3 Nephi 8

3 Ne 8:1 there was not any man who could do a miracle...save he were cleansed every whit

The scriptures are clear in their teachings about controlling the powers of heaven. The seminal scripture is found in DC 121, the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride...the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved ; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man (DC 121:36-7). So righteousness is the prerequisite for performing miracles because a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit (Matt 7:18).

 In DC 46, we learn of the gifts of the Spirit. Two of those gifts are faith to heal and the working of miracles (DC 46:21). Seldom do we carefully read the words of the Lord before and after this list of gifts. He counsels us to follow the Spirit...in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me...And ye must practise virtue and holiness before me continually (DC 46:7,33). In other words, in order for us to exercise the gifts of the Spirit, miracles included, we must first be cleansed every whit from iniquity.

Hartman Rector Jr.

"The prophet Mormon stated very plainly what I like to call the qualification for the performance of miracles. It is recorded in 3 Nephi...'there was not any man who could do a miracle in the name of Jesus save he were cleansed every whit from his iniquity.'

"So this is the qualification: we must be cleansed every whit from our iniquity. When I first read this passage of scripture, I felt to say 'Hurray for repentance!' for if it were not for repentance, there would be no miracles performed." (Conference Report, Apr. 1970, p. 103)

Elder Charles A. Callis

"Isn't this a clarion call to purity of life? The cleaner our lives, the purer our thoughts, the greater will be our power, by the prayer of faith, to heal those who are afflicted with bodily ills. It is the truth that the many mighty miracles that Jesus the Redeemer wrought was due to the fact that he lived so close to the Father, lived so perfectly the celestial laws of God, that unto him was given that superhuman power." (Conference Report, Apr. 1924, p. 81)

3 Ne 8:3 the people began to look with great earnestness for the sign

The timing of Christ's death is not specified in Mormon's abridgement of Samuel's prophecy, but Samuel apparently prophesied the approximate lifespan of Christ. This is evidenced by the fact that the people in AD 34 began to look for the sign of his death, the thirty and third year had passed away; And the people began to look with great earnestness for the sign which had been given by the prophet Samuel, the Lamanite, yea for the time that there should be darkness for the space of three days over the face of the land (3 Ne 8:3). It is truly remarkable that the Lord allowed Samuel to give the exact timing of such an apocalyptic event. What is even more remarkable is that the people did not repent in preparation. Rather, they continued in their wickedness arguing about what those signs were to mean until it was too late and they were destroyed.

3 Ne 8:5 in the first month, on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm

"The New Testament account of the crucifixion of Christ would seem to indicate that the Savior was crucified the very week he became thirty-three years of age. The Book of Mormon not only substantiates this account, but also provides us with an exact date of the crucifixion. According to the Nephite calendar system, the Savior was crucified 'in the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month.' (3 Nephi 8:5.) Although we are not certain when the first month of the Nephite calendar would occur, if the Nephites were using the same calendar system as the Hebrews, the first month would be in the spring of the year sometime between about the middle of March and the middle of April." (Daniel Ludlow, A Companion To Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 258-9)

Orson Pratt

"We find that the ancient Israelites on this continent had a sign given of the exact time of the crucifixion and a revelation of the exact time of the Savior's birth, and according to their reckoning, they made him thirty-three years and a little over three days old from the time of his birth to the time that he hung upon the cross." (Journal of Discourses, 13:127)

Orson Pratt

"It is generally believed and conceded by the learned, who have investigated the matter, that Christ was born in April. I have seen several accounts--some of them published in our periodicals--of learned men in different nations, in which it is stated that, according to the best of their judgment from the researches they have made, Christ was crucified on the 6th of April. That is, the day on which this church was organized." (Journal of Discourses, 15:257)

3 Ne 8:6-23 Great destructions come upon the Nephites

The apocalypse, or end of the world, has caught the imagination of religious and non-religious alike. Consumed with a morbid curiosity, human nature has conjured up a hundred different scenarios. Many movies have dealt with the subject in one form or another. Countless sermons have expounded on and speculated about the Second Coming and its attendant destructions. Others have preferentially studied the book of Revelation in an uninspired attempt at understanding the prophesied plagues and sequence of events.

Living in the last days, we, too, concern ourselves with the "signs of the times," always wondering whether we are really prepared. We wish that the prophet would announce the time of His Coming even though that day, and hour, no one knoweth; no, not the angels of God in heaven (JS-Matt 1:40). Yet, here in the Book of Mormon we are given a vivid description of what apocalyptic destructions are like. We should not wonder about phrases like all the earth shall quake, or the sun shall be darkened, or there shall be weeping and wailing among the hosts of men, or there shall be a great hailstorm (DC 29:13-16). How terrible will  these destructions be? Mormon gives us the answer in his description of the destructions which occurred among the Nephites at the time of Christ's death. Even scriptural history repeats itself.

NEPHITE DESTRUCTIONS

DESTRUCTIONS AT 2nd COMING

1) a great storm (v. 5)

An overflowing rain and great hailstones (Ezek 38:22)

2) terrible thunder (v. 6)

There were voices and thunderings and lightnings (Rev 8:5)

3) exceedingly sharp lightnings (v. 7)

Fierce and vivid lightning (DC 87:6)

4) Zarahemla did take fire (v. 8)

I will send a fire on Magog (Ezek 39:6)

5) Moroni did sink into the depths of the sea (v. 9)

The waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds (DC 88:90)

6) the whole face of the  land was changed (v. 12)

Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low (Isa 40:4)

7) many...were slain (v. 15)

Seven months shall the house of Israel be burying of them (Ezek 39:12)

8) some...were carried away in the whirlwind (v. 16)

The whirlwind shall take them away as stubble (Isa 40:24)

9) the rocks were rent in twain (v. 18)

The voice...shall break down the mountains (DC 133:22)

10) there was darkness upon the face of the land (v. 19)

The sun shall be darkened (DC 29:14)

11) the inhabitants...could feel the vapor (v. 20)

Blood and fire, and vapors of smoke (DC 45:41)

12) they were heard to cry and mourn (v. 25)

There shall be weeping and wailing among the hosts of men (DC 29:15)

Ezra Taft Benson

"In the Book of Mormon we find a pattern for preparing for the Second Coming. A major portion of the book centers on the few decades just prior to Christ's coming to America. By careful study of that time period, we can determine why some were destroyed in the terrible judgments that preceded His coming and what brought others to stand at the temple in the land of Bountiful and thrust their hands into the wounds of His hands and feet." (Ensign, Nov. 1986, pp. 6-7 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 407)

Spencer W. Kimball

"These tremendous convulsions of nature not only impressed the Nephites greatly so that they recorded them in their history, but the memory of them also stayed in the minds of the Lamanites, or the American Indians, for fifteen hundred years. Shortly after the discovery of America, the Catholic missionaries and explorers learned that the American Indians had a tradition of the great convulsions of nature that took place at the time of Christ's death. For example, I would like to quote from a Lamanite, an Indian prince named Ixtlilxochitl, who lived near the city of Mexico and wrote his book in 1600 A.D.:

'...the sun and the moon eclipsed, and the earth trembled, and the rocks broke, and many other things and signs took place, . . . This happened . . . at the same time when Christ our Lord suffered, and they say it happened during the first days of the year.' (Works of Ixtlilxochitl, cited in Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon. p. 190.)"

(Conference Report, Apr. 1961, p. 50-51)

3 Ne 8:6 a great and terrible tempest

Hugh Nibley

"Major earthquakes are so often accompanied by 'heavy rains, thunder and hailstorms, violent tempests,' etc., that some specialists insist that 'there is some evidence that certain weather conditions may trigger an earthquake,' as in the Japanese earthquake of 1923, of which some Japanese seismologists maintain that 'the low barometric pressure was the trigger force which set off the earthquake.' At any rate, great earthquakes are preceded by great storms often enough to cause speculation." (Since Cumorah, p. 232)

3 Ne 8:6 it did shake the whole earth as if it was about to divide asunder

"...the account of the great destruction given in 3 Nephi 8 finds remarkable parallels with what modern seismology and vulcanology show about cataclysmic geological events and with historical reports of such catastrophes...the region of Mesoamerica...is a place of continuing volcanic and seismic activity." (Daniel C. Peterson, Ensign, Jan. 2000, p. 19)

Hugh Nibley

"If you go into books on earthquakes and check this out, you'll see that the order of the events is all very correct and accurate...The Book of Mormon just describes a No. 12 earthquake-No. 8 on the Richter Scale might do it. But the Assam earthquake in August 1950 was 12 on the scale. Remember, every time you go up a number, you double the strength of the earthquake, so you can imagine what a 12 would be if the last San Francisco earthquake was a 7.5 at the extreme. So this is some earthquake, and the order in which the events are described is very good here-all the things that should take place. So we've summed them up here in this very factual account (3 Ne 8).

"Well, it was a terror, about 11 or 12 on the Wood-Neuman scale. It is probably not the worst earthquake on record, because Assam was total destruction, and in this one we're told there were some cities which remained. It was not total. It describes what happened at the epicenter. There were cities that remained; whereas, in the great Assam earthquake of 1950 the damage was total over a large area. I'm going to read you an account of that Assam earthquake...On August 15, 1950, there was an earthquake (in Tibet) that was total over 10,000 square miles and [killed] 500,000 people. Only 14 people survived. Imagine an earthquake [that killed] 500,000 people over that area. Well here's a description of it.

"'On the morning of August 15, 1950, the day of the biggest and strangest earthquake in our times, it gave no inkling of what was to come.' All of a sudden just this terrible storm and then the earthquake. All the seismographs in the world went mad...The energy unleashed was the equivalent of three million atom bombs...Stranger things were to follow. By all the rules the scene of the cataclysm should have been invaded by reporters, scientists, and relief workers. Nothing-it was just wiped out completely. Instead, they didn't even have to bother. They were afraid of the Chinese going [in there]; that's the Chinese border with Tibet. No worry after that-the map had completely changed. 'Where there had been rivers before, there were mountains now. Rivers that ran in one direction now ran in the opposite direction.'" (Teachings From the Book of Mormon, Lecture 82, p. 316-7)

3 Ne 8:7 there were exceedingly sharp lightnings

Hugh Nibley

"According to an eyewitness account, the great earthquake that completely destroyed the old capital of Guatemala on September 11, 1541, was preceded by 'the fury of the wind, the incessant, appalling lightning and dreadful thunder' that were 'indescribable' in their violence. One of the still unexplained phenomena of earthquakes is that 'all types of lights are reported seen. . . . There are flashes, balls of fire, and streamers.' The terrible wind at Guatemala City is matched in the Book of Mormon by high winds with occasional whirlwinds that even carried some people away." (Since Cumorah, p. 233)

3 Ne 8:8 And the city of Zarahemla did take fire

Hugh Nibley

"It would appear from the account of the Nephite disaster that the main cause of the destruction was fire in the cities (3 Nephi 9:8-11), which agrees with all the major statistics through the centuries; for 'earthquakes are largely a city problem,' mainly because the first heavy shock invariably sets fires all over town: in the Japanese experience 'wind-driven flames were shown to be more dangerous than the greatest earthquake.'" (Since Cumorah, p. 233)

3 Ne 8:9 the city of Moroni did sink into the depths of the sea

Hugh Nibley

"The tsunami or sea wave 'is the most spectacular and . . . appalling of all earthquake phenomena' and almost invariably follows a major shakeup on the coast. Along with this, however, we have in the Book of Mormon record what seems to be a permanent submergence of coastal areas when 'the waters . . . [come] up in the stead thereof' and remain (3 Nephi 9:7). Such a submergence happened on a spectacular scale in the Chilean earthquake of 1960: 'We would have taken these flooded stretches-permanently flooded-for coastal lagoons,' a geologist reports, 'if here and there we had not seen roads that ran straight toward them and into them. . . . roads that vanished, or sometimes showed under the stagnant water, branching into what had been the streets of a town.' In the New Madrid, Missouri, earthquake of 1811, two vast tracts of land were covered with fresh water both by the damming of streams and the bursting out of numerous earthquake blows or fountains, flooding the newly submerged areas." (Since Cumorah, p. 235)

3 Ne 8:10 the earth was carried up upon the city of Moronihah, that in the place of the city there became a great mountain

Hugh Nibley

 "In September 1538 during a tremendous storm and tidal wave a volcanic mountain suddenly appeared and covered a town near Puzzuoli on the Bay of Naples; ever since, the mountain has been known as Monte Nuove, or New Mountain. The carrying up of the earth upon the city suggests the overwhelming of Pompeii by vast heaps of volcanic ash or the deep burial of Herculaneum under lava in 79 A.D. On the other hand, other cities were 'sunk, and the inhabitants thereof . . . buried up in the depths of the earth' (3 Nephi 9:6). This could have been an actual engulfment: in the great earthquake of 1755, which was felt all over Europe, the 'quay [at Lisbon] sank, with all the people on it, into a fissure, and no trace of quay or people was seen again.'" (Since Cumorah, p. 235)

3 Ne 8:12 the whole face of the land was changed

Hugh Nibley

"The Book of Mormon also mentions the rising and sinking of the land, forming new 'hills and valleys' (3 Nephi 9:5-8)...Hydrographic surveys after the Japanese quake of 1923 showed that over an area of 500 square miles some 'areas were . . . lowered as much as 689 feet and other . . . areas raised 820 feet'-a difference of over 1,500 feet.'" (Since Cumorah, p. 236)

Hugh Nibley

"...they used to tell us that the Rocky Mountains and the Andes were the results of this earthquake. Would you believe anything like that? Utter nonsense, isn't it. These mountains out here weren't formed in that way, were they? What does this describe? It describes a good earthquake, maybe 8.5 on the Richter Scale." (Teachings From the Book of Mormon, Lecture 89, p. 38)

3 Ne 8:19 The quakings...did last for about the space of three hours

Hugh Nibley

 "...though the aftershocks, correctly described as the tremblings and groanings, continued for three days (3 Nephi 10:9), during which time the afflicted people carried on in hysterical fashion with frightful howling and lamentation. This too is a normal part of the picture, since 'the incessant recurrence of aftershocks after a great earthquake is most unnerving to the populace.'" (Since Cumorah, p. 235)

3 Ne 8:20-22 There was thick darkness...the inhabitants...could feel the vapor of darkness

Hugh Nibley

"This, like much else in the account (e.g., that God 'did send down fire and destroy them,' 3 Nephi 9:11), suggests nearby volcanic activity. And indeed, in many cases earthquakes are the preparation for the volcano that follows, as in the Chilean 1960 quake, which triggered the activity of long-dormant volcanoes in the area. Most of the victims of the great catastrophes of Pompeii, St. Pierre (Martinique, 1902), and Mt. Pelee (1906) died of suffocation when earthquake dust, volcanic ash, steam, and hot gasses (mostly sulfureted hydrogen gas) took the place of air. In some areas, the Book of Mormon reports, people were 'overpowered by the vapor of smoke and of darkness,' and so lost their lives (3 Nephi 10:13). Even without volcanic accompaniments, however, major earthquakes kick up a terrible dust and, according to Sieberg, are accompanied by phenomenal vapors and astonishingly thick air. In the Assam earthquake such contamination 'reduced [visibility] to a few feet and made breathing a nightmare.'

"According to 3 Nephi 8:20-21 the 'vapor of darkness' was not only tangible to the survivors, but defeated every attempt to light candles or torches for illumination. At present, intensive studies are being made of the destruction of the Greek island of Thera (today Santorini) in 1400 B.C. This catastrophe, well within historic times, is thought to have been eight times as violent as Krakatoa and is described in terms exactly paralleling the account in 3 Nephi. Among other things it is pointed out that the overpowering thickness of the air must have extinguished all lamps." (Since Cumorah, p. 236)

3 Ne 8:23 there was great mourning and howling and weeping among all the people

Hugh Nibley

"We must bear in mind that what the Book of Mormon reports are the happenings as the people experienced them rather than as instruments would record them. Most earthquake data are of this very human nature, and exactly match the account in 3 Nephi. The Book of Mormon description emphasizes the fact that it was not any one particular thing but the combination of horrors that made the experience so terrible. As N.H. Heck puts it, what makes a major earthquake so devastating is 'the combination of forces . . . into an almost irresistible source of disaster.' The picture of cumulating disaster at the destruction of Guatemala City in 1541 strikingly parallels the story in the eighth chapter of 3 Nephi  'It had rained incessantly and with great violence. . . . The fury of the wind, the incessant, appalling lightning and dreadful thunder were indescribable. The general terror was increased by eruptions from the volcano to such a degree that . . . the inhabitants imagined the final destruction of the world was at hand...'

"We have then in the Book of Mormon a factual and sober account of a major upheaval in which by comparison with other such accounts nothing seems exaggerated. However wildly others may have chosen to interpret the Book of Mormon record, so far is it from bearing the marks of fantasy or wild imagination that it actually furnishes convincing evidence that the person who wrote it must have had personal experience of a major Meso-American quake or else have had access to authentic accounts of such." (Since Cumorah, p. 238)

3 Ne 8:23 for the space of three days...there was no light seen

"These three days of darkness obviously accord with the three days that the body of the crucified Christ lay in the borrowed tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea.  How appropriate that the lands of the Book of Mormon be draped in darkness to commemorate the death and suffering of their king!  The coming of light each morning ought be a reminder to all of the manner in which our Redeemer brought to an end that long night of darkness we associate with death and ought also be a reminder of the promise granted us, through him, of a newness of life." (McConkie, Millet, and Top, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 4, p. 39)

3 Ne 8:24 O that we had repented before this great and terrible day

N. Eldon Tanner

"Here another lesson is obvious. Throughout ecclesiastical history we find that those who rejected the prophets and failed to repent of their wickedness were struck by calamities which caused them literally to weep and to mourn and to regret their failure to heed the warnings of the prophets. We know that Christ was crucified and some of his apostles persecuted and stoned simply for trying to establish the kingdom of God and bring people to repentance and a happier way of life.

"Today the world is rejecting the messages of the prophets of God. Is it not true that there is weeping and wailing over the face of the land because men are at war one with another? Do we not have among us many who lament the waywardness of their youth and the tragedies that befall them as they turn away from righteousness and suffer the consequences of tampering with alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, and other forbidden things? How many mourners do we have as a result of the lawlessness that is extant in our communities? We need to heed the lessons from the history of the past lest we be consumed as were some of those earlier civilizations." (Conference Report, May 1975 Ensign, p. 34)