The key to this lesson is to read the verses in the assigned chapters and apply their spirit and content to your own relationship with the Lord. What he did for any one of these Nephites he is currently doing for each of us today. What he did in these chapters was not a display or a production, but a pure demonstration of his actual love for the people, as well as the love of our Father in Heaven. As you read these chapters think, “He feels this way about me as well.” We are the cause for Christ’s joy to be full.
Reading Assignment: 3 Nephi 17-19.
Who came to visit
The Jesus who came to visit the people in the Americas was not the same Jesus who lived and died in Israel. When he was alive and working through his mortal ministry he was submissive to all forms of shame and humiliation. He was being completely obedient to the requirements laid on him by our Father in Heaven. He constantly sought our Father’s will in all things, and suffered any indignity our Father required him to suffer. He did it willingly in his position as son of God.
When Jesus came to the Americas it was as the risen Lord. He was no longer submissive to the whims of mortal men who could push him around, spit on him, or nail him to a cross. He was now the resurrected Lord, the commander of life and death, the judge of the living and the dead, the Son of the Father and Lord over the resurrection and our eternal destinies. He came as a King.
Watch as you read and you will see his royal bearing. The kingdom of God is now his, yet even in this great power his humility and subjection to the will of His Father is always evident. As powerful as Christ is, everything he does is still based on the directions he receives from God. Notice that everything he does is done because the Father commanded it to be done. This shows us clearly that our Father is still in charge of his family. At no time has He ever relinquished that title or role.
The other thing that is important to notice is that Jesus continually not only desires, but actually yearns for us to join with him, the Father, and the Spirit to be one with them as they are one with each other. You’ll see in these verses his great desire to bless each person with the Holy Ghost so they can have revealed to them the will of the Father.
Commentary on the verses
For the sake of brevity, I will give you the reference then talk about it. You will have to grab your scriptures and read the reference to get the most out of the commentary.
3 Nephi 17:2-4
Jesus understood the importance of taking time to process new spiritual knowledge. He tells the people to go home and ponder, which is to think deeply. They didn’t understand all that he had taught them. Pondering is a big part of coming to understanding spiritual things. It is during our times of pondering, specifically taking the time to think about a particular subject, that the Spirit can come to us and put thoughts and feelings into our hearts. Pondering invites the Spirit.
Jesus also tells them two other significant pieces of information in these verses. The first is that everything he is telling them is under direct commandment from the Father. He is still fulfilling his Father’s will in all things. Even his subject matter and the manner in which it is delivered is done by way of obedience to the directions of his Father. He tells them that his Father has commanded that he go and visit others to deliver messages to them as well, so while he is gone he wants the people to ponder, pray, and ask the Father for understanding of his words.
3 Nephi 17:5-10
As Jesus finished his message to the people he had been commanded to deliver, he looked upon the people and saw that they were moved by his presence, and he could tell they had desires they had not expressed. These righteous desires filled his bowels with mercy and he could not leave without showing them how much he loved them. The verses don’t spell this out, but that is what he did.
Notice that he can physically sense the degree of faith someone has. Trust is an actual measurable thing. He sees that they have faith sufficient to be healed, and he delights in being able to heal every one of them. He focuses always on the individual, healing anyone who is brought to him of the 2,500 people who are there.
Elevating them step by step
Jesus didn’t show up among them and just start healing and sending angels. He taught them, gave them time to assimilate what was taught, exercise their faith then gave them more. In 3 Nephi 17:11-25 He commands them to bring him their children, which they do. These are they who are covered by his Atonement. These are they who are considered pure and undefiled. This makes them special and worthy of blessings. Their innocence, humility, and willingness to obey make them worthy examples of what we, as adults need to become (again).
Surrounded by the most pure among the people, Jesus commands everyone to kneel. He then kneels and does what a mediator does, he prayed to the Father for his people. Note that this process of interceding for his people is one that is an emotional experience for Jesus. It causes him to weep, and weep again. He is filled with love for these people, and they are privileged to hear a God pray to his Father in their behalf. Their report is that it is not physically possible to describe the joy that filled their souls as they heard Jesus speak to their Father on their behalf.
Listening to him pray to the Father for them increased their faith. When he stood up from praying, in verse 20 he says, “Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full.” Notice this step-wise progression he is taking them through. Now that their faith is sufficient, and his joy is full, they receive a great blessing, angels come down from heaven and teach their children, and all of the children are surrounded by heavenly fire.
By this we can learn that faith is increased (normally) in incremental steps. As we see in these verses, these increments were almost imperceptible, and came through seemingly innocent events. But each event strengthened the faith of those present.
To be filled
In chapter 18 Jesus introduces the sacrament to the people. As you read this chapter notice that he first gives the bread to the disciples, who eat and “are filled.” The disciples are then commanded to repeat this process with the people, who eat and are filled as well. Then this whole thing is repeated with the wine, each time specifying that the disciples and the people were filled.
It doesn’t specify what they were filled with, but it doesn’t make sense that they would make a meal out of the sacramental emblems. But it does make sense that they partook of the bread and wine and were filled with the Spirit, which is the promise made to those who partake of the sacrament worthily.
The rock, the doctrine of Christ
In 3 Nephi 18:12-13 Jesus tells the people that if they do as he has commanded them they are built upon his rock. In the Church we normally equate the rock with the principle of revelation. In this case, it makes sense that the rock refers to the doctrine of Christ. If we are built upon the rock or doctrine of Christ then we have built our lives on a sure or strong foundation. We have a guaranteed strength that will not fail us. It is those who do not build their faith, their lives on the doctrines of Christ that have built their lives on the proverbial sand, and who will be swept away when the temptations and persecutions of the devil come.
For length’s sake I can’t get into the rest of this chapter, but it holds important doctrine about including those not of our faith, as well as making sure we include the weak in the faith among us in all that we do. The object is that we include them so we can continue to strengthen them.
The Holy Ghost
In 3 Nephi 19:13-14 the disciples have taught the people the next day, and have prayed with the people for what they desired most, the Holy Ghost. They then went and got baptized, and received the Holy Ghost.
Here are a couple of points to remember that make this so significant. First of all, the weaknesses of the 12 apostles in Jerusalem can be excused because they did not have the gift of the Holy Ghost until the day of Pentecost, which was after the resurrection of Jesus. It is the Holy Ghost who gives us our strength and testimony. The Holy Ghost is the one who converts us and changes our heart and gives us the ability to hold fast to the truth in all circumstances. He is the great revelator, and the one who teaches us of the things of eternity. He is our tutor and testifier of all things spiritual. There is nothing more important to us than this gift. It is He who shows us how to follow the teachings of Jesus so we can keep the commandments of the Father. This gift alone separates us from all other religions and churches on earth. We are the only ones who have access to this gift.
Here is the importance of the Holy Ghost, summed up in one verse – 3 Nephi 19:24.
24 And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus prayed unto the Father, he came unto his disciples, and behold, they did still continue, without ceasing, to pray unto him; and they did not multiply many words, for it was given unto them what they should pray, and they were filled with desire.
Did you know that when we pray, if we pray as we should, the Holy Ghost will tell us what to ask for? We cannot ask for anything that we shouldn’t ask for if the Holy Ghost tells us to ask for it. This means that anything we ask for, when prompted to do so by the Spirit, will be given to us by God. It will be given to us because a member of the Godhead told us to ask for it, which makes it a righteous desire.
Speaking of desire, that is the the other thing that happens. When we are filled with the Holy Ghost our desire to do what is right increases. We love more deeply, more broadly. We yearn to understand the things of God, and we are more deeply grateful for what we have been blessed with. There is no down side to having the gift of the Holy Ghost.
If you want to have the Holy Ghost’s influence more strongly in your life, bear your testimony. Bearing our testimony of Christ and his works in our life invites the Spirit’s presence. In the very act of bearing our testimony the Spirit will confirm again to our soul that what we speak is the truth.
These three chapters are my personal favorites in all of the scriptures. I see more intimately the love for my Savior displayed openly than in any other place in all of sacred writ. He teaches us how to take the sacrament worthily, how to pray correctly so we can get answers to our prayers. He shows us what it means to be an intercessor. He shows us how much he loves pleading our cause and our efforts to our Father in Heaven. He demonstrates graphically in these chapters just how much he is moved by our human condition, our weaknesses, and our desires for good. I love Him all the more for this display of his divine compassion.