3 Nephi 1–7

Book of Mormon Teacher Resource Manual, (2004), 210–215


Introduction

Third Nephi’s historical narrative begins “six hundred years from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem” (3 Nephi 1:1). During this time many prophecies and signs concerning the birth of Jesus Christ began to be fulfilled. The Savior’s birth in Jerusalem was marked in the Americas by a night with no darkness, just as Samuel the Lamanite had prophesied (see Helaman 14:2–6). The next thirty-three years, the period of Jesus’s mortal life, were a turbulent time for the Nephites and Lamanites. Many believers prepared for the time when the resurrected Lord would minister among them, as Nephi had prophesied (see 1 Nephi 12:1–6). At the same time the wicked tried to slay the righteous, sins and abominations increased, pride and class distinctions arose in the Church, and Satan extended his influence.

President Ezra Taft Benson said, “The record of the Nephite history just prior to the Savior’s visit reveals many parallels to our own day as we anticipate the Savior’s second coming” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 3; or Ensign, May 1987, 4). Look for these parallels as you read. Also notice how the Lord protected and comforted those who remained faithful during these trying times.

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Note: Prayerfully study each assigned scripture block and consider the principles in this section before preparing your lessons.

Additional Resources

  • Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122, pp. 113–14.

Suggestions for Teaching

Note: Choose from the ideas in this section, or use some of your own, as you prepare to teach the assigned scripture block.

3 Nephi. An overview of 3 Nephi. (10–15 minutes)

Tell students that missionaries frequently give copies of the Book of Mormon to people who are not members of the Church and ask them to read it and pray about its truthfulness. Choose a student to role-play inviting a friend to read the Book of Mormon. Ask students:

  • If you were a missionary, what parts of the Book of Mormon would you ask others to read? Why?

  • What do you think would be the value of having people who are not members of the Church read 3 Nephi?

  • Why is 3 Nephi an important part of the Book of Mormon?

Share President N. Eldon Tanner’s and President Ezra Taft Benson’s statements from the introduction to 3 Nephi (p. 210). Ask: What impresses you about these statements? Write the following outline on the board or give copies of it to students as a handout:

1. 3 Nephi 1–7. During the thirty-three years following Christ’s birth, Nephite society suffers a complete collapse because of wickedness, murder, and war.

2. 3 Nephi 8–10. Darkness, calamities, and destruction visit the American continent for three days at the time of Christ’s death.

3. 3 Nephi 11–26. The resurrected Lord ministers among the Nephites.

4. 3 Nephi 27–28. The Savior instructs His twelve Nephite disciples.

5. 3 Nephi 29–30. Mormon counsels the people of the latter days.

Read the heading at the beginning of 3 Nephi and discuss who Nephi was and how he was related to the other Nephis in the Book of Mormon. Read 3 Nephi 1:1–3; 2:9 and ask: According to these verses, why was Nephi chosen to keep the Nephite records and continue writing the Nephite history? Encourage students to watch as they study 3 Nephi for what makes it such a spiritually and doctrinally significant book.

3 Nephi 1. Prophecies from the Lord are always fulfilled. The wicked deny the fulfillment of prophecy, but the faithful rejoice in prophecy and look forward to its fulfillment. (40–45 minutes)

Ask students to name holidays or other important events they will celebrate in their lives. List them on the board, and ask:

  • Why do you look forward to these events?

  • How do you prepare for them?

  • How can preparing for these events make a difference in how you celebrate them?

For each event listed, ask students to think of someone who may not look forward to that event and why. (For example, someone who does not believe in Christ might think Christmas and Easter are unimportant.)

Read 3 Nephi 1:1, 4–5 and ask:

  • What prophecies began to be fulfilled? (see Helaman 14:1–6).

  • How significant has the birth of Christ been in your life? Why?

Explain that, just as with the events listed on the board, there were people who looked forward to the Savior’s birth and others who did not. To help students compare these groups of people, write the headings Believers and Unbelievers on the board. Read 3 Nephi 1:5–14 as a class looking for characteristics of the believers and unbelievers, and list them under the appropriate headings. Discuss what each group did, how they treated each other, and what their motivations were.

Tell students that prior to the Second Coming there will also be both believers and unbelievers. Share the statement by President Ezra Taft Benson from the introduction to 3 Nephi 1–7 (p. 210). Ask: What have you learned from 3 Nephi 1 that can help you prepare for the Second Coming?

Invite students to read 3 Nephi 1:29–30, and ask:

  • What do these verses teach about the rising generation?

  • What do you think the phrase “they became for themselves” means? (v. 29).

  • Why are the strength and testimonies of the youth so important?

Testify of the important role of the youth in the Church. Share the following statement by President David O. McKay: “The spirituality of a ward will be commensurate with the activity of the youth of that ward” (in Robert L. Backman, in Conference Report, Oct. 1982, 57; or Ensign, Nov. 1982, 40).

Invite students to compare the rising generation of Lamanites in 3 Nephi 1:29–30 with Helaman’s two thousand stripling warriors (see Alma 53:16–22; 56:44–48). Ask:

  • What did the stripling warriors do to stay strong in the faith?

  • What can we do to remain faithful?

  • How will remaining faithful help us prepare for the Second Coming?

3 Nephi 2:11–19. The evil oppose the righteous. (15–20 minutes)

Make a scoreboard and display it for the class, or draw one on the board. Briefly tell of an exciting sports event you participated in or watched, or ask a student to do so. Discuss some of the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of a scoreboard in sports?

  • Is a scoreboard only important at the end of the game? Why or why not?

  • How does being aware of the score help a player, coach, or team?

Invite students to read 3 Nephi 2:11–12 and look for two “teams” or groups of people. Ask:

  • Why is there a battle between sin and righteousness?

  • If we had a scoreboard for the battle between good and evil, what might the scores represent? (Answers might include the number of souls won or lost, the amount of influence each had in the world, and so on.)

Read 3 Nephi 2:13–19 looking for how the Nephites did during this period. Tell students that 3 Nephi 3–7 continues the account of wars and struggles between the wicked and the righteous. Have students read the chapter headings and briefly look through these chapters. Invite them to describe the spiritual struggle between the wicked and the righteous in each chapter.

Read 3 Nephi 9:13; 10:12 and look for which group survived to witness the visit of the Savior. Read Doctrine and Covenants 97:21–25 looking for what group will survive the difficulties that precede the Second Coming. Discuss some of the following questions:

  • What evidences can you think of that demonstrate that the battle between wickedness and righteousness continues today?

  • What examples might the wicked give to try to show that they are winning this battle?

  • What can the righteous give as evidence that they are winning the battle? (Answers might include the increasing numbers of members, temples, and priesthood holders.)

  • Why would you want to be on the Lord’s side in the latter days?

Share the following statement by Elder Ezra Taft Benson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve:

“This is the last and great dispensation in which the great consummation of God’s purposes will be made, the only dispensation in which the Lord has promised that sin will not prevail. The Church will not be taken from the earth again. It is here to stay. The Lord has promised it and you are a part of that Church and kingdom. … The kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God on the earth will be combined together at Christ’s coming—and that time is not far distant. How I wish we could get the vision of this work, the genius of it, and realize the nearness of that great event. I am sure it would have a sobering effect upon us if we realized what is before us” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 19).

Share also these statements made by President Benson while President of the Quorum of the Twelve:

“We live today in a wicked world. Never in our memory have the forces of evil been arrayed in such a deadly formation. The devil is well organized and has many emissaries working for him. His satanic majesty has proclaimed his intention to destroy our young people, to weaken the home and family, and to defeat the purposes of the Lord Jesus Christ through his great church” (God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties [1974], 90).

“All through the ages the prophets have looked down through the corridors of time to our day. Billions of the deceased and those yet to be born have their eyes on us. Make no mistake about it—you are a marked generation. There has never been more expected of the faithful in such a short period of time as there is of us. Never before on the face of this earth have the forces of evil and the forces of good been as well organized. Now is the great day of the devil’s power. … But now is also the great day of the Lord’s power, with the greatest number ever of priesthood holders on the earth” (“In His Steps,” in 1979 Devotional Speeches of the Year [1980], 59).

3 Nephi 3–4. Evil can be defeated by praying, repenting, uniting under righteous leaders, and relying on the power of the Lord’s words. (35–40 minutes)

Show students a variety of letters, such as a personal letter, a mission call, a form letter from an advertiser, and a thank-you card. Discuss questions such as the following:

  • What is the best letter you have ever received? Why was it the best?

  • Have you ever received a letter that made you cry? laugh? celebrate? get angry? change your attitude?

Explain to students that 3 Nephi 3:2–10 contains a letter from Giddianhi, the Gadianton leader, to Lachoneus, the Nephite governor. Have students read 3 Nephi 3:1–10 and think about how they might react if they received this letter. Discuss their impressions. (If time permits consider asking students to write a response to this letter, and read and discuss some of their letters as a class.)

Have students read 3 Nephi 3:11–12 and look for how Lachoneus responded to Giddianhi’s letter.

  • How does his reaction compare to yours?

  • Do you believe Lachoneus’s reaction was appropriate? Why or why not?

Invite students to circle the word therefore in verse 12. Tell them that this word indicates that the information that follows is a direct result of the fact that Lachoneus was a just and brave man. Read 3 Nephi 3:12–21. As you read, invite students to identify what Lachoneus and Gidgiddoni asked the Nephites to do to protect themselves from the Gadianton robbers, and list their findings on the board.

Help students apply this lesson by discussing some of the following questions:

  • The Gadianton robbers opposed the Nephites. What evils oppose us today?

  • In what ways are the evils in our society like those of the Gadianton robbers?

  • How could the warnings and counsel that Lachoneus and Gidgiddoni gave the Nephites help us?

  • The Nephites were asked to gather to Zarahemla. Where can we find safety today? (see D&C 115:4–6).

  • In what ways has the Church been a protection or help to you? (Church members are taught correct doctrine, receive prophetic warnings of society’s evils, associate with people with good values, and so on.)

Read 3 Nephi 3:22, 25–26 to show that the Nephites followed the counsel of Lachoneus and Gidgiddoni. Read Doctrine and Covenants 1:14 and testify of the blessings that come from following inspired leaders. Invite a student to read the chapter heading for 3 Nephi 4. Ask:

  • What blessings came to the Nephites because they obeyed inspired counsel?

  • Read 3 Nephi 4:30–33. Whom did the Nephites credit for their victory?

  • Why would it be important to follow this example?

Invite students to share times when they may have felt as the Nephites did in these verses.

3 Nephi 5. The Book of Mormon record was written and preserved so the Lamanites could come to a knowledge of their fathers and all people could come to know their Savior. (20–30 minutes)

Write Cause and Effect on the board (leave enough space for another word between them). Ask students:

  • What do these words mean?

  • Why do they belong together? (If you have time, do an object lesson that illustrates these words. For example, you could illustrate “cause” by planting a seed in a flowerpot, watering it, and setting it in the sun. To illustrate “effect,” show students a mature plant in a second pot.)

Write therefore between the two words on the board, and draw an arrow around it.

Cause

arrow

Effect

Ask students what the word therefore means. (Therefore means that what came before the word caused or led to what came after the word.)

Write 3 Nephi 5:1–2 under Cause and 3 Nephi 5:3 under Effect. Have students read 3 Nephi 5:3 and look for what follows the word therefore (the Nephites forsook their sins). Now read 3 Nephi 5:1–2 looking for what caused or led to this event. (They knew that the prophecies of Christ’s birth were fulfilled and that all things spoken by the prophets would be fulfilled.) Testify that once we know the truth, we can have power to resist temptation and overcome the adversary (see also Helaman 5:12).

Tell students that in 3 Nephi 5:10–26 Mormon speaks about the Nephite records and the future of the descendants of Jacob (the house of Israel). Have students read 3 Nephi 5:21–26, and ask:

  • According to these verses, what blessings come to the descendants of Jacob who are gathered in the last days? (Among other blessings, they come to “know their Redeemer, who is Jesus Christ” [v. 26].)

  • Read 2 Nephi 3:12. What role does the Book of Mormon play in this gathering?

Show students the diagram on the board and ask: What can knowing our Redeemer cause or lead us to do? (As with the Nephites, it can lead us to forsake our sins and can give us power to resist temptation.)

Share the following statement by President Marion G. Romney, who was a member of the First Presidency:

“I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1980, 90; or Ensign, May 1980, 67).

weekly icon 3 Nephi 6. Pride, reliance on the arm of flesh, and divisiveness were major factors in the destruction of the Nephite civilization. (20–30 minutes)

List several diseases on the board (for example arthritis, cancer, chicken pox, heart disease, leprosy, malaria, rheumatic fever). Ask students to rank the diseases according to how much they fear them. Ask: What do you think is the most dreaded human disease? Share the following statement:

“What we read about in the Book of Mormon is the ‘Nephite disease’—and we have it! … We can be most grateful, therefore, regardless of how sick others may be, that God in the Book of Mormon has diagnosed our sickness for our special benefit, and prescribed a cure for us” (Hugh Nibley, Since Cumorah [1967], 354).

Ask students what they think the “Nephite disease” was, and discuss their answers.

Read 3 Nephi 6:10, 13, 15 looking for the Nephite disease. Read and discuss the following statements. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, said:

“Pride and vanity, the opposites of humility, can destroy our spiritual health as surely as a debilitating disease can destroy our physical health” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1990, 82; or Ensign, Nov. 1990, 65).

President Ezra Taft Benson taught:

“Pride is a very misunderstood sin, and many are sinning in ignorance (see Mosiah 3:11; 3 Nephi 6:18). In the scriptures there is no such thing as righteous pride—it is always considered a sin. Therefore, no matter how the world uses the term, we must understand how God uses the term so we can understand the language of holy writ and profit thereby (see 2 Nephi 4:15; Mosiah 1:3–7; Alma 5:61).

“Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.

“The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means ‘hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.’ It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 3; or Ensign, May 1989, 4).

Ask students how we diagnose, or identify, a sickness. (Answers might include considering the symptoms, visiting a doctor.) Divide students into five “medical teams.” Assign each team to turn to 3 Nephi 6 and study one of the following sets of verses 1–9, 10–14, 15–18, 19–26, 27–30. When they finish, have each group answer the following questions for the class:

  • What year or years do your assigned verses cover?

  • What is your “diagnosis”? (In other words, how were the Nephites doing spiritually at this time?)

  • What were they doing or not doing to maintain their spiritual well-being?

  • What verse or verses do you think best help us understand the Nephites at this time?

Discuss each group’s findings. Discuss the following questions:

  • How is the sin of pride evident today?

  • What causes pride?

  • How can we avoid it?

Read 3 Nephi 6:5 and testify of the principle it teaches. You may wish to share the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith to help students understand that, unlike the Nephite nation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a bright future:

“No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (History of the Church, 4:540).

3 Nephi 7. We can remain righteous even while living in a world filled with wickedness. (20–30 minutes)

Display for the class a bucket of mud and a clean, white cloth. Tell students that the mud represents wickedness and the cloth represents righteousness. Explain that 3 Nephi 7 describes the Nephite civilization prior to Jesus Christ’s death and Resurrection.

Label the bucket of mud 3 Nephi 7:1–14 and the white cloth 3 Nephi 7:15–26. Assign half your students to study the verses on the bucket and the other half the verses on the cloth. When they finish, have each group answer the following questions for the class:

  • What do your assigned verses teach about wickedness and righteousness?

  • What did the people do that pleased or displeased the Lord?

  • How common are these wicked or righteous acts in the world today?

Tell students that you are going to place the white cloth in the bucket of mud without getting it dirty. Ask if they think this is possible. Ask: Do you believe it is possible to live in a world filled with wickedness and remain righteous? How?

Put the white cloth in a plastic bag with the label 3 Nephi 7:18, 21, 24. Demonstrate how the cloth can be dipped in the mud and remain clean if it is protected by the plastic bag. Invite students to read the verses on the bag and look for what gave Nephi and other righteous people the power to remain clean. (Testimony, faith, repentance, baptism, the power of the Spirit.) Testify that these same principles and ordinances can help us remain clean today. Invite students to share ways these principles and ordinances have helped them stay clean and worthy.

Share the following testimony by Elder Rulon G. Craven, then a member of the Seventy:

“It is a frightening realization that the powers of evil will increase in the world. This brings us to the questions, What can we do? Is there a way to escape from the powers of evil? Yes, there is.

“Members of the Church can overcome temptation by (1) obedience to the guiding principles and doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ, (2) following the counsel of our prophets and leaders, and (3) living in such a way that our lives are constantly influenced by the power of the Holy Ghost.

“Train your mind to obey gospel principles and covenants. Stay on the highway of daily personal and family prayer, the avenue of studying the scriptures and the teachings of the prophets, the road of serving in the Church, and be willing to get off the wrong road daily and on the right road leading to eternal life. Your greatest protection against temptation is an active and vibrant testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which binds us to our Heavenly Father” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 107; or Ensign, May 1996, 77).

Encourage students to protect themselves from the wickedness that exists in the world.