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Come, Follow Me — Study and Teaching Helps
Lesson 38, September 21-27
3 Nephi 12-16 — “I Am the Law, and the Light”

3 Nephi 12-14 Sermon at the Temple

With some notable changes, these chapters are a repeat of the great discourse known as the Sermon on the Mount, which Jesus taught a few years earlier to his followers near the Sea of Galilee (see Matthew 5-7; see also 3 Nephi 15:1).

3 Nephi 12:1-12 The Beatitudes

The word beatitude comes from the Latin beatus, which signifies a state of blessedness. President Harold B. Lee taught that the Beatitudes are “the constitution for a perfect life” (Stand Ye In Holy Places, p. 341). Consider the following in context of President Lee’s statement:

The text of verses 1-2 is not in Matthew, but in 3 Nephi it adds four additional uses of the word blessed:

  • “Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen”
  • “Blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me”
  • “More blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me”
  • “Blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized”

Then Jesus spoke nine more declarations of being blessed in verses 3-12, with several significant changes in the Book of Mormon version (below, in bold and italics). How do these variations add to your understanding?

  • Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (verse 3).
  • And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost” (verse 6).
  • And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [and they] shall have great joy” (verses 10, 12).

Note how living and developing our character in the ways Jesus teaches can help take us from an outward obedience to a more inward form of living; becoming more as He is. Thus we are accepting the Savior’s invitation to “be the light of this people” and “let [our] light so shine before this people, that they may see [our] good works and glorify [our] Father who is in heaven” (verses 14, 16).

3 Nephi 12:17-48 What Is Old and What Is New?

In verses 17-20, 46-47 (which are quite different from Matthew 5), Jesus taught that He had come to “fulfill” or complete the “old” law of Moses (see also 3 Nephi 15:2-10), and then He commanded the people to believe in Him, repent of their sins, and come unto Him with “a broken heart and a contrite spirit,” thus being “saved.” To have broken hearts before God may mean that recognition of our sins and weaknesses humbles us to the point that we turn to Him for forgiveness and for help to change. This is accompanied by a “contrite” spirit; our souls being filled with sadness, remorse, and guilt.

Jesus then taught about some of the differences between the law of Moses and His new teachings, using the terms Ye have heard or It is written, followed by But I say. How do the following teachings help us today to turn from old ways to higher ways?

Ye have heard / It is written: Thou shalt not kill (verse 21).

But I say: Whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger (verse 22).

Ye have heard / It is written: Thou shalt not commit adultery (verse 27).

But I say: Whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart (verse 28).

Ye have heard / It is written: An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth (verse 38).

But I say: Ye shall not resist evil [do not fight back], but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also (verse 39).

Ye have heard / It is written: Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy (verse 43; to hate one’s enemy was not part of the law of Moses, but apparently was a written tradition among the Jews of Christ’s day).

But I say: 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 (verse 44).

It appears that one who truly lives these teachings is approaching a Christlike character, for Jesus follows these teachings by saying, “That ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven…. Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (verse 48). The essence of all these teachings seems to be that the Lord asks for more than our outward obedience; He also asks for our minds, hearts, and souls.

3 Nephi 13:1-18 There’s a Right Way and There’s a Wrong Way

Jesus continues by teaching more about how to consecrate ourselves in full obedience. In these verses He speaks of three important behaviors—being charitable, praying, and fasting—and gives examples of those who do these things hypocritically, followed by how to keep these commandments properly:

Charity (verses 1-4)

  • Wrong way: “Do not your alms before men to be seen of them [nor] sound a trumpet before you”
  • Right way: “Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth; that thine alms may be in secret”

Praying (verses 5-15)

  • Wrong way: “Thou shalt not do as the hypocrites, for they love to pray, standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men … that they shall be heard for their much speaking”
  • Right way: “Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father [and] use not vain repetitions”

Fasting (verses 16-18)

  • Wrong way: “When ye fast be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance, for they disfigure [wrench; contort] their faces that they may appear unto men to fast”
  • Right way: “When thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast”

After each example of hypocrisy (which means “claiming to be righteous, but acting only in pretense”), He says, “They have their reward” (verses 2, 5, 16). What reward? To be seen by others and to “have glory of men” (verse 2). Clearly, our motives matter as much—if not more—than our actions; for why we do things matters (see also Moroni 7:6-10). The more we seek to obey in a spirit of sincerity, modesty, and privacy, the closer we come to true, heartfelt obedience and Christlike character.

3 Nephi 13:19-34 Our Path Toward Consecration

What else do you see in these verses that helps you move toward a more consecrated life? What are the Lord’s teachings about “things” or possessions?

3 Nephi 14:1-5, 12 Our Treatment of Others

Many of us struggle with judgment of others, looking for imperfections and being critical. We can follow the teachings in these verses, which will help educate and discipline our perceptions and feelings. And let us always remember verse 12, which has come to be known as “The Golden Rule” (see also Matthew 7:12).

3 Nephi 15:12-17; 16:1-5, 11-13, 20

As we see in these verses, Jesus of Nazareth truly is the God of all the earth, who seeks to save “all the works of his hands” (D&C 76:43). Ponder these verses and see how this is abundantly attested (see also 1 Nephi 22:3-4; Abraham 2:8-11).

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