008.
Jane Allis-Pike, a professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, calls Christ’s description of himself gathering the Nephites under his wing the “hen metaphor.” Christ chose this metaphor to communicate something to the fearful survivors.
“I suggest that Christ uses the hen metaphor to rekindle the survivors’ faith and trust in him, and to remind and teach them of the true nature and condition of their covenant relationship with him,” Allis-Pike said.
Christ chose the common chicken for his metaphor because of the hen’s selfless devotion to its chicks. Allis-Pike explained that a chicken is almost defenseless, yet it will never abandon its offspring when danger arises. It also is an active mother and will gather its offspring together to protect them. If necessary it will shield its little chicks with its own body — offering itself to preserve their lives.
To the hen, its chicks are valued greatly. It actively will call to them. “Perhaps the most important point about the chicks in this metaphor is what is assumed. These chickens obey instinct. They come to their mother … this means that when the hen calls they come without hesitation, without delay and without question run to the safety that is only found underneath their mother’s wings,” Allis-Pike said.
It may seem paradoxical for Christ to compare himself to a mother, yet, as Allis-Pike explained, he has figuratively given birth to his children. “Christ has specific qualities normally existing only in the purview of women and mothers,” she said.
A mother hen calls her chicks to protect them from predators. Satan is the predator, according to Allis-Pike. “Just as the mother hen literally uses her body to protect her chick’s life, Christ literally uses his body to protect his children from spiritual destruction,” she said.
Christ also used his body to bring the resurrection of all people to pass.
“The beauty of the hen metaphor is that it goes beyond language, allowing the readers to simply feel Christ’s love for us,” Allis-Pike said.
When Christ spoke to the Nephites, he expanded the metaphor to include the past, present and future.
“How oft have I gathered you,” refers to the past.
“How oft would I have gathered you,” is a conditional reference to the past.
“How oft will I gather you,” refers to the future.
“And then in the very act of speaking to these people he is talking in the present and caring for them. Like a hen who watches gently over her chicks, Christ is always available,” Allis-Pike said.
In the four verses of the metaphor Christ uses the verb “gather” eight times. This is an active process, according to Allis-Pike. Those who were killed in the destruction were those who refused to be gathered.
“But if the chicks, or the people of the House of Israel, run away … Christ can not save them from the devouring predator, Satan,” Allis-Pike said.
According to Allis-Pike, the hen metaphor sequence in Third Nephi can also be read as a “covenant lawsuit” where Christ takes the position of a prosecutor over those who have died and where the survivors act as witnesses.
Each reciting of the hen metaphor is posed as a question and builds a case against those who rejected the merciful invitation to be gathered. It also applies the covenant question to the Nephite survivors … and to the readers of Third Nephi as well.
Christ finished his invitation. Allis-Pike points out that the survivors’ response to this second announcement from Christ was not silence. The people begin to weep. They weep for the lost. They weep for their sins. But Christ’s love turns their weeping to joy as the darkness lifts.
“Christ’s use of the hen metaphor has played a major role in this transition (from weeping to joy). Christ in his infinite wisdom has created a visual, powerful healing metaphor that allows people to come to terms with the destruction and the loss of life they have witnessed … and teaches of their covenant relationship with Christ,” Allis-Pike said.
Don’t WAIT; “later” may be too LATE! Below is a video that I created from the Bible Videos produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is an attempt to visualize the final hours of the Savior’s life. These are the events that occurred in the vicinity of Jerusalem which led to the destruction that we studied in 3 Nephi 8-10.
“The Hour Is Come”
The Final Hours of the Savior’s Life
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