As always, use the Official Gospel Doctrine Manual in your preparation, these ideas are supplemental.
The Savior continues to teach the children of Lehi about the gathering of Israel by quoting Isaiah 54. Here is an excerpt from my book, Isaiah for Airheads, 172-176:
3 Nephi 22
Overview of 3 Nephi 22 in One Paragraph:
One day, covenant Israel will be gathered. The people will rejoice at the large numbers, and they will have to enlarge their tents and re-inhabit once desolate cities. Although covenant Israel was forsaken for a time, they will be gathered in love and mercy. They are promised an era of prosperity, peace, and protection from their oppressors.
Verses 1–8: Modern Covenant Israel Will Be Gathered
3 Nephi 22:1. “Sing, O barren . . .” This probably refers to covenant Israel who has not yet produced the righteous children or fruit that was promised as part of the covenant.
3 Nephi 22:1. “More are the children of the desolate than. . . the married wife” Even LDS scholars differ on who exactly is the married wife and who is the “desolate.” One interpretation is that covenant Israel will suddenly be joined by millions from a completely unexpected source— the Gentiles! The Gentile nations, which have played such a major role in the latter- day restoration of the gospel, will one day be recognized as “children of Israel” by the Jews. They will suddenly discover that Israel has a lot more posterity than they thought, requiring an “enlarging of the tents” and “strengthening of the stakes.” Thus “the desolate” may refer to scattered Israel who have come from the Gentile nations, joined the Church, and discovered their Israelite lineage. The “married wife” may refer to the Jews or to those of covenant Israel who remained in the Holy Land.
3 Nephi 22:3 “thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left” “thou,” meaning the house of Israel, will be popping up everywhere.
3 Nephi 22:4. “Forget the shame of thy youth” The Lord in his mercy invites covenant Israel to forget her former apostasy and separation.
3 Nephi 22:5. “Thy husband, the Lord of Hosts is his name” Once again we see the relationship between the covenant people and Jehovah referred to as a marriage.
3 Nephi 22:7–8. “With great mercies will I gather thee” God is just, but he is also merciful, and although the wife left her husband in this case (covenant Israel left Jehovah through apostasy), the Lord will forgive and gather in great mercy.
Verses 9–10: The Lord Promises Everlasting Kindness
3 Nephi 22:9. As “the waters of Noah unto me” The Lord will keep this promise, as he has kept his promise to never again flood the earth (see Genesis 9:11–17).
3 Nephi 22:10. “Mountains shall depart” The footnotes suggest that this refers to the renewal of the earth. The Lord’s kindness is more constant than continents, and although time and erosion may remove mountains, God’s kindness remains forever.
Verses 11–17: Promised Blessings to the Faithful
3 Nephi 22:11–12. “Lay thy stones with fair colors” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught:
Even in the midst and aftermath of great affliction, the Lord will shower material and spiritual blessings on Israel, including those jewels and precious metals that will be used to build the New Jerusalem. (Holland, Christ and the New Covenant, 290)
3 Nephi 22:13. “Great shall be the peace of thy children” What more could a parent ask? I’d rather have my children be good and be at peace than have them be popular, good- looking, or accomplished— and miserable.
3 Nephi 22:14. “And from terror for it shall not come near thee” A wonderful promise, considering the times in which we live.
3 Nephi 22:16. “I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire” We should not fear the weapons of others, since God created those who created the weapons. Could the “smith” referred to here mean anything or anyone else? Gerald N. Lund has written:
Speaking through Isaiah in a passage that was later quoted by the Savior to the Nephites, the Lord said, “Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work” (Isa. 54:16; 3 Ne. 22:16). Joseph was surely the smith who forged the instrument by which the Lord’s people continue to prepare individually and collectively for the Savior’s return— and that instrument is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints. (“A Prophet for the Fulness of Times,” Ensign, January 1997, 54)
3 Nephi 22:17. “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord” When we consider what the Lord promises us, why would we want to stray from Him and follow anyone or anything else? When we keep our covenants, the Lord offers long- term peace, joy, and happiness. What does Satan have to offer? Perhaps some short-term pleasure, followed by long-term misery, filled with guilt and regret.
3 Nephi 22:17. “Their righteousness is of me” Jesus taught the Nephites, “and blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness” (3 Nephi 12:6). Why didn’t he just say, “blessed are the righteous?” Because, technically, none of us is. We need his righteousness in order to be justified or pronounced clean (see 2 Nephi 2:3).
Applying 3 Nephi 22
One way to apply this chapter to our own lives is to put our own name in the place of covenant Israel. When we have strayed, the Lord desires to gather us again in love. Through our repentance, he assures us that we can forget the shame of our youth. Although we leave him, he never leaves us, and he will gather us again in great mercy. When we come back into covenant with him, he promises us peace, protection, and the assurance that no weapon formed against us will prosper.
We can also find great comfort and motivation to further the cause of Christ as we seek to establish the Zion promised in these verses. After Jesus taught these words to the Nephites, he commanded them to “search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.” Then he put his stamp of approval and his endorsement on these wonderful promises when he added, “And all things that he spake have been and shall be, even according to the words which he spake” (3 Nephi 23:1, 3).
3 Nephi 23
1 – “Great are the words of Isaiah” Sometimes when we approach the words of Isaiah, our reaction is more like, “Oh great, the words of Isaiah.” Why are the words of Isaiah so great, and what did the Lord mean? One reason Isaiah’s words were great is answered by Jesus in verse 2: “For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel”
On one occasion, after trying to teach the Isaiah chapters someone said to me, “I still don’t get what’s so great about Isaiah.” It thought deeply about it, and here’s the answer I wrote in Isaiah for Airheads, 183-184:
Isaiah’s Form: Isaiah’s words are great because of Isaiah’s form. Isaiah was a master of the Hebrew language. As Victor L. Ludlow has observed, Isaiah worked in Hebrew the way Shakespeare worked in English and Goethe in German (see Unlocking Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, 4). Most of us can’t read Hebrew, but even after going through King James’ translators and being turned into English, Isaiah’s language strikes us as expressive and beautiful: “And his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (2 Nephi 19:6; Isaiah 9:6).
Isaiah’s Span: Isaiah’s words are great because they cover from the beginning to the end and everything in between. We hear echoes from the premortal existence in his words, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” (2 Nephi 24:12), and descriptions of things yet to come in the millennial day: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid . . . and a little child shall lead them” (2 Nephi 21:6). Isaiah, as did many other prophets, saw everything from the beginning to the end, and wove his narrative together in remarkable and memorable ways.
Isaiah’s Detail: Isaiah could, in one verse, prophecy two or more events. For example, while speaking of the “Current Event” of the pending attack by the Assyrian army, he could word it in such a way that it would also speak of the “Coming Event” of the latter-day gathering: “And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth; and behold, they shall come with speed swiftly” (2 Nephi 15:26). He did this sort of thing with exceptional skill in a number of places, allowing for multiple interpretations of his words. Brother Robert J. Matthews refers to these as “pattern prophecies,” which can encompass events in different ages and among different people but still fit a pattern.
Isaiah’s Testimony: Isaiah saw the Lord and, in humility, declared, “I am undone.” An angel touched a burning coal to Isaiah’s lips and purged his sins. Then Isaiah offered his “Here am I; send me” as an example of consecration to all of us who have received the testimony of Christ and received his forgiveness. This remarkable account of Isaiah’s cleansing and calling by the Lord certainly qualifies as “great.” The resurrected Lord put his own endorsement on Isaiah’s words when he said, “And all things that he spake have been and shall be, even according to the words which he spake” (3 Nephi 23:3).
3 – “All things that he spake have been and shall be” Jesus gives a powerful endorsement of Isaiah’s words, and lets us know that his prophecies of the future will yet come to pass.
11 – “How is it that ye have not written this thing?” (I’m afraid I might here these same exact words when they ask for my journal at the final judgement.) Joking aside, Jesus knew in great detail what Samuel the Lamanite had said, and when Jesus noticed that one of Samuel’s prophecies about the resurrection was not found in the records, he asked them to include it. Nephi (the disciple) remembered the prophesy, but hadn’t written it down. My mission president used to say, “The weakest ink is better than the strongest memory.” It’s always best to get it in writing!
Graves being opened at the same time as Jesus’ resurrection evidently happened in the old world and the new, giving evidence that Jesus was the “firstfruits” of the resurrection, and that because of him, all would be resurrected in due time (footnote 11b takes us to Matthew 27:52). An interesting question is, “where did these resurrected beings go?”
3 Nephi 24 (Compare Malachi 3)
Why wasn’t the book of Malachi included on the plates of brass? Because the prophecies of Malachi were given about 430 B.C., almost 200 years after Lehi left Jerusalem. Obviously, Jesus could have shared the same truths by himself, but he showed respect to his servant Malachi by acknowledging him by name.
1 – “even the messenger of the covenant” Here again the importance of covenants are emphasized in this nickname for the Lord. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland wrote:
Christ, who is the great “messenger of the covenant,” did come to the first temple in this dispensation, in Kirtland, Ohio, on April 3, 1836. He has, of course, come to other temples and will yet do so—particularly in Jerusalem and Jackson County, Missouri—as part of the culmination of his majestic second coming (Christ and the New Covenant, 293 – 294).
“like a refiner’s fire” Fire can destroy as well as refine. In one of the latter verses of “How Firm a Foundation,” we sing, “though through fiery trials thy pathway may lie, my grace all sufficient shall be thy supply; the flames shall not hurt thee, I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.”
“Like fuller’s soap” A “fuller” was basically a laundryman. We read in Mark 9:3 that “[Jesus’] raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.”
3 – “Sons of Levi … may offer unto the Lord an offering” When John the Baptist came to restore the Aaronic priesthood, he said, “and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again and offering unto the Lord in righteousness” (D&C 13:1). The wording is slightly different in Oliver Cowdery’s retelling (found in small type on the two pages following Joseph Smith-History in the Pearl of Great Price): “I confer this Priesthood and this authority, which shall remain upon earth, that the Sons of Levi may yet offer and offering unto the Lord in righteousness!” Will the sons of Levi offer sacrifice again? Joseph Smith taught:
It is generally supposed that sacrifice was entirely done away when the Great Sacrifice [i.e.,] the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus was offered up, and that there will be no necessity for the ordinance of sacrifice in future; but those who assert this are certainly not acquainted with the duties, privileges and authority of the Priesthood, or with the Prophets….These sacrifices, as well as every ordinance belonging to the Priesthood, will, when the Temple of the Lord shall be built, and the sons of Levi be purified, be fully restored and attended to in all their powers, ramifications, and blessings. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 172-173).
But will blood sacrifice be restored forever? President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
The sacrifice of animals will be done to complete the restoration when the temple spoken of is built; at the beginning of the millennium, or in the restoration, blood sacrifices will be performed long enough to complete the fulness of the restoration in this dispensation. Afterwards, sacrifice will be of some other character. (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:94.)
7 – “return unto me and I will return unto you” The Lord wants to be involved in our lives, but he does not force his way into our lives. He waits for our action, our initiative, then he responds. Notice who must move first in each phrase of this verse:
Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (D&C 88:63)
10 – “open you the windows of heaven” As a youth, I remember watching a movie called “Windows of Heaven” about President Lorenzo Snow, and his visit to St. George in about 1899. He promised the saints that if they would pay their tithing, the “windows of heaven” would open, the rains would fall, and a terrible drought would end. (Watch here) The windows of heaven did open in a literal way, and President Snow’s renewed emphasis on tithing saved the church from financial ruin. Elder David A. Bednar taught:
“The imagery of the “windows” of heaven used by Malachi is most instructive. Windows allow natural light to enter into a building. In like manner, spiritual illumination and perspective are poured out through the windows of heaven and into our lives as we honor the law of tithing.” (“Windows of Heaven,” October 2013 General Conference).
It is difficult for some to fathom the fact that faithful members keep the law of tithing. President Gordon B. Hinckley was often asked about it by the press. He said:
Reporters who I have met simply cannot believe that we pay 10 percent of our income as tithing. I explain that this is a spiritual phenomenon. We pay because we are obedient to the commandment of the Lord. We pay because we have faith in his munificent promises. Let us teach our children while they are yet young of the great opportunity and responsibility of paying tithing. If we do so, there will be another generation, and yet another, who will walk in the ways of the Lord and merit his promised blessing. — Ensign, November 1997, p.69.
15 – “they that work wickedness are set up” It sounds as though Malachi saw the latter-days when he taught the words in these verses. We look around and it’s true – the proud are happy, they that work wickedness are set for life, and those that tempt God are delivered. But these conditions are temporary. They will have “joy in their works for a season” (3 Nephi 27:11), but that season will gave way to another season of judgment. I remember hearing Elder Glenn L. Pace speak at Brigham Young University in 1987 when I was a student there. He spoke of hearing a popular song on the radio which said, “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.” He explained:
My immediate reaction was anger. The next day I heard the song again, and I laughed at myself because in the interim I had figured out why the line had made me so angry. It was because it sounded true! When I was in grade school, my parents made me go to church on Sunday while others went to the movies. In junior high school, I collected fast offerings while others slept till noon. In high school, I passed up working on Sunday and earning double time at a grocery store so that I could keep the Sabbath day holy. During my mission I walked down the streets on Saturday nights with my companion while others our age drove past us with their dates, laughing, pointing, and asking, “What’s with those guys?”
Elder Pace concluded his address with these beautiful words:
Would I rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the Saints? Not for one moment. Once one has felt the joy of the gospel, there is no going back into a frivolous world. Try as we might, travel where we may, there is an emptiness all the laughter the world has to offer cannot fill. That emptiness can be filled only by placing ourselves in tune with eternal truths and living according to the prescribed laws of God. As our understanding increases, we realize that tears of sorrow can be exquisitely beautiful—and that they ultimately give way to tears of eternal joy. (See “Crying With the Saints,” Ensign, September 1988).
18 – “return and discern” I love this line, “return and discern.” Whatever it seems like now, when the wicked seem to be posting victory after victory on the world’s scoreboard, just wait. One day it will be very easy to discern between the righteous and the wicked.
3 Nephi 25 (compare Malachi 4)
1-6 – “the day that cometh shall burn them up” The earth was symbolically “baptized” during the flood, and the “baptism of fire” will come at the Second Coming. We recall that when Joseph Smith was visited by Moroni, he also repeated the words of Malachi, but they were slightly different, and the differences are fascinating. For example, Malachi said “the day that cometh shall burn them up,” but Moroni says, “they that come shall burn them.” See below:
“The day that cometh shall burn them” Here are a few other clarifying verses speak of exactly “what” or “whom” will do the burning:
D&C 29:9 –All the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, that wickedness shall not be upon the earth.
D&C 64:24 –For after today cometh the burning –this is speaking after the manner of the Lord –for verily I say, tomorrow all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, for I am the Lord of Hosts; and I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.
2 Thessalonians 2:8–And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.
“I will reveal unto you the priesthood” What does it mean to “reveal the priesthood?” Wasn’t it John the Baptist and Peter, James and John that restored the priesthood? Yes. “Revealing” the priesthood has a different meaning. Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:
Elijah brought back the sealing power so that marriages and other ordinances that are bound on earth shall be eternally sealed in the heavens. Those married by this authority are husband and wife in this life, and they so remain in the life to come, if they are true and faithful in all things….One of the grandest concepts in the whole plan of salvation is that these same blessings, given to worthy mortals whenever the fulness of the gospel is on earth, are also available to all those who have died without a knowledge of the gospel but who would have received it with all their hearts had it been offered to them while they dwelt in the flesh. This is what is involved in the promise that the Lord would reveal unto us “the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” By restoring the sealing keys, Elijah revealed the greatest use to which the priesthood may be put by mortals on earth. — Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p.508.
“Lest I smite the earth with a curse” is contrasted with “the whole earth would be utterly wasted.” Robert L. Millet and Joseph Fielding McConkie explain why the earth would be “wasted:”
Because the earth would not have accomplished its foreordained purpose, to establish on its face a family system patterned after the order of heaven. If there were no binding and sealing powers whereby families could be cemented forever, then the earth would never ‘answer the end of its creation’ (D&C 49:16). It would be wasted and cursed, for all men would be forever without root or branch.” — The Life Beyond, pp. 97-98.
“neither root nor branch” Elder Hartman Rector Jr. connected tithing with roots and branches in this insightful statement:
Those who pay tithing will have roots and branches at the last day and those who do not will have neither roots nor branches. Now what are our roots? Obviously our roots are our ancestors. And what are our branches? They are our children. Tithing is necessary in order to receive the blessings of the temple. If a man were to keep all of the Lord’s commandments with the exception of tithing, he still could never be married for time and all eternity in the temple; thus, he would have neither roots nor branches at the last day. Then this becomes really serious, since there is no exaltation without your family. Without tithing there is no exaltation. —Conference Report, April 1983, pp. 35-36.
3 Nephi 26
3 – “he did expound all things” It would be fun to hear this!
6 – “even a hundredth part” We have received only a small fraction of what Jesus taught. The same is true of the Holy Bible! Notice footnote 6a to John 21:25:
And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.
10-11 – “then shall the greater things be withheld” we have to use what we have if we hope to receive more. Should we expect to have the opportunity to read the sealed portion if we have not read the unsealed portion? President Spencer W. Kimball taught:
“I have had many people ask me through the years, ‘When do you think we will get the balance of the Book of Mormon records?’ And I have said, ‘How many in the congregation would like to read the sealed portion of the plates?’ And almost always there is a 100-percent response. And then I ask the same congregation, ‘How many of you have read the part that has been opened to us?’ And there are many who have not read the Book of Mormon, the unsealed portion. We are quite often looking for the spectacular, the unobtainable. I have found many people who want to live the higher laws when they do not live the lower laws” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 531–32).
13-14 – “He did loose their tongues” It is remarkable to think that the children said even greater things than Jesus taught. When we read 3 Nephi 26, where Jesus expounded “all things” and children utter things “even greater” than Jesus taught, perhaps we feel some “righteous envy” (is there such a thing?) and wish we could have been there. Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet have written:
One can scarcely imagine such deeply spiritual and profound things being uttered by little children. We are left to conjecture about their messages. Was the veil parted to allow them to speak of life in the first estate? Did they discourse upon life among the Gods in a celestial environment? Did they reveal doctrinal mysteries which today’s world could not receive? Such an event epitomizes that of which the prophet Joel prophesied, albeit of a later time: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and daughters shall prophesy” (Joel 2:28; see also Alma 32:23.) …. This was such a sacred manifestation, the content of these inspired utterances were of such a nature, that mortal language could not adequately capture the true meaning and intent. In this sense, things of the Spirit are, unspeakable” (compare 3 Nephi 17:15-18). (Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 4: 172.)
18 – “saw and heard unspeakable things” Jesus’ twelve disciples in the new world had experiences similar to the twelve apostles in the old world. Paul was caught up into “the third heaven” and heard unspeakable things:
And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (2 Corinthians 12:3-4).