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3 Nephi 21: 15-18

3 Nephi 21: 15-18:

“And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strongholds; And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thy land, and thou shalt have no more soothsayers; Thy graven images I will also cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee, and thou shalt no more worship the works of thy hands;  And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee; so will I destroy thy cities.”
 
Cleaning up things so that the course of wickedness comes to an end involves some highly specific purging. However, the description is not given to us so we can know what will be coming as much as it is given to us to guide our own conduct and beliefs.
 
“Cities will be cut off” means what? “Strongholds thrown down” refers to what? Interesting things to contemplate to be sure.  But much more relevant are the warnings in what follows:
 
“Cut off witchcrafts” is a warning to those who engage in certain practices. What should you do to avoid being cut off as a result of being involved in “witchcraft?” What does that mean? Are only wiccans being warned by this?
 
Who are the “soothsayers” who are to be terminated? What constitutes “soothsaying?” Look that word up. It appears in interesting contexts. The typical example involves predictions made using means other than true prophecy. But you should look at it and ask yourself how it would apply in modern applications: in business, government, economics, weather–especially long-term weather, politics, etc.
 
What are “graven images?” What are “standing images?”  Why are the “standing images” said to be “in the midst of thee?”
 
What does it mean to “worship the works of thy hands?” How can a person worship their own works?
 
What are the “groves” that are to be plucked up? Why are the groves also “in the midst of thee?” The ancient usage of groves involved fertility rites, sacred sexual practices, or the worship of intercourse. What modern versions of this ancient form of fertility worship would be similar to the ancient behavior as to merit being called the same thing?
 
What does it mean to have our “cities destroyed?” Does this have anything to do with the other prophecy that the final victory of Israel will inhabit the desolate cities of the gentiles?  (Isa. 54: 3.)
 
Remember this is Christ speaking. This is the Redeemer, the merciful author of our salvation. Therefore, you must conclude that these direful predictions are actually based on the overall long-term best interest of those involved. They are better off, improved and advanced by these judgments. Imagine that. The wrath of God is best visited upon those who are destroyed, rather than leaving them to continue the course they are headed in. It is an interesting thing to contemplate.

3 Nephi 21: 15-18

3 Nephi 21: 15-18:

“And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strongholds; And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thy land, and thou shalt have no more soothsayers; Thy graven images I will also cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee, and thou shalt no more worship the works of thy hands;  And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee; so will I destroy thy cities.”
 
Cleaning up things so that the course of wickedness comes to an end involves some highly specific purging. However, the description is not given to us so we can know what will be coming as much as it is given to us to guide our own conduct and beliefs.
 
“Cities will be cut off” means what? “Strongholds thrown down” refers to what? Interesting things to contemplate to be sure.  But much more relevant are the warnings in what follows:
 
“Cut off witchcrafts” is a warning to those who engage in certain practices. What should you do to avoid being cut off as a result of being involved in “witchcraft?” What does that mean? Are only wiccans being warned by this?
 
Who are the “soothsayers” who are to be terminated? What constitutes “soothsaying?” Look that word up. It appears in interesting contexts. The typical example involves predictions made using means other than true prophecy. But you should look at it and ask yourself how it would apply in modern applications: in business, government, economics, weather–especially long-term weather, politics, etc.
 
What are “graven images?” What are “standing images?”  Why are the “standing images” said to be “in the midst of thee?”
 
What does it mean to “worship the works of thy hands?” How can a person worship their own works?
 
What are the “groves” that are to be plucked up? Why are the groves also “in the midst of thee?” The ancient usage of groves involved fertility rites, sacred sexual practices, or the worship of intercourse. What modern versions of this ancient form of fertility worship would be similar to the ancient behavior as to merit being called the same thing?
 
What does it mean to have our “cities destroyed?” Does this have anything to do with the other prophecy that the final victory of Israel will inhabit the desolate cities of the gentiles?  (Isa. 54: 3.)
 
Remember this is Christ speaking. This is the Redeemer, the merciful author of our salvation. Therefore, you must conclude that these direful predictions are actually based on the overall long-term best interest of those involved. They are better off, improved and advanced by these judgments. Imagine that. The wrath of God is best visited upon those who are destroyed, rather than leaving them to continue the course they are headed in. It is an interesting thing to contemplate.

3 Nephi 21: 12-14

3 Nephi 21: 12-14

“And my people who are a remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles, yea, in the midst of them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he go through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver. Their hand shall be lifted up upon their adversaries, and all their enemies shall be cut off.  Yea, wo be unto the Gentiles except they repent; for it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Father, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots;”
Notice again the distinction between the gentiles and the remnant.
The “remnant” will behave in a way which will “tread down and tear in pieces” the gentiles. As they do this, “none can deliver” the gentiles.
Unlike the previous slaughter of the remnant by the gentiles, this time it is the gentiles who are slaughtered at the hands of the remnant. Those who are “enemies” to the remnant will all be “cut off.” What does “cut off” mean?
The woes of that coming time can all be avoided by the gentiles – predicated upon their willingness to “repent.” So we return again to the recurring question of what it means to “repent?” How can “repentance” be the only means by which the gentiles survive the slaughter? What is it about gentile repentance that spares them from the wrath that is to be otherwise poured out upon them?
What symbol comes to mind when you think of “horses?” What does cutting out the horses symbolize?
Does the symbol of the “horses” and the symbol of the “chariots” go together? That is, does cutting out the horses and destroying the chariots express a single thought? If it does, what do the horses and chariots symbolize? How vulnerable is the American military might to destruction? What effect would symbolically destroying the horses and chariots of the American population have?
If the United States is to be engulfed in domestic violence, will it continue to have foreign military influence? Economic influence? Social and cultural influence?
Assuming the gentile population is swept away, trodden under foot and torn in pieces, what culture and social influence will remain?
What symbol does the lion among the beasts of the forest suggest? The young lion among the sheep? What is the difference between the beasts of the forest and the sheep? If both beasts and sheep are gentiles, then are the beasts different than the sheep? What sort of person called a gentile “beast” will be swept away? What kind of person called a gentile “sheep” will be torn in pieces? Why would both gentile beasts and gentile sheep need to “repent?” Does repentance of a “beast” and repentance of “sheep” take the same form?  Why would both need repentance when they are so remarkably different in symbol? Is it enough alone to be a gentile sheep?
What message is being sent by this warning?

3 Nephi 21: 10-11

 
“But behold, the life of my servant shall be in my hand; therefore they shall not hurt him, although he shall be marred because of them. Yet I will heal him, for I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.  Therefore it shall come to pass that whosoever will not believe in my words, who am Jesus Christ, which the Father shall cause him to bring forth unto the Gentiles, and shall give unto him power that he shall bring them forth unto the Gentiles, (it shall be done even as Moses said) they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant.”
 
This statement has caused endless conjecture. Who is the “servant?” Was this Joseph Smith? Wasn’t it Joseph who was “given power to bring forth the words to the gentiles?” If Joseph was this “servant,” then what does it mean he will be “marred,” but the Lord will “heal him?” Is he coming back? Will Joseph be resurrected? Will he be born again?
 
Although Christ is speaking, this raises a matter worth addressing in connection with the statement. Therefore we’ll take a bit of a detour and address it. First, the purpose of prophecy is not always to make a matter clear before it happens. Prophecy may not have a clear meaning before an event happens, but once it has happened it becomes apparent that the event was foretold. This keeps the prophecy from controlling the event, but allows those who have faith to see the Lord’s hand in operation. Therefore, having some difficulty in attaching specific meaning to the prophecy is exactly in keeping with prophecy’s traditional way of communicating an event.
 
Second, the words of prophecy are not always established in the same way. In fact, there are a variety of ways in which the language is fixed. Below are descriptions of the various ways the language of a prophecy comes about:
 
The Lord may give, announce or dictate the language and the prophet takes it down word for word. If this is the case, then the one who receives the language may not understand their meaning, even though they received the message. (In this case it is Christ who is speaking. We assume He would know fully the word’s meaning.  However, Christ has explained that His Father knows things that have been withheld from Him. See, e.g., Mark 13: 32. So, you cannot rule out that even in this case the language was given and the meaning withheld.)
 
Sometimes it is not the language or the words that are given to the prophet, but a vision is shown or opened and then the prophet is left to craft a description. In such cases the words are the prophet’s, but the underlying meaning is the Lord’s.
 
Sometimes a vision may be shown or opened, but when the prophet takes to write the description, the language is prescribed, or limited by inspiration. In this instance, the prophet’s understanding may be greater than the words used, and the language will be designed to accomplish the Lord’s purposes rather than to make what the prophet understands clear to the recipient.
 
With respect to when one or another form of language is in scripture, we may not always be able to tell. Section 76 is one example we know how the language came to us. There was a vision, opened to both Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon, and as the vision proceeded Joseph would dictate the words given to him by the Lord to describe what he and Sydney beheld. The words were the Lord’s.The vision was greater or included more understanding for Joseph and Sydney than the words of the revelation. Hence Joseph’s comment: “I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them.” (TPJS p. 304.)
 
It is not important to fully understand the statement of Christ in this prophecy until AFTER it is fulfilled. Before it is fulfilled the following questions are interesting to contemplate as you think about its meaning:
 
Is the “servant” who will be “marred” and then “healed” a single individual, or a people with whom the Lord is working?  If a people rather than an individual, then who is this servant?
 
If the ones who will cause the servant to be “marred” are plural, who are they? Are they a group, or groups? If groups, which are they? What is their affiliation with the “great and abominable church?”
 
What does it mean that the “servant” will not be “hurt” but will be “marred?” How can one be “marred” without being “hurt?”
 
Is the “servant” in verse 10 the same as the “him” in verse 11? Have the subjects changed? That is, can verse 10 be speaking about a people, but verse 11 be addressing a person whose work it was (or is) to bring forth Christ’s words?  If an individual, is Joseph Smith the only one who can qualify? Can others also bring forth words of Christ to the gentiles, and the gentiles given an opportunity to accept or reject the words at their peril?
 
If they risk being cut off by rejecting the words, then can more than Joseph Smith be qualified to be “(even as Moses said) they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant.” That is, when the latter-day prophets are sounding alarms and warning, is the message from Christ–no matter who speaks it– something, if rejected, will cause people to be cut off from the covenant?
 
How does one cut themselves off from the covenant? If you will not listen to Christ’s words, do you thereby cut yourself off by not listening? Would that be true if Joseph Smith is a prophet and you reject him? Would that be true if Brigham Young were a prophet and you rejected him? What about an angel sent to you? What about someone like Abinadi, or John the Baptist, or some other unexpected messenger? Would the same be true anytime someone decided to reject a message authorized or sent from the Lord?
 
Now go back and re-read verses 10 and 11 with these questions in mind and see if you get a different meaning from them.

3 Nephi 21: 8-9

“And when that day shall come, it shall come to pass that kings shall shut their mouths; for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.  For in that day, for my sake shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and a marvelous work among them; and there shall be among them those who will not believe it, although a man shall declare it unto them.”
Christ is quoting from Isaiah and applying the words to a specific time frame. It is post-gentile receipt of the Book of Mormon, post-delivery of that book to the remnant, and post-opportunity for gentiles to repent and know of the true points of His doctrine. When that happens, the Lord will be freed up to fulfill the covenants of the Father.

When the Father’s covenants are in being fulfilled, “kings shall shut their mouths.” That is, the noble of this world will not know what to say. They will be at a loss of words because of the Father’s acts.

Things that haven’t been “told them” will take place, and they will not understand.
Things that they never had taught to them will unfold, and they cannot comprehend, cannot get their hands around it all.  It will dumbfound them.
Even when people who understand that the events are according to the Father’s plan, and the Lord’s covenant, they will not be able to believe it.
Too much! Too distressing! Too unexpected! Too great to take in! It will be confusion and distress, and the idea that God is behind it all will be unbelievable to them. (Isa. 52: 15.)

Their plans for managing the world will be dashed and end.  Their great investments will be lost.The control they imagined they had as “kings” will fade to dust. (Hag. 2: 22.)

How can such splendor, such great and masterful arrangements, such glory in mankind become nothing? How can it all fall to the dust? (Rev. 14: 7-8.)

It will be “great and marvelous” because it shows the Father’s power and might. But it will be inconvenient and distressing, unbelievable and terrible. (Malachi 4: 1.)
What is coming will leave proud men speechless and believing people vindicated. Everything will change.
Once again we see the tremendous relevance of Isaiah’s words. You can search for language to capture our times and find no-one who has given phrases that capture this moment better than Isaiah. Even the Lord finds his words appropriate to quote as His own. Words of inspiration, given Isaiah by the Lord, become Isaiah’s, then are taken by the Lord and used again as His. The symmetry of this chiasm is a reminder of how closely the Lord works with those He inspires. It is “His voice” even when the message comes from His servants.  Who has ears to hear?

3 Nephi 21: 7

“And when these things come to pass that thy seed shall begin to know these things—it shall be a sign unto them, that they may know that the work of the Father hath already commenced unto the fulfilling of the covenant which he hath made unto the people who are of the house of Israel.”
Now the completion of the sign:
When all that has been described has happened, and the remnant will “begin to know these things,” that beginning is the sign. Has it happened? Is it happening? Then who is the “remnant” that has or will “begin to know” about the Book of Mormon to fulfill the sign?
We’ve lost the history of Joseph Smith’s efforts to locate the “remnant” of the Nephites. The first mission to locate them was called by revelation in the first 5 months after the church was organized. (D&C 28: 8-9.) Oliver was called and later that same month Peter Whitmer was also called.  (D&C 30: 5-6.) This began an effort to locate the “remnant” that continued after the death of Joseph Smith. That will take some time to set out and cannot be dealt with in this post. We’ll get to it.
When the remnant is at last identified, and have been given the Book of Mormon, and start to know about their history and the Lord’s covenants with them, that will be the moment at which the “sign” given by Christ will have occurred.
It is when this happens that all of us will “know that the work of the Father hath already commenced.” Or, in other words, the Father’s hand is in motion to finish up what He promised to accomplish. What is it He intends to accomplish? What does it mean “fulfilling of the covenant?” What does the reference to “the people who are of the house of Israel” mean? How broadly will this final work of the Father spread? How many of those who are included in the covenant to Israel will become affected by the Father’s work fulfilling the covenant?
Assuming the work “commences” at that time, how long will it take for the work to be completed? Will it be a single generation? (JS-M 1: 34-37.) How long is a “generation?”
Why is the fulfillment to result in “the house of Israel” being given their covenant again?
How can we participate?
Why would the “sign” be given? If it was given to inform us, how can we watch to behold the sign when it happens?
Is there any indication that the sign is now unfolding?
If the organized church does not pay any attention to these things, and does not search for the remnant as Joseph did, will that change these promises? Will the covenant of the Father be forgotten by Him if the Saints themselves forget about it?  What effect does our neglect have on the Father’s covenants?

3 Nephi 21: 5-6

3 Nephi 21: 5-6:

“Therefore, when these works and the works which shall be wrought among you hereafter shall come forth from the Gentiles, unto your seed which shall dwindle in unbelief because of iniquity;  For thus it behooveth the Father that it should come forth from the Gentiles, that he may show forth his power unto the Gentiles, for this cause that the Gentiles, if they will not harden their hearts, that they may repent and come unto me and be baptized in my name and know of the true points of my doctrine, that they may be numbered among my people, O house of Israel;”

 
Now keep in mind this is all within a “sign” Christ is telling to the Nephites. It is a “sign” of when the great latter-day work will begin to unfold.
 
What are “these works” referred to by Christ? Was it necessary for the “works which shall be wrought among you hereafter” to be included in the “works” the gentiles were to receive? Why? Why would the gentiles need to know of the great success and ultimate failure of Nephite faith? The greatest time in the Nephite history would be after Christ’s visit, when they lived a united order. But the harrowing end described by Mormon and Moroni shows a depth of shocking evil. The violence, killing, cannibalism are disgusting to read and consider. Why did Christ want the “works which shall be wrought among you hereafter” to be included for the gentiles to have before them? What lessons would we not learn without these subsequent portions of the Nephite record?
 
Why do (from Christ’s vantage point)/did (from our vantage point) the records need to come “from the gentiles?” And how did that “show forth [the Father’s] power unto the gentiles?”  What about the restoration was a visible display of the Father’s power? Latter-day Saints have a “testimony” of the restoration, but gentiles seem unimpressed. The missionary effort among Americans today is nearly at a standstill. There are about as many people slipping into inactivity, or asking for their names to be removed as there are people volunteering to join at the present. So how is the restoration a display of “the Father’s power” to the gentiles?
 
Does the Father use “small means” to display His power? (1 Nephi 16: 29; Alma 37: 6.) Is it possible for the Father to show forth His power and for people to miss it entirely? What kind of “power” is missed by those who reject it?
 
If they do not reject it, notice what the “Father’s power” may lead the gentiles to receive:
-repentance,
-baptism,
-knowledge of the true points of Christ’s doctrine,
-being numbered among Christ’s people, even Israel.
 
But if not, then they will be swept away by their own wickedness and violence.
 
Now it may not be appreciably “powerful” when the gentiles receive the Book of Mormon. But if they repent, and are baptized, and come to know the true points of His doctrine, how great a change will take place? How great a show of power is it when the only ones at peace are those who dwell in Zion? (D&C 45: 68-71.)
 
It is clear the Lord will only gather to Zion in the great day of calamity those who had previously seen in His “small means” the path to safety and redemption.

For the most part, the gentiles will be unimpressed with the Lord’s stretched out arm. Gentiles will remain slow to respond, skeptical of the means, and dispute whether the Lord is really involved. Even those who claim to believe in His restored Book of Mormon and covenant will take lightly what He offers them. Only a few will be willing to undertake a form of repentance. But to receive “knowledge of the true points of my doctrine” it will require something more than half-hearted conversion.

How do you suppose “knowledge of Christ’s true points of doctrine” would change you?

 
Why do you think it will be necessary to “repent” before you receive “knowledge of the true points of His doctrine?” (John 7: 17.)
 
Why are both of these (“repentance” and “knowledge of true points of doctrine”) required before you can be “numbered among Christ’s people?”
 
Why do some of the gentiles need to become so numbered?  How will we know when that sign has occurred? Has it already? If not, then the sign isn’t before us yet — But if so, then the sign has begun. Are you among those who have repented, been baptized, know the true points of His doctrine, and become numbered with His people?

3 Nephi 21: 4

3 Nephi 21: 4:

“For it is wisdom in the Father that they should be established in this land, and be set up as a free people by the power of the Father, that these things might come forth from them unto a remnant of your seed, that the covenant of the Father may be fulfilled which he hath covenanted with his people, O house of Israel;

Christ attributes the wisdom of this plan to “the Father.”

The gentiles will be set up “in this land.” What land has become a land for free people “by the power of the Father?” The most common answer is the United States. That is the conclusion of Meldrum and Porter in their book Prophecies and Promises – The Book of Mormon and the United State of America.

The “wisdom of the Father” decrees that the gentiles will receive the record and the land where Christ visited the Nephites. Why is it wise for this to be the case?

From the gentiles, who inherit the record, the record will “come forth from them unto a remnant of your seed.” The gentiles receive it first, then it will come from them to the “remnant.” Who are the gentiles? Do the Latter-day Saints have the record? Even though they are in possession of the record, they are nonetheless called “gentiles”

Note that the “covenant of the Father” is the reason for these events to unfold. Why is the unfolding history of the remnant, gentiles and house of Israel to fulfill “the covenant of the Father?” What was/is Christ’s role in the process? If Christ is directly involved, why is it nevertheless the “covenant of the Father?”
 
Christ refers to the objects of the covenant as “his people” –  the Father’s people. This is an important transition in the description. These people belong to the Father!  Immortality and eternal life is a family affair. Christ’s harvest of souls is for the glory of the Father. If there were any doubt of Christ’s motivation and selfless service, His comments here remove that doubt.

From what source does the gentile freedom come?

If gentile freedom is based on the Father’s power, how vulnerable is their hold on freedom if they rebel and reject the Father? How much credit can the gentiles take for establishing their land of freedom? To whom should gratitude flow for the gentile freedom?

The backdrop Christ gives to our history is wholly based on the Father’s will, covenants and design for mankind. We tend to question how involved the Father and His Son are in the daily events of life. From Christ’s statement here, how involved are they?

3 Nephi 21: 2-3

“And behold, this is the thing which I will give unto you for a sign—for verily I say unto you that when these things which I declare unto you, and which I shall declare unto you hereafter of myself, and by the power of the Holy Ghost which shall be given unto you of the Father, shall be made known unto the Gentiles that they may know concerning this people who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, and concerning this my people who shall be scattered by them;  Verily, verily, I say unto you, when these things shall be made known unto them of the Father, and shall come forth of the Father, from them unto you;”
The sign Christ is giving requires a specific knowledge of a sequence of events. These verses begin to detail how you will recognize the sign as the proper chronology unfolds. 

First, Christ’s words which were “declared unto you” (meaning the Nephites) will be “made known unto the gentiles.” So, the Nephites must receive both what Christ has declared and will declare to them before His ministry was completed. Then these Nephites must record or preserve the words Christ declared. These words, recorded by the Nephites must in turn, become “known unto the gentiles.” This initial part of Christ’s sign is directly tied to the Book of Mormon.  However, what does it mean that the words of Christ must be “made known unto the gentiles?” We have them, but do we know them in the sense that is being used here?

Second, the gentiles must come to a knowledge of “this people (Nephite audience) who are a remnant of the house of Jacob.” The gentiles must understand or “know” that the promises made to the “remnant” exist. Has that happened? If not, why not? Is it happening at the moment as you become aware of this information that has been in the Book of Mormon since its publication in 1830? (No wonder the Lord’s condemnation of the Latter-day Saints.)
Note the Lord calls the audience, and in turn their posterity, “this people who are a remnant of the house of Jacob… this my people.” It is important to know that the Lord describes them with this identity as “my people” throughout His sermon and prophecy. This careful limitation of the reference to the Lord’s “people” should not be applied broadly. It does not include gentiles. We should not change His meaning. He is speaking about a single identified group as “my people” and it is those before Him and their descendants.
Now, although it is a parenthetical thought, He adds a third event in the chronology. The third event is the scattering of the “Lord’s people” who are the “remnant” by the gentiles. It will happen before the second listed event, but it is the third tier of the sign Christ is giving.
[By the way, this scrambled chronology is one of the things that evidences it is authentic and not a product of Joseph Smith’s imagination. The time-line is always scrambled somewhat when the Lord or His true prophets speak. Information is not presented to their minds in a chronological manner, and therefore it is grouped by subject, not by time. (D&C 130: 7-8.) Isaiah, for example, was always grouping information according to subject, not chronology. Indeed, when looking back on a sweeping revelation, it is not possible to reconstruct a time line of events shown to a prophet in vision without some considerable effort. But this is merely an aside.]
The fourth portion of the sign is when the gentiles, who have the words, and appreciate or “know” them, bring them to the attention of the remnant. When those standing before Christ, through their descendants, come to receive these words of Christ from gentiles who know them to be true, then the fourth portion of the sign will have occurred.
Notice how Christ attributes the coming forth of the Book of Mormon to the gentiles as the work of “the Father.” Christ was and is directly involved, He is the husbandman and the true vine. But He does not take credit as the Son. He says this coming forth will be “of the Father.” All things are done by Christ according to the will of the Father, to whom He always gives the credit. There is a profound lesson in that for each of us. We are only accomplishing something good, enduring and valuable as we conform to the will of the Father and His Son.  Whenever we are on our own errand, it is foolishness and vanity.

The “sign” given to us will continue in the Lord’s statement which follows. So let’s turn to more…