Book of Mormon Lesson 39 (3 Nephi 17-19)
October 5-11


Jesus Commands the Nephites to Ponder and Pray
As Jesus prepared to leave the Nephites, He recognized that the people did not understand all that He had been teaching them. So Jesus instructed the people to go to their homes and ponder and pray about what he had taught them (3 Nephi 17:1–3). Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught, “Pondering, which means to weigh mentally, to deliberate, to meditate, can achieve the opening of the spiritual eyes of one’s understanding. Also, the Spirit of the Lord may rest upon the ponderer.”1

President Ezra Taft Benson said, “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.”2

Jesus Heals, Blesses the Children, and Prays for the People
Jesus decided to “tarry a little longer” with the people, which showed His deep feelings of love and concern for them (3 Nephi 17:4–6).

Jesus also healed and blessed the Nephites (3 Nephi 17:7–10, 20–21). And having healed them, Jesus said: “Blessed are ye because of your faith.  And now behold, my joy is full” (v. 20). “And when he had said these words, he wept” (v. 21).

Occasions on which the Savior has openly wept are few, but significant.
—    At the grave of Lazarus (John 11:35).
—    Over Jerusalem’s coming afflictions (Luke 19:41).
—        On this occasion when he blessed the Nephites.

Jesus blessed the Nephite children one by one, showing the depth of His love for little children (3 Nephi 17:21–22; see also Matt. 19:13–15).

Children are of a celestial nature (3 Nephi 11:37–38), and Jesus wants us to be like them. Some of the childlike qualities He would like us to have include:  (Mosiah 3:19).
—    Yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.
—    Put off the natural man and become a saint thru the atonement
—    Become submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord sees fit to inflict, “even as a child doth submit to his father” (v. 19).

The Savior invited the multitude to “behold your little ones” (3 Nephi 17:23–25). The Nephites saw the heavens open and saw angels descending out of heaven and encircling the children, who were also encircled about with fire as the angels ministered unto them” (v. 24).


The Sacrament
Jesus instituted the sacrament among the Nephites (3 Nephi 18:1–4). He then taught them how to properly administer the sacrament to each other (3 Nephi 18:5–11).
—    It must be blessed and passed by those who are ordained to do so (v. 5).
—    It is to be administered to all worthy members of the Church (vv. 5, 11).
—    This ordinance they were to “always observe to do, even as I have done” (v. 6), and its symbolism was to be properly taught and understood.
—    The bread and wine represent the body and blood of the Savior (vv. 7, 11).
—    It is “a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me” (v. 7).
—    It also witnesses “that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded” (v. 10).
—    If they do always remember Him “ye shall have my Spirit to be with you” (v. 7).

Partaking of the sacrament worthily is very important (3 Nephi 18:26–29). But we are not to cast out those who are unworthy to take the sacrament (3 Nephi 18:29–32). Being unworthy to partake the sacrament does not mean they are unworthy to attend the sacrament meeting.

Jesus taught on this occasion that Church discipline is necessary. But it is not intended to harm or humiliate. It is intended to help and heal.

The Nephite people then partook of sacramental emblems that the Lord had miraculously provided (3 Nephi 20:8–9).

Some Final Teachings On This Occasion
“Watch and pray always” (3 Nephi 18:15, 18). We can never “rest on our laurels” as we work out our salvation. If we are not continuously careful and prayerful, we will be “tempted by the devil, and . . . led away captive by him” (v. 15).

Pray unto the Father in Jesus Christ’s name (3 Nephi 18:19).

“Whatsoever ye shall ask . . . shall be given unto you” (3 Nephi 18:20). The key components to this process are: (1) ask the Father in Jesus’ name, (2) our request must be appropriate, and (3) we must believe that our prayer will be answered.

“Pray in your families” (3 Nephi 18:21). This crystal-clear reference to family prayer suggests that our prayers should include “that your wives and your children may be blessed.” Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “May I ask this important question: How many families in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have regular nightly and morning family prayer? Those who neglect to do so are displeasing the Lord and are entitled to the same rebuke which the Lord gave some of the leading elders of the Church in the early days. No parent should depend solely on the organizations of the Church for the training of the children. They should be taught to pray regularly, secretly as well as in the family circle. The counsel that Alma and Amulek gave to the straying Zoramites is just as essential to the Latter-day Saints today as it was two thousand years ago.”3

“Meet together oft” (3 Nephi 18:22). We are to gather together frequently in order to partake of the sacrament and to bless each other with our gifts. President Harold B. Lee said, “Your spiritual body needs nourishment at frequent intervals in order to assure its health and vigor. Earthly food does not satisfy this need. Food to satisfy your spiritual needs must come from spiritual sources. Principles of eternal truth, as contained in the gospel, and the proper exercise by engaging in spiritual activities are essential to the satisfying of your spiritual selves.”4

“Come unto Christ” (3 Nephi 18:25). The Lord has never commanded anyone to “go away, but rather [has] commanded that [we] should come unto [Him].” This is the message He expects us to take into the world unto all people. President James E. Faust said, “We long for the ultimate blessing of the Atonement—to become one with Him, to be in His divine presence, to be called individually by name as He warmly welcomes us home with a radiant smile, beckoning us with open arms to be enfolded in His boundless love (Alma 26:15; Mormon 5:11; 6:17; Moses 7:63). How gloriously sublime this experience will be if we can feel worthy enough to be in His presence! The free gift of His great atoning sacrifice for each of us is the only way we can be exalted enough to stand before Him and see Him face-to-face. The overwhelming message of the Atonement is the perfect love the Savior has for each and all of us. It is a love which is full of mercy, patience, grace, equity, long-suffering, and, above all, forgiving.”5

Avoid contention over doctrine and ordinances (3 Nephi 18:34–35). Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet said, “What is doctrinally significant from these passages is not the nature or cause of the contention, but rather that the Lord was extremely displeased with it. It is especially offensive to the Lord when there is conflict over his doctrines—in light of his reminder that we must be one if we are to be his disciples (John 17:21; see also D&C 38:27). The Savior’s ancient injunction still has spiritual significance today.”6 Elder Russell M. Nelson said, “Divine doctrine of the Church is the prime target of attack by the spiritually contentious. . . . Dissecting doctrine in a controversial way in order to draw attention to oneself is not pleasing to the Lord. . . . Contention fosters disunity.”7

Jesus Ordains the Disciples and Departs
The twelve Disciples received the Melchizedek priesthood (3 Nephi 18:36–37; Moroni 2:1–3). The word “touched” in these verses suggests that Jesus laid his hands upon his disciples to ordain them. This was apparently their ordination to the Melchizedek priesthood. They had received the Aaronic priesthood earlier when Jesus first descended out of heaven and gave them power to baptize (3 Nephi 11:22).

Jesus departed in a cloud (3 Nephi 18:38–39). The multitude didn’t see it because He was enveloped in a cloud (vv. 38–39). But the Disciples did see him ascend, and testified to the multitude that it had happened (v. 39).

The Disciples Teach and Baptize the People
The Nephites returned to their homes and prepared for Jesus’ return on the next day (3 Nephi 19:1–3). They spread the word abroad that they had seen Jesus and that He was coming back the next day (vv. 1–2). This suggests that there were some in the vicinity of the temple at Bountiful who were not there when Jesus first descended.

The names of the Nephite Disciples are given to us in this verse (3 Nephi 19:4):
—    Nephi            —        Timothy, the brother of Nephi, whom he had raised from the dead
—    Kumen        —    Jonas, son of Timothy
—    Kumenonhi    —    Mathoni
—    Shemlon        —    Mathonihah, brother of Mathoni
—    Jonas            —    Jeremiah
—    Zedekiah        —    Isaiah

While the multitude was waiting for the Savior’s return, the twelve Disciples taught, prayed, and ministered unto the people (3 Nephi 19:4–9). They also “prayed to the Father in the name of Jesus” for “that which they most desired. . .that the Holy Ghost should be given unto them” (v. 9). Their desire for this gift is understandable, given the awesome responsibility that rested upon them.

The disciples were re-baptized on this occasion and received the Holy Ghost (3 Nephi 19:10–14). These were re-baptisms, since the disciples were already faithful members of the Church before Jesus came to minister on this continent. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “When Christ appeared to the Nephites on this continent, he commanded them to be baptized, although they had been baptized previously for the remission of their sins. . . .  The Savior commanded Nephi and the people to be baptized again, because he had organized anew the Church under the gospel. Before that it had been organized under the law.”8

When they had all been baptized, “the Holy Ghost did fall upon them,” (v. 13) and angels came down out of heaven and ministered unto them (v. 14).

The Savior Returns to Teach and Pray
The Savior appeared again to the Nephites (3 Nephi 19:15). This was the promised return of the Savior for which the multitude had gathered on this second day.

After instructing the disciples to pray, Jesus “went a little way off from them” to pray alone (3 Nephi 19:16–17, 19). While Jesus was thus separated from them, the people “began to pray  . . .unto Jesus, calling him their Lord and their God” (3 Nephi 19:18, 24–25, 30).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Jesus was present before them as the symbol of the Father. Seeing him, it was as though they saw the Father; praying to him, it was as though they prayed to the Father. It was a special and unique situation that as far as we know has taken place only once on earth during all the long ages of the Lord’s hand-dealings with his children.”9

Elder McConkie also said, “The only scriptural instances in which prayers were addressed directly to the Son were when—and because!—that Holy Being, as a resurrected personage, was standing before the petitioners.”10 However, we do not pray to Christ, nor through Him; we pray only to the Father.

Jesus’ prayer for the Nephites (3 Nephi 19:20–23).  Compare this prayer to the great intercessory prayer he offered at Jerusalem before His crucifixion (John 17:20–23)..

The prayers of the Nephite disciples were pleasing to the Lord (3 Nephi 19:24–26). When He had finished his prayer, he returned to find His disciples praying without ceasing. This is, no doubt, what he had wanted Peter, James, and John to do when he was praying in Gethsemane, but which they did not do because they were exhausted from the day’s events (Matthew 26:38–45; D&C 88:52, 58, 60).

Jesus returned and prayed a second time (3 Nephi 19:27–30). This prayer added additional ideas about the basis of our relationship with both the Father and the Son.

The multitude were able to hear and understand Jesus’ words the third time He prayed because their hearts were finally “open” (3 Nephi 19:31–34). Even so, the “tongue cannot speak the words which he prayed, neither can [they] be written by man” (vv. 32, 34)    . This may have been (1) because they were too sacred to be spoken or written on earth, or (2) because some celestial things are simply beyond our ability to describe with words, or (3) both of these reasons.  Whatever the reason, we are not given detailed information concerning this third prayer.

Clearly, the response of the Nephites to Jesus’ teaching was much better than that He received from the Jews (3 Nephi 19:35–36). Faith is the prerequisite to revelation and spiritual experiences (Ether 12:6).

1.  In Conference Report, April 1982, 33; or Ensign, May 1982, 23.
2.  The Teachings of President Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 390.
3.  Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. [1957], 5:48.
4.  The Teachings of President Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [1996], edited by Clyde J. Williams [1996], 121.
5.  “The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope,” Ensign, November 2001, 20.
6.  George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 4:57.
7.  Ensign, May 1989, 70–71.
8.  Doctrines of Salvation 2:336.
9.  The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ [1978], 561.
10.  Doctrinal New Testament Commentary,2:79.