3 Nephi 13: 19-21

3 Nephi 13: 19-21:

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal;  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Things here are in constant change. There are two great forces always at work. Entropy and decay are affect everything. All things grow distant, cold and less organized. The opposite is the force that creates and brings anew. Between decay and recreation, we find ourselves in a world where our hold will eventually slip away, and we will no longer be found among the living.
What will endure?
The monuments men build to themselves and their causes break down, decay, rust, erode and fade. They all pass away. The most enduring things are not what we build with our hands, but the truth that we teach. Truth will endure for eternity. It may be lost, fought or suppressed, but it will return. Truth will triumph.
The closest thing we have to eternal living is found in the great ideas and great revelations of the prophets and poets, philosophers and sages. The things made in our minds are what change humanity and elevate us to be more godlike. It is not the structures where men craving immortality engrave their names. It is not the statues in bronze and marble where because of vanity they enshrine their images. They will all pass away.
But an idea, a truth, a testimony from heaven – those will endure despite all hell raging. Send the moths, the rust and thieves against truth, and the truth will prevail despite this fallen world’s conspiracy against it.

Where is your heart? What do you meditate on day and night? Do you dream of wealth and power, of fame and recognition? Do you ponder how you might acquire more and receive more? Do you meditate on the lusts of the body? What occupies the spare moments of your life?

Do you let virtue garnish your thoughts so that your confidence may be strong in the presence of the Lord? (D&C 121: 45.) Do you meditate constantly on the things God has shown to you? (2 Nephi 4: 16.)
Have you prayed and pondered so you may understand a great mystery? (D&C 138: 11.) Have you prayed and fasted so as to be filled with the spirit of revelation? (Alma 17: 3.)
Where your heart is, there is your treasure. Where your treasure is, there is your heart. They are linked. You can tell what is treasured and where the heart is by what things you meditate upon night and day with idle moments.
I’ve deliberately had a morning and afternoon post on this blog to assist in giving something to ponder twice during the day, at widely separated times. It is my view that there is nothing better to meditate on than the scriptures.
______________________________________
 Here’s a recent random reflection I had on one matter answered by scripture:

-In a recent Gospel Doctrine discussion I was told about a teacher who was reluctant to admit David was a prophet, because David fell. (D&C 132: 39.) The notion that a prophet could fall undermines the current false notion that a President of the LDS Church cannot fail. That is rubbish, of course. But it is well circulated and ardently defended rubbish.

-The need to preserve the idea means that the teacher needed to disqualify David from ever being accepted as a prophet. The reasoning goes that if David isn’t a prophet then his fall proves nothing.
-When Peter was preaching after Pentecost, he freely acknowledged David’s status as a prophet. (Acts 2: 29-30.) So even if the Gospel Doctrine teacher won’t admit David’s status, the scriptures do.
-I wonder how it is plausible to some folks to believe prophets cannot fall today, when they fell anciently? It seems to me just a lazy way to shift responsibility for salvation away from each individual and onto an institution. Clearly the institution wants this idea to be accepted. No doubt someone will be damned for that notion.
-Anyone can fall. Seems to me that it is more important for me to worry about my own fall than it is to foolishly trust in some other person’s success or failure. We are all accountable for our own sins. (Art. Faith 2)
-In the Topical Guide I read every entry under “Accountability” and could find nothing to support the notion that there is accountability shifting from individual onto church president.
-Why do the gentiles always wind up having someone whom they regard as their benefactor boss them around? (Luke 22: 25.)
-When you make one mistake (prophet can’t fall or lead astray), then you compound it by needing another (David wasn’t a prophet). Little wonder doctrine is not studied as much. Our foolishness would become exposed. Who was it that removed from a prophet his right to choose? When did moral agency to choose get taken away from a church president?

3 Nephi 13: 16-18

3 Nephi 13: 16-18:

“Moreover, when ye fast be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance, for they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.  But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face;  That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father, who is in secret; and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”
Again our devotion is to be entirely private. Your inner struggle to come into God’s presence should be yours. Private. Personal. Individual. Secret.
The time may come after you have found Him that He will bring you into contact with others. The journey back to Him will be individual, and private.
After you find Him, you will be His. He can do with you as He chooses. When He appears to you in the flesh, He will give you commandments. (2 Nephi 32: 6.) He will teach you doctrine. He will direct what you should do. But that is later. Until then, the journey is private. There is nothing to announce. There should be no notice of your fasting, tithe paying, or praying. There are no notable deeds to be seen of men.
Men should see your washed face and never detect the fasting you are performing for Him alone.

Men should see your comfortable behavior and never appreciate what great things you have put on the altar in sacrifice to Him.

Men should never notice the mighty wrestle you are having with God.
When the wrestle has produced a covenant between you and God, even then the particulars of what you learn, what has been promised, what has been committed into your hands, and the things the Lord and you share should be kept between you and Him.

As I have said in The Second Comforter, some great things can be learned but not taught. Also, the Lord will never entrust truly sacred things to a person who is incapable of keeping them confidential. It is surprising how few people really believe in that principle. It is surprising how many people want that principle violated because they are curious, anxious and think it their right to receive what is purchased by someone else at a terrible personal price. It is surprising what things people will ask for and expect to be given, despite the fact that they haven’t worked for them. It can’t be shared by anyone other than you and the Lord. Whenever you disrespect that limitation by your questions, or demands you make to others, you postpone the time when you might have received greater things. You do not need a guru. You need the Lord. You do not need another John, Moses, Elias, Esaias, Isaiah, or Enoch. (See D&C 76: 100.) You need Him. 

We see in scripture how easily and often messengers are made into idols. That is not what is to happen. It is even more of a perversion for men to set themselves up as idols, to be followed as if they were God. That is Satanic and evidence of a falling away. (2 Thes. 2: 3-4.)
The private devotions of a sincere Saint are more worthy, more ennobling, more developing than any public display has ever been, or will ever be. Small gatherings when He directs may be of aid from time to time. But almost all the sacred events involving Him will take place between you and Him alone. When a few have approached Him by themselves – alone, then at some point it may possible for Him to gather with them in small numbers. (Matt. 18: 20.)
Would you like to see Zion return? Then approach Him in private, keep your journey from the notice of others, gather to Him in secret. Then, when He has a few who can gather in His name, He will gather them. Ultimately there will need to be occupants for a city before a city will be founded by Him. But it all starts with these teachings we are presently reading.
This Sermon is first a description of Him.
It is also a description of His disciples.

It is a formula for returning to His presence.

It is the basis for the coming Zion.

When the Father at last rewards you openly, it will be time for His arm to be revealed in terrible majesty. (D&C 105: 14; D&C 45: 67-75.) He will reward you openly indeed!

3 Nephi 13: 14-15

3 Nephi 13: 14-15:

For, if ye forgive men their trespasses your heavenly Father will also forgive you; But if ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

This is an absolute condition. It is mandatory.

If you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive you your trespass.

You can’t be forgiven by the Father if you do not forgive others.

It can’t be done.

That grudge you harbor prevents the Father from forgiving you.

Those resentments you think are justified are keeping you from being forgiven by the Father.

Those injustices imposed upon you by others who are unthinking or cruel must be surrendered.

The early Saints were victimized by mobs in Missouri and Illinois. They wanted revenge. Brigham Young implemented a covenant to seek vengeance upon the murderers of Joseph Smith until the third and fourth generation. They did not build Zion.

The opposite of this is forgiveness. If you forgive, your Heavenly Father WILL forgive you. Offenses are opportunities for you to gain forgiveness. All you need to do is forgive them.

It is a simple, direct cause and effect. It was ordained before the world was founded, and applies universally in all ages and among all people.

The world is in Satan’s grip largely because the world seeks vengeance and refuses to forgive.

Zion, on the other hand, will be filled with those who forgive. Of course that puts an absolute limit on those who can dwell there.  …Very few indeed.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

I have written six books and published nearly a year’s worth of posts on this blog at a frequency of two a day on average. They represent what I think, what I believe to be true, and what I teach. I do not have a spokesman. I have not authorized anyone to say something different than what I’ve made publicly known in my writings. Therefore, when someone claims there is some private conversation where they have learned some insider tidbit regarding what I think about plural marriage and Joseph Smith, or any other topic, they are making fools of themselves and anyone who listens to them.
 
I have explained my views on plural marriage in this blog. In a series of posts on Section 132 and in Beloved Enos, I have explained what I think. If you want to know what I have said, read those sources. DO NOT trust a private conversation attributed to me.
When I have met with people for lunch, or listened to them in a private moment, I do not always feel inclined to argue with them, or to correct them. Particularly when there is limited time to do so. It is completely inappropriate and wrong for such private discussions to be interpreted to mean that I have done more than just listen to the speaker. Silence is not agreement!
 
It is apparent that some people are unwilling to allow me to confine my work to what I’ve been specifically limited to do. Therefore, as much as I would like to have associations with all of you, I cannot.
 
I will finish the discussion on the blog currently underway. Then, should I have anything further to say, I will confine it to books. I am not willing to be misquoted. I am not willing to have things attributed to me that have been misinterpreted in a “private” or “secret” meeting. I am not willing to have people contradict what I have written, or what I have said publicly.
 
If you want to know what I think, read what I’ve written. If it is a second-hand, allegedly “private conversation” then don’t trust it.
 
Some private correspondence has been the catalyst for what I’ve written on the blog. The responses have been posted here publicly, available to all to read. That way I do not have to confront any accusation that I’ve said something in private or written some secret thing. I put it here so that what I think, and what I believe is clear. You don’t have to rely on some verbal grapevine to know what I think is important.
 
Further, I am not important. Some of the ideas spoken of in what I’ve written are important, but I certainly am not. None of you should be a “fan” or think I’m someone worth following. I don’t want to lead anyone. I have no intention of doing so. There is a universal need to take the Book of Mormon more seriously and to repent. That is clear from the text itself. I’ve elaborated on it using other scriptures to support the Book of Mormon’s message. That is quite important. Other things are less so and I am not at all important.
 
If anything I’ve written is to have value, it can only acquire that value by the Spirit testifying to you it is true. Then it becomes a matter between you and the Spirit, and not you and me. At that point I cease to have any importance, for you have it from the Spirit.
 
Prove all things. Hold fast to those things the Spirit testifies to you are true.
 
I’ve been trying to teach you to take the Book of Mormon seriously. But more importantly, I’ve been trying to get you to read it for yourself. I’m trying to work my way out of a job. I hope that at some point you need nothing more than the Book of Mormon, your scriptures, prayer, and the Lord to find everything you need. You should develop to the point that you do not need anyone to tell you “know ye the Lord” because everyone of you, from the least to the greatest, will know Him. Then all will be equal, and the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters do the sea. Then no one will need to teach you, because He will be your tutor and not any man.
 
You need to find the Lord. Soon I will stop posting here for your good, because it is becoming a hindrance rather than an aid for many of you.

3 Nephi 13: 9-13:

 
“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”
 
Simple. Direct. Plain.
 
Christ assures us that He is “Our Father” and not just His. We are all united in sharing that status with Christ. We are a family.
 
First He identifies the Father as “ours” and then, least we should presume too great a familiarity, He adds “hallowed be thy name.” A name is important for many reasons. In the case of Deity, it was an ancient presumption that if you knew the name of an angel, demon, or god you could summon such a being by using that name. Here, however, Christ is applying sacred status to the Father’s name. It is His Fatherhood that is emphasized, not His hallowed name.
 
The Father’s will is not done on earth. Here, there is rebellion, rejection, chaos and despair. Here, order is imposed by the strong upon the weak. Men exploit, abuse and misrule. In heaven, however, the Father’s rule establishes order, kindness and equity. Anyone who is aware of the fallen conditions here will ask for the Father’s will to be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
That petition can also be read to mean: “Let me live on earth as if I were in heaven.” Or, “let the Father’s will come to earth by the life I live here.” Or, “let me prove myself worthy of heaven’s companionship, though I live here on earth.”
 
The prayer links forgiving others to being forgiven. This is not merely a wise petition, it is also a statement of cause and effect. We merit forgiveness as we give it. It is by forgiving that we are forgiven.
 
We pay our debts by giving others forgiveness of their debts to us. I’ve written a chapter about this in Come, Let Us Adore Him. We merit what we give to others. We establish the criteria by which we will be judged as we decide how to treat others. He will return to this concept in 3 Nephi 14: 2.
 
When the Father leads you it will never be into temptation, but will always deliver you from evil. This is a petition which reminds us to be willing to be led. We are literally to ask the Father to help us be led by Him. Through Him we will obtain deliverance.
 
The Father owns the kingdom, the power and glory. Mankind does not confer that upon Him. It is His. But mankind can acknowledge it. By making that acknowledgement we are able to have confidence in Him. We can trust His power to deliver, His ability to bring again His kingdom, and to bear and share in His glory as He has promised.
 
Many of these simple statements are confessions of our own desires and clarify we have understanding. God’s kingdom, power and glory exist independent of our prayers. But when our prayers attest that we understand this, we are making our submission and meekness known to Him. We are stating our trust in Him.
We acknowledge His kingdom is His, to be restored in His time, with His power. It is His to control. We do not envy that control, nor attempt to force Him to do our bidding. We acknowledge that His right exists, independent of man’s will or ambition. He will decide and we will accept. We can ask, but He will determine the events that will take place and when they will unfold.
 
This prayer is an acknowledgement that we are not trying to control God, but instead are willing to be subject to Him. He is the sovereign, we are the subjects.
 
We ask, He decides. If He determines to do a work we defer to Him. The greater the recognition of His kingdom, power and glory, the greater the confidence we have in His decisions. The less we are inclined to argue with Him or to substitute our desires for His.
 
When the Lord decides to bring again Zion, it will be because the Father has decided it is time to do so. It will not be because a group has volunteered to accomplish it. When He decides, and He is the author of it, no power under heaven will stand against it. When men have ambition to create what is in His power alone to do, then they will not just fail but will be swept away.
This petition to the Father instructs us in patience and faith.

3 Nephi 13: 7-8

3 Nephi 13: 7-8: 

“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen, for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.  Be not ye therefore like unto them, for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him.” 

Here is wisdom indeed. There is no magic formula for communicating with God. No list of what is to be said or repeated. No vain –meaning ineffective– repetitions. He “gets it” even before you speak. So the act of prayer is a formal way of showing:

-Respect (by doing what He has asked)

-Devotion (by showing submission to Him)
-Obedience (by keeping a commandment to pray always)
-and Companionship (by taking the time alone with Him).

He knows what you need before you ask. Indeed, sometimes the needs we think we have are not what He knows we need even before we pray.

We think we need to get a solution to interior lighting for 8 barges. We come to Him in prayer expecting to receive help for that. He knows what we really need is redemption from the Fall, instruction in the history of mankind, and knowledge of Him. He solves the lighting problem with a touch of His finger, but then goes on to reveal all things.

We think we need to know what church to join. So Joseph comes asking that one question in sincerity. He knows, however, the world needs a prophet to re-establish the long absent Church of Jesus Christ upon the earth.

We think we need to understand how to baptize. So Joseph and Oliver ask. He knows, however, the Aaronic Priesthood must be restored, and sends an angel to return it to the earth.

We think we need to know what our standing is before God. So Joseph asks, fully expecting to learn if his life has been acceptable. God knows, however, the time has come to send an angel having the everlasting Gospel to declare. So Mororni comes to declare the restoration of the book.

You take thought about what your cares are, but they are not what the Lord knows you need. Your cares are merely the tiniest of obstacles given you to remind you to pray. The Father operates on a much grander scale, dealing with the salvation of souls. He will use the man or woman of prayer as the means of accomplishing a great deal more then they imagined.

Pray. Ask simply. It is not necessary to be elaborate or long winded. State clearly what you believe you need.  Accept what then comes in His answer. Trust He knows more than you. Trust He can give you what you need, even if you hadn’t even thought about it as a need.

3 Nephi 13: 5-6

 3 Nephi 13: 5-6:

“And when thou prayest 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. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.  But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret; and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”
 
Like the previous verses, this verse is saying prayer ought to be private, not public. It should be between you and God. Others do not need to know of, see, or participate in your prayers. Most importantly, your prayers ought not be put on display for others to notice and admire.
 
There are public prayer occasions, of course. Those come every time a meeting opens and closes with a prayer. For such opportunities there will always be a prayer offered by one person, acting as the voice for those assembled. But the prayer is not the individual’s. It is the prayer of all those assembled. This warning is about personal prayer, not group prayer.
 
These verses are confirming the principle that prayer should be kept private between you and God. It should not be put on public display to call attention to yourself. Those whose prayers are offered “for to be seen” are really not praying to God anyway. They are using the pretense of prayer to call attention to themselves. They want recognition. When they get recognition they have their reward. They got what they wanted: public notice.
 
As a result of this teaching I have some hesitation about praying at a public restaurant before a meal. If I do, it is private, unspoken, and only thought. I have always thought this teaching proscribed public prayer whenever it attracted notice.
 
This counsel, and the counsel immediately before, show just how solitary a journey it is back to the Lord’s presence. It is not a group event. It is done in the privacy of your own heart, your own intent, and your own private conduct. It is your personal devotions which show the Lord who and what you are. By keeping these things secret between you and Him, you gain a power of familiarity with Him which will permit Him to comfort you.
 
I’ve tried to avoid ever speaking of personal matters, choosing instead to only focus on the Lord’s teachings.  Some people have expressed frustrations at the absence of personal details in what I’ve written or said. Those complaints reaffirm to me that I’ve weighed the matter correctly. It is not, and never has been about me or any man. It is about the Lord and His teachings. I have testified to His teachings and that they are both true and applicable to everyone. I’ve testified that high office and notoriety are not required, but the least are invited. When Zion finally comes, I doubt there will be many notable people there. It will be the man from Tennessee who is handy with mechanical repairs, whose calloused hands show dedication to labor for others  It will be the patient Temple worker-couple who, despite the regimentation seen all around them, have pursued the Lord’s will and found Him. It will be the patient and obscure people whose private devotion to the Lord is known to Him, acknowledged by His voice. The invitation to gather will come to them directly from Him.
 
It is in these teachings that I will be justified and required to end my public efforts. As they end, you will need to do as He has taught, and as I have endeavored to do. I will soon be ending this blog. I will be finishing up this phase of what I’ve been asked to do for the last several years, and hopefully be shown the courtesy of being allowed to return to my family and ward. The things I have written require a real person to stand behind them, to testify of them, and to take responsibility for what is said. I have allowed you to know who it is. But enough has been done. I look forward to returning to my own closet and laying down this more public effort. 
 
Christ would have us all know the Father in the privacy of our individual lives. That is as true of Him as it is meant to be for us. How often He spent the night in private prayer. How often he separated Himself from His followers and prayed in secret to His Father. That is what we should accomplish more often. That is how we draw closest to Him.
 
You can as readily gratify your vain ambition by praying to be noticed as you can by aspiring and receiving a church position or rank. It is all vanity. There really is none who are good, except God alone.

3 Nephi 13: 1-4

 
Verily, verily, I say that I would that ye should do alms unto the poor; but take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father who is in heaven.  Therefore, when ye shall do your alms do not sound a trumpet before you, as will hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.  But when thou doest alms let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth;  That thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father who seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly.”
 
Giving should be done for it’s own sake, and not for a reward. Recognition for what a person has done is it’s own reward.
 
If this is a larger principle, and the reasoning underlying this applies throughout your service or good acts, then any recognition is your payment. In fact, the only way to reserve for yourself a blessing is to be either anonymous when you do it, or to be reviled, hated or persecuted for it.  Otherwise you have your reward.
 
Applying this to like things it might be said:
 
-When men name buildings after you for your achievements, you have your reward.
 
-When institutions heap awards upon you for your philanthropic acts, you have your reward.
-When they fill an auditorium up with people singing praises and paying tribute to you on your birthday, you have your reward. 
 
-When honorary doctorate degrees are awarded to you for your life’s work, you have your reward.
 
-When the Boy Scouts of America gives you a plaque, a title, and a commendation for your long support of their cause, you have your reward.
 
-When you sit at the head of a congregation, exciting envy from others wishing to hold your position, and are honored with praise, acknowledged as presiding and accepting deference for your status as local, area or regional leader, you may very well have your reward.
 
-If you minister to the downtrodden, the ill and infirm, then recount endlessly to others these acts, do you not “sound a trumpet before you” to be seen of men, and thereby collect your reward? When Christ was called “good,” He rebuked the one rendering praise with the retort: “Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.” (See Luke 18: 18-19.) He would accept their persecution, derision and shame, but discouraged any praise. He accepted Peter’s confession of His status as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” but followed up that confession of faith with the admonition to not speak of it: “Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.” (Matt. 16: 20.)
 
How can His servants exalt themselves to be more than He? How can the Servant’s own servants make themselves greater than He? When the Master came and lived the most common of lives, how can His disciples build monuments named for themselves, tolerate no criticism, accept honor, praise and adulation and expect to be counted as His?
 
How can any man redeem or rescue another? Are not all in need of rescuing by Him who alone can provide deliverance? Acclaim and praise in this life preclude recognition from the Lord in the afterlife. Therefore, only a fool would welcome praise, adulation and recognition for good things done in mortality. Indeed, such recognized deeds are often a veneer covering a malignant character. As a result, the Lord offers a test to prove sincerity: Do it in secret. Do it without notice or praise. Do it not to be seen of men. Do it as an act in private between you and the Lord alone, without any earthly party becoming aware of the deed. Then the beneficiary will indeed give glory to your Father which is in heaven, and not to another man. (See 3 Nephi 12: 16.)
 
This new standard challenges not merely the acts of a person, but also the underlying reasons and intent for any acts that are done. Your conduct is not the measure. It is your heart. For that, it is best if men do not understand you. It is best if they misjudge you, attribute foul motive when motive is pure, ascribe evil to you when you are on the Lord’s errand, and reject you though you are His. Only then can your heart remain true to Him and uncompromised by the praise of your fellow-man.
 
It is this teaching, if followed, that will result in the anonymous acts and unrecognized deeds that exalt a person. It will make you private in your devotions and obscure to your fellow man.

3 Nephi 12: 48

“Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.”

In the Matthew text Christ unequivocally limited this to His Father. (Matt. 5: 48.) Here “perfection” is achieved by both Christ and His Father.
Assuming the Matthew text is correct, the difference is significant. It is another confirmation that anyone who is mortal, including the Lord, stands in jeopardy every hour. (See 1 Cor. 15: 30.) He simply could not claim perfection while in mortality because mortality is a time of change, challenge and temptation. After all, He was tempted while mortal just as every human soul is tempted. (Heb. 4: 15.) Though He chose to give no heed to it, He was nevertheless tempted. (D&C 20: 22.)
While mortal He looked to the Father in all things. (John 5: 30.) After concluding His time in mortality, achieving the resurrection of the dead, He was given all power in heaven and on earth. (Matt. 28: 18.)

Therefore, if the Matthew text is correct, and the differences are accounted for in what we have just reviewed, then the admonition of Christ for our own perfection is not just an earthly endeavor. It is an invitation to follow Him and His Father into a loftier state, as well. (Abr. 3: 26.) One where the final realization will come only as we are able to endure greater glory than a mortal may possess. (Moses 1: 5.) 

It is good we know this commandment is possible to accomplish. (1 Nephi 3: 7.) It is hard to conceive of following the Son in this way. Yet it is He who pronounced it, and He who has promised to share the throne of His Father with all who will come to Him. (Rev. 3: 21.)
I am not perfect, nor anything like it. I have seen Perfection, know what it is, and can confirm I am nothing like it.
A harmonious symmetry of light, majesty, holiness, glory and power are all around Him who is perfection. When I read the admonition to “be ye therefore perfect, even as I or your Father who is in Heaven is perfect” I can hardly grasp how that gulf between us could be bridged. I understand about the Lord’s atonement. I have certainly been the beneficiary of it and will continue to be so. When I consider the infinite gulf between His and His Father’s perfection, and my own imperfection, I am left completely stupefied at the idea it is even possible. Nevertheless, He gives no command which He does not provide means to obey. Therefore the means do exist.
When I hear from the casual observer of the LDS faith the stupidity about how we are going to “get exalted,” I wonder at what the reaction will be when they finally realize how great the gulf separating us from that result is. I have some appreciation for what will be required, and know it will be eons before that end can be attained by any of us. It will not be magic. It will be through incremental improvement, being added upon, growing in light and truth, and perfectly natural in the process. Joseph Smith put it in these words in the King Follett Funeral Sermon: “When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel — you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.”
We are not left without warning about how great the gulf is we are to cover in this bridge we are to cross. Even now it seems the best use of our time would be to meditate on the things of God day and night. The revelations inform us that “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.” (D&C 130: 18-19.) Yet we seem collectively often pedestrians in a crowd milling aimlessly about presuming Christ will furnish us an easy time of it. His atonement removes from us all guilt and shame. But for perfection, we must acquire it bit by bit, grace for grace, line upon line, growing by accepting more until at last we have obtained what is needed. That will be our own doing. He provides the means, and His Father ordained the laws by which it can be done, and they provide us with free will and the capacity to choose, but we must choose. We must accept. We must press forward holding Their hands in order to arrive at last, after an infinitely long journey, in the courts of Heaven itself, fit to reside there.

Be ye therefore perfect. And start on that this moment. For you haven’t another moment to spare.

3 Nephi 12: 46-47

3 Nephi 12: 46-47:

“Therefore those things which were of old time, which were under the law, in me are all fulfilled. Old things are done away, and all things have become new.”
 
Christ will elaborate on this later as the audience puzzles over what is removed and what remains. But here Christ introduces the concept that the Law of Moses is now “fulfilled.” Importantly, He says: “in me are all fulfilled.”
 
When He walked on the Road to Emmaus on the day of His resurrection, He began with the Law of Moses and explained: “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24: 27.) I’ve spoken on this and then published the talk in the Appendix to Eighteen Verses. The talk shows how the rites and temple of the Dispensation of Moses testified to the details of His life. It ought to be noted that the thing “under the law, in [Christ were indeed] all fulfilled.” His life was foreshadowed by the rites of Moses. His healing and His ministry, His history and His sacrifice, all were foreshadowed by the Law of Moses.
 
Since the Law pointed to Him, and He came to live His mortal life in conformity with that Law, it was now completed. The signpost was no longer necessary. The event had happened.
 
When He says, “Old things are done away” it is not because they are terminated. It is because they were fulfilled. He completed the circle. He lived and died under the Law, fulfilling every jot and tittle of its requirements.
 
Now it was time to push the meaning of the earlier Law deeper into the souls of His audience. “All things have become new.” It is a new beginning, a new Dispensation, a new message. This message was delivered by the author of the Law of Moses not through an intermediary. This message comes from the Author in person.
 
Dispensations have their bounds. Beforehand, the prophets give, through prophecy, a limit on the things which are to come. When the prophesied events have unfolded and the measure has been met, then one Dispensation comes to an end while another opens. John the Baptist closed the Dispensation of Moses. Christ opened the Dispensation of the Meridian of Time. He recognizes the transition in this statement.
 
Whenever things are “become new” again, it is important to recognize the signs of the time. (Matt. 16: 2-3.) Those living contemporary with Christ who did not recognize the signs remained at Jerusalem and were destroyed. (JS-M. 1: 13-18.) It is important that you be on watch, for in the very hour you think it unlikely for Him to act He will act. (JS-M. 1: 48.)
 
Everything was fulfilled by Christ, and everything prophesied will happen before He comes again. There is no more scrupulous a follower of the prophetic promises than the Lord. He inspired the prophecies, and intends that they all come to pass. In Him have all things been fulfilled, and in Him will all things yet remaining be fulfilled.

3 Nephi 12: 43-45

3 Nephi 12: 43-45:

“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; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good.”
Loving the ones you care for, associate with, and live nearby is sometimes easy. Hating those who show you disrespect or cause you injury is normal.  Nevertheless, Christ teaches to love enemies, bless those who are trying to do you harm, and pray for your persecutors.
This is the only way to become like Him. He is an intercessor. As I’ve explained in The Second Comforter, becoming an intercessor for others is part of development, through grace, to become as He is.  It is through this that charity becomes a part of your character. (Moro. 7: 46.) And charity is a necessary attribute in character. (2 Nephi 26: 30; Moro. 7:47.)
This treatment of enemies is how you prove your inner self. Only by suffering, do we learn if we are converted. If you receive only praise and adulation,    authority and wealth, prestige and acceptance as a result of following Christ, then you’ve never been proven. It is through the sacrifice of your good name, reputation, position, wealth and social standing that you learn if you truly trust in Christ.
When you actually do sacrifice all earthly things for Him, you will have knowledge that the course of your life is pleasing to Him. Anything less than this will leave your mind in doubt. (See Lecture 6 discussed previously.)
If you follow this teaching by Christ, you will convert yourself first, then others. No-one can doubt the goodness of a life lived as this teaching commends.  Though such a life may not convert others immediately, it will triumph.
Sometimes people die teaching the truth. They surrendered all they were on the altar, thereby coming to know God. This teaching would allow anyone to do the same. You would have to not only accept the idea, you would need to implement it.
Abinadi returned to bear witness of the truth, and then die. Alma was his only convert. But from the moment of Alma’s conversion to the end of the Book of Mormon, every character who wrote in the plates descended from Abinadi’s single convert.

Abinadi was a hinge character around whom the story of the Nephites would pivot from his life onward. But he had little success, and was killed by those to whom he ministered. 

In some respects, dying for the cause of Christ is easier than living it. This teaching, however, shows how you can begin to live it.
It is not designed to be easy. As I discussed in Beloved Enos, sometimes it takes quite a bit of effort to come to terms with what the Lord requires of us.  But that does not alter in the least the importance of doing it, or lessen the quality of the results obtained.
Keep in mind the Lord’s admonition: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14: 15.)
Remember also the Lord’s statement that the things He is teaching “at this time” are necessary to enter into the kingdom of Heaven. (3 Nephi 12: 20.) These are not just sayings. They are meant to be acted on. It is in the doing of them you will meet Him. When you descend below where you are at present, you will find the Lord. For He is condescending whenever He is seen.
Finally, Christ reminds us that the Lord blesses all with the sun, light, life and abundance. Both good and evil are blessed by Him. Therefore, the petty differences between the good and the bad are so insignificant when compared against an absolute standard of perfection that the relative goodness and relative badness is inconsequential. So inconsequential that for any of us to be redeemed will require the atonement. Therefore, we all owe everything to Him. Only the redeemed come to realize and accept that while here. Everyone will eventually grasp that reality.
Accepting Him is the means for healing us. His open invitation to all can be seen in the sun shining on “both the evil and on the good.” Everyone is bidden to come to the throne and receive healing, grace and forgiveness. To merit it, you must first give it. To obtain forgiveness you must give forgiveness. To have Him suffer for your sins, you must first suffer and forgive others of their sins committed against you.
Every balanced life surrenders claims for justice and shows mercy, thereby making a claim for themselves upon mercy.

3 Nephi 12: 40-42

3 Nephi 12: 40-42:

“And if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also;  And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.  Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away.”
 
This is the point Mark Twain quipped included him in the Bible. He suggested “Go with him Twain” is Divine notice given him.
 
The cloak covers the cloak. If someone wants one, give them both. Without conflict. Without retaliation. Give those who demand.
 
The law allowed a Roman soldier to compel a civilian to bear a load for a mile. Christ said submit, and go a second mile to demonstrate you have not been compelled at all. You have chosen to give the service.
 
When asked, give. When someone needs to borrow, let them.
 
What a markedly different world this would be.
 
The results of an entire society behaving in this manner would be Zion itself. There would be no poor.  Those with the means would share, those in need would ask. The resulting cooperation and mutual assistance would solve many social ills. But such a society would necessarily be voluntary. To attempt to level the economic circumstances of society by force would be an imprisonment, not a liberation. Government cannot impose it, but men can voluntarily implement it.
 
In our early post-Nauvoo distress, there was a brief time when we flirted with notions like these. We did some voluntary collective work on providing a social system to benefit everyone. Those ended because of the bickering and turmoil. We went back to tithing, which still today allows us to retain our individual fortunes and limit sharing our individual misfortunes.
 
The question is what happens when a society continues to suffer from all the ills of our own, but a single individual chooses to live these principles. What then? Can a person really live like this when he or she alone is guided by these principles?
 
Common agreement is that this sermon’s admonitions are impractical. They won’t work. They can’t be lived by a single person acting alone, or a small group acting together, because a larger corrupt society will overwhelm and exploit them. Therefore, Christ is teaching what cannot be done. At least cannot be done by anyone who is unwilling to try it. Occasionally we get a Mother Teresa or a Saint Francis, but they’re Catholic. Surely it can’t work with Latter-day Saints who are busy studying Steven Covey’s books, polishing their resumes and looking to find a secure middle-management position from which to launch their successful careers. Maybe a handful of good, believing Catholics will found Zion. Then we can come in and help manage the results after it becomes well enough established. After all, we have the true franchise from which Zion will be built. We even own a bank already named for the venture.
 
It makes you wonder why Christ would preach something which only a handful of Catholics have successfully accomplished in an individual setting.

3 Nephi 12: 38-39






“And behold, it is written, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth;  But I say unto you, that ye shall not resist evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also;”


This is reforming the law of retaliation or lex talionis. When first adopted, the law of retaliation was designed to limit retribution. It was merciful in the context of the time. It prevented taking a life for an eye. The scope of the injury suffered put a limit on the scope of the retaliation permitted. I taught a class on this ancient law in the BYU Education Week some years ago. It is too much to cover in this post in order to fully understand the ramifications of this law.


The popular understanding of that law is quite a distortion. The injury permitted was not actually exacted under the law. “An eye for an eye” meant that the victim was entitled to take the eye of the one causing the injury. In practice the eye was not taken. The value of the eye was agreed upon between victim and perpetrator. They sealed the agreement before two witnesses in the gate of the city. Then the debtor was obligated to pay the agreed sum (called “satisfaction”). If he defaulted the elders could take the eye as penalty for the default in payment, which stood as collateral for the debt.


Payment of “satisfaction” was permitted and given for offenses under the lex talionis except in the case of a limited class of offenses, including murder.  (Numbers 35: 31-32.) In such cases it was considered too dangerous to allow satisfaction, and therefore the penalty needed to be carried out.


Here, Christ is replacing that entire body of law by substituting forgiveness and mercy for justice and recompense. The victim is being urged to seek nothing in return for his injury. Instead, the victim is to bear the injury and allow evil against themselves without retaliation for the offense.


This may seem odd, even wrong. However, there is an example of this in the Book of Mormon. Although many lives were lost in the process, it resulted in the salvation of many souls. The Anti-Lehi-Nephites were unwilling to take up arms to defend themselves, instead allowing their enemies to slay them. The result broke the hearts of those who were killing them, and many were converted by this example. (See Alma 24: 19-27.) But the people of God were joined by more than the number who were slain.


The book by C. Terry Warner titled The Bonds That Make Us Free: Healing Our Relationships, Coming to Ourselves explains how the actions of those who forgive are able to break the hearts of those who are forgiven. There is not merely freedom in forgiving others, there is power in it as well. Terry Warner’s book is an examination of the principles of sin and forgiveness, and worth reading if you have not done so before. 


We gain power by what things we suffer for the Lord’s sake. Christ who loved the most, sacrificed the most. Those two things are linked together.


This teaching was not only given by Christ, but it was lived by Him also. In this statement, as in no other, He is defining who He is and revealing what His conduct invariably will be. This is the Lord’s standard. This is the Lord’s manner. The choice of turning the other cheek is taken from the Messianic standard described by Isaiah. (Isa. 50: 6; also 53: 5.) We can also heal others by the things we willingly suffer. We can endure and forgive. As we do righteousness increases on the earth.


Saint Francis Assisi believed this, practiced it. In an age of darkness and apostasy, the Lord spoke with St. Francis, and sent angels to minister to him.  He is appropriately referred to as a Saint. He lived the Sermon on the Mount.  It is perhaps St. Francis, who above all others, proves a mortal may walk in the Lord’s steps. Christ did it first and more completely than would any other. But St. Francis surely followed.  


I have little doubt that the Lord’s teachings are impractical in this world. But, then again, we are not called to live for this world, are we? The reason Zion always flees from this world is precisely because the Lord will not permit the world to overwhelm those who would surely be overthrown if not for His grace and protection. He will fight their battles to spare those in Zion from the necessity of becoming warlike. (D&C 105: 14.)


I am amused by the martial inclinations of the Latter-day Saints. When the lamb and lion lie down together I suppose many of the Latter-day Saints expect to be able to hunt them both.

3 Nephi 12: 33-37

3 Nephi 12: 33-37:

“And again it is written, thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths;  But verily, verily, I say unto you, swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne;  Nor by the earth, for it is his footstool;  Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair black or white;  But let your communication be Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever cometh of more than these is evil.”
 
This revokes the oath making of the earlier Dispensation. When an oath was taken it was to be performed without fail. (See, e.g., Numbers 30: 2.) It was binding. Ancient Israel relied on vows to govern their conduct. (See, e.g., 1 Nephi 4: 33-37.) Oaths were relied on because they bound your conduct before God.
Christ is putting an end to the practice. No further vow-making was to take place. In its place say “yea” or say “nay,” but nothing further to bind your soul before God.
 
Swearing by men who possess nothing is foolish and prideful. Particularly when they swear by heaven, because it is not theirs to promise.  Nor should they swear by the earth, because it is not theirs either.  A man cannot even offer his own life, because it belongs to God who gave it. Indeed, there is nothing we own or can offer. (Mosiah 2: 20-25.)
 
The comment regarding the inability to make a single hair “black or white” is emphasizing how little control we really have over things. Even our own bodies will take a course assigned it by God. They will age, and eventually die. We have our body as a stewardship. It is ours for a season, then we will lay it down. Until then, we serve a probation in which we are given power over these elements we occupy. But that stewardship is one designed to “prove” us, and show what we really are. When we gratify the body at the expense of others, or destroy our bodily temple housing our spirits by indulging uncontrolled appetites, we are unwise. We will lose these bodies before long and then, left with the same spiritual emptiness which caused the cravings in the first place, will find ourselves suffering. Whereas, if you discipline the body, keep it under control and subject to your spirit, then death can bring a release and freedom from suffering. It will be an odd reversal. One known only to those who go through it; at which point it is too late to change the outcome.
 
Additionally, Christ is suggesting that we speak in plain language, without the rhetoric of grand threats or promises. Speak simply. Speak out of an abundance of humility. Mean what you say, and do not obligate yourself to do what you cannot do.
 
Live simply, prepare to deal honestly with one another. And leave the heavens out of your promises if you cannot control them.
 
Do not commit yourself to do anything by swearing to God it shall be done. You have no control over when you will die, whether you will have another day of health to accomplish what you have vowed, or even if the thing about which you committed yourself will continue to be possible. Be humble about what you are given. Be grateful.
 
These verses address a social standard that needed to be left behind. Coming out of that should be a replacement of plain speaking, humility about what we are able to do, and caution about words we use.

In this reformation alone Christ proves Himself to be a sage. He was more than a wise teacher, He was the Great Teacher. This concept alone makes Him one of the greatest social reformers of the ancient world.

3 Nephi 12: 31-32



“It hath been written, that whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement.  Verily, verily, I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whoso shall marry her who is divorced committeth adultery.”


First and foremost, this is a verse dealing with male conduct. The verse is masculine in orientation and word usage, and deals with a male’s prerogative under the law that existed then. So applying this new, higher law, beyond that is not warranted, as will be more clearly seen in the discussion below.


The ease with which a divorce could be granted made the serious nature of the act unappreciated. Today it is still unappreciated. Divorce rates among Latter-day Saints have risen to practically mirror the population at large. We follow all the surrounding social trends, but are a little slower in getting there. We are not “peculiar” any longer. We are just slower.


Christ was re-enshrining the significance of marriage. It should not be easy to end a marriage. But, then again, perhaps the kind of marriage Christ is speaking of is one of a higher order and rarely exists here.


Although there are reasons for every marriage to be treated as sacred and worth preserving, it was always intended for there to be a higher purpose in marriage. It was intended to be an eternal union, inside of which sacred acts mirroring heaven itself take place. Bringing into this world new life by the loving union of two partners is a mirror of heaven. Such things are, or ought to be, most sacred.


But a higher kind of union, where love is the prevailing rule, is not often established here. More often than not, the marriages of this world are corrupted, just as society itself is corrupted.


I hardly dare offer a different view of these verses, because people think they know what they’re reading in them. I’m not sure we have ever seen what Christ is actually speaking about. Though caution would suggest otherwise, I’m going to go ahead with offering a different view.


First, this is always interpreted to be discussing things which are coarse or material, but it comes immediately following a discussion about the inner or spiritual self. This suggests our normal reading of this language may be incorrect. When the focus of Christ’s new and higher law is the inner man, then to read this as applying to outward behavior (fornication/adultery) may miss the point.


Second, notice the contrast between the only justified reason for terminating the marriage (fornication) and the subsequent results (adultery). Two different words are used, suggesting two different meanings are present.


I’ve consulted with John Hall about the New Testament language in the Matthew account of this sermon, where “porneia” is the typical rendering.  There the meaning of the first word which we render “fornication” could be a variety of things including: prostitution, sexual permissiveness or merely a sexual act. But, if the word was “poneria” then it could, by broad measure,  mean bad acts (with no sexual connotation at all).


There is a possibility that the correct way to read this could be rendered in this way: “Whoever puts away his wife for any reason other than the lack of marital intimacy…” That would mean the only justified reason to end the marriage is that the marriage has ended within the heart. There is no longer any love in the relation. It has died. It is no longer worthy of preservation, and therefore, the death of the heart justifies the death of the relation.


However, the focus is on the woman’s heart. That is, if the woman still retains marital intimacy for the husband, he cannot be justified in putting her away.  He is obligated to retain as his wife the woman who loves him. If he puts away such a wife, then he causes her to commit adultery.


This, then, raises the issue of the meaning of adultery. We tend to view it as a physical act involving sexual union with another. But adultery also holds the connotation of unfaithfulness, as in Israel becoming unfaithful and playing the part of an adulteress, worshiping other gods. (See, e.g., Jeremiah 3: 8.) When forced away by the man she loves, a woman is then “adulterated” by the act of the man. He is accountable for the treachery involved in dissolving the marriage which the woman wanted, and forcing her into the relation with either no one, or with another man. Either one is “adulterating” the marriage which she had with him. He is accountable for that uncharitable, unkind, and unjustified treatment of the woman.


On the other hand, when she has lost affection for him, and the union has become hollow and without love, then the marriage is dead and continuation of the relation is a farce. It is not a marriage. In fact, it is a pretense and an abomination unworthy of preservation. It will not endure. It is not eternal and not possible to preserve beyond the grave.


No union that has not been sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise will endure beyond the grave. (See D&C 132: 718, among other places.) The reason for sealing such a marriage by the promise of the Spirit is because it replicates the kind of holy union found in heaven. It is like unto the unions between gods and goddesses. It is worthy of preservation because it is eternal. It is enduring. It is worth preserving into all eternity. It is sealed because the gods recognize on the earth a mirror of what is found in heaven itself. Therefore heaven ratifies and approves the relationship. They do not create such relations in heaven, but instead recognize them here, and approve them for eternal duration. Without such a relationship, the parties are worthy of continuation as angels, but not as spouses, as Christ would put it elsewhere. (Matt. 22: 30; see also D&C 132: 17.)


It is true enough that the restored Gospel allows everyone the opportunity to come to the Temple and receive ordinances which hold the promise of an eternal union. But those are relationships where the parties are on probation. They are given as an opportunity to work out your salvation before God. They are given so that if you are true and faithful, the time may come when you are called up and chosen by the Holy Spirit of Promise to be kings and queens, priests and priestesses, whereas now you are only given opportunity to prove yourself worthy to become such.


There are many unhappy Latter-day Saint marriages which exist in name only.  The notorious high record use of anti-depressants by women in Utah is driven in large part by unhappy marriages they believe ought to be preserved because of a misunderstanding of these verses. Yet the underlying reality that the union causes suffering rather than rejoicing cannot be escaped. So they alter their natural reaction to the unhappy union by altering the brain with chemicals. Such a marriage cannot endure into eternity. Though the woman may sacrifice herself to preserve her heart’s desire to be a faithful, married mother, her unworthy marriage is not what will endure. It cannot be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, though she may be otherwise qualified.


Now, to be clear, I do not advocate divorce, particularly where minor children are involved. But I do advocate a higher view of the marital union where the prevailing reason for the union is love. This should be the whole preparation for marriage. Before contracting the union, the parties should look for that spouse with whom they can find heaven on earth. Unhappy marriages might all be saved if the parties would repent. The higher ideal is not impossible for any union to seek and find. That is the right of every party here, if they will but seek after it. If however, after every effort has been made to both find, and cultivate such a union, it proves to be an impossibility, then the parties ought to use the precious time allotted to them in mortality to find a union which will be worthy of continuation. Not at the expense of their children, who are entitled to have both parents raise them. The Holy Spirit of Promise was intended to be shed upon many marriages, rather than a comparative few.  Happiness was the design of our creation. When we avoid it by our misconduct and foolishness, we do not please heaven. Nor does gritting our teeth, putting up with miserable relationships, and enduring an unholy union please heaven or merit some eternal reward.


These words of Christ are speaking of a higher way to conduct our lives. To read into them exclusively outward behavior, when the whole import of the sermon addresses the inner-man, is out of context. I think we hardly understand the Lord’s meaning. But, then again, perhaps it is best if we do not understand His full meaning until we are ready to see for ourselves what great things the Lord has in store for those who love Him. (D&C 76: 114-117.) Perhaps it is best that man is not capable of making them known.


Now, as to the woman, there is another standard. He does not articulate it here, but can be found throughout scripture. A woman’s love of and fidelity to her husband is more often than not a product of her nature. It takes quite a fool to turn a wife’s natural affection for him into distrust and bitterness. But there are churlish men, as we know from scripture. Sometimes they marry an Abigail. (See 1 Sam. 25: 3.)