Saturday, September 8, 2012
3 Nephi 1-7
A QUICK OVERVIEW
It's always easy to get an outline of what's going on in the Book of Mormon by reading the chapter headings and dates.
3 Nephi 1: Nephi the son of Helaman departs out of the land, and his son Nephi keeps the records--Though signs and wonders abound, the wicked plan to slay the righteous--The night of Christ's birth arrives--The sign is given and a new star arises--Lyings and deceivings increase, and the Gadianton robbers slaughter many. (A.D. 1)
3 Nephi 2: Wickedness and abominations increase among the people--The Nephites and Lamanites unite to defend themselves against the Gadianton robbers--Converted Lamanites become white and are called Nephites. (A.D. 3-9)
3 Nephi 3: Giddianhi, the Gadianton leader, demands that Lachoneus and the Nephites surrender themselves and their lands--Lachoneus appoints Gidgiddoni as chief captain of the armies--The Nephites assemble in Zarahemla and Bountiful to defend themselves. (A.D. 16)
3 Nephi 4: The Nephite armies defeat the Gadianton robbers--Giddianhi is slain, and his successor, Zemnarihah, is hanged--The Nephites praise the Lord for their victories. (A.D 18-19)
3 Nephi 5: The Nephites repent and forsake their sins--Mormon writes the history of his people and declares the everlasting word to them--Israel shall be gathered in from her long dispersion. (A.D. 21-26)
3 Nephi 6: The Nephites prosper--Pride, wealth, and class distinctions arise--The Church is rent with dissensions--Satan leads the people in open rebellion--Many prophets cry repentance and are slain--Their murderers conspire to take over the government. (A.D. 26)
3 Nephi 7: The chief judge is murdered, the government is overthrown, and the people divide into tribes--Jacob, an antichrist, becomes king of a league of tribes--Nephi preaches repentance and faith in Christ--Angels minister to him daily, and he raises his brother from the dead--Many repent and are baptized. (A.D. 29-30)
If the Book of Mormon is written for our day, this is a particularly frightening section. Major changes to the entire civilization took place in a span of just 30 years, only 100 years since Mosiah had been king, even though that 100 years covers most of the Book of Mormon. But that is much like the political unrest faced by many countries in which the Saints live today. Organized crime exists in most countries. Governments experience coups and change overnight. People vacillate between their best, righteous selves, and their lazy, prideful selves from year to year. Yet the missionaries and the prophets carry on, and "many repent and are baptized."
GIDDIANHI AS A SYMBOL OF SATAN
We can view Giddianhi, the leader of the Gadianton robbers, as a type of Satan, and Lachoneus as a type of prophet of God.
Giddianhi sent a bold epistle to Lachoneus.
First he flattered Lachoneus: "Lachoneus, most noble and chief governor of the land, behold, I write this epistle unto you, and do give unto you exceedingly great praise because of your firmness, and also the firmness of your people, in maintain that which ye suppose to be your right and liberty; yea, ye do stand well, as if ye were supported by the hand of a god, in the defence of your liberty, and your property, and your country, or that which ye do call so." (3 Nephi 3:2)
Then he belittled Lachoneus: "And it seemeth a pity unto me, most noble Lachonues, that ye should be so foolish and vain as to suppose that ye can stand against so many brave men who are at my command, who do now at this time stand in their arms, and do await with great anxiety for the word--Go down upon the Nephites and destroy them." (3 Nephi 3:3)
Next, he tried to frighten Lachoneus: "And I, knowing of their unconquerable spirit, having proved them in the field of battle, and knowing of their everlasting hatred towards you because of the many wrongs which ye have done unto them, therefore, if they should come down against you they would visit you with utter destruction." (3 Nephi 3:4)
Then he sympathized with Lachoneus: "Therefore I have written this epistle, sealing it with mine own hand, feeling for your welfare, because of your firmness in that which ye believe to be right, and your noble spirit in the field of battle." (3 Nephi 3:5)
And he tried to get Lachoneus to join him: "Therefore I write unto you, desiring that ye would yield up unto this my people, your cities, your lands, and your possessions, rather than that they should visit you with the sword and that destruction should come upon you. Or in other words, yield yourselves up unto us, and unite with us and become acquainted with our secret works, and become our brethren that ye may be like unto us--not our slaves, but our brethren and partners of all our substance. And behold, I swear unto you, if you will do this, with an oath, ye shall not be destroyed..." (3 Nephi 3:6-8)
And lastly, he threatened Lachoneus: "...but if ye will not do this, I swear unto you with an oath, that on the morrow month I will command that my armies shall come down against you, and they shall not stay their hand and shall spare not, but shall slay you, and shall let fall the sword upon you even until ye shall become extinct." (3 Nephi 3:8)
And then he lied about himself and his motives: "And behold, I am Giddianhi; and I am the governor of this the secret society of Gadianton [which was true]; which society and the works thereof I know to be good [which was false]; and they are of ancient date and they have been handed down unto us." (3 Nephi 3:9) And then he added the usual Book of Mormon complaint/lie, that the Nephites had taken away the rights of the government from the--wait, this time it's not the Lamanites, it's the Gadiantons. (Can't they come up with their own grievance? Do they have to borrow that tired old one from the Lamanites?)
Isn't this what Satan does today? He boldly flatters us, then belittles us by saying we are too smart to believe in our religion, then he tries to frighten us from acting against him, he sympathizes with us, and offers to help us if we abandon our righteous cause, he threatens us with evil consequences if we stick with our religious practices (which threats--stay tuned--he cannot carry out), and always he lies about himself, saying his cause is better than ours.
LACHONEUS AS A TYPE OF PROPHET
Lachoneus' reaction to this threat is an excellent example which we can use in our daily lives, and in our countries. (You can ask your class to share corresponding examples from our latter-day prophets.)
First, he did not take counsel from his fears: "Now behold, this Lachoneus, the governor, was a just man, and could not be frightened by the demands and the threatenings of a robber; therefore he did not hearken to the epistle of Giddianhi, the governor of the robbers..." (3 Nephi 3:12) Keep in mind that the word "hearken" means "to listen and obey." He certainly did listen to the epistle and pay great attention to it, as we will see.
Second, he appealed immediately to the Lord: "...but he did cause that his people should cry unto the Lord for strength against the time that the robbers should come down against them." (3 Nephi 3:12)
Third and fourth, he counseled his people to gather together for strength, and to store a large supply of food: "Yea, he sent a proclamation among all the people, that they should gather together their women, and their children, their flocks and their herds, and all their substance, save it were their land, unto one place." (3 Nephi 3:13) It lasted seven years! (3 Nephi 4:4) Either they were extremely well-prepared and self-sufficient in order to live seven years without fresh crops, or the Lord miraculously expanded their food supply to meet the need. (My guess is, it was both!)
Fifth, he commanded his people to shelter and protect their families: "He caused that fortifications should be built round about them, and the strength thereof should be exceedingly great." (3 Nephi 3:14)
Sixth, he sent out a watch: "And he caused that armies, both of the Nephites and of the Lamanites, or of all them who were numbered among the Nephites, should be placed as guards round about to watch them, and to guard them from the robbers day and night." (3 Nephi 3:14)
Seventh, he prophecied to the people, calling them to repentance: "Yea, he said unto them: As the Lord liveth, except ye repent of all your iniquities, and cry unto the Lord, ye will in nowise be delivered out of the hands of those Gadianton robbers." (3 Nephi 3:15)
THE LORD'S PROMISES VS. THE DEVIL'S PROMISES
It is essential to remember that the Lord keeps His promises made through His prophets and Satan does not, even promises made to his own followers. This is always cause for hope, trust and serenity among the faithful saints.
Had Lachoneus been immobilized by fear, if he had believed the threats of the "devil" more than the promises of the Lord, he would have thought there was no hope and no chance of preparing and defending his people, because--remember?--Giddianhi said, "I swear unto you with an oath, that on the morrow month I will command that my armies shall come down against you..." (3 Nephi 3:8) One month is not enough time to do anything! It's a hopeless situation!
But Giddianhi did not have the power to carry out his threat. He made it in the sixteenth year (3 Nephi 3:1), but wasn't actually prepared to come to battle until the eighteenth year (3 Nephi 4:1). When he did finally come, his robbers couldn't get enough to eat; they had been counting on plundering, and all the plunder was now guarded (3 Nephi 4:3). Also, they had planned to pick off the Nephites here and there from their farms, not meet an entire battalion at a fort. They couldn't do anything to produce their own food, or they would be spread out and vulnerable like the Nephites had been. Finally, halfway through the nineteenth year (3 1/2 years after the epistle was sent), they were so hungry, they decided to risk a battle. They tried to make themselves look scarier than they were, and they thought they had succeeded when they saw the Nephites fall to the earth. But, unfortunately for them, the Nephites had not fallen to beg their mercy, but to call upon the Lord for help, and "in the strength of the Lord they did receive them." (3 Nephi 4:10)
It was the deadliest battle since the family of Lehi had come into the New World (3 Nephi 4:11), but the Nephites won. Giddianhi was killed.
The war continued under new Gadianton leadership, but with the same problems for the Gadiantons. Finally, after two years of trying to wait out the Nephites' food supply, the Gadiantons had to give it up. They were literally starving, and had to go north to find food. The Nephites, aware of their movements, surrounded them in the night, and took thousands of hungry prisoners, while killing those who would not submit. Prisoners who entered a covenant of peace were freed and prisoners who insisted on remaining enemies were put to death (3 Nephi 5:4-5). "And thus they did put an end to all those wicked, and secret, and abominable combinations, in the which there was so much wickedness and so many murders committed." (3 Nephi 5:6)
PLACING TRUST IN THE LORD AND OBEYING HIS PROPHETS PROTECTS US AND BUILDS TESTIMONY
The righteous victors praised the Lord for their success. "Yea, they did cry: Hosanna to the Most High God. And they did cry: Blessed be the name of the Lord God Almighty, the Most High God. And their hearts were swollen with joy, unto the gushing out of many tears, because of the great goodness of God in delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; and they knew it was because of their repentance and their humility that they had been delivered from an everlasting destruction. And now behold, there was not a living soul among all the people of the Nephites who did doubt in the least the words of all the holy prophets who had spoken; for they knew that it must needs be that they must be fulfilled." (3 Nephi 4:32-5:1)
This is the state in which we will find ourselves if we follow the example of the people of Lachoneus.
Then the question will be, will we stay there, or will we tumble headlong back into the pride cycle?