Over the past many months, we’ve discussed the role of Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon. Despite the large number of articles I’ve written on the subject, I have had to skip over the majority of references, and this will be our last article. However there are many more references to come in the Book of Mormon after today’s story. The Book of Mormon is used as a companion book to the Bible by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The past several articles revealed that some people who lived in ancient America knew of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon teaches that several groups of people came from the Holy Lands to the Americas. They did not come to an empty continent, but they did form their own nations. Most of them were killed in the final battles recorded at the end of the book, around 400 A.D.
We have seen that these people knew that Jesus had been born through signs predicted by their prophets, and they also knew of His death through terrible storms and a deep darkness that came. Then they heard Jesus speak from Heaven, and finally God Himself testifying of His Son.
Today’s final entry covers, very briefly, the appearance of the Savior Himself to these other sheep (mentioned in the Bible). They initially mistook Him for an angel, but He was the resurrected Jesus Christ. When He introduced Himself, the people fell to the ground and worshipped Him. He invited them to approach and to see and to feel the nail prints in his hands and feet to prove He was really the Savior.
Jesus Christ Came to the Americas as Recorded in the Book of Mormon
After they had worshipped Him, He called Nephi, who had been their prophet and spiritual leader, and gave him the power to baptize. He also gave this power to others and taught them how to do it correctly. The method taught—immersion—and the words used are the ones still used by Mormons today.
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 (3 Nephi 11:25).
In addition to authorizing people to baptize, He also gave them the power to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost. Jesus spent His time with the people helping them to organize His church correctly and with proper authority. Jesus called twelve apostles in the Americas to lead the Church when He left. He taught correct doctrines and increased their understanding of the gospel and delivered the Sermon on the Mount (in similar words as recorded in the Bible) to them. He also taught them the Lord’s Prayer to help them understand the proper way to pray and instituted the Sacrament (Communion).
At the end of the first day, He told them their minds were overwhelmed with all they’d learned. He told them to go home and ponder these things, and He would return to teach them the following day. However, He saw the tears in their eyes, because they didn’t want Him to leave them, and so He stayed. He invited them to bring their sick and disabled to Him, and He healed them.
Jesus and Children
This was followed by one of the most touching events in the Book of Mormon. Jesus asked the people to bring the children to Him. He gathered the children around Him and instructed the people to kneel. Then, in the presence of these little children, He began a prayer so powerful that most of it could not be recorded. The people were overcome with joy.
Jesus took each of the children, one at a time, and blessed them. He prayed specifically for each child. After all the children had received their personal blessing and prayer from their Savior, the adults watching saw yet another miracle occur:
And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones. And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them. (3 Nephi 17:23-24)
The Savior’s visit had a powerful impact on the people who had the privilege of seeing Him. All of them converted, and for several generations they lived a life that reflected the miracle many of them had personally experienced. They took care of their poor, they worked to live their lives as the Savior had taught them, and they loved one another.
Eventually, of course, a future generation that had not seen the Savior did what so many today do. Because they hadn’t seen it for themselves and there was no “proof” they decided it had all been made up. Because of the righteousness of the civilization, they had become financially comfortable and this made the generation that reintroduced a faithless life to become proud. Instead of thanking God for their blessings, they believed it was their own brilliance that had made them prosperous.
Why Does it Matter that Jesus Came to the Americas?
Even though the full impact of the Savior’s visit didn’t last forever among the Book of Mormon peoples, those extraordinary few days in history continues to change the lives of people of faith today. Mormons are thrilled with every bit of information we have on the Savior’s life, before, during, and after His mortality and they ask people to pray to know it’s true. God promises to answer all prayers of the faithful and those who want to know the truth.
Think about it. If Jesus really did come back—if He really did bring a message that the gospel was for all the world and not just the few who knew Him in the Holy Lands—wouldn’t you want to know that?
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.