3 Nephi 4

3 Ne 4:3 they had gathered their flocks and their herds...in one body

Hugh Nibley

"Since flocks and cattle of every kind have to be fed for seven years, and since horses are only necessary where there is a demand for transportation, it is plain that the Nephites were not all shut up in one city, but united within one land. The area was not enough to support such a host indefinitely but it must have been considerable." (An Approach to the Book of Mormon, p. 421)

3 Ne 4:4 having reserved for themselves provisions...that they might subsist for the space of seven years

Nowhere in the Book of Mormon does it explicitly say that the Nephites had a regular practice of storing up food for times of emergencies. Famines occurred amongst them, but their land was productive and the famines were relatively rare (Alma 53:7, 62:35,39, Hel 11:4). Therefore, their ability to gather together provisions on which they could survive for seven years is rather amazing. They must have learned the value of food storage and developed a sophisticated system large enough to supply their needs and starve out the Gadianton robbers. If the Nephites could subsist on their food supply for seven years, you would think that we could gather enough food storage to last us one year.

"Bishop Vaughn J. Featherstone, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, spoke on food storage, and the concern the General Authorities have concerning those Church members who won't heed the counsel of the leaders on this subject.

"Bishop Featherstone first chided members for not following counsel to have a year's reserve of food to sustain life. He told the leaders attending the meeting to 'not only keep teaching the principle but let's also teach our people how.'

"He suggested a few things everyone can do. First, he said, take an inventory-a physical count of all reserves.

"'This would be a great family home evening project if you're prepared, if not, it may be terribly embarrassing to you in front of your family. Imagine how the powerful testimony you bear concerning a living prophet must sound to your children who know that as a family head, you have been counseled by the Brethren for 38 years to have a year's supply reserve of food on hand. We need to know where we are.

"'Second, decide what is needed to bring your present reserve levels to a year's supply Then make a list and prepare a plan. Consider first the basics. What are the basics-wheat or grain from your locale, sugar or honey, dried milk, salt and water. Most of us can afford such basics. Buy them from your monthly food budget allowance. The Church discourages going into debt to buy for storage.

"'Now that you know where you are and where you need to be, the third step is to work out a time schedule when you will reach your goal. I suggest one year from today we ought to have a year's supply of food in every active and many inactive member's homes in the Church,' said Bishop [Featherstone]." (Church News, 04/03/76)

Ezra Taft Benson

"For years we have been counseled to have on hand a year's supply of food. Yet there are some today who will not start storing until the Church comes out with a detailed monthly home storage program. Now, suppose that never happens. We still cannot say we have not been warned.

"Should the Lord decide at this time to cleanse the Church-and the need for that cleansing seems to be increasing-a famine in this land of one year's duration could wipe out a large percentage of slothful members, including some ward and stake officers. Yet we cannot say we have not been warned.

"You do not need to go into debt to obtain a year's supply. Plan to build up your food supply just as you would a savings account. Save a little for storage each paycheck...I speak with a feeling of great urgency...The revelation to produce and store food may be as essential to our temporal welfare today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah." (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 265-6 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 398-9)

3 Ne 4:6 they durst not spread themselves upon the face of the land

Hugh Nibley

"'And they durst not spread themselves upon the face of the land...' If they tried to do it that way, then they exposed themselves everywhere. So they couldn't raise grain; that would take too much time and effort. They didn't want to do it anyway. They would be 'sitting ducks' if they tried to go out and farm that way, because that's what they had been doing to the Nephites all these years. So what would they do? What a picture! They decided they would have to make one big [military] push." (Teachings From the Book of Mormon, Lecture 81-3, p. 301)

3 Ne 4:10 the Nephites did not fear them...yea, in the strength of the Lord they did receive them

The Nephites were of the house of Israel. Therefore, they were entitled to all the blessings which the Lord had pronounced upon the Israelites. One of these promises was that the Israelites would have military success in times of righteousness, When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the Lord thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt...let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you (Deut 20:1-4).

King David spent much of his life fighting against his personal and political enemies. His psalm accurately captures what the Nephites must have felt like when they fell to the earth to supplicate for help,

   'The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

   I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

   The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid...

   In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple

   ...He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.' (Ps 18:1-6,17)

The principle which applies to us is that whenever our personal challenges appear as overwhelming and frightening as an army dyed in blood with a great and terrible appearance, we should remember to trust in the Lord. We are also members of the house of Israel and are entitled to the same protection as the Israelites and Nephites were. Therefore, our greatest personal challenges and fears should be faced prayerfully and received in the strength of the Lord.

3 Ne 4:18 it was impossible for the robbers to lay siege sufficiently long to have any effect

"One of the greatest examples of sophistry and deceptive flattery ever written comes from a leader of the Gadianton robbers, and the response of the righteous Nephites to that fraud is a lesson strikingly applicable to our day.

"In short, that response was spiritual and physical preparation that protected the Nephites from ruinous invasion. In fact - in what could well be called the moral of this account - 'it was impossible for the robbers to lay siege sufficiently long to have any effect upon the Nephites.' " (See 3 Ne. 4:18.)

"[Lachoneus'] response [to Giddianhi's epistle] was quick - and wise. He called for the Nephites to gather themselves and build fortresses, to make weapons of war, to obtain provisions and appoint captains - physical preparations necessary for victory in battle. But more importantly, he exhorted his people to be humble, pray, repent, appoint captains who had the spirit of prophecy and revelation, listen to their inspired leaders, and fear God - spiritual preparations without which the physical preparations would have ultimately done little good. (See 3 Nephi, chapters 3 and 4.)

"What then, one is compelled to wonder, is the application of these passages in today's confused, ambiguous and sometimes evil world? Has any force 'declared war' on those who love and fear God? Do we face influences - perhaps well-intentioned but misled, or openly opposed to the will of God - that rely on half-truths, flattery, sophistry or outright lies to lead us away from our Heavenly Father and His Son, our Savior? If war has been declared, where will the battle be fought? And are we physically - and spiritually - prepared for such a fight?

"Enemies of righteousness, of course, are legion. Attempting to list every evil or even less-than-good influence in our lives is impossible. While Lachoneus' enemy was pretty clearly defined, ours is schooled and highly trained in the art of not exposing who he really is.

"Our protection, however, is much the same today as it was for the Nephites. The list of those protections is certainly comparable, and probably greater, than the list of evils we face. Thus listing all would be similarly impossible. But, as explained by Lachoneus, those protections center on faith in God, keeping His commandments and relying on the boundless and eternal love He unceasingly offers.

"If we are constantly vigilant in doing the will of the Father, we, too, will find that it is impossible for our enemies to lay siege sufficiently long to have any effect on us. (See 3 Ne. 4:18.)" (Church News, 06/01/96)

3 Ne 4:28-33 their leader, Zemnarihah, was taken and hanged upon a tree

"Third Nephi 4:28-33 recounts in considerable detail the execution of Zemnarihah, the captured leader of the defeated Gadianton robbers. It has recently been suggested that this public execution followed ancient ceremony and law...After the Nephites had chopped down the tree on which Zemnarihah had been hanged, they all cried out 'with one voice' for God to protect them. Then they sang out 'all as one' in praise of God (3 Nephi 4:30-33). Is there some kind of ritual involved here? Several evidences point to an ancient background for this execution. Consider these few items.

"First, notice that the tree on which Zemnarihah was hung was felled. Was this ever done in antiquity? Apparently it was. For one thing, Israelite practice required that the tree upon which the culprit was hung be buried with the body. Hence the tree had to have been chopped down...

"Second, consider why the tree was chopped down and buried. As Maimonides explains: 'In order that it should not serve as a sad reminder [with] people saying: This is the tree on which so-and-so was hanged.' In this way, the tree became associated with the person being executed; it came to symbolize the culprit and the desire to forget him or her. By way of comparison, the Nephites identified the tree with Zemnarihah and all those like him, that his infamy might not be forgotten, when they cried out: 'May [the Lord] cause to be felled to the earth all who shall seek to slay them, . . . even as this man hath been felled to the earth.'

"...Finally, the people all chanted loudly, proclaiming the wickedness of Zemnarihah, which may be reminiscent of the ancient practice of heralding a notorious execution. Deuteronomy 19:20 says that 'those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you.' How was this to be accomplished? Rabbi Jehudah explained: 'I say that he is executed immediately and messengers are sent out to notify the people.' Indeed, public matters, such as the execution of a rebelling judge (see 3 Nephi 6:22-28), had to be heralded. An even clearer example of heralding in the Book of Mormon is found in Alma 30:57, where the results in Korihor's case were heralded abroad. In both these cases, the apparent requirement of publishing the wickedness of the culprit was satisfied, so that all who remained would 'hear and fear,' and the evil would be removed from among God's people." (Reexploring The Book of Mormon, p. 250-2)

3 Ne 4:33 their hearts were swollen with joy, unto the gushing out of many tears

The Nephites hearts were swollen with joy because the Lord had delivered them from their greatest enemy. This passage so accurately portrays our emotions when we similarly shed tears because of the great goodness of God. As mortals, our joy is often overwhelming, but it is not yet full. Greater days await us, when greater emotions will swell within and more tears will gush out.

Neal A. Maxwell

"Recollect the deepest moments of marital and familial joy, whether in rejoicings, reunions, or reconciliations, when 'because of the great goodness of God' there was a 'gushing out of many tears' (3 Nephi 4:33); when your 'heart [was] brim with joy' (Alma 26:11). Yet this was but a foretaste of the ultimate homecoming, when our cups will not only be brim but will run over without ceasing." (Not My Will But Thine, p. 143)

Neal A. Maxwell

"Thus the things of which we can be most certain are also those things which matter most...We can have a bad day but still have a good life. We can have tribulation but see it paled by the resurrection. We can exhibit calm commitment as did hope-filled Job amid tribulation and avoid charging 'God foolishly.' (Job 1:22.)

"Thus, nothing that really matters has changed since long ago when, with full justification, we shouted for joy. All that matters is gloriously intact. The promises are in place. It is up to us to perform.

"Someday when we kneel again in those corridors where that special shout once echoed, having been delivered from our last enemy, death, we will have hearts 'swollen with joy, unto the gushing out of many tears.' (3 Nephi 4:33.) It is a moment we must not miss! It is worth cheerfully enduring a few disappointments and pains now and letting a few mortal appetites go unsatiated." (Notwithstanding My Weakness, p. 58)