Lesson 125: 3 Nephi 15–16

Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual, 2017


Introduction

As Jesus Christ continued teaching the people at the temple in the land Bountiful, He declared that the law of Moses was fulfilled and that He was the light and the law that the people should look to. He then explained to the twelve disciples that the people in the Americas were the “other sheep” of whom He had spoken in Jerusalem (see John 10:14–16). He also promised that those who repent and return to Him will be numbered among His covenant people.

Suggestions for Teaching

3 Nephi 15:1–10

The Savior declares that He has fulfilled the law of Moses

Before class begins, draw pictures of the following items on the board: a lighted candlestick, a sad face, a mote (or speck) and a beam of wood, and a house built on a rock.

Invite students to explain how these drawings relate to the Savior’s teachings in 3 Nephi 12–14. (The candlestick represents the commandment to “let your light so shine” [3 Nephi 12:16]; the sad face represents the commandment to avoid having a sad countenance and disfiguring our faces while fasting [see 3 Nephi 13:16]; the mote and beam represent the Savior’s teachings about judging others [see 3 Nephi 14:2–5]; and the house built on the rock represents the spiritual condition and blessings of those who obey the Savior’s commandments [see 3 Nephi 14:24].)

Explain that after the Savior taught His commandments to the multitude, He perceived that some among them had a question. Ask students to scan 3 Nephi 15:1–2 to find what these people wanted to know.

  • What did the people want to know? (They wondered what the Savior wanted them to do “concerning the law of Moses.” The Nephites’ worship, rites, and Church organization had been built on the law of Moses to prepare the people for the coming of Jesus Christ and to help them look forward to His atoning sacrifice. Apparently, some were confused about what they should do instead of keeping the law of Moses.)

Ask a few students to take turns reading aloud from 3 Nephi 15:3–9. Invite the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior taught about the law of Moses and about Himself.

  • What did Jesus Christ teach about the law of Moses?

  • What truths did Jesus Christ teach about Himself? (Students may give a variety of answers. As they respond, help them identify the following truths: Jesus Christ is the law and the light. If we look to Jesus Christ and endure to the end, He will give us eternal life. Write these truths on the board.)

  • Why would these truths have been important for the Nephites to understand at this time?

Invite a student to read 3 Nephi 15:10 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior instructed the Nephites to do that can help us look to Him.

  • What did the Savior instruct the Nephites to do?

Give students a minute to silently review the Savior’s commandments recorded in 3 Nephi 12–14, including the truths they may have marked or written in their scriptures. Ask them to identify a commandment that can help us look to Him and endure to the end. Invite them to report what they find to a partner and to explain how obeying that commandment can help us look to Jesus Christ and endure to the end.

Share your testimony that if we look to Jesus Christ and endure to the end by keeping His commandments, He will give us eternal life.

Invite students to think of a commandment or gospel standard that they will seek to better obey in order to look to Jesus Christ and endure to the end.

3 Nephi 15:11–16:5

Jesus Christ speaks to His disciples concerning His other sheep

Ask students to consider whether they have ever felt forgotten or alone or if they have ever wondered if Heavenly Father knows who they are.

Write the following statement on the board: God cares for all His children, and He manifests Himself to them. Assure students of the truth of this statement, and invite them to watch for evidence of its truth as they study the rest of 3 Nephi 15 and the beginning of 3 Nephi 16.

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from 3 Nephi 15:11–17. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord said to the people in Jerusalem about His people in the Americas. You might also want to have students read John 10:14–16. (Help students understand that “other sheep” is a reference to other followers of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. The word fold can refer to a sheep pen, but it also denotes a group of people with a common belief.)

  • What did the Lord say to the people in Jerusalem about His people in the Americas?

  • According to 3 Nephi 15:17, how did the Lord promise to manifest Himself to His other sheep, or followers? (They would hear His voice.)

Ask a student to read 3 Nephi 15:18–19 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the reason why Heavenly Father commanded Jesus Christ to withhold knowledge of His other sheep from the people in Jerusalem.

Summarize 3 Nephi 15:21–23 by explaining that the Lord told the Nephites that they were the other sheep of whom He had spoken; however, the Jews in Jerusalem had thought He was speaking of the Gentiles, or non-Israelites. They had not understood that the Gentiles would not personally hear His voice.

Invite students to search 3 Nephi 15:22–23 and 3 Nephi 16:4, looking for how the Lord declared He would manifest Himself to the Gentiles.

  • How did the Lord say He would manifest Himself to the Gentiles? (Through the preaching of others, through the witness of the Holy Ghost, and through the writings of prophets.)

  • How do these teachings illustrate that God cares for all His children and manifests Himself to them?

  • In what ways has the Lord manifested Himself to you and your family?

  • How can you assist in the Lord’s effort to manifest Himself to all of His people?

Invite a student to read 3 Nephi 15:24 aloud, and ask the class to listen for how the Lord assured the Nephites of His care for them. You might ask students how they might feel if they heard the Lord say these words to them.

Ask students to read 3 Nephi 16:1–3 silently and identify who else would hear the Savior’s voice. Explain that we do not have a record of the other places and people the Savior visited, but it is clear that He visited other groups or “folds.”

3 Nephi 16:6–20

Jesus Christ pronounces blessings and warnings to the Gentiles who will live in the latter days

Ask students if they have ever wanted to be a part of a group, club, or team. Ask what qualifications were required to become a member of the group they wanted to be a part of. Suggest that the greatest group we can become members of is that of the covenant people of the Lord.

Invite a student to read 3 Nephi 16:6–7 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord said would happen in the last days because the Gentiles would believe in Him and the house of Israel would not believe in Him. (You may want to explain that Book of Mormon prophets used the term Gentiles to refer to people who were not from the Holy Land. Therefore, the word can refer to members of the Church as well as to nonbelievers and members of other faiths.) After students respond, summarize 3 Nephi 16:8–9 by explaining that Jesus Christ prophesied that there will also be unbelieving Gentiles in the last days who will scatter and mistreat members of the house of Israel. Invite a student to read 3 Nephi 16:10 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what will happen to these unbelieving Gentiles.

  • What did the Lord declare that the unbelieving Gentiles would lose?

  • How might this apply to those who know the truth but become lifted up in pride?

Explain that the Lord promised to keep His covenant with the house of Israel by bringing the gospel to them (see 3 Nephi 16:11–12). Invite a student to read 3 Nephi 16:13 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what is required for a person to become a member of the Lord’s covenant people. Write the following on the board: “If we … , then we …” Ask students to use 3 Nephi 16:13 to complete this statement. Students should be able to identify the following truth: If we repent and return to Jesus Christ, then we will be numbered among His people.

  • Why is it a blessing to be numbered among the Lord’s people?

Conclude by sharing your testimony of the truths taught in the lesson today.

Commentary and Background Information

3 Nephi 15:2. “Old things had passed away, and … all things had become new”

By the time of the Savior’s mortal ministry, the law of Moses had been at the foundation of Israelite religious and social life for more than a thousand years. The Nephites possessed written records of the law on the brass plates, and Nephite prophets taught and observed the law. When the Savior visited the Nephites, He taught them that the law had been completely fulfilled in Him. However, they were not to think of the law of Moses as having been destroyed or having “passed away” (3 Nephi 12:17–18). How is it that the Savior “fulfilled” but did not “destroy” the law of Moses? The law of Moses included both moral and ritual aspects.

The moral aspects included such commandments as “Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Jesus Christ taught the Nephites that they were to avoid not only murder and adultery, but also anger and lust—conditions of the heart that lead to murder and adultery (see 3 Nephi 12:21–30). Thus the gospel of Jesus Christ fulfilled the law in the sense that it expanded the moral aspects of the law of Moses by being a higher law; it included the moral imperatives of the law of Moses and placed them in the context of broader gospel principles that require a change of heart.

The ritual aspects of the law of Moses included commandments about animal sacrifice and burnt offerings—what Abinadi called “performances” and “ordinances” (Mosiah 13:30). The Nephite prophets understood that these parts of the law of Moses were meant to help people look forward to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (see 2 Nephi 25:24; Jacob 4:5; Mosiah 16:14–15). Therefore, when the Savior’s mortal mission was completed, these forward-looking ordinances could no longer look ahead to a future event—the event had happened. Thus the Savior taught the Nephites that animal sacrifices and burnt offerings were to be “done away” and that His followers were to offer instead the “sacrifice” of “a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:19–20). In place of ordinances that looked forward to the Atonement, the Savior instituted the sacrament, an ordinance of remembrance, to look back to the Savior’s atoning sacrifice (see 3 Nephi 18:1–11).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–1985) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated:

Elder Bruce R. McConkie

“Jesus came to restore that gospel fulness which men had enjoyed before the day of Moses, before the time of the lesser order. Obviously he did not come to destroy what he himself had revealed to Moses anymore than a college professor destroys arithmetic by revealing the principles of integral calculus to his students. Jesus came to build on the foundation Moses laid. By restoring the fulness of the gospel he fulfilled the need for adherence to the terms and conditions of the preparatory gospel. No one any longer needed to walk by the light of the moon, for the sun had risen in all its splendor” (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary [1965], 1:219–20; see also Stephen E. Robinson, “The Law after Christ,” Ensign, Sept. 1983, 69–73).

3 Nephi 15:1–10. Jesus Christ gave and fulfilled the law of Moses

Earlier Book of Mormon prophets taught that the law of Moses would eventually be fulfilled. Nephi and Abinadi prepared their people to eventually accept the ending of the law of Moses. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles identified the reasons the Nephites were able to give up the old law and embrace the new:

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

“Clearly the Nephite congregation understood this more readily than did the Jewish world, partly because the Nephite prophets had been so careful to teach the transitional nature of the law. Abinadi had said, ‘It is expedient that ye should keep the law of Moses as yet; but I say unto you, that the time shall come when it shall no more be expedient to keep the law of Moses’ [Mosiah 13:27; italics added]. In that same spirit Nephi emphasized, ‘We speak concerning the law that our children may know the deadness of the law; and they, by knowing the deadness of the law, may look forward unto that life which is in Christ, and know for what end the law was given. And after the law is fulfilled in Christ, that they need not harden their hearts against him when the law ought to be done away’ [2 Nephi 25:27; italics added].

“That kind of teaching—a caution against hardening one’s heart against Christ in ignorant defense of the law of Moses—could have served (and saved) so many living in the Old World then and living throughout the world now” (Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon [1997], 156–57).

3 Nephi 15:5–8. “The covenant … is not all fulfilled”

What did Jesus mean when He said, “The covenant which I have made with my people is not all fulfilled” (3 Nephi 15:8)? Jehovah made a covenant with Abraham anciently. Abraham was promised (1) eternal posterity, (2) a land of inheritance, and (3) God’s priesthood power. These promises were also made to Abraham’s descendants (see D&C 132:30–31) and will be fulfilled in the future.