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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.