3 Ne 11:1-7

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Home > The Book of Mormon > Third Nephi > Chapter 11 > Verses 1-7
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Summary[edit]

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Relationship to Chapter 11. The relationship of Verses 1-7 to the rest of Chapter 11 is discussed at Third Nephi 11.

Story.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Verses 1-7 include:

Discussion[edit]

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  • 3 Ne 11:1. It really is a curious detail that the people are gathered around the temple when Christ comes again. Of course there are obvious reasons to see this as significant: the temple is the place of theophany, etc. But for what reason exactly they are gathered there is somewhat elusive. The phrasing of verse 1 seems to make allusion to the Day of Atonement, or at least to King Benjamin's speech: "a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple" (cf. Mosiah 2:5). A Day of Atonement connection would be rather interesting, though it must be admitted that there are some difficulties in reading the Day of Atonement into the situation, especially since Christ had just publically announced the cessation of all animal sacrifice (3 Ne 9:19), and animal sacrifice was at the very heart of the Day of Atonement. Perhaps more fruitful is the obvious connection to King Benjamin's speech, already mentioned. There are other explicit connections between the two events (verse 5 here, for example, parallels Mosiah 2:9 rather closely). But then, it is clear from hints that run through the whole of Mosiah 1-6 that Benjamin's speech was intimately connected with the Mosaic Day of Atonement. Perhaps the close ties to Benjamin's speech are meant, to some degree at least, to summon to the mind of the reader the themes of the Day of Atonement.
In the end, it is reading the Day of Atonement into the background of this story that opens up some of its implicit richness, and not so much because the events of 3 Nephi follow the ritual so closely, but precisely because they continually transgress the ritual. (In fact, there may be reason to read the events of 3 Nephi as transgressing the broad underlying theme of King Benjamin's speech as well: on one reading, Benjamin's speech is a broad "demythologization" of sorts of the Nephite Day of Atonement rites, an emphatic shift from the Abrahamic focus that seems to have accompanied the rites early on. If Benjamin was doing this, then 3 Nephi, moving inexorably towards the great discourse on the Abrahamic covenant, undoes King Benjamin's speech, in a way.) The most significant transgression of the Day of Atonement happens, in fact, right from the beginning: Christ is not sitting on the throne in the Holy of Holies at the temple, and the High Priest does not emerge from the temple at the climactic moment of the ritual; rather, Christ simply descends directly into the midst of the people, and He teaches them outside of the temple. This point cannot be missed: significant as it may seem that Christ comes to the people at the temple, it cannot be missed that He does so outside of it, transgressing the confining house by simply coming among the people as a whole. This "universalization" of sorts might be in itself an explicit transgression of the Law, which was embodied by the temple's confining structure. At any rate, whatever "former things" sorts of themes might be read into the story, it is clear that Christ's visit transgresses them all, that whatever precedent might be brought to bear on the experience can only be brought to the scene to be, precisely, transgressed.
It may be, in the end, for this reason that Mormon (or Mormon's source) passes so quickly over the details of the gathering. There is enough mention of the fact that one can draw connections between this event and Benjamin's speech or the Day of Atonement, but Mormon (or Mormon's source) is not, in the end, particularly interested in developing the connection at any real length: this experience goes beyond all the earlier ones, and the reader is perhaps to feel a sort of newness about the experience, a transcending spirit that leads the reader beyond everything that has gone before. New things are afoot, and the reader is alerted to the fact from the very start.
It is perhaps of some significance as well that the event takes place in Bountiful and not in Zarahemla. Obviously, a major reason for this is the fact that Zarahemla had been destroyed during the disasters preceding Christ's visitation (see 3 Ne 9:3). Right up until that destruction, the governmental center of Nephite and eventually even of Lamanite activity seems to have been Zarahemla (as late as 3 Ne 6:25 there is reference to Zarahemla as the seat of the chief judge). Certainly while the monarchy remained (the Mosiah-Benjamin-Mosiah dynasty), Zarahemla was the ritual center of the kingdom as well, based on the only temple in the Nephite lands at the time. With the development of the churches under Alma, there seems to have been a sudden proliferation of temples throughout the land (see Alma 16:13, for example). Whether this democratization of the temple marked a relativization of the Zarahemla temple or not is not clear from the Book of Mormon, but that the single temple at Bountiful becomes a central location for this visitation is of some significance: a single temple emerges as the ritual center of the Nephite/Lamanites lands, perhaps as a marker of the return of a sort of monarchy (now under Christ as King?). That, as was pointed out above, the temple rites are--at the very same time--transgressed (perhaps as a token of the fulfilled Law of Moses) is somewhat ironic: there is clearly a gathering at a temple, but perhaps the temple only marks the spot now, as opposed to its previous role of containing God and covering His presence.
The significance of the topic of discussion is unclear: why does Mormon (or Mormon's source) seem intent on making such a big deal of what the people are speaking of? Perhaps more curious still is that their conversation about Jesus Christ is added afterward as a sort tack-on: apparently of more central concern (whether to the people or to the narrative) is the question of teh "great and marvelous change which had taken place." Why this emphasis?

Unanswered questions[edit]

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Prompts for life application[edit]

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Prompts for further study[edit]

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  • 3 Ne 11:1: Why might the people in this verse be gathered around the temple?
  • 3 Ne 11:1: Why is it that the temple in Bountiful is apparently spared, while the temple in Zarahemla is apparently destroyed?
  • 3 Ne 11:3-6: Why did it take 3 times before the people understood the voice?
  • 3 Ne 11:3: The voice is soft yet reaches the hearts of all. How is that?

Resources[edit]

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  • User:Bhardle explains how the beginning of this chapters shows the importance of listening to the spirit here.
  • See 1 Kgs 19:11. Compare Elijah's experience with the Spirit to the the voice of the Father here.

Notes[edit]

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