Thursday, March 22, 2018

Nephi’s Ministry in 3 Nephi 7 as a Parallel of Christ’s

15 And it came to pass that Nephi—having been visited by angels and also the voice of the Lord, therefore having seen angels, and being eye-witness, and having had power given unto him that he might know concerning the ministry of Christ, and also being eye-witness to their quick return from righteousness unto their wickedness and abominations;
16 Therefore, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds—went forth among them in that same year, and began to testify, boldly, repentance and remission of sins through faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.
17 And he did minister many things unto them; and all of them cannot be written, and a part of them would not suffice, therefore they are not written in this book. And Nephi did minister with power and with great authority.
18 And it came to pass that they were angry with him, even because he had greater power than they, for it were not possible that they could disbelieve his words, for so great was his faith on the Lord Jesus Christ that angels did minister unto him daily.
19 And in the name of Jesus did he cast out devils and unclean spirits; and even his brother did he raise from the dead, after he had been stoned and suffered death by the people.
20 And the people saw it, and did witness of it, and were angry with him because of his power; and he did also do many more miracles, in the sight of the people, in the name of Jesus.
21 And it came to pass that the thirty and first year did pass away, and there were but few who were converted unto the Lord; but as many as were converted did truly signify unto the people that they had been visited by the power and Spirit of God, which was in Jesus Christ, in whom they believed.
22 And as many as had devils cast out from them, and were healed of their sicknesses and their infirmities, did truly manifest unto the people that they had been wrought upon by the Spirit of God, and had been healed; and they did show forth signs also and did do some miracles among the people.
23 Thus passed away the thirty and second year also. And Nephi did cry unto the people in the commencement of the thirty and third year; and he did preach unto them repentance and remission of sins.
24 Now I would have you to remember also, that there were none who were brought unto repentance who were not baptized with water.
25 Therefore, there were ordained of Nephi, men unto this ministry, that all such as should come unto them should be baptized with water, and this as a witness and a testimony before God, and unto the people, that they had repented and received a remission of their sins.
26 And there were many in the commencement of this year that were baptized unto repentance; and thus the more part of the year did pass away. (3 Nephi 7:15-26, emphasis added)
In 3 Nephi 7, during the awful disunity among the Nephites, when the government was destroyed and society broke up into tribes, the bright spot is the prophet Nephi and his ministry.

It struck me that there were many ways that Nephi’s ministry paralleled that of Jesus Christ half a world away. You can notice the timing—Nephi started in the 30th year after the sign of Christ’s birth and continued on right to the sign of Christ’s death. Verse 15 tells us Nephi had power given him that he might know of the ministry of Christ, which means that either in dreams or open visions he saw it happening and likely did his best to follow the example he was given.

Although Mormon doesn’t go into detail about the things Nephi said in his ministry, besides his testimony and preaching faith in Christ and repentance of sins, we are told his words were very powerful and he had great authority given to him. He did many miracles, such as casting out devils and unclean spirits, and raising someone (his brother) from the dead. He had angels minister to him daily.

He converted but few at the beginning, but their conversions were real, and then he ordained others to preach and baptize, and then we are told many were baptized unto repentance. It sounds as though he was re-forming the church organization that had been previously broken up and that he was making significant headway in improving how things were. It is really sad we don’t have more about him because I’m sure that point-for-point his ministry would have followed Christ’s.

There was a time in the 90th year of the reign of judges (corresponding to about 2 B.C.) when there were Nephites who wondered why Jesus would not show himself to the Nephites as well as those in Jerusalem. They worried about being kept in ignorance just because they couldn’t witness with their eyes that the prophecies of Christ were coming true (see Helaman 16:18-20). The ministry of Nephi seems to have been the Lord’s answer to that concern, meant to show the Nephites what the ministry of Christ was like, so as to leave them without excuse. The result was that the humble and repentant were visited by the power and spirit of God, and were blessed for their belief in Christ—they were healed, and did show signs and did some miracles, while others were angry that Nephi had more power than they did.

In the larger perspective, Nephi’s ministry was a very serious thing—it was the last call to repentance the people would have before the great destruction that would occur at the time of Christ’s death. Rejecting such a powerful witness brings very serious consequences.

But for those who believed and repented, all the great things they saw and heard and did and felt during Nephi’s ministry were only a preliminary blessing to what they would receive when Christ visited them after His resurrection.