Literary BMGD #38: Christ’s Ministry to the Nephites, part 2

Parley P. Pratt

Parley P. Pratt

Following the destruction that accompanied Christ’s crucifixion, the Nephites and Lamanites didn’t see relief, or light, until his resurrection and visit to the Americas. This story, found in 3 Nephi 11, is the culmination of the Book of Mormon narrative, the central meaning of the book.

His arrival is also the central point of Parley P. Pratt’s poem Christ’s Ministry to the Nephites. Included in his book of poetry (arguably the first Mormon book of poetry aside from Emma Smith’s Hymnal), this poem is also among the first published poems to reference the Book of Mormon, as well as the first to retell poetically its central story.

Here’s how Pratt described Christ’s arrival among the Nephites:


Christ’s Ministry to the Nephites

Second Part

by Parley P. Pratt

With joy and wonder all amazed,
Upon their glorious Lord they gazed,
And wist not what the vision meant
But thought it was an angel sent.
While in their midst he smiling stood,
Proclaimed himself the son of God,
He said come forth and feel and see,
That you may witness bear of me.
And when they all had felt and seen
Where once the nails and spear had been,
Hosanna they aloud proclaimed,
And blessed and praised his holy name,
He then proceeded to make plain
His gospel to the sons of men,
The prophecies he did unfold,
Yea, things that were in days of old.
And every thing that should transpire
Till element should melt with fire,
Commanding them for to record
The sayings of their risen Lord;
That generation should be blessed,
And with him in his kingdom rest;
But, O! what scenes of sorrow rolled
When he the future did unfold!

The Millennium (1835)


Perhaps the most relevant part of this for us is Pratt’s observation that the Lord was “Commanding them for to record /The sayings of their risen Lord; / That generation should be blessed, /And with him in his kingdom rest.” Indeed, we need to be grateful for the record we have received and seek to use that information so that we might “with him in his kingdom rest.”

But the reason to read this in a Sunday School class is, I think, that it is the first attempt to put Christ’s visit into poetry, a welcome landmark in Mormon literature, and an example of the kind of subject we should treat more often, I think.