When Jesus, before parting from the Nephites, asked his disciples what they desired of him after he went to the Father, nine asked to come to him in his kingdom at a good old age when their labors on the earth were over (3 Nephi 28:1–2). Three, on the other hand, were reluctant to express their desire. Jesus therefore said to them, “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… for ye have desired that ye might bring the souls of men unto me, while the world shall stand” (3 Nephi 28:6, 9; cf. D&C 7:2).
Jesus promised the twelve that their wishes would be granted. At age seventy-two, the nine would “come unto me in my kingdom; and with me ye shall find rest” (3 Nephi 28:3). The three, however, would ultimately “sit down in the kingdom of my Father” and “be even as I am” (3 Nephi 28:10). In other words, while the nine would inherit the kingdom of Jesus, the three would inherit the kingdom of the Father (cf. 3 Nephi 28:40).
That difference between the two groups speaks volumes about their earthly missions and eternal destinies. The Three Nephites would eventually minister “unto all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, and… bring out of them unto Jesus many souls, that their desire may be fulfilled” (3 Nephi 28:29). In effect, their ministry would resemble John the Beloved’s, to whom the Lord gave “power over death” in order that he might “prophesy before nations, kindreds, tongues and people” and “bring souls unto me” (D&C 7:2–4).
Although the Three Nephites encountered fierce opposition from the enemies of God, “the prisons could not hold them, for they were rent in twain” (3 Nephi 28:19). Though they were cast into pits in the earth, “they did smite the earth with the word of God” and were “delivered out of the depths of the earth” (3 Nephi 28:20). When cast in a fiery furnace or a den of wild beasts, they “received no harm” but “did play with the beasts as a child with a suckling lamb” (3 Nephi 28:21–22). Like other translated beings, they exercised power over the elements in order to accomplish their God-given tasks (cf. Mormon 8:24).
Like John, whom Jesus called “my beloved” (D&C 7:5), the Three Nephites were similarly called his “beloved” disciples (Mormon 1:13, 16), a term associated with translated beings. Daniel, who was cast into a lions’ den and received no harm, was described as “beloved” (Daniel 6:16–23; 10:11, 19). Isaiah depicts the Lord’s endtime servant as “him whom the Lord loves” (Isaiah 48:14).
These expressions emulate the Father’s reference to Jesus as his “Beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17; 17:5; 3 Nephi 11:17; D&C 93:15; JS-History 1:17). Jesus was called the Father’s Beloved and Chosen “from the beginning” and “from the foundation of the world” (Helaman 5:47; Moses 4:2).
That terminology has special meaning to those who will ultimately become “even as I am” (3 Nephi 28:10). John says of Jesus that “he… continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness [of the Father’s glory]; And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first” (D&C 93:13–14). John then records Jesus saying, “If you “keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace. And now, verily I say unto you, I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn; And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn” (D&C 93:20–22).
Like John the Beloved and the Three Nephites, a hundred and forty-four thousand servants of God, who are “ordained out of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people,” will fulfill an endtime mission in order to “bring as many as will come to the church of the Firstborn” (D&C 77:11). The “church of the Firstborn” identifies those who receive exaltation in the celestial kingdom (D&C 76:50–70).
The mission of the hundred and forty-four thousand servants of God will occur just before God’s judgments overtake the world (Revelation 7:1–3; 14:1–8). At that time, “this gospel shall be preached unto every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people. And the servants of God shall go forth, saying with a loud voice: Fear God and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgment is come” (D&C 133:37–38; cf. 2 Nephi 30:8; Mosiah 15:28).
Although the Lord took away the Three Nephites from among his people because of wickedness (Mormon 1:13, 16; 8:10), they will nevertheless perform “great and marvelous works” before the day of judgment (3 Nephi 28:31). Mormon defines such “great and marvelous works” as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and other “mighty miracles” (4 Nephi 1:5, 13).
Mormon then says, “Even among the Gentiles shall there be a great and marvelous work wrought by them, before that judgment day” (3 Nephi 28:32). Mormon then immediately warns the Gentiles: “Wo be unto him that will not hearken unto the words of Jesus, and also to them whom he hath chosen and sent among them; for whoso receiveth not the words of Jesus and the words of those whom he hath sent receiveth not him; and therefore he will not receive them at the last day” (3 Nephi 28:34).
Is Mormon perhaps hinting at the Gentiles’ resistance to the Lord’s future great and marvelous work, a work that will also involve the Lord’s servant bringing forth the words of Christ (cf. 3 Nephi 21:9–11)?
Moroni later records a similar warning: “Thus said Jesus Christ, the Son of God, unto his disciples who should tarry, yea, and also to all his disciples, in the hearing of the multitude: Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature… And whosoever shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him will I confirm all my words, even unto the ends of the earth. And now, behold, who can stand against the works of the Lord? Who can deny his sayings? Who will rise up against the mighty power of the Lord? Who will despise the works of the Lord?” (Mormon 9:22, 25–26).