If I could ask them one question . . .
Come Follow Me, Lesson 36
For Come Follow Me, lesson 36, Sep 7-13, 3 Nephi 1-7
If I wanted to encourage thought and try to understand devout believers better, I might ask:
“Why did they flip-flop so quickly?”
Things to consider:
- Just 11 years before Christ is to appear in their land, every living soul in the land knew Christ had come and did forsake all their sins and serve God with all diligence.
[T]here was not a living soul among all the people of the Nephites who did doubt in the least the words of all the holy prophets … [T]hey knew that it must be expedient that Christ had come … [T]hey did forsake all their sins … and did serve God with all diligence day and night.
(3 Ne 5:1-3)
- Is there a more powerful description of full conversion to be found? And, this was the state of Nephite affairs for at least three years (end of 22nd year after the sign of the birth of Christ until the end of the 25th year, 3 Ne 5:7), so this was a well-established, long-practiced conversion. In fact, it seems their righteousness continued through the 28th year. “And they began again to prosper and to wax great; and the twenty and sixth and seventh years passed away, and there was great order in the land; and they had formed their laws according to equity and justice,” (3 Ne 6:4, 9), and one thing we learn from reading the Book of Mormon is that the Nephites did not prosper unless they were righteous, so their conversion to a righteous way of life lasted at least six years.
- Then, less than two years later, the people “were in a state of awful wickedness” (3 Ne 6:17) to the point that “the church was broken up in all the land save it were among a few of the Lamanites” (3 Ne 6:14). “And they did separate one from another into tribes, every man according to his family and his kindred and friends and thus they did destroy the government of the land” (3 Ne 7:2).
- But wait, it doesn’t stop there. Remember, Jesus sort of hit the reset button of faith and righteousness by destroying the wicked before his visit to the Americas. Then the voice of Christ was, “heard among all the inhabitants of the earth, upon all the face of this land,” and it told them that they were spared the destruction he had just caused to fall upon the wicked because those spared “were more righteous” (3 Ne 9:1 and 13). Starting in 3 Ne 11, Jesus meets with 2,500 Nephites teaching them wondrous things, showing them miracles, and having each of them draw close and see and touch his crucifixion wounds. Then 3 Ne 19 explains a group so large gathered that the disciples split it into 12 groups and taught them exactly what Jesus had taught when he appeared to the 2,500 in 3Ne 11. Jesus himself told the 12 American disciples that he’d never seen such great faith among all the Jews as he saw among the Nephites (3 Ne 19:35).
- But, within a year or two of Jesus witnessing the greatest faith ever among the covenant people, there are those among the Nephites that were so wicked and numerous enough that they didn’t just reject the word of Christ, they cast those teaching the word into prison, cast them down into the earth, cast them into a furnace three times and into a den of wild beasts twice (3 Ne 28:19-22).
- But, don’t fret. Within about a couple years, “the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another” (4 Ne 1:2).
- Here’s a previous example. In the 16th year of the reign of the judges the Nephites, “did observe to keep the commandments of the Lord and they were strict in observing the ordinances of God” (Alma 30:2-3). Then, just a couple years later, Alma “grieved for the iniquity of his people,” and he saw “that the hearts of the people began to wax hard” (Alma 35:15).
- And yet, another example. From about the 64th year of the reign of judges through the 65th year the Nephites along with the Lamanites had peace that was unprecedented to that point because they could go freely among each other without threat of harm. Then, just a little more than a year later, “the people began to grow exceedingly wicked again.” By about the end of the 67th year, “the more part of the Nephites had turned out of the way of righteousness, and did trample under their feet the commandments of God” (Helaman 6:7-8, 14, 16, 31-32).
- And yet again, in the 77th year of the reign of the judges that there was “exceedingly great peace” and the more part of all the people belonged to the church. Just three years later, it goes from “exceedingly great peace” to a situation where an entire army that tries to fight the evil forces is driven off. But don’t worry, in the very next year, “this great evil, which came unto the people because of their iniquity, did stir them up again in remembrance of the Lord their God.” Oh, but worry because, “they began again to forget the Lord their God,” and in a few years “they were ripening again for destruction” (Helaman 11:21, 27-29, 34-36).
- I have never found an entire group of believers, whether they are born-again Christian, JWs, Mormons, or whatever religion, to be so easily dissuaded from their religious practices on such a grand scale in such a short time. Sure, there have been religions that quickly lost most of their fold because of a failed second-coming revelation. There have been other religions that lost a majority of their flock because of scandal and fraud perpetrated by Church leaders. But, these Book of Mormon examples have nothing to do with reasonable justification for an obvious conclusion that the Church isn’t what it claims. These Book of Mormon examples tell us the Lehites simply quickly failed to practice faith as a group because of alleged pride. This Book of Mormon spiritual rollercoaster ride is
so disconnected from false prophecy or actions, so quick, so frequent, and so sweeping that it defies credibility for me.
[T]here is a certain lack of perspective in the things the book relates as history that points quite clearly to an undeveloped mind as their origin. The narrative proceeds in characteristic disregard of conditions necessary to its reasonableness, as if it were a tale told by a child, with utter disregard for consistency...
Is this all sober history ... or is it a wonder-tale of an immature mind, unconscious of what a test he is laying on human credulity when asking men to accept his narrative as solemn history.
(Elder B.H. Roberts, as found on this FairMormon page 26 Aug 2020)
Other observations about this lesson’s reading:
- More falling to the earth from astonishment (3 Ne 1:16-17).
- The Lamanite curse tied to skin color, again (3 Ne 2:15-16).
- Swords seem to be anachronistic (3 Ne 2:19, 3 Ne 3:6, 8).
- Horses and wheels are anachronistic (3 Ne 3:22, 3 Ne 4:4, 3 Ne 6:1, see also my If I Could Ask … Lesson 5 about Book of Mormon horses).
- There were no domestic sheep in the Americas at the time and the geography of wild sheep doesn’t seem to fit (3 Ne 4:7, see also my If I Could Ask … Lesson 22 about Book of Mormon sheep).
- Battles involving tens of thousands, yet there’s no evidence of such battles fought with some of the technologies claimed in the book (3 Ne 4:21, see also my If I Could Ask … Lesson 31 about Book of Mormon swords).
- Mormon claims to be a pure descendant of Lehi about 1,000 years after Lehi is said to have left Jerusalem, so lack of DNA evidence is a challenge (3 Ne 5:20).
- It indicates belief was not a choice in a particular case, yet the Church teaches that belief is a choice. Which way is it (3 Ne 7:18)?
If you could ask believers questions about the scriptures for this lesson, what would you ask?
Have fun studying!
If I could ask them one question, Lesson 36