3 Nephi 12-16 – The Sermon on the Mount in America

Introduction

These chapters cover Christ’s teaching immediately after his arrival to America after his resurrection. In chapter 11, he allows each of those who happened to be at the Bountiful temple to touch his wounds, he calls twelve among them to lead, and then he provides a brief introduction for what is about to come next. I consider this text the absolute core of Christianity, from which the Book of Mormon provides a direct second witness as the Christ’s sermon on the mount gets repeated a second time.

3 Nephi 12

Jesus works through people, so we need to “give heed” to them to indicate a recognition that Christ speaks to us through human conduits. First to those with authority, the twelve that were called, 3 Nephi 12:1, but also to anyone else who happen to be Christ’s witnesses, both directly and indirectly, 3 Nephi 12:2. The sign that indicates this belief is a willingness to “come down into the depths of humility” and be baptized from which comes the Holy Ghost and “a remission of sins”.

Christ then jumps into the beatitudes, from which Christ connects specific blessings to spiritual gifts of the heart in ways that seem somewhat disconnected. The poor in spirit receive the kingdom of heaven. Those that mourn receive comfort as a blessing. The meek inherit the earth. Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are filled with God’s Spirit. The merciful receive mercy. The peacemakers are called the children of God. These are the same behaviors Christ showed and it’s through these attributes we draw strength.

It’s clear that Christ works through those who have these attributes to bless the whole earth. At least it becomes clear in verse 13-16 comparing Christ’s followers to the salt of the earth giving the world its flavor, or commanding Christians to be lights to the world.

Jesus concludes this chapter by talking in specifics how Christ has come to fulfill the law of Moses. What’s required now is a “broken heart and a contrite spirit” and a directive to “come unto Christ”. What does that mean specifically? It means, not only don’t you take another person’s life, you avoid anger, nor can we come to Christ until we’ve reconciled our broken relationships (12:23, 24). More than that, reconcile disagreements quickly.

Not only shouldn’t we cheat on our spouse, we should avoid lustful desires from entering our hearts at all. We should cherish our marriage relationships and work desperately to make them solid. Our communications should be filled with goodness and integrity. Others should trust us. We should follow through.

The climax of the chapter sums it all up, that we should love our enemies, “bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you” (3 Nephi 12:43).

3 Nephi 13

Jesus continues the sermon in this chapter imploring the people to give to others with sincere, authentic attempt without ulterior or selfish motives. He describes the manner of prayer, to do it in secret, without vain repetitions, with reverence, a willingness to yield to God’s will, a desire to forgive and repent, a plea for strength against temptation, and a recognition of our desire to seek God’s kingdom (3 Nephi 13:1-13). Jesus describes the proper way to fast, implores the people to seek for heavenly and not earthly riches, and to keep our eye single so that our whole body can be full of light.

The final passage of this chapter makes an interesting distinction. Those who are called should be fully focused on the ministry without concern for food, clothing and shelter. This is a directive to the twelve which I think means that most of us should be concerned with these because I think working hard is also a spiritual practice in itself.

3 Nephi 14

This sermon is rapid fire. First he implores the people not to judge unrighteously. He tells the people to hold precious that which is precious, “do not give pearls to swine” but then gives hope. It’s ok to ask questions, to seek, to knock and that as we spend our lives doing so, answers will come. Christ talks about the strait gate and the narrow way that we all must walk through to find Christ. He warns of false prophets and how to detect them.

3 Nephi 15, 16

These last two chapters mark an interesting shift. Here Jesus digs in about his global concerns, that he is concerned with all people, “that other sheep I have which are not of this fold, and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” (3 Nephi 15:17). And that “it is because of their iniquity that they know not of you” or “that they now not of them” (3 Nephi 15: 19, 20). These passages seem to indicate that we should really know about other nations and cultures and what they can teach us as well as what we might teach them, such that we can ultimately become one fold and one shepherd.

Chapter 16 concludes with a summary of earth’s history and destination, that it would be one of scattering of God’s people throughout the earth because of unbelief and God’s effort to gather them again which is the core point of the restoration, that “God will remember my covenant unto you, O house of Israel, and ye shall come unto the knowledge of the fulness of my gospel”. (3 Nephi 16:11). He concludes by quoting Isaiah’s prohecy of zion, “when the Lord shall bring again Zion”… “and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God.” 3 Nephi 16:18-20.