The scriptures are full of examples of Christ’s divine nature. Unfortunately, our minds tend to look at only one small aspect of his behavior at a time. It can be difficult to see multiple examples of his greatness in one view of his power and love for us.
Having the stories of Christ divided by New Testament and Book of Mormon tend to make us think of him based only by which book refers to him at that particular moment in his life. For example, we don’t really concern ourselves with the conversation Christ had with his prophet in the Americas on the evening of his own birth into mortality in the Middle East. And what about all the revelations and communications he was having with his prophets while he was growing up and trying to perform his own ministry in Palestine? We don’t know how that was done.
It is because the New Testament doesn’t mention his communications with his prophets elsewhere in the world (or universe) that we tend not to remember that our Savior was in communication with his leaders elsewhere while he was still preparing for, and during, his mortal ministry. And it doesn’t end there.
The New Testament tells us that Christ died on the Cross and was in the spirit world for three days. At the end of three days he rose from the dead and spent at least 40 days teaching his Apostles and preparing them for their ministry and responsibilities before ascending into heaven. It is in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 138 that we learn that he wasn’t just resting from what had just happened to him on the cross, he was already organizing his priesthood leadership to go and preach the gospel to those who had been in spirit prison since the days of Adam and Eve.
The account of Jesus’ time in the spirit world is remarkable, for having just suffered for all the sins of God’s children everywhere in the universe, he immediately began the rescue operations in the spirit world for those who had gone without having the gospel, his good news, preached to them. And it didn’t stop there.
At the same time Jesus gave up the ghost and entered the spirit world to organize his priesthood to take the gospel to all those in spirit prison, and to prepare for the resurrection to follow his own rising from the dead, he was also performing his first official act as post mortal judge of the quick and the dead by destroying dozens of cities in the Americas by burning them with fire, sinking them into the ocean, or burying them in the earth. The inhabitants were being crushed to death, drowned, suffocated, burned, and carried away in whirlwinds. There were many tens of thousands who entered the spirit world in the first three hours of Christ’s time in the spirit world. Jesus didn’t waste any time. How was he able to do all of these very big things simultaneously? Who knows? We only know that the scriptural record shows that all these things were happening at the same time, and Jesus was in charge of all of them.
His right to judge us
In 3 Nephi 9:2 Jesus speaks to the survivors of the cataclysm that took place in the Americas. He takes full responsibility for what took place, and explains to them what is really going on.
2 Wo, wo, wo unto this people; wo unto the inhabitants of the whole earth except they shall ; for the devil , and his angels rejoice, because of the slain of the fair sons and daughters of my people; and it is because of their iniquity and abominations that they are fallen!
I noted to myself that God did not attribute the destruction and devastation that took place in the Americas to natural disaster, science, whim, or passing comets. He took credit for what happened and said that he had personally destroyed those cities and killed all those people. And why did he say he did it? It was because they brought upon themselves his judgment by choosing evil consistently over good. Notice in the verse above that he tells the people that Satan and his angels rejoice over the slain and the fallen of God’s sons and daughters. Nowhere does he say that he took any pleasure in their destruction.
Jesus has the right and responsibility to be our judge. His right to judge us and punish or reward us comes with the responsibilities associated with his role as our Redeemer. He answered for our sins to our Father, so he was made judge over all of God’s children.
His tender mercies
After suffering for our sins and iniquities, one might fear that our Savior would be a harsh and stern individual. Afterall, look how much we just made him suffer. Yet for all the suffering we put him through, the scriptures demonstrate that he is just the opposite. Instead of resenting our stubbornness and indifference, he is filled with charity, kindness, and mercy toward us. Even after all he has suffered on our account, he still does all in his power to save us by any means possible. He seems to have been able to separate our foolishness and rebellious natures from our eternal worth as God’s children. He stays focused only at our eternal worth.
Look at 3 Nephi 9:12-13.
12 And great destructions have I caused to come upon this land, and upon this people, because of their wickedness and their abominations.
13 O all ye that are because ye were more than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may you?
In verse twelve he doesn’t say he destroyed all those cities and people because he was offended, as we likely would be offended, that he was angry because his love toward his people was rejected, or he felt rebuffed by those who chose Satan over him after all he had done for them. No, his judgment was fair and impartial. He had given commandments, which included rewards and punishments. They had chosen the punishments. No one forced them to be wicked. They chose that course of action on their own.
In verse thirteen Jesus then asks those who didn’t kill his prophets, if they might not once again consider his offer to be converted, so he could heal them. Even at the heels of such great destruction, his focus was on unifying, rebuilding, and blessing those who were left of his covenant people.
The Lord then teaches them this important truth in verse seventeen.
17 And as many as have received me, to them have I to become the sons of God; and even so will I to as many as shall believe on my name, for behold, by me cometh, and me is the of Moses fulfilled.
Despite all the death and destruction that had just happened, the mess that had to be cleaned up, and the cities and lives that needed to be rebuilt, the Lord’s focus was on saving the eternal lives of God’s children. His promises remain what they always have been, repent, and I will bring you peace and joy. I will show you how to become the sons and daughters of God, and will exalt you on high.
Demonstration of Christ’s intimate love
Let’s move to chapter eleven of 3 Nephi and look at the actual visit of Christ to the Nephite people. First let’s look at our Father’s declaration about our Redeemer in verse seven.
7 Behold my , whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.
We hear this declaration all the time, for this is about all the Father ever says to us in mortality. He is constantly directing our attention to Jesus, since Jesus is our path back home to our Father in Heaven. He doesn’t want to distract us or allow us to misconstrue where we should be focusing our attention. Have you considered how Jesus glorified the Father? Jesus glorified God by doing the good that the Father would have done if He were here on earth in the Savior’s place. We glorify God by duplicating and mimicking His behavior. God’s behavior is always good. Doing good spreads joy and happiness likes ripples on the water. This is the lifestyle of the celestial individual. This is what we are aiming to achieve. Our good, that we learn from trying to act like Jesus, glorifies and amplifies God’s own goodness. At some point in the future, our children’s goodness will amplify and glorify us as well. This is how we advance from glory to glory in the eternal world as our goodness spreads and blesses the lives of others.
Okay, back to our story. If you were going to go to a movie and they were going to show the advent of a God as he publicly visited his people for the first time, what do you think the producers of the movie would have the God do for his grand entrance? Might there be miracles, terraforming of the landscape before the eyes of the people, people being raised from the dead? How does one introduce a God?
Now, after you have considered man’s way of introducing a God, look at how Christ introduced himself. Our Father had already announced his arrival and told everyone to listen to him. He didn’t shout or make the announcement in deafening thunderous roars so everyone would be cowed by the shear power of His voice. Instead the Father whispered so softly that it took making the announcement three times for people to catch it. How often does the Spirit have to whisper to us before we realize He has spoken to our soul?
Jesus descended from heaven so everyone could see where he was. It certainly wouldn’t have done any good to just suddenly appear as another person in the crowd, for then he would have to get everyone’s attention to listen to what he had to say. Descending from heaven in full view of everyone required no fanfare or demonstrations of other power, but still got everyone’s attention.
3 Nephi 11:8
8 And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they a Man out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them …
No one even suspected that this man coming down from heaven was actually the Son of God. He came to them so humbly that everyone assumed it was just an angel, and that was only because he was dressed all in white. I noticed that in the next few verses there was no pretense or ostentatious display of authority. Jesus told them simply and plainly who he was. There is no bragging here, but a plain statement of fact.
10 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
11 And behold, I am the and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the of the Father in all things from the beginning.
12 And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude to the earth; for they remembered that it had been among them that Christ should himself unto them after his ascension into heaven.
The people were stunned to realize who was addressing them, and they all fell to the earth when they remembered that the prophets had promised that Christ would visit them after his mortal ministry was over and had ascended into heaven. So what now? Does he reprimand the people? Does he tell them to beware of his wrath? Does he fill their hearts with visions of hellfire and damnation if they don’t believe in him?
3 Nephi 11:14-15
14 Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may your hands into my side, and also that ye may the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the of Israel, and the God of the whole , and have been slain for the sins of the world.
15 And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.
This is not specifically stated in these verses, but we need to remember that there are at least 2,500 people in this gathering. The Savior has just invited each and everyone one of them to personally come up and gain their own witness of him as their Savior. He invited them to feel the wounds in his hands, feet, and the piercing wound in his side. How intimate to invite more than two thousand people to come and feel the wounds that killed you. This was not about aggrandizing himself, but about giving each and every person there the opportunity to have their own witness of their Savior’s love for them. How sweet is his love for each of us. How tender his feelings for each of us.
Have you ever considered how much patience would be required for more than 2,000 people to touch you and hold you, even for just a short moment? It would have required hours. How many of us would have writhed in discomfort to have all those people touching us all over? When put in mortal perspective, what Christ did was indeed superhuman.
Wasting no time
When Jesus came to visit, he only introduced himself, and gave everyone a chance to come to him and see for themselves that his claims were true, and he immediately began the process of saving his people. The first thing he did was call his disciples and give them the power to baptize the people into his church. Really? the people don’t even know him yet. But that gateway covenant is so important, because it brings with it the gift of the Holy Ghost, the revelator and testator of truth. More than anything else, the people needed the covenant of baptism.
The first point of doctrine he taught the people was the mode and method of baptism, followed by the injunction to stop bickering amongst themselves. Unity is what makes the Godhead what it is. Unity is what makes a Zion people. Lack of unity is of the devil (3 Nephi 11:28-29).
28 And according as I have commanded you thus shall ye baptize. And there shall be no among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.
29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of is not of me, but is of the , who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
Isn’t that interesting that of all the doctrines of salvation Jesus could have started with, after the mode of baptism was set forth, he commanded them to be unified in all things. It is only after he has called his priesthood leaders, outlined the method they were to use for baptism, and taught them the importance of unity in all things that he now tells them what his doctrine is (3 Nephi 11:32-35).
32 And this is my , and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
33 And whoso believeth in me, and is , the same shall be ; and they are they who shall the kingdom of God.
34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not , shall be damned.
35 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him fire and with the .
Note that even in his most basic and fundamental doctrine, the unity that exists in the Godhead is laced throughout Christ’s statements. Learning to work as a united whole – seeking each other’s welfare – is what being a Zion people is all about.
Everything about the Savior in 3 Nephi demonstrates for us Christ’s humility, and his love for each person, individually. Not once is there any display of ostentatious power or importance. Everything he says and does when referencing himself is what the Father said about him. It is the Father who declares Christ as His only begotten Son. It is the Father who tells us to listen to our Savior. Who are we to argue?
Much of the power of these chapters in 3 Nephi are in the demonstration of Christ’s humility, and most of all, his demonstrations of love towards his people. Over and over again in the subsequent chapters he shows them mercy, tenderness, and unbounded love. This is the true nature of Christ’s divinity. This is what we are striving to obtain.
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