“I Am Jesus Christ the Son of God,” Ensign, Dec. 1999, 5
The book of 3 Nephi offers inspired insight into the Lord Jesus Christ’s role as the Son of God. The statements He makes to the Nephites concerning His ministry provide further evidence that the Book of Mormon is a marvelous testament of Jesus Christ. In fact, the designations that the resurrected Lord gives of Himself amplify His role as the Savior of the entire world.
Following the great three-hour destructive storm on the American continent at the time of the Crucifixion in Jerusalem (see 3 Ne. 8:5–19), the Savior’s voice was heard among the surviving inhabitants. He announced that He had caused the terrible changes to come upon the whole face of the land because of the wickedness and the abominations of the people (see 3 Ne. 9:1–12). Those who were spared were the “more righteous” and were invited to return unto Him “and repent of [their] sins, and be converted, that [he] may heal [them]” (3 Ne. 9:13). He further promised them eternal life and the arm of mercy as a blessing for their coming unto Him (see 3 Ne. 9:14). He then identified Himself for the first time, declaring, “Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God” (3 Ne. 9:15).
Jesus is the English translation of His earthly name. The name Jesus had been selected for Him hundreds of years prior to His birth and was announced to prophets by an angel (see 2 Ne. 25:19; Luke 2:21). Jesus’ designation of Himself as the “Christ” verifies His being the Messiah or “the anointed,” with the power to grant eternal life and redemption.
By stating that He was “the Son of God,” He acknowledged the source of His power. From the Father He had obtained the divine ability to bring to pass the Atonement, to provide for the redemption of humanity, and to bring about the Resurrection.1
Having told the Nephites who He was, Jesus then informed them of what He had done: “I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are” (3 Ne. 9:15). Because he used the word heavens, it suggests He created other planets (see D&C 76:24).2 When Moses stood in the presence of God and talked with Him face to face, he was informed that the Son had created worlds without number, “but only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof” was given to him (Moses 1:31–35).
Jesus’ creation of this and other worlds is a doctrine clearly taught in the New Testament but often overlooked (see Heb. 1:2). The Book of Mormon calls the Son of God “the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth” (Mosiah 15:4; Alma 11:39). A father is a creator of life. As the Eternal Father of the earth, Jesus gave it life and gave the inhabitants of this earth and other worlds the opportunity for salvation.
One of the few statements in the Book of Mormon concerning the premortal life is Christ’s declaration that He “was with the Father from the beginning” (3 Ne. 9:15). The word beginning is used in other scriptures to designate the premortal life (see Gen. 1:1; John 1:1). In the Book of Mormon, that stage of existence is also referred to as “the first place” (Alma 13:3). Although Christ did not expand on what His work with the Father was in “the beginning,” there are two places in the Book of Mormon that indirectly shed more light on His declaration.
King Limhi testified to his people that a prophet of the Lord, Abinadi, was slain “because he said unto [the people] that Christ was the God, the Father of all things, and said that he should take upon him the image of man, and it should be the image after which man was created in the beginning; or in other words, he said that man was created after the image of God, and that God should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood, and go forth upon the face of the earth” (Mosiah 7:27).
The phrase “God should come down among the children of men” confirms that Christ was a God in the premortal state. The preceding verse also clarifies the statement “Let us make man in our image” (Gen. 1:26). The plural pronouns us and our refer to Christ being with His Father from the beginning and being involved in the plan to people the earth. Knowing that Christ was with the Father from the beginning helps us understand His overall role in the plan of salvation.
The second reference from the Book of Mormon to indirectly confirm Christ’s role with the Father “in the beginning” is Alma’s great discourse on the foreordination of priesthood holders. The high priesthood which Alma declares that the faithful in “the first place” were foreordained to receive in this life was “after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world” (Alma 13:5, 7). This eternal priesthood, “without beginning or end” (Alma 13:8), being called Christ’s holy order, is another witness that Christ “was with the Father from the beginning” (3 Ne. 9:15). The priesthood, the right to officiate in the name of God, was a right granted to the faithful in the premortal life. The priesthood was called after the order of the Son of God, who was with the Father in the beginning.
The Joseph Smith Translation (hereafter JST) of the Bible gives us a third function of Christ with His Father in the beginning:
“In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God.
“The same was in the beginning with God” (JST, John 1:1–2, Bible appendix).
In summary then, Christ’s role with the Father in the beginning had at least three dimensions: (1) He was a God in the premortal state and participated in the creation of this world and worlds without number; (2) He foreordained men to bear the eternal priesthood; and (3) He directed the preaching of the gospel to others. All three of these assignments illustrate His role “with the Father from the beginning.”
Jesus declared, “I am in the Father, and the Father in me” (3 Ne. 9:15). This is an expression of the unity that exists between them in carrying out the mission of the Son upon the earth. It is also an expression of the nature of His birth as the literal Son of God. Furthermore, it is an expression of the divine investiture of authority that the Father has bestowed upon the Son.
At the time of the prophesied birth of Christ, great persecution was heaped upon the Nephites, and “a day [was] set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions [prophesied signs] should be put to death except the sign should come to pass” (3 Ne. 1:9). In response to mighty prayer, the voice of the Lord declared that on the morrow He would come into the world “to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh” (3 Ne. 1:14).
Christ would fulfill the will of the Father through the divine nature He had obtained as the Only Begotten of the Father. Having that nature would enable Him to pay the demands of justice and thus atone for humanity. He was willing to lay down His life in the flesh and take it up again, that He might break the bands of death and bring about the Resurrection. Thus He was in the Father, doing the will of the Father, and the divine nature of the Father that was in Him enabled Him to carry out this dual assignment.
When He appeared to the Nephites after having completed His mission, He testified that He had taken upon Him “the sins of the world, in the which [he] … suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning” (3 Ne. 11:11). His unity with the Father was further illustrated in His prayer: “And now Father, I pray unto thee for them [the Twelve], and also for all those who believe on their words, that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one” (3 Ne. 19:23).
Christ again declared the unity of the Father and the Son as He spoke to the Nephites about the redemption of those in Jerusalem: “All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of the Father; and the Father and I are one” (3 Ne. 20:35). Another testament of this unity was given to the Three Nephites, who were allowed to remain on the earth and bring souls to Christ. These three were promised, “Your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fulness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one” (3 Ne. 28:10). Thus, a unity exists between the Father and the Son and all those who attain a fulness of joy in the kingdom of the Father.
We read in the Pearl of Great Price that the Lord God told Moses there was no end to His works: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
Although it is Christ who is speaking to Moses, the work being discussed is the unified effort of both the Father and the Son. The Father brings glory to His own name by having the Son come to earth and implement the plan of salvation for earth’s inhabitants. The Savior’s voice declared this to the Nephites: “And in me hath the Father glorified his name” (3 Ne. 9:15). Later He confirmed that He had “glorified the Father in taking upon [himself] the sins of the world” (3 Ne. 11:11). That Christ would share in this glory is exemplified in His prayer for the believers: “Father, I pray … that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one, that I may be glorified in them” (3 Ne. 19:29). Thus, the Father and the Son are one in their works, glorifying themselves by bringing similar glory to others.
Although Jesus speaks to the Nephites many times about redemption, He calls Himself the Redeemer only once in their presence, stating that the record of the Nephites would bring the scattered remnant of Israel “to a knowledge of me, their Redeemer” (3 Ne. 16:4).3 Other references also speak of the results of His redemptive mission.
When Jesus spoke to the Nephites, He acknowledged that His own received Him not, but said, “As many as have received me, to them have I given to become the sons of God; and even so will I to as many as shall believe on my name, for behold, by me redemption cometh” (3 Ne. 9:17). He does not enlarge upon this doctrine here, but the rest of the Book of Mormon and other standard works teach it often. The same voice declared to the Nephites that Christ came “unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin” (3 Ne. 9:21). Earlier in the book of 3 Nephi, Mormon had prophesied that all the house of Jacob would come to know the Redeemer, the Son of God, and “be gathered … unto their own lands” (3 Ne. 5:26; see also 3 Ne. 5:23–26).
Jesus said He was “the light and the life of the world” (3 Ne. 9:18; 3 Ne. 11:11). He later referred to Himself as “the law, and the light” (3 Ne. 15:9). The Savior is indeed the light and life and law.
Jesus is the light of the world through His teachings and His example. He said, “I am the light; I have set an example for you,” and added, “Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do” (3 Ne. 18:16, 24).
Jesus is also the life of the world. In the same statement in which He proclaimed Himself the law and the light, He counseled, “Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life” (3 Ne. 15:9). Thus, the declaration that He is the life of the world clarifies that He is the source of eternal life.
Finally, Jesus is the law. The law is equated with the gospel He had just taught the Nephites.4 If we will follow the gospel law, which is the light of men, we can obtain eternal life. Jesus Christ is the light and the life and the law.
Christ said to the Nephites, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end” (3 Ne. 9:18). His use of the Greek alpha and omega to identify himself to the Nephites reaffirms the New Testament designation for the latter-day reader (see Rev. 1:8, 11; Rev. 21:6; Rev. 22:13). Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and omega is the last letter, thus verifying that Christ is the member of the Godhead who began the work of bringing “to pass the immortality and eternal life” (Moses 1:39) of mankind upon this mortal earth and will be the one to conclude the events of this earth’s plan of salvation. The Lord used the same Greek word designations in modern revelation (see D&C 19:1; D&C 38:1; D&C 45:7).
Jesus used the designation “God of Israel” after He descended from the heavens and spoke among the Israelites in the Americas (see 3 Ne. 11:14). At the time of Jesus’s Crucifixion, Israel was divided into three major branches: the Nephites, the Jews, and the lost tribes. At that time, others of Israel were scattered among the nations of the earth. Those scattered Israelites are not considered in this designation but will be considered under the next heading.
Speaking to the Nephites following a period of silence “for the space of many hours” (3 Ne. 10:1), Christ mentioned previous gatherings of these “descendants of Jacob, yea, who are of the house of Israel” and of how often He would have gathered them if they had responded to His invitation. He further spoke of how He would yet gather them if they would repent (3 Ne. 10:4–6). As their God, He had directed their activities, had offered them other opportunities which they had rejected, and would yet give them other opportunities to gather. He was indeed the God of the Nephites.
At the same time, He referred to how oft He would have gathered the Jews at Jerusalem but they would not heed Him (see 3 Ne. 10:5). Jesus was born a Jew, thus enabling Him to declare, “I came unto my own, and my own received me not” (3 Ne. 9:16). Earlier, just prior to His birth, He had declared to Nephi, son of Nephi, “I come unto my own, to fulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world” (3 Ne. 1:14).
Before Israel was broken into separate branches, Christ had ministered to them collectively. To the Nephites, He announced that He had fulfilled the law that was given unto Moses. He then proclaimed, “I am he that gave the law, and I am he who covenanted with my people Israel” (see 3 Ne. 15:4–8; see also 3 Ne. 9:17). It was Jesus as Jehovah who led the children of Israel in Old Testament times (see 1 Cor. 10:1–4; 1 Ne. 19:7–10). He is indeed the God of all the house of Israel.
The designation “God of the whole earth” (3 Ne. 11:14) testifies that Jesus is the God of all people. In the words of Nephi son of Lehi, Christ “inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Ne. 26:33). Latter-day revelation says He holds the destinies of all the armies of the earth (see D&C 117:6).
As the God of the whole world, Christ is a God of law. Thus, He cannot bless people unless they keep the commandments (see Hel. 12:3; D&C 82:10; D&C 130:20–21). He warned, “Wo unto this people [the Nephites]; wo unto the inhabitants of the whole earth except they shall repent” (3 Ne. 9:2). One of the purposes of scattering the house of Israel among all the nations of the earth was to fulfill the covenant made to Abraham to bless all the kindreds of the earth through his seed (see Abr. 2:9–11; Gen. 12:3; 3 Ne. 20:13, 27).5 In fulfilling the covenant to gather Israel from among the nations, those nations are given the opportunity to gather with Israel and receive the blessings of the gospel (see 3 Ne. 16:6–7, 13). Those who reject the gospel will have the people of the Lord gathered from among them, and in time the gospel will be taken out of their midst (see 3 Ne. 16:8–12).
Christ reigns over all the earth. Through the prophet Isaiah, He stated, “The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool” (Isa. 66:1).
When speaking to the Nephites following the destruction and darkness of the Crucifixion, Christ said, “The scriptures concerning my coming are fulfilled” (3 Ne. 9:16). In appearing to the Nephites as a resurrected being, Jesus announced: “I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world” (3 Ne. 11:10). After teaching His higher law to the Nephites (see 3 Ne. 12–14), He admonished: “Behold, I have given unto you the commandments; therefore keep my commandments. And this is the law and the prophets, for they truly testified of me” (3 Ne. 15:10).
On the second day of His ministry among the Nephites, Jesus testified:
“Behold, I am he of whom Moses spake, saying: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people.
“Verily I say unto you, yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have testified of me” (3 Ne. 20:23–24).
Recorded statements by Jesus in the Book of Mormon verify that He was fulfilling or had fulfilled what the prophets had foretold. It was to Christ’s coming they looked, and it is to Christ’s future coming we look.
One of the last designations in 3 Nephi is an indirect one. To the Jews He had proclaimed, “I am the good shepherd, … and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14–15). He then announced that He had other sheep not of that fold who were to hear His voice (John 10:16; compare 3 Ne. 15:17). He testified to the Nephites that they were those other sheep He must bring and that they would hear His voice (see 3 Ne. 15:21–24). Then He declared that there were still other sheep—the lost tribes—that He was commanded to visit after He left the Nephites (see 3 Ne. 16:1–3; 3 Ne. 17:4). Someday we will have the record of His ministry among the lost tribes (see 2 Ne. 29:12–14).
The designations Jesus gave Himself in 3 Nephi authenticate His role as the God of the Nephites, the God of the tribes of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and they further demonstrate that the Book of Mormon is “another testament of Jesus Christ.” Continuing study of 3 Nephi deepens our understanding of Him as the Son of God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth who was with the Father from the beginning and who was one with the Father in ministering upon earth to bring glory to the Father’s name. He is the Redeemer, “the light and the life of the world,” and “the beginning and the end.” May we become one fold in preparation for the Good Shepherd to come again in glory and reign upon the earth.