The Book of Mormon parallels the Bible in so many ways. Just as the Old Testament provides an account of ancient prophets preaching God’s word and preparing the people of Ancient Middle Eastern lands for the coming of the Messiah, so too does the Book of Mormon contain a record of prophets teaching God’s will amongst ancient American inhabitants preparatory to His coming – not only to earth in Israel, but also amongst others of His sheep – including to the Americas. And, just as the crowning passages of the Bible give us a glimpse into Jesus’ ministry amongst the Jews and Gentiles of those far away lands, so too are some of the most sublime passages of the Book of Mormon that give us a sense of His ministry in the Americas.
In this post, we hope to give you a little context to Christ’s visit to these other sheep of His fold that he had alluded to to His disciples in Jerusalem (for example, see John 10:16) and introduce you to some of the initial Book of Mormon passages where Christ was personally introduced to His people on the American continent.
Just as ancient Israelites had built temples (sacred structures for worship and religious rites) of various kinds throughout the ages, so too did ancient Americans build temples that were a central part of their religious experience (you may be familiar with some of these sacred ancient ruins scattered throughout the Americas). Little wonder that, as the Book of Mormon records, when Christ came to America, He first appeared at one of these temples (see 3 Nephi 11:1)
3 Nephi 11:1-2 suggests that there had been some sort of cataclysmic change and other signs related to Jesus’ death that the people at the temple were talking about just before Christ appeared. Just as the Bible records darkness when there should have been daylight and great destruction throughout the land at the time of Christ’s crucifixion (for example, see Matthew 27:45, 51), the Book of Mormon also records such phenomena happening in the Americas (for example, see 3 Nephi 8:5-23). In fact, prophets foretold such would happen as signs of His crucifixion (for example, see Helaman 14:20-28).
Just as had happened in times past (for example, see Matthew 3:16-17 at the time of Jesus’ baptism and Matthew 17:5 when Peter, James, and John heard God’s voice on the Mount of Transfiguration), the heavens opened and God the Father introduced His Son to the ancient Americans, stating He was well pleased with Jesus (see 3 Nephi 11:3-7).
The Bible offers a brief account of Jesus’ Ascension to Heaven after His post-resurrection ministry in ancient Palestine and heavenly messengers indicated He would return in like manner (for example, see Acts 1:9-11). The Book of Mormon suggests the Jesus appeared to His people similarly, descending from heaven (see 3 Nephi 11:8).
Just as he regularly did throughout His mortal ministry as well as after His resurrection, Jesus declared who He was and His divine role foretold by prophets to His people in America (see 3 Nephi 11:9-12). And just as He did following His resurrection in ancient Israel, Jesus allowed His people to see and feel the marks in His hands and side, helping them to know and feel inside that He had indeed conquered death and was indeed the risen Redeemer! (see 3 Nephi 11:13-17)
Among the many lessons we can learn from these opening verses, perhaps amongst the most poignant can be found in Jesus’ invitation to His people to come and see and know for themselves – one by one – that He lives and loves and redeems. Just as He invited His people anciently on the other side of the earth and in America, He invites each of us today to come unto Him and to see and know and feel for ourselves that He lives, He loves, and He redeems. We echo His divine invitation and hope as you continue to study from the Bible and Book of Mormon that you will feel the power of His victory over death and feel more fully of His healing and strengthening love that you may find greater hope, peace, and joy today and always.