What is the approximate time frame of Christ’s appearance in the Americas?
Skip, from Orlando, Florida
Samuel, the Lamanite prophet, prophesied of the conditions attending Christ’s birth about five years before the event. The Book of Mormon record says—
And behold, he [Samuel] said unto them: Behold, I give unto you a sign; for five years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God to redeem all those who shall believe on his name. And behold, this will I give unto you for a sign at the time of his coming; for behold, there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day. Therefore, there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and this shall be unto you for a sign; for ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also of its setting; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born. And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you. And behold this is not all, there shall be many signs and wonders in heaven (Helaman 14:2-6).
Samuel’s prophecies were all fulfilled at the time of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, as recorded in 3 Nephi 1:19-21—
And it came to pass that there was no darkness in all that night, but it was as light as though it was mid-day. And it came to pass that the sun did rise in the morning again, according to its proper order; and they knew that it was the day that the Lord should be born, because of the sign which had been given. And it had come to pass, yea, all things, every whit, according to the words of the prophets. And it came to pass also that a new star did appear, according to the word.
Great cataclysmic events that accompanied Christ’s death were also prophesied by Samuel—
But behold, as I said unto you concerning another sign, a sign of his death, behold, in that day that he shall suffer death the sun shall be darkened and refuse to give his light unto you; and also the moon and the stars; and there shall be no light upon the face of this land, even from the time that he shall suffer death, for the space of three days, to the time that he shall rise again from the dead. Yea, at the time that he shall yield up the ghost there shall be thunderings and lightnings for the space of many hours, and the earth shall shake and tremble; and the rocks which are upon the face of this earth, which are both above the earth and beneath, which ye know at this time are solid, or the more part of it is one solid mass, shall be broken up; Yea, they shall be rent in twain, and shall ever after be found in seams and in cracks, and in broken fragments upon the face of the whole earth, yea, both above the earth and beneath. And behold, there shall be great tempests, and there shall be many mountains laid low, like unto a valley, and there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great. And many highways shall be broken up, and many cities shall become desolate. And many graves shall be opened, and shall yield up many of their dead; and many saints shall appear unto many. And behold, thus hath the angel spoken unto me; for he said unto me that there should be thunderings and lightnings for the space of many hours. And he said unto me that while the thunder and the lightning lasted, and the tempest, that these things should be, and that darkness should cover the face of the whole earth for the space of three days (Helaman 14:20-27).
Not only were there many natural disasters, but as part of those disasters the more wicked part of all the people in the region were destroyed–by fire, by drowning, by being buried in the great upheavals of the earth. So they were immediately aware, beyond any shadow of doubt, of the specific times of both the birth, the death and the resurrection of the Savior, for immediately following the three days of destruction, He appeared to them in the person of his resurrected being—
And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them. And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying: Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world (3 Nephi 11:8-10).
While among them at this time He established his church, in the same fashion that He had organized it in Jerusalem–all of this in fulfillment of his prophecy to those at Jerusalem before his crucifixion—
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd (John 10:16).
The record of the ministry of the Savior among the Nephites on the American continent includes a total of 16 chapters in the book of 3 Nephi in the Book of Mormon, and includes some of the most intimate, touching and sacred scriptures in all holy writ.