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Relationship to Book of Mormon. The relationship of Third Nephi to the Book of Mormon as a whole is discussed at Book of Mormon: Unities.
Story. The book of Third Nephi relates two sets of stories:
- Third Nephi 1-10: The destruction of Nephite society.
- Third Nephi 11-30: Christ's ministry to the Nephites.
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Third Nephi include:
This heading should be brief and explain facts about the historical setting that will help a reader to understand the book. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →
Third Nephi begins in the 92nd year of the reign of the judges over the Nephites ("92 J") (1:1). The year 92 J corresponds to 1 AD, but Third Nephi does not switch to the AD counting system until the year 100 J, or 9 AD (2:6-8). On this wiki page, however, all dates after Christ's birth are converted to the AD counting system in order to avoid confusion.
This page does not address the relationship between the Nephite calendar and Old World calendars in the mideast, but that topic is discussed at Historical Overview of the Nephites.
Third Nephi 1-10 covers a period of 33 years from the sign of Christ's birth in 1 AD (1:13-15; 2:7-8) to the sign of his death on the third to fifth days of 34 AD (8:5; 10:9). Following the sign of Christ's birth, the Nephites enjoyed relative peace for about three years (
The events related in Third Nephi 11-30 mostly occurred on only four days in about late 34 AD. Several months after the sign of Christ's death, Christ appeared to a group of Nephites in late 34 AD and taught them for three days at the temple in Bountiful as related in Chapters 11-26 (10:18; 26:13-16). He then appeared on a separate occasion to the Twelve disciples, likely in late 34 AD or 35 AD, as related in Chapters 27-28 (27:1-2; 4 Ne 1:1-2). Christ also appeared to the Nephites on several other occasions at about this time, but the only thing we are told about those visits is that he administered the sacrament (26:13).
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- 3 Ne 30:1-2
Chapters 11-30: The structure of the account of Christ's visitation
Christ's visit to the Nephites (as a "whole people") breaks quite easily into two parts: first day (3 Ne 11-18), second day (3 Ne 19-26). Though the record of this double visit is then followed by the record of another visit (one further visit among many, apparently, that followed the first two), it is clear from the way Mormon writes the record that the first two visits should be considered separate from the other, at least at first. Together, the three visits are considered quite widely to be the heart of the Book of Mormon, the highlight of the Book of Mormon, the meaning of the Book of Mormon. As such, it might be worth considering them collectively in order to draw from them an overall structure, which should in turn allow for richer readings of the details as they occur in the text. According to the comments above, the first two visits will be considered together, apart from the third recorded visit, before any consideration of the third is taken up. Now, in order to approach the structural possibilities, it might be best first to list the several events of the three visits:
First visit Christ descends (after a three-fold word from the Father) and introduces Himself (3 Ne 11:1-12) The multitude feels the Savior's hands and feet (3 Ne 11:13-17) Christ gives Nephi the authority to baptize and teaches the order of baptism (3 Ne 11:18-28) Jesus offers a short discourse on the "trinity" (3 Ne 11:29-41) Christ then (nearly) repeats the "Sermon on the Mount" (3 Ne 12-14) He explains the meaning of the supersession of the Law (3 Ne 15:1-10) The twelve disciples are taught of the Abrahamic covenant (3 Ne 15:11-3 Ne 16:20) Christ goes to leave, but is pursuaded (silently) to stay (3 Ne 17:1-6) He heals all the people and prays before them (3 Ne 17:7-10) He blesses the children and angels surround them (3 Ne 17:11-25) Christ institutes the sacrament (3 Ne 18:1-14) He offers a few closing words concerning prayer and leaves (3 Ne 18:15-39) Second visit Christ returns during baptisms, and a series of prayers ensues (3 Ne 19) He provides the sacrament for the now larger multitude (3 Ne 20:1-9) Jesus teaches the whole multitude of the Abrahamic covenant (3 Ne 20:10-3 Ne 26:12)
With these details in order, some consideration of the structure of the text becomes possible.
Perhaps the best starting point in discovering a structure here is to note a sort of chiasm formed by the close of the first visit and the opening of the second:
Christ institutes the sacrament He offers a few closing words concerning prayer He leaves The multitude gathers about the baptism of the twelve disciples Jesus returns Jesus and the people pray Christ administers the sacrament again
The chiasm laid out here is doubly significant. It is highlighted by the events immediately preceding and following it. Just before the institution of the sacrament is the visitation of the angels as Jesus blesses the children--certainly a climactic moment. Immediately following the second administration of the sacrament is what Mormon apparently considered to be the most important part of the first two visits: a lecture on the meaning of the Abrahamic covenant (Mormon emphasizes the importance of this last event in two ways: he records more of this lecture--3 Nephi 20-26--than of any other event during the two visits, and he says quite explicitly in 3 Ne 26:6 that he had not written "a hundreth part" of what Jesus taught during the lecture). The chiastic series follows the breaking of the veil (the literal formation of the heavenly council on earth) and opens onto what might be called the most important discourse ever given. Certainly, the structure of the two visits is of some significance, but it remains to work out what exactly the structure implies.
The historical weight of the events preceding the chiasm must also be felt, and this weight perhaps helps to open the meaning of the chiastic structure of the transition between visits. The event in which Christ blesses the children and the angels descend to attend them is of great importance in the Nephite tradition. On one reading of the writings of Nephi, son of Lehi, there is an implicit promise made to the Nephites/Lamanites that they will eventually be gathered into an angelic chorus. (The promise might be read by connecting 1 Ne 1:8 to 2 Ne 31:13, Lehi's vision of the angelic praise to God opening Nephi's record and Nephi's promise that the baptized will sing and shout praises to God in the angelic tongue. The implication is that the Nephites/Lamanites are to proceed through Nephi's two books from the distant possibility of the angelic chorus to actual choral inclusion. If the angelic chorus is understood as the council at work in the Holy of Holies, Nephi's two books might well be read as a temple text, one to be historically fulfilled. Not until 3 Nephi 17 does any real fulfillment of that broad promise appear.) If the angelic encounter is read in connection with the implicit promises of Nephi, another aspect of Christ's two visitations is of some significance: while Nephi (and Jacob with him) speaks extensively of the Abrahamic covenant (of Israel, the Jews, and the Gentiles), the prophets between Nephi's time and the visitation of Christ almost entirely (if not entirely) ignore the theme. The parting of the veil and the formation of the heavenly council of angels, then, parallels the return to the theme of the Abrahamic covenant.
The theme of the Abrahamic covenant certainly underlies much of the structure of these first two visits. The first hint of the theme is in chapter 11, when Christ dedicates Himself to a discourse on the "trinity." Though the theme does not appear at first to be a question of the Abrahamic covenant, it becomes clear in chapters 15-16, when Jesus teaches the disciples concerning the covenant, that the "trinity" teachings were preparatory to understanding the historical meaning of that covenant. The disciples, then, are twice taught during the first visit concerning the Abrahamic covenant, and this double discussion meets up with the incredibly abbreviated discourse of the second visit. Taking the focus of the two visits to be the Abrahamic covenant, the remainder of the events fall into some coherent order:
Towards the foundation of the covenant (the "trinity") Descent and introduction: Christ implicitly ties Himself to the covenant by making reference to the OT prophets The multitude feels Him: Christ explains that they are to do this to know that He is "the God of Israel" Setting up baptism: Christ offers the Nephites/Lamanites the ordinance Nephi tied to the Abrahamic covenant Concerning the "trinity": Jesus teaches the "trinity" in connection with baptism, since all three are named in it From the foundation to a first summary of the covenant The Sermon on the Mount: Jesus takes the Nephites/Lamanites beyond the Law and, hence, back to the covenant behind it Explaining the Law: Christ's teachings concerning the supersession of the Law just go to explain the point above Of the Abrahamic covenant: Christ offers the disciples a preliminary understanding of the covenant--but just them Sudden fulfillment of Nephi's implicit promise Christ decides to stay: pursuaded by the desire of the people, Jesus begins to fulfill the promises made through Nephi Jesus heals the people: a work of atonement is undertaken, and all then witness the prayer that inaugurates the chorus Children blessed, chorus arrives: with the people arranged circularly, the chorus itself descends and Nephi is fulfilled Chiastic transition from fulfillment to covenant discourse The sacrament instituted: contextually, the sacrament becomes the rite of the angelic discourse (as in Revelation?) Words on prayer, departure: with the Spirit promised in the sacrament, prayer becomes a possibility in the purest sense Baptism of the disciples: since the twelve heard a first summary of the covenant, they enter into it through baptism Arrival, series of prayers: possibility becomes reality and the praying Nephites/Lamanites becomes (?) angels in chorus The sacrament issued again: the increased multitude is all joined to the angelic chorus in preparation for the dicourse The covenant itself is put on display Of the Abrahamic covenant: all are taught of the covenant at length (7 chapters are not a hundredth of it!)--apparently in preparation for their own baptismal entrances into the covenant
At the very least, the experience seems to center on the Abrahamic covenant, even to restore the focus on the Abrahamic covenant. With that broad theme in place, one might read the whole account more fruitfully: every step of the way is a working out of the explication of the covenant.
Complete outline and page map
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● The Destruction of Nephite society (Chapters 1-10)
- A. The sign of Christ's birth (Chapter 1a)
- B. Gadianton robbers do not destroy righteous Nephite society from outside (Chapter 1b-5a)
- • Gadianton robbers begin to grow through Nephite and Lamanite dissensions (1:27-30)
- • people begin to disbelieve the signs they have seen (2:1-10)
- • Gadianton robbers attack combined Nephites and Lamanites, see-saw results (2:11-19)
- • Lachoneus (Nephite chief judge) receives request for surrender from Giddianhi (3:1-10)
- • Lachoneus leads people to prepare defenses and to repent (3:11-16)
- • Gidgiddoni (Nephite chief captain) refuses to launch a preventive attack (3:17-21)
- • Nephites continue to gather for defense and repent (3:22-26)
- • Gadianton robbers occupy scorched Nephite lands but find no sustenance (4:1-4)
- • Gaddianhi (Gadianton leader) attacks and is slain in a great battle (4:5-15)
- • Zemnarihah (Gadianton leader) besieges Nephites but has no sustenance (4:16-22)
- • Zemnarihah's retreat is cut off and Gadianton robbers are destroyed (4:23-33)
- • captured Gadianton robbers are allowed to unite with people or else executed (5:1-7)
- C. Mormon's editorial interlude (Chapter 5b)
- B. Social elites do destroy wicked Nephite society from within (Chapter 6-7)
- • Nephites return to their lands and establish peace (6:1-9)
- • pride leads to social division and abuse to point that church is broken up (6:10-18)
- • social elites put prophets to death and form a secret combination to install a king (6:19-30)
- • the chief judge is murdered and the Nephite government is broken up (7:1-8)
- • Jacob (king of the secret combination) sees he is outnumbered and flees northward (7:9-13)
- • the Nephites separate into tribes, which allows continued killing of the prophets (7:14)
- • when Nephi's preaching cannot be disbelieved, most Nephites are angered rather than converted (7:15-26)
- A. The sign of Christ's death (Chapter 8-10)
- • anxiety for the sign of Christ's death (8:1-4)
- • destruction occurs amid natural disasters and darkness (8:5-25)
- • the first voice: destruction was in consequence of the people's great wickedness (9:1-12)
- • the first voice continues: invitation to come unto Christ, the Law of Moses is fulfilled (9:13-22)
- • silence for many hours (10:1-2)
- • the second voice: invitation for the House of Israel to be gathered or destroyed (10:3-7)
- • darkness for three days, then light (10:8-10)
- • the destruction was in fulfillment of prophecy (10:11-19)
● Christ's ministry to the Nephites (Chapters 11-30)
- ● First day of Christ's ministry to the Nephites (Chapters 11-18)
- A. Christ appears to multitude, selects Twelve disciples, baptism, no contention (Chapter 11)
- • to the multitude:
- • Christ announced by the Father and descends from heaven (11:1-7)
- • Christ announces himself, the multitude feels the prints of the nails in his hands (11:8-17)
- • to the Twelve:
- • conferral of authority to baptize (11:18-30)
- • announcement of Christ's doctrine, no contention (11:31-41)
- B. Christ gives the Nephites more scripture (Chapter 12-15a)
- C. Exposition on the covenant of scattering and gathering (Chapter 15b-16)
- D. Christ tarries: blessing, fire, and the sacrament (Chapter 17-18)
- • Christ heals the sick and blesses the children (17:1-25)
- • the sacrament and shepherding members (18:1-39)
- ● Second day of Christ's ministry, to the Nephite multitude (Chapter 19-26a)
- D. Christ returns: fire, blessing, and the sacrament (Chapters 19-20a)
- C. Exposition on the covenant of scattering and gathering (Chapter 20b-23a)
- B. Christ gives the Nephites more scripture (Chapter 23b-26a)
- • instruction to record the fulfillment of Samuel's prophecy (23:6-14)
- • Christ gives Malachi 3-4 to the Nephites (24:1-25:6 / Malachi 3-4)
- • summary: Christ expounds all things through the end of the world and the final judgment (26:1-5)
- ● Third day of Christ's ministry and other visitations summarized (Chapter 26b)
- ● Remainder of Christ's personal ministry summarized (Chapter 26b)
- ● A subsequent personal visitation to the Twelve (Chapter 27-28)
- A. Christ appears to Twelve, name of Church, no contention, Three Nephites (Chapters 27-28)
- • Twelve pray, Christ appears and asks what they want (27:1-3)
- • Christ's church is to be called in his name (27:4-8)
- • the church and individuals will prosper if built on Christ's gospel (27:9-22)
- • the Twelve are to write the words by which the Nephites will be judged (27:23-27)
- • ask and you shall receive (27:28-29)
- • prophecy that the fourth generation will be lost to wickedness (27:30-33)
- • Christ asks what more the Twelve want, nine ask to go to heaven (28:1-3)
- • three Nephite disciples ask to remain and labor saving souls (28:4-15)
- • ministry of the Three Nephites to the Nephites (28:16-23)
- • ministry of the Three Nephites to the Jews and Gentiles (28:24-35)
- • the Three Nephites are transfigured until the final judgment (28:36-40)
- ● Mormon's closing message to the Gentiles (Chapter 29-30)
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Prompts for further study
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The original 1830 edition of Alma was divided into only thirty chapters (I-XXX). For the 1879 edition Parley Pratt further divided those thirteen into the sixty three chapters (1-63) still used today. • I: 1-3 • II: 4 • III: 5 • IV: 6 • V: 7 • VI: 8 • VII: 9 • VIII: 10-11 • IX: CH.12-13:9 • X: 13:10-ch.15:19 • XI: 16 • XII: 17-20 • XIII: 21-22 • XIV: 23-26 • XV: 27-29 • XVI: 30-35 • XVII: 36-37 • XVIII: 38 • XIX: 39-42 • XX: 43-44 • XXI: 45-49 • XXII: 50 • XXIII: 51 • XXIV: 52-53 • XXV: 54-55 • XXVI: 56-68 • XXVII: 59-60 • XXVIII: 61 • XXIX: 62 • XXX: 63
References cited on this page.
- 3 Ne 11-30. Welch, John W. "Worthy of Another Look: Reusages of the Words of Christ." In Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture, 22/1 (2013): p. 62-72 Provo, Utah: BYU University: Neil A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. This article discusses Christ's reuse of portions of the Sermon on the Mount, quoted in 3 Nephi 12-14, in his subsequent teaching to the Nephites in 3 Nephi 15-28.
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