In 3 Nephi this past week, we had the opportunity to study the destructions upon the American continent that accompanied the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. Just as was prophesied by Samuel the Lamanite upon the wall of Zarahemla, there were such terribly catastrophic events that took place, that it was written that “the whole face of the land was changed.” As the surviving Nephites and Lamanites were lamenting and howling because of these disasters, they heard the Lord’s voice declare unto them, “O ye people of the house of Israel…how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not.” (3 Nephi 10:5) I would like to refer to a 2001 talk by Janet S. Scharmann entitled Chosen to Witness for His Name, to get a better visual description of what this great scripture entails:
“Not being a farm girl, I could only imagine the scene of a hen gathering her chickens under her wings. I wondered what circumstances would cause a mother hen to gather her chicks and what would encourage lively chicks to be gathered. I wondered why the Lord would think it important enough to repeat this image four times in three verses.
“Then a friend shared with me this story told by Phillip Allred in Meridian Magazine. A group of young college students were helping measure range damage after a wildfire raged across the prairie outside their university town. As they walked over the expanse of blackened earth, they noticed a cluster of small smoldering mounds. One of the volunteers was particularly interested in the unidentifiable heaps and asked one of the more experienced range managers what they were.
“This veteran of many range fires replied that he had seen this phenomenon on a few occasions and suggested that the young man turn over one of the piles. He did. To his great surprise several sage grouse chicks ran out from under the upturned mound. He was fascinated. How incredible, he thought, that these little chicks had known to find and run underneath this mysterious shelter.
“The young man asked what the mound was and how the chicks knew to take refuge there. To his amazement, he was told that the smoldering heap was the remains of their mother. When there is danger the mother hen instinctively calls out to her young ones and stretches out her wings for them to run under and find protection in her embrace. The young man was profoundly moved by this symbol of a mother’s innate love and protection.”
The visual imagery of these mother hens protecting their young chicks under their wings, even to their own deaths, is so symbolic of the way that Christ gave His life to save each one of us from death – both physical death and spiritual death. As we continue studying about Christ’s appearance and teachings to the ancient inhabitants of the American continent, we can gain an appreciation for His love and concern for each one of us. Just as one of those mother hens, Christ knows each one of us by name – we are that dear and precious to Him. So precious, He willingly gave His life so that we may have ours!