Dear 100 Hour Board,
I am in 3 Nephi in my personal study right now. The other day I read 3 Nephi 20:16 and 21:12. It reminded me of some thoughts/questions that I had on my mission days in the hot, dusty streets of our neighboring country to the south.
Is there an interpretation, explanation, or application of this prophecy?
(doctrinal based or personal opinion based is equally satisfying to my near insatiable curiosity)
Dear ex-Texan missionary,
For anyone who doesn't have a triple handy, here are those verses:
3 Nephi 20:16 - Then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.
3 Nephi 21:12 - And my people who are a remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles, yea, in the midst of them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he go through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.
Here's a couple of other scriptures that I think are relevant:
D&C 87:5 - And it shall come to pass also that the remnants who are left of the land will marshal themselves, and shall become exceedingly angry, and shall vex the Gentiles with a sore vexation.
2 Nephi 30:2 - For behold, I say unto you that as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off; for the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel.
So, these scriptures are talking about a "remnant of Jacob" or "remnants who are left of the land," apparently descendants of the Nephites. They are, in some way, eventually going to be irresistibly dominant over the Gentiles. This remnant is the covenant people of the Lord, and as many of the Gentiles as will repent also will be.
Here's my way of putting all of that together. All who repent will be counted with the remnant of Jacob. If you're a member of the Church in good standing, you're an heir to all the blessings promised to the descendants of the Nephites. Remnant of Jacob = descendants of Nephites = repentant Gentiles = the Church = (hopefully) us. So these prophecies apply to us as members of the Church. They basically tell us that the Church/the righteous will be completely triumphant in the end; when the second coming and millennium come around, all those who oppose Christ and his followers will be as powerless as sheep before lions. Adding some bracketed text to the verse might make it easier to understand:
3 Nephi 21:12 - And my people who are a remnant of Jacob [us, as members of the Church] shall be among the Gentiles [the wicked], yea, in the midst of them as a lion among the beasts of the forest [we'll live among them, but on a higher level], as a young lion among the flocks of sheep [we'll have more power than them], who, if he go through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver [and our eventual triumph is assured].
In summary, these verses are symbolically describing the eventual triumph and dominance of Christ's people, Israel. That's not exactly a novel or crazy doctrinal idea, but we shouldn't hold its plausibility against it; I think it's the most general, intuitive and important meaning of those verses.