expoundThe purpose of this lesson is “to help class members earnestly desire to search the words of the prophets.” The key word to accomplish this is the word “need.” The Savior took the time to expound or explain the entire plan of salvation to the people. He called for the records of the people and added needed scriptures then told the people they basically needed to search, ponder, and pray about what was in them. This requires the people to feel a need to search, ponder, and pray about what the Lord felt was so important to be written for their benefit. If we feel no need to know and understand then we won’t bother to do the searching, pondering, and praying the Lord is requiring of us.

Reading Assignment: 3 Nephi 22-26.

Additional reading: Isaiah 54; Malachi 3–4.

Gotta love Isaiah

At some point in time most everyone asks the question, “Why does everyone feel the need to quote Isaiah?” The Savior answered this question in 3 Nephi 23:1-3 when he said:

And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.

For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel; therefore it must needs be that he must speak also to the Gentiles.

And all things that he spake have been and shall be, even according to the words which he spake.

There you have it. The Lord himself tells us that Isaiah spoke to not only the house of Israel, but to the gentile nations as well (most of us come from a gentile nation), and great are his words, because all of his prophecies either have been or will be fulfilled. The Lord wants us to know what he said and to understand what he said. It is for our personal benefit that these prophecies were given. (Remember that a prophecy is not a guess at what might happen in the future. A prophecy is a perfect knowledge of the future that is revealed to us. The Lord knows what will happen and is kind enough to tell us what to look for so when it happens we are prepared for the events. Prophecy is more sure and safe to rely on than your next breath.)

Note that the Lord didn’t just say we were to be familiar with the words of Isaiah, but that we need to “search these things diligently.” We just finished a General Conference. I challenge you to go back and see how many of the talks tell us that we need to stop sitting on our proverbial laurels and to get to work actively searching the scriptures, praying, doing good, and honestly and consistently seeking to change ourselves into a better version of ourselves. I’ll just bet you that there isn’t a talk given that you can’t find some element of that challenge in it.

Reviewing the doctrine

Let’s look at some of the doctrine Christ taught the people in these chapters. In chapter 22 the Lord is quoting Isaiah 54. Israel had partly been scattered at this time in history, but before the words of Isaiah could all be fulfilled they would have to be fully scattered. In the last days, when Isaiah’s words would be fulfilled, the house or family of Israel (Jacob) would have spent more than 1500 years in complete dissolution as an entity.

Isaiah treats the covenant people as a bride, who in her disobedience and betrayal of her husband has been disavowed and disowned. The Lord, her husband, has turned his back on her for a season, but will now turn and accept her and bring her back into favor, never to be abandoned again. She has not had any posterity, no children, and hence her “glory” is instead a shame. Children have always been the inheritance of a family.

The Lord talks about the family tent in this chapter. The tent serving as the house was able to be enlarged by raising the side flaps and adding rooms outward. All they had to do was to add more cloth walls, extend the ropes and stakes that held them in place, and the enlarged family could be accommodated. The family or house of Israel represents those who make covenants with God. There were no covenant makers for more than a thousand years during the scattering. But when the gathering begins among the gentile nations people once again began to make covenants. 3 Nephi 22:1 reads:

And then shall that which is written come to pass: Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child; for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord.

Israel had been barren, bereft of covenant-making children. But now people are making covenants again. Those who are blood descendants of Jacob are coming back into the family through the covenant of baptism. Those who aren’t blood descendants are being adopted into the family of Abraham, and are eligible to receive all the blessings promised to Abraham and his posterity. So this family that was barren now has more children and posterity than those who had actual children. The Lord is painting a picture of tremendous prosperity and blessing to be heaped on Jacob’s house in the last days.

He tells us in the subsequent verses that the family tent will need considerable enlarging and strengthening of its stakes to handle all of the children that seem to have appeared out of nowhere. If children are the glory of the parents then Jacob’s family will be glorified above all the families of the earth. It all comes through the covenant-making process of baptism and the temple.

Isaiah finishes this prophecy by warning us that there are those who will plot against us, who will try to hurt or destroy us. The Lord assures us that he has created a destroyer to lay them waste who try to harm his people. He promises us that no weapon used against us will be successful. The Lord is on our side. He is our protector.

17 No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall revile against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.

Search diligently

3 Nephi 23:1 says,

And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.

In two sentences we are told twice to search the scriptures, and particularly the words of Isaiah, and once to search diligently. To search diligently requires a need, as I mentioned at the top of this article. We need to feel a sense of urgency to find something. What we need to find is different for each individual. But without a sense of need how can we be diligent, persistent, or dedicated in our search for knowledge and understanding. I guess this is why we are required to first search with diligence, second ponder or think deeply about what we are studying (not reading, studying), and finally to pray for understanding so we not only understand what we have been searching out, but for knowledge on how to apply it to our lives so we can find greater peace and happiness in our daily lives.

Final Thoughts

The Lord always comes back to this same sentiment. Do something. Do it with intent, with purpose. In the remaining chapters of this lesson the Lord makes sure their scripture base is complete. The Father commanded him to give them the words the Father gave to Malachi that included the law of tithing, among other important doctrine. He then expounded the scriptures from the beginning of time to the end of time, when the world will pass away and we will enter eternity once again.

The earth started as an eternal being when it was created. It was created as a terrestrial life. At the fall of Adam and Eve the earth became mortal, just like they did. When the Savior returns and cleanses the earth of all wickedness with His holy fire, it will once again become a terrestrial being. After the millennium it will become celestialized. This is what is referred to when they say in the scriptures that the earth will pass away at His coming. The earth, as we know it will cease to exist. It will become the earth that Adam and Eve knew.

The Lord has given us all that we need to know about how to live, how to love, how to make decisions, how to treat each other, and so many more things. They are all found in the scriptures, but can only be truly understood and recognized through diligent searching, pondering, and praying. The Holy Ghost reveals the truths to us as we become prepared to receive them. But like all truths, we must seek them, the Lord will not force them on us. We must want them enough to go and get them. This is why we are told that if we knock the doors will be opened, and if we seek we shall find.