Christ in the Americas
As recorded in the book of 3 Nephi 11-28 in the Book of Mormon, Christ ministered to the people living in the Americas shortly after His resurrection. This partially fulfilled His prophecy in John 10:16 when Christ said
Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also must I bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
In His brief visit to the people in the Americas, He healed sick, taught many things that He had also taught in the Holy Land, and organized His church. He also showed everyone the wounds in His hands, feet, and side, making His role and existence as the Son of God and Savior of the World unmistakable.
Christ did all of this at the Temple in land called “Bountiful.” Bountiful was not the capital of the people, nor was it likely the largest city, so why did Christ choose to come there?
Without claiming to have any authority on the matter, I provide three plausible explanations on why Christ came to Bountiful instead of any other city.
The city and land of Bountiful had played some significant roles in the story of the people in the Americas. For one thing, it was the starting point for Nephi and Lehi’s incredibly successful missionary expedition (Hel. 5:14). Nephi and Lehi preached with such incredible power and faith that they became the only mortal missionaries to convert large amounts of Nephite dissenters. It was through their preaching that the Lamanites converted en masse, uniting the entirety of the land in righteousness for a short time.
Bountiful had also recently served as the gathering place for the Nephites to defend themselves against the Gadianton robbers (3 Ne. 3:23). The Gadianton robbers was a group comparable to a large insurrectionist state that gained enough strength to threaten the existence of everyone else in the land. To defend themselves, the Nephites gathered all their people, food, and material to Bountiful and endured a multi-year siege. Their strategy succeeded, leaving the Gadianton robbers defeated for a time.
These two major episodes in Nephite and Lamanite history may have provided excellent symbolism for Christ’s return. Christ is the Savior of all mankind, just as Nephi and Lehi helped all people in the land become more righteous. Christ also seeks to gather His people “as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings,” (3 Ne. 10:5), which parallels nicely with the Nephite gathering against the Gadianton robbers. Whether coincidental or not, Christ came to a city rich with symbolism; He came to a city that foreshadowed physically what Christ would do Spiritually.
There may have been some purely practical reasons for going to Bountiful. For one, Bountiful seems to have held a relatively central geographic location to the people (see Alma 22:29-31; Alma 50:11; Alma 52:9; Hel. 1:23). After Christ’s first day of ministering to the people, He had the word of His coming spread to other locations so that the most people possible could attend His visit the next day (3 Ne. 19:2-3). If Christ had come to an area on the edge of their territory, people on the opposite edge would have missed out on any chance to see Him.
Besides its centrality, Bountiful may have also just been one of the few major cities not destroyed. As a sign of Christ’s death, many wicked cities in the Land of Nephi were destroyed. Six cities were destroyed by fire, five were sunk in the sea, and five were buried (3 Ne. 9). Among those burned was the city of Zarahemla (3 Ne. 9:3), which was the political capital before its destruction. Although a few other major cities likely still existed, Bountiful certainly had less competition to be the ideal spot for Christ’s ministry in the Americas.
The final reason why I think that Christ may have chosen to go to Bountiful involves the spirituality and righteousness of the local people. The fact that Christ came to Bountiful may be evidence enough for some that the city was relatively righteous, and the fact that it was not destroyed for wickedness also suggests that it was full of valiant people, but a look at the history of the people who lived there also provides circumstantial evidence of its goodness.
After Ammon and the other Sons of Mosiah finished their missionary efforts, they led many Lamanites back to Nephite territory for protection. This group of people stayed stalwart through many temptations that managed to knock the Nephites off of their footing with the gospel. They stayed true to their covenants (Alma 53:10–21), turned away anti-Christs (Alma 30:19-21), and cared for the downtrodden that came among them (Alma 35:6-9). When this group came to live among the Nephites, they settled in “the land of Jershon, which is on the east by the sea, which joins the land Bountiful” (Alma 27:22). In other words, some of the most righteous people in Nephite history lived right around Bountiful.
Why it Matters
In all honesty, I’m not sure how important it may be to know why Christ chose Bountiful as the city to come to. Perhaps it can help us understand a bit more about what God is trying to teach us, or give us further insight into His nature, but I’m not sure how much new information we can learn. Mostly, I just think things like this are interesting and help me visualize what’s going on a bit better. To me, anything that makes the scriptures come alive is good. When the scriptures seem alive I can stay awake, learn more, and feel the spirit better.
If you have thoughts on why this might be useful to know, let me know through email or in the comments.
Keep seeking truth.
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