Sixteen Cities

After the destruction which coincided with the death of Jesus Christ, while the survivors sat in darkness and pondered what had happened, they heard the voice of the Savior. He listed sixteen cities that had been destroyed, and explained why this had happened. There is a lot of repetition in this passage, including a refrain which appears five times. I found it useful to display the text in a table:

A few observations:

  1. Even though there is a symmetrical structure, there is also a sense of acceleration and intensification. Cities begin to be grouped together, with the exception of Jacobugeth, the city of the Gadianton robbers (see 3 Nephi 7:9-10), whom the Savior singles out for destroying the government.
  2. In the last two sections, He begins to list the sins of the people, which adds more weight to His overall message: that these disasters were not arbitrary. They were a direct result of their behavior.
  3. The refrain which keeps coming back emphasizes two main points:
    1. These natural disasters were symbolic. Many of the cities were buried in the earth or sunk underwater, representing the Lord’s desire to “hide” their sins from His sight.
    2. Their sins were not victimless. Prophets and saints—innocent people—had been murdered. (See 3 Nephi 6:23-25, 3 Nephi 7:6.)
  4. The number of cities, together with the labeling of several of them as “great,” emphasizes another point: We are less powerful than we think. Like the inhabitants of Ammonihah who scoffed at the idea that their city could be destroyed (Alma 9:4), we may discover that the security and the stability we enjoy can disappear instantly. (See Alma 16:9-10.) Unless we place our trust in God, we will find that we are on a sandy foundation.

Today, I will remember that man-made organizations and structures are not as permanent and stable as they may seem. I will place my trust in God. I will also remember that God’s patience for unkind behavior is not endless. He gives us time to repent, but He will eventually take action to stop the cruelty.

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