For the fully detailed, verse by verse study guide, please refer to the two part “Sermon on the Mount” sections which will be available on this blog later, when we discuss the New Testament.
Christ is teaching the Nephites the Fullness of His Gospel. They have just received the Second Comforter but were then commanded to be baptized (again); so the order of these ordinances may not matter the way we think it might, but all the components are vital and are taught by Christ during His Nephite ministry.
READ 3 Nephi 12:1-2
What covenant will they enter into by being baptized?
To be obedient to Christ until the end of their lives (see Mosiah 5:8) or in other words, to be willing to keep His commandments which He has given them (see Moroni 4:3) …
That they be called by the name of Christ or in other words, that they might be proclaimed His sons or “Sons of God” (see Mosiah 5:9; Psalms 2:7) so that they might be found at the right hand of God or in other words, be sealed up to eternal life (see Mosiah 5:15).
What might motivate them to keep Christ’s commandments?
They love Christ (see John 14:15-24).
They desire to be like Him.
They are seeking an eternal reward.
They feel duty bound to the commitment they made.
They fear God and the punishment of being found on His left side.
READ John 14:15-24 and D&C 130:3
How will the Lord know when a person truly loves Him?
They will keep His commandments.
Here is a hard doctrine, who can hear it? You love Jesus if, and only if, you keep His commandments (John 14:21, 23). Or put another way, you love Christ to the degree that you keep His commandments.
What will the Lord do when someone truly loves Him by keeping His commandments?
If you keep His commandments, He will come to you.
And redeem you from the Fall by bringing you back into His presence (see Ether 3:13).
And He will bring the Father to you (or bring you to the Father), to seal you up to eternal life (see D&C 88:75; Mosiah 5:15).
And it will be in mortality and literal (see D&C 132:21-25).
It is to have the experience the Nephites just had – to perform the Ceremony of Recognition and Witnessing or to receive the Second Comforter, or in other words, to know Him and then to go on and know the Father, through Christ.
Putting it all together, you love Jesus if and only if you keep His commandments. If you keep His commandments – which includes repenting and offering your whole soul, a broken heart and a contrite spirit in sacrifice to Him, He will come to you and you will take Him into your home or embrace Him physically. If you thus receive Him, He will bring you to the Father and you will receive your exaltation. This is the Fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is bound by His own word as a God of Truth to fulfill these promises if you keep His commandments (see D&C 82:10; D&C 130:21). So, what are the commandments of the Lord that we will seek with all our hearts to keep if we truly love Him (see also Luke 6:20-49)? We are about to find out…
A Post-Resurrection Preamble to Christ’s Great Sermon
Are we blessed if we give heed to the words of those who have been given power and authority by Christ to minister, and why?
They have personally been given the words of Christ from His own lips and if they are true to their stewardship, they will teach only those words – “thus saith the Lord” – nothing more and nothing less (see 3 Nephi 11:40).
The words of Christ are the way to salvation; we must follow them to be saved.
Christ’s power is the power of salvation; if He has given that power, and by definition the accompanying authority, to a person and that person does the will of God, then you can be sure that the ordinances they perform are salvific.
What if they have no authority in the Church or are perhaps not even members of the Church?
If Christ called them, gave them power and authority, and a true message from Him to us, we had better “give heed”.
Are we blessed if we give heed to the words of those who have authority in the Church but have never met, been called by, or heard the words of Christ?
A calling does not guarantee that the individual has or will follow the requirements set out in the doctrine of Christ and commandments to receive the Second Comforter.
The Lord is no respecter of persons and if anyone does what is required, they will receive the blessing but if they do not, they will not receive it, regardless of the calling they have and the charge that has been given them to go forward and obtain this sure knowledge.
Here is the charge given by Oliver Cowdery (Assistant President of the Church, at the time) to the 12 Apostles upon their calling in 1835: “It is necessary that you receive a testimony from heaven to yourselves; so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God. That is more than the testimony of an angel. When the proper time arrives, you shall be able to bear this testimony to the world. When you bear testimony that you have seen God, this testimony God will never suffer to fall, but will bear you out; although many will not give heed, yet others will. You will therefore see the necessity of getting this testimony from heaven. Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face. Strengthen your faith; cast off your doubts, your sins, and all your unbelief; and nothing can prevent you from coming to God. Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid his hand upon you. We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us; God is the same. If the Savior in former days laid his hands upon his disciples, why not in latter days? . . . The time is coming when you will be perfectly familiar with the things of God. . .. You have our best wishes, you have our most fervent prayers, that you may be able to bear this testimony, that you have seen the face of God. Therefore, call upon him in faith in mighty prayer till you prevail, for it is your duty and your privilege to bear such a testimony for yourselves.” (DHC, 2:192-98.) This requirement of Apostles’ to be witnesses of the Lord’s resurrection had already been laid out in the School of the Prophets, so it was not new doctrine.
This charge was given to all new apostles up until the calling of Reed Smoot in 1900; by the time Heber J Grant was made the President, he downplayed seeking after any kind of veil rending spiritual experiences, and from the time of David O. McKay, apostles began speaking of a non-visionary “special witness of Christ” by the Holy Ghost but stated in ways that might lead the listener to assume that it referred to an actual appearance of deity, but with plausible deniability if asked directly or publicly (like Hinckley did in his 1990’s newspaper and TV interviews or in Joseph F. Smith’s testimony before the US Senate).
How does Christ define one who “ministers to you” with power and authority and how is that different from how the Gentiles do it?
Christ’s ministers are your servants.
They minister with power and authority, meaning their ordinances have power in heaven and on earth, and the words they speak are Christ’s own words and are not as the scribes (theories derived from scholarly analysis of ancient texts), and as such have authority because they are the truth and will be honored in heaven and on earth.
The Gentiles’ ministers exercise authority over those they preside over; they are benefactors who flatter or coerce to stay in power and their “flock” are subordinates who support and look to their leaders for guidance and consolation (see Luke 22:25-26).
How does Christ differentiate baptism by water from baptism by fire?
“They” or men baptize you with water; it is an outward ordinance whereby one witnesses that he/she will live the terms of the gospel covenant by offering the requisite sacrifice.
Christ baptizes you with fire; it is up to Him to accept the covenantal sacrifice you have made; His baptism a real change that is enacted upon your spirit – a quickening and sanctifying change that transforms the nature by filling the spirit with light.
What happens after being baptized by one who has been given power from Christ to perform the ordinance?
Christ WILL then baptize them with fire and the Holy Ghost.
Some additional questions to ponder on, given this scripture: What happens if the individual conducting the ordinance has not been called by Christ? Will the individual not be able to receive the baptism of fire at all? Or are they in a situation where they must first live the terms of the covenant to receive the baptism of fire, regardless of who baptized them? Does this mean that it doesn’t matter who baptizes you if you live the covenant yourself? And what about the Lamanites who received the baptism of fire BEFORE they were even baptized by water, because of their repentance? What if someone who is not willing to live the terms is baptized by one who has authority from Christ? Are they then sinning against greater light because they receive the baptism of fire but have not sacrificed their whole soul to Christ in repentance? Or will they not receive the baptism of fire by Christ despite the baptism and who administered it? The fact that Christ always talks about repentance as a prerequisite leads me to believe the latter.
Why would someone be “more blessed” not to see Christ but to believe in the words of those who have seen Christ, rather than to actually see Christ themselves?
He is talking specifically to this group, many of whom have experienced the Second Comforter before they have found the Gate and successfully navigated the Way over the course of “all hazards” in life (Nephi III and a few others who had remained righteous during the dark years of 3 Nephi 1-7 are the exception not the rule among this group); in this respect, they are like those born during the Millennium, who know the Lord from birth and have not had to fight the same battle over their faith; having said that, having been “more righteous” than those who were killed at the time of Christ’s death and having repented in the aftermath, they had experienced a change of heart sufficient that Christ would show Himself unto them.
Those who learn about Christ from their experience, must exercise faith to enter the Gate, walk the path and enter into Christ’s presence after being proved “at all hazards” and for this they will be “more blessed” than those who did not – they gained more light during their trials and afflictions, which will be to their advantage in the world to come.
Christ is not saying “those who never see me in this life but have faith in me regardless are more blessed than those who do see me”; the Fullness of the Gospel requires enduring to the End, who is Christ, entering into His presence and being redeemed and made His Son or Daughter (see D&C 132:21-25; Ether 3:13).
If you have not obtained His presence during this mortal life, it is because you are not prepared to do so because your beliefs and practices have not cleansed you sufficiently to withstand His glory; and if you are not prepared to do so now, nothing will change once you die - your religion will not bring you back into God’s presence at that day either, but God’s plan will; however, it will not be a pleasant experience and you will depart from Him again as quickly as you can (see Mormon 9:2-5).
Even as I Am
God lives in a glory defined and enabled by the eternal laws He abides by perfectly. Truth produces glory in and around those who accept and live it. The higher the truth, the more the glory. We must first hear the truth, then live it, to gain the glory to be able to abide His presence. The law of the gospel, which comprises Jesus’ commandments under the new covenant, deals with the perfection process that we must undergo after we have “entered the gate” and have gained a remission of our sins through the baptisms of water and fire. Christ is the prototype of the saved being; to be saved is to be precisely as He is. The commandments codify Christ’s attitudes and behaviors – they define how He is, for us to be precisely like. Commandments are not a burden to bear but a roadmap to follow. If salvation comes through Christ, it comes through yielding our hearts to Him, completely and fully. That is how He can “finish” us without violating our free will (see Isaiah 64:8). But you can’t yield your heart to someone you don’t know.
So, how do you get to know the Lord?
You know Him first by learning the truth about Him – from someone who truly knows Him (see LoF 2:54-56).
You emulate Him by doing His works or following His example and seeking to be like Him (and to please Him) by keeping His commandments.
You are then sanctified and quickened or filled with His Spirit, purified even as He is pure (Moroni 7:48).
Then you are ready to abide His presence and know Him.
You can’t know the Master you haven’t served (see Mosiah 5:13).
You can’t know the Master who is not close to your heart or your thoughts.
You can’t know the Master you are not like – i.e. darkness cannot comprehend light and where He is we cannot come unless we are like Him (see John 8:21).
We must keep His commandments, be filled with His light or spirit, to be able to abide His presence and know Him.
READ 3 Nephi 12:3-10
The baptism of fire delivers a mighty change of heart; in the Beatitudes, Christ describes the behaviors that flow from one who has experienced this mighty change and is beginning to live as His Lord does – what are they?
Poor or lacking or contrite in Spirit; they see themselves as they really are but instead of despairing, they come unto Christ.
Mourning or suffering affliction; they’ve put themselves at risk emotionally by loving people and have put their lives in the Lord’s hands; He has led them through the valley of the shadow of death because they have not sought their own wills but His and He needs them to experience the full range of mortality to gain the insights necessary to become as He is (see Helaman 10:4; D&C 122:5-9).
Because of their humility or voluntary submission to God, or in other words, obedience, they are also meek in their relationships with their fellowmen; they are easily imposed upon; they treat the their fellowmen with restraint and exercise no control or authority over them but try to persuade with kindness and love unfeigned; they are learning the responsibility that comes with possessing the power of God and the damage it can do to others if not used with charity and meekness; imagine the spiritually immature having access to God’s power – what would happen to anyone who crossed one of these powerful yet prideful people?
Hungering and thirsting after righteousness because it is their “meat and drink” or as deep a basic desire of their spirits for life as food is to their physical bodies.
Merciful to their core; they understand that mercy is inherently undeserved and unfair but look for opportunities to demonstrate it; they go out of their way to do so, which means they put themselves in harm’s way to the degree that offering mercy instead of demanding justice is a real choice on a regular basis and will guarantee that they will be taken advantage of and hurt.
Pure in heart or with an eye (a spiritual eye) single or completely focused on God’s glory; they have developed the ability to focus their intent (their desires and agency) on matter and energy but instead of turning it to their own purposes, they have sought and obtained God’s will and that is what they are focused on bringing into existence – they seek to do His work and glory because they are becoming like He is – one with Him because they are filled with His Spirit or light/glory/intelligence (see Helaman 10:5; Moses 1:39; LoF 7:9).
Peacemakers or one who intervenes on behalf of others; like Christ who said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” (see Luke 23:24) and Abigail who said, “Upon me let this iniquity be” (see 1 Samuel 25:24) - they forgive all and have an attitude of atoning for others through their acts of intercession.
They are hated of the world because they testify boldly of what they have experienced and know to be true; they are valiant in the Testimony of Jesus (see JSH 1:25; D&C 76:51, 79).
What are the blessings Christ will give to those who embody the behaviors of the gospel or “attributes of the saved being”?
The Kingdom of Heaven – to inherit all the Father has.
Comfort – the companionship of comforters during and after their time of mourning such that the Lord Himself will dry their eyes (see John 14:15-27.
The Earth in its Celestial state.
Mercy, forgiveness and perfection in Christ; they receive for themselves from the Lord exactly what they extended to others but in much greater measure.
Redemption and sealing up to eternal life by seeing and knowing God Himself in the flesh (see D&C 132:21-25; Ether 3:13; D&C 88:75; Mosiah 5:15).
Becoming Sons of God or Daughters of God through adoption and spiritual rebirth; the full meaning of taking upon yourself Christ’s name is to become His child.
And again, the Kingdom of Heaven for fearing or revering or honoring God more than man.
READ 3 Nephi 12:13-16 and 3 Nephi 18:24
Why are we salt and light?
Because the Lord has given it unto us to be that.
It is nothing to do with us, inherently.
It is an opportunity to be of use to others.
What is the salt and light we are to be?
Salt and light provide a benefit to those who use them; we are good for nothing if we cannot provide that benefit (if we contaminate the salt) or choose not to provide it (if we hide the light).
What is the “benefit”? It is to testify of what we know = that Jesus is the Christ and can save all because He has saved us and can save them, too because He is no respecter of persons (see LoF 2:54-56).
We are to be His servants doing His will and deflecting all glory back to Him to whom it rightfully belongs.
We are to do His works.
We are to be even as He is.
READ 3 Nephi 12:19-20
What is significant about these laws and commandments being the Father’s?
They are eternal laws and commandments – they predate the Father’s Godhood but He has embodied them now so that they are His.
God abides by them Himself and this is what enabled Him to be God in the first place (see LoF 7:9, 15-16).
If we are to become Gods ourselves, we must learn and live the same laws and commandments (see TPJS 390-393), as all Gods have also done before us.
What is the purpose of the Nephites receiving the Father’s law and commandments?
That they might believe in Christ.
That they might act on that belief by repenting, coming unto Him, and offering the required sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit that they might be saved.
That they might know the commandments or in other words, might know precisely how they should act and what they must be to enter into the kingdom of heaven and be saved (see LoF 7:9, 15-16).
Can we not enter the kingdom of God without keeping all Christ’s commandments?
It depends on how you define “Christ’s commandments!” – do you mean to be perfectly obedient to Eternal Law or do you mean to accept and live the Doctrine of Christ?
If your definition is the former, then ultimately no, we cannot, in that we must be precisely as God and Christ are or we cannot be saved; no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God so we must be like Him or we cannot endure the glory.
If your definition is the latter, then yes we can, in that Christ can decree us clean from sin (see D&C 88:75) and we can be “perfect in Christ” borrowing perfection from His merits as we attempt to become precisely like Him (see Moroni 10:32-33).
READ 3 Nephi 12:23-24
What is the “spirit” with which one must keep the commandments?
Christ is issuing a call to a higher level of righteousness.
It is not about performing ordinances or even desiring great blessings but about becoming something different from what you are – being quickened or growing in light – a new creature – precisely as He is: a being motivated by love and willing to sacrifice all things for God and their fellow beings.
READ 3 Nephi 12:21-22, 27-28, 31-32, 33-37, 38-42
How is this sermon a call to a higher righteousness?
The “Law” focused on giving people guideposts or standards of behavior and living to enable them to move from a rebellious state (Telestial) to a law-abiding state (Terrestrial).
The “Gospel” is about principles or the attitude behind the intention of the Law;
Living the principles of the gospel is about becoming as God is not just acting as He acts; it is about understanding why the law was given and having the judgment or spiritual maturity or having obtained God’s will and becoming one with Him through the Holy Spirit such that you act in a way that God would if He were in your situation.
Living principles doesn’t mean that you are not living the Law – God would cease to be God if He failed to abide by the Eternal Laws; but you want to live the Law if you abide by and love the Principles – they are not seen as a burden; the Law reaches its highest form or apex in the Principles.
What are the differences Christ lays out between the Terrestrial Law and the Celestial Principles?
Law - thou shalt not kill; Principle - love thy neighbor (12:21-22).
Law - thou shalt not commit adultery; Principle – chastity, purity and fidelity (12:27-28).
Law – thou shalt divorce thy spouse legally and fairly; Principle – love, forgiveness, intercession, meekness should be the way we interact with our spouse; divorce should not be considered except for infidelity (12:31-32).
Law – perform the oaths you swear to; Principle – don’t swear oaths (which are all about what you are willing to do) but say “yes” to God’s covenants which He offers to you (12:33-37).
Law – be fair and just, an “eye for an eye”; Principle – extend mercy and grace, both of which are inherently unfair and undeserved; love with charity, the pure love of Christ, which is unconditional in its scope (12:38-42).
It is about our motives - our hearts.
READ 3 Nephi 12:43-45
Why is this principle the real test of our Christianity?
If we are to be precisely as Christ is, we must love as He loved.
Loving those that love us is easy, even the wicked do that…
But truly loving those who hate us, to the point of laying down your life for them and interceding with God on their behalf in the very act (see Luke 23:24), is where we must go and what we must become.
If we cannot do it, we are not like Him and if we are not like Him, we cannot be saved (see LoF 7:9, 15-16).
What is the end result of our keeping His commandments?
That we may be the children of God, Sons and Daughters of God instead of children of men.
That we may become precisely as He is.
READ 3 Nephi 12:48
Why did Christ say to the Nephites “be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect” while in Israel He did not include Himself (see Matthew 5:48)?
We MUST be perfect like God and Christ are perfect to be saved (see LoF 7:9, 15-16; TPJS 390-393).
That means we must get to a point where we keep all of the commandments we are given, all the time; actually it means that we must get to the point where we keep all of the commandments inherent in Eternal Law – all of the commandments God keeps or would cease to be god.
Christ also progressed from grace to grace; He had to attain to the resurrection Himself, as His father did, to be “perfect” like His father is perfect; so when He taught the doctrine to the Israelites, He had not yet attained to that level of perfection.
READ 3 Nephi 13:1-6, 16-20
Why does the Lord want us to serve or sacrifice anonymously and pray in secret?
If the individual served does not know who served them, they only have God to thank.
He is helping us guard against self-righteousness and religious pride.
He is enabling us to grow in light as we are quietly obedient to God and worship Him by deferring all glory back to Him, as Christ did.
READ 3 Nephi 13:7-15
If God already knows what we need before we pray, why are we commanded to pray?
To obtain God’s will, as He already knows ours.
To commune with Him and become one (to become holy) by abiding in His Spirit.
To intercede on behalf of others who do not deserve it, performing an “atoning” act in prayer.
READ 3 Nephi 13:21-33
Reading all these verses as a block, what is the Lord saying about our treasure?
Our treasure indicates where our heart is and…
He would like us to volunteer our hearts to Him; that our “eye” might be “single” to Him (we “only have eyes for Him”), that we might serve only Him, that we might trust Him to take care of our needs (of which the temporal are the most obvious and concrete) – trust Him that He knows us, loves us and has the power to impact this physical world to bless us.
Why did He turn only to the Twelve to give them the charge to seek first the Kingdom and not to worry about the temporal?
These twelve men were called by the resurrected and perfected Christ personally to sacrifice their lives in service to Him.
Christ knew they had progressed spiritually to the point that this test of faith was appropriate for them – it was the next step in their personal progression – to put complete trust in Christ to provide for them temporally (no “small stipends” were required to support them…).
Perhaps we will all be “called” and “chosen” by the Lord to exercise the same faith to have the same blessings “added unto” us, as He deems us ready.
READ 3 Nephi 14:1-5
Why should we not judge and attempt to fix others?
Because we are completely blind ourselves.
We don’t see as God sees.
READ 3 Nephi 14:7-11
Why can we be sure that God will give us good gifts?
Because His whole work and glory is our immortality and eternal life.
He knows what “good” looks like – i.e. what will enable us to receive immortality and eternal life.
He has the power to give it to us.
He loves us and wants us to receive His gifts.
We just have to trust Him.
READ 3 Nephi 14:12
How does the Golden Rule encapsulate all of the commandments or “the law and the prophets”?
If you treat EVERYONE as you treat YOURSELF - with perfect temporal equality, full mental understanding and agreement, and honest emotional assessment, forgiveness and love – you would be living the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself, which is the main indication of how much you love God, which is the Great Commandment – the one from which all of the others flow and which all of the others are designed to enable.
All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them = love your neighbor as yourself = when you are in the service of your fellow beings, you are only in the service of your God = love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind = all the law and the prophets = the commandments = to be precisely as God and Christ are = to know God and Christ = to inherit eternal life (see Mark 12:29-34; Matthew 22:36-40; Luke 10:26-38; Mosiah 2:17; John 14:15-24; LoF 7:9, 15-16; John 17:3).
READ 3 Nephi 14:13-14 and D&C 132:21-25
Why do so few find the strait gate?
Because so few love Christ enough to sacrifice their whole souls to Him in covenant and keep His commandments.
As a result of this, they cannot receive Him in this world (can’t abide His presence because they haven’t enough light within them) and cannot know Him (they have not received the sure witness of His resurrection and have not heard His testimony of their salvation to the Father; see 3 Nephi 11:14-15 and D&C 88:75) – they cannot find the gate that leads back to Him because they don’t really want to.
READ 3 Nephi 14:15-23
What is the fruit of the true prophet?
Or in other words, people who have followed the prophet’s message and it has led them back into God’s presence to know Him, too – even if it is just one person.
READ 3 Nephi 14:24-27, 2 Nephi 32:4-7 and Alma 42:27
Why is the wise person “wise” and the foolish person “foolish”?
The wise will take Him at this word and seek Him out.
The truth about salvation and exaltation is laid out in plainness in these verses.
God has invited us to seek, ask and knock if we do not understand it.
He is no respecter of persons.
He wants all to come unto Him and be saved as it is His work and glory and He loves us to the laying down of His life for us.
BUT IT IS COMPLETELY UP TO US!
The wise person seeks Him – and to seek Him will lead to finding Him unless one gives up in foolishness (see LoF 2:54-56).
The foolish person is damned by their careless indifference.
READ 3 Nephi 15:2-8
How is Christ the fulfillment of the Law of Moses?
It was a law of outward performances designed to lead the person to recognize Christ.
Outward performances – ordinances and rites – are authorized invitations to experience the real thing, and being ministered to by the resurrected Lord is the “real thing”.
Christ has fulfilled the Law in that He has accomplished the atonement and attained to the resurrection – which were all pointed to in the Law of Moses.
READ 3 Nephi 15: 9-10, 24
What must you do to be given eternal life?
Look unto Christ.
Keep His commandments (Law) that you might be filled with His Light (spirit, glory, intelligence or the mind of God).
Endure to the End (of the “path”, until Christ manifests Himself unto you in the flesh, because He is the End – see 2 Nephi 32:6; Revelation 1:8; Moses 1:3; Moses 7:35) …
That you might both hear His voice and see His person (see John 14:15-24).
That you might be redeemed from the fall (see Ether 3:13).
That you might know Him with a surety (see 3 Nephi 11:14-15).
That you might be numbered among His Sons and Daughters or “flock” …
Which is eternal life.
And then endure to the end of your life, doing what He would have you do, being valiant in the Testimony of Jesus which He has born to you and the Father regarding your exaltation (see D&C 88:75).
This is the FULLNESS of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! A study of this sermon suggests why Christ is so particular about these things (see JST Matthew 5:21): the commandments of God exalt you in the act of keeping them. They reveal God’s nature by causing you to emulate his mercy, integrity, and loving kindness.