“A Great and Terrible Tempest”

Brant Gardner

The “great storm” (v. 5) continues with this “terrible tempest,” characterized by earthshaking thunder. Assuming that the volcanic activity is triggered by some shift in the region’s tectonic plates, massive seismic activity would occur simultaneously. Bart J. Kowallis, professor of geology at Brigham Young University, notes that earthquakes “occur almost continuously during some eruptions.” Nibley has also noted that great storms are precursors to massive earthquakes.

“Tempest” suggests high winds. The combination of “storm” and “tempest” would typically indicate rain as well, but none is noted, and indeed the indication of “exceedingly dry wood” (3 Ne. 8:21) rather suggests its absence.

Text: Mormon gives Nephi3 as the source of this information. However, Nephi, even though he was an eyewitness to some of the events, made his record after the events and after accumulating information from other survivors. Kowallis notes: “The diversity of phenomena and locales mentioned in the account in 3 Nephi is considerable, indicating that the event probably affected a fairly large area and that the writer must have waited and accumulated information from around the land before making his record; it is unlikely that he witnessed all of the events himself.”

Even though the descriptions accurately represent an explosive volcanic eruption, it is unlikely that all of these events took place in the same place, or that the eruption itself took place in Bountiful, even though it affected that location. Several events occurred in cities rather distant from each other, providing further evidence that, although the account is contemporary, it was recorded at some time after the event.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 5