After explaining his basic doctrine to the Nephites after the destruction in the New World (chapter 11), Jesus Christ elaborated on what that doctrine meant in more specific and relevant terms, culminating in the announcement that the Law of Moses was now complete, and the people were to live the simple law of the gospel.
When we read these chapters of 3 Nephi, it is very instructive to take note of and mark who the audience is in each instance, especially since it is very specifically noted by the author. I like to draw a box around the audience. For example, in 3 Nephi 11 we read that the whole multitude
fell to the earth to worship Christ, and that he invited them all to come forth and touch him and witness of his sacrifice. Then in verse 18, he instructed Nephi
to come forward and receive the authority to baptize, and in verse 22, others
received this same power and the instruction in how to do it, and the doctrine of Christ was explained to these, clearly now in leadership positions. Interesting! He didn't teach this doctrine to everyone.
In 3 Nephi 12:1, when Christ was through speaking to Nephi and the 12 apostles
, they are now called, "He stretched forth his hand unto the multitude and cried unto them, saying: Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you and to be your servants..." This was how the doctrine of Christ was going to be taught to everyone--just as it is today--by the leadership who received it from Christ.
And in another way, still used today: member missionary work, as He spoke to the multitude. "And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am. Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall received a remission of their sins." (3 Nephi 12:2)
(Why did he give Nephi authority to baptize when he obviously had already been baptizing? Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, "We read that the Savior commanded Nephi and the people to be baptized again, because he had organized anew the Church under the gospel. Before that it had been organized under the law [of Moses]." [Doctrines of Salvation 2:336])
For discussion on the beatitudes, go to the New Testament Lesson
. There are a few notable changes to the beatitudes in 3 Nephi versus Matthew. In verse 3: "Blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me..." In verse 6
: "Blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost." In verse 10: "And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name's sake..."
And verse 12: "For ye shall have great joy..." And in each verse, the word all is added, perhaps not as a change from the New Testament message, but just as an emphasis.
HOW TO COME UNTO CHRIST
While explaining His doctrine briefly to the apostles, Jesus said to them twice that they must repent and become as a little child and be baptized in order to receive the Holy Ghost (3 Nephi 11:37) and ultimately to inherit the kingdom of God
(3 Nephi 11:38).
In the first beatitude, he stated, "Blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (3 Nephi 12:3)
What exactly does it mean to become as a little child, and to come unto Christ? Is it just a declaration of belief? Is it just a feeling of humility? The best commentary on scripture is always other scripture. As we read on, we can find another phrase that clarifies that meaning: "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." (3 Nephi 12:20) To "come unto Christ" is not just an ethereal, vague thinking of Christ or a respect and awe of Him, it is a concrete following of him; it is both a state of being and of doing.
THE LAW OF MOSES vs
. THE LAW OF THE GOSPEL
In the rest of Chapter 12, Jesus itemized several rules found in the Law of Moses (or more specifically the rules, traditions, and ethics codes of the rabbis
originally based upon the Old Testament Law of Moses), and how they should be elevated in his not new, but newly reinstated Law of the Gospel. For example, the ten commandments stated "thou shalt not kill," but that is simply a state of doing.
It's clear how to keep from killing someone. But Jesus said, "whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of [God's] judgment, and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca [which is pronounced ray-cah, and means "empty," according to Andrew Skinner, on KBYU's scripture study TV program] shall be in danger of the council, and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." (3 Nephi 21-22) All three of those are basically the same thing: to belittle another with anger while putting ourselves above them (which is pretty much what we are always doing when we are angry, when you think about it) will condemn us. To keep from being angry is not just a state of doing, it is a state of doing and being: of keeping ourselves equal to our brother in our own eyes, and therefore treating him with patience and encouragement, even when he does something dumb.
Throughout the next paragraphs, Christ names other ways in which He expects his disciples to not just follow outward rules and regulations and "ethics," but ways in which He expects them to be and do
what he asks, which is in every instance a way of keeping themselves humble, childlike, and one with
their fellow men:
- apologizing (verses 23-24)
- not creating enmity with others, even if we're sure we're "right" (verses 25-26)
- respecting and honoring the physical bodies and emotional states of ourselves and others by abhoring not only sexual sin, but pornographic thoughts (verses 27-30)
- doing the best for a spouse despite monumental marital problems (verses 31-32), for if a wife were divorced in the Hebrew culture, she was no longer supported by her husband and had very little option for supporting herself except for prostitution which, of course, "causeth her to commit adultery."
- speaking the truth all the time, not just when you are sworn to do so (verses 33-37)
- not worrying about whether you receive recompense for the offense of another against you, but instead seeking peace with him at your personal expense (which ironically brings inner peace to you) (verses 38-41)
- being generous to others without judgment (verse 42)
- and, in summary of all of the above: seeking the best welfare and spiritual growth (another way of saying "love") of everyone, regardless of their position towards you.
In summary, if you live this Law of the Gospel, "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" [a poetic way of saying he loves and blesses both of them] (verse 45). By doing and being as Christ commanded, we become as He and our Father in Heaven are: We become Unconditional Love, which is the way to peace and the way to the kingdom of God.
"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. Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect."
(verses 46-48). Here is another important change: In the New Testament Christ did not include himself in the sentence about who was perfect. But now that he was glorified, he did. No one, not even Christ himself, can be perfected in mortal life.
BUT WAIT--THERE'S MORE!
Chapter 13 continues examples of the importance of being
- Giving alms in secret which creates a change in ourselves, not in our appearance. (verse 1-4)
- Praying privately and sincerely creates a change in ourselves, not in our fellow man's esteem. (verse 5-8) The Lord's Prayer creates a template for us to follow ("after this manner therefore pray ye"), so we know what an appropriate prayer is, which is not like other insincere prayers found in the Book of Mormon (verses 9-13) (Think: Rameumptom).
- Forgiving others allows us to be free of their offense and forgiven of ours, two of the greatest changes needed in our state of being. (verse 14-15)
- Fasting discreetly creates a change within us; we don't need anyone to see a change on the outside. (verse 16-18)
- Collecting material, social, and political treasures does us little good, but living the Gospel and creating changes in our being lays up heavenly treasures, for our being is the only thing we will take with us to heaven, the only heavenly treasure we have. (verse 19-21)
- Keeping an eternal vision ("the light in our eye") keeps our being and our doing on the same path. (verse 22-23)
- Serving God changes our being. Serving Mammon, or material wealth, confuses our development. (verse 24)
A CHANGE OF AUDIENCE
"And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words, he looked upon the twelve whom he had chosen, and said unto them:"
Notice: He did not give this counsel to the multitude. This was for the full-time general authorities. The rest of us are supposed to practice provident living, store food, plan for our future, and not expect God to work everything out for us.
NOW BACK TO THE MULTITUDE WITH MORE DOINGS AND BEINGS...
- It's vital that you remember what I just taught you because it is your responsibility to make sure it is taught and shown to everyone else. This is your main purpose. Therefore, "take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on." The Lord takes care of the creatures and the plants without their having to plan anything themselves, and he will do so for you. Don't plan excessively. Don't worry. Just seek to build up the kingdom and eveything will fall in place for you.
- Don't judge others, because you'll feel judgment by them (either real or imagined) as well as by yourself (comparing yourself to them), and someone always loses. Judging creates a state of being that is detrimental to both sides, creating enmity between you and preventing you from noticing and repairing your own faults in an appropriate way, and preventing you from wanting to help lift them. (Chapter 14, verses 1-5)
- Be enlightened by your deep spiritual experiences but don't storytell to others who will not understand them; it will be to the detriment of both of you. (verse 6)
- Treat others as your equals (verse 12). Put their interests as high as your own. This comes not only the Law of Moses, but also from the "prophets" or revelations.
Then, some extremely important counsel: "Ask!" (verses 7-11) So often we forget to ask the Lord our questions, and He generally does not just drop revelation upon us. I'm quite certain that Joseph Smith said that he never received a revelation that was not the answer to a question. I can't find the quote (if I do, I'll fill it in, or maybe someone can stick it in the comments) but it's borne out quite obviously in the Doctrine and Covenants revelations.
And one more bit of vital counsel: How to recognize trustworthy leaders who are servants of the Lord. (By their fruits.) (verse 15-20)
NOT EVERYONE THAT SAYETH TO ME LORD, LORD
And so to summarize this whole concept of the importance of becoming
and not just doing,
Christ said, "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in they name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? (verses 21-22) Isn't it interesting that this condemnation immediately follows Christ's pronouncement that "by their fruits ye shall know" whether someone is a disciple of Christ?
Well, fruits are apparently not just doing, but being, because "then will I profess unto them: I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (verse 23) What??? They just barely said that they did all these great things in Christ's name? What did they do wrong? It was not what they did, it was what they were. Christ never knew them. In Hebrew, to know is to become as one, particularly as in a marital union. If Christ never knew them, it is because they never became united with Him and his purpose. What they did was only for show: for doing alone, and not for becoming.
BUILDING ON THE ROCK
It is a very sandy foundation to be based on outward appearances and observances. Many a Latter-day Saint has lived a dual life: acting pious, while being base. Living a double life never works. Only integrity of purpose with God will create a person who can never be destroyed, no matter what rains descend upon, no matter what floods crash down upon him, and what whirlwinds pull at him to tear him to pieces. The person who follows Christ in both what he does and what he becomes inside, is the person who will inherit the peace of Christ both in this world, and in the world to come.
My niece Natalie Hanson and her young family
outside the Oakland Temple.
She holds the copyright but you may use it for teaching.
Choose Your Own Adventure
When our oldest son was in elementary school, he really enjoyed reading a series of books called Choose Your Own Adventure.
He loved these books because he would read a page, and then he had a choice to make about what the protagonist would do. If he chose one action, he was to turn to a certain page, but if he chose another action, he was to turn to a different page. Then he continued reading, and again had a choice to make. As the cover shows, there were 42 different endings to the book, and the reader's choices selected which one he got. He could read the book again, and come up with a different adventure and a different ending.
3 Nephi 16 is a little bit like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.
The adventure actually begins in 3 Nephi 15:14, with Christ telling the Nephites that the people in Jerusalem did not know about them, and they did not know that He would visit them. He had given them a hint, that "other sheep [He] had which are not of this fold; them also [He] must bring, and they shall hear [His] voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd"
(verse 16-17) but they didn't ask Him anything more about it. He would have revealed this to them if they had asked (3 Nephi 16:4), but they assumed they knew the answer--that it was the Gentiles He was talking about, despite the fact that He had told them He wouldn't go to the Gentiles right away.
How different would the adventure have been if they had asked? And what hints is Christ giving to us about which we don't ask? We must invest something in order to receive revelation; we must at least invest curiosity and desire and a question.
Christ commanded the people of Nephi to write of this encounter with Him so that it would go to the Gentiles after the apostacy of the House of Israel, "that through the fulness of the Gentiles, the remnant of [the House of Israel]...may be brought to a knowledge of me, their Redeemer." (3 Nephi 16:4)
So here is where the Gentiles "Choose Their Own Adventure":
What does the "fulness of the Gentiles" mean? Elder Bruce R. McConkie said it means the time when they have had "a full opportunity to accept the truth." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 2:290)
I think also that the word fulness
in the Book of Mormon often refers to being full of the Holy Ghost, so that through the conversion of the Gentiles, and through their acting upon the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and their testifying through the power of the Holy Ghost, the gospel would be brought back to the House of Israel.
Those Gentiles who take the opportunity to choose the gospel, which will be restored in America and initially available there, will blessed "because of their belief in me, in and of the Holy Ghost, which witnesses unto them of me and of the Father. Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of Israel, in the latter day shall the truth come unto the Gentiles..." (3 Nephi 16:7)
The other choice of adventure?
The Gentiles who don't believe will come to America along with the others, but they will scatter the Native Americans of the House of Israel, and cast them out, and tread them under their feet, and they will be the ones who hate and despise them and cause them so much grief and sorrow--which is a suffering that the Lord allows to come upon the first Americans because of their rejection of the gospel as Lamanites. But this kind of warfare is not what believing Gentiles would do. This is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to displace, torture, and even practice genocide upon another race. It is well-documented that President Joseph Smith sent missionaries to the Native Americans, and that President Brigham Young openly taught the Mormon pioneers to respect and treat kindly the Native Americans. I believe that the tragic scattering and mistreatment of these people was part of the "sinnings against [His] gospel," practiced by the unbelieving Gentiles, condemned in 3 Nephi 16:10.
And here comes the next choice of adventure:
Those Gentiles who sin against the gospel, reject it, consider themselves better than other nations or peoples (including the American Indians), participate in sexual misconduct, murder, organized crime, churches that prey upon people for money, etc., will lose the opportunity for the gospel
and God will turn again to the House of Israel and bring His gospel unto them. (3 Nephi 16:10-11).
And the next choice for the American branch of the House of Israel:
If the descendants of the Lamanites choose the gospel, the Gentiles will no longer have power to oppress them. (3 Nephi 16:12)
And the next choice for the Gentiles:
Even if they were in the "unbelieving" group, if they will now "repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel" and they will not suffer a reciprocal fate of being trodden down themselves (3 Nephi 16:13-14), BUT...
If they don't choose the gospel, they'll be beaten down and become worthless, like salt that has lost its savor. Salt has one purpose and if it becomes corrupted and loses its ability to flavor food, it's useless. If these people lose their special stature as believers in Jesus Christ, with the purpose to bring His gospel to the world, they will have no good purpose at all.
And the best choice of adventure:
If both peoples choose the Lord, the words of Isaiah will be fulfilled: "Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing, for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion." (3 Nephi 16:18) There won't be House of Israel vs. Gentiles, or Native Americans vs. Pioneers, or any other peoples vs. any other peoples anymore--they will all be one in the gospel of Jesus Christ and never again will there be a trail of tears.