As Jesus Christ continued to teach the Nephites, He explained that the coming forth of the Book of Mormon in the last days would be a sign that He had started gathering Israel and fulfilling His covenant with His people. Emphasizing His great love for His covenant people, the Savior quoted Isaiah’s prophecies about the restoration of the covenant people.
Suggestions for Teaching
Jesus Christ teaches that the coming forth of the Book of Mormon will be a sign of the gathering of Israel in the last days
Before class, draw the following signs on the board (or use other signs that are common where you live).
Ask students to identify what each sign means. Then ask the following questions:
What are signs used for? (To prepare, warn, and instruct us.)
Why is it important that a sign be posted properly and that the message on the sign be easy to understand?
Remind students that the scriptures often speak of signs that prepare, warn, and instruct us concerning the fulfillment of Heavenly Father’s plan. Invite students to look through 3 Nephi 21:1–2, 7, looking for the word sign. You may want to suggest that they mark the word wherever it appears in those verses. Then ask them to carefully read verse 1 silently.
Why did the Lord say He would give this particular sign? (So people will know that He is gathering the house of Israel.)
Invite students to read 3 Nephi 21:1–7 silently, and ask them to note the phrases “these things” and “these works” and to consider what those phrases refer to.
Speaking to the Nephites, the Savior spoke of “these things which I declare unto you” (3 Nephi 21:2). Where would His words to the Nephites be recorded? (In the Book of Mormon.)
According to these verses, what is one sign that God is fulfilling His covenants in the latter days? (Help students identify the following truth [write it on the board]: The coming forth of the Book of Mormon is a sign that God is fulfilling His covenant to gather Israel in the latter days.)
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for ways the Book of Mormon helps people gather to the Lord’s work.
“The Book of Mormon is central to this work. It declares the doctrine of the gathering. It causes people to learn about Jesus Christ, to believe His gospel, and to join His Church. In fact, if there were no Book of Mormon, the promised gathering of Israel would not occur” (“The Gathering of Scattered Israel,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2006, 80).
When has the Book of Mormon helped you in these ways? When have you seen the Book of Mormon help other people in these ways?
Invite a student to read 3 Nephi 21:9 aloud, and ask the class to note the phrase “a great and a marvelous work.” Point out that this phrase refers to the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which includes the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.
What is great and marvelous about the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Point out that 3 Nephi 21:9 refers to “a man.” Invite students to consider who this man might be. Then display a picture of Joseph Smith (perhaps the picture Brother Joseph or the picture The First Vision [Gospel Art Book (2009), no. 87 or no. 90]). Tell students that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles identified the man as Joseph Smith (see Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon , 287–88). Invite students to read 3 Nephi 21:10–11 silently, pondering how the Prophet Joseph Smith fits the description in these verses.
How has God shown through Joseph Smith that His “wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil”?
According to 3 Nephi 21:11, what will happen to those who do not believe in the words of Christ brought forth through Joseph Smith? (They will be “cut off” from the blessings that come through covenants.)
The Savior speaks of the destruction of the unrepentant and the restoration of His people who will repent and return to Him
Summarize 3 Nephi 21:12–21 by explaining that the Savior gave a warning to those in the last days who would not believe in Him and repent. He said that their material possessions, cities, strongholds, and evil practices would be destroyed. He also said that they would be cut off from His covenant people.
Invite students to read 3 Nephi 21:22, 25–28 silently, looking for blessings and responsibilities that will come to those in the last days who will repent and hearken to the Savior’s words.
Ask students how they might summarize the teachings in 3 Nephi 21:12–22, 25–28. Invite a student to write their responses on the board. Then summarize all the responses on the board by pointing out that as we repent and hearken to the Savior’s words, we are gathered as part of His covenant people. (You may want to write this truth on the board.)
Draw a tent on the board or on a poster (you may want to do this before class). Explain that Jesus Christ quoted a prophecy that He had inspired the prophet Isaiah to write centuries earlier. In this prophecy, Isaiah compared the Church, with its covenants and blessings, to a tent.
What are some advantages to being under the covering of a tent? (Answers may include that a tent provides protection from storms and shade from the sun.)
How is the Church like a tent?
Ask a student to read 3 Nephi 22:2 aloud.
Why might this “tent” need to be enlarged and strengthened in the latter days? (Because many people will join the Church or return to their covenants with the Lord.) What can you do to help enlarge the tent and strengthen the stakes? (Encourage students to act on their answers to this question.)
Explain that in this same prophecy, Isaiah used another metaphor. He referred to the house of Israel as a wife whose husband is the Lord. Invite a student to read 3 Nephi 22:4–5 aloud, and ask the class to look for words of comfort for the wife.
What words of comfort do you see in 3 Nephi 22:4? (Answers may include “thou shalt not be put to shame” and “thou … shalt not remember the reproach [disgrace] of thy youth.”) Why is it comforting to know that the “husband” is the “Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel”? (3 Nephi 22:5).
How are these verses similar to the Savior’s response to us when we sin?
Invite students to read 3 Nephi 22:7–10 silently, looking for promises the Savior makes to His covenant people who return to Him.
What does the Savior promise to those who return to Him?
What are some truths we learn about the Lord in these verses? (Students may share a few different answers to this question. Make sure they identify the following truth: The Lord shows everlasting kindness and mercy to people who return to Him. You may want to write this truth on the board. You might also consider suggesting that students write it in their scriptures next to 3 Nephi 22:7–10.)
To help students better understand 3 Nephi 22:4–10, consider reading the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“Even though there has been barrenness and sometimes unfaithfulness, yet will the husband (Christ) reclaim and redeem his bride (Israel). The imagery of Jehovah as bridegroom and Israel as bride is among the most commonly used metaphors in scripture, being used by the Lord and his prophets to describe the relationship between Deity and the children of the covenant.
“… Christ has, on occasion, been rightfully angry with backsliding Israel, but that has always been brief and temporary—‘a small moment.’ Compassion and mercy always return and prevail in a most reassuring way. The mountains and the hills may disappear. The water of the great seas may dry up. The least likely things in the world may happen, but the Lord’s kindness and peace will never be taken from his covenant people. He has sworn with a heavenly oath that he will not be wroth with them forever” (Christ and the New Covenant, 290).
What evidences of the Savior’s mercy and kindness have you seen in your life? (Make sure students understand that they do not need to share anything that is too personal or private.)
How can having a knowledge of the Savior’s mercy and kindness influence our faithfulness to covenants?
Explain that the Savior continued to teach the Nephites of the blessings that await the righteous. Invite students to search 3 Nephi 22:13–17 silently, looking for one promised blessing that is especially meaningful to them. Point out that as we read about these promised blessings, we see that the Lord’s people will be established in righteousness and will triumph over wickedness.
Conclude with your testimony of the truths that have been discussed in this lesson. Invite students to write three or four sentences in notebooks or scripture study journals about one thing they can do today to qualify for the blessings the Lord desires to give them.
Commentary and Background Information
3 Nephi 21:12–13. “As a lion among the beasts of the forest”
“These words of our Lord to the Nephites are quoted from Micah 5:8–9 and have reference to the desolations and ultimate burning that shall destroy the wicked at the Second Coming. Except for a few who are the humble followers of Christ, the Gentiles will not repent. They will revel in their abominations and sin against the restored gospel, and they will be burned by the brightness of our Lord’s coming while the righteous—here called the remnant of Jacob—shall abide the day. And then, in the prophetic imagery, it will be as though the remnant of Israel overthrew their enemies as a young lion among the flocks of sheep” (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man , 248).
3 Nephi 21:22. “I will establish my church among them”
The gathering of Israel occurs as people believe in Jesus Christ and become part of His Church (see 1 Nephi 15:14–16; 2 Nephi 9:1–2; 3 Nephi 5:20–26; 21:22; Mormon 9:36–37). Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught:
“No one is ever gathered with Israel until they accept the Crucified One. … The present gathering of the Jews to Palestine is political, not spiritual, and it is not the gathering of Israel of which the prophecies speak.
“The gathering of Israel consists of joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which church is the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith , 564, 565; see also pages 511, 519–20 and The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man , 229).
3 Nephi 21:22–25. The New Jerusalem
Daniel H. Ludlow clarified who will build the city of New Jerusalem:
“The ‘New Jerusalem’ of the last days will be built on the American continent by (1) ‘the remnant of Jacob,’ (2) the Gentiles who ‘shall come into the covenant and be numbered among … the remnant of Jacob,’ and (3) ‘as many of the house of Israel as shall come.’ (3 Nephi 21:22–25. Read also 3 Nephi 20:22; Ether 13:1–12.)” (A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon , 281).
3 Nephi 22:2. “Strengthen thy stakes”
President Ezra Taft Benson explained the meaning of the term stake as it is used in 3 Nephi 22:2 and other scripture passages:
“The term stake is a symbolic expression. Picture in your mind a great tent held up by cords extended to many stakes that are firmly secured in the ground.
“The prophets likened latter-day Zion to a great tent encompassing the earth. That tent was supported by cords fastened to stakes. Those stakes, of course, are various geographical organizations spread out over the earth. Presently, Israel is being gathered to the various stakes of Zion” (“Strengthen Thy Stakes,” Ensign, Jan. 1991, 2).