When Jesus Christ asked each of His twelve Nephite disciples what they desired of Him, nine requested to speedily return to Him when their ministry on the earth was complete. Three asked to remain on the earth to bring souls to Him until His Second Coming. The Lord honored both sets of righteous desires. Mormon provided some details of the Three Nephites’ ministry, and he also shared what the Lord had revealed to him about the physical change the Three Nephites experienced so they could remain on the earth.
Suggestions for Teaching
Jesus Christ grants the desires of His Nephite disciples
Invite students to ponder how they would respond if Jesus Christ appeared to them and asked, “What is it that ye desire of me?” Ask them to write their responses in notebooks or scripture study journals. Give them the opportunity to share what they have written if they feel comfortable doing so.
Invite students to read 3 Nephi 28:1–3 silently, looking for the response of nine Nephite disciples when the Lord asked them this question. After students report what they have learned, ask:
How did the Savior feel about the desire of these nine disciples?
Invite students to read 3 Nephi 28:4–9 silently, looking for what the remaining three disciples desired of the Savior. Have students report what they find. (It may be helpful to draw students’ attention to the following statement in 3 Nephi 28:9: “Ye have desired that ye might bring the souls of men unto me.”)
How did the Savior feel about the desire of these three disciples?
According to 3 Nephi 28:8–9, what did the Savior promise the Three Nephites so their righteous desires could be fulfilled?
Invite a student to read 3 Nephi 28:10 aloud, and ask the class to look for the blessings the Lord promised the Three Nephites.
What did the Lord promise the Three Nephites? When have you seen that service to others leads to joy?
What can we learn about the Lord from 3 Nephi 28:1–10? (Students’ responses to this question may include that the Lord blesses us according to our righteous desires and that the Lord is pleased when we desire to help others come unto Him.)
To help students understand the importance of righteous desires, read the following statements:
Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:
“What we insistently desire, over time, is what we will eventually become and what we will receive in eternity. …
“Righteous desires need to be relentless, therefore” (“According to the Desire of [Our] Hearts,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 21–22).
President Brigham Young taught:
“The men and women, who desire to obtain seats in the celestial kingdom, will find that they must battle with the enemy of all righteousness every day” (“Remarks,” Deseret News, Dec. 28, 1864, 98).
Why do you think we have to battle every day in order for our righteous desires to be fulfilled?
When have you felt that the Lord has blessed you because of your righteous desires?
Refer students to the desires they wrote about at the beginning of class. Invite them to write a few sentences about what they will start doing today to ensure that those righteous desires can be fulfilled.
Mormon describes the ministry of the Three Nephites
Invite a student to read 3 Nephi 28:12–16 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happened to the Nephite disciples after the Savior departed from them. Explain that the disciples experienced transfiguration—a temporary change in their bodies.
According to 3 Nephi 28:15, what was one reason the disciples needed to be transfigured? (So “they could behold the things of God.”)
Explain that beginning with 3 Nephi 28:17, we read Mormon’s description of the ministry of the Three Nephites. Invite students to read 3 Nephi 28:17 silently, looking for what Mormon did not know about the physical condition of the Three Nephites when he wrote this account. (You may want to tell students that later in the lesson, they will learn more about the change that the Three Nephites experienced.)
Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from 3 Nephi 28:18–23. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Lord blessed the Three Nephites so they could carry out their righteous desires.
What did the Three Nephites do to fulfill their desire to bring others to the Savior?
In what ways did the Lord bless them so they could fulfill their desire?
Invite students to read 3 Nephi 28:25–32 silently, identifying people who have benefited and will yet benefit from the ministry of the Three Nephites. You may want to suggest that students mark what they find. (Note that 3 Nephi 28:27–28 shows one reason why we should be cautious about believing and sharing stories from people who claim to have met the Three Nephites: Mormon said that the people among whom the Three Nephites serve “shall know them not.”)
Mormon learns about the nature of translated beings
Ask students if they have ever had a question about the gospel or if they have ever read something in the scriptures that they did not understand. Remind them that when Mormon first wrote about the transfiguration of the Three Nephites, he said that he did not fully understand the change in their physical condition during their ministry on the earth (see 3 Nephi 28:17).
To whom do you normally turn when you have questions about the gospel or about scripture passages? Why?
Invite students to read 3 Nephi 28:36–37 silently to discover what Mormon did to find the answer to his question.
What principle can we learn from Mormon about how to receive additional understanding? (Though students may answer this question in different ways, be sure they identify the following principle: When we lack understanding, we should inquire of Heavenly Father and we will receive guidance.)
What are some examples that illustrate this principle?
What are some situations in which we might need to ask Heavenly Father for greater understanding?
Read the following statement, in which President Spencer W. Kimball highlights a few circumstances in which we should pray for help:
“We each have so much need for his help as we seek to learn gospel truths and then live them, as we seek his help in the major decisions of our lives, decisions involving schooling, marriage, employment, place of residence, raising our families, serving with each other in the work of the Lord, and seeking his forgiveness and continual guidance and protection in all we do. Our list of needs is long and real and heartfelt. …
“After a lifetime of prayers, I know of the love and power and strength that comes from honest and heartfelt prayer. I know of the readiness of our Father to assist us in our mortal experience, to teach us, to lead us, to guide us. Thus, with great love, our Savior has said, ‘What I say unto one I say unto all; pray always.’ (D&C 93:49.)” (“Pray Always,” Ensign, Oct. 1981, 3, 6).
How can you increase your faith in the power of prayer? When have you and your family received answers to your prayers?
Encourage students to go to Heavenly Father in prayer as they seek to understand the gospel and face life’s challenges. Testify of the blessings that have come into your life as you have taken your challenges and questions to Heavenly Father.
Explain that the change experienced by the Three Nephites is called translation. Some of the Lord’s faithful servants have been translated so they can continue their ministry on the earth. As Mormon continued to inquire about this change, he learned about the nature of translated beings.
Write Translated Beings on the board. Invite a student to read 3 Nephi 28:37–38 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Mormon learned about the change that occurred in the bodies of the Three Nephites.
What did Mormon learn about translated beings? (Ask a student to serve as a scribe and write the other students’ answers on the board. Answers should include that translated beings do not “taste of death,” that they do not feel pain, and that they do not experience sorrow except for the sorrow they feel because of the sins of the world.)
Why was this change to their bodies necessary? (You may want to have students review 3 Nephi 28:6–7. The change was necessary so they could fulfill their righteous desire to remain on the earth and continue to bring souls unto Christ until the Savior’s Second Coming.)
Invite students to read 3 Nephi 28:39–40 silently, looking for additional information about translated beings. As students report, have another scribe write their findings on the board. (Answers should include that translated beings cannot be tempted by Satan, that they are sanctified and holy, and that “the powers of the earth [cannot] hold them.”) You may need to explain that although translated beings do not suffer the pains of death, they are not resurrected. They will not receive that “greater change” until the Judgment Day, when they will be changed from mortality to immortality quickly—“in the twinkling of an eye” (see 3 Nephi 28:8, 40).
Conclude by testifying of the principles and doctrines discussed in class. Invite students to act upon the promptings they have received from the Spirit.
Commentary and Background Information
3 Nephi 28. Transfiguration and translation
The Three Nephites were transfigured and translated.
Transfiguration, which is mentioned in 3 Nephi 28:13–17, is “the condition of persons who are temporarily changed in appearance and nature—that is, lifted to a higher spiritual level—so that they can endure the presence and glory of heavenly beings” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Transfiguration,” scriptures.lds.org; see also D&C 67:11; Moses 1:11). The scriptures tell of people who have been transfigured, including Moses (see Moses 1:9–11); Jesus Christ, Peter, James, and John (see Matthew 17:1–8); and Joseph Smith (see Joseph Smith—History 1:14–20).
Translated beings are “persons who are changed so that they do not experience pain or death until their resurrection to immortality” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Translated Beings,” scriptures.lds.org; see also 3 Nephi 28:7–9, 20–22, 37–40). Their purpose is to bring souls to Christ (see 3 Nephi 28:9). The scriptures contain accounts of people who have been translated, including Enoch (see Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5), Moses (see Alma 45:19), Elijah (see 2 Kings 2:11), and John the Beloved (see John 21:22–23; D&C 7).