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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Three Knocks a Day on the Door of Heaven

The Rule of Threes

"Repetition is used both in life and in scripture to do such things as teach, emphasize, and confirm. It can help wake up and reach people at a deep level. When we knock at a door, we usually do it three times. A blacksmith strikes his hammer in rhythms of three. A typical cheer is repeated three times, with the last cheer being the most emphatic.

We try something three times, with the third try often producing the desired result.

History also highlights some interesting breakthroughs when something was done for the third time:
  • Moroni came three times on the night of September 21, 1823 to deliver the same message (JS-H 1:45-46).
  • Peter's dream of the clean and unclean animals (which precipitated extending of the blessings of the gospel to the Gentiles) was also repeated three times (Acts 10:16). 
  • The youthful Samuel did not understand the voice of the Lord until he heard it the third time (1 Samuel 3:8).
  • This was also the case with the Nephites when the voice of the Father spoke from the heavens to introduce his Son (3 Nephi 11:5-7).
  • Similarly, during the imprisonment of Helaman's sons, Nephi and Lehi, a heavenly voice was heard three times commanding men to repent (Helaman 5:30-33).
  • The Lord tells us that we should proclaim peace three times (to those who have declared war on us) before beseeching the Lord for justification of battle (D&C 98:34-38).
  • "In October 1975, in a meeting with regional and mission representatives, Pres. Spencer W. Kimball repeated three times, 'Now is the time of the Jew.' In November 1975, a special committee prepared missionary discussions and pamphlets for the Jews (which were revised four years later). In January 1977, the first 'cultural representatives' of the Church entered Israel. By 1980, a few hundred missionaries were teaching Jews in the United States and some other countries with limited success" (Victor L. Ludlow, "Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet", p.416)
"Laban was not killed for any short-term practical need of the moment. As Nephi stood marveling over the drunken Laban, he must have been quite astonished. He was drawn immediately to Laban's sword, which he removed from its sheath. The splendor of the workmanship and the sharpness of the steel blade left an indelible impression on the young man's mind. As Nephi stood marveling at this weapon, the Spirit constrained Nephi that he should kill Laban (1 Ne. 4:10). Nephi balked. The Spirit then said to him again, 'Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands' (1 Ne. 4:11).  Three times Nephi tried to rationalize the commanded deed, but the Spirit said again, 'Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands' (1 Ne. 4:12)" (John W. Welch, "Legal Perspectives on the Slaying of Laban", FARMS Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 1:1, Fall 1992, p.132)
This event is congruent with what Leland Ryken, in How to Read the Bible as Literature, calls "the storytelling principle of threefold repetition: a given event happens three times, with a crucial change introduced the third time." (Richard Dilworth Rust, "Recurrence in Book of Mormon Narratives", FARMS Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 3:1, Spring 1994, p.44).

It is no wonder that "by the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word" (2 Ne. 11:3)."

Praying Three Times a Day

Amulek taught we should cry unto God three times a day: "in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening." (Alma 34:21)

Daniel was esteemed. The scriptures tell us that "an excellent spirit was in him." (Daniel 6:3)  Not surprisingly, he went "into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime." (Daniel 6:10).

The prophet Joseph Smith endorsed Daniel's actions, saying: “You must make yourselves acquainted with those men who like Daniel pray three times a day toward the House of the Lord." (Joseph Smith, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols., 6:, p.240).  Indeed, "There is evidence that Joseph Smith and his family practiced this teaching. Eliza R. Snow recorded that 'three times a day he had family worship; and these precious seasons of sacred household service truly seemed a foretaste of celestial happiness' (Jayann Morgan Payne, J “Eliza R. Snow, First Lady of the Pioneers.” Ensign, Sept 1973, p. 65). 

Hyrum Smith, the Prophet's brother, also learned the principle regarding daily prayers.  According to Eliza Ann Carter, 'When I was living at Hyrum Smith's I thought that he was the best man I ever saw, he was so kind to his family and he prayed in his family three times a day'" (Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds., Third Nephi 9-30: This Is My Gospel, p.141-142)

Why did they pray three times a day?

In one way, praying three times a day is not unlike having a "spiritual" meal, which keeps the lines of communication open with our Heavenly Father:
"Everything has to be fed. You feed your body three times a day. The Lord says to keep your testimony, to keep your spirit alive, you have to feed it every day. That is why he says morning, noon, and night. That is why he says pray every night and morning. That is why he says pray continually so that you keep that line open. (66-12)" (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball, p.142).
It also helps us retain the light of the Holy Ghost:
"There is not a day passes over my head that I do not bow before the Lord once, twice, or thrice; that is the way I have got to live, in order to be a good man, and retain the light of the Holy Spirit to guide me into all truth; and the same faithfulness is required of you, because you are members of the same body and of the same Priesthood" (Pres. Heber C. Kimball, at Centerville, Sunday, February 19, 1865; Journal of Discourses, 26 vols., #11, p.81).
Knocking Three Times a Day

However, simply "praying" three times a day may not constitute "knocking" three times a day:
"Learn to talk to God. Sometimes I have been a little startled when I have gone out to the stakes and some of you have been called up, and because of your fright in knowing you were going to pray, some of you have actually read from written prayers. And when I have listened to you pray maybe two or three times, it is a matter of your saying prayers. Now there is a lot of difference between saying a prayer and talking with God. There are a few whom I have heard pray who did talk with God, one of whom was the late President Charles A. Callis. I never heard him pray at the holy altars in the temple, I never heard him when we knelt together in prayer when we were out on difficult missions but what he seemed, as he talked, to be reaching right into the portals of our Father's holy dwelling place, and he talked with divine beings. Do not say prayers, do not read prayers, but learn to talk with God" (Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams, p. 125).
Jesus gave three ascending injunctions to the Nephite people gathered at the temple in Bountiful:

1.  "Ask, and it shall be given unto you"

2.  "Seek, and ye shall find"

3.  "Knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (3 Ne. 14:7). 

See the progression in our actions, and the Lord's?  We act, then he reacts:

1.  On the first level, you are given what to ask for.

2.  On the second, you do the finding, the investigating, the "study it out in your mind" phase, so to speak.

3.  On the third and most effectual, you both receive (the door is opened to you) and act (implicitly, you then go through the doorway). (Richard Dilworth Rust, "Feasting on the Word: The Literary Testimony of the Book of Mormon", p.21-22)

Knocking in Ceremony

The importance of knocking three times on a symbolic door of heaven isn't overlooked in Roman Catholicism.

Knocking (three times) with a hammer on the portal of a door is acted out in the ritual of the Porta Santa at St. Peter in Rome, representing entry of the children of God into the presence of the Lord:
"This rite is executed only every twenty-five years and represents the entry of the children of God into the presence of the Lord. Medieval medals struck for the occasion often show Christ on one side of the portal and the pope or the people on the other.  The pope knocks three times with a golden hammer, upon which the door is opened by the masons and he may enter through it and proceed to the sanctuary. The remainder of the clergy and the people then follow after him. A prayer said by Pope Clement VIII during the rite in 1600 demonstrates clearly that the ceremony does indeed portray entry into the temple of God: 'Open unto me the gates of Justice, when I am entered I will praise my Lord. I will enter, O Lord, into Thy House. I will adore Three in Thy fear in Thy temple.' (Marcus Von Wellnitz, "The Catholic Liturgy and the Mormon Temple", BYU Studies, vol. 21, 1981).


  1. Interesting. Talking to God 3 times a day ... I will start doing this. It makes sense. Thanks for the info. I agree with talking to God and saying prayers being different. It takes some learning to be able to really talk with God when praying.

    Anyway ... good post.

  2. This is lovely and was very timely for me. Earlier today I was praying about something and literally knocked on the wall while I asked the Lord the question in my mind so your entry and some things you mentioned were a wonderful answer to prayer. I am going to try to pray more. I like what you said about 3's also. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the scriptures with us!

  3. Thanks for much for this post. I had been earnestly praying and seeking direction for quite some time, seemingly to no avail. Then last week I read this post, and realized that I could be much more diligent about specifically talking to the Lord about it three times a day. Because of the import of what I was doing, I also decided to do a three day fast. I won't go into detail, but will say that I seem to have received the direction that has been eluding me for so long. Thanks for helping point me in the right direction.

  4. I have been trying to do this ever since I read your post and it is helping me to feel the spirit more, and to hear that still small voice. I have found that if I go to the temple every week that I hear that voice better as well. Thanks for your post.