“The Number Three"

Alan C. Miner

According to Vicki Alder, the number three has very special significance. Its main purpose appears to lie in presiding. The number three also has special importance in witnessing or bearing record. The frequency of the number three in the life of the Savior is phenomenal.

The infant Jesus was given three gifts from the wise men. (Matthew 2:11) The wedding in Cana where Jesus performed His first miracle and changed the water into wine was held on the “third” day of the week. (John 2:1; JST John 2:1) Apostle Jedediah M. Grant, an early Church leader, taught in Conference that Jesus was married. Apostle Orson Hyde said that the marriage in Cana was Christ’s own wedding as anciently the groom was in charge of providing the wine at marriages. (J.M.G., J.D. 1:345-346; O.H., J.D. 4:259-260)

After the Lord’s baptism, the devil tempted Jesus three separate times. (Matthew 4:3-11; Luke 4:2-13)

Christ’s ministry to the Jews was for three years. (D&C 138:25) On the mount of transfiguration after a heavenly vision, Peter wanted to erect three tabernacles to represent Jesus, Moses and Elias who had been there. (Matthew 17:4; Mark 9:5; Luke 9:33)

Jesus prophesied that Peter would deny Him three times, which he did. (Matthew 26:34, 75; Luke 22:34) When the Lord went into the Garden of Gethsemane to suffer he took three apostles with him. He found them sleeping three times during his agony, and He admonished and spoke to them three times. (Mark 14:33-41; Matthew 26:37-45)

During the trial of the Lord, Pilate asked the people three times to release Jesus and three times the majority of them wanted to crucify Him. (Luke 23:14-23)

Nails were driven into three places in Christ’s body during the crucifixion, His palms, wrists and feet. “And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.” (Mark 15:25) A superscription was placed over the Lord saying, “This is the King of the Jews” in three languages: Greek, Latin and Hebrew. (Luke 23:38; John 19:19-20) There were three crosses on Golgotha, because Jesus was crucified between two thieves Mark recorded: “And he was numbered with the transgressors.” (Mark 15:28; see Isaiah 53:12) At that time in the Americas, there were three hours of tremendous upheaval and earthquakes. (3 Nephi 8:19) At about the same time in Israel, there were three hours of darkness. (Matthew 27:45; Luke 23:44) In the Americas, there were three days of darkness (1 Nephi 19:10; Helaman 14:20, 27; 3 Nephi 8:23), while in Jerusalem the body of Jesus lay in a sepulchre for three days. (2 Nephi 25:13) The resurrection was to take place on the third day. (Matthew 20:19; Luke 24:7; Acts 10:40) Jesus lived in mortality for thirty-three years.

In Israel after His resurrection, Jesus showed Himself to His disciples three times. (John 21:14) Before ascending to heaven, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him and three times He admonished him to feed the Lord’s sheep. (John 21:15-17)

When Jesus appeared to the Nephites, the voice of Heavenly Father was heard three times before the Nephites understood what He said. (3 Nephi 11:3-7) Jesus taught the Nephites for three days. (3 Nephi 26:13) The Lord then translated three of the Nephites. (3 Nephi 28:4-9) And afterward, three generations of Nephites passed away in righteousness. (1 Nephi 12:11; 2 Nephi 26:9) It is recorded that Jesus showed himself to three nations after His resurrection, the Jews, the Nephites and the lost tribes of Israel. (3 Nephi 11:8, 15:14-17)

It is apparent that the number three figured prominently in the life of Jesus Christ who witnessed for His Father. The consistency of the use of certain holy and special numbers both in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price is further evidence and testimony that the same God inspired and revealed all of these scriptures for He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) [Vicki Alder, Mysteries in the Scriptures: Enlightenment through Ancient Beliefs, pp. 113-115, 137]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary