Lessons from 3 and 4 Nephi

This blog focuses on reaching consensus and unity among members of the Church, specifically regarding the historicity and geography of the Book of Mormon. The purpose is to eliminate disputations and contentions about these important issues.

The Book of Mormon itself teaches how to accomplish this purpose.

In 4 Nephi 1:17, we read “There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.”

How did the people reach this degree of total unity?

We can see how by going back to 3 Nephi, starting with Chapter 11.
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When the Savior appeared after the great destruction, He addressed the problem of disputations and contention. He began by focusing on one simple issue: how to baptize. He started with the basics, teaching the doctrine clearly so no one could misunderstand.

He explained that the way to eliminate contention is to disregard the words of the prophets and apostles and substitute the philosophies of men, as articulated by the intellectuals in the Church about 34 A.D.

Now, you might not have noticed that in the actual scriptures we have, but that’s because, as our modern LDS intellectuals explain, we have only Joseph Smith’s translation, not the actual plates, so we have to infer what was on the actual plates.
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For a moment, let’s set aside the teachings of our LDS intellectuals and look at the actual text.

The Savior emphasized his doctrine by repeating it twice:

37 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.

38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

He had taught this same doctrine just before he appeared: “Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved. (3 Nephi 9:22)

We all have a good idea of what it means to repent and be baptized, but what does it mean to “become as a little child?”
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Let’s go back and review what the Savior actually did, as recorded in the scriptures.

1. He descended from heaven.

2. He announced his name and his fulfillment of the prophecies.

3. He asked the people to come forth and see and feel the evidence so they could testify.

4. He called Nephi and gave him power to baptize (ordained him).

5. He instructed Nephi how to baptize to eliminate disputations about the manner of baptism.

6. He declared his doctrine (to repent, be baptized, and become as a little child).

7. He told the people to listen to the leaders He ordained.

“he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying: Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.”
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I suggest that to “become as a little child” includes “giving heed to the words of these twelve.”

Nowhere does the Savior teach his followers to “give heed to the words of the intellectuals.”
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Among the Nephites, the manner of baptism was apparently a point of disputation that the Savior addressed promptly when He appeared. Despite his clear teachings, the Nephites later began arguing with one another about that doctrine. Mormon had to address it, as we learn from Moroni 8:5 “For, if I have learned the truth, there have been disputations among you concerning the baptism of your little children.”

In our day, a point of disputation is the location of the Hill Cumorah.

On one hand, we have the clear teachings of every modern prophet and apostle who has spoken officially on the matter. They have all said the Hill Cumorah–the Mormon 6:6 Cumorah–is in New York.

In fact, the first two people to whom the Savior gave “power that they may baptize you with water,” Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, explicitly taught that the Hill Cumorah is in New York.

On the other hand, we have the clear teachings of some LDS intellectuals, including people who teach at the BYU campuses and in the seminaries and institutes, who say Joseph, Oliver, and every other modern prophet and apostle are wrong.

The only reason we have disputations and contention on this issue is because some members of the Church refuse to “heed the words” of the ordained leaders of the Church. They prefer to “heed the words” of the intellectuals.

If we are ever going to reach unity in the Church, we have to start with the basics. 

I propose we all agree to heed the words of the modern prophets and apostles.

If we do, then we all agree that the Hill Cumorah is in New York.

Anyone who teaches otherwise is contradicting the ordained leaders of the Church.
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Some of the intellectuals who teach LDS students to disregard the teachings of the modern prophets and apostles justify their teaching by insisting that these modern prophets and apostles were merely expressing their opinions.

That rationale completely eviscerates the Savior’s teaching to “heed the words of these twelve.” Rejecting their words because we disagree with them is the opposite of heeding them.

Other intellectuals say that Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith never claimed revelation about the location of Cumorah. That’s another way to eviscerate the Savior’s teaching to “heed the words of these twelve.” Very few of the words of the ordained leaders of the Church, even when delivered in General Conference, are preceded by “thus saith the Lord.” This argument is merely another way of saying we won’t heed their words because we disagree with them.

3 Nephi 12:1 doesn’t grant these exceptions to the Savior’s admonition to heed the words of the twelve.
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What are the consequences of not heeding the ordained leaders of the Church?

We will not be blessed the way the Savior promised.

We will continue to endure disputations and contentions about basic issues that should have been resolved long ago.

When Oliver Cowdery wrote Letter VII, declaring it was a fact that the Hill Cumorah was in New York, he was the ordained Assistant President of the Church. He, along with Martin Harris and David Whitmer, had selected the first Twelve Apostles. The Lord designated Oliver himself as an apostle. (D&C 21:10) Oliver and David Whitmer were “called even with that same calling with which he [the Apostle Paul] was called (D&C 18:9).

The Latter-day Saints will never reach unity when so many refuse to heed the words of the modern prophets and apostles.

To do so may require us to become as little children. Maybe we’ll have to repent. Maybe we’ll have to believe the doctrine of Christ and follow his counsel.

The sooner we do, the better.

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Oliver Cowdery’s ordination:

5 December 1834 • Friday
Friday Evening, December 5, 1834. According to the directions of the Holy Spirit breth[r]en Joseph Smith jr. Sidney [Rigdon], Frederick G. Williams, and Oliver Cowdery, assembled to converse upon the welfare of the church, when brother Oliver Cowdery was ordained an assistant President of the High and Holy Priesthood under the hands of brother Joseph Smith jr. Saying, “My brother, in the name of Jesus Christ who died was crucified for the sins of the world, I lay my hands upon thee, and ordain thee an assistant President of the high and holy p[r]iesthood in the church of the Latter Day Saints

http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/journal-1832-1834/94
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There are many more elements to becoming united to the point that there are no more -ites.

Among other things, we have to get to the point of equality, the way the Nephites did: “they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.”

The Book of Mormon teaches us how to do that, but we are far, far from even contemplating that state of society.

Our intellectuals have us questioning even the historicity of the Book of Mormon, teaching thousands of LDS youth every year that Cumorah is not in New York and that they should disregard any teaching of the prophets and apostles that they deem to be their “opinion.”

Maybe it would make a difference if we simply re-read these scriptures frequently.

Maybe that’s why President Monson asked us to do just that.
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3 Nephi 11:28

28 And according as I have commanded you thus shall ye baptize. And there shall be no adisputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.
29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of acontention is not of me, but is of the bdevil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things ashould be done away.
31 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my adoctrine….

3 Nephi 12:1

aAnd it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to bbaptize, was ctwelve) and behold, he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying: dBlessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have echosenfrom among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.

4 Nephi 1:

And it came to pass that the thirty and fourth year passed away, and also the thirty and fifth, and behold the disciples of Jesus had formed a church of Christ in all the lands round about. And as many as did come unto them, and did truly repent of their sins, were abaptized in the name of Jesus; and they did also receive the Holy Ghost.

And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.
And they had aall things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly bgift.
And it came to pass that the thirty and seventh year passed away also, and there still continued to be apeace in the land.
And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did aheal the sick, and braise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of cmiracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus.
And thus did the thirty and eighth year pass away, and also the thirty and ninth, and forty and first, and the forty and second, yea, even until forty and nine years had passed away, and also the fifty and first, and the fifty and second; yea, and even until fifty and nine years had passed away.
And the Lord did prosper them exceedingly in the land; yea, insomuch that they did build cities again where there had been cities burned.
Yea, even that great acity Zarahemla did they cause to be built again.
But there were many cities which had been asunk, and waters came up in the stead thereof; therefore these cities could not be renewed.
10 And now, behold, it came to pass that the people of Nephi did wax strong, and did multiply exceedingly fast, and became an exceedingly afair and delightsome people.
11 And they were married, and given in marriage, and were blessed according to the multitude of the apromiseswhich the Lord had made unto them.
12 And they did not walk any more after the aperformances and bordinances of the claw of Moses; but they did walk after the commandments which they had received from their Lord and their God, continuing in dfasting and prayer, and in meeting together oft both to pray and to hear the word of the Lord.
13 And it came to pass that there was no contention among all the people, in all the land; but there were mighty miracles wrought among the disciples of Jesus.
14 And it came to pass that the seventy and first year passed away, and also the seventy and second year, yea, and in fine, till the seventy and ninth year had passed away; yea, even an hundred years had passed away, and the adisciples of Jesus, whom he had chosen, had all gone to the bparadise of God, save it were the cthree who should tarry; and there were other ddisciples eordained in their stead; and also many of that fgeneration had passed away.
15 And it came to pass that there was no acontention in the land, because of the blove of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
16 And there were no aenvyings, nor bstrifes, nor ctumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of dlasciviousness; and surely there could not be a ehappierpeople among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.
17 There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in aone, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.

18 And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings; yea, even they were blessed and prospered until an hundred and ten years had passed away; and the first generation from Christ had passed away, and there was no contention in all the land.

Source: Book of Mormon Concensus

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