Insights from 3 Nephi about Our Father in Heaven
December 2000

“Insights from 3 Nephi about Our Father in Heaven,” Ensign, Dec. 2000, 22

The Book of Mormon

Insights from 3 Nephi about Our Father in Heaven

Through the clear lens of the Book of Mormon, we learn firsthand from the Savior about His Father in Heaven.

Within the scripture block of 3 Nephi 11:10–28:11, there are 332 verses containing the Savior’s words, and the word Father appears 152 times in these verses. Such frequent reference to His Father provides an insightful window into the Father’s relationship with Christ and with us, His other children.

It is noteworthy that the Savior’s words in 3 Nephi have not been subject to multiple translations, deletions, or changes as the biblical record has. Through the clear lens of the Book of Mormon, we can learn directly from the Savior about His Father in Heaven.

Another reason Christ’s references about the Father are valuable is that these two personages of the Godhead are kept distinctly separate within the text. The confusion of who is really speaking in other books of scripture is eliminated in 3 Nephi.

The Father-Son Relationship

Obedience. Many of these passages show the Savior’s willing obedience to His Father’s commandments, as He taught the Nephites:

“I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time” (3 Ne. 17:2; emphasis added in this and other references).

“I give unto you another commandment, and then I must go unto my Father that I may fulfil other commandments which he hath given me” (3 Ne. 18:27).

“Behold now I finish the commandment which the Father hath commanded me concerning this people, who are a remnant of the house of Israel” (3 Ne. 20:10).

Other commandments to Christ included what to say and not to say to the Jews (see 3 Ne. 15:14–18), the mandate to give the promised land to the Nephites (see 3 Ne. 16:16), and the charge to visit the lost tribes of Israel (see 3 Ne. 16:3).

Unity. The unity of the Father and Son is clearly evident in several of the Savior’s statements, such as this: “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” (3 Ne. 11:27).

A loving relationship. The intimate relationship of Christ with the Father is also revealed in the Savior’s words. The scene of a divine Son praying to His divine Father on behalf of the Nephites is beyond description:

“And when he had said these words, he himself also knelt upon the earth; and behold he prayed unto the Father, and the things which he prayed cannot be written, and the multitude did bear record who heard him.

“And after this manner do they bear record: The eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father;

“And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father” (3 Ne. 17:15–17).

Praying unto the Father in behalf of others. The Savior’s recorded prayers indicate His respectful reverence for His Father and His desire to bless others:

“And it came to pass that Jesus departed out of the midst of them, and went a little way off from them and bowed himself to the earth, and he said:

Father, I thank thee that thou hast given the Holy Ghost unto these whom I have chosen. …

Father, I pray thee that thou wilt give the Holy Ghost unto all them that shall believe in their words. …

“And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words, that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one” (3 Ne. 19:19–21, 23).

We see this same concern for others in the scene of the blessing of the children in 3 Nephi 17. This scene represents the pattern that Christ followed of asking His Father to bestow a gift upon all His deserving followers. After commanding that the little children should be brought to Him, Christ “blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them” (3 Ne. 17:21).

Testifying of each other. The Father and Son frequently testify of each other, reinforcing our knowledge of their relationship. The Father testified of His Son’s divinity to the Nephites: “Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him” (3 Ne. 11:7).

Immediately afterward, the Son testified of the Father by saying: “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.

“And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning” (3 Ne. 11:10–11).

Perhaps this was what the Savior referred to when He said, “I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me” (3 Ne. 11:32).

Acting with the Father’s authority. Christ told the Nephites, “Ye have both heard my voice, and seen me; and ye are my sheep, and ye are numbered among those whom the Father hath given me” (3 Ne. 15:24).

Jesus also referred to the power which the Father had bestowed upon Him to draw all men unto Him through the effects of the Atonement:

“Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.

“And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—

“And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works” (3 Ne. 27:13–15).

The Father’s Dealings with Us, His Children

The Father established covenants with mankind through Jehovah. Many of the dealings of the Father with the house of Israel are outlined in 3 Nephi.

The scriptures show that it was the Father, through Jehovah, who made covenants with Abraham and with the other patriarchs; who moved people from one land to another; who dispensed the gospel unto different groups at different times; and who will fulfill the covenants unto His people in the last days, as shown in the following scriptures:

“And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, … behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.

And then will I remember my covenant which I have made unto my people, O house of Israel, and I will bring my gospel unto them” (3 Ne. 16:10–11).

“Neither at any time hath the Father given me commandment that I should tell unto them concerning the other tribes of the house of Israel, whom the Father hath led away out of the land” (3 Ne. 15:15).

“And I will remember the covenant which I have made with my people; and I have covenanted with them that I would gather them together in mine own due time, that I would give unto them again the land of their fathers for their inheritance, which is the land of Jerusalem, which is the promised land unto them forever, saith the Father” (3 Ne. 20:29).

“And when these things come to pass that thy seed shall begin to know these things—it shall be a sign unto them, that they may know that the work of the Father hath already commenced unto the fulfilling of the covenant which he hath made unto the people who are of the house of Israel” (3 Ne. 21:7).

“And it came to pass that he commanded them that they should write the words which the Father had given unto Malachi, which he should tell unto them” (3 Ne. 24:1).

The Father knows each of us. Christ’s words to the Nephites reveal the Father’s personal role in our prayers, our almsgiving, and our fasting. The Father knows of our personal motives and our secret acts: “That thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father who seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly” (3 Ne. 13:4).

The command to receive the Holy Ghost is given during the ordinance of confirmation after baptism, but it is the Father who gives this gift to individuals. In Christ’s prayer, He said: “Father, I thank thee that thou hast given the Holy Ghost unto these whom I have chosen. …

“Father, I pray thee that thou wilt give the Holy Ghost unto all them that shall believe in their words” (3 Ne. 19:20–21).

Not only does the Father direct to whom the Holy Ghost will be given, but He purifies—through the power of the Holy Ghost—those who are chosen because of their faith. In another prayer, the Savior said, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast purified those whom I have chosen, because of their faith” (3 Ne. 19:28).

The commandment to pray to the Father in the name of Christ is a common theme in the Savior’s sermons to the Nephites (see 3 Ne. 17:3; 3 Ne. 18:23; 3 Ne. 18:30; 3 Ne. 27:9; 3 Ne. 27:28), and the Father’s central place in the act of prayer was emphasized:

“Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;

And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.

Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed” (3 Ne. 18:19–21).

Our Heavenly Father’s role in administering justice to those who do not repent is also mentioned: “And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father” (3 Ne. 27:17).

Jesus Christ: A Divine Son

In 3 Nephi, the Savior showed us clearly that He acted in accordance with His Father’s commandments. He gave us great insights into the Father’s role in our mortal lives. He testified of His loving relationship with His Father, the loving and personal relationship we should seek, and the importance of praying to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. And we can feel the blessing of His peace as we follow His perfect example.

  • Douglas S. Ladle, a member of the Mill Hollow First Ward, Rexburg Idaho North Stake, is a teacher of religion at Ricks College.

Electronic composition by Tadd Peterson and Charles M. Baird

Inset, above: Christ and the Book of Mormon Children, by Del Parson

Right: Detail from Words That Cannot Be Written, by Gary L. Kapp, courtesy of David Larsen

Top: Bring Forth the Record; Bottom: Resurrected Christ Blesses the Nephite Children, both by Robert T. Barrett

Photo by Jed Clark