3 Nephi 12: 30

“For it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your cross, than that ye should be cast into hell.”
Each person’s cross is individual. Carrying “your cross” is not the same as carrying mine. Therefore, when you “deny yourself of these things” what you surrender and what you take up will be “your cross” and never mine.
It is odd how we are able to spot from a distance the weaknesses of others. We have highly acute sensitivities about others’ flaws. But we rarely appreciate the crosses they bear.
How hard a burden a man carries when he disciplines himself to rise daily, and work to sacrifice for his family, is not at all the same across the economic scale. Nor, for that matter, is the daily service carried on by mothers who have deprived themselves of other pursuits to raise sometimes ungrateful children.
But “hell” is where we are cast when we are pained by the regrets of having lived without discipline, having lived selfishly. (Mormon 9: 4-5.)  We will stand “naked” before God. All of what we want hidden will be before us, revealed and exposed to view.
The “hell” of it all will be our regret, for we are our own tormentor. The torment of a disappointed mind will be like fire and brimstone to the regretful. (TPJS p. 357.)
Christ is advising us in a kindly way how to prevent that moment of fear, regret and torment. He is telling us how to escape it. These teachings are not a threat addressed at us, but a caution about the future moment when these teachings apply to us all.
It is as if the Lord wants us to know clearly beforehand what we are going to wish we had done instead. Now, in mortality, while we can still change how things will turn out, He is telling us how to accomplish that. In an understatement, He advises: “it is better to deny yourself” than it will be to indulge. You may find it a “cross” as you do, but if you deny yourself now it will let you escape “hell” in the future. It is kindly advice, without a threat. It is a warning about the road you have taken, and guidance on how you can avoid the collision that is coming.
Whatever the “cross” is you take up in your daily effort to live inside the bounds prescribed by the Lord, it will be worth it. By heeding His counsel, you will become someone better and avoid becoming devilish.
The temptations each of us face are unique to the individual. What is universal, however, is the limit placed upon temptations. They are never too great to resist. There is always an escape provided by the Lord. (1 Cor. 10: 13.) Nor are you given any commandment you cannot obey. (1 Nephi 3: 7.) However, that is not to say temptation is easily overcome. Weakness is our lot. (Ether 12: 27.)
What then are you to make of your cross? If you’ve tried to deny yourself and failed, does it mean you are hopeless? Is the persistent failure to lift the cross you have been called to bear proof that you are just unable to merit salvation? Does the relentless return to temptation mean you are lost? Are you necessarily doomed because you have not found the escape promised by Paul’s writing to the Corinthians?
Life is filled with cycles. When we battle and fail one day, then join the battle again, but fail again; then another, and another and another, what is the use? What do we make of such persistent failure, such continuing weakness? Is the lesson that we are lost? Or is it that we are weak? Weaker than we had ever imagined. Weaker than you could ever suppose man to be. (Moses 1: 10.) Is this evidence that you are doomed? Or is it merely a patient God proving to your utter satisfaction that you are indeed in need of saving grace to rescue you from where you find yourself? Is this the moment when, while filling your belly with husks along with the swine you’ve descended to accompany, you wake up? (Luke 15: 11-17.) If you will finally surrender your pride, come forward with a broken heart and real intent, returning to your Father, He will joyfully receive you still. (Luke 15: 18-24.) There is joy in heaven over you when you awaken.
Weakness is nothing, for all are weak. It is a gift, given to break your heart. Your broken heart will qualify you for His company. Whether a leper, an adulteress, a tax collector or a blind man, He can heal it all.  But what He cannot do, and you must alone bring to Him, is that broken heart required for salvation.
William Ernest Henley wrote Invictus:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Orson F. Whitney penned the response in The Soul’s Captain:

Art thou in truth? Then what of him

Who bought thee with his blood?
Who plunged into devouring seas
And snatched thee from the flood?
Who bore for all our fallen race
What none but him could bear. –
The God who died that man might live,
And endless glory share?
Of what avail thy vaunted strength,
Apart from his vast might?
Pray that his Light may pierce the gloom,
That thou mayest see aright.
Men are as bubbles on the wave,
As leaves upon the tree.
Thou, captain of thy soul, forsooth
Who gave that place to thee?
Free will is thine — free agency
To wield for right or wrong;
But thou must answer unto him
To whom all souls belong.
Bend to the dust that head “unbowed,”
Small part of Life’s great whole!
And see in him, and him alone,
The Captain of thy soul.
_______________________________

We choose. We live with our choices. It is better to deny ourselves and take up our individual crosses.

3 Nephi 12: 27-29


“Behold, it is written by them of old time, that thou shalt not commit adultery;  But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart.  Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart;”
 
Here it is again – the heart. It is the intent and not just the act. It is not enough that you stop short of doing the thing commanded in the Law of Moses. Christ is attacking the root cause, the internal trouble which causes the mistakes.
 
The Law of Moses is not being replaced with a new era of easy grace triggered by confession for salvation. The Head of the new Dispensation, Christ, is instead providing a much higher standard for mankind to adopt in place of  carnal commandments.
 
You must raise your thoughts to a higher level. Sexual appetites and passions must be kept within the bounds the Lord has prescribed. For this new, higher standard, it is not enough to just refrain from immoral acts, but you must purge thoughts. Neither lust of a woman, nor any of “these things” should “enter into your heart.” This uniform standard applies to all: male and female, married or single, without regard to who or what causes your lusts. It is universal.
The raging controversy going on at present over President Packer’s last General Conference address entirely misses the point. Whether your sexual attraction is male or female, it is to be confined in thought and deed to the bounds prescribed by the Lord, and the Lord has rather clearly identified the bounds in this sermon.
 
The heart is where sin begins. So it is the heart which Christ would have us cleanse. All else will follow.
No one knows how formidable an obstacle this is until they have confronted it themselves. Nor can a person who confronts this challenge succeed at the first attempt. C.S. Lewis made such a profound observation on this subject it is worth quoting here:
“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because he was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means–the only complete realist.” (CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 11.)
 
Those who would rather settle into a comfortable enjoyment of their sins find discomfort in being reminded they are wrong. So when President Packer reminds them of this, it is painful, and they want him to retract his words. It would be better to consider them, for whether he retracts them or not, it will not change the underlying problem of sin. Only by confronting and overcoming sins within us will we ever become people who will be preserved in the coming harvest.
 
Imagine, if you can, the idea of impurity being a compound which exists within you. A compound that could be identified by the Lord and burned away. Think of it like the fuller’s soap or the refiner’s fire, where impurity is removed and something pure and clean is left behind. (Mal. 3: 2-3.) To survive that burning purge there must be so little to burn away that the injury from the burn will not threaten life. It is a useful way to examine what is inside you. And a useful way to reconsider your thoughts.
 
This leads to the final question: What is the difference between the mind and the “heart?” This commandment addresses the “heart” in you. What is the “heart?”

3 Nephi 12: 25-26

 
“Agree with thine adversary quickly while thou art in the way with him, lest at any time he shall get thee, and thou shalt be cast into prison.  Verily, verily, I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence until thou hast paid the uttermost senine. And while ye are in prison can ye pay even one senine? Verily, verily, I say unto you, Nay.”
 
This notion of agreeing with your adversaries is difficult for most people. It requires you to submit to what is sometimes unjust demands. He is saying to submit anyway. Do not rebel against the adversaries in life, but accommodate them.
 
Give to the unjust what they demand, so that they may see your good works and understand there is a higher way. Without your example, they cannot understand.
 
Retaliation continues the cycles. Someone eventually needs to lay down their just claim for retribution and simply take the injury without returning anything in return. This was what Christ did. He took everyone’s injuries and returned only forgiveness.
 
Now He asks for His followers to do some of the same. The failure to tolerate injustice can spiral into continuing the conflict, until there is prison. The prison to fear is not one made by men. But if you are cast into that prison then you cannot come out until you have paid the highest price. (D&C 76: 84-85, 105-106.) It is better to repent because this payment made even God, the greatest of all, to tremble with pain and shrink from the burden. (D&C 19: 15-18.)
 
It is not possible to pay the price while in prison. The price must be paid by a person while in the flesh. (Luke 16: 22-26.) Any who are consigned to prison dwell in darkness, awaiting deliverance from Him whom they rejected while in the flesh. (D&C 138: 20-22.) They become dependent upon others working to pay the debt on their behalf. (D&C 138: 33.)
The sermon delivered by Christ is the foundation of how man ought to relate to fellow-man. It is the pattern on which it becomes possible to dwell in peace with one another. It is the groundwork for Zion.
 
We need to look at this sermon as the guideline for changing our internal lives, so we may become a fit and proper resident with others who are Saints. Even Saints will give inadvertent offenses. Even Saints will disappoint one another from time to time. To become “one” in the sense required for redeeming a people and restoring them again to Zion is beyond any person’s reach if they cannot internalize this sermon.
 
The purpose of this sermon is not to equip you to judge others. It has no use for that. It is designed to change you. You need to become something different, something higher, something more holy. That will require you to reexamine your heart, your motivations, and your thoughts. It will require you to take offenses and deliberately lay them down without retaliation. When you do, you become someone who can live in peace with others. Living in peace with others is the rudimentary beginning of Zion. It will not culminate in a City set on the hilltop until there is a population worthy of dwelling in the high places, in peace, without poor among them. (Moses 7: 17-18.)
 
Christ’s sermon is not merely a description of what kind of person He is. It is a description of what kind of person will qualify to live with Him.  (Luke 9: 23.)

3 Nephi 12: 23-24

3 Nephi 12: 23-24:

 
“Therefore, if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me, and rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee— Go thy way unto thy brother, and first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you.”

Notice the offense is taken by the brother, not by you. It is presumed that you haven’t taken offense against him. If he, however, ‘hath aught against thee”–meaning that if you have done anything to cause him an offense, you have steps to take.

 
Notice that your relationship with the Lord comes second, after you have made amends with any you have offended. 
 
You can’t bring “full purpose of heart” when there is a lingering offense you have not attempted to cure. This kind of mental distraction alters you.

If you realize you’ve offended someone it likely means you know your conduct has been uncharitable. You did something wrong. You hurt another.
 
Inventory of your conduct is something to be done before approaching the Lord. If you have offended someone you need to take the steps to free your conscience from it. Only then can you bring “full purpose of heart” in approaching God.

When the heart is right, then the Lord can “receive you.” When the heart is not right, you cannot be received.

He’s said this before, of course. His doctrine in the preceding chapter required repentance before baptism precisely so you could be right in the heart before the ordinance takes place. (3 Nephi 11: 23.)
 
Other Book of Mormon writers said the same thing as well: “For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing. … And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such.” (Moroni 7: 6, 9.) “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.” (2 Nephi 31: 13.) “But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven.” (Moroni. 6: 8.)
 
You bring your whole heart to Him. That He can receive. That He can work with. Less than that, it is not possible for Him to offer you anything. You will invariably reject what He offers. Acting as the hypocrite will neither fool you or Him. Hence Nephi’s counsel in 2 Nephi 31: 13 quoted above, and discussed previously in this blog.

3 Nephi 12: 21-22

3 Nephi 12: 21-22:

“Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, and it is also written before you, that thou shalt not kill, and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment of God;  But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”
 
Christ is elevating the Law of Moses by raising the expectation for human conduct. He moves from mere outward conduct into the inner soul of the man. You are not doing as you should if all you do is refrain from killing. Instead, you need to remove anger.
 
The prior obligation (“said by them of old”) focused only on your conduct, now it is your motivation.

You can judge another based on conduct. They either do or do not do something. The conduct is observable, and therefore capable of being judged. Now, however, Christ moves the battleground inside a person.  It is now in the heart. On such terrain as that, man is incapable of knowing, and therefore, of judging.

 
With anything involving truth and rules of conduct, there are always some reasons to depart from the rule. Christ departed from this rule.  So we must consider the departures to understand the rule.
 
First, however, we need to know and understand the rule. The “judgment” which you are “in danger of” by being angry with your brother is not your brother’s anger, but God’s. The judgment of God is provoked by those who are angry with their brother.
 
We are not to be angry with our brother because that is the beginning of a whole sequence of events, the culmination of which may be killing. Before killing, however, there are other troubles and offenses along the way. Anger leads to abuse. It leads to discourtesy, dishonesty, and cheating. It justifies miserable conduct because you think it right to give offenses to another. It corrodes relationships and makes society sick.
If you can prevent this at the heart, you can heal society. Refrain from letting offenses turn into anger. Deal with them inside, showing forgiveness and compassion. He will stress this further in subsequent verses.
 
The terms “Raca” and “fool” are derisive names. Christ is saying that applying derisive names to others is wrong, even damning. He is not preventing you from identifying foolishness. He often spoke of fools and foolishness. (See, e.g., Matt. 23: 17, 19; Matt. 25: 2-8; Luke 12: 20Luke 24: 25-after His resurrection; and 2 Nephi 29: 4,6.) He would even use the term “foolish” in this same sermon. (3 Nephi 14: 26.) So it is not at all inappropriate to use the term “fool” or “foolish” when discussing foolishness. What is wrong it to regard your fellow man with derision and use terms of derision to describe them. 
 
Even with this rue of conduct, however, Christ applied a derisive term to King Herod. He called him “that fox.” (Luke 13:  31-32.) This was a term of derision, but appropriately applied to a wicked king meriting derision.  He was corrupt, evil and vile. Therefore, with respect to Herod, Christ’s example allows for terms of derision to be appropriately applied to those who merit them. Christ was able to weigh the heart. For Him to make that conclusion was a matter of Divine prerogative. I suppose that we are equally entitled to apply such terms of judgment and condemnation, including terms of derision, if we obtain them by inspiration from the Lord. That is, if the Lord inspires such a term of derision to be used, then it would be appropriate despite this verse. For whatever we do, even if sharpness is involved, is appropriate when moved upon by the Holy Ghost. (D&C 121: 43.) So, also, even killing another can be done when the Lord is the one deciding life and death. (1 Nephi 4: 10-13.) 
 
The tendency is to always think the exceptions allow your anger. I would suspect the best approach is to do as Nephi did. That is, insist upon following the one standard of conduct and always refrain. Always. Then, if the Lord is going to have it otherwise, leave it to the Lord to make that insistence so dramatic, so undeniable, so compelling, that you know it is the Lord’s judgment and not your own. Removing anger from the heart is a difficult enough challenge to last the rest of your life. To start thinking any passing offense justifies an exception because it may be “inspired” is the way of a fool. Do as Christ bids you to do in this sermon. If He wants a different approach, you ought to require that to be made absolutely clear by Him before you depart from this standard.
 
Remember how often great souls have interceded for their fellow man.  I’ve written about that so often in my books I won’t repeat it again.  However, intercession for your fellow man, including those who give offense to you, is one of the hallmarks of the saved soul. This is who Abraham was, and why he became a friend of God. I’ve hesitated to even discuss the exceptions to the rule because everyone wants the exceptions to apply to them. No one wants to comply with the rule. The higher way is, however, found in following the rule. It should be an absolute sacrifice, and a painful one at that, for the exception to be applied in your life. If an inspired condemnation is required at your hand and by your voice, then immediately afterwards you should make intercession with the Lord for those condemned. That is the way of those who know the Lord. Those who have been forgiven much– including those who have been forgiven everything– always love much in return.  (Luke 7: 47.)

3 Nephi 12: 20

Therefore come unto me and be ye saved; for verily I say unto you, that except ye shall keep my commandments, which I have commanded you at this time, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
There goes the argument that all you need do to be saved is “confess Jesus.” It doesn’t work that way. You must keep His commandments. If you don’t, then “ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” It is not possible to “come unto [Him]” and “be saved” without also keeping His commandments. It is the only true measure of coming to Him. And “except ye shall keep [His] commandments… ye can in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Entry is barred unless you follow Him. If He needed baptism to enter, then clearly we do as well. (2 Nephi 31: 5.)
There is no space between faith in Christ and behavior evidencing that faith. There is no dichotomy between “grace” and “works” because it is by our conduct we merit grace. Christ received grace by the things He did. (D&C 93: 11-14.) The manner by which we receive grace is through keeping His commandments. (D&C 93: 19-20.)
Grace, or power to move closer to God, is also an increase of light. Light grows only as you move closer to it. But you have choice, and must elect to move closer to the light. (D&C 93: 27-28; D&C 50: 23-25.) The great proof text for salvation by confession of faith alone is Romans 10: 9: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” This is offered as if Paul had priority over Christ, if the two conflict. However, Paul does not conflict, for in the same letter he teaches: “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?  But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.” (Romans 6: 16-17.) Righteousness comes by obedience. Obedience requires action. Without conforming conduct to the Lord’s commandments, it is impossible to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Paul understood this, and lived his life accordingly. Who worked more than Paul to spread the Gospel? If his life was filled with works from the time of his conversion to the time of his martyrdom, then does not his example prove the necessity of obedience to the Lord’s commandments? How then are his words twisted to mean confession alone, without obedience, can save? Even if someone were mistaken and in good faith sincerely believed Paul to justify salvation by confession alone, how did Paul become greater than Christ?
The Lord’s instructions are clear and obedience to His and the Father’s commandments are a threshold requirement for salvation. Without obedience to them you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. 
Grace is a gift, but the gift must be received. Only those willing to “receive” it, merit grace. (D&C 88: 32-35.) It is “received” in the way the Lord ordained and in no other way. (D&C 130: 21.) 
Only the deceived or the wicked would contradict the Lord’s teaching that “except ye keep [His] commandments” then “ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Yet there are those who both make this claim in the various Protestant denominations, and are trying to advance this position into the LDS faith, as well. We would be better served by forgetting how to make ourselves seem more Protestant, and instead accepting and teaching what Christ established as the sole basis for entering the kingdom of heaven.

3 Nephi 12: 19

 
“And behold, I have given you the law and the commandments of my Father, that ye shall believe in me, and that ye shall repent of your sins, and come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Behold, ye have the commandments before you, and the law is fulfilled.”
 
This hearkens back to the doctrine of Christ given preliminarily to the audience. Repent. Be baptized.  Receive the Holy Ghost. These commandments are the foundation upon which all else is to be built.
 
To all that He explained before, He has added, “repent of your sins, and come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” Repenting will be accompanied by a broken heart and contrite spirit. When you turn to Him and see clearly for the first time how dark your ways have been, it should break your heart. You should realize how desperately you stand in need of His grace to cover you, lift you, and heal you. You can then appreciate the great gulf between you and Him. (Moses 1: 10.)
If you had to bear your sins into His presence it would make you burn with regret and fear. (Mormon 9: 3-5.) Your own heart must break.
 
When you behold how little you have to offer Him, your spirit becomes contrite. He offers everything.  And we can contribute nothing but our cooperation. And we still reluctantly give that, or if we give a little of our own cooperation we think we have given something significant. We have not. Indeed, we cannot. (Mosiah 2: 20-21.) He honors us if He permits us to assist. We should proceed with alacrity when given the chance to serve.
 
How patiently He has proceeded with teaching us all. We have the law, we have the commandments.  Still we hesitate. Still He invites and reminds us: Repent. Come to Him. Do what was commanded. The law is fulfilled, and He is its fulfillment. Look to Him and be saved.
 
The heart that will not break does not understand the predicament we live in. The proud spirit is foolish and blind. Our perilous state is such that we can forfeit all that we have ever been by refusing Christ’s invitation to repent and turn again to Him.
 
But we still hesitate. We still hold back.

He really can save you. He has that power. He holds those keys. Even death and hell are conquered by Him. (Mosiah 15: 7-9.) But His victory cannot become ours unless we repent and turn again to Him.

 
Think of those you have lost to the grave.  All those living will likewise be lost unless we come to Christ.  We have hope only in Him.

It seems too simple a thing to achieve so great a result. It has always been like that. (1 Nephi 17: 41.) Look to Him and be saved. Keep His commandments. Repent. He can and will lead you from wherever you find yourself at present back into the light. It really does not matter what foolish traps you have surrounding you. So soon as you turn to face Him, He will direct you back safely. Repent and keep His commandments and they will bring you to Him.

3 Nephi 12: 17-18

 
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets. I am not come to destroy but to fulfil;  For verily I say unto you, one jot nor one tittle hath not passed away from the law, but in me it hath all been fulfilled.”
 
The Lord sends ministers with a commission to transition from one dispensation of the Gospel to another. From Adam until Enoch there was an order, but with Enoch that order changed. Wickedness and rebellion required a new approach, and Enoch was commissioned to bring it about. (Moses 6: 32-34.) Mankind was in such a state of rebellion that their time was to end.  Enoch gathered together people upon a high mountain where he established a city which would survive the destruction by becoming Zion. (Moses 7: 17-21.)
 
Soon after Enoch was called, the Lord called another, giving him also a dispensation of the Gospel. He, however, was to remain on the earth. (Moses 7: 42-43; Genesis 6: 12-14.) With him a new covenant was made. (Genesis 9: 8-9.)
 
Both Enoch and Noah were contemporaries, but each had been given a dispensation of the Gospel. The covenant with Enoch did not disannul the covenant with Adam. Nor did the covenant with Noah contradict the covenant with Enoch.
 
Abraham also received a dispensation of the Gospel. (Abr. 2: 8-12.) Moses also. (Moses 1: 3-4.)
 
Christ also received a dispensation of the Gospel in the same manner as all those who went before. (Matt. 4: 11; Matt. 17: 1-3.)
 
Christ fulfilled all the law. Not merely the Law of Moses, which indeed pointed to Him (Galatians 3: 24), but also every part of the Gospel from Adam to Christ’s earthly ministry. (Jacob 4: 4; also 7: 11.) All have testified of Him and He has completed His ministry in strict conformity with all that was foreshadowed, all that was prophesied, all that was anticipated of Him. Just how completely He did this is not possible to understand with the current state of our scriptures. But He did fulfill all righteousness, complete every assignment, accomplish every task and live in conformity with every prophesy concerning Him. 

Not one matter respecting Him was left undone. From His hair to His feet, all that was foreshadowed or prophesied was done by Him. He turned not His face from those who spit at Him. (Isa. 50: 6; Matt. 26: 57.) He let Himself be shorn as a sheep and kept silent as it was done. (Isa. 53: 7.)

 
He inherited Kingship, but deferred His reign to another time. (John 18: 36.)
 
He fulfilled, but did not destroy. In this He was like those whom He sent before to complete and open anew. In one hinge point of history a dispensation closes and another opens. Enoch and Noah, Abraham and Moses were all commissioned to open and close. For the Lord, however, He divided the spoil. He sent John to close (D&C 84: 27-28), leaving it to Himself to open (John 8: 12). Mankind cannot measure humility or meekness, but in Christ was a fullness of both.
 
Men in their insecurity and vanity want honors, awards, recognition and fame.  The Lord has hidden from us most of what He did, most of what He is. He is content to confine the record of His doings to the minimum necessary for our understanding so we may have faith in Him. But the extent of His doings mankind has yet to find out. (D&C 76: 2.) This is more than a tribute to Him.  He has understated His accomplishments. He has hidden His glory from us. He has made less of Himself, that we may not be unable to identify with Him. He is meeker and more humble than mankind understands.

He can be trusted with all power because He will never abuse it. (Matt. 28: 18.) He will use it to serve others. (Luke 22: 27.)

 
In Christ was all fulfilled. In Him is all fulfilled. In Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily. (Col. 2: 9.) He is the light who came to His own, but we will not receive Him. (John 1: 10-11.)
 
He was, He is, and He has risen. Above all others and all else, He has risen.  And because of this He has made it possible for others also to rise. Everything He has done was in fulfillment of the law, pointing for us the way. Now it is only left for us to follow, trusting in Him.

3 Nephi 12: 14-16

 
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.  Behold, do men light a candle and put it under a bushel? Nay, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house; Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
 
Here, again, is a reference to Zion. Zion will be that city upon a hill which cannot be hidden. It will tower over the landscape, elevated both physically and spiritually. It will be the mountain of the Lord in the top of the mountains. (Isa. 2: 2-3.) He will dwell there. (2 Nephi 14: 5; D&C 76: 66; 84: 2.) I’ve already addressed this and won’t repeat it again here.
 
What is the “light” which you are to be to “this people?” Who are “this people?” What is to be a “light of this people?”
 
If you have light, how is it to be shared? Within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the obligation to preach, teach, exhort and expound is imposed upon everyone having the office of Priest and above. (D&C 20: 46.)  Members of both sexes were commanded in 1832 to teach one another the doctrines of the Gospel. (D&C 88: 77.) If you have light and refuse to share it with others, are you putting a candle under a bushel?
 
How do you let the light you have shine through “good works?” That is how it is supposed to be shown. Christ’s teaching explains that people are to see your “good works” as the means for your light to shine. How would that be accomplished?
 
Most interesting of all is that upon seeing your good works, the glory is to be given “your Father who is in heaven.” How would your works reflect on Him rather than on yourself? What would you need to do in order for those benefited by your efforts to turn their thanks to God, rather than to you?
 
If you were interested in your good works reflecting credit to “your Father who is in heaven” how many monuments would you want built to your memory?  How many buildings would you want named after you? How many statutes would you want carved of your likeness and put on display for men to admire?
 
The light should point to the Lord, who can save. It is nevertheless the case that some have become subjects of adoration or veneration despite their inability to save anyone. Those who are distracted from following the Lord become Telestial and continue to suffer the deaths of false religion. (D&C 76: 99-101.) These are no better than the liars, adulterers and whoremongers.  (D&C 76: 103-104.) They became these vessels of God’s wrath because they worshiped men, rather than God. If, therefore, prophets such as Moses, Elias, John, Peter and Enoch have such followers despite preaching that salvation is in Christ alone, then how much worse is it for a man to intentionally cultivate adoration for himself? How much worse is it to deliberately invite this error? 
 
What steps should you take to make certain there are no thunderous celebrations broadcast on television on your birthdays? How quick would you be to reaffirm you are nothing and no-one, and salvation is through Christ and not a man? How clear would you be about your own weakness, foolishness and inability to save another? How often would you point to the Lord who alone can save?
 
It is not enough to be religious. Hell will be filled with the religious. It is not enough to proclaim you have light if you do not live according to its principles. The sermon we are looking at now is the Lord’s careful formulation of the principles which will save. He delivered it often during His mortal ministry. When He was resurrected and ministered to lost sheep, including the Nephites, He delivered the same address to them all.

Above all other sources of information about the path back to God, this is the greatest message of all. Within it are the very steps that are required for life and salvation, spoken by the author of salvation.

3 Nephi 12: 13

3 Nephi 12: 13:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the salt of the earth; but if the salt shall lose its savor wherewith shall the earth be salted? The salt shall be thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men.”

Salt is a preservative, but in this case it is for the culinary benefit. It produces “savor.” That is, the taste of the whole is affected by the presence of a little.
You don’t need much to preserve the whole. Abraham’s negotiation to preserve Sodom demonstrated that only a little of the “salt” is required for an entire population to receive the Lord’s blessings. (Genesis 18: 17-33.) Progress is enough in our day. (Luke 13: 30.) As long as the wheat is still growing, it is enough.

How can salt “lose its savor” except through contamination or impurities? When that is lost, the salt cannot preserve. There is no remaining savor. Then the salt is nothing more than common dirt, to be cast aside and trodden under foot.

This is the gentile predicament in the last days. They will, of course, lose their savor. They will reject the fullness offered to them. (3 Nephi 16: 10.) When they do, they will be torn apart and trodden under foot. (3 Nephi 20: 163 Nephi 21: 12.)

Notice it is the Lord who “gives unto you to be the salt of the earth.” This condition is a gift from God. Through repentance, or turning to Him, you can receive this. Without repentance you cannot become the salt.

There are no private lives. Every life counts. Your private devotions are more important than your public notice. The salt which preserves may be unknown, likely is unknown, to most people. But if you are the salt, then your private life of devotion to the Lord is saving the lives of many others. The angels want to begin the harvest. They are impatient to begin reaping and cutting down the wicked now. (D&C 86: 5.) There is only time given because of a few who deserve more time to grow in faith before the harvest begins. (D&C 86: 6-7.) Your growth is all that is keeping the harvest from beginning now. Therefore, how you proceed has consequences far beyond your own life.

When wheat is ripe it will be protected. When tares are ripe they will be burned. But the tender plants worthy of preservation are the only ones allowed more time. (D&C 86: 4.) I advocate for them and realize how tenuous a position humanity itself is in at present. But you are the ones in the balance and for whom time is granted. How much longer no one knows, but your sins are not private. Your repentance is critical to all of creation. Do not think your life is your own. All of us have a share in your good works.

Do not think the Savior’s words are without cosmic significance. I define “cosmic” to include the cosmos or organized creation here. Even the earth itself longs to be freed from the burden of sin upon her face. (Moses 7: 48.) It is the Lord alone who has granted you time to repent. This current state of the creation we live is affected by the promise held in those who are repenting. As soon as that hope ends, and no further repentance is to occur, then the harvest will begin. Therefore, becoming salt has never been so important as it now is.

3 Nephi 12: 11-12

3 Nephi 12: 11-12:

“And blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake; For ye shall have great joy and be exceedingly glad, for great shall be your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you.”
 
If your actions are misjudged, that is only normal. There have been charlatans using religion to cloak their evil deeds from the beginning of time. They are so widespread, so often exposed for what they really are, that humanity has a legitimate skepticism about those who come in the name of the Lord.
 
From Jimmy Swaggart’s prostitutes to Ted Haggard’s homosexual encounters, the evangelical world has been rocked by the sexual misconduct of ministers. Catholic priesthood sexual abuse has been so widespread that there is a whole legal industry devoted to bringing and defending claims from victims of that abuse. The LDS Church has quietly settled a number of claims on both coasts and adjusted how membership records are documented and what precautions are taken when calling a man to teach in Primary because of sexual misconduct and associated legal claims. 
 
The Burt Lancaster film Elmer Gantry was based on the Sinclair Lewis novel and illustrated the life and deeds of a false prophet. Indeed, the term “prophet” is rarely used in modern vernacular outside of LDS circles unless coupled with the term “false.” “False prophet” is expected. What is unexpected is the contrary.
 
So when first reactions are taken, it will always be to sneer, to jeer, to mock and to suspect those who come in the name of the Lord. They are right to do that. Everyone OUGHT to question motives. Everyone OUGHT to think you’re a fraud. They should expect you are like all those others in whom society trusted. No one wants to follow Jim Jones to their death, drinking strychnine laced Kool-Aid in another mass-suicide. That has happened too often already. Indeed, the fruits of such false prophets have been so devastating, so evil, so wrong in spirit and result that only a fool would be eager to trust you even should you have a pure heart and a true message.
 
The first reaction should be skepticism which will result in an attempt to measure your sincerity. Until you’ve been tested by the world, there is no reason for the world to believe anything you have to say. They will revile you, thinking you just another fraud. They will persecute you as if a charlatan, though you are His disciple. They will say all manner of evil against you falsely, all the while thinking they are only giving you what you deserve.
 
This is how the world decides if you are following Him. They have seen and heard no end of those who have claimed to follow Him, and you are no different in their eyes. That is, until you have actually followed Him;  borne their criticism, returned good for evil, and shown how devoted you are in fact, as Christ will address in coming verses. When you have proven your devotion, then some few will soften their hearts. Others will remain unwilling to admit the truth, even when it is apparent you are His.
 
This is the way in which Christ lived His life. These teachings are an explanation of Him. And, in turn, it is also an explanation of the lives of any who follow Him. To follow Him, and to learn of His ways always requires experiencing some of what He experienced. While He assumed a full measure of these teachings, we are required to experience some of what He did only to allow us to understand Him. But these teachings are meant to be lived. They are meant to be applied and tested. If you test them, you will discover Him through them.
 
You will also come to know and understand the prophets who went before. This is a timeless brotherhood. Some of them invariably also come to succor their fellow Saint. This is always the same when the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is lived on the earth.

3 Nephi 12: 10

“And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”


It is not just persecution, but persecution “for [His] name’s sake” that makes you blessed. When you are doing what you should for His name’s sake, you are likely to provoke persecution. He will later explain this is almost inevitable. It won’t be because you are provoking it by your obnoxious behavior. It is because people will question your sincerity and commitment. The world expects hypocrites. They regard everyone with suspicion. And, let’s face it, most charlatans adopt religion as one of their cloaks. We’ll get to that a little further into this sermon from the Lord.


The kind of persecution which produces the “kingdom of heaven” is, of course, martyrdom. Originally the word “martyr” meant witness, but so many of the early Christian witnesses were killed that it came to have the modern meaning, that is one who dies for their faith.


Martyrs were seen in John’s vision below the altar of God. (Rev. 6: 9.) This of course means they were holy because of their sacrifice. The heavenly altar being a symbol of them having shed their blood as witnesses. Joseph Smith and Hyrum joined those who qualified for such a witness. (D&C 135: 7.)


Zenos, author of the Olive Tree allegory (Jacob 5: 1), prophet of the three days of darkness upon the isles of the sea (1 Ne. 19: 10), witness of the Lord’s burial in a sepulcher (1 Ne. 19: 10) seven centuries before His birth, was slain for his testimony (Helaman 8: 19).


Stephen was killed for his testimony but clearly inherited the kingdom of heaven. (Acts 7: 55-59.)


There are many others, including Able, Isaiah, Peter, Paul and Abinadi.


Blessed are those who are willing to endure persecution for His name’s sake.  For they are those who are willing develop faith which cannot be obtained in any other way. It is through the sacrifice of all things that faith necessary for salvation is developed. Read again the post on Lecture 6 of the Lectures on Faith on April 21, 2010.


Beginning with faith to follow Him, then enduring persecution as a result, to offering the sacrifice necessary to develop faith, then inheriting the kingdom of heaven, the Gospel of Christ is one great whole.


Sometimes we bring persecution upon ourselves because we are unwise. The Lord will address that. We are to take offenses, but not give them. When we unwisely give offenses and cause persecution, that is not for His name’s sake.  There is a balance between wisdom and righteousness.


As an aside on the subject of persecution I wanted to add this:


I’ve thought about Elder Packer’s talk and the homosexual community’s reaction to it. Elder Packer was right, and he was addressing a community of believers who look to him for teachings like the ones given in that talk.  Nobody ought to take offense at that. If you can prevent Elder Packer’s teaching in that setting, then you can invade and stop talk in any setting on any subject.


However, nothing in that talk would encourage or justify invading the privacy and causing the shame visited upon the Rutgers University student who committed suicide. The invasion of his privacy was cruel, the act of publicizing it was a calculated act of terrible insult. His grief, despair and subsequent suicide are the fault of those who invaded his privacy and exposed his weakness. It was wrong. Elder Packer’s talk was to benefit a community of believers, not to persecute an audience of unbelievers.


I have friends I ride Harley’s with who have absolutely no interest in Mormonism. One of my dear friends hates my church, thinks it barbaric and unenlightened. But that does not stop our mutual friendship nor define the areas about which we find common ground. Another person’s differing views are only offensive when they demand I accede to them. If they will suspend judgment against me because of my faith, I am willing to suspend judgment against them because of theirs. This ought to define the boundaries of conduct, not militant demands for conceding the argument on questions of faith and belief. I can believe that my friend’s lifestyle is corrupt and even immoral. But so long as he does not expect me to join him, I am pleased to be a friend, share what we have in common, and leave our differences for polite disagreement.


There are some sins I simply do not understand. But if my friendship may help someone to understand my faith, then I would sooner be friends with someone of another faith than one of my own. I do not expect many people to accept what I believe. In fact, I think there are very few fellow Latter-day Saints who believe or understand the Gospel as I do. If I were to limit my friends to those with whom I have everything in common, then my wife and children alone would be my friends.


Elder Packer should have the right to speak and preach the truth as he understands it. Those who would censor him are wrong.


If he is mistaken, then point out his error in a kindly way and seek to reclaim him. But condemning, protesting and attacking only shows intolerance and coercion which all of us have a responsibility to resist and condemn. It is wrong when the homosexual community does it, and it is wrong when the church does it. Win the argument with persuasion and strong reasoning.  Yelling, condemning and protesting only attempts to silence thought, not to provoke it into correct understanding.


Now I’m off topic…

3 Nephi 12: 9

3 Nephi 12: 9:

“And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
More often than not those who are “peacemakers” will be abused. They will at least have to endure aggression and give a soft word in return. (Prov. 15: 1.) There will be no end to the peace which comes from Christ because there was no end to the suffering He was willing to endure. (Isa. 9: 7.)
When we hearken to the Lord’s commandments we have peace like a river flowing. (Isa. 48: 18.) This is because the Lord will fight for you, and you can hold your peace. (Exo. 14: 14.) The Lord will fight Zion’s battles. (D&C 105: 14.)
When a man is right before God, even his enemies are at peace with him. (Prov. 16: 7.) At least until his time comes and his mission is completed. (D&C 122: 9; John 19: 10-11.)
When the Lord was taken with violence and crucified, He was at peace. (Luke 23: 24.) He purchased peace through what He suffered. He alone can share that with all. (Isa. 53: 5.)
Through Him, the “peacemakers” have found this peace. This is why they have become His “children” for He has begotten them. (Mosiah 27: 25.)
In a world of violence and abuse, it is peace we seek. But that peace comes only to the children of God and only because they know they are the children of God. At their rebirth, they are at rest from the cares of this dreary world, and informed by a better promise of things to come. (See Alma 13: 29, and our earlier discussion about that verse; see Moroni 7: 3.)
Those who bring peace bring hope to this world. This world if filled with tribulation, but the Lord has overcome this world. (John 16: 33.)  Many have experienced this peace, become children of God, and then been persecuted, hated, reviled and killed. (Hebrews 11: 33-35.)
Peace is a gift from Christ, and His peace is for this world and for the world to come. (John 14: 27.) But the promise of triumph is hereafter, when the world can no longer make any claim upon a child of God.  (D&C 122: 4 and 135: 6-7.)
Though a man may declare peace, the world will not be at peace until the Lord slays the wicked. (Rev. 19: 11-16.) Peace, as all other sacred things in our day, must be internal. We live in a day of overwhelming ignorance, foolishness and wickedness. It is not possible to obtain peace except on the terms which allow it. If you live those, you will have peace. But the world will not live them with you.
Patrick Henry put the problem of peace in this world into immortal words: “Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
The war remains today, but now it is against all righteousness. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Eph. 6: 12.) Elder Packer cannot even preach a sermon to a congregation of Saints belonging to a church over which he holds office without the anger and vilification of the homosexual community and others being aroused. 
If you are to find peace, and to become a peacemaker here, then it is through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The world will not know peace again until He returns. To be a child of God and know peace is, in our day, to cry repentance and to bring others to Christ.

3 Nephi 12: 8

3 Nephi 12: 8:

“And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
This is a remarkable promise. Would you like to see God? Then first purify your heart.
Notice this is not just ritual purity, which had been the focus of the Law of Moses. Christ is replacing earlier ritual based purity with internal purity. 

He speaks about the heart, rather than the hands and feet. Christ is speaking about beholding God, unlike the retreat Israel took from the offered opportunity at Sinai. (See D&C 84: 22-25.) He is returning to the time of Moses, when a higher way might have been chosen.

Purity of the heart is a borrowed benefit from the Savior. Man cannot become clean before God without the necessary offering of a sacrifice. The Law of Moses taught this, but Christ would actually bring it to pass. (See, e.g., Alma 34: 36.)
Christ’s atonement cleanses us. (Alma 13: 11; Ether 13: 10.)
When we repent we turn to Christ and listen to and follow Him. Until then, we are not even facing the right direction in life.  
Some reminders of how the heart may be purified:
-Let virtue constantly prevail in your thoughts. (D&C 121: 45.)
-Pray to the Father with a devoted heart. (Moroni 7: 48.)
-Repent and call upon God with a contrite spirit, asking the atonement to be applied to your sins. (Mosiah 4: 2.)
-Fast and pray often, that you may become humble. (Helaman 3: 35.)
-Follow what light you have to receive more light, until you have the “perfect day” in which you are a vessel of light. (D&C 50: 24; D&C 93: 28.)

It is also interesting that what must be “pure” is the “heart.” There are so many other things one might measure. But what the Lord looks upon to determine purity is the “heart.”

I’ve said that there is almost nothing about us that can become perfect in this life. The only thing that can approach perfection, however, is our intent. We can mean to follow God at all times. Even if the dilemmas of life make it impossible to actually do so, we can still intend to follow Him. We may not even know if what we are doing pleases Him, or how to resolve conflicting interests or commandments. We may even be making a mistake, but if our intent is right, our hearts may be pure.
This is also one of the reasons we cannot judge another. They may be weak, foolish and error prone, but if they intend to be doing the right then God alone can measure their heart and decide whether they are approved. It would take a God to know if the person’s life, training, understanding and intent are pure before Him. I suspect there are those we look upon as deluded and even evil but the Lord views them with compassion and understanding. He may find their hearts to be perfect even before the heart of the proud who claim they have and follow the truth. Though a person may misunderstand a great deal, still if they have love for their fellow man, relieve suffering where they can, give patience to the foolish and water to the thirsty, they may be perfect before God. (Luke 18: 9-14.)
There are so many illusions here. Some who are regarded as high and lifted up by God, temperate in their conduct, studying how they are seen by others before acting; are in fact wretched, miserable, poor and naked. (Rev. 3: 14-17.) I say with authority that there are some regarded as the very chiefest of the righteous among the Latter-day Saints who are before God wretched, miserable, poor and naked. They cannot survive even a glance from His all seeing eye. Yet they pretend they share in His vision, when they do not.

How few hearts are pure before God. How rare a thing it is to contemplate such a person. How few we produce in this restoration of the Gospel. We remain as a people too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending to be called of God. No wonder we stumble and fall backward and many are taken in snares. (Isa. 8: 11-17.)

3 Nephi 12: 7

3 Nephi 12: 7:

“And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

The standard applied to us is the standard we apply to others. This is repeatedly set out in scripture:

Alma teaching his son Corianton recorded: “Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.  For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all.” (Alma 41: 14-15.)

 
Moroni’s final discussion about the Gospel included these words: “And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.”  (Moroni 7: 18.) 
 
Peter asked a practical question about the extent of forgiving others. He wanted a mathematical limit to be set. The Lord, however, raised the limit beyond an ability to reasonably count: “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” (Matt. 18: 21-22.)

There are others. I’d commend the chapter on the Atonement in Come, Let Us Adore Him for a more complete explanation of this doctrine.
 
If you want mercy from the Lord, you must give it to your fellow man. If you do not show mercy to your fellow man, the Lord cannot provide it to you. There is a law which binds the Lord to the same standard you set for yourself. It is an irrevocable law. Therefore, the Lord teaches us to show mercy so that we might merit mercy. We are the final beneficiaries of all the mercy we show to others.
 
It really is true that “what you send out shall return unto you again,” to quote Alma. This is called “karma” in another faith. It is a true principle. Perhaps it operates within an larger time frame than just this life, but it operates, nonetheless. Alma knew the truth and was teaching it to his son.
 
It was Laban’s judgment of Nephi and his brothers that got him killed. I’ve discussed this in The Second Comforter. It was his decision that a robber was worthy of death (1 Nephi 3: 13) which sealed his fate. For when he became a robber (1 Nephi 3: 25), then the Lord was free to show him the same judgment he had rendered (1 Nephi 4: 11). Sometimes what you send out returns to you again in this life