3 Ne 1:1 The meaning of the term "A.D. 1"
"The chronological material listed on the bottom of each page in the Book of Mormon did not appear in the first edition. These chronological notes were first added in the edition of 1920 at the recommendation of a committee headed by Elder James E. Talmage. The abbreviation B.C. is used to designate the number of years before the time of Christ. The abbreviation A.D. (from the Latin Anno Domini, meaning 'in the year of our Lord') is used to indicate the number of years since the birth of Christ. Note that this calendar system does not go through a zero number. Thus the year before the birth of Christ is 1 B.C. and the year in which the Savior is born is A.D. 1. According to the calendar systems previously used by the Nephites, the year A.D. 1 occurs in the ninety-second year of the reign of judges (the record says the 'ninety and first year had passed away') and in the six hundredth year from the time Lehi left Jerusalem. (3 Nephi 1:1.)" (Daniel Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 252)
3 Ne 1:2 Nephi...departed...giving charge unto his son Nephi
"Nephi, like his illustrious father, was the leading spirit of the age. Previous to the visit of the risen Redeemer to the Nephites he was their High Priest and prophet. When the Messiah came to them and chose twelve Disciples to be special ministers of His Name and glory, Nephi was the first that He called. To him, on various occasions, the Savior immediately directed His conversation and instructions.
"Shortly before the birth of our Savior, Nephi received the Sacred Plates with their appendages from his father with strict instructions as to their care. From that time the elder Nephi was no more seen by mortals and his son took his place as the representative of Jehovah to the inhabitants of the western world." (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 7, p. 49-50)
3 Ne 1:3 he departed out of the land, and whither he went, no man knoweth
General Douglas MacArthur once stated that old soldiers never die, they just fade away. A similar statement could be made about some great prophets, "they never die, they just walk away." Alma...departed out of the land [and] was never heard of more, Moses went up mount Nebo where the Lord took Moses unto himself (Alma 45:19, Deut 32:49-50), and Nephi departed out of the land, and whither he went, no man knoweth. For the righteous, death is not bitter, for those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them (DC 42:46). This is especially true for these prophets who were apparently taken up by the Lord without even tasting death. Others that were translated in this manner include Elijah (2 Kgs 2:11, DC 110:13), Enoch, and his people (Gen 5:24, DC 38:4; DC 107:49).
"Now the doctrine of translation is a power which belongs to this Priesthood. There are many things which belong to the powers of the Priesthood and the keys thereof, that have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world; they are hid from the wise and prudent to be revealed in the last times.
"Many have supposed that the doctrine of translation was a doctrine whereby men were taken immediately into the presence of God, and into an eternal fullness, but this is a mistaken idea. Their place of habitation is that of the terrestrial order, and a place prepared for such characters He held in reserve to be ministering angels unto many planets, and who as yet have not entered into so great a fullness as those who are resurrected from the dead...This distinction is made between the doctrine of the actual resurrection and translation: translation obtains deliverance from the tortures and sufferings of the body, but their existence will prolong as to the labors and toils of the ministry, before they can enter into so great a rest and glory." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 170)
3 Ne 1:3 the end of the ministry of Nephi
Richard G. Scott
"Nephi lived in a time of tremendous upheaval and dissension when morals and standards were abandoned, government had disintegrated, and Gadianton robbers ruled the land, yet he remained faithful and engendered faith in others willing to hear the message of Jesus Christ. He taught with power. He was fearless in proclaiming truth no matter what opposition he encountered. When Satan applied more pressure he became more determined in living and acting righteously. He perfected his ability to be led by the Spirit and followed its direction without hesitation. His fearlessness came from a righteous heart. He possessed great humility and compassion. He blessed others with a knowledge of truth. His total faith in Jesus Christ allowed him to be protected and empowered to do good. He taught us how to pray for an answer when we urgently need it. He showed those who hold the priesthood how to exercise that sacred authority properly.
"...I love this prophet. I humbly testify that Nephi's greatness came from his humility, his unflinching obedience, and his firmly rooted faith in Jesus the Christ. When truth was taught, he listened carefully and obeyed it consistently. May our study and pondering of the example of this admirable servant of the Lord enrich us with a desire to be more submissive when tested, more obedient when tempted, more forgiving when falsely accused, and more resolute in our faith in the Master." (Heroes From The Book of Mormon, p. 155-6)
3 Ne 1:4 there began to be greater signs and greater miracles
Remarkably, these greater signs and greater miracles were not associated with greater humility and greater repentance. Rather, the people began to rejoice (v. 6) in the opportunity to mock and persecute the believers. As the Second Coming of the Lord approaches, greater signs and greater miracles will again be given. The all-important question is "how will we respond to them?"
3 Ne 1:6-7 your joy and your faith concerning this thing hath been vain
How disappointing would it be after years of faithful service to find out that the Church wasn't true after all, that it was all a masterful hoax and a waste of time? We rarely consider such questions because the Spirit immediately demonstrates their ludicrousness. Yet, the faithless Nephites are just waiting for the opportunity to say, "I told you so! You've been wasting your time all along! Your efforts have been in vain!" It seems that their jeering was beginning to have some effect for some began to be very sorrowful, lest by any means those things which had been spoken might not come to pass. But the saints of God need not fear. There is no reason to lack faith. The Lord has promised not to let one jot or tittle go unfulfilled (Matt 5:18). In the end, it will be the unbelievers, not the believers who will be disappointed.
George F. Richards
"There is always a satisfaction, my brethren and sisters, in having been right on any question that has engaged our attention, especially if the wisdom and judgment of others have been brought to bear upon that question and we have not all agreed. You know how prone we are to say, 'I told you so.' The more important the question that is involved in a consideration of this kind, the greater satisfaction there will be in the end when we find that we have been right; but if on the other hand it is found that we have been wrong there will be correspondingly great disappointment...The greatest question that man has ever considered, according to my judgment, is that of religion, or salvation, of what it consists and how it may be attained. There is no other question I suppose that has engaged the attention of so many people or upon which there has been such diversity of opinion...Those of us who know the truth of the Gospel as it has been revealed in these last days through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph Smith, know that there are millions of people who, in the end, [when] it shall be universally known of what salvation consists [and] how it may be attained, will be tremendously disappointed." (Conference Report, Apr. 1932, p. 39)
3 Ne 1:9 all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death
Neal A. Maxwell
"Church members in another age were being held hostage until certain prophecies were fulfilled-with their lives being forfeit if those prophecies were not fulfilled precisely on time. They, too, were told by the Lord to be of good cheer. Why? Because, said Jesus, 'On the morrow come I into the world.' (3 Ne. 1:13.) With His birth, the mortal ministry of the Messiah would, at last, be launched!" (Ensign, Nov. 1982, p. 66)
"It was the overwhelming majority of unbelievers who actually set a date for a general massacre of those who expected the coming of Christ (3 Nephi 1:9, 16). Fantastic as this may seem, it has many parallels in history: the slaughter of the Magi in Lehi's day, the Sicilian Vespers, the liquidation of the Mamlukes, St. Bartholomew's, the slaughter of the Donatists, the Bloodbath of Stralsund, etc., most of them attempts at the complete wiping out of large unorthodox minorities, and most of them engineered by devout intellectuals. It is a grim and authentic psychological touch in the Book of Mormon. When events proved the believers justified, the others were confounded-but not for long. In the Clementine Recognitions, Peter says that after the terrible upheavals of nature that accompanied the crucifixion the sun came out again, people went about their daily tasks, and quickly and efficiently forgot everything that had happened." (An Approach To The Book of Mormon, p. 370)
3 Ne 1:13 Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold the time is at hand
Of all the Christmas greetings ever uttered, certainly, this is the greatest. Even though the shepherds in Judea were to see an angel and hear the heavenly hosts singing, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (Lu 2:14), Nephi received notice from the Lord himself in a most personal and intimate communication. This message of peace and good cheer must have soothed Nephi's soul like nothing else. Certainly, that same message has soothed the souls of millions since.
Indeed, all of creation had looked forward to this moment. From Adam's early sacrifices in ignorance to the words of Samuel just 5 years prior, 4000 years of prophets and other righteous souls had their entire belief system resting on the promise that the Son of God would be made flesh and dwell among men. All of the Law of Moses had pointed to a Messiah who would redeem the people from their sins. Accordingly, many had received remission of sins even prior to the birth of the Lamb (Enos 1:5-8; Alma 36:18-19). Finally, the prophecies from all the prophets would be vindicated. The faith and hope of millions had to wait as much as four millennia to be realized, but the promised time had finally come.
First Presidency Christmas Message
"At this beautiful and glorious season we celebrate the birth of the Holy one of Israel - the Lord Jesus Christ. His birth, heralded by angels, had been revealed to Prophets in ages past. Perhaps the most meaningful of those prophetic declarations concerning the Savior's pending birth came from the Lord Himself when He told the Prophet Nephi: 'Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world....' (3 Ne. 1:13.)
"Almost twenty centuries have come and gone since the Savior's birth and today, as then, He encourages all people to 'be of good cheer.' (D&C 78:18.) We echo the words of the Lord and testify of His divinity and that He is the author of our eternal salvation. This is the message of joy 'that shall be to all people.' (Luke 2:10.) May we find such joy as we abide by His teachings and serve with love our fellow beings. " (Church News, 12/14/96)
Marion G. Romney
"Although I have born my testimony of Jesus Christ frequently and recently, I am happy to repeat it. My calling, and my desire, is to continue to bear convincing testimony of him. If it were possible, I would bear it to all men...
"I have no memory of a time or circumstance in which I have had the slightest doubt or question about Jesus of Nazareth being 'The Christ'; the Son of the Father both in the spirit and in the flesh; the Savior of the world. In the scriptures there are many events reported and expressions made concerning him which confirm in me this conviction. Every time I think of them they increase my understanding of their significance and of his divinity...
"[One] impressive event concerning Jesus as a premortal spirit was his announcement to Nephi concerning his advent into mortality.
"About 6 B.C., Samuel the Lamanite prophesied that at the birth of Jesus there would be a day and a night and a day without darkness. The unbelievers said the time appointed for this sign had passed and made plans to put the believers to death. When Nephi, the grandson of Helaman,
'...saw this wickedness of his people, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful.
'And ... he went out and bowed himself down upon the earth, and cried mightily to his God in behalf of his people, yea, those who were about to be destroyed because of their faith in the tradition of their fathers.
'And it came to pass that he cried mightily unto the Lord, all the day; and behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him saying:
'Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world. ...
'And it came to pass that the words which came unto Nephi were fulfilled, according as they had been spoken; for behold, at the going down of the sun there was no darkness' (3 Ne. 1:10-13, 15.)
"This event is to me a moving evidence of the infinite care and concern the Savior has for us mortals. It confirms my testimony of his divinity." (Ensign, Sept. 1974, p. 2)
3 Ne 1:13 on the morrow come I into the world
A brief digression is in order to deal with the implications of Jehovah's communication with Nephi. A fundamental question is, "During pregnancy, when does the spirit enter the body? Is it some time after conception, or does it occur just before birth?" The interaction between Jehovah and Nephi would suggest that the Spirit does not enter the body until it is time for delivery. Indeed, it would seem to be a great waste of time for the Great Jehovah to be confined within a growing embryo, inactive in Mary's womb for 9 months before His birth.
On the other hand, there are those who contend that the spirit enters the body shortly after conception. The scriptural example they cite is found in Luke, Mary...entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost (Lu 1:39-41). The implication is that the spirit of John the Baptist recognized the spirit of Jesus while both were still in the womb and that that was the reason that John leaped in Elisabeth's womb. Occasionally, this argument is used as part of the argument against the practice of abortion and as a comfort to those who have been the parents of stillborn children. Maybe the timing is not important for us to know, but the passage in 3 Ne 1:13 seems to make a compelling argument.
3 Ne 1:14 the will...of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh
The wording of this passage differs slightly from other scriptures which speak of Jehovah as both the "Son" and the "Father." Abinadi said that Jehovah was The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God: and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and the Son (Mosiah 15:3). The same concept is taught in the D&C, the Father and I are one-(I am) The Father because he gave me of his fullness, and the Son because I was in the world and made flesh my tabernacle, and dwelt among the sons of men (DC 93:3-4). Yet Jehovah tells Nephi that he was to come to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son-of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh.
In this verse, Jehovah is equating his will with the will of Elohim. He had in fact been the God of the Old Testament and the God of the Nephites, under the direction of his Father. But the fact that Jehovah equates his will with that of his Father has interesting implications. In particular, all the events of the Savior, in which he openly admits to following the will of the Father (as if it were different than His will), were in fact, situations in which He was following the will of Jehovah also, for the will of Jehovah and the will of Elohim are one (see Jn 4:34; 5:30; 6:38).
"This is a most difficult passage. It sounds as though the Lord is stating that he will come into the world to fulfill two wills- the will of Jehovah, the premortal God of the ancients (perhaps referred to here as 'me'), and the will of the mortal Messiah (the person of 'flesh'). Of course we know that they, Jehovah and Jesus, are one and the same being. At the same time, this statement dramatizes the separate and severable roles that would be played by the Master, that of the Holy One of Israel (premortal) and that of Jesus of Nazareth (mortal)." (McConkie, Millet, and Top, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 4, p. 7)
3 Ne 1:16 many, who had not believed...who fell to the earth
The goal of the unbelievers was to discredit and mock the prophecies of Samuel. Little did they know that when they fell to the earth in astonishment, they were merely fulfilling another prophecy, "And it shall come to pass that ye shall all be amazed, and wonder, insomuch that ye shall fall to the earth" (Hel 14:7).
3 Ne 1:21 a new star did appear
Today, if a new star appeared in the night's sky, who would pay any attention? Only the astronomers would take notice as they compare the sky with their star charts. Yet the appearance of this new star was generally known. In order for this new star to be noticeable to everyone, there had to be something distinctive about it. Samuel prophesied that it would be such an one as ye never have beheld (Hel 14:5). Certainly, the wise men from the east found it to be impressive, for it was to them both a guiding light and an amazing sign, and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy (Matt 2:9-10).
3 Ne 1:27 Gadianton robbers, who dwelt upon the mountains...did infest the land
"But a new threat arose. The criminal element took to the hills and there established retreats where they built up strength from dissenters joining them until they were able to reestablish the Gadianton organization. Terrorism was the name of the game. From their secure places they would strike and withdraw, making a special effort to kidnap 'especially women and children,' to assure the permanence of their society (Helaman 11:33). At the same time, Zoramite recruiters brought a host of young Nephites into the organization by the prospect of such things as romantic adventure, gaudy makeup, danger, loot, and license to kill (3 Nephi 1:28-30). Soldiers of fortune also flocked to the camps." (The Prophetic Book of Mormon, p. 555)
3 Ne 1:29 children who did grow up...became for themselves, and were led away
Neal A. Maxwell
"Experience in decision-making can be learned at home, too. A child's determination to spend his allowance foolishly on some object of predictably short-term worth, may be wise to honor, so that the child can experience, firsthand, the consequences of his choice. Learning to assess 'the consequences of what one wants' can be taught when the parent can still insulate children from gross or serious error and yet allow controlled contact with reality. The time often comes when, as told in The Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 1:29) youth 'became for themselves' and would no longer accept parental counsel. Continuing parental access to offspring for counseling even in the latter's adulthood depends on a climate of trust which reflects the granting of a gradually increasing area of agency, beginning with early childhood." (A More Excellent Way, p. 132)
3 Ne 1:30 [their faith] began to decrease...because of the wickedness of the rising generation
Neal A. Maxwell
"While we do not think of it this way very often, the rising generation has some genuine responsibilities to the older generation still living. We are not immune to influence from you. We not only regard you as the seedbearers of a celestial culture to come, but our own journey can be hastened by your pressing forward. About A. D. 3, an emerging generation of Lamanite youth 'became for themselves,' discounting the influence of their righteous parents, and many young adults 'were led away.' Then this telling observation about how we always need each other was given: '. . . the Lamanites . . . began to decrease as to their faith and righteousness, because of the wickedness of the rising generation.' (3 Nephi 1:29-30.) Lowering standards in the rising generations can create an undertow that affects all ages.
"We have seen, in just the past decade, various youth movements wash over shaky adults who gave way under pressure. Some adults, strangely enough, replaced their old values, of all things, with youth worship! The last thing youth needs is to be envied or worshiped." (Wherefore, Ye Must Press Forward, p. 84)