Feb 16, 2010
John Larsen, Mike, George, are joined by Casey to discuss the legends of the 3 Nephites. Casey is the webmaster for the Holy Fetch web site.
Podcast: Play in new window
By John Larsen
Tags: 3 Nephites, Angels, Blackfoot, Book of Mormon, Cain, Christianity, City of Enoch, David Whitmer, FARMS, Franklin D Richards, Hitchhiker, Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, Moroni, Pioneers, Resurrection, Urban Legend
Great podcast guys. It went by way too quick, but I took notes as I listened (so pardon this lengthy post from a relative newbie). I studied mormon folklore for many years at Indiana University –– have a MA degree and Ph.D. (ABD) in Folkloristics. I also used to run a website called missionaryfolklore.com which had several three nephite stories and a lot of other similar stories. This by no means makes me an expert on this stuff – and I have been out of that field for many years – but it certainly made this podcast especially interesting to me.
First I have some questions for Mike.
Mike — You said at one point that you thought that the reason the three nephite names are kept secret/sacred is because there is some kind of power associated with names and if we knew their names we might have power over them. This is a fascinating idea. Do you have a source for it? I would also be interested to hear more about the ‘opening up missions in China’ and printing press/English translation of the Bible sources. You also said something interesting about people in our day only get serviced by angles of people who lived post-christ? Why is that? Interesting/strange doctrinal extrapolation. Where is this coming from?
Casey – That was an interesting take on the sister missionaries/serial killer story. My experience is that they are usually explained as guardian angels as opposed to three nephites. But it totally makes sense that some versions of the story could be three nephites. Your website sounds like the kind of thing I was hoping for back in the day – a little ahead of the blog boom, I think.
George – were drinking salsa straight from the jar during the podcast? So many warm indigestional sensations. But yes, I too was chillin.
John – I think you totally nailed it. As I see it, these are definitely borrowed stories. If you haven’t already, look at Jan Brunvand’s “The Vanishing Hitchhiker” for more contemporary non-mormon examples. So many similar motifs. But even the New Testament has the story about the Ethiopian on the side of the road who just disappeared (too lazy to look up the source). And I was glad you mentioned the road to Emmaus – that is the ultimate vanishing hitchhiker story. Good catch.
On my mission, someone tried to convince me once that the three wise men at Jesus birth were the three nephites. Ummm… a few problems there, but interesting nevertheless. Others said that at least one of them was Nephi (the later one).
What I kept thinking through this podcast was how folklore functions – how it adds value to peoples lives. And one of the main functions of a legend is to validate a belief. Chuck’s grandfather’s story was an awesome example of this. He doesn’t “believe” the church is true…. he “knows.” Belief validated. Its easy to look at these things as true vs. not true, but I think that misses the point. What always interests me is why they continue to provide value and meaning to people, and I think you were able to get to that a little, but more could be explored there in a future podcast.
William A Wilson (a great mormon folklore scholar) speculated once that these Nephite stories tend to crop up during times of turmoil. He cited Clinton’s election as a time when the stories spike. I remember him telling me this about a decade before 9/11. I haven’t checked to see if there was any kind of spike after that. Anyone know?
And finally, the cain-bigfoot stories rock. I hope you get to more of those at a future podcast. I would also be interested to hear non-LDS folklore (if there is any) about John the Beloved tarrying like the three Nephites. Does such a thing exist?
Also, the discussion about the city of Enoch “coming back” made me long for a podcast on the signs of the times. Anything in the works for that guys?
Excellent podcast guys. Sorry again for this epistle. Just a lot of food for thought.
Very fascinating podcast. Great stuff guys.
Of course we all now that the 3 Nephites are really ZZ Top. Think about it. In their videos, three white bearded guys who appear out of nowhere, help the girl get back at her boss, help the guy get the girl, give them the keys to the car, wave goodbye, and then disappears out of sight.
Excellent analogy. Very funny. I love ZZ Top.
Hi – my name is MohonriJosephini and I am one of the three Nephites. Just wanted to give a shoutout to Mormon Expression for covering what me and my bros have been doing the past 2000+ years. It’s great to finally get some cred for all the tire changes and field plowing we have done. Mike, seeing as you are the only one that believes in us, you are next on our list for a custom manicure or free oil change – your choice.
FYI – John the Beloved is a wannabe journeyman for Jesus… he spends all of his time online meeting chicks.
MohonriJosephini, now that I know your name, I would like my three wishes.
Here is another Three Nephite Story in a round about sort of way:
There is a parallel account to the Book of Mormon purported to be translated off of metal plates, processed animal hides and paper velum, called the Mentinah Archives. http://mentinah.com/main/
The record begins with Hagoth, the father, who built a ship, sailed north up the western coast of Central America, then north into the Gulf of California up to the Colorado River. Hagoth is the father of The Book Of Mormon Hagoth, (the son) that also built a ship, sailed north and was never heard from again, at least from the Book of Mormon point of view.
The Mentinah Archives tells that Hagoth, the son, eventually landed in the Hawaiian Islands. Some of the ships’s passengers sailed back to the mainland and told their story. Hagoth, the son, and several others decided to stay in Hawaii.
When Hagoth the father’s group got to where the Colorado River empties into the Gulf, they built canoes and paddled up the Colorado River. Apparently the river was much wider and deeper in those days. They settled in a heavily forested area in the Tuba City/Page, Arizona area. Anyone that is familiar with this area now, knows it is anything but heavily forested.
When the Gadiaton Robbers of the BOM got too close for comfort the group moved north into the Sanpete Valley of Utah. They built a temple on the same location as the current Manti Temple. This people called themselves the Nemenhah. Christ is purported to have visited this people after his resurrection and well as the Three Nephites. The identity of the Three Nephites is also mentioned in one of the volumes. Moroni also spent time with the Nememhah during the 20 year period of time in the BOM when he was not writing anything.
The Gadianton Robbers eventually settled in the same area (Tuba City/ Page) as the Nemenhah left. They cut down all the trees and shipped them down the river for profit. They essentially denuded the forest and changed the climate of the area. Where was Greenpeace when we needed them back then?
When Brigham Young arrived in Utah the Native Americans who had possession of the plates asked him to translate the Nemenhah records. He declined. In 1957 they again asked the LDS Church to translate the records. They again declined. So much for being “prophets, seers, and revelators.”
A few years ago the translation was started by a fellow who calls himself “Cloudpiler” and a couple of others. To date, there has been around 8 volumes produced. A short history of the archives can be found at: http://mentinah.com/main/about-the-records/history/
You can also download the archives online at: http://mentinah.com/main/about-the-records/books-online/
The archives mention where Samuel the Lamanite came from. (He was Nemenhah.) There are also several other common characters between the Book of Mormon and the Mentinah Archives such as Corianton and Alma. The archives give the rest of the story as Paul harvey would say it.
According to the archives, Corianton did not have sex with Isabel while serving as a missionary. (Alma 39:3) She was a prostitute, was converted to he true gospel by Corianton and repented. Because she lost her very elite and powerful clientele,(she was purported to be the best in the business) they spread rumors about her and Corianton, which got back to the father. Alma falsely accused Corianton. Corianton couldn’t understand how a prophet could not know by the Spirit the truth about his own son. (Isn’t it interesting how history can repeat itself in the form of Hoffman and Hinckley.) Corianton got mad, left his father, married Isabel and moved to the northeastern part of the USA.
I make this long comment because of the story of the visit of the Three Nephites to the people of the Nemenhah. The teachings of the Three Nephites are in several of the volumes of the Mentinah Archives.
It appears that Joseph’s story of the BOM has spawned at least one “break-off” parallel record that is equally difficult to believe.
The fellow who publishes the Mentinah Archives would make a fascinating guest on Mormon Expression. Cloudpiler lives in the Midwest somewhere. I believe he started his own little community.
Another really fun episode, guys. I hope that you do in fact have an episode on Mormon urban myths (e.g. Cain/Bigfoot, where the City of Enoch supposedly was, demon possession, Ten Tribes on ice, little girls resurrecting from farmer’s field, etc.). I had another thought about the food motif of certain 3 Nephite visitations. In Genesis, particular with Abrahamic times, angels often supped with the Abraham, Lot, and others. Perhaps this is one of the origins of the myth. The angels and El, however, often ate the food and stayed for conversation, so in that instance the stories differ. Keep it up, Expressers!
The Three Nephites have something to do with opening up China for missionary work? What, the supposed Prophet, Seer and Revelator and his band of drooling geriatrics don’t have time to do their jobs?
Once I had a tire blow out during a rainstorm. I immediately went into a profane rant, and soon thereafter a car sped by, swerving into a puddle by the side of the road and thus soaking me in cold, mucky water.
I’m pretty sure it was one of the Three Nephites. They’ve been stuck on earth for 2000 years doing nothing but changing tires and helping Mormons find their car keys. You’d get a bad attitude too.
My father, who converted to Mormonism in Norway at the tender age of 15, and immigrated with his family to the USA when I was 5 years old was fond of telling and retelling a “three Nephite story” that supposedly happened in Norway. According to the story, a couple of Mormon missionaries from Utah were lost, cold and starving out in the countryside somewhere in Norway during a blizzard, late one evening. They knelt in prayer to ask God for help. Shortly afterwards they found a loaf of freshly baked bread in a paper wrapper, still warm from the oven lying in the snow, in the middle of nowhere. The bread both warmed and fed them, helping them to survive the ordeal. As soon as they tasted the bread, one of the pair exclaimed in amazement that this was his wife’s bread, having recognized the flavor as that of his wifes unique recipe. (This was obviously before the Church stopped sending married men without their wives on missions). He wrote to his wife, back in Utah, about this remarkable event, and received an answer from her that on the very day that they were lost in the snow, a stranger appeared at her door begging for food while she was baking bread, and she gave him one of the loaves she had just taken from the oven, after which the stranger walked away and disappeared. It might be interesting to hear from Nyal if this bit of Mormon folklore is still being told by Norwegian members of the Church.
I can’t speak for what is currently being told in Norway, but I worked in the Folklore archives at BYU for many years (’93-96) and I can tell you that it was a very popular story in those black-binder collections they have there (Bert Wilson started collecting around 1963), although if I remember right, the setting for the story was not limited to Norway.
I’m pretty sure John Mayer is John the Beloved…the only question is if this should make me start liking his music.
Thanks, Glenn, for that interesting tidbit of information! I am not at all surprised that the setting for the story was not limited to Norway–in fact, I would find it greatly surprising if it were.
Yep, the Three Nephites helped Gutenberg with the printing press. And I’m pretty sure they were whispring in Al Gore’s ear to tell him how to invent the Internet too.
One interesting story about the 3 Nephites.
Missionaies in Barcelona Mission in Spain used in a missionary activities.
Missionaries invited members and investigators to the chaple and one of them sat in the other side of a room, there was a veil between the attendees and a missinary seating in the other side of the veil. That missionary said (with a strong american accent in spanish) that he was one of the three nephites, that did not want to revela the identity and for that reason spoke from the other side of the veil. He said he was a missionary and that he was there to testify of the BoM and the Church… Some poeple actually believe it, some others explain the weird activity to other people who explain it to others and the story start changing as if one of the 3 nephites in fact had been in Spain talking in that activity
… It was weird, and the missionaries did want to use this as a tool to convert people!!!. Funny thing is that the investigators did not have a clue of what the guy was representing and that i recall no one joined the Church from that activity
I helped teach a class of 10yo boys yesterday in Primary, and when discussing the translation of the City of Enoch, the subject of the 3 Nephites came up, and the kids were fascinated. They had tons of questions, and I just referred them to 3 Nephi and told them to read up for “homework”.
I was surprised to see how interested they were.
I had some good laughs here, and the Cain = Bigfoot caught me totally off-guard and I almost choked on my drink of hazelnut sin.
Java + Sinuses = bad mixture.
Interesting podcast. This is the second podcast of yours I’ve listened to, and I’m definitely going to be coming back.
Related to the three Nephites, there’s a book, and a “phenomenon” called “The Third Man” from a story that Shackelton told after crossing South Georgia Island. This book is literally packed with stories of presences that show up during times of distress, sometimes seen, sometimes unseen. Pretty good read.
I have to say that I was pretty turned off by George in this one. He seemed very bitter and mocking. The civil discussion was great and quite fascinating. I’d suggest you leave the mocking to Bill Maher–he’s a paid professional. George just sounded sour.
I noticed a lot of similarities between these 3 Nephites stories and the stories evangelicals tell about meeting Jesus or angels.
They exhibit the same motif of the “benevolent stranger” who stops to help you change your tie or something along those lines. The motif is just interpreted differently.
They also use the “hungry stranger” motif, in which the stranger doesn’t really need the food, but is just testing your charity. I think the point of this motif is that since any stranger could be Jesus or a Nephite in disguise, we can’t afford to be stingy.
At any time we could be “entertaining angels,” if you will.
…and by “stops to help you change your tie” I mean stops to help you change your *tire*”
Fascinating podcast – as usual. I’m really, really enjoying these!
And to segue off of Christopher Smith’s post a bit . . .
I think that a key psychological explanation for Mormon Three Nephite stories and some Evangelical Jesus or Angel stories: Gestalt Closure.
I see Gestalt working in both faith communities in how they will use closure techniques to pull together disparate data fragments (including subliminal or subconscious implants) into a testimony, a metaphysical experience, or a narrative. The last, of course, is the most common form of Gestalt Closure and you find it in both religious and secular contexts.
To me this is the most compelling explanation for much folklore up to and including Three Nephite stories and the majority of evangelical Jesus/Angel stories. I’m not completely eliminating the supernatural in either context, however, in the majority of cases Gestalt Closure seems a far more plausible explanation.
And, for those that are interested, I discussed this phenomenon within the context of The Mormon Testimony in my White Paper, “Deconstructing Mormon Testimony Bearing” (http://www.concernedchristians.com/index.php?option=com_fireboard&Itemid=42&func=view&id=75526&catid=10)
Hey John, Car Talk is religion at our house. This Saturday’s episode had me jumping up and down! Episode #1044 “This week on Car Talk, we’ve got a roadside repair story to beat the band. It involves a dead Camry, a remote mountain top, and a mysterious stranger, clad in white from head to hubcap, who did nothing more than say, “Just start the car.”" If you’re not a fan, head to 38:16 and you can hear Amelia from Charlottesville, VA (a non-mormon) describe her experience with one of the “3 Nephites”. Well worth a few minutes of your time. http://www.cartalk.com/ct/review/index.jsp
The hitch hiker stories remind me of the secular ghost stories about hitch hikers – that’s probably where they came from.
you guys said you couldnt find stories of the three nephites outside the lds. stories of the three nephites were even more prevelant in the rlds church than in the lds, in some conservative circles in the community of christ its normal to hear three nephites stories during testimony services. old rlds books are chalked full of testimonies from members who said they were ministered to by the three nephites.
This is an interesting pod cast. This is the first time I have heard of your website because just out of the blue, I did a google search on the 3 nephites. I am now 47 so I wanted to tell my story before it is lost in time.
When I was 5 years old I lived in Durango Colorado with my family. My father has a memorial to his service to the state (along with several others who lost their lives there) on Red Mountain Pass. This is a pass between Quray and Silverton and very well known for its avalanches. My father, who worked for the state in road maintenace, was killed in an avalanche there in March of 1970. This was a very famous event in that part of the state as a family had died there as well as another highway worker several years later. That is when the monument was errected and funding for a snow shed was finally committed to the stretch of road. But I digress.
The story of what really happened at the end of winter 1970, has never been published until now but I am compelled to do so. This story was related to me a couple of times by my mother, once in my youth and again in my young adult hood where I confirmed the details which had not changed over the years as you might expect oral stories might do. I am very compelled to tell this story. I guess maybe for the same reason, writers on gold plates and brass did the same thing some hundreds of years ago. The “stories” were events they saw.
Anyway, about a week before my fathers death, the family was all at home one evening. We lived on a highway going into Durango, CO. A man appeared at our door in the evening right around dinner time and asked to use our phone as his car was broke down on the highway. He didn’t eat anything or use the phone. The man was oddly dressed for the time period. He went with my father into the kitchen where the phone was at, and they both were in there talking for some time. Apparently, he never did use the phone and the conversation was between the stranger and my father. Eventually, he left the house. My mother was very concerned about the very strange incident. Because as she looked out as he left, he was no where to be found and no car was on the highway. But my father was changed by the incident. He would normally go to bed early, but after the incident, my mother could only find him sitting in the living room at midnight. He did not discuss what the man had told him. But it weighed heavily on him like a burden. What ever the stranger talked about, left my father in a very heavy state of mind.
A few days later, two men from the church appeared at our door to tell my mother our father was in an avalanche. A search and rescue party was sent out for recovery. But the two incidents were tied to each other, and my mother was convinced that the stranger had told my father about the incident in order to wrap up his affairs. My mother was convinced it was one of the 3 nephites. The story comes to mind every March as it also weighed heavily on my mother over the years especially toward the end of March and I guess it also has effected me as well for the past 42 years. It is something you can not get out of your head. There has been a lot of stories written about my father over the years (and the others CDOT men who have lost their lives) like this one: http://www.denverpost.com/coloradosunday/ci_14771329 But this is the first written account of involvement by one of the 3 nephites. And now you know the rest of the story.
I will say this as a matter of my own personal opinion. The man that appeared did not pretend to be an angel of light. When he said he had a car, there was no car. He wanted to use the phone, and did not. He was polite and good at conversation. The man was a tarrier on the earth. This we know. I conjecture going from mission to mission and– living for that long I would think might be its own burden not being a resurrected being but rather a supernatural (or well informed at least) human being.
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