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3 Nephi 18: 21-23

3 Nephi 18: 21-23:

“Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.  And behold, ye shall meet together oft; and ye shall not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together, but suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not; But ye shall pray for them, and shall not cast them out; and if it so be that they come unto you oft ye shall pray for them unto the Father, in my name.”
 
Interesting that the admonition to “pray in your families” is so “that your wives and your children may be blessed.” This puts the burden on whom to pray? For whom are blessings sought? Why?
 
What does it mean to “meet together oft?” Is that weekly? If so, then why didn’t the Lord say “each Sabbath” instead of “oft?” What does meeting “oft” suggest?
 
Why would you be told to “not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together?” What kind of meeting is it? What kinds of meetings are open to the public? Is it appropriate to close some meetings from the public? If so, what distinguishes between those meetings which are to occur “oft” and anyone is invited, and other meetings which are to be private?
 
What does it mean to “suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not?” Why would you be admonished to keep the meetings open for public participation? Why would anyone want to “forbid” others from meeting with them?
 
Why would you be told to “pray for them, and shall not cast them out” for those who are not part of your group?
 
Why does the Lord phrase it: “and if it so be that they come unto you oft ye shall pray for them unto the Father, in my name?” Does this suggest that you don’t pray for them until they have “come unto you oft?” Why would that be the condition established before you “pray unto the Father” for them?
 
This is an interesting passage involving an interesting process. Essentially it deals with the un-baptized, the unrepentant, and the unprepared. They are to be welcomed. They are not to be excluded. If they are persistent enough to return frequently, then you have an obligation to pray to the Father for them.  Once they have seen the manner of worship, if they remain interested, they are to be prayed for, and perhaps brought in to the group. Not in a frantic, “we-need-another-baptism-today” kind of way. No rush. Instead, they need to “come unto you oft” of their own free will. They must be interested. They must be motivated by their own desire to know more. They should not be force-fed and “converted” by argument, persuasion, or aggressive marketing. They should be gently brought to see the truth of the Lord in the worship they observe first.
 
This is an interesting concept. This is inviting to come to the light by the light the believers possess. It is meekness, gentleness and ultimately love unfeigned. It is quite Christ-like.
 
I suppose a convert who came to believe in this manner would have thought it through before joining with the believers. Such a person would be unlikely to ever depart from the way. They would have ample opportunity to know beforehand whether they find it enticing, inviting, and desirable. Good fruit, so to speak. Something they want to have for themselves.
 
The Lord’s ways are indeed interesting to contemplate. This great God of heaven proceeds in meekness in all that He does. He teaches meekness to those who will follow Him, as well

3 Nephi 18: 19-20

3 Nephi 18: 19-20:

“Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;  And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.” 
 
When you “always pray unto the Father” in Christ’s name, there will be an inevitable closeness between you and Him. You draw closer to those with whom you associate. Praying always triggers that association. As with everything else, it is dynamic, not static. You move closer or you move farther apart, but you do not remain static.

What does “whatsoever ye shall ask” include? If you think Christ is inviting you to turn the Father into a short-order cook, jumping to your will, you do not understand this process. However, this is how some people view prayer. It is a list of wants, desires and aspirations to be imposed on the Father.

What does the limitation “which is right” do to modify “whatsoever ye shall ask?”

What does the phrase “whatsoever ye shall ask, which is right” mean?

 
Who determines whether a request you make “is right?” What about those occasions when the Lord invites someone to “ask anything of Him”? (See, e.g., 1 Kings 3: 5; 3 Nephi 28: 1–if you do not understand this concept it is explained in Beloved Enos. It occurs in a very specific setting.) Is there any limit to what might be asked at that moment? What does that suggest about those persons this offer is extended?
 
The purpose of this teaching by the Lord is to invite harmony between those who ask, and the Father, who gives. Inspired requests to Him are intended to come to you by revelation, so you may understand what you should ask.  Then, when you have conformed your will to His, what you receive is according to His will, and not your own.
Throughout, the Lord is leading those who will follow into a condition of unity with the Father and the Son. The goal has always been the same. The teachings have always been the same. The Lord’s great Intercessory Prayer taught the same concept. (John 17: 1-26.) The ability to be “one” with them is not accomplished by men persuading God to follow man’s will. It is accomplished in the same manner as Christ accomplished it. That is, by conforming to the will of the Father even when it is painful, or terribly burdensome. (See, e.g. D&C 19: 18-19; 3 Nephi 11: 11.)
 
The whole meaning of this promise is captured in the qualification that it must be that “which is right.” If you acquire an understanding of what “is right” then by asking for it, you submit to the Father’s will. Even if you would shrink from it, beg that it may pass from you, and cower at the thing required of you.  When you “ask of the Father in Christ’s name” for whatsoever “is right” despite your desire for things to be otherwise, you are going to become one with Them. Then you will be like Them. At this time you will learn the great truth that the will of the Father IS indeed “whatsoever is right.”
 
Joseph Smith explained it: “When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints.” The way heaven knows a man has arrived at that point is by the offered prayers. When they seek to do the will of the Father, and the requests are “what is right,” then the heavens cannot withhold anything from that man. Indeed, the Lord will prompt the right questions by what the Lord says to that man, so that the knowledge of that man will reach into the heavens. (See Ether 3: 9-20.)
 
Therefore, you must not only “pray always unto the Father in Christ’s name,” but you must also grow in understanding, humility and meekness so you may “ask the Father” for that “which is right.” This is a process. Christ is explaining it in His sermon.

3 Nephi 18: 17-18

3 Nephi 18: 17-18:

“And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto his Disciples, he turned again unto the multitude and said unto them: Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.”
The image of Satan “sifting as wheat” is interesting for several reasons. One involves the early claim, now discredited, that the ancient Nephite civilization did not cultivate wheat. Under that argument they would not have understood the analogy. However, once stores of ancient wheat and barley were discovered, the criticism was debunked. There’s a BYU article on this by Robert R. Bennett titled “Barley and Wheat in the Book of Mormon.”
Satan “desires to have you.” You are wanted. Not because he has your best interest in mind, but because he wants control. He wants to gain power over others, limit their choices, and make them his slaves.
The manner wheat was sifted was to use a sieve to separate grain from husks, tares, stones and other chaff. The wheat would be kept, the refuse tossed into a pile to be discarded. Sifting was vigorous and tossed the grain about to separate it. This suggests being completely under Satan’s control, being tossed about, and being discarded. It is a horrifying image, because the result would be domination by the adversary of your soul.
Satan’s great desire has always been to separate men from their agency. He seeks to enslave those who fall under his power. Using wickedness, appetites of the flesh, drug dependence or other addictions, the end goal is always the same. He seeks control. He craves the god-like power to have dominion over others. Since he forfeited any right to gain power in a godly way, he seeks now ungodly power through coercion and compulsion.
Whenever you find compulsion, dominion, control, or force being employed, you have found Satan. (D&C 121: 37-41.) He wants to cut you off from heaven, and  uses control to limit access to the heavens. When people voluntarily surrender their responsibility to follow the Lord, Satan has acquired by persuasion what he craves to acquire through force.
The antidote for falling under Satan’s control is to “watch and pray always.”  Why watch? Why “pray always?”
To watch is to be observant and detect elements of control, dominion and compulsion. It is to become vigilant in separating the will of men from the will of God. It is to keep the Lord’s teachings in mind, and to measure any person’s teachings, actions and persuasions against the standard the Lord has explained.
To “pray always” is to retain a personal connection with heaven. Particularly, to retain that connection through the Holy Ghost, and through Christ’s Spirit, you seek to always have with you. If this is a lively connection, you are able to avoid being “sifted.” If it lapses into darkness, you are vulnerable to being taken captive.

These are simple expressions anyone can understand. It is not the difficulty of the teaching, but the difficulty of the implementation which keeps people bound in darkness. Traditions, widespread acceptance of false ideas, excuses for failure, and rationalizations for why things are as they are, all prevent us from reading these teachings with the eyes of a child. The Lord’s teachings are distorted even as they are being read by the blinders we wear. When the eye is filled with darkness, how great is the darkness within. Christ spoke about that in the previous sermon.

3 Nephi 18: 16

3 Nephi 18: 16:

“And as I have prayed among you even so shall ye pray in my church, among my people who do repent and are baptized in my name. Behold I am the light; I have set an example for you.”
 
The “prayer” referred to here is the sacrament prayer. There is one among the twelve disciples who is given power to dedicate the emblems of the sacrament. But all of them are to do likewise in the Church in the future.
 
He has provided the example for them to follow. He has taught them how, and then demonstrated how. He has explained why. Now He tells them to do “even so” in His church.
 
But notice once again the Lord defines His church. It is those who “do repent and are baptized in [His] name.” This ordinance is not for those who are casual investigators of His doctrine. It is not for those who, though baptized, have not repented. It is reserved for those having the proper qualifications. Without having done these things first, the sacrament of the Lord’s body and blood are eaten and drank to their condemnation. Instead of it being a testimony before the Father of their faithfulness, it becomes a testimony of their unfaithfulness.
 
Notice the Lord explains His role as “light.” He “set an example for you” and therefore is “the light.” The “light” is the guide. It is the pattern. It shows you the way to go. He has done that in word and in action, so that He can claim to be the “light” for those to follow.

In turn, He has told these disciples they must also become “a light unto the people.” (3 Nephi 15: 12.) To accomplish that it is essential they must “set an example for” them; meaning that they follow as the Lord has led them. Not an example of vainglory or superiority. Instead to meekly do as He has bidden them to do. Adding nothing, leaving nothing undone. Honing in on the things He would have done, and going about to do them.
 
The “light” must reflect the Lord’s teachings and the Father’s will. Otherwise it is darkness. A light cannot shine as His if it is distorted to reflect credit upon the man rather than the True Light, our Lord. When an erring soul entertains mistaken admiration for a man, they are damned. (D&C 76: 99-101.) Therefore, if a person is called upon to be a light, they cannot seek to attract notice for themselves.
 
The Lord saves. Messengers sent by Him point to Him. They mirror His acts, teachings and practices. They do not seek their own will, but only the will of Him who sends them.
 
Throughout this visit between the Lord and the Nephites, we are given an extended view of how the Lord establishes His church and doctrine. So long as it is followed, it has the power to allow mankind to always have His Spirit to be with the followers. However, when they depart from the practices and keep merely a form of godliness, they lose the power He sends to us.
 
These teachings are important enough for the Lord to dwell on, and Mormon to etch them into metal plates. They should be carefully studied, explicitly followed, and greatly appreciated.

3 Nephi 18: 15

 
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him.”
 
The caution is always added to “watch and pray always.” It is not enough to fall into the correct way. You must prevent, at every turn, a misstep taking you off that path.
 
The devil always tempts to “do more or less” than we are instructed. To accomplish his desired results, the devil only needs to persuade you to do a little more, or do a little less, and he will have succeeded. He does not need to cut you off by a great big sin when a small one will work just as well.
 
Lately, we’ve been looking carefully at the details of the account of the sacrament among the Nephites. As with anything, varying this by “more or less” is a temptation. That temptation comes from the devil. He knows better than any of us that changing ordinances is intended to rob them of their efficacy.
 
When good intentions lead to the conclusion that you can or ought to change an ordinance in any particular, it does not matter how well intended the underlying reason is for the change. The purpose is to defile. As Isaiah put it: “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.” (Isa. 24: 5.)  For what reason would you change the Lord’s ordinances:

-People are not interested in them?
-People are offended by them?
-They seem to include unimportant details?
-They seem to conflict with your understanding of another scripture?
-The performance is uninspiring to the skeptical mind?
-The performance can be improved by a change?
-They seem to hold no real meaning?
-They can have better acceptance if altered?
-People no longer know or understand them?
-People just don’t care enough to observe the details?
 
Perhaps there are ten-thousand reasons for making a change. Maybe you are not tempted by all, but just one of those reasons. But so long as there is one reason which persuades you, that is enough. The devil knows he must only persuade you on one point, one time to get you to change the ordinance. Once he has managed that, he has robbed the ordinance of power, defiled the earth because of its inhabitants, persuaded you to transgress the law, and destroyed the everlasting covenant.
 
This is a wonderful teaching from Christ. He would like us to be ever watchful precisely because the devil intends to interrupt the Gospel every time it appears on the earth. In general, it takes less than 200 years for an apostasy to set in among the people chosen by God to receive a dispensation of the Gospel. Only in a few isolated instances, among a few people, have there been occasions where the ordinances remained unchanged. Those people successfully resisted every argument presented in favor of changing the ordinances and breaking the covenant with God.

The goal of our adversary is to lead us into captivity. When we lose the key to knowledge because we forfeit the light given by ordinance to us, then we struggle about in the dark. Left to your own reasoning, it is possible to establish all kinds of aberrations, calling bad good, and the light darkness.  Then only isolated voices remain to challenge the overwhelming majority who believe they have improved things by their tampering.

 
This pattern is warned against by the Lord. He lays bare the source of such things. It is all of the devil. He is the architect of that ruin.
 
So it is with the entire sermon the Lord has delivered, along with the new ordinance He has just introduced. The whole is meant to be understood and followed. It is the path back to truth and light. It was meant to become our guide, our way of life. For the most part, we have very good reasons why we do not follow it.

3 Nephi 18: 14

 
“Therefore blessed are ye if ye shall keep my commandments, which the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you.”
 
The Lord’s whole purpose is to bless us. He offers blessings freely. But we will not accept them. We refuse to offer an acceptable sacrifice before the Lord. It will be a long time yet before the sons of Levi offer an offering in righteousness to the Lord. (See D&C 13: 1JS-H 1: 69.) The sacramental offering is a type of the earlier Levitical offerings.
 
However, when an acceptable offering has been made, the Lord will always bless those who keep the commandments respecting His ordinances.

Changing these things in the least robs the ordinances of the very power they were intended to confer. (Isa. 24: 5.)
 
If you keep His commandments, the inevitable result is a blessing from Him. The greatest of these blessings is, of course, to be remembered by Him in the day of judgment. The next greatest is to always have His Spirit to be with you.
 
It is of note that Christ points to the Father in all things, and therefore points to the Father in this teaching, as well. The commandments He teaches are those “which the Father hath commanded [Him] that [He] should give unto you.” In every respect the Son points to the Father. It is always the Father’s will and the Father’s glory Christ seeks to uphold. (Moses 4: 2.)
 
The Son seeks our glory and exaltation, while giving credit to the Father for all He does. Though the Savior occupies the central role in the process, He serves others. Selflessly He instructs us on how we may be blessed and glorified. Selflessly He points to the Father as the one to receive your testimony by obedience. Selflessly He explains the Father is the one who has commanded these things. But through it all, it is Christ who has been the messenger of salvation. He is the one whose sacrifice made possible our redemption. It is Christ whose body and blood we must partake for redemption. It is Christ of whom the Father testifies. (See, e.g., 3 Nephi 11: 7Matt. 17: 5Luke 9: 35.) Christ bears testimony of the Father. The Father bears record of the Son. In one eternal round, they form a circle. It is Christ’s work and the Father’s commandment which invites us to join in that circle and become one with Them.
 
How simple the ways provided for us in this condescension of God. How plain the way has been given. Yet we find reasons to do “more or less” than what is asked. For that we forfeit blessings which might otherwise have been ours.
 
This is powerful material. Assuming we decide to “do” rather than to “say.”

3 Nephi 18: 12-13

3 Nephi 18: 12-13:

“And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall do these things. And if ye shall always do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock. But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them.”
 
The Lord again returns to the earlier sermon’s language and meaning. He reiterates how building upon the rock belonging to Him is done by observing the ordinances established by Him.
 
You should not do “more” than He has commanded.
 
You must not do “less” than He has instructed.
 
You must do as He has commanded, instructed, and shown. He does it to provide by His example, the way it is to be done.

If we err it is not because He failed to teach. He has made it plain to us that we may know the way to follow.

When we do more or less, we find ourselves in the sand, and no longer standing upon Him, the Rock of Heaven. (Moses 7: 53.)

Those finding themselves in the tempest of this life, tossed about by the turbulence of the sins and errors found at every turn, will fall if they are not built upon Him, the Rock of Heaven. They cannot withstand the storm because they are not anchored in Him who has the power to endure, to preserve and to save. They may cry out “Lord, Lord” but they did not do what He said. He will respond He never knew them. To be known by Him in that day will require the testimony before the Father to have been made. For the means by which He can recognize and protect them from the gates of hell is found in that testimony before the Father, given as a result of this ordinance.
 
The way is plain, simple, even easy. It is marked by Him at every turn. There is no great elusive mountain to climb. If we fail, it is because we are unwilling to look to Him and be saved. It is because we despise the simplicity of it all, and look for something more. We refuse to look upon Him who alone can save. (1 Nephi 17: 41.)
 
It is always amusing to see those who wrongly conclude that the Lord has abandoned His people because they fail to experience any power from Him.  They do not do what the Lord commands, then they fail to receive the blessing He promised. When it is not received, they blame Him. When all along it was their own failure to do as He commanded that caused their problems. (D&C 58: 31-33.)
 
Those who claim to be His, calling out “Lord, Lord,” but who do not do what He has instructed cannot blame the Lord. They have only themselves to blame.

3 Nephi 18: 11

 
“And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.”
 
The prayer pronounced upon the sacrament reflects these same aspirations. However, this is not a petition in prayer, but a promise from the Lord. He affirms that for those who have “repented” of their sins, and “are baptized” in His name, He promises a result.
 
When, having done as He has asked, a person remembers His blood through this ordinance, bearing in mind that it was shed “for you” then you can properly “witness unto the Father.” The witness you make to the Father by this remembrance is that “ye do always remember Christ.”
 
This memorial before the Father, when done right, results in the promise of Christ that “ye shall always have His spirit to be with you.”
This is a covenant. This is the Lord promising. His word cannot fail. He is establishing for you the means by which you can have as your guide and companion His Spirit. His light. His presence in your life.
 
This is more intimate than touching His side, hands and feet. This is to have His Spirit within your touch at all times. You become an extension of Him, properly taking His name upon you. For you are then, indeed, a Christian.
 
He will christen or anoint you, not with the symbol of oil, but with the reality of His Spirit. This anointing is the real thing, of which the oil was meant only to testify.
 
The Holy Ghost was intended to become a companion at the time of baptism. The Spirit of Christ is intended to become a companion in your very person as well. When there are two members of the Godhead represented in your living person, then it is the Father who receives this testimony of you, about you, by you and for you. You become His, for these three are one.

There is more going on here than an ordinance and a testimony. This is the means by which a link is formed that can and will result in the Father taking that which is corruptible and changing it into that which is incorruptible. Though, like Christ, a man or woman may be required to lay down their life, they shall have power given them to take it up again. For that which has been touched by the incorruptible power of His Spirit cannot be left without hope in the grave. All such people die firm in the knowledge they are promised a glorious resurrection. (D&C 138: 14.)

This, then, is eternal life.

3 Nephi 18: 10

3 Nephi 18: 10:

“And when the Disciples had done this, Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you.”
The phrasing is ambiguous but becomes clear from context. The reference to “big-D” disciples actually introduces the ambiguity. If the printer had left it “little-d” disciples then the meaning would be clear. The “thing which ye have done” is a reference to partaking of the wine. By introducing the “big-D” disciple term it can change the entire thing to be “the thing which ye have done” is to pass the sacrament, rather than to partake of it.

Well, the “thing which ye have done” that prompts the Lord to proclaim “Blessed are ye” is to have symbolically partaken of His blood. They have a part of Him by having eaten of His flesh and drank of His blood. They are now among those who demonstrate they hunger and thirst after righteousness. They are disciples indeed. Followers of the Master. Obedient to Him and willing to take His name upon them.

This is again identified as a “witness unto the Father” rather than a witness unto anyone else. It is not even a witness unto Christ. Nor is it a witness unto one another. It is a witness unto the Father.
This sacred event marks the testimony of faith by those who follow the Lord as a witness to the Father. These people prove they have faith in, and will obey His Son. The Father provided the Son as the Redeemer of all mankind. The only way back into the exalted state of the Father is through the saving sacrifice of the Son. It was the Son who opened the door for that return by the burdens He assumed while in His mortal body. He came under the same circumstances we did. He was separated from the Father by the veil. He suffered weaknesses of the body. He suffered the temptations of mankind, and He gave them no heed. (D&C 20: 22.) This made it possible for Him to bring many others to glory. (Heb. 2: 10.)
To have part in His glory, we must partake of His flesh and blood. Both symbolically by our own bodies being made a living sacrifice, (Romans 12: 1) and through ordinance by partaking of the symbols of His life, death, resurrection. For the body of Christ rose from the dead, and we have that same hope. If we are to follow Him, we must be like Him. Taking upon ourselves His flesh and blood is not optional. It must be done to testify to the Father, who alone accepts us into His family. If we think to take upon us the name of Christ, but fail to have this witness before the Father, then we have failed to secure the required testimony before the Father.
This is a required process for those who are His.