Come to Christ seems to be the message for this lesson. The purpose of the lesson is “to help class members understand the fulfillment of Samuel’s prophecies and the blessings available to those who come unto the Savior.” The first part is easy. Every detail of Samuel’s prophecies were fulfilled in larger-than-life detail. We’ll talk more on that in a moment. The second part begins the Savior’s visit to the people. This part begins the climax of the whole book, the core of why the Book of Mormon was written.
Reading Assignment: 3 Nephi 8-11.
Imagine being near the outskirts of Zarahemla on the day the great storm arises. This is the storm that comes at the time of Christ’s death in Jerusalem. This is the fulfillment of the prophecies of Samuel. Such a storm has never before been seen. The lightening is so severe that buildings are being blown apart and set ablaze all around you. The only thing you can do is flee the city to try not to get consumed in the conflagration.
The wind becomes fierce. Those out in the open are being blown around like leaves in the hurricane force winds. People are actually being swept up by the wind and literally blown away, never to be seen again. I find it interesting that Mormon never mentions rain. As far as we know there was no rain. But all the four basic elements are represented in his account.
We know that many cities were burned with fire, Zarahemla among them. Remember that Samuel promised the people that it was only because they hadn’t yet cast out the righteous from among them that they were not at that time consumed by fire from heaven. I find it fitting that when the destruction begins in chapter eight, it appears to begin at the capital of the nation, Zarahemla, and they are consumed by the fire the lightening brings. In the next chapter the Savior tells the people all the other cities he burned with fire. Chief among them is the Gadianton city of Jacobugath.
These cities destroyed by fire seem to consistently rank as the most offensive and wicked cities on earth. There seems to be a special reason that destruction by fire, that which purifies, is reserved for the most wicked of people. This is consistent throughout time.
The next category are those cities destroyed by water. The Savior mentions four cities that were sunk into the ocean.
In the category of earth the Savior mentions six cities. A couple of them he just sunk into the earth, but several of the cities he actually buried by mountains replacing them. Again, their sins were being symbolically buried or hidden from the face of the Lord
Wind I have already mentioned. The whole time these destructions were taking place the wind was blowing at hurricane force.
I’m sure there are many speculations as to what exactly these mists of darkness were. Surely when you completely terraform or transform the planet into something else, there is going to be a great deal of dust and water in the air. Volcanoes put off a great deal of gas and solid particles as well. So there wouldn’t have been any shortage of things to block out the sun and make it impossible to see for three days. It would have been difficult to breath as well.
The curious part is that no fire could be made either. This is of importance, because it wasn’t just a matter of no light from the sun, moon, or stars. No light could be produced by man either. The lesson offers us a great question. “Why is total darkness an appropriate sign for the death of the Savior?” Let’s look at this thought.
Christ is the source for our conscience. He is the source for the light of Christ. He is the source for holding all things in their order in the universe. All truth comes from Him. Light, truth, and intelligence are used as synonymous terms in the Doctrine and Covenants. Christ, the giver and bringer of knowledge, light, and truth had just been crucified and had been taken from the world. This darkness becomes a symbol of what is left when Christ is absent. There is no light, knowledge, or intelligence without Christ. This was as close to perdition as earth could be made to be during those three days. The people were left to howl and mourn on their own, ignorant of the true extent of the damage to the earth around them. All they knew was that their city (whichever one they lived in) was destroyed.
They had no idea of the extent of the destruction beyond their own walls. And in the dark they could hardly have gone hunting for relatives in neighboring cities. No one would have dared move far because of the extend of the destruction. All roads were broken up. Where there were valleys there were now mountains. Where there were cities there were either mountains, valleys, or ocean. No one could have navigated anywhere in the pitch black that they lived in for three days. They were truly alone with their own thoughts to reflect on their behavior and their position before God.
The Savior introduces himself
In chapter nine the Savior gives a detailed description to the people of the cities he destroyed, and why he did it. It isn’t until the 15th verse that he finally names himself. Up to that point the people only knew that God was speaking to them. When you read this chapter read it with a voice of great sorrow. It is clear from what he says that he took no pleasure in the punishment.
The rest of this chapter, after verse 15, He outlines the change in the gospel that is now in effect. The Law of Moses is complete. No more sacrifices of animals will be accepted, but personal sacrifices of a broken heart and contrite spirit are required. He promises a baptism of fire and redemption if the people will come to him.
It is interesting to note that when the Savior speaks to the people he is now a resurrected being. They are still sitting in darkness, awaiting to be liberated from their captivity. They are so astounded by what they are told that there is silence in the land for many hours.
The next interview
After the space of many hours the voice of the Savior is heard again among the people. In chapter 10:4-8 He delivers the same sentiment in three ways. They were all familiar with the behavior of chickens. He reminds them of how often he has gathered them under his protective wing, as a hen gathers her chicks. He reminds them how often he tried to protect them in the past, to gather them as a hen gathers her chicks, but they refused his protection. Then he offers to continue to protect them and shelter them in the future if they will but come to him.
In verse seven he warns them that if they will not repent and come to Christ with full purpose of heart, their houses will be left desolate until the future prophecies are fulfilled regarding their descendants. Considering what they had just gone through, this threat had real teeth. They now understood just how desolate desolate could be. Now the people began to weep and wail in earnest.
The darkness passes
During the entire three days of darkness the earth continued to experience aftershocks, groanings, and trembling. It wasn’t until the third day that the earth settled down and held still. After three days, in the morning the darkness finally lifted. 3 Nephi 10:9-10.
9 … and the earth did cease to tremble, and the rocks did cease to rend, and the dreadful groanings did cease, and all the tumultuous noises did pass away.
10 And the earth did cleave together again, that it stood; and the mourning, and the weeping, and the wailing of the people who were spared alive did cease; and their mourning was turned into joy, and their lamentations into the praise and thanksgiving unto the Lord Jesus Christ, their Redeemer.
These events happened within the first week of the 34th year. It was almost a year later that Christ finally showed himself to them. Here is the time detail of a year. It is found in 3 Nephi 10:18.
18 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, and also those who had been called Lamanites, who had been spared, did have great favors shown unto them, and great blessings poured out upon their heads, insomuch that soon after the ascension of Christ into heaven he did truly manifest himself unto them—
It is important to note how the Savior came to the people. First, as they were gathered near the temple they heard a voice. If you ever wondered what it would like to hear the voice of the Father, here is the description in 3 Nephi 11:3.
3 … 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.
The only time God’s children hear his voice is when he introduces his Son and commands us to listen to Christ. It was then, while they were still looking up at where the voice came from that they saw Jesus coming down through the air. When he reached the ground he began to speak to the people by introducing himself as the one the Father had just introduced. Notice that his message is clear and unmistakable. I am the Savior. I am the one the prophets all talked about. I am and son of God. I have taken upon me the sins of the world.
The people fell to the earth to worship him. He then called for them all to come and witness for themselves that it was really He. He stood still while one by one more than 2500 people came and touched the prints of the nails in his hands and feet and felt the place the spear had been thrust into his side. Now each of them had been given a special witness that the man speaking to them really was the Christ. It was only then that he began to teach them.
The first order of business was to call the prophet Nephi forth, along with 11 others and give them the priesthood keys needed to perform the ordinances for running Christ’s church. He gave them the authority to baptize, along with the exact wording required to perform each baptism. They already baptized people into the church, but Jesus was given them a higher law. Each person would have to be baptized into Christ’s church to fulfill his commandments. The same thing happened at the time of the restoration of the gospel. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery had been baptized unto repentance, but had to be rebaptized into the church when it was organized.
Have you ever noticed that during the ministry of Jesus he spoke and witnessed to everyone who would listen to him, but after his resurrection he only appeared and spoke with those who were believers, meaning members of the church? The first thing he did here was command the people to get baptized. He taught them the basics of his gospel, the higher law. The basics of this higher law will be the contents of next week’s lesson. Until they were baptized he would only give them the basics of the gospel doctrine.
There really isn’t a good place to end here, because we are in the middle of the Savior’s first visit to the people. I encourage you to read and reread this lesson and next week’s lesson to feel the Spirit that rests in these chapters. They are among the most powerful in all the scriptures of any age.