After Jesus had reminded His Disciples that all things should be done in His Name, and therefore the Church should be called the Church of Jesus Christ, calling their attention to the Scriptures "which say ye must take upon you the Name of Christ, which is My Name?" He asked each one of the Twelve "What is it that ye desire of Me, after that I am gone to the Father?"
Then nine of them, all but three, answered saying: "We desire that after we have lived unto the age of man, that our ministry, wherein Thou hast called us, may have an end, that we may speedily come unto Thee in Thy Kingdom."
Now, Jesus Who previously had expressed His fulness of joy in them, saying that "even the Father rejoiceth, and also all the holy angels, because of you and this generation," continued His benedictions. He answered their expressed desire with blessings upon them as He said: "Blessed are ye because ye desired this thing of Me; therefore, after that ye are seventy and two years old ye shall come unto Me in My Kingdom; and with Me ye shall find rest."
Here we wish to note the beautiful yet simple words used by the Savior in His instructions and blessings to the Twelve. The plainness in which the Savior spoke reminds us of the words of His Prophet, Nephi, in which Nephi expresses his unrestrained gladness in the use of such words. He says: "Wherefore, hearken, O my people, which are of the House of Israel, and give ear unto my words; for because the words of Isaiah are not plain unto you, nevertheless they are plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy. But I give unto you a prophecy, according to the spirit which is in me; wherefore I shall prophesy according to the plainness which hath been with me from the time that I came out of Jerusalem with my father; for behold, my soul delighteth in plainness unto my people, that they may learn." (II Nephi 25:4) Also, "For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for He speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding." (Ibid., 31:3)
Then Jesus turned to the three who had not answered, and again asked them what they would have Him do for them. But they faltered in their answer; their wish seemed to them to be so peculiar that they were loathe to express it. Then He said unto those who still were backward in voicing their desire: "Behold, I know your thoughts, and ye have desired the thing which John, My beloved, who was with Me in My ministry, before that I was lifted up by the Jews, desired of Me."
"Wherefore," the Savior said to the Three, "more blessed are ye, for ye shall never taste of death; but ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in My glory with the powers of Heaven. And ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in My glory ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality; and then shall ye be blessed in the Kingdom of My Father. And again, ye shall not have pain while ye shall dwell in the flesh, neither sorrow save it be for the sins of the world; and all this will I do because of the thing which ye have desired of Me, for ye have desired that ye might bring the souls of men unto Me, while the world shall stand. And for this cause ye shall have fulness of joy; and ye shall sit down in the Kingdom of My Father; yea, your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given Me fulness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are One; And the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and Me; and the Father giveth the Holy Ghost unto the children of men, because of Me."
Thus Christ spoke to the Three Nephites of whom we sometimes hear, and who either singly or together have appeared to believers in this generation.
Then Jesus with His finger touched the nine who were to die, but the Three who were to live He did not touch; He then departed. And behold, the heavens were opened, and the Three were caught up into Heaven, and saw and heard un-speakable things. And it was forbidden them that they should utter, neither was it given unto them power that they could utter, the things which they saw and heard.
Mormon here gives an interesting observation which he made from reading the Plates he was abridging. It is one of his many comments on the incidents passing before him as if in panorama. He says of the Three that were "caught up in Heaven," "Whether they were in the body or out of the body, they could not tell; for it did seem to them like a transfiguration of them, that they were changed from this body of flesh into an immortal state, that they could behold the things of God." (v.15)
However, the change under which they passed that they might receive the blessings the Savior pronounced as theirs, (See, vv. 7-9) in no way hindered them from going about ministering, for they from that time forth went throughout the land preaching and baptizing all who believed on their words. In preaching the Savior's Gospel of Repentance and Baptism, many were added to the Church of Christ, and the Holy Ghost which was received by each one of them, affirmed in their hearts that Jesus, of Whom they both saw and heard, was indeed the Christ, the Messiah Whose coming they long had waited.
Great were the wonders that attended the labors of these servants of God who were to tarry on earth unto the end. Death had no power over them; they passed through the most terrible ordeals unhurt. Swords could not touch them; fire could not burn them; savage beasts could not harm them; prisons could not hold them; chains could not bind them; the grave could not entomb them; the earth would not conceal them. No matter how much they were abused or maltreated, they triumphed over all their persecutors.
The age in which the Three lived, marked especially by its people to whom they ministered, was a peculiar one. Under ordinary circumstances the super- human powers shown by them would have brought the wicked to repentance.
But the happy age of peace and innocence that had followed the Savior's ministry was fast passing away; the people were hardening their hearts; they were relapsing into iniquity with their eyes open; they were sinning knowingly and understandingly. Angels from Heaven would not have converted them; they had given them- selves up to Satan, and every manifestation of the power of God in behalf of His servants only made them more angry and more determined upon the destruction of those who sounded in their ears the unwelcome message of divine wrath. The hurricane might demolish the dungeon; the earthquake overthrow the walls of the prison; the earth refuse to close when the Disciples were cast into it; these protests of nature simply caused their hardened hearts to conjure up fresh methods of torture and devise new means to destroy those whom they so intensely, and yet so unwarrantably hated.
But they ever failed; the Three Nephites still live!
Of what change passed upon John, the Apostle, or how it was brought about that he should not taste of death, we are not told. But insofar as the Three Nephites are concerned, we are told that they were "caught up into Heaven," and there experienced a change which is not explained; and that they there saw and heard unspeakable things. Mormon writing about them, says, "And now behold, as I spake concerning those whom the Lord had chosen, yea, even three who were caught up into the Heavens, that I knew not whether they were cleansed from mortality to immortality-But behold, since I write, I have inquired of the Lord, and He hath made it manifest unto me that must needs be a change wrought upon their bodies, or else it needs be that they must taste of death; Therefore, that they might not taste of death there was a change wrought upon their bodies, that they might not suffer pain or sorrow save it were for the sins of the world. Now this change was not equal to that which shall take place at the last day; but there was a change wrought upon them, insomuch that Satan could have no power over them, that he could not tempt them; and they were sanctified in the flesh, that they were holy, and that the powers of the earth could not hold them."
In the Hebrew Scriptures we read of two men who lived before the advent of the Savior-Moses and Elijah-who did not taste of death; we also read in the Book of Mormon of two-Alma and Nephi-who were translated.
The Sacred Record gives no information as to who the Three were who were not to taste of death. Mormon was about to write their names, but the Lord forbade him.
Some have supposed that Nephi, the senior of the Disciples, was one of these three undying ones, who remained to minister on the earth to the people of the latter-days; that is hid from our knowledge, no doubt for a wise purpose. If he was, he lived through that most happy era of Nephite history, when all was righteousness, and joy, and peace, throughout America's vast domain; he lived to suffer with his two brethren all the persecutions which the wicked, in latter days, so frequently imposed upon those three favored servants of the Lord, and in the end he retired from the midst of mankind when overwhelming corruption again paralyzed the life of the Nephite Nation. If he was one of the nine who passed away to the presence of the Savior and their God after they had dwelt three score and twelve years in mortality, he must have laid aside his earthly tabernacle under as happy circumstances as ever prophet or apostle died, surrounded by a loving, faithful people, among whom the practice of iniquity was a memory of the past. In the midst of the most holy peace he passed away to the glories of Eternal Life among the righteous.
In verse twenty-six, Mormon testifies that he had seen the Nephite Disciples of Christ who were to tarry upon the earth, and also that they had ministered to him. What a glorious experience that must have been. Men like unto himself; men who had ministered with the Lord, visited him, and like angels of God (v. 30), comforted him and to his strength added more strength. No doubt that to him they administered the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and some other holy ordinances of the Gospel which had been forgotten or neglected by the Nephites during the long period of strife which had destroyed their observance among them.
Thoughts of Christ's Disciples ministering to him inspired Mormon to great heights of his office and calling, that of God's Prophet. Like Nephi of old, his words are plain that all may understand. These holy men of God, he says, "Will be among the Gentiles, and the Gentiles shall know them not. They will also be among the Jews, and the Jews shall know them not. And it shall come to pass, when the Lord seeth fit in His wisdom that they shall minister unto all the scattered tribes of Israel, and unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, and shall bring out of them unto Jesus many souls, that their desire may be fulfilled, and also because of the convincing power of God which is in them."