3 Nephi 15

3 Ne 15:5 Behold, I am he that gave the law

To those raised in the tradition of the Law of Moses, the Lawgiver was also the Lord God Almighty. He was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was the creator of Heaven and Earth. Therefore, for the Lord to say I am he that gave the law defines his divine role as dramatically as anything else he could say. Jesus Christ is none other than the God of the Old Testament.

Yet, the irony is that the giver of the law was despised and rejected of men...brought as a lamb to the slaughter (Isa 53:3,7). First impressions are everything. When He came as a babe in a manger, raised in Nazareth, as the son of a carpenter, the Jews asked, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? (Jn 7:15) and Art thou greater than our father Abraham...whom makest thou thyself? (Jn 8:53) and is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? (Matt 13:55) Therefore, when the Lawgiver explained that the Law would bring them all under condemnation, they did not believe. He said, Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words? (Jn 5:45-47) Ye keep not the law. If ye had kept the law, ye would have received me, for I am he who gave the law (JST-Matt 9:19, italics added).

In contrast to his humble Old World beginnings, Christ's dramatic entrance in the New World left little doubt about his divinity. The Nephites wondered how it was that the old things had passed away, but they never questioned the identity or authority of the Lawgiver. If He said the law was fulfilled, that was enough for them.

Jeffrey R. Holland

"Clearly the Nephite congregation understood this more readily than did the Jewish world, partly because the Nephite prophets had been so careful to teach the transitional nature of the law. Abinadi had said, 'It is expedient that ye should keep the law of Moses as yet; but I say unto you, that the time shall come when it shall no more be expedient to keep the law of Moses.' (Mosiah 13:27, italics added) In that same spirit Nephi emphasized, 'We speak concerning the law that our children may know the deadness of the law; and they, by knowing the deadness of the law, may look forward unto that life which is in Christ, and know for what end the law was given. And after the law is fulfilled in Christ, that they need not harden their hearts against him when the law ought to be done away.' (2 Ne 25:27, italics added)

"That kind of teaching-a caution against hardening one's heart against Christ in ignorant defense of the law of Moses-could have served (and saved) so many living in the Old World then and living throughout the world now. Or if, as is probable, this clear doctrine was taught emphatically in the Old World, then more is the pity that such 'plain and precious things' were lost or taken from the pristine teachings of the Old Testament." (Christ And The New Covenant, p. 156-7)

Neal A. Maxwell

"It is ironic that many in Jesus' time refused to listen to Him because they were so fixed on Moses. To those who persecuted Him because He had healed an invalid on the Sabbath, he said: 'Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?' (John 5:46-47. See also Mormon 7:9.) Yet Jesus had personally called, instructed, and tutored Moses!" (Meek And Lowly, p. 76)

3 Ne 15:7 I do not destroy that which hath been spoken concerning things which are to come

Because the Law of Moses has been fulfilled, can we just throw away the Old Testament? The scriptures would certainly be easier to carry without it. The answer is obvious, but there are many saints who have effectively thrown away their Old Testament because they never read it. I remember attending a stake meeting as a teenager. The speaker asked for a raise of hands as he asked the congregation, "how many of you have read the Book of Mormon? How many of you have read the New Testament? How many of you have read the Doctrine and Covenants?" And finally, he asked, "how many of you have read the Old Testament?" I will never forget how few hands were raised to that last question. It was as if nearly all the members had felt that the doctrines of the Old Testament just weren't important.

There are many great Old Testament prophecies which still await fulfillment. Isaiah spoke more about the Millenium than any other prophet. Ezekiel saw the final battle of Armageddon and detailed a beautiful Millenial temple yet to be built. Daniel saw the latter-day kingdom of God which was to stand forever. Zechariah chronicled the siege against Jerusalem which is to directly precede the Second Coming. Malachi teaches us of tithing and the return of priesthood keys at the hand of Elijah. Obadiah spoke of saviors on Mount Zion. Certainly, these are things we should be interested in. If we ignore the Old Testament, we ignore some of the greatest prophecies ever given. The Savior said, I do not destroy the prophets, for as many as have not been fulfilled in me, verily I say unto you, shall all be fulfilled. Yet there is little difference between Old Testament prophecies which have been destroyed and Old Testament prophecies which have never been read.

3 Ne 15:9 Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me

Bruce C. Hafen

"...once the schoolmaster of the lower law brings us to Christ, he himself becomes the source of the higher law as it applies to our personal needs. 'Wherefore . . . feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.' (2 Nephi 32:3.) As he taught the Nephites: 'The law . . . given unto Moses hath an end in me. Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live. . . .' (See 3 Nephi 15:8-9.)

"This scriptural context can illuminate our attempts to live the gospel in its fullest sense, for without an understanding of what is expected of us after we have been prepared by the lower law, we could be adrift on a plateau of complacency during much of our adult lives. Without some breakthrough in attitude that lifts us to the plane of the higher law, we may think of living the gospel as little more than a superficial adherence to external commandments. At that limited level, we may not even recognize the Savior when he comes into our lives hoping to lead us beyond the schoolmaster that brought us to him.

"As a practical matter, how is the higher law different? Is it simply more commandments? On the contrary, it is probably fewer commandments, but commandments of a different quality from the Ten Commandments-wide enough to include the lesser law, deep enough to transcend it." (The Broken Heart, p. 161)

3 Ne 15:17 other sheep I have which are not of this fold

No commentary is better than the commentary of the Lord. This is the best example of the Savior explaining the meaning of a specific scripture. Therefore, no further interpretive commentary is needed.

Rather, we should underscore the importance of John 10:16 for the Book of Mormon. There are only three Bible scriptures which directly deal with the Book of Mormon and this is one of them. The other two are found in Ezek 37:16, which speaks of the stick of Judah and the stick of Joseph, and in Isaiah 29, which tells the Charles Anthon story and explains how the Book of Mormon speaks as a familiar spirit out of the dust. All three of these passages are incredibly important missionary scriptures.

3 Ne 15:18 because of stifneckedness and unbelief...I was commanded to say no more

The Lord stands ready to give us as much revelation as we have faith to deserve. But sometimes, we are content with what we know. Sometimes we would rather regurgitate our favorite doctrinal clichés than perform the mental stretching and intellectual exercise necessary to comprehend a new concept. Like the ancient Jews, if we struggle with unbelief we should not expect to be given much more than we already have. Later, Nephi explains, if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them. And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation. Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people (3 Ne 26:9-11). In contrast, the brother of Jared exhibited such faith that the Lord could not withhold anything from him (Ether 3:26).

"We will now give Butterworth's definition of unbelief:  He says it 'is a want of credit of, and a want of confidence in the word and truth of God, arising, not from a want of evidence of divine truth, but from a rooted enmity of the heart against it, and is a criminal disobedience.'  Unbelief being the only reason that can be given, why we shall not have revelation now, and precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little, as well as in the days of the ancient prophets..." ("Messenger and Advocate," vol. 3, no. 8, p. 501)

3 Ne 15:19 ye were separated from among them because of their iniquity

The need for the Lord to separate this branch of Joseph from the rest of the House of Israel is expressed in the allegory of the olive tree. When the tree began to decay initially, most of the main branches were decaying and the roots were no longer providing the needed sustenance. The Lord had nourished a few tender branches which had to be replanted because of the mother tree had begun to wither, And behold, saith the Lord of the vineyard, I take away many of these young and tender branches, and I will graft them whithersoever I will; and it mattereth not that if it so be that the root of this tree will perish, I may preserve the fruit thereof unto myself; wherefore, I will take these young and tender branches, and I will graft them whithersoever I will (Jacob 5:8).

There are other examples when the Lord has had to separate a group of people in order to keep their religious traditions pure. One of the reasons why the Israelites were so leery of marrying Gentiles is that the Lord did not want them succumbing to Gentile forms of idolatry (Deut 7:2-4, Josh 23:12-13). Unfortunately, mixing with the wicked has a greater tendency to pull down the righteous than it does to reform the wicked. Other examples include the people of Enoch, the Jaredites, the early Nephites, and the other scattered tribes of Israel.

Hugh Nibley

"The resemblance of one migration of God's people to another is not an accident, according to the Book of Mormon. In every age when the wicked reach a point of no return they are stopped from frustrating God's plan...by bringing about a forceful separation between the two. One might call it a form of quarantine." (An Approach to the Book of Mormon, p. 137)

3 Ne 15:23 the Gentiles should not at any time hear my voice

During the Savior's ministry, He made it clear that His purpose was to minister to the house of Israel. To the woman of Canaan he said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt 15:24). When he sent out the Twelve as missionaries, he counseled them, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt 10:5-6). Prior to the resurrection, the message of the gospel was to be sent exclusively to the house of Israel. They were to be the first to hear the gospel in order to fulfill the word of the Lord when he said, the first shall be last, and the last shall be first (Matt 19:30). After He was resurrected, the Savior would not appear to any who were unbelievers and unworthy to witness the resurrected Lord. Therefore, the Gentiles never received His personal ministrations nor did they hear his voice. But the day will come when the last shall be first.

James E. Talmage

"Even the Jewish apostles had wrongly supposed that those 'other sheep' were the Gentile nations, not realizing that the carrying of the gospel to the Gentiles was part of their particular mission, and oblivious to the fact that never would Christ manifest Himself in person to those who were not of the house of Israel. Through the promptings of the Holy Ghost and under the ministrations of men commissioned and sent would the Gentiles hear the word of God; but to the personal manifestation of the Messiah they were ineligible. Great, however, will be the Lord's mercies and blessings to the Gentiles who accept the truth, for unto them the Holy Ghost shall bear witness of the Father and of the Son; and all of them who comply with the laws and ordinances of the gospel shall be numbered in the house of Israel. Their conversion and enfoldment with the Lord's own will be as individuals, and not as nations, tribes, or peoples." (Jesus the Christ, p. 728-9)