Come Follow Me: 3 Nephi 12-16
In this lesson, we continue with Jesus’ teachings. A key to understanding his teachings to the Nephites, is that it is leading the people to understand how to be one with each other, and so one with the Godhead.
The Sermon at the Temple
3 Nephi 12
As I work on this article (9/20/2020), I ponder the recent death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, justice of the Supreme Court. She was a lightning rod for both the right and left on the political spectrum. Some mourn her death, while there are several I've seen on social media who are celebrating it, primarily because of politics. She had a very special and close friendship with Judge Antonin Scalia, who died a couple years ago. She as a liberal Democrat and he as a very conservative Republican. Many of their votes on the Supreme Court canceled each other out. Still, they had a deep friendship and respect for each other, finding unity in many many things. I think this is a true example of what Christ is teaching in 3 Nephi regarding unity.
After establishing the “doctrine of Christ” in 3 Nephi 11 (faith in Christ, repentance, baptism/ordinances, Holy Ghost as the steps to being a united covenant people), Jesus then shared the Beatitudes he taught to the Jews in Matthew 5. However, he adds to the Beatitudes up front, giving a new way to understand the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount..
“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. “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” (3 Ne 12:1-2).
In chapter 11, Jesus established his “doctrine of Christ” as a covenant for the people to become a Zion people, one with each other and one with the Godhead. Here, the Beatitudes begin by blessing those who give heed to the apostles of God, because they can enter into the covenant with the Godhead (“in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost”). Next, those who are present who believe in Jesus will be blessed when they enter the covenant.
Interestingly, those who believe on the words of the average witness are “more blessed”, because they have humbled themselves enough to join the covenant without being compelled to believe. How compelled? Either from the destructions that signified Jesus’ death or the appearance of the resurrected Jesus, himself. These Nephites believe because they saw Jesus descend from heaven and show the wounds in his hands and feet. It is a faith based on knowledge, not necessarily on humility and a spiritual witness.
In comparing the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 with these, we find two main differences:
“Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (3 Nephi 12:3, see also vv 19-20).
Here, the Lord has added, “who come unto me”, or who have entered the covenant through baptism. These are promised God’s kingdom of heaven: basically to have a broken heart and contrite spirit and entering into a covenant with Christ that he may rescue us from death and hell.
“And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 12:6).
In verse 6, we see the difference with Matthew 5 as “with the Holy Ghost.” Once we enter into the covenant, we need to continue seeking after Christ. As we do so, he gives us the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, which fills us with greater faith. The Holy Ghost sanctifies us, making us holy. This sanctification is what causes the saints to be united, and to become one with the Godhead.
In becoming one with the Godhead, the teachings continue to show us important concepts to become united. We must be the light of the world. We must be the salt of the earth. Not only must we not kill, but not be unrighteously angry with others. We cannot commit adultery in our heart. We are to walk two miles with him who compels us to walk one.
“And behold it is written also, that thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy; But behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven” (3 Nephi 12:43-45).
To be the children of Father in heaven, we must be one. We must learn to not only tolerate others, but to love our enemies. As Christ blesses both the good and bad, we are to learn to bless all of them, as well. In praying for those who persecute us, we are becoming one, even as the Godhead is one.
Forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors
3 Nephi 13
Here, Jesus continues focusing the Sermon at the Temple towards teaching the believers how to be one. Whether in teaching alms or prayer, we learn it is not about us, but about the covenant people as a group. Our alms are done in secret, so our right and left hands do not see what the other is doing, yet our almsgiving does two things: first it blesses the community, and second it teaches us to be selfless.
In King Benjamin's sermon (Mosiah 2-5), Benjamin notes that we are nothing. James Faulconer suggests that this "nothingness" is more akin to being formless, as in God creating the universe out of chaotic matter. In this instance, we are as the dust, which Adam was made from. God brings chaos/nothing into his order/Creation. In doing so, we are then to be one as a covenant people, taking care of the beggar and the poor. It is in doing such service to others that we serve God.
Jesus shows demonstrates Prayer as a way to connect with Father. Note that it is also a teaching moment. We pray not only to be forgiven our debts, but that we must also be god-like in forgiving others. The prayer pleads that God’s kingdom come, so that the earth is like heaven. How is heaven different than the earth? The world, in its current state, follows Satan’s doctrine of contention. We fight and strive to overcome others. Compare this with heaven, where God promises to share all he has with his children. The City of Enoch and the Nephite saints in 4 Nephi show that we can have heaven on earth, by being like the Godhead in the way we love and serve one another. Unity, oneness, is what is behind Jesus’ “at-one-ment” and the Godhead’s being one God.
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness...” is how we create heaven on earth, “...and all these (heavenly) things shall be added unto you” (3 Nephi 13:33).
3 Nephi 15
“Behold, I do not destroy the prophets, for as many as have not been fulfilled in me, verily I say unto you, shall all be fulfilled. And because I said unto you that old things have passed away, I do not destroy that which hath been spoken concerning things which are to come. For behold, the covenant which I have made with my people is not all fulfilled; but the law which was given unto Moses hath an end in me. Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life. Behold, I have given unto you the commandments; therefore keep my commandments. And this is the law and the prophets, for they truly testified of me” (3 Nephi 15:6-10).
The Law is the law of Moses. According to the early Jewish scholar, Maimonides, there are 613 laws. Some of these deal directly with the temple. These include the dietary laws, laws on what could not be done on the Sabbath, etc.
The Prophets are the teachings of the prophets in the Old Testament. Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and Ezekiel had prophesied of things in their day, often with future events to still occur. These had not yet been fulfilled.
For Jesus, the Ten Commandments were not fulfilled in his resurrection. The many little laws of Moses were fulfilled.
The Covenant is the thing that has not been fulfilled. What covenant? The covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We enter this covenant at baptism. Components of this law include a promise of land, posterity, and priesthood power. These have both a temporal and spiritual side to them. Through Lehi and Nephi, the Nephites received a new Land of Promise, but they would someday receive the heavenly Promised Land. Nephi was promised posterity, but the real posterity is an eternal one. Priesthood power is a blessing in this life, but limited, compared to the great works and creations God performs. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob represent an earthly symbol of the Godhead. For those who seek the covenant of Abraham, they become “the seed of Abraham” (D&C 84:34) here on earth, and the seed of God in heaven.
“And blessed are the Gentiles, because of their belief in me, in and of the Holy Ghost, which witnesses unto them of me and of the Father” (3 Ne 16:6).
“Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of Israel, in the latter day shall the truth come unto the Gentiles, that the fulness of these things shall be made known unto them” (3 Ne 16:7).
“And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them” (3 Ne 16:10).
“The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God” (3 Ne 16:20).
James Faulconer, Mosiah-a brief theological introduction: Available at Amazon