Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2010, May 21

Book of Mormon | “Are the Disputations about Baptism Truly ‘Unanticipated’ in 3 Nephi 11?: An Additional Response to Edwin J. Firmage, Jr.” by grego

Book of Mormon | “Are the Disputations about Baptism Truly ‘Unanticipated’ in 3 Nephi 11?: An Additional Response to Edwin J. Firmage, Jr.”

(c) 2010

Edwin Firmage, Jr., commented on the “unanticipated” sudden need, after hundreds of years, for help from Jesus about how to baptize in “American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon“:

“How one sees infants is not the only controversial point about baptism, and we should therefore expect that if Smith set out to settle matters of controversy once and for all, he would address himself to other points of debate. The passage in 3 Nephi ll:22ff. does just that. It too is introduced by the key word “disputations” (v. 22, also 28ff.), which are again unanticipated. We often hear of political dissension in the Nephite camp, but nowhere previously is anything said about disagreements among the faithful about how baptism should be done.” (

I responded to much of Firmage’s article in American Apocrypha in a previous article on this blog. This is an addition, as I (finally) realized that there is a reason for “anticipation” of the disputations, which I will now explain.

First, and the obvious answer, is that there are many things in the Book of Mormon that aren’t spoken about in an A-B manner.

Now, here are the verses that are being talked about:
3 Nephi 11:18 And it came to pass that he spake unto Nephi (for Nephi was among the multitude) and he commanded him that he should come forth.
19 And Nephi arose and went forth, and bowed himself before the Lord and did kiss his feet.
20 And the Lord commanded him that he should arise. And he arose and stood before him.
21 And the Lord said unto him: I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven.
22 And again the Lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize. And he said unto them: On this wise shall ye baptize; and there shall be no disputations among you.
23 Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words, and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall ye baptize them—Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them.
24 And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying:
25 Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
26 And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water.
27 And after this manner shall ye baptize in my name; for behold, verily I say unto you, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one.
28 And according as I have commanded you thus shall ye baptize. And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.
29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

What are some of the conditions at this time?
1. There are no wicked among them, yet they still have contentions and disputations.
2. Nephi was a great prophet.
3. Nephi had already ordained men to baptize others (3 Nephi 7:25).
4. Christ had died; He had fulfilled the law of Moses that the Nephites were under, and had been under for over 600 years. The law of Moses and all that pertained to it (sacrifices, etc.) were to be done away with.
5. Christ appears and ordains Nephi and others to baptize others—after He ascends to heaven—and sets forth the way and clearer doctrine around it.

Next, let’s see *when* this happened:
3 Nephi 8:5 And it came to pass in the *thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm, such an one as never had been known in all the land.
3 Nephi 10:18 And it came to pass that in the ending of the thirty and fourth year, behold, I will show unto you that the people of Nephi who were spared, and also those who had been called Lamanites, who had been spared, did have great favors shown unto them, and great blessings poured out upon their heads, insomuch that soon after the ascension of Christ into heaven he did truly manifest himself unto them—
19 Showing his body unto them, and ministering unto them; and an account of his ministry shall be given hereafter. Therefore for this time I make an end of my sayings.

At this time of destruction, everyone heard Jesus Christ say the following:
17 And as many as have received me, to them have I given to become the sons of God; and even so will I to as many as shall believe on my name, for behold, by me redemption cometh, and in me is the law of Moses fulfilled.
19 And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.
20 And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.
22 Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved.

Ok, is that clear? No more shedding of blood, sacrifices, burnt offerings—anything “law of Moses”. Instead “come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit”, and Jesus will “baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost”; “repent and come unto me, and I will receive you], you will be saved”—and no further instructions or details to everyone until Jesus appears.

So how much time is that?

From the very beginning of the year, to the ending of the year—so at least six months, perhaps even almost 12 months later.

In fact, it is so much later, that they seem to have forgotten about it; at least, it wasn’t present in their mind:
3 Nephi 11:1 And now it came to pass that there were a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful; and they were marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place.
2 And they were also conversing about this Jesus Christ, of whom the sign had been given concerning his death.
3 And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.
4 And it came to pass that again they heard the voice, and they understood it not.
5 And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.
6 And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them:
7 Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.
8 And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them.
12 And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude fell to the earth; for they remembered that it had been prophesied among them that Christ should show himself unto them after his ascension into heaven.

Is there, in the record, any other time when there had been contention over doctrine, perhaps due to a possible change in the law?

Yes, there are. Here is one, and it involves Nephi’s father!:
Helaman 11:22 And also they had peace in the seventy and eighth year, save it were a few contentions concerning the points of doctrine which had been laid down by the prophets.
23 And in the *seventy and ninth year there began to be much strife. But it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi, and many of their brethren who knew concerning the true points of doctrine, having many revelations daily, therefore they did preach unto the people, insomuch that they did put an end to their strife in that same year.
This comes after a period where everyone was wicked:
Helaman 11:17 And it came to pass that thus he did go forth in the Spirit, from multitude to multitude, declaring the word of God, even until he had declared it unto them all, or sent it forth among all the people.
18 And it came to pass that they would not hearken unto his words; and there began to be contentions, insomuch that they were divided against themselves and began to slay one another with the sword.
Most of the wicked die, the people repent, and most believe.
21 And it came to pass that the seventy and sixth year did end in peace. And the seventy and seventh year began in peace; and the church did spread throughout the face of all the land; and the more part of the people, both the Nephites and the Lamanites, did belong to the church; and they did have exceedingly great peace in the land; and thus ended the seventy and seventh year.
So, there was a massive conversion, and a massive reconversion, and two years of peace right before these problems. And it was Nephi’s father and uncle who were setting everyone straight.

A short time later, many people were wicked again, and then many converted or reconverted. In addition, Jesus Christ was born; what was to be done about the Law of Moses? There is more contention; and this time, it involves Nephi!:
3 Nephi 1:24 And there were no contentions, save it were a few that began to preach, endeavoring to prove by the scriptures that it was no more expedient to observe the law of Moses. Now in this thing they did err, having not understood the scriptures.
25 But it came to pass that they soon became converted, and were convinced of the error which they were in, for it was made known unto them that the law was not yet fulfilled, and that it must be fulfilled in every whit; yea, the word came unto them that it must be fulfilled; yea, that one jot or tittle should not pass away till it should all be fulfilled; therefore in this same year were they brought to a knowledge of their error and did confess their faults.

Note that it seems that in both accounts, “within a year” seems to be the standard for “cleaning up”. Match that against the 6-12 months of the disputations in question. *It seems like more than enough time to have a few contentions and disputations, yet maybe not enough time to get everything back in order.*

After 600 years of mixture of Melchizedek priesthood rituals/ ordinances and the law of Moses rituals/ ordinances, and with the command to all to do away with the law of Moses and all its rituals and ordinances (3 Nephi 9) yet no further commands to all explaining the details—is it difficult to imagine that there might have been some contention/ differing beliefs that arose over baptism? (Note that the Lord does not say the contentions are among the prophets; He does not blame Nephi for not knowing, or for not teaching the correct doctrine or dealing with the disputations; He notes they exist, and He puts an end to them.)

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