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Volume 5 Divine Ministry

• August 26, 2013

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A study of the Life of Christ, or of the New Testament Gospels,
would be incomplete if it did not include the contribution of the
Book of Mormon. President Ezra Taft Benson gave the following
counsel to the members of the Church:
The Book of Mormon is the instrument that God designed to “sweep
the earth as with a flood, to gather out [His] elect” (Moses 7:62). This
sacred volume of scripture needs to become more central in our
preaching, our teaching, and our missionary work.
At present, the Book of Mormon is studied in our Sunday School and
seminary classes every fourth year. This four-year pattern, however, must
not be followed by the Church members in their personal and family
study. We need to read daily from the pages of the book that will get a
man “nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”
[History of the Church, 4:461]
And when we are called upon to study or teach other scriptures, we
need to strengthen that undertaking by frequent reference to the
additional insights which the Book of Mormon may provide on the
subject. (See 1 Nephi 13:40; 2 Nephi 3:12.) [CR, October 1988, 3]
Third Nephi, the account of Jesus’ ministry to the Nephites, especially
provides extensive additional insights to an understanding of the
teachings of our resurrected Lord and Savior.

Jesus ministered for three years among the people of Palestine as
a mortal being. This will be referred to as his “mortal ministry” in this
Divine Ministry—The First Gospel Jesus Among the Nephites  The writer of the Gospel of John made a similar statement: “And there are also
many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I
suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.
Amen” (John 21:25).

Although there is a wide variance among scholars in the dating of the writing of
the New Testament Gospels, the traditional dates of the four Gospels being written are
about: Mark A.D. 65–70.; Matthew A.D. 75–80; Luke A.D. 80–85; John A.D. 95–100.
However, 1 Nephi 13:24 indicates the records were written much earlier than the
traditional dates, probably during and following Jesus’ ministry. The Nephite account
of his ministry, from which Mormon made his abridgment, was also made at the time
of the Nephite ministry (see 3 Nephi 26:7–8).
The gospel is defined in 3 Nephi 27:13–22. We will discuss the definition given
there in chapter 14 of this work.
work. His ministry in the Americas following his resurrection in
Jerusalem will be referred to as his “divine ministry.” He ministered
for just three days as a divine, resurrected being among the more
righteous of the Nephites who were spared from the destruction at the
time of his crucifixion. Although Mormon, the abridger of the records
tells us, “there cannot be written in this book even a hundredth part
of the things which Jesus did truly teach unto the people” (3 Nephi
26:6),1 what is provided gives us a basis of understanding the four
New Testament Gospels.
As pointed out by President N. Eldon Tanner, “3 Nephi gives us
additional information in more detail than the four Gospels in the
New Testament, and preserves the doctrines, teachings, and compassion
of the Lord. For this reason there are many who refer to Third
Nephi as the fifth Gospel” (CR, April 1975, 52). Acknowledging the
insight of those who call it the fifth Gospel, Third Nephi would more
accurately be viewed as the first and foremost Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Based upon the theories of the world it was written before the New
Testament Gospels,2 but more importantly, it defines and explains the
gospel per se, as well as many other teachings of the Savior.
In addition to defining the gospel,3Third Nephi interprets and
clarifies many New Testament teachings, which further justifies
designating it as the first Gospel. Third Nephi 8 through 28:12 and
Moroni 2–6 (an appendage of the Savior’s teachings to the Nephites
added by Moroni) contains as much information about Jesus’
teachings as there is in any of the four New Testament accounts. The
information in Third Nephi is also of a higher quality. President, J.
Reuben Clark made this observation several years ago:
I reflected a bit on where might I go to find the real words of the
Savior. I knew I could not go to the Bible. We do not believe the Bible
is absolutely correct. Students tell us there are 4500 different manuscripts
of the Bible, and a few years ago it was estimated that there were 120,000
variations. Then it came to me almost as a revelation: Why do you not
go to the Book of Mormon? So I took Third Nephi. I went over it with
great care. I parallel-columned it with the parts of the New Testament
concerning the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain. In the
Old Testament I noted the instructions to Malachi as they were repeated
by the Savior, because they had no record of Malachi, who lived after
they left Jerusalem.
I found some differences, some omissions from the word that he was
recorded as having spoken in Palestine. But I resorted to the Book of
Mormon and to Third Nephi with the feeling that I was getting really
what the Savior said. I commend an equal study by you brethren of those
great books of the Book of Mormon and so far as the Savior’s immediate
mission was concerned, Third Nephi. There we may believe we have the
true teachings, for the record was made by inspired men, abridged by
another inspired man, and translated through the inspiration and revelation
of the Lord himself. Brethren, I commend that to you, study it, if
you never have done so, you will find great joy in the doing. [CR, April
1960, 43]
Jesus was limited in what he could teach among the people of
Palestine because of their lack of faith. To the Nephite disciples, on
the second day of his ministry among them, he said:
“So great faith have I never seen among all the Jews; wherefore
I could not show unto them so great miracles, because of their
unbelief” (3 Nephi 19:35). He even taught many things that were not
recorded because of our lack of faith in the day when the Book of
Mormon was to come forth. If we faithfully study and follow the
Book of Mormon teachings, these unrecorded things are promised to
be given to us (see 3 Nephi 26:9–10, discussed in chapter 13).
In a general conference of the Church, President Gordon B.
Hinckley declared the importance of studying the accounts of Jesus.
Let us establish in our lives the habit of reading those things which
will strengthen our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.
He is the pivotal figure of our theology and our faith. Every Latter-day
Saint has the responsibility to know for himself or herself with a certainty
beyond doubt that Jesus is the resurrected, living son of the living God.
The Brethren of the Council of the Twelve are advocating that we read
a chapter a day of the Gospels—that is, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
in the Bible; and Third Nephi in the Book of Mormon, particularly
beginning with the eleventh chapter of Third Nephi where is found the
account of Christ’s visit among the Nephites in this hemisphere. I should
like to endorse this program and commend it to you and urge you to
follow it. [CR, April 1983, 110]
More recently President Benson has said: “3 Nephi is a book that
should be read and read again. Its testimony of the resurrected Christ
in America is given in purity and beauty.”4 A study of Third Nephi
should give us a solid foundation for understanding the gospel of the
Lord Jesus Christ as well as the accounts of his teachings in the New
Testament. For this reason, this study incorporates the concepts and
principles of the New Testament Gospels within the chronology of
the Third Nephi record, and in as far as it seems appropriate, provides
parallel accounts of Third Nephi and the New Testament Gospels.
The study of Third Nephi as an additional gospel has usually been
done as an appendage to the other gospels, probably because it was
an extension of his mortal ministry.5 The course pursued is optional,
but the book of Third Nephi is the primary source for gaining insight
into the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and is therefore
considered the First Gospel.

The angel also told Nephi: “Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew. And
I, Nephi, beheld it; and he said unto me: The book that thou beholdest is a record of the
Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of
Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a
record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so
many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto
the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles.

24 And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book
proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth
of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles
bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God.
25 Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles,
according to the truth which is in God.
26 And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the
Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church,
which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away
from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also
many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.
27 And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord,
that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.” [1 Nephi
The New Testament contains four separate accounts of Jesus
Christ’s life and mission, which are called the Gospels. They were
written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; apostles of Jesus Christ,
and eyewitnesses of his ministry. The Prophet Joseph Smith was
called to write a revelatory translation of the Bible. The Lord promised
that “ the scriptures shall be given, even as they are in mine own
bosom, to the plain and precious parts that had been lost from it
hundreds of years before.6 This work is called the Joseph Smith
Translation (hereafter the JST). In his work, the Prophet changed the
title of these four records from “Gospels” to “Testimonies” of
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, showing that they are more correctly
the written testimonies of these disciples about the life and ministry
of Jesus of Nazareth. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the
synoptic [synonymous] Gospels because they concentrate primarily
on a general survey of Jesus’ ministry. Matthew begins with the
genealogy and birth of Jesus Christ, and places emphasis on the
fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. Mark begins with John the
Baptist’s preparatory ministry before the ministry of Jesus, and
although he has longer, more detailed accounts than the other gospels,
he does not include many events that are in the others, making it the
shortest record. Luke begins with the births of John the Baptist and
Jesus, and is much more comprehensive, being written to the larger
gentile audience. John’s testimony begins with a discussion of the
pre-mortal Messiah, a brief witness of Christ as the light of the world,
and John the Baptist’s witness of him. His account is more doctrinal,
giving a spiritual dimension to the life of Christ. The majority of the
record of all four testimonies concerns the three-year ministry of Jesus
as the Christ. Each testimony adds a unique contribution to our
knowledge of his sojourn on earth.
Because of its unique contribution to an understanding of the birth
and the ministry of Jesus, Third Nephi must be considered as yet
another Gospel or Testimony. Furthermore, it confirms and clarifies
many of the doctrines and principles taught in the four New Testament
Gospels. It is indeed “Another Testament of Jesus Christ,” as
stated in the subtitle of the Book of Mormon.7 While the subtitle
appropriately refers to the whole book, it is specifically true of Third
Nephi, which covers the time period in America that parallels the
Savior living in the flesh upon the earth. Throughout this book, the
whole Book of Mormon will be used as a second witness of the
Christ, but the primary emphasis will be upon the account in Third
The Pre-Mortal Life of Jesus Christ
As noted above, the Gospel of John begins with an account of the
pre-mortal Messiah. The JST Testimony of John makes some
significant changes in the Gospel of John. The Lord gave a revelation
to the Prophet Joseph Smith that further confirms the role of Jesus
Christ prior to his coming to the earth in mortality. The three accounts
are listed below in parallel columns for easier comparison.
From the JST and the Doctrine and Covenants we learn that Jesus
was already a God in the pre-mortal life, that he was the administrator
of the gospel there, that he was a creator, and that the gospel was the
life and light of men.
John 1 JST, John 1
Doctrine and
Covenants section 93
1 In the beginning was
the Word, and the Word
was with God, and the
Word was God.
2 The same was in the
beginning with God.
3 All things were made by
him; and without him was
not any thing made that
was made.
4 In him was life; and the
life was the light of men.
5 And the light shineth in
darkness; and the darkness
comprehended it
2 In the beginning was
the gospel preached
through the Son. And the
gospel was the word, and
the word was with the
Son, and the Son was
with God, and the Son was
of God. . . .
3 All things were made
by him; and without him
was not anything made
which was made.
4 In him was the gospel,
and the gospel was the
life, and the life was the
light of men;
5 And the light shineth
in the world, and the
world perceiveth it not.
8 Therefore, in the beginning
the Word was, for he
was the Word, even the
messenger of salvation—
9 The light and the Redeemer
of the world; the
Spirit of truth, who came
into the world, because the
world was made by him,
and in him was the life of
men and the light of men.
[See also D&C 34:2]
The Book of Mormon verifies all of the JST and Doctrine and
Covenants contributions.
In about 124 B.C., an angel told King Benjamin, “For behold, the
time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent
who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity,
shall come down from heaven among the children of men” (Mosiah
About 600 B.C. he appeared to Lehi, and
later Nephi “did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me”
(1 Nephi 2:16). Lehi said to Jacob: “And thou hast beheld in thy
youth his glory” (2 Nephi 2:4). Nephi recorded: “And my brother,
Jacob, also has seen [Christ] as I have seen him” (2 Nephi 11:3). “A
voice came unto [Enos], saying: thy sins are forgiven thee” (Enos
1:5): and still later “the voice of the Lord came to [Alma]” (Mosiah
26:20). Nephi bore testimony: “But there is a God, and he is Christ,
and he cometh in the fullness of his own time” (2 Nephi 11:7). Nephi
quoted the Lord God, saying:
Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that
I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those
who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and
in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men,
yea, even upon all the nations of the earth? [2 Nephi 29:7]
Jesus Christ was also the God of the Jaredites.9 He identified himself
to the brother of Jared, “Behold, I am he who was prepared from the
foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus
Christ” (Ether 3:14). “[Christ] ministered unto [the brother of Jared]
even as he ministered unto the Nephites; and all this, that this man
might know that he was God” (Ether 3:18). Other evidences of his
pre-mortal ministry will be given as his resurrected ministry among
the Nephites is analyzed.
The Testimony of Matthew records, “Now as it is written the birth
of Jesus Christ was on this wise” and explains the espousal of Mary
to Joseph, and her being with child through the power of the Holy
Ghost (JST, Matthew 2:1; italics added). The Testimony of Luke
records the visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary. He said: “Hail, thou
Virgin, who art highly favored of the Lord. The Lord is with thee, for
thou art chosen and blessed among women. And when she saw the
angel, she was troubled at his saying, and pondered in her mind what
manner of salutation this should be.” Gabriel went on to explain that
her conception would be “Of the Holy Ghost and the power of the
Highest. Therefore also, that holy child that shall be born of thee shall
be called the Son of God” (JST, Luke 1:28–29, 35; italics added). The
Book of Mormon prophets had previously been shown, and had
recorded their testimonies, that Jesus was to be born of the Virgin
Mary as the Son of the Eternal Father. Nephi, son of Lehi, was shown
in the city of Nazareth “a virgin most beautiful and fair above all
other virgins” (1 Nephi 11:13–15), and was told by an angel:
Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God,
after the manner of flesh. And it came to pass that I beheld that she was
carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the
Spirit for the space of time the angel spake unto me saying: Look! And
I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms. And the
angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the
Eternal Father! [1 Nephi 11:18–21]
The angel’s words to Nephi were an explanation to Nephi of “the
condescension of God” (1 Nephi 11:16). Our Father in Heaven
(Elohim) had condescended or come down from his exalted place of
residence, and his exalted and glorified state, to be the father of the
Son through a mortal woman. The Spirit told Alma:
Repent ye, and prepare the way of the Lord, and walk in his paths,
which are straight; for behold, the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the
Son of God cometh upon the face of the earth. And behold, he shall be
born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being
a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and
conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea,
even the Son of God. [Alma 7:9–10]
We know no more, nor do we need to know more, of how Mary
conceived. We do know, through the Book of Mormon and JST, that
Mary was able to endure the presence of the Father through the power
of the Holy Ghost that came upon her, and that Jesus was the Son of
the Eternal Father. We also know and appreciate the greatness of
Mary as the foreordained, “chosen” woman in the pre-mortal life, and
“blessed” to be the mother of the Son of God. Certainly she was the
only woman given this high and holy calling.

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Category: Volume 5