Three Nephites

Last updated

In the Book of Mormon, the Three Nephites (also known as the Three Nephite Disciples) are three Nephite disciples of Jesus who were blessed by Jesus to remain alive on the earth, engaged in his ministry and in their apostolic callings until his Second Coming. As described in Third Nephi chapter 28, this change occurred when they were caught up into heaven. Similar to Mormon beliefs about John the Apostle, the Three Nephites were granted immortality in order to carry out their ministering work on the earth. The account in the Book of Mormon reads that they ministered unto all the people in the surrounding lands, bringing many to the church by means of preaching and baptism.

Contents

In modern times, the Three Nephites and the beliefs surrounding them make up a significant part of Mormon folklore. These stories describe situations in which the Three Nephites have appeared and provided assistance in some way or another to church members, and such stories give insight into the contemporary tests of faith experienced by members of the LDS church. [1]

Origin

The Three Nephites were chosen from among Christ's twelve disciples on the American continent. Of the twelve, nine expressed their desire to enter speedily into Christ's kingdom once their earthly missions were completed, and Christ granted their wish. The remaining three wanted to remain on the earth laboring in the cause of Christ until his Second Coming, a wish which he granted unto them upon his departure into heaven. [2] He then left them with a blessing that they would not taste of death, and that upon his Second Coming they would be changed from mortality to immortality. Jesus promised them that they would experience no pain or sorrow during their time on earth, wickedness would have no power over them, and they would possess knowledge and wisdom exceeding that of a mortal human perspective. [3] [2] The so-called Three Nephites are referred to only as "disciples," and it is possible that one or more of them were Lamanites by descent. [4] It should be noted, however, that it was standard practice in the Book of Mormon to refer to Lamanites who were converted to the faith as Nephites. [5] [6]

Ministry

The prophet Mormon, who lived about four hundred years after the three Nephites, identified a few major groups that the Three Nephites would minister to and recounted his encounter with them. They would first labor among the faithful Nephites and Lamanites who remained after the appearance of Christ on the American continent. Then they would minister to the Gentiles, the Jews, the scattered tribes of Israel, and all nations kindreds, tongues, and people. [3] Similar to other stories about missionaries and martyrs, the text says that they suffered severe persecution from those who did not believe. [2] In the centuries that followed Christ's visit to the Americas, as faith decreased among the inhabitants and persecution increased, the Three Nephites were "taken away" from the people for a time. Later chapters of the Book of Mormon indicate that they were placed once again among the people to continue their ministry and work. [7] Mormon wrote that he himself had been visited by the Three Nephites, and that they had ministered to him. Mormon also wrote that they would be among the Jews and the Gentiles, and the Jews and Gentiles shall not recognize them. Mormon stated that he intended to write the names of the Three Nephites, but God forbade him to do so. Mormon also wrote that the Three Nephites were cast into prison, buried alive, thrown into a furnace and into a den of wild beasts, but emerged unharmed on each of these occasions because of the powers Christ had endowed them with. [2]

In modern Mormonism

Orson Pratt, a member the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the church, drew attention to the account of the Three Nephites while speaking at a conference in Salt Lake City in 1855, and alluded to the possibility that the three men might still be upon the earth: [8]

How pleasant—how glorious it would be, if we had proved ourselves in all things; if we had become pure in heart... Yes; how pleasing—how glorious it would be, could we see those three old Nephites whose prayers have ascended up, for something like 1800 years, in behalf of the children of men in the last days, and have them return to their native land, and find the kingdom of God prepared a nd pure to receive them, and could we hear their teachings, and their voices lifted up in our midst … Then let us wake up, and be assured that just as soon as we prepare ourselves for these blessings, as soon they will be upon our heads. Do you suppose that these Three Nephites have any knowledge of what is going on in this land? They know all about it; they are filled with the spirit of prophecy. why do they not come in our midst? Because the time has not came. Why do they not lift up their voices in the midst of our congregations? Because there is a work for us to do preparatory to their reception, and when that is accomplished, they will accomplish their work, unto whomsoever they desire to minister . . . they can show themselves unto whatsoever person or people they choose. The very reason they do not come amongst us is because we have a work to do preparatory to their coming, and just as soon as that is accomplished they are on hand; and also many other good old worthy ancients that would rejoice our hearts could we behold their countenances, and hear them recite over the scenes they have passed through, and the history of past events, as well as prophesy of the events to come. How great and precious are the promises of the Lord contained in ancient revelation! [9]

Following Pratt's talk, church members who had experiences with unidentified messengers began to identify such visitors as being one, two, or all three of the Three Nephites. A study published in 1947 found that, out of seventy-five recorded appearances of the Three Nephites, only six occurred before 1855. [10] Various other church leaders began to make mention of the Nephites in their talks and discourses, and the legend grew among members across the settlements.

Folklore

The story surrounding the Three Nephites began to capture the attention of the outside world near the end of the 19th century, when it was mentioned in The Folk-Lorist, the journal of the Chicago Folk-Lore Society, in an article written by Reverend David Utter of Salt Lake City in 1892 about Mormon superstitions. [1] The origin story of the Three Nephites and their subsequent sightings were later mentioned in various journals and publications throughout the 20th century. As with all Mormon folkloric stories, the tale of the Three Nephites spread quickly throughout the world, given the growing missionary presence across the world. [8]

Three Nephite folklore has been studied by folklorists William A. Wilson, David Utter, Wayland Hand, Hector Lee, Austin E. and Alta S. Fife, and Richard Dorson. [1] Many similarities have been found between the story of the Three Nephites and those of John the Beloved and the Wandering Jew, as well as various other spiritual leaders who have been awarded the privilege to never taste of death. [2] The folklore and beliefs about the Three Nephite stem from a larger church-wide folklore generated by belief in a personal, loving God who actively intervenes in people’s lives, often by the means of others. [1]

In her 1968 thesis, Merilynne Rich Smith wrote the following about Three Nephite folklore:

In addition, [the stories have] become a type of history of the life of Mormons. During times of famine, the stories stressed the need for food; during times of danger, they revealed the problems the Saints faced; and at the same time they provide inspiration for those facing future problems of a similar nature. They offer evidence of divine concern for men here on earth. They provide a testimony for those who are weak in faith. They provide a way to explain the things which are sometimes inexplicable. [8]

Folklorist William A. Wilson collected Three Nephites stories and organized them into three categories. In family history or genealogy stories, one of the Three Nephites guides a family history researcher to missing information or encourages them to do their temple work and miraculously disappears. In the missionary work category of stories, one of the Three Nephites saves a missionary companionship from danger or helps with their proselytizing work. In the individual category, one of the Three Nephites saves a person from spiritual or physical danger or despair. Three Nephites stories have not stopped, even though the perils of pioneer life have. [1] The Three Nephites stories mirror the changing physical and social environments in which LDS church members have met their tests of faith. As with other types of religious folklore, these stories continue to provide understanding of the hearts and minds of LDS church members and of the beliefs that compel them to action. [11] They have a flexibility that allows them to be adapted to situations and circumstances, which has allowed them to persist throughout the years. They can be used and customized to prove any number of points, whether religious or not. [8]

Common themes

A common theme in Mormon folklore is when spirits return to help the living in some way. The Three Nephites tale fits into this story type, and it was not uncommon of early church members to share their own experiences, or those of others, of appearances of the Three Nephites. [12] In these modern sighting stories, one or more of the Nephites appear to aid those in need before miraculously disappearing. The Three Nephites provide a range of assistance, from protecting missionaries and children faced with danger to more domestic tasks like plowing fields, or fixing a widow's furnace. [1] In his 1947 dissertation, Hector Lee classified one hundred-fifty accounts of Three Nephite sightings according to a few major motifs, largely dealing with the purpose of their appearances. There are those involving food (a motif especially common in pioneer times when food was scarce), healing, delivery of a divine message or provision of spiritual uplift, assistance to those engaged in missionary work, and rescue. Another common motif Lee mentions is the speed at which they travel, as they are reported to cover great distances in very little time, and the suddenness with which they are able to appear and disappear. [10]

In Mormon art

Literature

Comics

Film

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 William A. Wilson, "Freeways, Parking Lots, and Ice Cream Stands: The Three Nephites in Contemporary Society", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 21.3. Accessed Oct. 25, 2012.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Fife, A. E. (1940). "The Legend of the Three Nephites among the Mormons". The Journal of American Folklore. 53 (207): 1–49. doi:10.2307/535372. ISSN   0021-8715. JSTOR   535372.
  3. 1 2 "The Three Nephites and the Doctrine of Translation | Religious Studies Center". rsc.byu.edu. Retrieved 2021-09-22.
  4. "What We've Been Getting Wrong About the 3 Nephites". LDS Living. 2017-02-02. Retrieved 2021-09-22.
  5. "The Lamanites Portrayed in the Book of Mormon". Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. 4 (1): 246–254. 1995. ISSN   1065-9366. JSTOR   44758782.
  6. Duffy, John-Charles (2008). "The Use of "Lamanite" in Official LDS Discourse". Journal of Mormon History. 34 (1): 118–167. ISSN   0094-7342. JSTOR   23290719.
  7. Hatem, Jad (2015-01-01). "Postponing Heaven: The Three Nephites, the Bodhisattva, and the Mahdi". Maxwell Institute Publications.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Smith, Merilynne (1968-01-01). "A Mirror Brought by Truth: A Study and Comparison of the Folklore of the Wandering Jew and the Folklore of the Three Nephites". Theses and Dissertations.
  9. "Progress of the Work, Etc., by Orson Pratt (Journal of Discourses 2:259-266)". jod.mrm.org. Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  10. 1 2 Lee, Hector (1947-05-19). "The Three Nephites: The Substance and Significance of the Legend in Folklore". English Language and Literature ETDs.
  11. "Three Nephites - The Encyclopedia of Mormonism". eom.byu.edu. Retrieved 2021-09-21.
  12. Lange, Derek (2018-11-09). "The Fascinating Folklore of the Latter-day Saints". Third Hour. Retrieved 2021-09-21.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 " The Three Nephites and Mormon Literature" by Wm Morris, A Motley Vision . Oct, 24, 2012. Accessed Oct. 25, 2012. Comments incl.

Further reading

Related Research Articles

Book of Alma

The Book of Alma: The Son of Alma, usually referred to as the Book of Alma, is one of the books that make up the Book of Mormon. The title refers to Alma the Younger, a prophet and "chief judge" of the Nephites. Alma is the longest book in the Book of Mormon and consists of sixty-three chapters, taking up almost a third of the volume.

The Book of Nephi: Who Is the Son of Nephi—One of the Disciples of Jesus Christ, usually referred to as Fourth Nephi or 4 Nephi, is one of the fifteen books that make up the Book of Mormon. This book was first called "IV Nephi" in the 1879 edition and "Fourth Nephi" in the 1920 edition of Book of Mormon.

Early Mormonism had a range of doctrines related to race with regards to black people of African descent. References to black people, their social condition during the 19th and 20th centuries, and their spiritual place in Western Christianity as well as in Mormon scripture were complicated.

The Lamanites are one of the four ancient peoples described as having settled in the ancient Americas in the Book of Mormon, a sacred text of the Latter Day Saint movement. The Lamanites also play a role in the prophecies and revelations of the Doctrine and Covenants, another sacred text in the Latter Day Saint movement.

The Book of Moroni is the last of the books that make up the Book of Mormon. According to the text it was written by the prophet Moroni sometime between 400 and 421. Moroni consists of ten chapters.

Helaman

In the Book of Mormon, there’s mention of three men named Helaman. The first was the son of King Benjamin, king of the united Nephite-Zarahemla kingdom who lived in the 2nd century BC. Besides his genealogy, information about the first Helaman is limited. His brother, Mosiah, became heir to the throne.

Mormonism, or the Latter Day Saint movement, teaches that its adherents are either direct descendants of the House of Israel or adopted into it. As such, Mormons regard Jews as a covenant people of God, and hold them in high esteem. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the largest church in Mormonism, is philo-Semitic in its doctrine.

Cumorah Drumlin associated with the Latter Day Saint movement

Cumorah is a drumlin in Manchester, New York, United States, where Joseph Smith said he found a set of golden plates which he translated into English and published as the Book of Mormon.

The House of Joseph is a designation which members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints apply to the ancient "birthright" tribe of the house of Israel (Jacob) as it is described in the Old Testament, made up of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. The tribes' namesakes — the two sons of Joseph of Egypt — are first mentioned in Genesis 41:50-52.

Two thousand stripling warriors

The two thousand stripling warriors, also known as The Army of Helaman, are an army of young men in the Book of Mormon, first mentioned in the Book of Alma. They are portrayed as extremely valiant and loyal warriors; in the text, all are wounded in battle and yet survive.

Anti-Nephi-Lehies

According to the Book of Mormon, the Anti-Nephi-Lehies were an ethnic group of Lamanites formed around 90 BC, after a significant religious conversion. They made a covenant that they would not participate in war, and buried their weapons. Eventually they changed their name to the people of Ammon, or Ammonites. During a later period of warfare, the young men of the group who had not made the pacifist covenant became a military unit known as the two thousand stripling warriors, and were protected by divine intervention.

According to the Book of Mormon Nephi, along with his brother Lehi, was a Nephite missionary. His father was Helaman, and his sons include two of the twelve Nephite disciples at the time that Christ visited the Americas.

This chronology outlines the major events in the history of the Book of Mormon, according to the text. Dates given correspond to dates in the footnotes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints edition of the Book of Mormon.

Genetics and the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon, the founding document of the Latter Day Saint movement and one of the four books of scripture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is an account of three groups of people. According to the book, two of these groups originated from ancient Israel. There is generally no direct support amongst mainstream historians and archaeologists for the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

In the Book of Mormon, the Zoramites were one of three major Nephite sects, existing during the administration of Alma the Younger as the High Priest over the Church of God. Zoram, the leader of this group, is first mentioned in Alma 30:59 as being the head of a people who "had separated themselves from the Nephites" and was responsible for the death of Korihor.

According to the Book of Mormon, Lehi was a son of Helaman and was a Nephite missionary. He and his elder brother Nephi lived in the 1st century BC and had many missionary experiences together. The main events of their missions are recorded in the fifth chapter of The Book of Helaman. Lehi was named after his ancestor, Lehi, whose family immigrated to the New World from Jerusalem around 600 BC. Helaman taught his two sons to keep the commandments and to walk uprightly before God, as their namesakes had done.

According to the Book of Mormon, Nephithe Disciple was a Nephite prophet during the 1st century, and a chosen disciple of Jesus Christ. Nephi's ministry was centered on Christ, and included prophesying of His birth, working miracles in His name, witnessing His visitation to the Americas after the Resurrection, and administering His church after He had ascended. Nephi was also the appointed recordkeeper for the Nephites during this period, and much of the text of Third Nephi is abridged from his account.

The lineage of Alma the Younger is a set of minor figures from the Book of Mormon who descended from Alma the Younger. They are described as Nephite record-keepers, missionaries and prophets.