The Gospel of Jesus Christ
This is a series of posts about the teachings of Jesus Christ to the Nephites after His resurrection at the temple in Bountiful. It is the western hemisphere version of the Sermon on the Mount in Jerusalem to the Jews. The commentary is from “The Desk of Denver Snuffer” blog and his book “Remembering the Covenant Vol 3”. I have not included all his commentary. To view that commentary in its entirety visit http://denversnuffer.com/blog/
It seems to me that even though so many profess the gospel of Jesus Christ, few seem to really understand or know what it really is. Here is a beginning of posts trying to establish a foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it was taught by Himself.
Part Two “The Beatitudes” (III Nephi 12:1-31)
(Scripture commentary from “Remembering the Covenant” Vol. 3)
III Nephi 12:1
“And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve) and behold, he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying: Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.”
Nephi and the other twelve heard and recorded the words we’ve been reviewing in Chapter 11. But here Christ makes certain all others who were present also knew the same doctrine. Notice the following:
“He stretched forth His hand.” What does that mean? Why is it noted in the record? Why would the fact that He stretched forth His hand be significant enough to etch into metal plates?
Why does it say Christ “cried unto them?” How loud would He need to make His voice before it would be considered “crying” out to the audience? This suggests that what was covered in Chapter 11 was not loud enough for all those present to hear. But what follows He wants everyone to hear.
III Nephi 12:2
“And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am. Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins.”
Some people are given knowledge. (D&C 46: 13.) This would include the Prophet Joseph Smith. Others believe on their words and trust in Christ through what they have learned from witnesses of Him. (D&C 46: 14.)
Now note too how the “believing in the words” is not enough, because He adds action to the belief. That is, those who “believe in your words” are required then to “come down into the depths of humility and be baptized” for the “blessing” to have any effect. It is not enough for someone to be moved to believe when they hear a witness of Christ, they must also respond to His invitation to be baptized. Before being baptized they need also to “come down into the depths of humility.” The intention and inner meaning are everything. But the outward act confirms the inner change which takes place.
The instructions of the Lord are intended to change lives. Change is repentance. And repentance leads to redemption. He expects our behavior to mirror our beliefs, because if behavior does not model our professed beliefs then we are hypocrites – not converts.
This is why commandments are given to us. They tell us how we can continue to receive and renew a continuing conversion to Christ’s way of life. Commandments are not a burden to bear but a roadmap to follow. They are not a measuring stick to judge and then abuse others. It is a light for us to follow.
The task of knowing God always begins by trusting on the words of those who have seen Him. But it should never end there. Everyone is invited to lay aside their sins, call upon God in faith, obey His commandments, listen to the voice of inspiration and do as you are told, thereby coming to see Him face-to-face. (D&C 93: 1.)
III Nephi 12:3
“Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The blessing referred to for those who are “poor in spirit” comes as a result of “coming unto” Christ. Any who come to Christ will receive “the kingdom of heaven.” However, to obtain it, you must “come unto [Christ].”
Christ is approachable. But the approach is determined by the Gospel.
The void inside us was meant to be there. Filling it was always the responsibility of the Gospel. We were all meant to feel “poor in spirit” until we find truth. Then, upon finding truth, we were meant to “come unto Christ” so the void may be filled. Coming to Christ is the return to life and light. It is the journey back to that light from where we originated.
We are not meant to remain “poor in spirit” but to “come to Christ” and move beyond that. Moving beyond it we find ourselves joyfully informed that “ours is the kingdom of heaven.” We cannot claim it for ourselves. But Christ can claim it for us. This is how our poverty of spirit is to be cured. The Lord juxtaposes poverty with the riches of heaven itself. The contrast is designed to make us think, and to make us grateful. We were always intended to have joy. Above all else, Christ is a Deliverer from sorrow. (Rev. 7: 17.)
III Nephi 12:4
“And again, blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
This is unconditional. “All” are included. “All they that mourn” will be blessed.
Do you mourn because of afflictions? Temptations? Pains? Sickness? Infirmities? The troubles of the flesh? Sins and transgressions? It does not matter the cause of your mourning, Christ has suffered all these things so that He may understand the troubles of the flesh and, by understanding them to overcome them all. By overcoming them all, He then in turn can share the victory.
Your failures are not going to be reason to punish you. If you repent, they will be lessons from which to learn. The guilt will be removed, you will be comforted, and the lessons will remain. Your mortal trials will confer upon you the taste of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Gen. 3: 17-19.) You will have learned from what you suffer the difference between the two, and have the benefit of Christ’s atonement to remove all guilt. (2 Nephi 2: 26.)
All will be comforted from every offense they have ever suffered. All that remains will be the choices you have made. (Moroni 7: 16-17.) The offenses you suffered at the hands of others will be made up to you. All infirmities you have been plagued with while mortal will be removed. (Alma 40: 23.) Only your choices will remain as either a continuing blessing or continuing affliction. But that is your choice. (Alma 41: 13-14; Moroni 7: 18-19.)
Earth’s valuable lessons will remain with you, and inform you eternally with knowledge of good and evil. In this you will have become like God. (Gen. 3: 22.) But the experiences you suffer, which are the means of learning good from evil, will all be removed. You will no longer “mourn” for anything. You will, however, remain accountable for your choices.
This is the perfectly balanced experience. Through it we learn and gain experience (Abr. 3: 25-26), but we are only burdened by what we voluntarily impose upon ourselves through our choices. (1 Nephi 15: 32-33.) The promised “comfort” against our mourning will be complete if we have chosen to follow Christ, and incomplete if we have chosen to reject Him. Because He can only remove all the burdens of nature and mortality imposed as a condition of life here, He cannot remove those voluntarily assumed by wrong choice while living here. (Mosiah 16: 8-13.)
III Nephi 12:5
“And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.“
This earth abides by a Celestial Law. (D&C 88: 25.) Therefore, it is destined to become a Celestial Kingdom because it will be sanctified by a Celestial Law. (D&C 88: 25-29.) The destiny of the earth is glory. (D&C 84: 101.) Therefore, to “inherit the earth” is to inherit a Celestial Glory.
Since this is so, you need to understand the definition of “meekness.”
It is necessary to be meek first before being trusted with great power. The power to seal on earth and in heaven is something which cannot be handled apart from meekness. Without meekness a man cannot be trusted with such a power. When Enos used the power, he did so meekly. He asked rather than pronounced. He petitioned rather than decreed. Though the Lord would hearken to his words, he refrained from acting.
This is because the proper way to use such authority is only and strictly in conformity with the Lord’s will. The reason Nephi received the authority was because he was meek.
The account of the conferral is also the account of his qualification: “Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments. And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will. Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people. Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people. And thus, if ye shall say unto this temple it shall be rent in twain, it shall be done. And if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou cast down and become smooth, it shall be done. And behold, if ye shall say that God shall smite this people, it shall come to pass. And now behold, I command you that ye shall go and declare unto this people that thus saith the Lord God, who is the Almighty: Except ye repent ye shall be smitten, even unto destruction.” (Helaman 10: 4-11.)
This is meekness. First, Nephi had conducted his life meekly. He did not fear others. He was not afraid to lose his standing, even his life. He kept God’s commandments to him above all else. He possessed an iron will, his face like flint, unwilling to waiver from what the Lord would have him say and do. He could not be tempted to betray the Lord’s will. Therefore, the Lord knew by the way Nephi lived his life that he would “not ask that which is contrary to [the Lord’s] will.” Never.
Meekness is required to qualify for great power. And you know a man is meek when, having great power, he uses it strictly in conformity with the Lord’s will; never varying from the Lord’s command, and never pursuing his own agenda. This kind of meekness in men is a rare thing.
Therefore, when the Lord teaches the “meek shall inherit the earth” it is a statement which includes exaltation for the meek. It is one of the Lord’s deepest teachings, and most profound descriptions of those who will be exalted and why.
III Nephi 12:6
“And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.”
This is not about hunger or poverty. This is about fasting and seeking after righteousness.
You qualify for this blessing by hungering “after righteousness.” You qualify by thirsting “after righteousness.” In other words, you receive the Holy Ghost in proportion to the hunger and thirst you display to receiving it.
Fasting is a promised means for increasing the Holy Ghost in your life. We read this about Alma when he served as High Priest over the church:
“And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me. And moreover, I say unto you that it has thus been revealed unto me, that the words which have been spoken by our fathers are true, even so according to the spirit of prophecy which is in me, which is also by the manifestation of the Spirit of God.” (Alma 5: 45-47.)
Fasting and praying opens the Spirit. It allows you to know a matter through the power of the Holy Ghost. Again, we read this about the Sons of Mosiah who were completing their service as missionaries:
“…Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God. But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.” (Alma 17: 2-3)
They not only searched the scriptures, but they also spent time praying and fasting, that they might show God their earnest commitment to know the truth. The result was the “spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation.” Or, in other words, they were filled with the Holy Ghost.
The Lord speaks in simple formulas. They work; when tried in sincerity, acting no hypocrisy, with real intent, they work. Half-hearted efforts are not so effective. But when a soul, any soul, hungers and thirsts after righteousness, they are filled with the Holy Ghost.
This sermon is a blue-print of the Lord’s new charter for mankind. It is the new, higher way of living. It is intended to result in a new spiritual life for those willing to live it. Therefore you should not dismiss “hunger and thirst for righteousness” as something trivial. If you are among those who does not believe the Lord speaks with them, take these invitations from the Lord seriously. They are designed to reconnect you with God. They have the power to accomplish it.
Also, in the case of the Sons of Mosiah, there was actual “power” which came through this means. These missionaries could teach “with power and authority of God” because of their fasting, prayer and study of scripture.
III Nephi 12:7
“And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
The standard applied to us is the standard we apply to others. This is repeatedly set out in scripture:
Alma teaching his son Corianton recorded:
“Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again. For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all.” (Alma 41: 14-15.)
Peter asked a practical question about the extent of forgiving others. He wanted a mathematical limit to be set. The Lord, however, raised the limit beyond an ability to reasonably count:
“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” (Matt. 18: 21-22.)
If you want mercy from the Lord, you must give it to your fellow man. If you do not show mercy to your fellow man, the Lord cannot provide it to you. There is a law which binds the Lord to the same standard you set for yourself. It is an irrevocable law. Therefore, the Lord teaches us to show mercy so that we might merit mercy. We are the final beneficiaries of all the mercy we show to others.
It really is true that “what you send out shall return unto you again,” to quote Alma. This is called “karma” in another faith. It is a true principle. Perhaps it operates within a larger time frame than just this life, but it operates, nonetheless. Alma knew the truth and was teaching it to his son.
III Nephi 12:8
“And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
This is a remarkable promise. Would you like to see God? Then first purify your heart.
Notice this is not just ritual purity, which had been the focus of the Law of Moses. Christ is replacing earlier ritual based purity with internal purity.
Purity of the heart is a borrowed benefit from the Savior. Man cannot become clean before God without the necessary offering of a sacrifice. The Law of Moses taught this, but Christ would actually bring it to pass. (See, e.g., Alma 34: 36.)
Christ’s atonement cleanses us. (Alma 13: 11; Ether 13: 10.)
When we repent we turn to Christ and listen to and follow Him. Until then, we are not even facing the right direction in life.
Some reminders of how the heart may be purified:
-Let virtue constantly prevail in your thoughts. (D&C 121: 45.)
-Pray to the Father with a devoted heart. (Moroni 7: 48.)
-Repent and call upon God with a contrite spirit, asking the atonement to be applied to your sins. (Mosiah 4: 2.)
-Fast and pray often, that you may become humble. (Helaman 3: 35.)
-Follow what light you have to receive more light, until you have the “perfect day” in which you are a vessel of light. (D&C 50: 24; D&C 93: 28.)
I’ve said that there is almost nothing about us that can become perfect in this life. The only thing that can approach perfection, however, is our intent. We can mean to follow God at all times. Even if the dilemmas of life make it impossible to actually do so, we can still intend to follow Him. We may not even know if what we are doing pleases Him, or how to resolve conflicting interests or commandments. We may even be making a mistake, but if our intent is right, our hearts may be pure.
This is also one of the reasons we cannot judge another. They may be weak, foolish and error prone, but if they intend to be doing the right then God alone can measure their heart and decide whether they are approved.
Though a person may misunderstand a great deal, still if they have love for their fellow man, relieve suffering where they can, give patience to the foolish and water to the thirsty, they may be perfect before God. (Luke 18: 9-14.)
There are so many illusions here. Some who are regarded as high and lifted up by God, temperate in their conduct, studying how they are seen by others before acting; are in fact wretched, miserable, poor and naked. (Rev. 3: 14-17.) I say with authority that there are some regarded as the very chiefest of the righteous among the Latter-day Saints who are before God wretched, miserable, poor and naked. They cannot survive even a glance from His all seeing eye. Yet they pretend they share in His vision, when they do not.
How few hearts are pure before God. How rare a thing it is to contemplate such a person. How few we produce in this restoration of the Gospel. We remain as a people too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending to be called of God. No wonder we stumble and fall backward and many are taken in snares. (Isa. 8: 11-17.)
III Nephi 12:9
“And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
More often than not those who are “peacemakers” will be abused. They will at least have to endure aggression and give a soft word in return. (Prov. 15: 1.) There will be no end to the peace which comes from Christ because there was no end to the suffering He was willing to endure. (Isa. 9: 7.)
Through Him, the “peacemakers” have found this peace. This is why they have become His “children” for He has begotten them. (Mosiah 27: 25.)
In a world of violence and abuse, it is peace we seek. But that peace comes only to the children of God and only because they know they are the children of God. At their rebirth, they are at rest from the cares of this dreary world, and informed by a better promise of things to come.
Those who bring peace bring hope to this world. This world if filled with tribulation, but the Lord has overcome this world. (John 16: 33.) Many have experienced this peace, become children of God, and then been persecuted, hated, reviled and killed. (Hebrews 11: 33-35.)
Peace is a gift from Christ, and His peace is for this world and for the world to come. (John 14: 27.) But the promise of triumph is hereafter, when the world can no longer make any claim upon a child of God. (D&C 122: 4 and 135: 6-7.)
Though a man may declare peace, the world will not be at peace until the Lord slays the wicked. (Rev. 19: 11-16.) Peace, as all other sacred things in our day, must be internal. We live in a day of overwhelming ignorance, foolishness and wickedness. It is not possible to obtain peace except on the terms which allow it. If you live those, you will have peace. But the world will not live them with you.
If you are to find peace, and to become a peacemaker here, then it is through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The world will not know peace again until He returns. To be a child of God and know peace is, in our day, to cry repentance and to bring others to Christ.
III Nephi 12:10
“And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
It is not just persecution, but persecution “for [His] name’s sake” that makes you blessed. When you are doing what you should for His name’s sake, you are likely to provoke persecution. He will later explain this is almost inevitable. It won’t be because you are provoking it by your obnoxious behavior. It is because people will question your sincerity and commitment. The world expects hypocrites. They regard everyone with suspicion. And, let’s face it, most charlatans adopt religion as one of their cloaks.
The kind of persecution which produces the “kingdom of heaven” is, of course, martyrdom. Originally the word “martyr” meant witness, but so many of the early Christian witnesses were killed that it came to have the modern meaning, that is one who dies for their faith. Martyrs were seen in John’s vision below the altar of God. (Rev. 6: 9.) This of course means they were holy because of their sacrifice. The heavenly altar being a symbol of them having shed their blood as witnesses. Joseph Smith and Hyrum joined those who qualified for such a witness. (D&C 135: 7.)
Blessed are those who are willing to endure persecution for His name’s sake. For they are those who are willing develop faith which cannot be obtained in any other way. It is through the sacrifice of all things that faith necessary for salvation is developed.
III Nephi 12:11-12
“And blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake; For ye shall have great joy and be exceedingly glad, for great shall be your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you.”
There have been charlatans using religion to cloak their evil deeds from the beginning of time. They are so widespread, so often exposed for what they really are, that humanity has a legitimate skepticism about those who come in the name of the Lord.
This is how the world decides if you are following Him. They have seen and heard no end of those who have claimed to follow Him, and you are no different in their eyes. That is, until you have actually followed Him; borne their criticism, returned good for evil, and shown how devoted you are in fact, as Christ will address in coming verses. When you have proven your devotion, then some few will soften their hearts. Others will remain unwilling to admit the truth, even when it is apparent you are His.
This is the way in which Christ lived His life. These teachings are an explanation of Him. And, in turn, it is also an explanation of the lives of any who follow Him. To follow Him, and to learn of His ways always requires experiencing some of what He experienced. While He assumed a full measure of these teachings, we are required to experience some of what He did only to allow us to understand Him. But these teachings are meant to be lived. They are meant to be applied and tested. If you test them, you will discover Him through them.
You will also come to know and understand the prophets who went before. This is a timeless brotherhood. Some of them invariably also come to succor their fellow Saint. This is always the same when the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is lived on the earth.
III Nephi 12:13
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the salt of the earth; but if the salt shall lose its savor wherewith shall the earth be salted? The salt shall be thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men.”
Salt is a preservative, but in this case it is for the culinary benefit. It produces “savor.” That is, the taste of the whole is affected by the presence of a little.
How can salt “lose its savor” except through contamination or impurities? When that is lost, the salt cannot preserve. There is no remaining savor. Then the salt is nothing more than common dirt, to be cast aside and trodden under foot.
This is the gentile predicament in the last days. They will, of course, lose their savor. They will reject the fullness offered to them. (3 Nephi 16: 10.) When they do, they will be torn apart and trodden under foot. (3 Nephi 20: 16; 3 Nephi 21: 12.)
There are no private lives. Every life counts. Your private devotions are more important than your public notice. The salt which preserves may be unknown, likely is unknown, to most people. But if you are the salt, then your private life of devotion to the Lord is saving the lives of many others. The angels want to begin the harvest. They are impatient to begin reaping and cutting down the wicked now. (D&C 86: 5.) There is only time given because of a few who deserve more time to grow in faith before the harvest begins. (D&C 86: 6-7.) Your growth is all that is keeping the harvest from beginning now. Therefore, how you proceed has consequences far beyond your own life.
When wheat is ripe it will be protected. When tares are ripe they will be burned. But the tender plants worthy of preservation are the only ones allowed more time. (D&C 86: 4.) I advocate for them and realize how tenuous a position humanity itself is in at present. But you are the ones in the balance and for whom time is granted. How much longer no one knows, but your sins are not private. Your repentance is critical to all of creation. Do not think your life is your own. All of us have a share in your good works.
Do not think the Savior’s words are without cosmic significance. I define “cosmic” to include the cosmos or organized creation here. Even the earth itself longs to be freed from the burden of sin upon her face. (Moses 7: 48.) It is the Lord alone who has granted you time to repent. This current state of the creation we live is affected by the promise held in those who are repenting. As soon as that hope ends, and no further repentance is to occur, then the harvest will begin. Therefore, becoming salt has never been so important as it now is.
III Nephi 12:14-16
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Behold, do men light a candle and put it under a bushel? Nay, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house; Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Here, again, is a reference to Zion. Zion will be that city upon a hill which cannot be hidden. It will tower over the landscape, elevated both physically and spiritually. It will be the mountain of the Lord in the top of the mountains. (Isa. 2: 2-3.) He will dwell there. (2 Nephi 14: 5; D&C 76: 66; 84: 2.)
How do you let the light you have shine through “good works?” That is how it is supposed to be shown. Christ’s teaching explains that people are to see your “good works” as the means for your light to shine. How would that be accomplished?
Most interesting of all is that upon seeing your good works, the glory is to be given “your Father who is in heaven.” How would your works reflect on Him rather than on yourself? What would you need to do in order for those benefited by your efforts to turn their thanks to God, rather than to you?
If you were interested in your good works reflecting credit to “your Father who is in heaven” how many monuments would you want built to your memory? How many buildings would you want named after you? How many statutes would you want carved of your likeness and put on display for men to admire?
The light should point to the Lord, who can save. It is nevertheless the case that some have become subjects of adoration or veneration despite their inability to save anyone. Those who are distracted from following the Lord become Telestial and continue to suffer the deaths of false religion. (D&C 76: 99-101.) These are no better than the liars, adulterers and whoremongers. (D&C 76: 103-104.) They became these vessels of God’s wrath because they worshiped men, rather than God. If, therefore, prophets such as Moses, Elias, John, Peter and Enoch have such followers despite preaching that salvation is in Christ alone, then how much worse is it for a man to intentionally cultivate adoration for himself? How much worse is it to deliberately invite this error?
It is not enough to be religious. Hell will be filled with the religious. It is not enough to proclaim you have light if you do not live according to its principles. The sermon we are looking at now is the Lord’s careful formulation of the principles which will save. He delivered it often during His mortal ministry. When He was resurrected and ministered to lost sheep, including the Nephites, He delivered the same address to them all.
Above all other sources of information about the path back to God, this is the greatest message of all. Within it are the very steps that are required for life and salvation, spoken by the author of salvation.
III Nephi 12:17-18
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets. I am not come to destroy but to fulfil; for verily I say unto you, one jot nor one tittle hath not passed away from the law, but in me it hath all been fulfilled.”
The Lord sends ministers with a commission to transition from one dispensation of the Gospel to another. From Adam until Enoch there was an order, but with Enoch that order changed. Wickedness and rebellion required a new approach, and Enoch was commissioned to bring it about. (Moses 6: 32-34.) Mankind was in such a state of rebellion that their time was to end. Enoch gathered together people upon a high mountain where he established a city which would survive the destruction by becoming Zion. (Moses 7: 17-21.)
Soon after Enoch was called, the Lord called another, giving him also a dispensation of the Gospel. He, however, was to remain on the earth. (Moses 7: 42-43; Genesis 6: 12-14.) With him a new covenant was made. (Genesis 9: 8-9.)
Both Enoch and Noah were contemporaries, but each had been given a dispensation of the Gospel. The covenant with Enoch did not disannul the covenant with Adam. Nor did the covenant with Noah contradict the covenant with Enoch.
Abraham also received a dispensation of the Gospel. (Abr. 2: 8-12.) Moses also. (Moses 1: 3-4.)
Christ also received a dispensation of the Gospel in the same manner as all those who went before. (Matt. 4: 11; Matt. 17: 1-3.)
Christ fulfilled all the law. Not merely the Law of Moses, which indeed pointed to Him (Galatians 3: 24), but also every part of the Gospel from Adam to Christ’s earthly ministry. (Jacob 4: 4; also 7: 11.) All have testified of Him and He has completed His ministry in strict conformity with all that was foreshadowed, all that was prophesied, all that was anticipated of Him. Just how completely He did this is not possible to understand with the current state of our scriptures. But He did fulfill all righteousness, complete every assignment, accomplish every task and live in conformity with every prophesy concerning Him.
Not one matter respecting Him was left undone. From His hair to His feet, all that was foreshadowed or prophesied was done by Him. He turned not His face from those who spit at Him. (Isa. 50: 6; Matt. 26: 57.) He let Himself be shorn as a sheep and kept silent as it was done. (Isa. 53: 7.)
Mankind cannot measure humility or meekness, but in Christ was a fullness of both.
Men in their insecurity and vanity want honors, awards, recognition and fame. The Lord has hidden from us most of what He did, most of what He is. He is content to confine the record of His doings to the minimum necessary for our understanding so we may have faith in Him. But the extent of His doings mankind has yet to find out. (D&C 76: 2.) This is more than a tribute to Him. He has understated His accomplishments. He has hidden His glory from us. He has made less of Himself that we may not be unable to identify with Him. He is meeker and more humble than mankind understands.
He was, He is, and He has risen. Above all others and all else, He has risen. And because of this He has made it possible for others also to rise. Everything He has done was in fulfillment of the law, pointing for us the way. Now it is only left for us to follow, trusting in Him.
III Nephi 12:19
“And behold, I have given you the law and the commandments of my Father, that ye shall believe in me, and that ye shall repent of your sins, and come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Behold, ye have the commandments before you, and the law is fulfilled.”
This hearkens back to the doctrine of Christ given preliminarily to the audience. Repent. Be baptized. Receive the Holy Ghost. These commandments are the foundation upon which all else is to be built.
To all that He explained before, He has added, “repent of your sins, and come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” Repenting will be accompanied by a broken heart and contrite spirit. When you turn to Him and see clearly for the first time how dark your ways have been, it should break your heart. You should realize how desperately you stand in need of His grace to cover you, lift you, and heal you. You can then appreciate the great gulf between you and Him. (Moses 1: 10.)
When you behold how little you have to offer Him, your spirit becomes contrite. He offers everything. And we can contribute nothing but our cooperation. And we still reluctantly give that, or if we give a little of our own cooperation we think we have given something significant. We have not. Indeed, we cannot. (Mosiah 2: 20-21.) He honors us if He permits us to assist. We should proceed with alacrity when given the chance to serve.
The heart that will not break does not understand the predicament we live in. The proud spirit is foolish and blind. Our perilous state is such that we can forfeit all that we have ever been by refusing Christ’s invitation to repent and turn again to Him.
But we still hesitate. We still hold back.
He really can save you. He has that power. He holds those keys. Even death and hell are conquered by Him. (Mosiah 15: 7-9.) But His victory cannot become ours unless we repent and turn again to Him.
It seems too simple a thing to achieve so great a result. It has always been like that. (1 Nephi 17: 41.) Look to Him and be saved. Keep His commandments. Repent. He can and will lead you from wherever you find yourself at present back into the light. It really does not matter what foolish traps you have surrounding you. So as soon as you turn to face Him, He will direct you back safely. Repent and keep His commandments and they will bring you to Him.
III Nephi 12:20
“Therefore come unto me and be ye saved; for verily I say unto you, that except ye shall keep my commandments, which I have commanded you at this time, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
There goes the argument that all you need do to be saved is “confess Jesus.” It doesn’t work that way. You must keep His commandments. If you don’t, then “ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” It is not possible to “come unto [Him]” and “be saved” without also keeping His commandments. It is the only true measure of coming to Him. And “except ye shall keep [His] commandments… ye can in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Entry is barred unless you follow Him. If He needed baptism to enter, then clearly we do as well. (2 Nephi 31: 5.)
There is no space between faith in Christ and behavior evidencing that faith. There is no dichotomy between “grace” and “works” because it is by our conduct we merit grace. Christ received grace by the things He did. (D&C 93: 11-14.) The manner by which we receive grace is through keeping His commandments. (D&C 93: 19-20.)
Grace, or power to move closer to God, is also an increase of light. Light grows only as you move closer to it. But you have choice, and must elect to move closer to the light. (D&C 93: 27-28; D&C 50: 23-25.)
The Lord’s instructions are clear and obedience to His and the Father’s commandments are a threshold requirement for salvation. Without obedience to them you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.
Grace is a gift, but the gift must be received. Only those willing to “receive” it, merit grace. (D&C 88: 32-35.) It is “received” in the way the Lord ordained and in no other way. (D&C 130: 21.)
Only the deceived or the wicked would contradict the Lord’s teaching that “except ye keep [His] commandments” then “ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Yet there are those who both make this claim in the various Protestant denominations, and are trying to advance this position into the LDS faith, as well. We would be better served by forgetting how to make ourselves seem more Protestant, and instead accepting and teaching what Christ established as the sole basis for entering the kingdom of heaven.
III Nephi 12:21-22
“Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, and it is also written before you, that thou shalt not kill, and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment of God; But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”
Christ is elevating the Law of Moses by raising the expectation for human conduct. He moves from mere outward conduct into the inner soul of the man. You are not doing as you should if all you do is refrain from killing. Instead, you need to remove anger.
The prior obligation (“said by them of old”) focused only on your conduct, now it is your motivation.
You can judge another based on conduct. They either do or do not do something. The conduct is observable, and therefore capable of being judged. Now, however, Christ moves the battleground inside a person. It is now in the heart. On such terrain as that, man is incapable of knowing, and therefore, of judging.
We are not to be angry with our brother because that is the beginning of a whole sequence of events, the culmination of which may be killing. Before killing, however, there are other troubles and offenses along the way. Anger leads to abuse. It leads to discourtesy, dishonesty, and cheating. It justifies miserable conduct because you think it right to give offenses to another. It corrodes relationships and makes society sick.
The terms “Raca” and “fool” are derisive names. Christ is saying that applying derisive names to others is wrong, even damning. He is not preventing you from identifying foolishness. He often spoke of fools and foolishness. (See, e.g., Matt. 23: 17, 19; Matt. 25: 2-8; Luke 12: 20; Luke 24: 25-after His resurrection; and 2 Nephi 29: 4,6.) He would even use the term “foolish” in this same sermon. (3 Nephi 14: 26.) So it is not at all inappropriate to use the term “fool” or “foolish” when discussing foolishness. What is wrong it to regard your fellow man with derision and use terms of derision to describe them.
Remember how often great souls have interceded for their fellow man. Intercession for your fellow man, including those who give offense to you, is one of the hallmarks of the saved soul. This is who Abraham was, and why he became a friend of God. I’ve hesitated to even discuss the exceptions to the rule because everyone wants the exceptions to apply to them. No one wants to comply with the rule. The higher way is, however, found in following the rule. It should be an absolute sacrifice, and a painful one at that, for the exception to be applied in your life. If an inspired condemnation is required at your hand and by your voice, then immediately afterwards you should make intercession with the Lord for those condemned. That is the way of those who know the Lord. Those who have been forgiven much– including those who have been forgiven everything– always love much in return. (Luke 7: 47.)
III Nephi 12:23-24
“Therefore, if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me, and rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee— Go thy way unto thy brother, and first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you.”
Notice the offense is taken by the brother, not by you. It is presumed that you haven’t taken offense against him. If he, however, ‘hath aught against thee”–meaning that if you have done anything to cause him an offense, you have steps to take.
Notice that your relationship with the Lord comes second, after you have made amends with any you have offended.
You can’t bring “full purpose of heart” when there is a lingering offense you have not attempted to cure. This kind of mental distraction alters you.
When the heart is right, then the Lord can “receive you.” When the heart is not right, you cannot be received.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.” (2 Nephi 31: 13.)
You bring your whole heart to Him. That He can receive. That He can work with. Less than that, it is not possible for Him to offer you anything. You will invariably reject what He offers. Acting as the hypocrite will neither fool you or Him.
III Nephi 12:25-26
“Agree with thine adversary quickly while thou art in the way with him, lest at any time he shall get thee, and thou shalt be cast into prison. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence until thou hast paid the uttermost senine. And while ye are in prison can ye pay even one senine? Verily, verily, I say unto you, nay.”
This notion of agreeing with your adversaries is difficult for most people. It requires you to submit to what is sometimes unjust demands. He is saying to submit anyway. Do not rebel against the adversaries in life, but accommodate them.
Give to the unjust what they demand, so that they may see your good works and understand there is a higher way. Without your example, they cannot understand.
Retaliation continues the cycles. Someone eventually needs to lay down their just claim for retribution and simply take the injury without returning anything in return. This was what Christ did. He took everyone’s injuries and returned only forgiveness.
Now He asks for His followers to do some of the same. The failure to tolerate injustice can spiral into continuing the conflict, until there is prison. The prison to fear is not one made by men. But if you are cast into that prison then you cannot come out until you have paid the highest price. (D&C 76: 84-85, 105-106.) It is better to repent because this payment made even God, the greatest of all, to tremble with pain and shrink from the burden. (D&C 19: 15-18.)
The sermon delivered by Christ is the foundation of how man ought to relate to fellow-man. It is the pattern on which it becomes possible to dwell in peace with one another. It is the groundwork for Zion.
We need to look at this sermon as the guideline for changing our internal lives, so we may become a fit and proper resident with others who are Saints. Even Saints will give inadvertent offenses. Even Saints will disappoint one another from time to time. To become “one” in the sense required for redeeming a people and restoring them again to Zion is beyond any person’s reach if they cannot internalize this sermon.
The purpose of this sermon is not to equip you to judge others. It has no use for that. It is designed to change you. You need to become something different, something higher, something more holy. That will require you to reexamine your heart, your motivations, and your thoughts. It will require you to take offenses and deliberately lay them down without retaliation. When you do, you become someone who can live in peace with others. Living in peace with others is the rudimentary beginning of Zion. It will not culminate in a City set on the hilltop until there is a population worthy of dwelling in the high places, in peace, without poor among them. (Moses 7: 17-18.)
Christ’s sermon is not merely a description of what kind of person He is. It is a description of what kind of person will qualify to live with Him. (Luke 9: 23.)
III Nephi 12:27-29
“Behold, it is written by them of old time, that thou shalt not commit adultery; But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart. Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart;”
Here it is again – the heart. It is the intent and not just the act. It is not enough that you stop short of doing the thing commanded in the Law of Moses. Christ is attacking the root cause, the internal trouble which causes the mistakes.
The Law of Moses is not being replaced with a new era of easy grace triggered by confession for salvation. The Head of the new Dispensation, Christ, is instead providing a much higher standard for mankind to adopt in place of carnal commandments.
You must raise your thoughts to a higher level. Sexual appetites and passions must be kept within the bounds the Lord has prescribed. For this new, higher standard, it is not enough to just refrain from immoral acts, but you must purge thoughts. Neither lust of a woman, nor any of “these things” should “enter into your heart.” This uniform standard applies to all: male and female, married or single, without regard to who or what causes your lusts. It is universal.
The heart is where sin begins. So it is the heart which Christ would have us cleanse. All else will follow.
No one knows how formidable an obstacle this is until they have confronted it themselves. Nor can a person who confronts this challenge succeed at the first attempt. C.S. Lewis made such a profound observation on this subject it is worth quoting here:
“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because he was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means–the only complete realist.” (CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 11.)
Imagine, if you can, the idea of impurity being a compound which exists within you. A compound that could be identified by the Lord and burned away. Think of it like the fuller’s soap or the refiner’s fire, where impurity is removed and something pure and clean is left behind. (Mal. 3: 2-3.) To survive that burning purge there must be so little to burn away that the injury from the burn will not threaten life. It is a useful way to examine what is inside you. And a useful way to reconsider your thoughts.
III Nephi 12:30
“For it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your cross, than that ye should be cast into hell.”
Each person’s cross is individual. Carrying “your cross” is not the same as carrying mine. Therefore, when you “deny yourself of these things” what you surrender and what you take up will be “your cross” and never mine.
It is odd how we are able to spot from a distance the weaknesses of others. We have highly acute sensitivities about others’ flaws. But we rarely appreciate the crosses they bear.
But “hell” is where we are cast when we are pained by the regrets of having lived without discipline, having lived selfishly. (Mormon 9: 4-5.) We will stand “naked” before God. All of what we want hidden will be before us, revealed and exposed to view.
The “hell” of it all will be our regret, for we are our own tormentor. The torment of a disappointed mind will be like fire and brimstone to the regretful. (TPJS p. 357.)
Christ is advising us in a kindly way how to prevent that moment of fear, regret and torment. He is telling us how to escape it. These teachings are not a threat addressed at us, but a caution about the future moment when these teachings apply to us all.
In an understatement, He advises: “it is better to deny yourself” than it will be to indulge. You may find it a “cross” as you do, but if you deny yourself now it will let you escape “hell” in the future. It is kindly advice, without a threat. It is a warning about the road you have taken, and guidance on how you can avoid the collision that is coming.
The temptations each of us face are unique to the individual. What is universal, however, is the limit placed upon temptations. They are never too great to resist. There is always an escape provided by the Lord. (1 Cor. 10: 13.) Nor are you given any commandment you cannot obey. (1 Nephi 3: 7.) However, that is not to say temptation is easily overcome. Weakness is our lot. (Ether 12: 27.)
Life is filled with cycles. When we battle and fail one day, then join the battle again, but fail again; then another, and another and another, what is the use? What do we make of such persistent failure, such continuing weakness? Is the lesson that we are lost? Or is it that we are weak? Weaker than we had ever imagined. Weaker than you could ever suppose man to be. (Moses 1: 10.) Is this evidence that you are doomed? Or is it merely a patient God proving to your utter satisfaction that you are indeed in need of saving grace to rescue you from where you find yourself? Is this the moment when, while filling your belly with husks along with the swine you’ve descended to accompany, you wake up? (Luke 15: 11-17.) If you will finally surrender your pride, come forward with a broken heart and real intent, returning to your Father, He will joyfully receive you still. (Luke 15: 18-24.) There is joy in heaven over you when you awaken.
Weakness is nothing, for all are weak. It is a gift, given to break your heart. Your broken heart will qualify you for His Company. Whether a leper, an adulteress, a tax collector or a blind man, He can heal it all. But what He cannot do, and you must alone bring to Him, is that broken heart required for salvation.
End of part two