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.

10 thoughts on “3 Nephi 21: 10-11

  1. This is fascinating stuff. I had always thought the servant referred to here was Joseph Smith, but when looked at as a group, the remnant Native Americans could surely fit the description. I think of President Woodruff’s quote : JD, W WOODRUFF 15:283
    The Lamanites will blossom as the rose on the mountains. I am willing to say here that, though I believe this, when I see the power of the nation destroying them from the face of the earth, the fulfillment of that prophecy is perhaps harder for me to believe than any revelation of God that I ever read. It looks as though there would not be enough left to receive the Gospel; but notwithstanding this dark picture, every word that God has ever said of them will have its fulfillment, and they, by and by, will receive the Gospel. It will be a day of God’s power among them, and a nation will be born in a day. Their chiefs will be filled with the power of God and receive the Gospel, and they will go forth and build the new Jerusalem, and we shall help them. They are branches of the house of Israel, and when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in and the work ceases among them, then it will go in power to the seed of Abraham.

  2. I believe the Servant in V10 will be a specific individual. I feel he will arise in a time of ripening iniquity…. he will testify to the nations of the world (much like Isaiah did during his 3 year mission)…part of his message will be “deliverance or destruction”…… among other things, I feel he will deliver the repentant of the Lord’s people from mortal danger…. eventually bringing those who repent and keep their covenants (with Him) to the greater light of the King of Zion, Christ…. I think a type of this marred servant is Abraham when he delivered family from Sodom on the eve of it’s destruction. I feel this servant is part of the Fathers great and marvelous work yet to seen. I hope to see for myself these things in my lifetime. We may know soon. imho.

  3. I marvel that I ever held a sub-culture sentiment that the Native Americans would help us build New Jerusalem. Here, as plain as day in Dan’s Wilford Woodruff quote, is Woodruff saying we will help THEM, and the work will CEASE among the Gentiles. Amazing.

  4. I think an addendum to Denver’s description of types of prophecy would be the reasons for prophesying in such a manner.

    So if this were prophecy type A (where only the Father knows the meaning), it wouldn’t matter so much that we “figure it out,” only that we are familiar with it and open to possibilities so that when it DOES happen, we will recognize its fulfillment.

    If it’s type B (where the prophet crafts a description), it could be the law of witnesses. Where what is shown to a prophet and described in his own words is meant to support other revelations from other prophets.

    If it’s type C (where it is prescribed or limited), it could be that the impetus is on US to go out and get the remaining parts of the doctrine or prophecy.

    Of course, I could be off with my reasoning, but surely there are reasons behind why prophecies are given the way that they are.


  5. Moderator:

    This, if posted, should be posted to the 3 nephi 21:10 blog. For some inexplicable reason, none of the three computers that I use will allow my to see the ‘visual verification’ image on the current post

    My comment is on the symbolism of the lion among the beasts and the young lion among the sheep. Sheep follow a leader, sometimes another sheep and sometimes a shepherd. Members of the church are said by Paul and Luke to be in the flock. Much of the Snuffer warnings of the past months have been to awaken us to false and foolish traditions that we might not follow any man that might come between us and the Good Shepherd.

    Beasts don’t follow a Shepherd. They go whereever they please. They do not align themselves with any one shepherd. The say, all shepherds are true.

    Both will be tread down and torn to pieces, according to this prophecy. Repentence sound like the safest course.

  6. Here is one quote from the blog that Anonymous linked to:

    “The prophet Joseph Smith, too, taught that it is possible for the president of the church to lead the church astray. From the minutes of an address to the Relief Society in 1842, we read the following:

    President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel — said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church — that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls — applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall — that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves, envious towards the innocent, while they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 237).

    There you have it from the words of Joseph Smith, the minds of many had become darkened because they were depending on the prophet! Again, prophet worship is a form of idolotry. If you are blindly believing and obeying a true prophet without getting confirmation of what he is saying and doing via personal revelation through the Holy Ghost, you mind will become darkened.

    As sobering and profound as those words are, you really need to read Ezekiel 14 to get the full impact of what Joseph was warning them about;

    “.. Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will anser him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols; that I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols”

    Please continue reading the entire chapter in the privacy of your own inner sanctum.. it is hard doctrine, but true doctrine. it is the order of heaven. A true prophet becomes a cursing and a stumbling block to an idolotrous people who come before the prophet to enquire of the Lord with impure hearts.. and God DOES use his prophets to turn apostate Israel over to darkness.”

  7. A few weeks ago I was pondering this same scripture because of a book I had read months ago. It brought up the possibility of the return of Joseph Smith to finish his work. It has left many new questions in my mind and this was my topic of thought.

    The new possibility came to me that the “marred” condition could be something completly different. Could someone who was to deliver a message or be given a calling to perform, of making a people aware of the “false traditions of their fathers”, -a difficult task at best- and to restore truth in it’s true form, that might not be popular in MANY circles be “marred” by the reaction to the words or truths he brought? Including some of the traditional congregations, maybe even some LDS members or even leaders. It could be taken to the point of persecution personally and extended to his family even, if the views or teachings were too out of line with traditioal thinking.

    If that were to be the case, then the part that was eye opening to me about this personal revelation was the thought that if someone’s reputaion was so ruined by “others” trying to discredit his message, even to the extent of “disowning” the messenger from the current circles of influence and his fellowship with them, he would be truly in a “marred” condition, without a physical outward appearance that would certainly need healing. If the Lord were to vindicate him by proving, without a doubt that his words were true and the message correct, that would be a healing that only the Lord could bring to pass. What a sacrifice this man would have made to be obedient in all things.

    In pondering this possibility, it made me ask hard questions of myself….I for one hope and pray that I will be willing, at ANY cost, even at loss of friends, family and persecution to do as the Lord asks of me.

    I find myself asking for discernment, courage and strength.

  8. I hope it goes without saying that just because I like I certain blog, like the Sidney Rigdon one linked to above, I don’t agree with everything wholesale. It has some great nuggets in it, though.

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