There are only two verses in the final chapter of the book 3Nephi in the Book of Mormon. We should notice that the concluding words of Mormon as he wraps up the book we call 3Nephi are directed specifically and exclusively to one group of people, the "latter day Gentiles." (3Nephi 30) I find this fascinating. After all, 3Nephi highlights the appearance, teachings, and ministry, of the Lord Jesus among the Nephites. This precious record of the events of the Lord's personal ministry among the Nephites ought to be for the entire world. It is the record of Christ's ministry in the chapters of 3Nephi that substantially provides the "other witness" of Christ that will be to the "convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations." (Title Page of the Book of Mormon) Why then, after twenty chapters in 3Nephi dedicated to the record of Jesus' appearance and ministry to the Nephites, would anything at all need to be said specifically to the latter day Gentiles? Let alone to direct the entirety of the concluding words of the Book to them?
Mormon was under a direct commandment of the Lord to address the final words of the book (3Nephi) to the Gentiles. He says, "Hearken, O ye Gentiles, and hear the words of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, which he hath commanded me that I should speak concerning you, for, behold he commandeth me that I should write," (3Nephi 30: 1)
So, really, it is the Lord Jesus Christ that made the decision to address the Gentiles In the concluding words of 3Nephi. It is in fact Christ who is speaking directly to the latter day Gentiles. This inserted editorial by Christ should give us latter day Gentiles real pause. Particularly, the content of Christ's message in these two short verses should capture our attention. His words are not flattering toward the latter day Gentiles. Any time the Lord begins a prophetic discussion with the words, "Turn... from your wicked ways," (3Nephi 30: 2), we ought to jump immediately to attention. These are words that need to be clearly understood and heeded by every latter day Gentile (saint).
We should be reminded, so we are clear, the "Gentiles" spoken of in the Book of Mormon are that group of primarily European immigrants to this continent who have responsibility for bringing forth the Book of Mormon and other latter day scripture together with the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the latter day. (1Nephi 13: 34-40 and 3Nephi 16: 4, and D&C 109: 60 among many others) The latter day Gentiles of the Book of Mormon are Joseph Smith and the Church he established. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the latter day Gentiles.
Why then, would the Lord include a warning like this, to the latter day church, with this peculiar placement at the conclusion of the record of His personal ministry? I believe the Lord was deliberate in the placement of this warning to the latter day church within the record. It is not by chance that Mormon received the commandment he did, at the time he did, to include these "words of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, which he hath commanded me that I should speak concerning you." (3Nephi 30: 1) The Lord obviously has a particular interest in the latter day Gentile church and it's destiny. Enough so, that the concluding words of the book containing his personal ministry would be directed specifically to what appears to be a wayward latter day people.
Here is the Lord's warning to the latter day church in its entirety:
"Turn, all ye Gentiles, from your wicked ways; and repent of your evil doings, of your lyings and deceivings, and of your whoredoms, and of your secret abominations, and your idolatries, and of your murders, and your priestcrafts, and your envyings, and your strifes, and from all your wickedness and abominations, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel." (3Nephi 30: 2)
These words of the Lord are a restatement of things already discussed by the Lord during His ministry among the Nephites and recorded in earlier parts of 3Nephi. Substantial portions of the Lord's teachings to the Nephites during His ministry had to do with the future activities of the latter day Gentiles. Chapters 16, 20, 21, 22, and 23, of 3Nephi all speak of the latter day Gentiles at some length.
What does the Lord's focus in His ministry on the latter day Gentiles teach us about them? (Therefore, what does the Lord's teaching suggest about us latter day saints?)There is a great deal to be learned about us from the Lord's teachings to the Nephites that is not only important, but also pivotal in latter day events. We should understand these teachings of the Lord with clarity. As we come to understand these doctrines, our behavior ought to change because of them. We should be led to "Turn, all ye Gentiles, from your wicked ways; and repent of your evil doings...and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel." (3Nephi 30: 2)
But, we are the Lord's chosen people, we say. We have the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we claim to belong to His true church. We have "living prophets" and apostles to guide us, we say. Well, perhaps there is something to all of the prophecy, testimony, and warnings of the Lord from the precious Book of Mormon that we do not yet fully appreciate or understand? Otherwise, why would the Lord insert words like those we find in the last chapter of 3Nephi in an effort to prod us latter day saints to repent and change our course? Perhaps, if the Lord really feels this way about us, we aren't doing as well as we like to think? Perhaps the whole time we have thought in error that we are "favored" of the Lord? The words of the two verses that comprise the last words of 3Nephi convey no suggestion of "favor." Maybe all is not as well for us as the messages to us from our leaders and teachers continually suggest.
We look around us in the church and all seems to be going very well. We are prospering on every hand. You would really have to say "all is well" with the church. Zion prospers and grows all around us. The church seems to continually increase in favor with society and the nations of the earth. There is a growing compatibility and friendliness with other churches and governments with the church. Financially, things just couldn't be better. Generally, there is an air of satisfaction and delight among members of the church concerning the position of the church in the world now. All of this belies, we might even say it all seems to ignore, the words of the Lord directed specifically to us in the Book of Mormon.
In the next couple of entries we will consider in some detail the teachings of the Lord concerning the latter day Gentiles, (us). We will try to understand better why the Lord would take such a tone with us as He did in the final words of 3Nephi.