The Longer Ending of Mark and the Book of Mormon, Part 5: Implications for 3 Nephi

In my previous post, Part 4
of my discussion of the disputed ending of the Gospel of Mark and its
relationship to the Book of Mormon, we looked at the subtle Exodus theme
that is an undercurrent throughout the Gospel of Mark, and which
appears to be deliberately invoked in portions of Mark 16:8-20. Nicholas
P. Lunn’s The Original Ending of Mark: A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20
(Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2014) examines a number of
parallels to the Exodus, especially the commission of Moses at Sinai, in
the longer ending where Christ commissions his Apostles to go into all
the world and preach. Lunn offers this table as a summary (262-3,
numbering added):

Mark 16 Exodus
1. Jesus “appeared” to the disciples (v.14) The LORD “appeared” to Moses (3:16, 4:5)
2. Commissioned to “go” into all of creation and proclaim the gospel (v. 15 ) Commissioned to “go” to Egypt and bring out the Israelites from slavery (3:10)
3. “Whoever believes . . . whoever does not believe . . .” (v. 16 ) “What if they will not believe me…?” (4:1); “that they may believe…” (4:5)
4. “signs” (v. 17 ) “signs” (4:9, etc)
5. “with their hands” (v. 18) “in his hand” (4:4)
6. “they will pick up snakes” (v. 18) Moses took hold of a snake (4:4)
7. The disciples went and preached, accompanied by signs (vv. 19 –20) Moses went and spoke the message and performed the signs (4:20, 30–31)
8. “hardness of heart” (v. 14) “hardened . . . heart” (passim)
9. “cast out seven demons” (v. 9 ) cast out seven nations (3:8; 34:24, etc)


The last item in his list may be a stretch and is easy to
criticize. Nevertheless, it is at least possible that Mark saw
significance in the number seven when choosing to mention that detail.
If the frequent theme of casting out demons in Mark was viewed as an
analog to the casting out of pagan nations in Israel as part of God’s
New Exodus through the ministry of Christ, perhaps Mark felt the
number was significant, but it is simply speculation.

looking at the parallels Lunn sees in the ending of Mark with the
appearance of Christ and His commission to the Apostles, I wondered if
anything similar might be happening in 3 Nephi with the appearance of
Christ to Book of Mormon peoples.  Exodus themes are strongly present in
the Book of Mormon, though most strongly in the writings of Nephi. Alma
the Younger, clearly a devoted student of the brass plates, also uses
Exodus themes in his writings. But do we find that in the 3 Nephi
account of Christ’s appearance and ministry in the New World?

of the items in Lunn’s list have relationships to the Book of Mormon
account. Obviously, Christ’s ministry begins with an appearance to the
Nephites. The heading before 3 Nephi 11, present in the earliest
manuscripts of the Book of Mormon and thus representing text from the
gold plates, not a later editorial insertion, states that “Jesus Christ
sheweth himself unto the people of Nephi…. And on this wise did he
shew himself unto them” (see Royal Skousen, The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text
(New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), 593). The word
“appeared” is also used directly in the body of the chapter. After a
divine voice speaks three times to the people to call attention to the
descent of Christ, they look up and see a Man descending from heaven,
but did not know what it meant and “though it was an angel that had appeared
unto them” (3 Nephi 11:8). The same word, “appeared,” as found in the
KJV of Mark and Exodus is also used to describe the visit of the Lord in
the New World.

Incidentally, just as the Nephites
initially thought it was an angel appearing unto them, so Exodus 3
initially reports that “an angel of the Lord appeared unto [Moses]” in
the fire of the burning bush (vs. 2), but shortly thereafter we learn
that it is actually God calling Moses from the midst of the bush (vv.

Regarding issue 2, the charge to “go” given to Moses and
the Apostles is also found in 3 Nephi 11:41 in the introductory words
of Christ, where He commissions His disciples to “go forth unto this
people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the
earth.” It is a commission to go unto “this people,” but the words and
the Gospel message are intended to be taken “unto the ends of the
earth.” This echoes the commission in the longer ending of Mark and
reminds us of God’s command to Moses to “go” and free Israel in Exodus
3:10.  (“Go” is found in many translations of Exodus 3:10 such as the
NIV, though the KJV has “Come now” instead of the NIV’s “So now, go,”
even though the corresponding Hebrew root, yalak, is much more frequently translated as “go” in the KJV — see Strong’s H3212, Blue Letter Bible.)

next three issues in Lunn’s table, items 3 to 5 dealing with belief,
signs, and hands, are all present in 3 Nephi 11 and somewhat in later
parts of 3 Nephi. Before the miraculous appearance of the Lord, 3 Nephi
11:2 refers to the “sign” that had been given and fulfilled concerning
His death in the Old World. Another dramatic sign is given immediately
after His appearance, when the Lord invites the Nephites to come and
“thrust your hands into my side” and to “feel the prints of the nails in
my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel,
and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the
world” (3 Nephi 11:14). Here the Lord offers his hands as a both a
visual and tactile sign, and asks those present to use their hands to
touch Him and confirm that He had been slain, removing any grounds for
disbelief, that they might know that their God had appeared and
completed His Atonement to redeem them. The topic of “signs” is
explicitly addressed later, when the Lord speaks of a “sign” He will
give Israel in the Latter-days so that they might know that the Lord is
fulfilling His promises and keeping His covenant with Israel (3 Nephi
21:1, 2, 7).

The Exodus-related significance of Christ’s opening words and the wounds He showed has been noted by S. Kent Brown in “The Exodus Pattern in the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies 30/3 (Summer 1990):111; reprinted and revised in S. Kent Brown, From Jerusalem to Zarahemla: Literary and Historical Studies of the Book of Mormon
(Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, 1998),
75-98. Brown observes that in ancient times, agents sent to negotiate
for the release of captives in foreign lands would be sent with
credentials that could be shown to confirm that they had the requisite
authority. Thus, Moses and Aaron were sent as representatives of the
Lord to Pharaoh (Ex. 3:10; 4:14–15) and presented their “credentials” in
the form of divine signs worked by the power of the rod of Aaron/Moses
(Exodus 7:8–12). Relating this concept to the Book of Mormon, Brown

When we turn to 3 Nephi, the
need and the effort to recover those who were captives of sin becomes
clear. The principal differences, of course, were that (a) the risen
Jesus, the one who sought the recovery, came in person rather than
sending a messenger, and (b) there was no captor to whom he needed to
present his credentials. In this connection, important features of
Jesus’ visit grew out of the scene in which he presented his
“credentials” and the tokens of his mission to those whom he sought to
rescue. Note the following overtones in the wonderful moments just after
his arrival: “Behold, I AM Jesus Christ whom the prophets testified
shall come into the world. And behold, I AM the light and the life of
the world” (3 Ne. 11:10–11, capitalization added). The similarities with
Moses’ situation cannot be missed. In the first instance, Jesus
identified himself as the one whom the gathered crowd had been
expecting. Moses, too, had to identify himself as the envoy of Israel’s
God (Ex. 4:29–31). Further, Jesus announced himself specifically by
using the divine name I AM, the same name which Moses carried from his
interview on the holy mount (3:14). Additionally, as Moses had carried
at least one token of his commission which had the form of a physical
malady, namely, his arm which could be made leprous (4:6–8), so Jesus
bore the tokens of his crucifixion in his person. Moreover, to
demonstrate the validity of his wounds, Jesus asked the entire crowd of
twenty-five hundred people (3 Ne. 17:25) to come forward so that “ye may
thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of
the nails in my hands and in my feet” (11:14). My last point in this
context is that as the children of Israel had “believed” Moses and had
then “bowed their heads and worshipped” (Ex. 4:31), so the people in
Bountiful, after “going forth one by one . . . did know of a surety and
did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets,
that should come” (3 Ne. 11:15). They too “did fall down at the feet of
Jesus, and did worship him” (11:17). And like the scene in which
worship was extended to Jesus who was present, the Israelite slaves
worshiped the Lord who “had visited the children of Israel” (Ex. 4:31).

Both the acceptance of the tokens and the response seem significant in each context.

points to additional parallels between 3 Nephi and the Exodus account,
including the use of “I AM” and the response of the Nephites in bowing
and worshiping Him. Who “had visited the children of Israel” (Exodus
4:31). Christ, of course, was visiting the Nephites, and in His address
to them, said that the Father will “visit him [who believes in Christ] with fire and with the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 11:35).

to the next item on Lunn’s list, number 6, there is no mention of
snakes or serpents in 3 Nephi, apart from a passage on the Sermon on the
Mount as adapted for and quoted to the Nephites (“Or if he ask a fish,
will he give him a serpent?” in 3 Nephi 14:10). However, Mormon
in Mormon 9:22-25 later reports that Christ told the disciples
essentially the same words found in the commission to the Apostles in
the disputed longer ending of Mark (Mark 16:15-18, with the taking up of
serpents mentioned in vs. 18 and in Mormon 9:24). Though it is so
speculative that I hesitate to mention it, if the Nephites in
Mesoamerica connected the brass serpent of Moses with Christ, perhaps in
the context of an early form of what would become the Quetzalcoatl
myth, then it is conceivable that there might be a link between touching
Christ with their hands and the Exodus theme of Moses taking up the
serpent that would become his rod again, or more directly a link to
touching the living reality behind the symbol of the brass serpent. But
if such a connection were intended in 3 Nephi, one might hope to find an
allusion to the brass serpent or to Moses’ rod associated with the
scene in 3 Nephi 11.

As for item 7, speaking the
message accompanied with signs, this was thoroughly accomplished by the
twelve disciples in the New World. Beginning the very night after Jesus
appeared, they undoubtedly led the effort to announce the coming of the
Lord to thousands during the night that they might be present for His
return the next day (3 Nephi 19:1-4). On the next day, they then began
fulfilling their commission by teaching what Jesus had taught, dividing
the crowd into twelve bodies, then leading them in prayer and teaching
the very words that Christ had taught the day before (3 Nephi 19:5-8).
That day their divinely appointed ministry would be confirmed through
dramatic signs including the return of Christ in their midst. This
commission to go and teach the words of Christ would be continued
throughout their lives (3 Nephi 26:17). Numerous signs would accompany the
ministry in particular of the three disciples who were given special
power to tarry on earth until the return of Christ in the last days (3
Nephi 28:1-23). These three “did go forth upon the face of the land, and
did minister unto all the people” (3 Nephi 28:18) and would
miraculously surviving many attempts of the wicked to kill them or hold
them captive (3 Nephi 28:19-22).

Item 8 dealing with
the “hardness” of hearts is not clearly present in the context of
Christ’s ministry, though in 3 Nephi it is referenced as a key factor
associated with the wickedness of the people before the great
destruction in 3 Nephi 9. As reported in 3 Nephi 1:22, “there began to
be lyings sent forth among the people, by Satan, to
harden their hearts, to the intent that they might not believe in those
signs and wonders which they had seen; but notwithstanding these lyings
and deceivings the more part of the people did believe, and were
converted unto the Lord.” Here the hardening of hearts under Satan’s
influence leads to disbelief of the signs and wonders they saw that were
pointing to the coming of Christ. Then 3 Nephi 2:1-2 again reports that
the people “began to be hard in their hearts, and blind in their minds,
and began to disbelieve all which they had heard and seen,” ascribing
signs and wonders from God to the works of Satan or the deception of
men. Further, in 3 Nephi 21, in speaking of a sign to be given in the
latter days regarding the gathering of Israel, Christ states that the
Gentiles may be counted among His people “if they will not harden their
hearts,” and in the following verse He observes that the His prophecies
about the gathering of Israel in the last days “shall be a sign unto
them [the Gentiles]” (3 Nephi 21:7). These passages link hardness of
hearts to disbelief of divine signs, which is what we find in several
verses in Exodus. For example, in Exodus 4:21, “the Lord
said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do
all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I
will harden his heart [the JST has “Pharaoh will harden his heart”], that he shall not let the people go.
” The hardened heart does not believe and obey in spite of signs. Later in Exodus 7:3-4, the Lord tells Moses that I will harden Pharaoh’s heart [also changed to Pharaoh will harden his heart” in the JST], and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you” (NIV).

heart-related passages in 3 Nephi include 3 Nephi 7:16 where the great
prophet Nephi, “being grieved for the hardness of their hearts and the
blindness of their minds — went forth among the people” to preach
repentance. Then when the Lord speaks to the Nephites immediately after
the great destruction of 3 Nephi 9, He commands them to “offer for a
sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (v. 20), which
is the opposite of a hardened heart. In Christ’s initial words to the
Nephites, he warns against Satan’s power over the hearts of men, to stir
them up to anger (3 Nephi 11:29-30). While not using the word
“hardness,” the concept is related.

Item 9, as mentioned
(casting out seven nations/seven demons), may be a weak element in
Lunn’s analysis and is not found in 3 Nephi.  However, the Exodus theme
of casting out pagan nations to prepare the way for Israel not only has
parallels to Christ’s casting out demons in Mark as part of a new
Exodus, but also has links to 3 Nephi, where the theme of a New Exodus
is also present. This New Exodus, unfortunately, appears to requiring
casting out portions of a pagan Gentile nation in the New World, as
described in 3 Nephi 20:15-22 and 21:12-24. The words Christ uses makes
the ties to the Exodus particularly strong, for he introduces the
concept after declaring that “this land” in the New World was given unto
the Nephites/House of Israel for an inheritance (3 Nephi 20:14), and
then begins the warning to the Gentiles on this land (3 Nephi 20:15-22),
among whom the remnant of the House of Jacob shall be “as a lion among
the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep”
(vs.  16), which is quoting Micah 5:8, but also making reference to
Numbers 23:22-24, where Balaam prophecies that Israel, as it had left
Egypt and was entering its promised land, would “rise
up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a
young lion: he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink
the blood of the slain” (vs. 24). This lion/young lion combination is
repeated in a similar context in 3 Nephi 21:12. The future gathering of
Israel, coupled with some degree of scattering of Gentile peoples that
reject the Gospel, is part of the New Exodus of the last days and is
rich in parallels to the original Exodus. 

nearly all of the Exodus themes that Lunn lists for the disputed ending
of Mark, where Christ appears and gives the great commission to His
apostles, are also found in 3 Nephi where Christ does the same with His
twelve disciples in the New World. It was already known that Exodus
themes run deep in the Book of Mormon, though 3 Nephi has received less
attention than the abundant Exodus themes in the writings of Nephi and
other early writers. Elements identified by Lunn in defense of the
integrity of Mark also help us see more of the Exodus roots in 3 Nephi.

Lunn focuses on Sinai-related parallels to Exodus 3 and 4, the Sinai
experience continues in Exodus 6, where we find several noteworthy
relationships to the 3 Nephi account in vv. 1-8:

1 Then the Lord
said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with
a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he
drive them out of his land.

2And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord:

And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name Jehovah was I not known to them.

I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of
Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers.

I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the
Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant.

Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord,
and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I
will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a
stretched out arm
, and with great judgments:

And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to
give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for
an heritage
: I am the Lord.

to 3 Nephi occur in the declaration, “I am the Lord” and “I appeared”
as well as the language around the covenant and the land of inheritance
given the House of Israel, all discussed above. Further,  Christ begins
His words to the Nephites as he “stretched forth his hand and spake” (3
Nephi 11:10), similar to the “stretched out arm” in Exodus 6:6. He then
made the declaration, “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets
testified shall come into the world. And behold, I am the light and the
life of the world” (3 Nephi 11:11-12). 

parallels to consider include the location of appearance of the Lord at
the temple in Bountiful, the “mountain of the Lord’s house” (Isaiah
2:2), which can be connected to Mount Sinai, site of Moses’ theophany.

with the burning bush on Sinai, one of the striking elements in the 3
Nephi account of the Lord’s ministry to the Nephites is the word “fire.”
The theme of fire and burning begins with the first hint of the Lord’s
appearance, as the “small voice” from the heavens pierced the souls of
the people gathered at the temple and “did cause their hearts to burn”
(3 Nephi 11:3). After Christ appears and speaks, he says that those who
believe in Him will be visited “with fire and the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi
11:35).  Being baptized with “fire and the Holy Ghost” is mentioned
again in 3 Nephi 12:1, 2. Dramatically, in 3 Nephi 17:34, the little
children in the group are encircled with heavenly fire.

transfiguration of Christ, an important Exodus theme in Mark 9, also
plays a large role in 3 Nephi, with transfiguration occurring for Christ
and his disciples (3 Nephi 19:14, 24-25), a scene in which “the light
of [Christ’s] countenance did smile upon them” (v. 25) and caused the
disciples faces and clothing to glow white like Christ in this mystical
transfiguration scene, apparently alluding to the way that Moses’ face
shone when he came down from Sinai in Exodus 34:35. The
surrounding of the children in 3 Nephi 17 with divine fire may also
count as a transfiguration scene.

Finally, the translation of the three
Nephite disciples should also be considered. Here Lunn’s analysis of the
transfiguration of Christ in Mark 9, relevant to
the many ways Mark alludes to the Exodus in his writings, also has
relevance to 3 Nephi. One
of the parallels between Mark 9 and the Exodus is that “Moses and Jesus
both take with them three named persons (Exodus 24:1, 9; Mark 9:2)”
(Lunn, 256). The three Nephites who are translated/transfigured and
given power to live until Christ returns would seem to fit that pattern,
but their names are withheld though among the listed twelve (3 Nephi
28:1-17). The word “transfiguration” is used twice to describe the
change (3 Nephi 28:15, 17) which was accompanied by being caught up into
heaven as the dramatic change took place (3 Nephi 28:13-15).


the other Exodus concepts that occur in 3 Nephi, another dramatic one is
the feeding of the people with bread and wine in a sacramental meal
offered by Christ, even though there was no bread nor wine that was
brought for that event (3 Nephi 20:3-7), in parallel to the feeding of
Israel with manna and miraculously produced water during their journey
in the wilderness.

Another water-related concept from
Exodus was the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14), for which Lunn sees
parallels in Mark to teachings regarding baptism. This is consistent
with 3 Nephi’s emphasis on baptism, one of the first topics that Christ
touches upon after he appears (3 Nephi 11:21-27). Baptism, of course, is
a ceremony whose symbolism includes being rescued from the waters of
death and chaos. Water is explicitly mentioned in 3 Nephi: “ye shall go
down and stand in the water” (3 Nephi 11:23), “ye shall immerse them in
the water” and “come forth again out of the water” (3 Nephi 11:26),  “I
have given power that they may baptize you with water” and “after ye are
baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and the Holy
Ghost” (3 Nephi 12:1), and four times in the context of baptism in 3
Nephi 19 (vv. 10-13), including going down to the water’s edge (3 Nephi
19:10), which may be a parallel to the House of Israel approaching the
Red Sea before the miracle began or to the crossing of the Jordan by
Joshua and the priests carrying the tabernacle (Joshua 3:5-17, with the
“brink of the water of the Jordan” mentioned in vs. 8, or “the edge of
the Jordan’s waters” in the NIV). Further, those who are not built upon
his rock but on a sandy foundation will be received by the gates of hell
“when the floods come” (3 Nephi 11:40, 18:13), followed by two
references to the flood-like “waters of Noah” (3 Nephi 22:9, quoting
Isaiah 54:9), waters whose destructive force reminds us of the Red Sea
that destroyed the Egyptian army with its horses and chariots.

Speaking of horses and chariots,  Christ’s partial quotation of Micah 5:10 in 3 Nephi 21:14, “I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots,”
is likely a reference to the destruction of Egypt’s horses and chariots
in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:6-9, 17-18, 23-28, 15:19; and especially
Deuteronomy 11:4 where the Lord “destroyed” the Egyptian’s horses and

The “cloud” that surrounds Jesus and
hides Him from the Nephites as He ascends into heaven (3 Nephi 18:38) is
also reminiscent of the cloud associated with God’s presence and power
in the Exodus story (Exodus 13:21-22, 14:19-20, 24, 16:10, 19:9, 16,
24:15-16, 18, 34:5, 40:34-38).

Christ’s command to “Look unto me and endure to the end” (3 Nephi 15:9), followed by healing of the people (3 Nephi 17:9), could point to the account of the brass serpent that healed Israelites who would look to that symbol of Christ (Numbers 21:8-9), as George S. Tate has suggested in “The Typology of the Exodus Pattern in the Book of Mormon.”

In addition to
multiple Exodus themes that unite the longer ending of Mark with the
rest of his text, Lunn also notes the subtle presence of references to
Elijah in Mark’s text, including the longer ending (Lunn, 263-5).
Following Lunn’s lead, we also see Elijah references in 3 Nephi. The
only explicit reference to Elijah in the Book of Mormon occurs in the
words of Christ in 3 Nephi 25:5, quoting Malachi 4:5 about the future
sending of Elijah. Further, there may be an allusion to Elijah’s
theophany on Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:9-15), where Elijah witnessed
destructive forces of wind, earthquake and fire (1 Kings 19:11-12), akin
perhaps to the destruction reported in 3 Nephi 9, followed by the voice
of the Lord as “a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12), like the “small
voice” that pierced the Nephites to the center and caused their hearts
to burn (3 Nephi 11:3; cf. Helaman 5:30) as Christ began His majestic descent to them.

Lunn’s work on the longer ending of
Mark not only helps us understand the appropriateness of the word that
Christ taught to His New World disciples, following the commission given
in Mark 16, but also gives us tools and perspectives to better
understand subtle themes woven into the description of Christ’s ministry
to the Nephites. As always, there is more to the Book of Mormon than
meets the eye.

Related resources:

Author: Jeff Lindsay

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