11 And it came to pass that he commanded that their little children should be brought.
12 So they brought their little children and set them down upon the ground round about him, and Jesus stood in the midst; and the multitude gave way till they had all been brought unto him.
13 And it came to pass that when they had all been brought, and Jesus stood in the midst, he commanded the multitude that they should kneel down upon the ground.
14 And it came to pass that when they had knelt upon the ground, Jesus groaned within himself, and said: Father, I am troubled because of the wickedness of the people of the house of Israel.
15 And when he had said these words, he himself also knelt upon the earth; and behold he prayed unto the Father, and the things which he prayed cannot be written, and the multitude did bear record who heard him.
16 And after this manner do they bear record: The eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father;
17 And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father.
18 And it came to pass that when Jesus had made an end of praying unto the Father, he arose; but so great was the joy of the multitude that they were overcome.
19 And it came to pass that Jesus spake unto them, and bade them arise.
20 And they arose from the earth, and he said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full. (3 Nephi 17:11-20, emphasis added)
When Jesus says he is troubled, it is a little difficult to know what He was bothered by. For a long time I thought it was a generalized statement about being disturbed about the house of Israel.
But gradually I came to the conclusion that He must have been bothered about something specific He saw happening among the people in front of Him at that time as they brought their children forward.
I think we have this idealized vision of how it happened with people all moving quietly and reverently, with children acting perfectly, but it probably wasn’t like that at all. It may have been a mass of confusion, with pushing, and irritation, and children rollicking all over or freaking out over being separated from their parents and then being shushed fiercely and crying, with children bugging each other, and so on. It is even possible there was some verbal or physical abuse in the process of getting those children situated. This would certainly be disturbing to Jesus.
I notice though, that His response after noting their wickedness was to have everyone kneel down and to pray for them. And once that is accomplished, the tone and mood of the gathering has totally reversed because the multitude was overcome with joy, and Jesus said His joy was full.
I think what He did is a good pattern for us. If we are troubled by someone’s wickedness, we can pray for them too, and that can help us overcome feelings of sadness and grievance. It is a way we can use our agency on behalf of an offender.
How might the multitude have felt to know that Jesus considered their actions wicked? It would have been rather a shock. It would call for soul-searching. But then to hear Him pray for them really must have been heartening and encouraged them to repent. Then they would have been able to feel the same joy Jesus felt. Perhaps this is why Jesus told them afterward that they were blessed because of their faith. Rather than take offense to His assessment of their spiritual condition, they softened and repented.