3 Ne 5:1 there was not a living soul...who did doubt in the least
Conversion by crisis is the theme among the Nephites. Only when disaster strikes are they willing to repent and call upon the Lord, but it is always a last ditch effort to avoid extinction. This procrastinated repentance saved society in every situation but one-the one time they failed to repent was the last time they had the chance (Mormon 6:22).
Neal A. Maxwell
"...changing circumstances can like wise affect nearly a whole people's faith...Listen to this verse: 'There was not a living soul among all the people of the Nephites who did doubt in the least the words of all the holy prophets who had spoken; for they knew that it must needs be that they must be fulfilled.' (3 Nephi 5:1.)
"Now, listen to this: 'There began to be great doubtings and disputations among the people, notwithstanding so many signs had been given.' (3 Nephi 8:4.)
"As I check the years of these two verses, I note that this decline happened in the space of a mere ten years or less! Circumstances changed from one in which 'not a living soul' doubted the prophecies to a time in which there were 'great doubtings.' It isn't very confidence inspiring, is it?" (We Talk Of Christ, We Rejoice In Christ, p. 64)
3 Ne 5:4 as many as would...enter into a covenant...were set at liberty
The Nephites, righteous and wicked, were serious about their covenants. Even the lawless, murdering, lying Gadianton prisoners were set free as long as they covenanted to repent and murder no more. Well how easy would it have been for them to make a covenant of peace and break it the next day or month? Yet, none of them did as evidenced by the 5 years of peace which followed. You would think that these thieves would say anything to save their own skins. But apparently, they would rather die than break a covenant. This is according to the ancient tradition.
In the ancient tradition, one could never break an oath or covenant, If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth (Num 30:2). This commandment was honored even when all others were completely ignored. The Lamanites also honored this code as evidenced by the account between Moroni and the armies of Zerahemnah. Moroni offered the defeated armies freedom on the condition that they make an oath, ye shall not depart except ye depart with an oath that ye will not return again against us to war (Alma 44:11). The Lamanites rejected the offer, apparently not even considering the option of feigning sincerity in order to be released. As a result the battle continued until finally, the Lamanites submitted, promising...if they would spare the remainder of their lives, that they never would come to war again against them (Alma 44:19).
In contrast to the Nephites, Gadianton robbers, and Lamanites, the current generation thinks very little of violating covenants. Paul prophesied of the day when men would be trucebreakers (or covenant breakers) and blasphemers (2 Tim 3:2-3). Unfortunately, this trend extends throughout the culture and affects many church members. Temple covenants are casually entered into and casually broken. At times, the concept that it is better to die than to violate a covenant seems to be lost with the ancients. We would do well to remember how the Lord feels about covenant breakers, the covenant which they made unto me has been broken...And wo to him by whom this offense cometh, for it had been better for him that he had been drowned in the depth of the sea (DC 54:4-5), and Wherefore he broke my covenant, and it remaineth with me to do with him as seemeth me good (DC 40:3).
"God expects you to be true to your vows, to be true to yourselves, and to be true to your wives and children. If you become covenant breakers, you will be dealt with according to the laws of God. And the men presiding over you have no other alternative than to bring the covenant breaker to judgment. If they fail to do their duty, we shall be under the necessity of looking after them, for righteousness and purity must be maintained in our midst." (The Gospel Kingdom, p. 285)
3 Ne 5:9 there are records which do contain all the proceedings of this people
Mormon openly admits that his record is an abridgement (WofM 1:3). The number of records he uses to make his abridgement is undisclosed but is probably very numerous. ...there are many records kept...which are particular and very large...behold, there are many books and many records of every kind, and they have been kept chiefly by the Nephites.' (Hel 3:13-15)
Certainly, the Book of Mormon is an abbreviated history, designed to bring us to Christ not to inform us of all the doings of the Nephites and Lamanites. The above scripture makes it clear that many other records were kept. Some of these other records were seen by the prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery while in a cave in the hill Cumorah. Brigham Young tells the story:
"Oliver Cowdery went with the Prophet Joseph when he deposited these plates... When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did. Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls. The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words: 'This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ.'" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 19, p. 40)
3 Ne 5:12 I am called Mormon, being called after the land of Mormon
3 Nephi 5 constitutes an editorial insert not unlike The Words of Mormon. In it Mormon gives us autobiographical information: the origin of his name, his calling as a disciple of Christ, and his pure Lehite lineage. Furthermore, the internal consistency of the Book of Mormon can be seen in Mormon's description of the land of Mormon. His namesake land was beautiful to him and his description of it is more detailed than any other geographical location in the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 18:4,5,30). In one verse, he uses the word Mormon six times, And now it came to pass that all this was done in Mormon, yea, by the waters of Mormon, in the forest that was near the waters of Mormon; yea, the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer; yea, and how blessed are they, for they shall sing to his praise forever (Mosiah 18:30). And how important they were to the abridger named Mormon!
3 Ne 5:13 I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God
Of all the defining characteristics which Mormon could have used to describe himself, "disciple of Jesus Christ" was his choice. He could have used the term prophet, general, abridger, or historian, but discipleship was the premier concept to him. The calling of a disciple is the first and most important calling which any of us could ever hope to receive. Given at baptism, it is a calling which endures as long as we do. Hopefully, like Mormon, we consider it to be our defining characteristic, and we understand what it takes to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
"Disciple is a term that denotes pupil or learner, an adherent to the principles and doctrine espoused by a teacher. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ, as He taught, is no trivial matter.
"Christ unequivocally declared the cost of discipleship when He said, 'Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.' (Luke 14:33.) In other words, to be His disciple requires absolute, unrestrained devotion to His teachings and a sacrifice of all that is necessary to maintain such commitment." (Church News, 12/27/97)
Elder Stephen A. West
"'Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life'...I can rarely say that scripture without choking up. I think it says everything about what I want to be and do." (Ensign, May 1998, p. 108)
3 Ne 5:21-26 Surely he hath blessed the house of Jacob
Before returning to the narrative, Mormon summarizes some of the main topics of the Book of Mormon. The subjects were frequent topics of all the prophets but particularly the early ones (Nephi, Jacob, and Enos): 1) the mercy of the Lord to the house of Israel, 2) the return of many of the latter-day descendants of Lehi, 3) the gathering of Israel in fulfillment of the covenants of the Lord, and 4) the divine role of Jesus Christ as the Son of God.