The focal point (or, global maximum, if you will) of the Book of Mormon starts in 3 Nephi 11 when Christ appears to some of the survivors of the destruction that occurred after His death. I was struck by what Christ told those who were there. Here He was coming to some of His chosen people after His resurrection; He could tell them anything so what He first taught the people must be supremely important. So what did Christ teach? What did Christ do?
- He testified of Himself and His mission and that many prophets testified of Him (see verses 10-11). With this He not only stated the importance of His mission but also the missions of all the prophets before (and after) Him.
- He testified of the Father and that all Christ did was His Father’s will (see verse 11). This is His humility in reiterating the supremacy of the Father.
- Christ commanded those present to feel the wounds in His hands, feet, and side so that they would have a solid witness of His reality (see verses 14-17).
- The Savior then gave unto Nephi power to baptize (see verse 21). Nephi possibly already had this priesthood authority but at this time he was called as an apostle of the Lord (and made chief apostle). Jesus then called others as apostles, giving them authority to baptize (see verse 22).
- Jesus condemned disputations among the people, particularly about doctrine or ordinances (see verse 22). He also taught other important doctrines – repentance (and implied faith; see verse 23).
- Implicit in Christ’s call to the apostles was their role as missionaries (see verse 23).
- Christ then gives the words of the baptismal prayer, one of the few set ordinance prayers we have in the LDS Church (although the modern baptismal prayer is slightly altered). He also makes it clear that baptism is by immersion. Once again, with this the Savior reinforces the importance of baptism for salvation but also the importance of strict adherence to the ordinance of baptism (see verses 23-26).
- In the context of baptism and the baptismal prayer (performing the ordinance in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost), the Savior teaches of the oneness of the Godhead (see verse 27).
- After this, the Lord Jesus Christ once again condemns disputations and contentions, particularly over doctrines and ordinances of the gospel (see verses 28-30). The Savior spends what amounts to three verses about the evils of contentions. He will shortly teach the people that peacemakers are blessed. Now, I do not believe the Savior was calling for pacifism at all costs but He wanted to make sure that people did not argue and fight one with another. How can a Zion society exist if people fight one with another? The Savior’s stressing of the evils of contention is one of the reasons there was many years of peace following Christ’s visit and brief ministry among the Nephites.
- Christ then moves into summarizing His doctrine (verses 31-40).
- The spirit of prophecy and testimony (verse 32), particularly how the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost testate of and for one another.
- Have faith in Christ (verse 32).
- Be baptized in the name of Christ (verse 32).
- Faith and baptism and repentance are necessary for salvation and for returning to dwell with the Father (verses 33, 37, & 38).
- There are consequences for willfully not believing in Christ and following Him (verse 34).
- Those who have faith in Christ will be blessed with the Holy Ghost (verse 35).
- It is important to have your foundation upon the doctrine of Christ. Any who seek to go beyond His doctrine to add or take away from it are cursed (verses 39-40).
- Missionary work is essential (verse 41).
I want to interject that anything after verse 18 was directed to Nephi and the apostles, Christ spent little time directly teaching the people at this point. He spent individual time with them but then left the bulk of the teaching to His anointed servants. This is an important point. Of the recorded words and actions we have of the Savior’s first hours in visiting with the Nephites, He taught the people little before calling His apostles and making sure they knew that they had primary responsibilities for teaching His doctrine and performing His ordinances. This mirrors what Christ did during His mortal ministry – He first called His apostles and then started teaching. The foundation of prophets and apostles is key.
While there are more lessons to be gleaned from this chapter, I thought it an interesting exercise to focus on what Christ and did in the first few hours of His visit. I want to re-stress the fact that Christ took time at the start of His visit to visit with each individual. The Savior is focused on people, on individuals. He knows all our names and knows each of us individually. Our task is to know and follow Him.