THE FIRST MEETING
In the previous lesson, we discussed all that transpired between Jesus Christ and the people in America on the first day of His appearance to them:
- Allowing a personal witness for each individual of His Atonement
- Giving authority and instruction for baptisms
- Teaching them His doctrine (the basic principles and ordinances of the gospel)
- The "Sermon on the Mount" but here given at the temple, an expansion on the basics of the gospel and their application in daily life
- The template for prayer in "The Lord's Prayer"
- Announcement of the fulfillment of the Law of Moses
- Reminder of the Abrahamic Covenant, and allusions to the large numbers of groups throughout the world who are included in this, many of which are not known by the others
That was the end of His agenda for Day One. BUT...
"It came to pass that when Jesus had thus spoken, he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and beheld they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them." (3 Nephi 17:5)
And all the rest of the wonderful story about Christ's first day with the Nephites took place because 1) they (nonverbally) asked for more, and 2) He did not stick with His agenda, but acted in pure love according to their needs. This is the single best example ever of a meeting that was lead by the Spirit. (Okay, that was a redundant sentence, but I meant to be redundant, because it really was the SINGLE, BEST, EVER example of a meeting led by the Spirit.)
Two great concepts were taught through this "tarrying" as noted in the paragraph above:
- No matter how great the experience, spiritually hungering for more may lead to greater gifts. Would Christ have given the Nephites all the wonderful gifts we are about to describe if they had not begged for more? Undoubtedly, He would have still instituted the sacrament the next day, but some of the other incredible spiritual outpourings would probably not have happened without a great spiritual craving on the part of the Nephites. Remember the great Beatitude that He taught them earlier that very day? "Blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost." (3 Nephi 12:6)
- Making plans is important, but being flexible with those plans is sometimes necessary in order to create the best experience possible and to serve in the best way possible.
Many great blessings were bestowed upon the Nephites during this tarrying.
(You may want to have your class search through the next two chapters to find all the great gifts that were given because the Nephites hungered for more. Here are the ones I see.)
- The blessing of the sick, lame, blind, halt, maimed, leprous, withered, deaf, or afflicted in any other way--every single one! (3 Nephi 17:6-10)
- The blessing of every one of the children. (3 Nephi 17:11-13; 21-22)
- The unutterable prayer Christ prayed (3 Nephi 17:14-17)
- Incredible joy for both the people and for Christ (3 Nephi 17:17-20)
- The ministering of angels to the children and the powerful manifestation of the Holy Ghost by fire around them (3 Nephi 17:23-24)
- The institution of the sacrament with additional instructions (3 Nephi 18) (please see postscript at the very end of this post)
- The bestowal of the power to the confer the Holy Ghost on the apostles (3 Nephi 18:36-37)
- The overshadowing of the apostles and Christ in a cloud, perhaps like the experience on the Mount of Transfiguration in the Bible. (3 Nephi 18:38)
MINISTERING TO CHILDREN
After this visit from Christ, this civilization in America stayed righteous for 200 years! This is the only time we can find recorded in the history of the world such a long period of righteousness. Christ also visited the Jews in Jerusalem and His visit there certainly did not have this effect. Both groups heard the Sermon on the Mount, both groups witnessed healing, praying, the institution of the sacrament, the ordaining of apostles, the bestowal of the Priesthood, the receipt of the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Besides differences in personal righteousness which we would have no way of perceiving, the greatest difference between the two groups was the level of ministering, blessing, and teaching that was done among children.
Anyone who thinks a call to teach Primary is insignificant does not have the same perspective that Christ does.
In Jerusalem, children were brought to Christ to be blessed. "Then there were brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray and the disciples rebuked [those who had brought them] saying, There is no need, for Jesus hath said, Such shall be saved. But Jesus said [Allow] little children and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 19:13-14, including JST and Hebrew footnotes)
In Christ's opinion, little children should be ministered to, even though they are indeed holy and saved. Why? Childhood is the most effective time to teach the gospel. Sister Michaelene P. Grassli, former Primary General President, said, "Let us not underestimate the capacity and potential power of today's children to perpetuate righteousness. No group of people in the Church is as receptive to the truth, both in efficiency of learning and with the greatest degree of retention." (October 1992 General Conference)
Here are important concepts about teaching and ministering to children that were noted by Sister Grassli from the experience in 3 Nephi 17:
- First, Christ commanded that the children be brought. It was not a suggestion. (verse 11)
- Second, Jesus waited until they had all been brought. He was not content with a representative sample. (verse 12)
- Third, with the children all gathered around him, Jesus prayed so powerfully that "no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things." At this time, the children were not with a babysitter or kept in another area--they were on the "front row." They experienced this spiritual event and they were effected by it. (verse 13-17)
- Fourth, he blessed the little children one by one, not just as a group. There were 2,500 people in this congregation: imagine how much time it must have taken to bless every child. But maybe time bends for important events. (verse 21)
- After personally blessing each one, he instructed their parents to Behold their little ones. The word behold in the Book of Mormon means much more than just "look at." Behold implied a very important concept, something really worth studying. If they could behold the children as Christ did, they could see their eternal possibilities. It could really change their perspective as parents and teachers. (verse 23)
- Then they were really given something to behold. Christ and the angels ministered to the children, and they were surrounded by fire. Maybe the adults wouldn't have seen the angels and the fire had they not prepared themselves spiritual when Christ said, "Behold." (verse 24)
- Later in Christ's visit, He taught the children greater things than He had taught their parents, and then He gave them the verbal capacity to teach these concepts to the adults. (3 Nephi 26:14)
Christ said we should become as little children in order to enter heaven, and nowhere is this better illustrated than in the story of His ministry among the Nephite children, when they were literally in a circle of heavenly fire on earth. As we watch the Church's video depiction of this event, note how the children look steadfastly at Christ as they come to him, never looking back, neither to the right or the left. If we do this, then we too can, at the end of everything, enter the circle of fire that is Christ's heavenly kingdom, and our joy can also be full.
Show your class the video "My Joy is Full".