3 Nefi 17

3 Ne 17 The Savior blesses the sick, prays for the multitude, and blesses the children

Vaughn J. Featherstone

"Let me tell you the greatest experience I believe I have had in all my readings of the scriptures-and I am sharing something that is very tender with me. I remember the night that I read 3 Nephi the 17th chapter That is when I discovered the Lord Jesus Christ, my Redeemer, the Lord of lords, the King of kings, my Savior, my personal Savior; and I believe that is where I finally found the description of the Savior as I thought him to be. (Elder Featherstone then quoted most of chapter 17)

"...I want you to know I was there. I wouldn't know any more surely if I had been there than I would know having read this book. And I promise you that vicariously every single young man in the Church can read the scriptures and have that same experience with all of the prophets. And you can gain your own testimony, and it need not be pinned on someone else's coat sleeve. You can actually know. You can know that we have a modern prophet. Read his words. Listen to him." (Ensign, Jan. 1973)

3 Ne 17:2 I perceive that ye are weak

After expounding some latter-day prophecies about the covenants made to the House of Israel and their relationship to an Isaiah passage, the Lord declared that they were weak in understanding. Apparently, these were topics which the Nephites had not given much thought. But how much different are we? If the Lord were to comment on our understanding of unfulfilled prophecy and the words of Isaiah, would He also say to us, I perceive that ye are weak? If so, then we are to follow His counsel about increasing our understanding through pondering, prayer, and mental preparation.

"Their difficulty in understanding the gathering seems to have had more to do with their lack of intellectual understanding of the doctrine itself.  The gathering of Israel is a profound doctrine filled with implications about God, his plan, and our place in it.  It reminds members of the kingdom of God that they are a covenant people and implies that they will be saved only by keeping those covenants." (Book of Mormon Symposium Series, 3 Ne 9-30, edited by PR Cheesman, MS Nyman, and CD Tate, Jr., 1988, p. 212)

3 Ne 17:3 go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said

Of all the recipes designed to increase our spiritual understanding, this must be the greatest. Directly from the Savior, we are given a three-step instruction: 1) ponder, 2) pray for understanding, and 3) prepare your minds for more. Oliver Cowdery is famous for failing to translate because he skipped steps 1 and 3, Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me (DC 9:7-8, italics added).

"We might ask why the scriptures have to be pondered to be understood and appreciated. After all, we don't need to ponder newspapers or magazines. We understand them at a first reading. What makes the scriptures different?

"An analogy might help. The scriptures are like a symphony. The problem with a symphony, if it can be called a problem, is that there is so much going on at the same time that an inexperienced listener feels bewildered, not knowing what to listen for, or how to make sense of everything. But the music lover knows what to do. He picks out a theme carried by the string section, compares it to a variation on that theme by the oboes, and hears the composer being playful or reflective or joyful. Unlike the novice, he hears and feels the effects of the details that give the symphony, in all its complexity, its power and impact." (Dennis and Sandra Packard, "Pondering the Word," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, p. 51)

Joseph B. Wirthlin

"In a revelation given to President Joseph F. Smith is an important message for all of us. 'On the third of October,' wrote President Smith, 'in the year nineteen hundred and eighteen, I sat in my room pondering over the scriptures; and reflecting upon the great atoning sacrifice that was made by the Son of God, for the redemption of the world. . . . As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me.' (D&C 138:1-2, 11.)

"Pondering-which means to weigh mentally, to deliberate, to mediate-can open the spiritual eyes of one's understanding. Also, the Spirit of the Lord may rest upon the ponderer, as described by President Smith.

"Jesus admonished the Nephites, 'Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand.' (3 Nephi 17:3.) We are constantly reminded through the scriptures that we should give the things of God much more than usual superficial consideration. We must ponder them and reach into the very essence of what we are and what we may become." (Finding Peace in Our Lives, p. 209)

Gordon B. Hinckley

"We all do a lot of studying, but most of us don't do much meditation. We don't take time to think. I'd like to suggest that next fast day . . . everybody in this hall set aside an hour or two. Sit by yourself. Go in the bedroom and lock the door. Go out in the yard under a tree. Go in your study if you have one and shut the door, and think about yourself and your worthiness. Read from this great book [Book of Mormon]...There's a great word that's used, 'ponder.'

"'Ponder.' What do we mean by 'ponder'? Well, I think it simply means kind of quietly thinking things through. Ponder what you have read. Ponder your life. Are you worthy, are you living the commandments...?" (Church News, 01/06/96)

Ezra Taft Benson

"Man must take time to meditate, to sweep the cobwebs from his mind, so that he might get a more firm grip on the truth and spend less time chasing phantoms and dallying in projects of lesser worth.... Take time to meditate.  Ponder the meaning of the work in which you are engaged.  The Lord has counseled 'Let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your mind's' (D&C 43:34).  You cannot do that when your minds are preoccupied with the worries and cares of the world."  (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 390. as taken from McConkie, Millet, and Top, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 4, p. 114)

3 Ne 17:6 Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you

The Savior's compassion is truly instructive. He stays to mercifully bless the sick, pray for the multitude, and bless the children. But remember, he had just said Behold, my time is at hand (v. 1), and now I go unto the Father (v. 4). By mortal standards, he did not have time for compassion. He had an appointment with Elohim! If he were to spend more time with the Nephites, perhaps He would keep his Father waiting. Could he just change his plans without some eternal consequence? The following fictional story is applicable.

One day, a good father and husband received an unexpected call from Church Headquarters. He was asked if he would meet with the President of the Church. The time and date were set, and he wondered about the meaning of the interview. So as not to be late, he pressed his nicest suit the night before. He left for the interview with plenty of extra time. However, as he drove on the highway, he witnessed an accident right ahead of him. There were injuries and confusion which blocked his car for an extra 20 minutes. As he finally, bypassed the scene, he hurried on for his appointment. Now he had no extra time. His speedy transit was next rewarded with a traffic citation. As the officer left his vehicle, he mumbled a few choice words and felt the anger building up inside. Arriving downtown, he could not find a parking place anywhere. Finally, he secured a spot in a pay lot 2 blocks away. In the parking lot, he noticed a single mother whose car would not start, obviously because of a dead battery. He arrived for the interview 10 minutes late.

The Prophet graciously greeted him, welcomed him into his office, and quickly accepted his apologies for being late. The interview went well. He was asked to chair a new Church committee. The committee was to oversee the Church's international efforts to help those in need. Before accepting the call as chair of the Church's new Compassionate Service Committee, he was instructed to discuss the matter with his wife and call the Prophet back. Thrilled with the prospects of his new calling, he went home and reflected on his day. He thought of the accident, the officer, and the stranded mother. He remembered how his concern to be on time had kept him from helping. His thoughts turned to a scripture about a certain priest and a Levite who had bypassed a stranded and wounded man (Lu 10:30-37). The next day, he called the Prophet and rejected the call, citing as his only reason, "I'm not worthy."

If the Savior had a little extra time for the Nephites, we should have plenty of extra time for inconvenient and untimely acts of compassionate service.

Thomas S. Monson

"What power, what tenderness, what compassion did our Master and Exemplar thus demonstrate! We, too, can bless if we will but follow His noble example. Opportunities are everywhere. Needed are eyes to see the pitiable plight and ears to hear the silent pleadings of a broken heart. Yes, and a soul filled with compassion, that we might communicate not only eye to eye or voice to ear but, in the majestic style of the Savior, even heart to heart." ("Never Alone," Ensign, May 1991)

3 Ne 17:8 The Lord perceives their desires

On the first day of Christ's visit, the multitude was in awe of their divine Visitor. The only words they uttered were, Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! (3 Ne 11:17). According to the record, they said nothing after he gave them the Sermon on the Mount. They said nothing as he taught them, blessed them, and prayed for them. Although awe-stricken to the point that they could hardly speak, there was no lack of communication between the multitude and the Master. He perceived that some wondered about the fulfillment of the Law of Moses (3 Ne 15:2), he perceived that they did not understand the words of Isaiah (v. 2), he perceived that they did not want him to go (v. 5), he perceived that they wanted to know what miracles he had performed in Jerusalem (v. 8), and he perceived that their faith was sufficient to be healed. Thus, there was a two-way communication. Jesus understood their thoughts and desires so completely, that vocalization was not needed. For the multitude, the whole experience must have been breathtaking.

3 Ne 17:9 all the multitude, with one accord, did go forth with their sick and their afflicted...and he did heal them

"This is neither a matter of satisfying curiosity nor a display of power for entertainment or wonder.  This manifestation is...intimately connected with faith and salvation.  The physical healing means nothing except as it is literally connected to the spiritual healing that the Savior has also brought about.  This is certainly the sense in which the Savior instructs the leaders of his Nephite church regarding sinning and healing, as it applies to the unworthy member:  'Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out of your synagogues or your places of worship, for unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them' (3 Nephi 18:32; emphasis added).

"All of this complex pattern of meaning comes together most dramatically in the physical act of stepping forward and kneeling before the Savior, the experience of literally coming unto Christ, of touching and being touched.  That the physical and the spiritual are intertwined should come as no surprise to members of a church that places extraordinary emphasis on ordinances-those small occasions and gestures that allow all of us to participate in the great drama of salvation.  To collapse the whole matter of our purpose in this life into one symbolic act would bring us an experience very close to that of the Nephites':  'And they did all, both they who had been healed and they who were whole, bow down at his feet, and did worship him; and as many as could come for the multitude did kiss his feet, insomuch that they did bathe his feet with their tears' (3 Nephi 17:10).  Isn't this truly what it means to come unto Christ, to 'close with him' (as the Puritans used to say), to be invited to come forth, and, because of the preparations of both the Savior and the saved, to be accepted, literally and completely, doing-acting out what the words themselves describe?" (Neal E. Lambert, Book of Mormon Symposium Series, 3 Ne 9-30, edited by PR Cheesman, MS Nyman, and CD Tate, Jr., 1988, p. 204)

3 Ne 17:10 they did all...bow down at his feet, and did worship him

There were no ungrateful lepers among the Nephites. None of them missed the opportunity to express their gratitude with humble kisses and thankful tears. Although the Lord performed the same miracles among the Nephites as he had among the Jews, the response of those who were healed was not the same:

'And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.' (Lu 17:12-19)

3 Ne 17:11 he commanded that their little children should be brought

President Michaelene P. Grassli  (Primary General President)

"His invitation in verse 11 was neither casual nor inconsequential. 'He commanded that their little children should be brought.' (Emphasis added.) And notice what verse 11 doesn't say. It doesn't say never mind the little ones because they aren't accountable yet. It doesn't say the children were to be taken elsewhere so they wouldn't disrupt the proceedings. And it doesn't imply that the children won't understand. But it does teach that children need to learn the significant things of the kingdom.

"God's children share with all of us the divine right to spiritual enlightenment. ("Behold Your Little Ones," Ensign, Nov. 1992)

Elder Wm. Rolfe Kerr

"When the Savior invited the multitude to behold their little ones, was He speaking in the collective sense of a group of little children? Or was He drawing their attention, and ours, to the individual nature and importance of each of those little ones-each of those little individuals? I believe that by His example the Savior was teaching us of the individual and tender care we should give to each one of our little children-indeed to each of our Heavenly Father's children. It may be the lovable toddler or the wayward teen, the grieving widow or the grateful woman for whom all is well. It may even be your own son or daughter or your own husband or wife. Each is an individual. Each has divine potential. And each must be spiritually nourished and temporally cared for with love, tenderness, and individual attention.

"The prophet Lehi exhorted his wayward sons, Laman and Lemuel, with 'all the feeling of a tender parent' (1 Ne. 8:37). This is the Savior's way. This is as it should be in our families and in the Church." ("Behold Your Little Ones", Ensign, Nov. 1996)

3 Ne 17:14 I am troubled because of the wickedness of the people of the house of Israel

It is not too hard to imagine what the Savior may have been thinking about in his sorrow. As the multitude knelt down, perhaps the Savior had time to think about how small the group was. He who would have gathered them as a hen gathereth her chickens must have grieved at how many of that generation had been lost. Alternatively, he may have seen the wickedness which was to come. He later mourned, behold, it sorroweth me because of the fourth generation form this generation, for they are led away captive by him even as was the son of perdition (3 Ne 27:32).

3 Ne 17:16 eye hath never seen...so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak

Jeffrey R. Holland

"One wonders what it might have been like to hear such a prayer, but it is impossible to grasp what might have been seen in such a prayer. What these people saw in addition to what they heard we are not told, but their experience had only begun." (Christ And The New Covenant, p. 270)

3 Ne 17:20-21 my joy is full. And when he had said these words, he wept

According to the scriptures, the Lord weeps for two reasons only. He weeps with joy for the faithful, or he weeps with sorrow for the faithless. Examples of these tears of sorrow are found in the New Testament. In fulfillment of his prophetic parable (Lu 16:19-31), Jesus went to Bethany to raise Lazarus. This was to be a public miracle, to be done in front of some of the unbelieving Jews. The record simply states that Jesus wept (Jn 11:35), but it doesn't state why. Some supposed that he mourned the death of his friend, but it was their faithlessness which was the cause of his tears. Much like his mournful groaning among the Nephites (v. 14), Jesus proceeded to the grave, again groaning in himself (Jn 11:38). Enoch was told, should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer? (Moses 7:37) Tears of sorrow were also shed for the rebellious city of Jerusalem, when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it (Lu 19:41). Farrar wrote:

"He had dropped silent tears at the grave of Lazarus; here He wept aloud...All the shame of His mockery, all the anguish of His torture, was powerless, five days afterwards, to extort from Him a single groan, or to wet His eyelids with one trickling tear; but here, all the pity that was within Him overmastered His human spirit, and He not only wept, but broke into a passion of lamentation, in which the choked voice seemed to struggle for its utterance. A strange Messianic triumph! A strange interruption of the festal cries! The Deliverer weeps over the city which it is now too late to save; the King prophesies the total ruin of the nation which He came to rule!" (Church News, 05/06/95)

For one who knew such depth of pain for the faithless, we can only imagine, but never really comprehend, how deep was his joy for of the faithful Nephites.

Bruce C. Hafen

"He wept-he who had descended below all things, the Man of Sorrows, he who bore all our griefs. The height of his infinite capacity for joy is the inverse, mirror image of the depth of his capacity to bear our burdens. So it is with the enlarged caverns of feeling within our own hearts: as the sorrows of our lives carve and stretch those caverns, they expand our soul's capacity for joy. Then, when the Man of Sorrows turns our bitter tastes to sweet, our joy-and his-will fill the widened chambers of our hearts with what the scriptures call 'fulness.' That is when we have accepted his Atonement and love with such completeness that his purpose for us is fully satisfied. Then will we know that we were made for this. Then will we know where, and why, and to whom, we belong. 'For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.' (Psalm 107:9.)" (The Belonging Heart, p. 315)

3 Ne 17:23 Behold your little ones

President Michaelene P. Grassli  (Primary General President)

"To me, the word behold is significant. It implies more than just 'look and see.' When the Lord instructed the Nephites to behold their little ones, I believe he told them to give attention to their children, to contemplate them, to look beyond the present and see their eternal possibilities...It's significant to me that later the Savior gave the most sacred teachings only to the children, then loosed their tongues so they could teach the multitude. (See 3 Ne 26:14). Is it any wonder that following the Savior's visit to the Nephites, they lived in peace and righteousness for two hundred years? Because of miraculous instructions, blessings, and attention they and their children received, righteousness was perpetuated by their children's children for many generations. Let us not underestimate the capacity and potential power of today's children to perpetuate righteousness. No group of people in the Church is as receptive to the truth." (Ensign, Nov. 1992 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 434)

M. Russell Ballard

"The Savior tearfully urged his Nephite followers to 'behold your little ones' (3 Ne. 17:23). Notice that He didn't say 'glance at them' or 'casually observe them' or 'occasionally take a look in their general direction.' He said to behold them. To me that means that we should embrace them with our eyes and with our hearts; we should see and appreciate them for who they really are: spirit children of our Heavenly Father, with divine attributes.

When we truly behold our little ones, we behold the glory, wonder, and majesty of God, our Eternal Father. All children are His spirit offspring. We have no more eloquent testimony that our Heavenly Father lives and that He loves us than the first raspy cry of a newborn child. All babies have faith in their eyes and purity in their hearts. They are receptive to the truth because they have no preconceived notions; everything is real to children. Regardless of physical limitations or the challenge of circumstance, their souls are endowed naturally with divine potential that is infinite and eternal." ("Great Shall Be the Peace of Thy Children," Ensign, Apr. 1994, 59)

3 Ne 17:24 angels...came down and encircled those little ones

"Can we imagine anything more lovely, more touching, and more glorious, than this scene must have been? Can we conceive the joy that must have filled the hearts of these Nephites as they beheld the angels of Heaven descending from the Courts of Glory and ministering to their little ones? How deep must have been their love for the Savior. Who had brought these blessings to them? How strong must have grown their faith in Him? We cannot recall a circumstance in recorded history that draws Earth nearer to Heaven than this, or that seems to bind the ties so strongly that unite the Powers of Eternity with the children of mortality." (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 7, p. 175)