Friday, September 28, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson #38 addition

3 Nephi 16

When my oldest son was in elementary school, he really enjoyed reading a series of books called Choose Your Own Adventure.

He loved these books because he would read a page, and then he had a choice to make about what the protagonist would do.  If he chose one action, he was to turn to a certain page, but if he chose another action, he was to turn to a different page.  Then he continued reading, and again had a choice to make.  As the cover shows, there were 42 different endings to the book, and the reader's choices selected which one he got.  He could read the book again, and come up with a different adventure and a different ending.

3 Nephi 16 is a little bit like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

The adventure actually begins in 3 Nephi 15:14, with Christ telling the Nephites that the people in Jerusalem did not know about them, and they did not know that He would visit them.  He had given them a hint, that "other sheep [He] had which are not of this fold; them also [He] must bring, and they shall hear [His] voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd" (verse 16-17) but they didn't ask Him anything more about it.  He would have revealed this to them if they had asked (3 Nephi 16:4), but they assumed they knew the answer--that it was the Gentiles He was talking about, despite the fact that He had told them He wouldn't go to the Gentiles right away.

How different would the adventure have been if they had asked?  And what hints is Christ giving to us about which we don't ask?  We must invest something in order to receive revelation; we must at least invest curiosity and desire and a question.

Christ commanded the people of Nephi to write of this encounter with Him so that it would go to the Gentiles after the apostacy of the House of Israel, "that through the fulness of the Gentiles, the remnant of [the House of Israel]...may be brought to a knowledge of me, their Redeemer." (3 Nephi 16:4)  

So here is where the Gentiles "Choose Their Own Adventure":

What does the "fulness of the Gentiles" mean?  Elder Bruce R. McConkie said it means the time when they have had "a full opportunity to accept the truth."  (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 2:290)  I think also that the word fulness in the Book of Mormon often refers to being full of the Holy Ghost, so that through the conversion of the Gentiles, and through their acting upon the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and their testifying through the power of the Holy Ghost, the gospel would be brought back to the House of Israel.
Those Gentiles who take the opportunity to choose the gospel, which will be restored in America and initially available there, will blessed "because of their belief in me, in and of the Holy Ghost, which witnesses unto them of me and of the Father.  Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of Israel, in the latter day shall the truth come unto the Gentiles..." (3 Nephi 16:7)

The other choice of adventure?

The Gentiles who don't believe will come to America along with the others, but they will scatter the Native Americans of the House of Israel, and cast them out, and tread them under their feet, and they will be the ones who hate and despise them and cause them so much grief and sorrow--which is a suffering that the Lord allows to come upon the first Americans because of their rejection of the gospel as Lamanites.  But this kind of warfare is not what believing Gentiles would do.  This is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to displace, torture, and even practice genocide upon another race.  It is well-documented that President Joseph Smith sent missionaries to the Native Americans, and that President Brigham Young openly taught the Mormon pioneers to respect and treat kindly the Native Americans.  I believe that the tragic scattering and mistreatment of these people was part of the "sinnings against [His] gospel," practiced by the unbelieving Gentiles, condemned in 3 Nephi 16:10. 

And here comes the next choice of adventure:

Those Gentiles who sin against the gospel, reject it, consider themselves better than other nations or peoples (including the American Indians), participate in sexual misconduct, murder, organized crime, churches that prey upon people for money, etc., will lose the opportunity for the gospel and God will turn again to the House of Israel and bring His gospel unto them.  (3 Nephi 16:10-11).

And the next choice for the American branch of the House of Israel:

If the descendants of the Lamanites choose the gospel, the Gentiles will  no longer have power to oppress them.  (3 Nephi 16:12)

And the next choice for the Gentiles:

Even if they were in the "unbelieving" group, if they will now "repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel" and they will not suffer a reciprocal fate of being trodden down themselves  (3 Nephi 16:13-14), BUT...

Next choice:

If they don't choose the gospel, they'll be beaten down and become worthless, like salt that has lost its savor.  Salt has one purpose and if it becomes corrupted and loses its ability to flavor food, it's useless.  If these people lose their special stature as believers in Jesus Christ, with the purpose to bring His gospel to the world, they will have no good purpose at all.

And the best choice of adventure:

If both peoples choose the Lord, the words of Isaiah will be fulfilled:  "Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing, for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion."  (3 Nephi 16:18)  There won't be House of Israel vs. Gentiles, or Native Americans vs. Pioneers, or any other peoples vs. any other peoples anymore--they will all be one in the gospel of Jesus Christ and never again will there be a trail of tears.

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