Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Gift of Being Translated

 3 Nephi 28 is a very interesting chapter about the two different gifts that Christ gave to his disciples.  Nine were given the gift that they would come speedily to His kingdom when their days on the earth were over, and three were given the gift to remain on the earth until Christ’s second coming so they could have more time to teach the gospel.

This chapter is significant for a number of reasons.  First, we don’t have detail about translated beings in the Bible and this chapter tells us much about the nature of translated beings.  We learn:
·      They are holy and sanctified in the flesh (v39)
·      Satan has no power over them to tempt them (v39)
·      They are like angels and can show themselves to people when they pray for it (v30)
·      They will have a fullness of joy for their efforts. (v10)
·      They have power over natural forces and the powers of earth can’t hold them (v19-22, 39)
·      They don’t experience pain or sorrow except for the sins of the world (v9)
·      They won’t die, but instead will be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality (v8)

In the Bible, all we have about translated beings is a little bit about Jesus suggesting that John would tarry until the second coming.  But in the Book of Mormon, we get a whole chapter mostly devoted to not just one, but three people who are given this amazing gift.  The language is clear and explanatory.

We also learn that the desire to stay on the earth longer in order to do missionary work is a better desire than to quickly go to God’s kingdom in heaven.   I suppose that staying to do missionary work is much more unselfish and even involves sacrificing rest in the spirit world, not to mention the prospect of being together with the wife and the children.

What always gets me is that a desire so incredible can be granted like that.  Every time I read about it, I am astounded and it makes me feel like I don’t have enough vision to sense what is possible.  Not only does it astound me that Jesus granted their desire, it astounds me that the three Nephites had it.  Somehow they believed enough in Jesus’s power of resurrection to think that he could grant them the power to stay on earth longer.  But now it occurs to me, what is more miraculous—to be granted the ability to live for thousands of years longer before passing to immortality, or to die and then be resurrected later? 

What this story also does is indirectly bring us to ask ourselves the question, “If I wanted to live for several thousand years longer while not subject to pain or sorrow (and perhaps enjoying a body at the peak of its prime), what would I do with my time?”  Would I become a major sports star?  Would I build a business empire and accumulate mountains of wealth?  Would I have oodles of children?  Would I go on mission after mission after mission after mission…?  What the three Nephites wanted to do was essentially the same as God’s work and glory—to help bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.  They would go on one mission after another, such that all their missions were connected together.

So I was asking myself why the Lord would want us to know about this and how it can help us today.  When I was looking at the list of things above, I noticed that there is one aspect that is within our reach as Saints—that of becoming holy.  It’s a spiritual transformation that we can attain to through the Atonement.  Being translated is a transformation of the body to a higher state, being sanctified in the flesh.   And it is seems to me that this may be something that is can be attained gradually, as is spoken of in the oath and covenant of the priesthood.  “For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.” (D&C 84:33) 

So maybe being faithful to obtain the priesthood and magnifying one’s calling brings a slow transformation through the power of the Holy Ghost with the same ultimate end as one would have if they were translated in an instant like the three Nephites. 

A final thing I notice is that Moroni was forbidden to write the names of these three Nephites, making them anonymous. (We can’t go around testing people by asking them their names, nor can we give those names to our children and make them common.)  Then he confides to us that the three Nephite disciples will be among both the Jews and the Gentiles and both these peoples won’t know it.  (They are like secret agents for God, spiritual navy seals, as it were.)  Finally, he gives a warning: “wo be unto him that will not hearken unto the words of Jesus, and also to them whom he hath chosen and sent among them; for whoso receiveth not the words of Jesus and the words of those whom he hath sent receiveth not him; and therefore he will not receive them at the last day” (v34).  It seems the Lord wants the world to receive any missionaries as if they are one of these three Nephite disciples.


Ramona Gordy said...

Is John the Beloved also a translated being? Is it possible that he works in tandem with the 3 Nephites? If they are "among" us, what does that mean, that they are visible and so ordinary that no one would recognize them, except maybe through revelation for a specific purpose?
Do you think that their purpose is to commence the physical building of Zion or at least announce it?
Some questions, mostly rhetoric but if you have answers or references, I would appreciate them.
Thanks Michaela

Michaela Stephens said...

Yep, John the Beloved is a translated being.

Matt 16:28--Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
John 21:20-23
20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?
21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?
22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.
23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?

You can also look at D&C 7, which is a revelation of a translated version of a record made by John the Beloved about this.

In 3 Nephi 28:30 Mormon says the three Nephites are as the angels of God and if they pray, they can show themselves to whoever they think they should. This implies invisibility, but it could also mean anonymity.
That they would be among us and we would know them not could imply either invisibility or anonymity or even both.
If they were invisible, we certainly wouldn't know they were around.
If they were anonymous, we would see them, but not connect them with their true identity, which would be functionally the same as not knowing they were around.

3 Nephi 28:29 speaks of them ministering to all the scattered tribes, so that reinforces their teaching mission. And I suppose that teaching would require them to be visible and ordinary-looking in order to not call attention to themselves and remain anonymous. Yet they seem to have been willing to identify themselves to Mormon, since he says in 3 Nephi 28:26 that he has seen them and they ministered to him.

Ramona Gordy said...

Thank you