August 23, 2007

Where Are the 3 Nephites?

Orson Pratt
April 7, 1855
They are the stuff of Mormon legend: the three disciples of Christ who desired to tarry on earth until Christ comes again that they might teach the gospel; and they changed my tire last year, of course. 

During his ministry to the American continent Christ selected 12 disciples to lead His sheep. Before He left them He granted their desires. Three had a peculiar request: they wanted to stick around. The Lord promised them they wouldn't suffer the pains of death or sorrow and they would have a "fulness of joy." They were caught up to heaven for a time where they saw and heard things unlawful to utter, and when they returned ministered to people-- including Mormon. They were told to minister to the scattered tribes, Jews, Gentiles; in short: all nations. and that Satan would have no power over them (see 3 Nephi 28).

Almost since the beginning of the restoration the three Nephite disciples have been the subject of much rumor, speculation, folklore, and apocryphal accounts. Perhaps something we've heard about them is based on fact. Either way, luckily, our salvation doesn't hinge on knowing much about the disciples, but they still make for good campfire stories.

In a sermon on the House of Israel, Orson Pratt speculated a little on what the three Nephites were up to:

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 into our midst? 
Because the time has not come. 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. If they shall pray to the Father, says the Book of Mormon, in the name of Jesus, 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 prophecy of the events to come (JD 2:259).
President George Albert Smith once wrote Hector Lee, a folklorist who wanted to publish a book on the 3 Nephites:
Furthermore, so far as records of manifestations are concerned, the doctrine of the Church is that these are given for the up-building of the individuals to whom they come and that they are not for public display or public recording. They are regarded as sacred by those who have them, and while they may on occasion repeat them, generally speaking, I repeat, they are for the individual who receives them.1
Additionally, the current Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual says:
Note: Stories often circulate about the three Nephites who were translated. Members of the Church should be careful about accepting or retelling these stories. You should not discuss them in class.2
The old saying that God doesn't talk to loudmouths comes to mind. This brings to mind the care Joseph Smith took in relating the experiences he had with heavenly messengers. Sacred experiences should be kept sacred. This is one of the main reasons I always take a three Nephite story with a grain or two of salt. I believe they must be out there somewhere, but I don't know that they are going to take the time to change my tire ever again. Once was enough.

Letter from President George Albert Smith to Hector Lee, 14 September 1945, in "The Three Nephites: The Substance and Significance of the Legend in Folklore," Ph.D. dissertation, University of New Mexico, 1949, appendix 1, letter no. 7, p. 219.

See Lesson 42: “This Is My Gospel”, Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (1999),185.


Anonymous said...

according to that Russian apologetic website, the folklore of the 3 Nephites is among one of the most well-known tidbits of info about the Mormons in Russia.

that, and the fact that BYU forces religion classes upon all students. that's just out of control.

Anonymous said...

If the 3 Nephites are still on the earth, and were during the apostasy before Joseph Smith brought about the restoration, then why didn't they fulfill their desire to minister the gospel and baptize? If they were worthy believers and members, then doesn't that mean that the gospel never left the earth?
And I always wonder, why make the dead come down and administer the priesthood keys to Joseph Smith if there were 3 on the earth that could have just done it more easily? It's always been a nagging question...

Anonymous said...

The subject of Who & Where the Three Nepites are now residing and what they are doing, is only PART of this equation.

One aspect that is EQUALLY fasinating, is WHO they stand in TYPE for and what is THEIR MISSION.

The scriptures may provide a clue to this.

We have come to the End of Time. And all things of the past works of God, have been revealed in TYPE, through the Prophets.

Each have provided a PIECE to the overall Prophetic Picture of the Plan of Salvation as it pertains to man kind.

Now that we have reached the CONCLUSION of this epic World story, let me offer WHO & WHAT I might think these Three Nephites stand in TPYE

There are TWO WITTNESSES mentioned as coming forth in the End of times. Obviously they would have to be members of the Lord's Covenant and Holders of His Priesthood.

Moses mentions a "Prophet", Like unto Himself, that must come forth. D&C 65, 85, & 103 mention this SAME Moses type Prophet to come forth.

The Dead Sea Scrolls mention "The Prophet" and TWO MESSIAHS of Aaron & Israel, to come forth in the Last Days.

This fits the Patteren of a Prophet & His TWO Counselors ( A picture in TPYE for the Godhead ). And WHAT would they be doing...? Establishing the Lord's Kingdom...The Marvelous Work & A Wonder that the FATHER is to establish prior to the Lord's Return.

So these "THREE PROPHETS", as being Mirrored by the THREE NEPHITES, stand in TYPE, for the Three Members of the Godhead, who are out to COLLECTIVELY FINISH the Work of God at the END of time, just as they BEGAN DOING, in the BEGINING of time.

I would say that to be consistent with the analogy & Tpye that these Three members Represent, that ONE of them actually IS a member of the Godhead & that the Two Wittnesses are His Son's.

Now who would be Representing the FATHER in this TRIO ?

Well at the time Jesus walked the Earth, it was HE who Represented His Father. Now that He is in Heaven and is about to Return, WHO would NOW be Representing His Father...Maybe The Holy Spirit in the FLESH ? Just as Jesus came in the Fleash to perform HIS PART of God's Work ?

Would not the SPIRIT'S Final Work be to PREARE the Way for His Brother ? Just as He has been doing since the begining, as a Spirit, only NOW IN THE FLESH ?

WHO ELSE would be a Better & Rightful Man for the Job ?

Anonymous said...

The number 12 in Gospel Symbolgy represents the Government of God, as also represented by Twelve Apostles.

The year 2012, seems to be a year that is promising to reveal Major Changes, according to many different cultures around the World.

I think this is maybe the year that the Government of God is Revealed as The "KINGDOM" of God, to be established in Preperation for the Return of Christ.

The "CHURCH" is only a PRECURSER to that and is the FOUNDATION upon which the Walls & Roof of the Lord's KINGDOM are to be Built.

And this "TRIO" of Prophets,( like unto the Three Nephites & the God head ), Are the Holy Spirit in the Flesh, representing HIS Father in Heaven, and His Two Son's, representing Christ & the Spirit and the WORK they have been called to do on behalf of their Father.

THIS would PERFECTLY MIRROR, the Finishing Touches to God's Great & Marvelous Work...

Look for BIG CHANGES to occur in 2012...

Reticuli said...

Pointless speculation. 2012 is just when the Mayan calander starts over.

BHodges said...

Reticuli forgot to read the whole post. . .

Anonymous said...

I myself believe in the 3 Nephites. There have been times in my life and in my mothers and my daughters that we all believe at last 1 of them was there to help. They do not have to look like a religious person, they blend in to look like everyone else around us. And are there to help in a time of need. A church member, who has passed away, many years ago had an awful fire on farm, and was standing there thinking of what had to be done to move forward when 3 men approached him and asked if everything was okay. He answered yes, the family is all safe, he glanced away and turned back and they were gone. They are real and they travel this earth to help who ever needs it. My daughter, mother and I all believe in them.

Anonymous said...

Of course they do exist, It's in the scriptures, and the scriptures do not tell tales.
The mission of the 4 men it so preach the gospel. They are not here to carry our groceries when you have a heavy load or change your flat tire. That is what 'we' are suppose to be doing for each other.
The mission of these men is pretty plain and simple, to bring mankind to the knowledge of their Redeemer. They are Missionaries. I'm not saying they couldn't or wouldn't help in a dire situation, that is up to them and our Heavenly Father, but many of these stories are a bit far for me to believe.
As for now, I'm sure they are busy in out of reach parts of the world teaching, and with the lost tribes.

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