3 Nephi 21

3 Ne 21:1-7 I give unto you a sign, that ye may know the time when these things shall be about to take place

The Lord gives a sign so we will know when "these things shall be about to take place." What are "these things"? They are the great Millenial promises contained in the preceding chapter, including the gathering of Israel and the establishment of Zion. The sign he gives is twofold, a) the coming forth of the Book of Mormon (v. 2), and b) the latter-day descendants of Lehi would know of their heritage through the Book of Mormon (v. 7).

These are two great signs that the work of the Father has commenced, but the grand fulfillment of all of the Father's promises can only take place after the Second Coming. Elsewhere, the Savior taught us another of the key signs by which we can know the time of his coming, And again, this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come or the destruction of the wicked (JS-Matt 1:31, italics added).

3 Ne 21:4 set up as a free people by the power of the Father

Mark E. Petersen

"The hand of oppression had to be removed from America. The people who lived here must be set up as a free people. IT WAS DONE BY ACT OF THE FATHER. But a human agent was required as in all other things. Washington was an agent of heaven in bringing about His work. He realized it and knew that God was fighting his battles for him. So in humility and gratitude he thanked heaven repeatedly for it.

"Why was America set up as a free nation? In the words of the Savior, 'that these things [meaning the Gospel as recorded in the Book of Mormon] might come forth from them [the Gentiles in America who set up the nation] unto a remnant of your seed [the descendants of Lehi] that the covenant of the Father may be fulfilled which he hath covenanted with his people, O house of Israel.'

"Thus we see Washington in his true perspective. As a man of God he was raised up to be the agent through whom the battles of freedom would be fought, and whom God would assist in obtaining the victory." (The Way to Peace, pp. 30-31)

Brigham Young

"There is not another nation under heaven but this, in whose midst the Book of Mormon could have been brought forth. The Lord has been operating for centuries to prepare the way for the coming forth of the contents of that Book from the bowels of the earth...It was the Lord who directed the discovery of this land to the nations of the old world, and its settlement, and the war for independence, and the final victory of the colonies, and the unprecedented prosperity of the American nation, up to the calling of Joseph the Prophet. The Lord has dictated and directed the whole of this, for the bringing forth, and establishing of his Kingdom in the last days." (Journal of Discourses, 11:17 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 444-5)

3 Ne 21:8 kings shall shut their mouths

Members of the Church already marvel at the growth, strength, and prosperity of the kingdom of God on earth. However, we often underestimate how literally these scriptures will be fulfilled. Today, we marvel; tomorrow, kings will marvel. Today, we review Church history in amazement; tomorrow, the Church will make history that will leave the rest of the world in amazement. Today, the stone cut out of the mountain without hands has become a great boulder; tomorrow, it will become a great mountain, and fill the whole earth (Dan 2:34-35), That wise men and rulers may hear and know that which they have never considered; that I may proceed to bring to pass my act, my strange act, and perform my work, my strange work, that men may discern between the righteous and the wicked, saith your God (D&C 101:94-95)."

Bruce R. McConkie

"...the great and mighty shall be so amazed at the Lord's latter-day work that they shall not know what to say and shall feel impelled to consider the wondrous work which rolls before their eyes. So far there has been a small amount of this; what the future holds is limitless." (The Mortal Messiah, book 4, p. 352)

3 Ne 21:9 the Father [shall] work a work, which shall be a great and a marvelous work

Ezra Taft Benson

"Seven centuries before the birth of Christ, Isaiah foresaw and foretold the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in these latter days. He declared it would be a 'marvelous work and a wonder' to all mankind (Isa. 29:14). When Jesus appeared to the Nephites in America, He confirmed the prophecy of Isaiah in these words: 'For my sake shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and a marvelous work' among the people of the land of America in the last days (3 Ne. 21:9).

"April 6, 1830, in the state of New York, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had its beginning in this dispensation, a beginning that went largely unnoticed by the world. A small number of men and women, including the Prophet Joseph Smith, gathered in the home of Peter Whitmer, Sr., to witness and participate in the official organization of the Church. Today there are over 4 1/2 million members in eighty-one countries (16.5 million as of 2020). We now look in retrospect on 150 years of the history of the Church and are led to exclaim with Isaiah, 'Truly the work is marvelous and wonderful!'

"That the Church of Jesus Christ would have an inconspicuous beginning and then enjoy phenomenal growth was likewise predicted. Jesus used the comparison of the small mustard seed to describe the early beginning of His church. But eventually, He declared, that insignificant seed would become a great tree and many would find refuge in its branches (see Matt. 13:31-32).

"The prophet Daniel described the beginning and remarkable growth of the Church as a small stone which would become a great mountain and fill the entire earth! (see Dan. 2:34-35, 44).

"As men have attempted to assess the Church at a given period of time, in many instances they have not been able to see its forward movement and potential. The growth of the Church, like the growth of grass or trees, has been almost imperceptible to the eye, but little by little, line by line, precept by precept, the Church has matured.

"Simultaneous with the early development of the Church was a spirit of opposition and persecution. Wherever the tiny 'mustard seed' was planted, attempts were made to frustrate its growth. But notwithstanding all the efforts to destroy the work-even the murder of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother-the Church prospered and grew. There were those who thought the Church would fail with the deaths of the martyrs Joseph and Hyrum, but they did not perceive, as Daniel foretold, that this latter-day kingdom should 'never be destroyed' (Dan. 2:44).

"Just before the Prophet's death, Brigham Young said, 'The kingdom is organized; and, although as yet no bigger than a grain of mustard seed, the little plant is in a flourishing condition' (History of the Church, 6:354)." (Conference Report, May 1980 Ensign, "A Marvelous Work and a Wonder")

3 Ne 21:10 the life of my servant shall be in my hand...although he shall be marred

The marred servant, prophesied of in Isaiah 52:13, was also spoken of in the last chapter. In that chapter, he was to sprinkle many nations and strike awe into the hearts of kings (3 Ne 20:43-45). Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that this had reference to Christ, who was marred in mortality, but would come again to seek vengeance upon the wicked.

Yet, one of the many wonders of Isaiah's prophecies is that they can apply to more than one individual or circumstance. Elder Dallin Oaks said, "The book of Isaiah contains numerous prophecies that seem to have multiple fulfillments...The fact that many of these prophecies can have multiple meanings underscores the importance of our seeking revelation from the Holy Ghost to help us interpret them. As Nephi says, the words of Isaiah 'are plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy' (2 Ne. 25:4)." (Ensign, Jan. 1995, "Scripture Reading & Revelation").

Therefore, in this chapter, the Savior uses the same phrase to describe the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Lord promises that his life will be in his hand. This is reminiscent of the word of the Lord to Joseph at a time when he worried about his life, Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever (DC 122:9).

Neal A. Maxwell

"Because living prophets are so precious a presence on the human scene, adversarial efforts to diminish and to mar them-past and present-should not be surprising. These men are thus called upon to endure efforts to "mar" them. The word mar, as used in certain scriptures, suggests to 'spoil to a certain extent or to render less attractive,' as if one were to mar furniture by scratching its surface but not harming its substance.

"Isaiah speaks of the Lord's servant whose 'visage' (or appearance) is marred (Isaiah 52:14). The resurrected Jesus speaks of a 'great and marvelous work' which will not be believed by many, 'although a man shall declare it unto them.' This latter-day servant who was to bring Christ's word forth 'shall be marred. . . . Yet . . . I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.' (3 Nephi 21:9-10.) The Doctrine and Covenants (10:43) uses those same last words (about the wisdom of the Lord proving greater than the cunning of the devil) in reference to Joseph Smith and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.

"Joseph Smith, Sr., gave a father's blessing to the Prophet Joseph on 9 December 1834. In part of that blessing Father Smith quoted from ancient Joseph, who wondered how his latter-day posterity would receive the word of God. Then ancient Joseph's eyes beheld Joseph Smith, Jr., to be raised up in the last days. Ancient Joseph's soul was satisfied and he wept. Ancient Joseph was quoted by Father Smith as saying that the choice seer to arise 'shall meditate great wisdom, [and his] intelligence shall circumscribe and comprehend the deep things of God, . . . though the wicked mar him for a little season.'

"Church members should not be surprised, therefore, if enemies seek to 'mar' prophets and the Presidents of the Church, or the Church itself, by seeming to render it, or us as members, less attractive and influential, thus causing some to turn away from or to discount the Lord's work and His servants. One of the early Twelve, Elder Orson Hyde, observed that the 'shafts' intended for the Church 'are always aimed at the head first.'

"...If we as members are likewise 'marred' while doing the Lord's work, it will prove to be yet another dimension of sharing the fellowship of Christ's sufferings (see Philippians 3:10)." (If Thou Endure It Well, pp. 71-72)

3 Ne 21:11 they shall be cut off from among my people

Ezra Taft Benson

"The Lord revealed to the Prophet Nephi that he established the gentiles on this land to be a free people forever, that if they were a righteous nation and overcame the wickedness and secret abominations which would arise in their midst, they would inherit the land forever. (1 Nephi 14:1-2.)...But on the other hand, if the gentiles on this land reject the word of God and conspire to overthrow liberty and the Constitution, then their doom is fixed, and they '. . . shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant.'" (Conference Report, Oct. 1961, p. 70)

3 Ne 21:12 my people...shall be...in the midst of them as a lion among the beasts of the forest

This is the third time in two days that the Savior taught this doctrine. He must have been serious about its fulfillment and its implications. For further discussion, see commentary for 3 Ne 16:15 and 3 Ne 20:15-17.

3 Ne 21:12-21 wo be unto the Gentiles except they repent

For the third time, the Lord quotes from Micah. This time, he delivers the entire prophecy of Micah 5:8-15.  He prophecies that the wicked Gentiles will be destroyed militarily, I will cut off thy horses...and I will destroy thy chariots. He will also destroy their cities (v. 15,18) but idolatry seems to be their most grievous sin. In the language of the ancients, the idolatry was reinforced by witchcrafts and soothsayers, it was objectified in their graven images and standing images, and it was associated with immoral practices performed in the "groves" (see Bible Dictionary). Although the nature of today's idolatry is different, Micah's figurative language teaches us that idolatry in all its subtle, modern forms will be quickly disposed of.

Given the severity of the punishments which await the Gentiles, the words of President Kimball seem all the more pertinent.

Spencer W. Kimball

"Idolatry is among the most serious of sins. There are unfortunately millions today who prostrate themselves before images of gold and silver and wood and stone and clay. But the idolatry we are most concerned with here is the conscious worshiping of still other gods. Some are of metal and plush and chrome, of wood and stone and fabrics. They are not in the image of God or of man, but are developed to give man comfort and enjoyment, to satisfy his wants, ambitions, passions and desires. Some are in no physical form at all, but are intangible.

"...Modern idols or false gods can take such forms as clothes, homes, businesses, machines, automobiles, pleasure boats, and numerous other material deflectors from the path to godhood. What difference does it make that the item concerned is not shaped like an idol? Brigham Young said: 'I would as soon see a man worshipping a little god made of brass or of wood as to see him worshipping his property.'

"...Many people build and furnish a home and buy the automobile first-and then find they 'cannot afford' to pay tithing. Whom do they worship? Certainly not the Lord of heaven and earth, for we serve whom we love and give first consideration to the object of our affection and desires. Young married couples who postpone parenthood until their degrees are attained might be shocked if their expressed preference were labeled idolatry. Their rationalization gives them degrees at the expense of children. Is it a justifiable exchange? Whom do they love and worship-themselves or God? Other couples, recognizing that life is not intended primarily for comforts, ease, and luxuries, complete their educations while they move forward with full lives, having their children and giving Church and community service.

"Many worship the hunt, the fishing trip, the vacation, the weekend picnics and outings. Others have as their idols the games of sport, baseball, football, the bullfight, or golf. These pursuits more often than not interfere with the worship of the Lord and with giving service to the building up of the kingdom of God. To the participants this emphasis may not seem serious, yet it indicates where their allegiance and loyalty are.

"Still another image men worship is that of power and prestige. Many will trample underfoot the spiritual and often the ethical values in their climb to success. These gods of power, wealth, and influence are most demanding and are quite as real as the golden calves of the children of Israel in the wilderness." (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 40-42)

Bruce R. McConkie

"False doctrine, false ordinances, false worship, false religion -- all shall cease. The images and idols, in their churches and in their hearts, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. The groves where Baal of old was worshipped, and the cathedrals where Baal of the latter days was adored, shall be as when the walls and buildings of Jericho fell." (The Mortal Messiah, book 4, p. 357)

3 Ne 21:19 all lyings, and deceivings...shall be done away

Compare 3 Ne 16:10.

Neal A. Maxwell

"Before the millennial time when the arrogancy of the proud will cease (by God's mighty hand), the Gentiles will be in a circumstance of 'great pride, unto boasting, and unto great swelling, envyings, strifes, malice, persecutions, and murders, and all manner of iniquities.' (Helaman 13:22.)" (Meek And Lowly, p. 53)

3 Ne 21:22 I will establish my church among them

Spencer W. Kimball

"Evidently, the Gentiles were sufficiently repentant and the Church was established among them in 1830, with one of its principal purposes that it might be the vehicle to take the people of the world to their eternal destiny. And one of the most important of all the requirements of the Church is that they should establish the Lord's word among the Lamanites." (BYU Speeches of the Year, 1965, p. 7)

3 Ne 21:23 they shall assist my people...that they may build a city...the New Jerusalem

James E. Talmage

"The Book of Mormon foretells the establishment of Zion on the western continent; but the precise location was not revealed until after the restoration of the Priesthood in the present dispensation. In 1831 the Lord commanded the elders of His Church in this wise: 'Go ye forth into the western countries, call upon the inhabitants to repent, and inasmuch as they do repent, build up churches unto me. And with one heart and with one mind, gather up your riches that ye may purchase an inheritance which shall hereafter be appointed unto you. And it shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God; And the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord also shall be there, insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it, and it shall be called Zion.' (DC 45:64-67)

"Later revelations directed the elders of the Church to assemble in western Missouri (DC 52:2), and designated that place as the land appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the saints: 'Wherefore, this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion.' The town of Independence was named as 'the center place,' and the site for the Temple was designated, the saints being counseled to purchase land there, 'that they may obtain it for an everlasting inheritance.' (DC 57:1-5) On August 3, 1831, the temple-site thus named was dedicated by the prophet, Joseph Smith, and his associates in the Priesthood. The region round about was also dedicated that it might be a gathering place for the people of God.

"Such, then, is the belief of the Latter-day Saints; such are the teachings of the Church. But the plan of building up Zion has not yet been consummated. The saints were not permitted to enter into immediate possession of the land, which was promised them as an everlasting inheritance. Even as years elapsed between the time of the Lord's promise to Israel of old that Canaan should be their inheritance, and the time of their entering into possession thereof -- -years devoted to the people's toilsome and sorrowful preparation for the fulfilment -- so in these latter days the divine purpose is held in abeyance, while the people are being sanctified for the great gift and for the responsibilities associated with it. In the meantime the honest in heart are gathering to the valleys of the Rocky Mountains; and here, in the tops of the mountains, exalted above the hills, Temples have been erected, and all nations are flowing unto this region. But Zion shall yet be established on the chosen site; she 'shall not be moved out of her place,' and the pure in heart shall return 'with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion.' (DC 101:17,18)

"... Zion is to be chastened, but only for a little season, (DC 100:13) then will come the time of her redemption.

"That time will be appointed of God, yet it is to be determined according to the faithfulness of the people. Wickedness causes the Lord to tarry; for, saith He: 'Therefore, in consequence of the transgressions of my people, it is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season for the redemption of Zion.' (DC 105:9) And again: 'Zion shall be redeemed in mine own due time.' (DC 136:18) But the Lord's time in giving blessings is dependent upon the prospective recipients. As long ago as 1834 came the word of the Lord unto the Church: 'Behold, I say unto you, were it not for the transgressions of my people, speaking concerning the church and not individuals, they might have been redeemed even now.' (DC 105:1-2)" (A Study of the Articles of Faith, pp. 352-4)

Spencer W. Kimball

"[Speaking to the Lamanites] You must blossom as the rose upon the mountain. You must flourish, and you must become a great people so that you can go back to Jackson County with us and we with you, and we will build there the magnificent temple which Orson Pratt said will be the most beautiful building that ever was built or that ever will be built. It will be the culmination of everything that is beautiful and wonderful, and within its walls [will be] the sealing power.

"And the Indians are going to assist with the temple. That is why these Indian people who have accepted the gospel must remain true no matter what comes. They must remain true and faithful. They must go to the temple and get their endowments and their sealings. They must be leaders in their communities, because not too far away there is going to be a great migration to Jackson County, Missouri, and there we are going to build the great temple.

"...And that is only part of it. We will then go forward with you Indian people by the thousands and the tens of thousands to work night and day in the holy temple of God to see that your ancestors-all those that died from Christ up to now, all those who were killed at the hill Cumorah, all those who were killed in between for hundreds and hundreds of years-all have the work done for them so they may receive the exaltation and eternal life of man.

"What works you have to do, you good folks! You must never falter. You must continue on growing to your total stature and bringing your people with you, because the Lord's promises never fail." (Book of Mormon Student Manual, 1981, p. 426-7)

3 Ne 21:26 then shall the work of the Father commence at that day

"This is a millennial settings.  It is a setting in which wickedness and crime and vengeance are no longer on earth... Yes, the work of the Father shall commence in the great millennial day, in the sense that its magnitude shall be infinitely greater than anything we can even identify with today.  All that has gone on in the past will seem to pale into insignificance when missionary work goes forward during the thousand years (compare 2 Nephi 30:7-15).

"Jehovah spake through Jeremiah: 'Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.' And then the Master described the manner in which missionaries would search out the people: 'Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.' (Jeremiah 16:14-16.)" (McConkie, Millet, and Top, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 4, p. 153)

3 Ne 21:26 even the tribes which have been lost

"We have seen earlier through a modern revelation that the setting for the great work of the gathering, particularly of the ten lost tribes, is millennial (see D&C 133:23-34).  Elder Bruce R. McConkie has written: 'We do not say that occasional blood descendants of Reuben or Naphtali or others of the other tribal heads shall not return to their Palestinian Zion, or assemble in an American Zion, or find their way into the stakes of Zion in all nations, all before the Second Coming of Christ.  Some shall no doubt return to Canaan as true believers and members of the true Church, with the intent and purpose of fulfilling the scriptures and building up the ancient cities of Israel.  This may well happen in some small measure, and to it there can be no objection.  Great movements have small beginnings, and floods that sweep forth from bursting dams are first forecast when small rivulets trickle from the pent-up reservoirs.  But we do say that the great day of the return of the Ten Tribes, the day when the assembling hosts shall fulfill the prophetic promises, shall come after our Lord's return.' (Millennial Messiah, p. 323; see also New Witness, p. 521.)" (McConkie, Millet, and Top, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 4, p. 153, italics added)