3 Nephi 20:30-46 — LeGrand Baker — The Savior’s prophecy about temples in the last days

3 Nephi 20:30-46

In the first 29 verses of 3 Nephi 20, the Savior reviewed God’s covenants with Abraham, the house of Israel, and the descendants of Lehi. Form our perspective, all of those promises have been fulfilled in our past and we can point to specific or general events that show they have been fulfilled.

Beginning at verse 30, the Savior continues the prophecy, but now the events are no longer in our past but are about what will happen in our future. They are introduced with the restoration of the gospel by the Prophet Joseph Smith and then they continue on, culminating with the Savior’s personal reign upon the earth. The fascinating thing about this prophecy is that it does not follow the chronology of wars or world political events. Rather it follows the growth of the Church and Kingdom of God as will be evinced through the spread of temples throughout the world. These prophecies were spoken as a paraphrase of Isaiah 52, but the order of the ideas is different from Isaiah’s because the message is also different.

Isaiah 52 is quoted several times in the Book of Mormon. Among them are Mosiah 12:21-25, Mosiah 15:28-31; 3 Nephi 16:13-20; and Moroni 10:31, in addition to this one in 3 Nephi 20. Each of those quotes is in a covenant/temple context. In Moroni’s last testimony he uses it as the crowning of the ancient temple ordinances and covenants. He writes:

31 And awake, and arise from the dust, O Jerusalem; yea, and put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; and strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders forever, that thou mayest no more be confounded, that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee, O house of Israel, may be fulfilled (Moroni 10:31). {1}

Now let’s examine the prophecy:

3 Nephi 20:30-46 — The Savior’s prophecy about temples in the last days.

30 And it shall come to pass that the time cometh, when the fulness of my gospel shall be preached unto them; (3 Nephi 20:30)

“Fulness” means “fullness.” Thus, the restoration of the priesthood and all of its ordinances and covenants are necessary to the restoration of “the fulness of my gospel.” The “them” he refers to are the people he has been talking about. They include both the Native Americans and the gentiles.

In the Savior’s prophecy, we are now at the place in time where the Prophet Joseph restores the gospel. The Savior identifies that gospel in terms of the ancient temple rites, specifically the prayer circle:

31 And they shall believe in me, that I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and shall pray unto the Father in my name.

There is always a new name given in conjunction with a new covenant. Consequently, the word “name” in many contexts can be replaced with “covenant” without changing the meaning of the text. This is not an example of that, except it does imply that one must know the covenant to be authorized to use the name.

The reason secret covenant ceremonial names were important was because they gave power. When one knew the names, one could invoke the terms of the covenant. Or, as Nibley observes, “To possess knowledge of another’s name is to hold some power over him, even if it be the high god himself.”{2}

That is, of course, if one’s knowing the name is lawful because it represents a covenant contracted by both parties.

The first word in the next verse is “then.” “Then” can mean “thereafter”, or it can mean “in accordance to.” Both definitions work here because the description of the prayer circle that follows presupposes knowing the name.

32 Then shall their watchmen lift up their voice, and with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye.

Isaiah’s code here is very simple. Watchmen are a peoples’ first defense, and are frequently shown to be such. For example:

6 I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence (Isaiah 62:6),

It is the watchmen’s duty to use their perceptive powers to make sure everything is secure and safe. In the ancient prayer circles they exercised that power. In Isaiah’s imagery they are singing or speaking in unison (there is really very little difference if it is done correctly). Nibley described the ancient prayer circles just like that. He wrote,

The prayer circle is often called the chorus of the apostles and it is the meaning of chorus which can be a choir, but is originally a ring dance. {3}

When they stand in a circle each participant can literally see “eye to eye” with every other person in the circle. Therefore, the form of the circle suggests both unity and power.

In verses 30-32 we learned about those to whom the gospel was first restored— the children of Lehi and the “gentiles” — that is, to you and I. Now the prophecy moves on, using much the same code to show that there will be a temple among the Jews:

33 Then will the Father gather them [the Jews] together again, and give unto them Jerusalem for the land of their inheritance.
34 Then shall they break forth into joy—Sing together [same prayer circle], ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Father hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.

To “comfort” is to empower. In Isaiah 61:2-3 that empowerment is accomplished by administering a coronation ceremony that makes the participants priests and kings: they are washed, anointed, clothed, crowned, and given a new name. {4}

The prophecy is that the time will come when the Jews will participate in prayer circles and receive those coronation rites. The Savior also promises they will be “redeemed.” In Hebrew and Greek the word translated “redeem” means to purchase or to ransom. However, “Redeem” in Job and usually in the Book of Mormon, means to bring one into the presence of God. That was the ultimate promise of the ancient Israelite temple drama. {5} It is difficult to say which definition the Savior intends here. “Both” is probably the correct answer.

The prophecy continues. We have seen temples established among the gentiles and the Jews. Now we go from the Jews to “all the nations.”

35 The Father hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of the Father; and the Father and I are one.

The code of the phrase “The Father hath made bare his holy arm” requires no explanation, but it is interesting to note that the idea is not unique here. Parallel imagery is found in two other ancient temple texts. One is the king’s foreordination in Psalm 45 where he is promised:

4 And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible [awesome] things (Psalms 45:4). {6}

The other is the veil ceremony in Job:

14 Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee (Job 40:14). {7}

In the Savior’s prophecy, after temples are found in “all the nations,” then comes the establishment of Zion.

36 And then shall be brought to pass that which is written: Awake, awake again, and put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city, for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.

The Jerusalem we are seeing now is not the one of verse 34. This is the New Jerusalem whose temple can never be desecrated again. {8}

Again the symbolism in this verse is straightforward and simple. “Awake” implies becoming mentally alert and alive. It is frequently paired with “arise” in the scriptures. “Arise” is implied here, for one must stand to dress oneself. “Arise” means to become physically alert and alive. Examples are:

19 Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead (Isaiah 26:19).

14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light (Ephesians 5:14).

and put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments,

“Strength” is equated with “beautiful garments.” The clothing of a priest and a king has always been a symbol and an evidence of their power and authority. But this equation seems to mean more than that. Joseph Smith’s explanation of Facsimile No. 2, figure 3 suggests the extent of the power. He describes God’s sacred robes; shows they are similar to the ancient sacred clothing of the Old Testament; and also “to all whom the priesthood was revealed.”{9} The explanation reads:

Fig. 3. Is made to represent God, sitting upon his throne, clothed with power and authority; with a crown of eternal light upon his head; representing also the grand Key-words of the Holy Priesthood, as revealed to Adam in the Garden of Eden, as also to Seth, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, and all to whom the Priesthood was revealed (Facsimile No. 2 from the Book of Abraham).

The Savior’s prophecy continues:

37 Shake thyself from the dust; arise, sit down, O Jerusalem; loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
38 For thus saith the Lord: Ye have sold yourselves for naught, and ye shall be redeemed without money.
39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that my people shall know my name; yea, in that day they shall know that I am he that doth speak.

Arise in the phrase “arise, sit down” has a slightly different connotation from “awake and arise.” Anciently, one stood to make a covenant. Therefore, to stand is sometimes code for the act of making a covenant. {10} The following story is an example. Its context is that the king had ordered a refurbishment of Solomon’s Temple; the workmen found a scroll and took it to the priests; the priest took it to the king; then this is what happened:

1 And the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem.
2 And the king went up into the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord.
3 And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant (2 Kings 23:1-3).

We find a covenant in the verse that says:

37 Shake thyself from the dust; arise, sit down, O Jerusalem; loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

Given the context of the command, their captivity is not about a physical or military captivity. But the spiritual captivity imposed by the apostasy of their forefathers. Liberation from such captivity can only come through accepting priesthood ordinances and covenants.

Still speaking of Jerusalem, the Savior’s prophecy continues:

38 For thus saith the Lord: Ye have sold yourselves for naught, and ye shall be redeemed without money.

“Redeemed” seems to have the same meaning here as it usually has in the Greek and Hebrew languages. That is, to ransom or to purchase. In New Testament times redeem was a commercial term, but it also described perfectly the power of the Savior’s Atonement. He purchases our sins and ransoms us from hell. So the early Christians used it as a religious term. It also had the same commercial meaning in the Old Testament and was also used to represent Jehovah’s power to save. {11}

39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that my people shall know my name; yea, in that day they shall know that I am he that doth speak.

Knowing God’s name implies speaking it, and that also suggests a conversation just as it does in this ceremony described by Jacob in his sermon at the Nephite temple. {12}

41 O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.
42 And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches—yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them (2 Nephi 9:41-42).

During the ancient Israelite coronation ceremony the king was adopted as a son of God so he could legitimately rule Israel in God’s stead. After he received the coronation rites, the king passed through the beautifully embroidered veil of Solomon’s Temple and took his place on the throne in the Holy of Holies. The Ark of the Covenant, which had represented God’s throne in Moses’s Tabernacle, was still a part of the throne in Solomon’s Temple. The Ark sat in front of the throne and served as its footstool. It was the ultimate definition of sacred space. {13}
To the Israelites the outcropping of rock on which the Temple sat was the umbilical cord that connected the heavens, and the earth and was the earth’s most sacred place. Above the rock stood the Temple; within that was the Holy of Holies, in that was the Ark of the Covenant which represented the final connecting place of earth with heaven. When the king sat upon the throne in the Holy of Holies and rested his feet upon the Ark then his person became that connecting place. For that reason, when the priests of Noah wished to accuse Abinadi of treason they asked him, “What does it mean…” and then quoted the same verse in Isaiah 52 that the Savior quotes here:

40 And then shall they say: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings unto them, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings unto them of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion: Thy God reigneth ! {14}

In this context, the verse is quoted as an acknowledgment of the Savior’s legitimacy of priesthood and kingship. The Savior uses it as a testimony that the time will come when “Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory (Articles of Faith:10).”

The next two verses in Isaiah’s time were a promise that the Lord will watch over his chosen Israel. However, in the context of 3 Nephi 20, they are a promise of paradisiacal peace, righteousness, and prosperity.

41 And then shall a cry go forth: Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch not that which is unclean; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.
42 For ye shall not go out with haste nor go by flight; for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel shall be your rearward.

After having established the promise of his kingship, the Savior continues to quote Isaiah by describing himself as that Eternal King.

43 Behold, my servant shall deal prudently; he shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.
44 As many were astonished at thee—his visage was so marred, more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men—
45 So shall he sprinkle many nations; {15} the kings shall shut their mouths at him, for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.

The Savior concludes this review of the world’s history with this testimony:

46 Verily, verily, I say unto you, all these things shall surely come, even as the Father hath commanded me. Then shall this covenant which the Father hath covenanted with his people be fulfilled; and then shall Jerusalem be inhabited again with my people, and it shall be the land of their inheritance.



{1} With the words “strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders forever,” Moroni is paraphrasing Isaiah 54:2. There the stakes belong to a tent that is a private home. It reads, “Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes.” For a discussion of Moroni’s use of this verse as a promise of eternal family see the chapter, “Moroni’s Farewell” in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, p. 1042-45; Second edition, p. 722-24.The second edition is available in the “published books” section of this website.

{2} Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, p. 513-14; Second edition, p. 370-71 quoting Hugh Nibley, Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, 140.

{3} Hugh Nibley, “The Early Christian Prayer Circle by Hugh Nibley,” BYU Studies, vol. 19 (1978-1979), Number 1 – Fall 1978, 48)

{4} for a discussion of Isaiah 61 in this website go to “scriptures” then “Old Testament” then Isaiah. You will find it there. A discussion of the coronation ceremony is in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, p. 467-471; Second edition, p. 340-342.

{5} For a discussion of the meaning of “redeem” see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, p.725-739; Second edition, p. 510-520.

{6} See Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, p. 265-66; Second edition, p. 198-90. The Tanakh, uses the word “awesome” rather than “terrible.”

{7} For a discussion of Job see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, p. 467; Second edition, p.352.

{8} There are several “New Jerusalems.” For an explanation see Ether 13: 2-12.

{9} For a discussion of the sacred garments showing that those worn by God and his authorized children are similar see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, p. 483-516; Second edition, p. 349-373.
{10} In Psalm 82 to stand is used twice to represent making a covenant. See Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, p. 227-54; Second edition, p. 162-81.

{11} For a discussion of the history of the meanings of “redeem” see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, p.725-739; Second edition, p. 510-520.

{12} See the discussion of the new, royal king name in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, p. 495-517; Second edition, p. 358-373.

{13} For a discussion of the Ark as the throne’s footstool see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, p. 82, 129-32; Second edition, p. 69, 102-04.

{14} For a discussion of the meaning of those words see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, p. 691-723; Second edition, p. 489-510.

{15} “Sprinkle” is a reference to the cleansing power of the Savior’s atoning blood. In the Law of Moses the High Priest’s sprinkling the blood of a ram was a cleansing ordinance. See Exodus 29:15-21.


This entry was posted in 3 Nephi. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply