“Arise and Come Forth Unto Me”

Brant Gardner

One of the points that had been emphasized in Nephite preaching was the death of the Messiah. This had to have been an unusual doctrine, for they also understood the Messiah to be Jehovah, and Jehovah to be God. Thus they preached the death and resurrection of their god. Jesus stands in their midst and proclaims that he is the Messiah, and therefore he must be the one who has died, and been resurrected. He calls the people to him to witness that he has wounds that would have led to his death. This is an important aspect of the New World appearance, because unlike the Old World, they do not know him as a mortal, and were not witnesses to his death (only to the terrible events that marked his death). Thus Jesus offers to them the proof of the death.

This provides an interesting reverse parallel to the appearance of the Lord in the Old World. There his death was known, and the presentation of the wounds verified that it was truly he who lived. In the New World, he was obviously alive, and the wounds were presented to show that he had truly died.

Cultural: The Book of Mormon shows that there were many occasions where the mission of the Atoning Messiah was denied, even when the people retained some belief in the Mosaic law. Among the Lamanites, the understanding of the Atoning Messiah was completely absent. However, the understanding of life coming through a dying god was a widespread belief in Mesoamerica. In Aztec belief the current world was created through the death of two gods at Teotihuacán. The idea that life came from death lay behind the terrible practice of human sacrifice. All of these beliefs existed prior to the coming of the Messiah, so we cannot suppose that they are distorted remembrances of that visit. However, we should understand that the people were at least able to understand the concept and therefore able to receive the message if other conditions were favorable to faith.

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon