As always, use the Official Gospel Doctrine Manual in your preparation, these ideas are supplemental.
3 Nephi 27 – What Shall We Call the Church? Summary of the Gospel
1-2 – “united in mighty prayer” Notice the footnote to D&C 29:6:
“And, as it is written—Whatsoever ye shall ask in faith, being united in prayer according to my command, ye shall receive.”
My mission president, having been inspired by the idea of being “united in prayer,” asked every companionship to be on their knees each morning at 6:30 am. It was a wonderful feeling to know that all of my fellow missionaries were asking the Lord to bless our efforts at the same time each day, uniting our faith and giving us a sense of being united in our work.
5 – “ye must take upon you the name of Christ” This is what we do at the sacrament table every Sunday. Interestingly, this is not a new idea. King Benjamin gathered his people together for that specific purpose:
I shall give this people a name, that thereby they may be distinguished above all the people which the Lord hath brought out of the land of Jerusalem (Mosiah 1:11).
Therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered a covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives (Mosiah 5:8).
Church leaders have recently placed greater emphasis on the Sabbath and the Sacrament. Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught that the name of Christ is more than just letters:
What does the name of Christ and that covenant mean? The most frequent single meaning of the scriptures that refer to the name of the Lord seem to mean the work of the Lord, his work, his atonement, his mission – Everyone who covenants that they are willing to take upon them the name of Christ is saying, “I will handle my share of that great mission, and my share is what I am called to do.” (April 2015 Training Meeting on the Sabbath and the Sacrament)
8 – “How be it my church save it be called in my name” Evidently, the name of the church was important to the Savior. Elder James E. Talmage wrote:
Is it to be wondered at, that from the sixteenth century onward, churches of man’s contriving have multiplied with phenomenal rapidity? Churches and churchly organizations professing Christianity as their creed have come to be numbered by hundreds. On every side is heard in this day, “Lo, here is Christ” or “Lo, there.” There are sects named from the circumstances of their origin – as the Church of England; others after their famous founders or promoters – as Lutheran, Calvinist, Wesleyan; some are known by peculiarities of doctrine or plan of administration – as Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Congregationalist; but down to the third decade of the nineteenth century there was no church on earth affirming name or title as the Church of Jesus Christ. — James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, Ch.40, p.751 -p.752.
Elder LeGrand Richards made a similar observation:
the name of the Church was not obtained through study or research, but by revelation direct from the Lord. Does it not seem incredible that of all the churches in the world, there was not one that bore his name when the Lord restored his church in this dispensation? — LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, pp.131-132.
8 – “if it so be that they are built upon my gospel” This is a big “if.” Jesus told those who claimed Abraham as their father, “If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39). So having the right name is not enough. If we are Christians “in name only,” then we are not built upon the gospel which is more than just “lip service,” but a belief system and a way of life.
11 – “joy in their works for a season” blessings and promises of gospel living and of keeping covenants are often delayed. Jesus’ beatitudes linked a present reality to a future reward, using the wording: “blessed are the [such and such] for they shall be...” If the wicked will have joy for a season, we might reasonably expect that the righteous may experience misery for a season as well.
12 – “their works do follow them” In other words, we cannot disassociate our actions and our consequences. They follow us like a shadow. Yes, there may be a delay for a season, but all actions bring inevitable consequences. In this verse, the sad consequences are to be “hewn down.” By contrast, those with good works will have good consequences as expressed in D&C 59:2:
For those that live shall inherit the earth, and those that die shall rest from all their labors, and their works shall follow them; and they shall receive a crown in the mansions of my Father, which I have prepared for them.
13-21 – “this is the gospel” In verses 14-21, Jesus summarizes the gospel message:
14: Jesus will be lifted up upon the cross
14: Men will be lifted up to stand before Jesus at the judgment
16: Those who repent and our baptized and endure to the end will be held guiltless
20: Repent, come unto Christ, be sanctified by the Holy Ghost, endure to the end.
This message is also called the “doctrine of Christ” by Nephi (son of Lehi) in 2 Nephi 31:17, 20:
For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost ….Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
Elements of the doctrine and gospel of Christ are also briefly expressed in Article of Faith 4.
20 – “Stand spotless before me at the last day” The scriptures often use the words “spotless,” “unspotted” and “without spot” to describe the condition of a soul made clean through Christ’s atonement. For example, see the Book of Mormon Title Page, 2 Ne 33:7, Moroni 10:33, James 1:27, D&C 59:9.
21 – “that ye must do” Count the occurrences of the word “do” in this verse. The gospel isn’t just about knowing, but doing. And in knowing and doing, we become what the Lord wants us to become (See Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” October 2000 General Conference).
27 – “Ye shall be judges of this people” We might assume the “judge” role refers to the last or final judgment, but it probably means they will take the role of judges during mortality. Bishops are called to be a “judge in Israel” in ministering to the church. However, other scriptures show that the role of “judge” will continue after this life:
D&C 29:12: And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, and it hath gone forth in a firm decree, by the will of the Father, that mine apostles, the Twelve which were with me in my ministry at Jerusalem, shall stand at my right hand at the day of my coming in a pillar of fire, being clothed with robes of righteousness, with crowns upon their heads, in glory even as I am, to judge the whole house of Israel, even as many as have loved me and kept my commandments, and none else.
On earth and in the next life, there are numerous judges. Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught:
The reality is that there will be a whole hierarchy of judges who, under Christ, shall judge the righteous. He alone shall issue the decrees of damnation for the wicked. – The Millennial Messiah, p. 520.
There have been partial judgments throughout our existence. Our decision to follow the Father’s plan brought us to earth, which is a partial judgment. Our assignment after death to paradise or spirit prison is another partial judgement. The body we receive in the resurrection will be a partial judgment.
When we interview for a temple recommend with a member of the bishopric and the stake presidency, the last question asked, “do you consider yourself worthy.” To answer this questions we become our own judge.
32 – “The fourth generation from this generation” It is my theory, that by the fourth generation, perhaps all the personal witnesses of Christ had died out.
I have no recollection of my great-grandparents (fourth generation), but I do remember my grandparents. I can only imagine the impact it would have had on me to have my grandparents (third generation), take me by the hand, look me in the eye, and tell me the story of Jesus’ visit, and testify that they felt his hands and feet and saw him heal multitudes of people. Perhaps while the third generation remained alive, people were more righteous because eyewitness testimonies of Christ were still in their midst. By the fourth generation, doubt began to creep in because the personal witnesses were all gone, and the three Nephites had been removed. Just a theory.
3 Nephi 28 – The Three Nephites
3 – “blessed are ye” Nine of the Jesus’ disciples desire to live to the age of man then enter into Christ’s kingdom. The “age of man” is defined as 72.
7 – “more blessed are ye” Jesus’ disciples wanted different things, but they were not told there desires were “right” or “wrong,” just that one desire was “blessed” and one was “more blessed.” Those who desired to tarry on earth were told, “more blessed are ye” but both those who wanted to enter speedily in Christ’s kingdom and those who wished to remain were also called “blessed.” Both were considered righteous desires.
Transfiguration is different than translation, which is different than resurrection. Here’s an excerpt from the Book of Mormon Student Manual:
The following definitions help clarify the doctrines of translation, transfiguration, and resurrection. Notice the difference between translated beings and the more temporary state of transfiguration:
Translated beings. “Persons who are changed so that they do not experience pain or death until their resurrection to immortality” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Translated Beings”).
“Many have supposed that the doctrine of translation was a doctrine whereby men were taken immediately into the presence of God, and into an eternal fullness, but this is a mistaken idea. Their place of habitation is that of the terrestrial order, and a place prepared for such characters He held in reserve to be ministering angels unto many planets, and who as yet have not entered into so great a fullness as those who are resurrected from the dead” ( Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 4:210).
Transfiguration. “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”).
Resurrection. “The reuniting of the spirit body with the physical body of flesh and bones after death. After resurrection, the spirit and body will never again be separated, and the person will become immortal” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Resurrection”). (Book of Mormon Student Manual, Religion 121-122, 339).
Mormon explains more of the differences between the temporary state of “translation” and the “greater change” of the state of resurrection in verses 37-40.
13 – “saw and heard unspeakable things” These events parallel the experience of the apostle Paul who was caught up into the “third heaven” as described in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 (notice footnote 13a).
23 – “converted unto the Lord” Notice the careful wording: they were “converted unto the Lord” (not converted unto the church). Then, they were “united with the church.” We don’t really convert to the church, or to an organization, but we strive to be converted unto the Lord, then we unite with or join his church.
26 – “They have ministered unto me” It is interesting that Mormon saw these three Nephites some 400 years after they were translated.
3 Nephi 29 – A Sign and a Warning
8 – “the Lord remembereth his covenant unto them” While serving as bishop, I had someone with Jewish relatives ask me how the church regarded the Jews. I was happy to share this verse, as well as 2 Nephi 29:5, both of which tell us that we had better be very careful who we treat the Jews and any remnant of the house of Israel. Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught:
If the hearts of the Christians of the world were truly centered on the Bible, as they profess, would they not have an entirely different feeling toward the Jews? Did not Jesus say that “salvation is of the Jews”? (John 4:22.) Was not Jesus a Jew, and did not the Bible come to us through Jewish hands? Can anyone truly believe and reverence the Bible without honoring and thanking the Jews? (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 462.)
3 Nephi 30 – A commandment to Latter-day Gentiles
1-2 – “Turn…and repent” 2 Nephi 30 begins with a stern warning and ends with an invitation, (justice and mercy), then with a reminder of the first principles and ordinances (the doctrine of Christ), “be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost.”
4 Nephi – 36 AD to 320 (A long price cycle)
1 – “baptized in the name of Jesus” Notice the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are mentioned. First things first!
2 – “no contentions” Nephites and Lamanites were all converted, dealing justly with one another – a remarkable and rare situation. Notice – it wasn’t that they were all members of the church – but they were all converted to the gospel of Christ.
3 – “all things common among them” evidently they were living some form of consecration, and they were happy about it! No “keeping up with the Jones” tendencies in their hearts. Also, they were all made “free” – probably meaning free from sin and ignorance, as in John 8:32, “ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
5 – “great and marvelous works” An amazing verification of the idea that “signs follows those that believe” – the disciples were able to do the things Jesus did in his name.
12 – “meeting together oft” We hold a lot of meetings in our church, some administrative, and the more important focused on worship, to “pray and hear the word of the Lord.” Notice the footnote to Moroni 6:5.
14 – “other disciples ordained in their stead” Evidently, the organization of the 12 disciples in the new world was meant to continue like the 12 apostles in the old world. When a vacancy was created by the death of Judas, the remaining apostles met and prayed and chose Matthias. See Acts 1:15-26.
15 – “No contention” because of the love of God which filled their hearts – not prisons and law enforcement that brought peace
Four times in 4 Nephi (in verses 2, 13, 15, and 18), we are told there was no contention among the people. But in verse 15, we are told why: “because of the love of God which filled their hearts.” When I teach 4 Nephi, I like to ask my students, “why is it so short?” This is a fair question, because 4 Nephi covers a period of approximately 285 years. So “why is it so short?” Answer: “Nothing to report.” The people kept the commandments, and they “prospered in the land,” just as the Book of Mormon has repeatedly promised.
17 – “nor any manner of -ites” Contention is the opposite of unity, and “-ites” are evidence of division among the people. But what about diversity? What about holding on to our different cultures and our different backgrounds? What about honoring our ancestors and their cultures? This is a great question, but it is answered later in this verse. Rather than focusing on whether they were children of Nephi, or Laman, or Lemuel, they were called “children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.” Our unity is around our testimonies of Christ. Our backgrounds and cultures can and should be celebrated, honored and remembered, but we should be unified about the most important thing, our testimonies and our spiritual rebirth, allowing us to refer to ourselves as the “children of Christ.”
20 – “taken upon them the name of Lamanites” The further we go through the Book of Mormon, the more being a “Lamanite” or “Nephite” is a matter of affiliation and belief rather than lineage and birth. Generations passed away with no “-ites.”, so when this division begins, we notice that it doesn’t say the Lamanites revolted, but that a small part of the people took upon themselves the name of Lamanites. In verse 36, “there arose a people who were called the Nephites.” Verse 38 explains, “those who rejected the gospel were called Lamanites.” So we see that the people were distinguishing themselves perhaps more by belief than by their genealogy.
After this period, the society begins to break down, and we see the indications of a pride cycle in the verses that follow:
20 There was a division among the people
23 They became exceedingly rich
24 They exhibited pride and wore costly apparel
26 There was a division into classes
27 Some churches denied the idea of sin
28 Satan gets a hold on people’s hearts
29 Some churches deny Christ
31 People sought to kill the three Nephites
38 They did willfully rebel against the gospel (see Mosiah 3:12).
39 They were taught to hate
42 Secret combinations emerged
46 Robbers spread over the face of the land
43 – “the people of Nephi began to be proud in their hearts” This is a sad situation, where the believers begin to follow the world – a few steps behind, perhaps, but following nevertheless. In 1861, the Millennial Star observed:
If the breach is daily widening between ourselves and the world, as it is between the community of the Saints and the world, then we may be assured that our progress is certain, however slow. On the opposite hand, if our feelings and affections, our appetites and desires, are in unison with the world around us and freely fraternize with them…we should do well to examine ourselves. Individuals in such a condition might possess a nominal position in the Church but would be lacking the life of the work, and, like the foolish virgins who slumbered while the bridegroom tarried, they would be unprepared for His coming when it bursts upon them unexpectedly. (Oct. 5, 1861, Millennial Star 23:645-46)
President Ezra Taft Benson taught:
Christ taught that we should be in the world but not of it. Yet there are some in our midst who are not so much concerned about taking the gospel into the world as the are about bringing worldliness into the gospel. They want us to be in the world and of it. They want us to be popular with the worldly even though a prophet has said that this is impossible, for all hell would then want to join us. – Conference Report, April 1969, p. 11.