Christ Established Church in Ancient America

Christ’s Church in Ancient America – by Rodney Turner


The Church of Jesus Christ experienced three phases in Book of Mormon times: the Old Testament-era Church among the early Nephites, the revitalization of the Church in Alma’s time, and the Church organized by the risen Lord.

Jesus then ordained 12 disciples to preside over His Church and to baptize all those who believed in Him and fully repented. They alone would be saved and inherit the kingdom of God (see 3 Ne. 11:33–34). To emphasize this vital doctrine, Jesus restated it two times, adding, “Ye must repent … , and become as a little child” (3 Ne. 11:38). To become cleansed of all sin, the multitude was promised the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost (see 3 Ne. 9:20; 3 Ne. 11:35; 3 Ne. 12:1–2). The following day, the 12 disciples received this baptism. They were purified, becoming “as white as the countenance and also the garments of Jesus” (3 Ne. 19:25; see also 3 Ne. 19:13, 28–29). This was in fulfillment of prophecy (see 1 Ne. 12:7–10). Thereafter, “as many as were baptized in the name of Jesus were filled with the Holy Ghost. And many of them saw and heard unspeakable things, which are not lawful to be written” (3 Ne. 26:17–18). They too were called “the church of Christ” (3 Ne. 26:21; compare 3 Ne. 27:2–12).

In Christ’s Church there were to be “no disputations” over points of doctrine (3 Ne. 18:34). The Savior said: “I will declare unto you my doctrine. … And it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me” (3 Ne. 11:31–32; compare 4 Ne. 1:2). The perfect unity of the three individual members of the Godhead was the divine pattern for the unity which was to characterize the Church (see 3 Ne. 11:32, 36).

Moses’ law, with its burdensome demands and blood sacrifice, had “passed away”—the “schoolmaster” was needed no longer (see 3 Ne. 15:3–5; Gal. 3:24). Yet the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit remained and was reemphasized (see 3 Ne. 12:19; compare 2 Ne. 2:7).

Having instituted the sacrament in His Church at Jerusalem, Jesus now introduced it in His Church in America (see 3 Ne. 18:1–12, 28–32; 3 Ne. 20:2–9; 3 Ne. 26:13). Partaken of in remembrance of His atoning sacrifice, it was both a renewal of covenants made and a pledge of obedience, “that they may always have his Spirit to be with them” (Moro. 4:3).

Jesus restated the great and fundamental doctrines of the Sermon on the Mount (see 3 Ne. 12–14), taught of prayer (see 3 Ne. 18:15–21), defined the gospel (see 3 Ne. 27:13–22), prophesied of the gathering of Israel and the Gentiles and of the latter-day New Jerusalem (see 3 Ne. 16; 3 Ne. 20:11–23), and provided scripture that they did not have (see 3 Ne. 24–25). Indeed, “he did expound all things unto them, both great and small” from the very beginning to the Final Judgment (see 3 Ne. 26:1–4). Subsequently, the visions of the brother of Jared were also made public (see Ether 3:21; Ether 4:1–4).

The Redeemer’s ministry to the Nephites was filled with glory: the sick and afflicted were healed, angels descended to the little children and “even babes” spoke “marvelous things,” Jesus offered prayers to the Father which “cannot be written,” and more. The multitude was literally overcome with joy (see 3 Ne. 17:5–25). Their greater faith made possible greater works from Jesus than He had performed among the Jews (see 3 Ne. 19:35).

Nevertheless, East and West had become bound together. “Our Savior,” wrote the Prophet Joseph Smith, “planted the Gospel here [in America] in all its fulness, and richness, and power, and blessing; … they had Apostles [or Disciples], Prophets, Pastors, Teachers, and Evangelists; the same order, the same priesthood, the same ordinances, gifts, powers, and blessings, as were enjoyed on the eastern continent” (History of the Church, 4:538).