The Greatest Three Nephites Story Ever Told

The Greatest Three Nephites Story Ever Told September 26, 2023

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Three apostles on Snowmobiles. Getting it to add a car, or make them Nephites was beyond the AIs ability. Generated using the Beta Version of Adobe Firefly.

Who Are the Three Nephites?

If you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS/Mormon) you likely already know the answer to this question. As such, you can skip to the next section. All others will need an explanation:

In John 21:20-23, we read:

Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?

Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?

In the centuries since the New Testament was written some have taken these verses to mean that John the Beloved was granted immortality by Jesus. Latter-day Saints are among those people because this fact is confirmed in The Book of Mormon. When Jesus ministered in the Americas, He called an additional set of twelve apostles to be leaders of His Church there. Three of these apostles desired—and were granted—immortality as well. The believers in America called themselves Nephites and thus we call these additional immortal beings the Three Nephites.

In the LDS Church, it is believed that all four of them (the Three Nephites and John the Apostle) roam the world doing good. This idea has made Utah, where many Mormons reside, a hotbed of urban legends involving people who mysteriously show up in time of need and then just as mysteriously disappear. These stories, particularly if they happen to involve three individuals, are often referred to as Three Nephite stories. 

How It Started

One Saturday in 1986 my father, his best friend, and his best friend’s son were out snowmobiling. They were following a trail that briefly intersected a road that had been built as part of a new development. Building had only barely begun. Roads and fire hydrants had been put in, and a few houses were under construction.

Snowfall had been heavy that year and plows had piled two large snow banks on either side of the road. As my father’s friend came up over the bank, he saw that someone had gotten lost, wandered up into the development, and in the course of trying to make a u-turn, had gotten stuck. He immediately stopped and got off to help, quickly followed by the other two. 

It was a young mother with her baby in a car seat.  One of her front tires had dropped off the asphalt into the gutter. She gunned it in reverse, while they lifted and pushed. She quickly became unstuck, turned around, and headed back down the road. They all hopped on their machines, went up the opposite snowbank and back down the trail. Had she glanced in her rear view mirror thirty seconds later they would have disappeared just as suddenly as they appeared. 

I found out about this incident later that day. My father told me the story and said, “That’s how Three Nephite stories get started.” He pointed out that they had seemingly shown up out of nowhere, right in the nick of time, and then disappeared just as suddenly. Also, as befits immortal beings they all had gray hair. Even the son was prematurely gray. 

We both chuckled. I filed it away in my library of anecdotes, but otherwise I didn’t think much of it.

But Then, One Night…

Nearly two decades later I found myself in Indianapolis. I was there for GenCon, a giant tabletop gaming convention. It was around 1 AM and I was sitting in the lobby of the Embassy Suites with a large group of people. A friend of mine had dragged me along, so I didn’t know anyone else. Somehow the conversation turned to immortal beings and religion. I forget exactly how things started, but we ended up discussing the Wandering Jew, and John the Beloved. It was at this point that someone interjected “Well, you should hear what the Mormons believe!” 

To this point I hadn’t said anything, but I perked up at that as I was curious what this gentleman was going to say. The way he had said it, seemed to indicate that he himself was not LDS. (This turned out to be true.) As such, I wanted to be ready to correct any misrepresentations. I needn’t have worried, he proceeded to give an account very similar to the one I gave at the beginning of the episode. 

He further explained that he had written his master’s thesis on Three Nephite stories. As a consequence he had encountered numerous of these stories. In response to this someone asked him to relate his favorite of all the stories he’d encountered. 

He didn’t even hesitate. “My favorite? Well, there was this woman who was out driving in the winter and got horribly stuck, and the Three Nephites showed up on snowmobiles…”

I was flabbergasted. Now I had to chime in. I exclaimed “That wasn’t the Three Nephites, that was my dad!” 

And then I proceeded to relate the story told in the last section, much to everyone’s amazement.

What Are We to Make of These Events?

I went on to become great friends with the gentleman I met in Indianapolis. Obviously one of my very first questions was where he had heard the story. He pointed me at a book, About the Three Nephites, by Douglas and Jewel Beardall. I managed to track it down. The story wasn’t exactly the same as the one I related above. The story took place in a town farther north, and in it the Three Nephites ride off to the side of the car until it reaches the highway. But when one imagines the game of telephone that must have ensued between the actual incident and the book, minor differences are to be expected. 

(I’ve always thought that it wasn’t the women who got stuck who thought it was the Three Nephites, but rather some very devout friend, who decided to add that interpretation.)

One of the people to whom I’ve related this story thinks that the true miracle is the story itself. Certainly—similar to the incident I related in last week’s post—it was an astounding coincidence. One so big that it’s hard to not think someone must have been working “behind the scenes”. I wouldn’t go that far, but certainly it was a fortunate and strange encounter. 

In the vast majority of cases God uses us to accomplish his works. I have no doubt that this young mother, stuck with her baby in the middle of nowhere, offered a prayer.  And her prayer was answered by good men, just not immortal apostles of Jesus Christ. It was a miracle, not something completely unexplainable given the laws of physics, but a miracle for that young mother nonetheless. 

We should look for more opportunities to be miracles in other people’s lives. 

This is it. The most amazing story in my repertoire. It doesn’t get more amazing or improbable than that. Though given the number of listeners I have vs. the number of donors, and given one of you deciding to donate is also pretty improbable. If you want to partake in your own amazing story, and be a miracle in my life, consider donating. 

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