My Window into Church History
I am very impressed by the content of the latest issues of Studies in the Bible and Antiquity, the FARMS Review, and the Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture.
Thank you for bringing scholarship to me in such a wonderful and understandable fashion. I am disabled and live in a rural area. Our closest libraries do not have the resources and need to stock their shelves with the books about Jesus Christ and his church that I would like to study. Your publications and website are my window into church history and ancient scriptures.
Words simply cannot convey my deep gratitude for all you do to enhance my life in many wonderful and spiritual ways.
“The Great and Marvelous Change”
Since I had previously developed my views on “the great and marvelous change which had taken place,” I was interested in reading Clifford P. Jones’s essay on the topic (19/2 : 50–63). I had found compelling evidence, as Jones does, that the gathering of the multitude occurred up to a year after the destruction and that it was a planned meeting of the faithful. Too, I had previously found, in Jones’s words, that “the phrase great and marvelous occurs 25 times in the Book of Mormon. In virtually every instance it is used to describe positive words, power, or events.” Also, the only changes described in the Book of Mormon as mighty or great are affirmative ones such as the Spirit of the Lord having “wrought a mighty change” in King Benjamin’s people (Mosiah 5:2). However, Jones argues that the multitude met to contemplate and discuss the atonement, while I see the “great and marvelous change” referring to the cleansing and purification of the land.
Righteous Nephite people anticipated two great events: the mortal birth and ministry of Jesus and his promised visit to the Nephites after his resurrection. Just as Nephite Saints knew the approximate time of Jesus’s birth (e.g., through prophecies by Lehi and Samuel the Lamanite), so they knew in advance when and where the resurrected Savior would visit them in the New World. Those who gathered at the temple in Bountiful had long anticipated and prepared for their experience, having been taught that Jesus “would appear unto them after his resurrection” (Alma 16:20). One can imagine a continuing heritage of anticipation among the faithful. For instance, Mormon connects some righteous members of the church described in Alma 16 with persons 112 years later who continued their ancestors’ belief system and were carefully prepared in advance to be at the Bountiful Temple and meet the Savior when he came. Both peoples were Zionlike: “there was no inequality among them”; “they had all things common among them” (Alma 16:16; 4 Nephi 1:3); and similar forms of wickedness were done away such as “envyings, and strifes” / “no envying, nor strifes” and “all manner of lasciviousness” / “nor any manner of lasciviousness” (Alma 16:18; 4 Nephi 1:16).
Since this gathering of the righteous Saints took place nearly a year after the great destruction (see 3 Nephi 8:5 and 10:18), surely the people had long since observed the change in the landscape. What makes more sense to me is that the “great and marvelous change” was the “end of the world”—that is, the destruction of the wicked (Matthew 13:39 JST). In this cleansed environment, the righteous remnants could freely and faithfully converse “about this Jesus Christ, of whom the sign had been given concerning his death” (3 Nephi 11:2).
Saints today who are preparing themselves and their posterity for the second coming of the Savior might see a type in the account of the Nephites assembled at the Bountiful temple. We can sing to “our Lord who soon will reign / On this earth when it shall be / Cleansed from all iniquity.”
RICHARD DILWORTH RUST
Day of Atonement Gathering
I have enjoyed the Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture for many years. I especially appreciated Clifford P. Jones’s article, “The Great and Marvelous Change: An Alternate Interpretation” (19/2 : 50–63). Brother Jones’s ideas seem to be in harmony with Professor John Welch’s lectures when Welch substituted for Hugh Nibley in his Book of Mormon honors class. Welch expressed the opinion that the gathering of the men, women, and children might have been at the usual time and place of the Day of Atonement and/or Feast of Tabernacles. This would account for the religious nature of the gathering and the searching attitude of those assembled for further light on the meaning of the Feast and the Atonement, which had just occurred. See John Welch, “3 Nephi 11: The Sermon at the Temple; Law and Covenant,” in Hugh Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, lecture 97 (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1990), 124.
S. MAHLON EDWARDS