I have always wanted to do something with Christ's sermons to the Nephites. It seems to me that we've been running through prophecies and warnings which serve one purpose, and leaving another one neglected. Balance requires us to return to another important purpose of the Book of Mormon. Namely, testifying that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of Israel and the whole world.
So for that part, we'll turn attention to Christ's Nephite sermons.
I've already dealt with what I have termed the "Ceremony of Recognition" involved in Christ's initial appearance. That is covered in The Second Comforter and won't be repeated here. So I'm going to skip to verses 3 Nephi 11: 18-20.
The Lord has appeared, is identified and recognized by those who were at the Bountiful Temple. (This is probably an open air temple much like what we find in the Parowan Gap. If you consider the entirety of the description, it is not likely a closed structure like we build.) And those who are there have engaged in an Hosanna shout. (3 Nephi 11: 17.) When the ceremony has ended and the place has become sanctified by His presence, and the body there recognizes and accepts Him as who and what He is, the stage has been set for a further ceremonial event.
Christ speaks to Nephi. He calls his name. Important stuff. Being called by name by the Son of God! Now we're seeing something really important. For those whose names are called by God are not merely being addressed. They are, the instant the Lord calls out their name, "called." That is, the Lord will never speak one's name to them unless He calls them to a work. So when we read that the Lord speaks to Nephi we know the Lord has both called Nephi's name and called the bearer of that name to do a work. Nephi knew it. The crowd knew it. All present would have understood that Nephi just became the chief prophet of those present.
Nephi is told to "come forth." It instantly puts us in mind of Lazarus being called forth from the tomb. (John 11: 43.) Like Lazarus, who rose from the dead by the speaking of those words, Nephi now goes forth to a new life. Resurrected from his prior status and put into a minister's role by the Lord of all mankind.
Called, commanded to "come forth," and endowed immediately with the Lord's anointing voice, which bestows power and authority upon a man, (see, e.g., D&C 132: 46) Nephi arises from his kneeling position and steps forward.
Every knee remains bowed except Nephi's. For a brief moment, as he walks forward, he alone, of all those assembled in the crowd, is the one who stands in the presence of the Lord. (c.f., Luke 1: 19). Others kneel, Nephi stands. It is honor, glory and privilege being displayed in this ceremony. Christ as King and Lord calls, His chief servant rises while all others remain kneeling. We are getting informed about the Lord and His ways in detailed ceremony conveying vast information in passing movement. It is too wonderful for words.
Nephi knows what he must do. For the servant who has been called to stand above his peers must then descend below them. Pride is unthinkable when in the presence of such a meek and humble figure as our Lord. It is required that the balance be restored. Nephi, who has been made to rise, must on his own choose to descend and abase himself. Those who seek their own glory will fall, while those who seek to humble themselves will rise again. So Nephi does what any person filled with light and truth would do in these circumstances. He comes to the Lord, falls below all, and descends to kiss the Master's feet. He kneels again, bows to the ground. And in an ultimate sign of humility, he kisses His feet, which on any other being is the symbol of uncleanliness itself. Nephi can do nothing more to show his own submission to the Lord. He can do nothing further in ceremonial activity to say he is nothing and the Lord is everything. He can show no greater respect and gratitude. Here is a servant indeed. A chief servant to the Servant of servants! A Master and servant whose hearts are alike. Nephi is, above all else, showing to us all how we ought be.
The gentiles love those who rule over and exploit them. (Matt. 20: 25.) But Christ's true followers do not crave chief seats. They desire to serve. They will hold others up, even if it requires them to descend below to lift them. Nephi is not a gentile, nor one who would ever exercise unrighteous dominion over others. (D&C 121: 39.)
The ceremony now requires the abased to respond to the Lord's command again. Nephi is commanded to "arise." It was not enough to "come forth" to the new life. Now, having been chosen, Nephi must also "arise." It is a terrible burden. How can man "arise?" How can a man assume his position alongside His Lord? How can one who feels more suited to kneel and kiss his Master's feet, rise up and look his Lord in the face? It is all too much. One hardly can bear the burden and difficulty to "arise" when it is the Lord's own countenance you must confront. Too much. Too difficult. Too heavy a burden to lay upon mere man. How does Nephi dare to respond to the command to "arise?"
Through the swirling anxiety following the command, Nephi doesn't have the strength to do so until the realization that "arising" is the Master's will. It is the Master's command. It can be done through faith in Him. For He gives no command without having prepared the means to accomplish it. (1 Nephi 3: 7.) It must be possible for Nephi to actually arise. Though a lifetime's dread and remorse says to remain on your knees, it is the Master's will that you nonetheless arise. And so you begin the dreadful effort, and your trembling knees respond. To your own surprise you find it possible to arise and look into the face of Him who is compassion itself. There can be no pride in this, for rising is by His command, and not by your own will. You may want to join in Moses' chorus that "for this cause you know man is nothing!" (Moses 1: 10.) But it isn't necessary to voice the thought. It is enough to understand the thought.
No man assumes this honor for himself. He must be called by God to stand in His presence.
And so Nephi arose, and stood before His Lord.