Thirty-three years after seeing the sign of the Savior’s birth, the Nephites began to look for the sign that Samuel the Lamanite had prophesied of the Savior’s death. Although many signs were given, doubts and disputations arose among the people. Within the next year, Samuel’s prophecy was fulfilled. After great storms, earthquakes, and other calamities caused widespread destruction, darkness covered the land for three days. In the darkness, the people who had survived the destruction heard the voice of Jesus Christ. He invited them to repent and return to Him. When the darkness dispersed, the people’s mourning turned to joy and praise of Jesus Christ.
Begin class by asking the following questions:
Are you aware of any signs that have already come to pass, showing that the Savior’s Second Coming is near? (You may want to point out that many prophecies, such as the Restoration of the gospel, the coming of the prophet Elijah, and the gospel being preached throughout the world, have been fulfilled or are being fulfilled.)
How do you feel when you recognize something as a clear sign that the Savior’s Second Coming is approaching?
Explain that we live in a time that is similar to the time just before Jesus Christ visited the Nephites. Just as the Nephites watched for the sign that Samuel the Lamanite had prophesied would signal the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we should watch for signs of the Savior’s Second Coming.
Invite students to read 3 Nephi 8:3–4 silently, identifying differences in how some of the Nephites felt about the sign. Ask students to report what they find. (Although the people watched for the sign “with great earnestness,” “great doubtings and disputations” existed among them.)
In what ways is the situation described in 3 Nephi 8:3–4 similar to conditions in the world today?
Divide students into pairs. Invite them to take turns reading aloud from 3 Nephi 8:5–18, looking for what happened in the 34th year after the birth of Jesus Christ. Have students report what they find.
Explain that after the storms and earthquakes ceased, darkness covered the land for three days. Turn off the lights in the room for a moment. Then ask students if they have ever been in a totally dark place, such as a cave or a room without windows.
How did you feel when you were in that place?
Point out that the darkness that covered the land for three days was different from the darkness that comes when we turn off the lights.
Ask students to read 3 Nephi 8:19–22 silently, looking for phrases that describe the darkness the Nephites experienced.
What phrases describe the darkness the Nephites experienced? (Responses may include “thick darkness,” “vapor of darkness,” “mists of darkness,” and “no light.”)
Ask a student to read 3 Nephi 8:23–25 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for the effect the darkness and destruction had on the people who had survived. Have students report what they find.
What principle can we learn from the people’s words in verses 24 and 25: “O that we had repented before this great and terrible day”? (Students may identify a principle such as the following: Choosing to not repent will lead to sorrow and regret.)
Invite a student to read 3 Nephi 9:1–2 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for what the people heard while in the darkness.
Whose voice do you think the people heard? (It was the voice of Jesus Christ [see 3 Nephi 9:15].)
According to verse 2, why had this destruction taken place?
Summarize 3 Nephi 9:3–12 by explaining that the Savior told the people how some of their cities had been destroyed.
Ask students to imagine those Nephites listening to the Savior’s voice in complete darkness.
Invite students to take turns reading aloud from 3 Nephi 9:13–18. Ask the class to follow along, looking for words or phrases they think might have been especially meaningful to the people as they listened to the Savior’s voice in the darkness. Invite students to consider marking what they find.
What words or phrases in these verses might have been especially meaningful to the people as they listened to the Savior’s voice in the darkness? Why?
It might be necessary to remind students that the Nephites were living the law of Moses at this time. As part of the law of Moses, the Lord commanded His people to offer animal sacrifices as a type and shadow of the sacrifice the Savior would offer through His Atonement.
Invite a student to read 3 Nephi 9:19–20 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior said the Nephites were now to offer as a sacrifice.
What did the Savior teach the Nephites to sacrifice instead of animals?
Write the following on the board: If we come unto Christ with a broken heart and contrite spirit, He will …
According to verse 20, what blessing does the Savior promise to those who come unto Him with a broken heart and contrite spirit?
Explain that being “baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost” (verse 20) refers to receiving the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Complete the statement on the board so that it conveys the following principle: If we come unto Christ with a broken heart and contrite spirit, He will bless us with the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
What do you think it means to offer a sacrifice of “a broken heart and a contrite spirit”?
Explain that Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught one way to think about the phrases “broken heart” and “contrite spirit.” Read the following statement, asking students to listen for the words Elder Christofferson used to help us understand these phrases:
“You can offer the Lord the gift of your broken, or repentant, heart and your contrite, or obedient, spirit. In reality, it is the gift of yourself—what you are and what you are becoming.
“Is there something in you or in your life that is impure or unworthy? When you get rid of it, that is a gift to the Savior. Is there a good habit or quality that is lacking in your life? When you adopt it and make it part of your character, you are giving a gift to the Lord” (D. Todd Christofferson, “When Thou Art Converted,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 12).
What word did Elder Christofferson use to help us understand the phrase “broken heart”? (Repentant.) What do you think it means to have a repentant heart?
What word did Elder Christofferson use to help us understand the phrase “contrite spirit”? (Obedient.) How would you describe someone who has an obedient spirit?
Invite students to ponder experiences they have had in which they have come unto Jesus Christ with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and were blessed with the companionship of the Holy Ghost. To help students think of experiences, you may want to share an experience of your own. Consider inviting a few students to share their experiences as well. (Caution them to not share anything that is too sacred or private.)
Invite students to continually seek to come unto Jesus Christ with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
Ask students to read 3 Nephi 9:21–22 silently, looking for the Savior’s description of how we should come unto Him. Have them report what they find.
Summarize 3 Nephi 10:1–3 by explaining that after hearing the Savior’s voice, the people were so astonished that they were silent for many hours. Then He spoke again to the people.
Display a picture of a chicken that has gathered her chicks under her wings.
Why does a mother hen gather her chicks under her wings? (One reason is to protect them from predators.)
What must the chicks do in order to be protected?
Ask a few students to take turns reading aloud from 3 Nephi 10:4–6. Point out that in these verses, the Savior speaks of the house of Israel, His covenant people.
In what ways is the Savior like a hen protecting her chicks from danger?
Why had the Savior not gathered and protected all of the house of Israel? (They would not come unto Him.)
What did the Savior promise those who would repent and return to Him? (He would gather them as a hen gathers her chicks. Write the following principle on the board: If we repent and return to the Savior, He will gather and protect us. Invite students to consider writing this truth in their scriptures near verse 6.)
What are some ways in which the Savior may gather and protect us as we repent and return to Him?
Invite a student to read 3 Nephi 10:9–11 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what occurred after the Savior had spoken to the people. Invite students to report what they find.
Summarize 3 Nephi 10:12–19 by explaining that Mormon pointed out that numerous prophets had prophesied of the death and destruction that occurred at this time among the people.
You may want to conclude by testifying of the principles you have discussed in this lesson. Invite students to apply these truths in their lives. You may also want to explain that in the next lesson, students will discuss the Savior’s visit to the people and how He personally ministered to each one of them.