Every once in a while, I will read something in the scriptures that almost startles or shocks me. Usually it’s because it is something I need to hear. I recently had that experience again. The context of the scripture is the miraculous deliverance of the believers from the wicked in 3 Nephi at the time of Christ’s birth.
About 5 years before the birth of Christ, a Lamanite prophet named Samuel came among the people and prophesied that Christ would come in 5 years. He then predicted the sign that would be shown the day Christ was born, namely, a day and a night and a day where there would be no darkness. The account of what happened in the coming years is as follows:
“…behold, the prophecies of the prophets began to be fulfilled more fully; for there began to be greater signs and greater miracles wrought among the people. But there were some who began to say that the time was past for the words to be fulfilled which were spoken by Samuel, the Lamanite. And they began to rejoice over their brethren, saying: Behold the time is past, and the words of Samuel are not fulfilled; therefore, your joy and your faith concerning this thing hath been vain…
“But behold, they did watch steadfastly for that day and that night and that day which should be as one day as if there were no night, that they might know that their faith had not been vain. Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the sign should come to pass, which has been given by Samuel the prophet” (3 Nephi 1:4-9).
When the day arrived for the believers to be put to death, the sign came. “And there were many who had not believed the words of the prophets who fell to the earth and became as if they were dead, for they knew that the great plan of destruction which they had laid for those who believe in the words of the prophets had been frustrated; for the sign which had been given was already at hand” (3 Nephi 1:16).
This lead, of course, to universal belief for a while. Can you imagine such a sign? How could anyone dismiss it? And yet, within just a few short years, it was dismissed. This is the scripture that startled me–
“And it came to pass that thus passed away the ninety and fifth year also, and the people began to forget those signs and wonders which they had heard, and began to be less and less astonished at a sign or a wonder from heaven, insomuch that they began to be hard in their hearts, and blind in their minds, and began to disbelieve all which they had heard and seen— Imagining up some vain thing in their hearts, that it was wrought by men and by the power of the devil, to lead away and deceive the hearts of the people; and thus did Satan get possession of the hearts of the people again, insomuch that he did blind their eyes and lead them away to believe that the doctrine of Christ was a foolish and a vain thing” (3 Nephi 2:1-2).
It seems incredible that such wonderful signs could be so easily dismissed, and yet it is true. I have since read over this passage again and again and pondered it’s meaning. I can’t seem to get it out of my mind. Am I like this? Aren’t we all like this? How many miracles have I seen and yet “begin to forget” and to be “less and less astonished at a sign or a wonder from heaven” or even to some extent “begin to disbelieve all which [I] have heard and seen.” This, to me, is frightening. It’s frightening because of how true it is.
For example, I have witnessed priesthood blessings given that have resulted in miraculous healings. And yet, I have at times been quick to give the credit to a good doctor or medicine or just luck–“that it was wrought by the power of men.” I could multiply my own personal experiences over and over to demonstrate that I am a lot like the people described in this scripture. And it scares me.
Stories like this in the Book of Mormon, for me, help reaffirm my faith that it is divinely inspired and true. The Book of Mormon contains so many “plain and precious” insights that it becomes self-evident to the sincere seeker after truth that it is true. It also encourages me to try and live my life better and to remember what the Lord has done and is doing for me.