3 Nephi 11 and Repentance - Truth in Love Ministry

Witnessing Scenarios

3 Nephi 11 and Repentance


LDS missionaries and other LDS members sometimes ask people to read 3 Nephi 11. It is the beginning of the account of Jesus’ supposed visit to North America after his resurrection. The LDS Church attempts to find biblical support for this visit in Jesus’ words recorded in John 10:16:

I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.

They claim that “the other sheep” are the Native Americans (who are of Jewish origins, according to the Book of Mormon). The Bible, however, consistently identifies the “others” as Gentiles (non-Jews). They are whom Jesus refers to in John 10:16.

People often wonder why Mormons single out this chapter for them to read. It is always a good tactic to ask them that question. Many have never been asked this, so they really haven’t thought about the reason why. It was just a chapter they were told to point people to.

As you prepare your response remember these two points:

  1. You will want to lovingly control the conversation by zeroing in on the passages you want to discuss. This is only natural since you are reacting to your assignment.
  2. You will want to discuss only those passages which help you talk about sin and salvation.

A few topics to be aware of (but not to discuss)

There are three topics in 3 Nephi 11 that either you will be tempted to discuss or they will want to discuss with you. None, however, touch on sin and salvation. Talking about them can easily degenerate into long and fruitless conversations.

#1 – Baptizing with the proper authority

Mormonism teaches that only baptisms done by people with authority are valid. According to it, the only people who have such authority are holders of the LDS priesthood. Thus, the LDS Church recognizes no other baptisms as valid. It is very tempting to point out the contradiction between this and their claim they are Christians just like us. We urge you to refrain from making this point unless they continually say they are Christians like us.

Verse 25 shows they use the same words as Christians do when they baptize. This has caused many Christians to wonder if LDS baptisms are valid. Jesus, in his Great Commission (Mt. 18:18-20), gave the command and authority to baptize to the Christian church. Since the LDS Church isn’t a Christian church, its baptism is meaningless. It is on the level of a baptism acted out in a play, etc. Using the right words is not the sole criteria for the validity of a baptism.

#2 – The Oneness of God

Verses 27 and 36 both read as if the Book of Mormon teaches the Trinity. Some Christians point to them as being contradictory to Mormonism’s denial of the Trinity. In our experience, however, it does little good. It has been stressed to Mormons that these and similar passages refer to a “oneness of purpose” and not a oneness of being. It’s very difficult to move them from this position.

#3 – A Contentious Spirit

Verse 29 speaks about contentiousness. Sometimes, when they become uncomfortable with a conversation, they will refer to this verse in order to end all discussion. Don’t be surprised if they say it even though you have treated them respectfully. If they ever refer to contentiousness, you can agree that contentiousness is not God-pleasing because it describes somebody who loves to argue and fight. But it is God-pleasing to contend for the faith. In fact, we are commanded to do so in Jude 3.

Focus on repentance

Instead of talking about the above verses, focus on the definition of the word repentance (used in verses 23 and 32).

When Paul was in Athens (Acts 17), he began his witness by complimenting them. Then he talks about the altar he saw to the unknown God. Follow his example. Begin by saying something positive like: “I was happy to see the importance given to repentance in this chapter.  I would like to talk about its meaning since I have discovered people define it so differently.” In this way, you bring up something many aren’t unaware of, namely, that there could be different meanings to the words they use.

In order to keep control of the conversation, don’t ask them how they define repentance. Instead, tell them you were curious about how the LDS Church defines it so you found a definition of repentance on churchofjesuschrist.org. (It is reproduced below. If possible, make copies for them.)

Become familiar with the article. In it, there are numerous things you could talk about. Feel free to do so. The one aspect you will definitely want to discuss is the step entitled “Abandonment of Sin”. Spend time on the two words it uses: abandon and forsake. Since most Mormons aren’t accustomed to thinking about the meanings of words, you will have to help them. Explore the absolute action described by both “abandon” and “forsake”. You could talk, for example, about what it means to abandon a ship or abandon a child. Especially effective is talking about what people mean when they talk about forsaking all others in their marriage vows. Does this leave any room for people to be interested in anybody else than their spouse?

Abandoning or forsaking the sin mean that the person will have nothing whatsoever to do with sin anymore. This is exactly what the article says: “We must maintain an unyielding, permanent resolve that we will never repeat the transgression.” In other words, people are not truly repentant of a sin if they ever commit the sin again any time in their entire lives.

In fact, the article goes further in the section entitled Righteous Living. “It is not enough to simply try to resist evil or empty our lives of sin. We must fill our lives with righteousness and engage in activities that bring spiritual power” (emphasis added). The bottom line is that repentance, as defined by Mormonism, means nothing less than becoming sinless!

Mormons will likely try to weaken these statements. Many will say that all a person has to do is try not to sin. Don’t let them off the hook. Ask them where the word “try” is in the article. Out of concern for their souls, keep their feet to the fire. You could ask how you are misreading these statements. Or ask what these statements mean if they don’t mean what you said they meant. Always remember that it is essential for them to despair of their own goodness before they will be interested in trusting in Christ’s righteousness. To show them their sin is the main reason for talking about repentance.

You can also use repentance to share the gospel. After spending time with the LDS definition, joyfully share with them the Christian definition. The Bible talks about repentance in both a narrow and broader way. Most Christians are more familiar with the narrow meaning, namely, sorrow over sin. It’s the broader meaning, however, that you will want to stress.

The broader meaning includes sorrow over sin but doesn’t stop there. It also includes faith in the Savior. In the broader sense, repentance is a change of mindset. (The Greek word for repentance literally means a change of mind.) It is the great change from trusting in ourselves and our works to trusting in Jesus and his work for us. This great change is worked by the Holy Spirit through the Word.

You will want to reflect Zacchaeus’ joyful attitude (Luke 19). Talk about how this takes all the pressure off. Tell them about the reassurance and comfort you enjoy knowing Jesus has done it all for you. Show them how you vehemently disagree that “repentance is a painful process.” Read together Zacchaeus’ story and ask them where the pain is there. We can almost guarantee they have never heard anybody talk about repentance like this!

Click here to download the article on repentance from churchofjesuschrist.org. If you can, make copies for each person in the conversation.

Scenario Summary

Examines the LDS teaching on repentance. Includes an article on repentance from the LDS official website. Helpful not just in connection with 3 Nephi 11 but anytime repentance is being discussed.

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