One fold and one shepherd

We read the verses

3 Nephi 15:16 This much did the Father command me, that I should tell unto them:

17 That other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

18 And now, because of stiffneckedness and unbelief they understood not my word; therefore I was commanded to say no more of the Father concerning this thing unto them.

….

21 And verily I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

22 And they understood me not, for they supposed it had been the Gentiles; for they understood not that the Gentiles should be converted through their preaching.

23 And they understood me not that I said they shall hear my voice; and they understood me not that the Gentiles should not at any time hear my voice—that I should not manifest myself unto them save it were by the Holy Ghost.

But we don’t have the faintest idea what they are saying. There is much more here than meets the eye, and I am sure I am only scratching the surface of it. If there was not more here than meets the eye, then Christ would not have said “because of stiffneckedness and unbelief they understood not my word; therefore I was commanded to say no more of the Father concerning this thing unto them.” Indeed, as we read these verses and feel confident that they don’t have much to say that isn’t plain on a first reading, we should recall the Savior’s words given later in the same day of teaching: “I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time. Therefore go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand” (3 Nephi 17:2-3).

So what is the issue Christ is speaking of here? We must throw away our traditions to begin to understand it.

To begin, it is worth asking ourselves the question “In what sense are these Nephites now being made one fold, with one shepherd given that they already had a prophet of god leading them?”. Weren’t they already one fold with one shepherd? And, secondly, we need to realize that however we answer this, if our answer would logically imply that the righteous, converted gentiles were also brought into one fold with one shepherd, then our answer is wrong.

Because the point being made in these scriptures is  that these Israelites were being brought into one fold and with one shepherd in a special sense. And it was a sense in which the converted gentiles were not being brought into one fold with one shepherd.

The point being made in these scriptures is this: the fold being referred to is the fold of those people who Christ comes and teaches in person from time to time. That is why Christ appearing to them constitutes bringing them into this fold.

3 Nephi 16:3 But I have received a commandment of the Father that I shall go unto them, and that they shall hear my voice, and shall be numbered among my sheep, that there may be one fold and one shepherd; therefore I go to show myself unto them.

Christ did not show himself unto these Nephites until they had sufficient faith in him. But afterward, he did not cease to appear to them. The scripture says:

3 Nephi 26: 13 Therefore, I would that ye should behold that the Lord truly did teach the people, for the space of three days; and after that he did show himself unto them oft, and did break bread oft, and bless it, and give it unto them.

These Nephites returned to that point which Adam and Even enjoyed before the fall where god would come and visit and teach them from time to time. If a man is enjoying such benefits, then he is redeemed from the fall, as he is enjoying those things Adam and Eve had before the fall. We refer to that state by other names, such as receiving the second comforter. But it is all the same thing. It is redemption from the fall.

Now Christ spent time during the last supper teaching his disciples in Jerusalem about this very doctrine as we learn in D&C 130 as well as in Joseph Smith’s discussions on the matter.

D&C 130:3 John 14:23—The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse, is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false.

Our usual notion is that they were all one fold with one shepherd anyway, since each had their own prophets who led them under Christ.

But that misses the whole point. The whole point is that the “one fold” Christ refers to is the fold of people that Christ can appear to in person and teach from time to time just as he taught Adam and Eve in Eden. The whole point is that the one fold referred to it is the very fold which has Christ himself as its one shepherd.

Now the Nephites were not ready to have Christ visit them around the time of his death and resurrection. So there was a scourge prepared for them to bring them to repentance. It involved the destruction of many cities and darkness for three days. Those who would allow such a crucible to bring them to repentence where those he visited in 3 Nephi 11. They were, not surprisingly, gathered round the temple a year after all those destructions. They had become worthy, and he came to them and taught them in person.

And he visited the other tribes of scattered Israel in the same way. We presume that  other tribes also had to undergo similar chastisements before they were prepared for him to visit them.

But the one fold he wanted to bring them into was the one fold which is the beginning of Zion in earnest. It is the one fold made up of many people who have so pleased God that he will appear to them from time to time to teach them, just as Christ did with these Nephites. It is the one fold of those who are prepared to have their calling and election made sure.

Note that these Nephites were not given a prophet and twelve apostles. They were given Christ and twelve apostles. Christ still appeared to them oft. The “one fold” is the fold of those he teaches in person from time to time. And he is the one shepherd.

Thus, when his disciples thought he meant the gentiles they were wrong, as he explained:

3 Nephi 16:22 And they understood me not, for they supposed it had been the Gentiles; for they understood not that the Gentiles should be converted through their preaching.

23 And they understood me not that I said they shall hear my voice; and they understood me not that the Gentiles should not at any time hear my voice—that I should not manifest myself unto them save it were by the Holy Ghost.

I do not know where in Abraham’s promises it is distinguished that God would appear only to his seed, and would only manifest himself to the gentiles by the Holy Ghost. But clearly such differences in blessings have to do with premortality. We already know that really, since we already know God promised to send his noble and great spirits to Abraham’s posterity.

But apparently, the promise of the second comforter is not given to the gentiles in mortality. They are apparently in the same position as the ancient Israelites of whom the Lord swore in his wrath that none of them would enter his rest while in the wilderness. Or what else are we to conclude from Christ’s own words in 3 Nephi 16:23, spoken about those very gentiles who had repented and been converted?

These words are interesting in our day too, for Zion will be built of one fold and one shepherd, and also because a scourge may be necessary for us just as it was for the Nephites if the we choose to live beneath their privileges.

 

 

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