3 Nephi 19

3 Ne 19:2 it was noised abroad among the people immediately

One can only imagine the excitement which must have spread like a tidal wave throughout the rest of society. This night must have been sleepless, filled with anticipation, exceeding anything they had ever experienced. Even those old enough to remember the night without darkness which heralded Christ's birth over thirty-three years earlier were to have a night of even greater anticipation. How could they sleep when they were soon to see the resurrected Lord?

Hugh Nibley

"Now there's a reminder of that exciting passage from Thycidides where it says 'that night, no man slept.' It's like Christmas Eve-the tremendous excitement about the great thing that's going to happen tomorrow. Everybody is rushing around spreading the news: The Lord has finally come. He's going to be here tomorrow...The multitude dispersed. Everybody went home, but they didn't go to bed...A great thing is going to happen; we're going to receive a great gift tomorrow. We're going to get the gospel tomorrow. They're all excited about it. As I said, not a man slept." (Teachings of the Book of Mormon, lecture 85, p. 355)

3 Ne 19:9 they did pray for that which they most desired...the Holy Ghost

Jeffrey R. Holland

"As Christ had not yet appeared to them for this second day (and because the Father and Son could not permanently be with them-or us-in a telestial world), the next best companionship came from that member of the Godhead who can be with mortals permanently-the Holy Ghost. In their ministry these newly called apostles could not always have the daily, physical presence of the Savior with them. Nevertheless, because they were to lead the Church of Jesus Christ in righteousness and be witnesses of his name throughout the Nephite world, they would surely need the prompting, the protection, the revelation, and the comfort of that One who is the spiritual extension and telestial representative of the Father and the Son.

"In our own time the Prophet Joseph Smith was asked wherein The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints differed from other religions of the day. He replied that the distinction lay in 'the gift of the Holy Ghost' and that all other considerations 'were contained in that gift.'  In light of these experiences-ancient or modern, Old World or New-perhaps all disciples of Christ, all members of his true Church, should pray for the influence and guidance of the Holy Ghost as that heavenly gift 'which they most desire.'" (Christ And The New Covenant, p. 278)

Bruce R. McConkie

"This morning, if I might be guided by the Spirit, I would like to suggest to you a slogan which, in my judgment, is one which will guide and direct and control and influence in all the affairs of our lives, in all things both temporal and spiritual.

"In the Southern Australian Mission we thought we would choose a slogan that would guide and direct in our missionary affairs, and then in all else. We knew that when the Nephite disciples, the twelve, had prayed for that which they most desired, the record said they most desired that they might have the Holy Ghost. (See. 3 Nephi 19:9.) So we sought to make their goal our goal, and we chose the slogan, 'Seek the Spirit.'

"Now we knew that Joseph Smith had said: 'The Holy Ghost is a Revelator, and any man who has received the Holy Ghost has received revelation.' So we thought if we could attune our souls sufficiently to the infinite, to be able to have in our lives the full exercise of the gift that had been given us in connection with baptism, that we would be guided aright in all things.

"I suggest this as the goal which all men in this world should follow-Seek the Spirit: desire above all things in this life to be guided by the Holy Ghost." (BYU Speeches, September 29, 1964, p. 2)

Bruce R. McConkie

"The greatest gift a man can receive in this life is the gift of the Holy Ghost, even as the greatest gift he can gain in eternity is eternal life (D&C 14:7)." (Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, p. 146)

Ed J. Pinegar

"Why would the Nephites desire the Holy Ghost so fervently? Elder Parley P. Pratt answered this question when he described the extraordinary characteristics of this remarkable power:

'The gift of the Holy Ghost . . . quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands, and purifies all the natural passions and affections, and adapts them by the gift of wisdom to their lawful use. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness, and charity. It develops beauty of person, form and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation, and social feeling. It develops and invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens, invigorates, and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being.' (Key to Theology, 1978, pp. 101-2)" (Especially for Missionaries, vol. 4, p. 2-3)

3 Ne 19:12 he baptized all those whom Jesus had chosen

Briefly, it is important to understand that only the Twelve were baptized at this time. On day 2 of Christ's visit, the multitude was too large for them all to be baptized at once. This was to take place later (see 3 Ne 28:18).

3 Ne 19:14 they were encircled about as if it were by fire...and angels did come down

The Twelve didn't have to wait long for the thing which they most desired. They were given the Holy Ghost in a baptism by fire which exceeded even the Pentecostal outpouring in the Old World (Acts 2). During this powerful outpouring of the Spirit, the Savior appeared in the midst of them.

3 Ne 19:18 they began to pray...unto Jesus, calling him their Lord and their God

In praying directly to Jesus, the Twelve deviated from the previously established pattern of praying to the Father in the name of Jesus. Christ explained that they did this because I am with them (v. 22). Hereby, we learn that praying directly to Jesus is acceptable under certain conditions.

When Joseph Smith dedicated the Kirtland temple, his dedicatory prayer is initially addressed to the Father, but then he later addresses Jehovah, then the Father again. During one prayer, he switches back and forth from the Father to the Son several times (see DC 109). Although not according to the established pattern, this prayer was given to him by direct revelation and no one should question the propriety of its content. A careful study of this prayer demonstrates that the remarks are directed to Jehovah for two reasons, as an appeal for mercy, and because it was to be his house (DC 109:5). In both instances, the prayer addressed directly to Jesus emphasizes his role as the Mediator, the source of mercy for those who would, without him, be forever banished from his presence by the laws of justice.

3 Ne 19:19 Jesus...went a little way off...and bowed himself to the earth

In response to the prayers of the Twelve, Christ immediately finds a place to pray to the Father on their behalf. In the first of three prayers uttered on behalf of the Twelve, primarily, the Savior demonstrates his role as the Mediator. If theTwelve are praying to him, then he will pray to the Father for them. As Paul stated, For there is...one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim 2:5).

On behalf of the righteous disciples, he thanked the Father for giving them the Holy Ghost which came because of their faith, and he prayed that they might be one. Such is the prayer of the Mediator for the righteous. For the repentant sinner, the Lord may plead somewhat differently:

   'Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him-

   Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified;

   Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.' (DC 45:3-5)

How do we receive this great privilege? To have the Lord plead our case before the Father? In both instances, the secret was the simple concept of faith in Jesus Christ. Those who believe in his name will be privileged to hear him plead their case before the Father, that the blood he spilt in righteousness may spare those whose righteousness has fallen short.

Joseph Smith

"The saints have a sure foundation laid for the exercise of faith unto life and salvation, through the atonement and mediation of Jesus Christ; by whose blood they have a forgiveness of sins, and also a sure reward laid up for them in heaven, even that of partaking of the fullness of the Father and the Son through the Spirit. As the Son partakes of the fullness of the Father through the Spirit, so the saints are, by the same Spirit, to be partakers of the same fullness, to enjoy the same glory; for as the Father and the Son are one, so, in like manner, the saints are to be one in them. Through the love of the Father, the mediation of Jesus Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, they are to be heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ." (Lectures on Faith, p. 49)

3 Ne 19:22 thou seest that they believe in me because thou hearest them

Jeffrey R. Holland

"...it is significant that one of the ultimate evidences God has of our belief in Deity is that we are seen and heard praying. Christ noted this evidence on behalf of the Nephites. To the Father he said, 'Thou seest that they believe in me because thou hearest them.' (v. 22) Disciples of Christ should be seen and heard in prayer. It is the key to the miraculous manifestations of heaven and the personal companionship of the Holy Comforter(s)." (Christ And The New Covenant, p. 280)

3 Ne 19:23 I pray unto thee for them... that we may be one

Jeffrey R. Holland

"That is, of course, a variation on the great intercessory prayer Christ offered for his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion in the Old World, praying that his followers might be unified with the Father and the Son, as well as with each other, and be taken from the adverse temptations and evil influences of the world. (Jn 17)

"From the Savior's language, we see clearly it is the Holy Ghost that provides such unity, a doctrinal point not so clearly communicated in the New Testament account." (Christ And The New Covenant, p. 280)

Hugh Pinnock

"I was speaking with a remarkable business leader and teacher of Christianity in New York City a few weeks ago-a man who is actively working with some 220 different Christian denominations. He continued to comment upon the effectiveness of the Latter-day Saint church. He said many wonderful things about our members, about their dedication and the certainty of their beliefs.

"He reported, 'One of the most remarkable characteristics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that you seem to be working together. You are headed in the same direction. As one, you concentrate upon doing that which you believe Jesus wants you to do. You all study the same doctrine. You respond to your leaders. You are unified.'

"That was a great lesson! Even though I already realized much of what he said, to hear it from a man who had more contact with other churches than almost anyone added special meaning to the importance of our like-mindedness and the bonds of our harmony.

"You see, one of the facets that makes us different is that we strive for compatibility. We sustain our leaders and generally follow their counsel and direction. There are many reasons to be unified, but perhaps the greatest reason is that we have been asked to be one. In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord asks us to assemble ourselves together to agree upon his word (see D&C 41:2). Joseph Smith stated, 'Unity is power'  (History of the Church, 6:198), when speaking about stability in governments. Just so, unity adds power in the Church and in our families.

"Let us turn again to the Book of Mormon, where the Savior is preaching to his other sheep. Jesus is praying with those in the Western Hemisphere, 'And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words...that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one' (3 Ne. 19:23; italics added).

"Yes, we can almost see Jesus standing before those ancient Americans as he continues, 'Father, I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me out of the world, because of their faith, that they may be purified in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one, that I may be glorified in them' (3 Ne. 19:29). It was this same Jesus, as Jehovah of the Old Testament, who inspired these words, 'Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!' (Ps. 133:1).

"How do we glorify Jesus? How do we say thank you for the Atonement? How do we state gratitude for the ordinances and the covenants? How do we express appreciation for his teachings? Of course, we do it by loving God, by loving our neighbor, by living the commandments, and also by being one." (Conference Report, Apr. 1989, "The Blessings of Being Unified")

3 Ne 19:24 it was given unto them what they should pray

Neal A. Maxwell

"If we can achieve a significant milestone in discipleship, we will find that 'he that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh.' (D&C 46:30.) In that stage of advanced allegiance, Jesus' disciples prayed not only 'without ceasing' but 'they did not multiply many words, for it was given unto them what they should pray, and they were filled with desire.' (3 Nephi 19:24.)

"Some of us seem to 'multiply words' even in brief pro-forma prayers; the above insights serve as sobering reminders as to how far that milestone-which marks pure motivation-is down the straight and narrow path; yet what exquisite ecstasy awaits those of us who will press forward and so purify ourselves so that our behavior is based on Christ-like motives."(A Time To Choose, p. 29 - 30)

Neal A. Maxwell

"Our prayers will be better if they are in fact inspired prayers." (Men and Women of Christ, p. 98)

3 Ne 19:25 they were as white as the countenance and also the garments of Jesus

Having just been surrounded by angels, filled with the Holy Ghost, and having just prayed again, the Twelve were transfigured such that their entire bodies exuded the brilliance of resurrected beings. Truman Madsen explains this process:

"Artists have often depicted this recognition of light as divine beauty by the halo, the nimbus, and the golden circle above the head. But that is at best a token of the promise and the actuality. For 'whole bodies' are promised illumination, and the light not only hovers over but also surrounds and engulfs the entire personality until it is gloriously beautiful. It was, after all, every one of the multitude, and all of each of them, even the seams of their clothing, that became scintillant with white light in the presence of Christ during that 'ineffable outpouring of prayer,' as Elder James E. Talmage calls it, in the 3 Nephi narrative (see 3 Nephi 19:25). Modern men and women of God who have witnessed such radiance of soul say it is 'like a search light turned on within.' It is 'the same glorious spirit,' the Prophet once wrote, 'gives them the likeness of glory and bloom. ... No man can describe it to you-no man can write it.' (Teachings, p. 368) Aesthetic delight, then, whatever else it is, is delight in light. And it is surely significant that the whole color spectrum, every vivid color of the rainbow, harmonizes in white light which, in turn, harmonizes in Christ." (Truman G. Madsen, The Radiant Light, p. 26-7)

3 Nephi 19:27 he turned from them again, and went a little way off and bowed himself to the earth and he prayed

 

In chapter 19, the Lord prays for his disciples three times.  Three times he separates from them and prays to the Father.  Does that remind you of another event?
Separating himself from his disciples by about a stone's cast, Jesus "went forward a little and fell on the ground, and prayed... and he cometh, and findeth [the disciples] sleeping, and saith to Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour? Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The Spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.  And again he went away and prayed, and spake the same words.  And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,)..." (Mark 14: 35-40)

What a contrast to that night of darkness!  How different is the scene in the light of day when the Lord visits the Nephites!  How refreshing for the Master to find his servants in righteous prayer!

In Gesthemane, three times Jesus asked his disciples to pray.  In Bountiful, he only had to ask once; the second time "Jesus said to them: pray on"; He didn't even have to ask the third time!  In the Old World, the disciples, tired from the feast, slumbered while Jesus' suffered.  In the New World, the disciples continued their inpired prayers while the Master rejoiced.  In the Old World, the distraught Jesus had to wake up his disciples.  In the New World, He returned to find them praying and filled with desire.  In the Old World, the "power of darkness" reigned as a band of soldiers and a traitor made their approach (Lu. 22:53).  In the New World, the Savior's smile and the light of his countenance shone on them until "they were as white as the countenance... of Jesus" (v. 25).

Jesus, once of humble birth,
Now in glory comes to earth.  
Once he suffered grief and pain;
Now he comes on earth to reign.
Now he comes on earth to reign.
(Hymn #196)

In the Old World, the Savior instituted the Sacrament and then gave an intercessory prayer. In the New World, the Savior re-instituted baptism and then prayed "that they may be purified in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one" (v. 29). In the Old World, the disciples knew not what to say (Mark 14:40).  In the New World, "it was given unto them what they should pray." (v. 24)

What if we place ourselves in the shoes of the disciples?  Sometimes, we are like Peter, James, and John--asleep while darkness reigns and God weeps.  Sometimes, we are like the Nephites--praying while light inspires us and Jesus smiles.  We struggle because we can't always be Nephite disciples.  We can't.  Because of Satan and the failings of mortality, we can't always be like them, but we can try.  We can try to have more inspired prayers. We can try to rise and fight Satan instead of give in to the flesh.  We can try to watch and pray always lest we fall into temptation. If we succeed, we have every right to hear things which "cannot be written, neither can they be uttered by man" (v. 34).

3 Ne 19:28 I thank thee that thou hast purified those whom I have chosen

 

In Christ's second intercessory prayer among the Nephites, he acknowledges that his disciples have been purified. Their purification is evidenced in the transfiguring light which had enveloped them. Later in the prayer, the Savior twice states that they were, 'purified in me.' This verse teaches us about purification. The Twelve had partaken of the sacrament, been baptized, prayed until they were given the Holy Ghost, and they had exhibited faith. The result was a purification that made their countenances shine with brilliance. Moses wrote, 'by the water ye keep the commandment; by the spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified' (Moses 6:60). Purification and sanctification are scriptural synonyms. It is through Christ's blood that we are sanctified, therefore, it is through him that we are purified. One sister described this process as follows:

"'Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.' - Hel. 3:35.

"As I travel along the road of this earthly life, I am constantly faced with many obstacles as well as many joys. Over and over again, I find myself pleading with Heavenly Father to help soften my heart. Whether it is to be more patience toward my children, or more tolerant towards others, my pleas for help have always seemed to be the same.

"One morning as I knelt in my personal prayers, I found myself again petitioning Heavenly Father for this familiar request when I felt prompted to pick up the scriptures. What I came across was, to me, astounding.

"I realized that what I had been longing for was this very purification and sanctification of heart of which this beautiful scripture speaks so plainly. I also realized that the way to obtain this wonderful purification (or softening) was to fast and pray often and to yield my heart unto God. I understood that there was more expected of me than just asking for Heavenly Father's help. I needed to do my part and submit my every action and thought to His will. Now I ask myself, is my behavior consistent with yielding my heart to God's will?" (Carla Edington, Church News, 09/13/97)

3 Ne 19:33 their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts

Dallin H. Oaks

"In describing the state of the inner man, the scriptures commonly use the word heart.  This word occurs over a thousand times in the standard works, almost always as a figurative expression.

"Heart is often used to identify the extent to which one is receptive to the message of the gospel.  Nephi said, 'The Lord . . . did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe' (1 Nephi 2:16).  A later Nephi described his preaching to a people who 'did harden their hearts and did not hearken unto the words of the Lord' (Helaman 10:13)

"Heart is sometimes used as a synonym for mind.  Speaking of the multitude who heard the risen Lord on this continent, the Book of Mormon says, 'neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak' (3 Nephi 17:17).  'Their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which he prayed' (3 Nephi 19:33).

"Heart is also used in contrast to mind, with mind apparently connoting the powers of reasoning (the intellectual) and heart connoting the powers of intuition (the spiritual).  President Harold B. Lee used those two words in this contrasting sense when he said: 'When we understand more than we know with our minds, when we understand with our hearts, then we know that the Spirit of the Lord is working upon us' (Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974], p. 92)." (Pure in Heart, Preface)

3 Ne 19:35 So great faith have I never seen among all the Jews

"This greater ability of the Nephites to receive the gospel is shown also in the fact that in the New Testament there are about forty parables which Jesus used because so many of the Jews were slow to perceive spiritual things, whereas in 3 Nephi Jesus used no parables among the Nephites because he was able to give them the gospel in direct and plainly spoken words." (Book of Mormon Symposium Series, 3 Ne 9-30, edited by PR Cheesman, MS Nyman, and CD Tate, Jr., 1988, p. 29)