In 3 Nephi 12-14 Jesus teaches multitudes of His “other sheep” (John 10:16) in ancient America the same sermon He taught His disciples gathered at the mount in Galilee (Matthew 5-7). As one of the “Ideas for Personal Scripture Study” in the September 21-27 Book of Mormon 2020 Come, Follow Me lesson states: “The Savior’s teachings show me how to be a true disciple.” The following analysis reviews some of the key insights that the Book of Mormon account of Christ’s new higher law add to the biblical account of the Sermon on the Mount.
For the Nephites, Jesus begins by describing four new Beatitudes:
“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; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost;
“Therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.
“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 receive a remission of their sins” (3 Nephi 12:1-2; italics added to show Book of Mormon additions).
These new introductory Beatitudes clearly describe the importance of authorized priesthood holders performing baptisms of water and of the Spirit. Those baptized are then commanded to be faithful witnesses of the Living Christ. Their testimonies will bless those who believe in their words, and they shall likewise receive the Holy Ghost and a remission of their sins.
Clarified and Interrelated Beatitudes
Of the nine traditional Beatitudes, Jesus adds important clarifications to five of them:
“Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“And again, blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.
“And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“And blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, For my sake; and be exceedingly glad, for great shall be your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you” (3 Nephi 12:3-4, 6, 10-12; italics added).
Each revision adds illumination: the poor in spirit need to “come unto” Christ; “all” who mourn are offered comfort; those who hunger for righteousness will be “filled with the Holy Ghost”; those who are persecuted for the name of Christ shall have “great joy” and be “exceedingly glad.”
Additionally, all 13 Beatitudes are interrelated through introductory connectors: therefore, and again, yea, and. The Bible Dictionary explains: “They describe certain elements that go to form the refined and spiritual character, all of which will be present whenever that character exists in its perfection. Rather than being isolated statements, the Beatitudes are interrelated and progressive in their arrangement” (Bible Dictionary; “Beatitudes”). These guiding characteristics invite Christ’s followers to “be the salt of the earth … the light of this people (3 Nephi 12:13-14).
Christ Fulfills and Embodies the Higher Law to Be Perfect
Jesus emphasizes that He has not “come to destroy the law or the prophets … one jot nor one tittle hath not passed away from the law, but in me it hath all been fulfilled” (3 Nephi 12:17-18; italics added). Adam and Eve were commanded to “offer the firstlings of their flocks … unto the Lord … This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father” (Moses 5:5, 7). The Law of Moses, which both the Israelites and Nephites obeyed, was “the name assigned to the whole collection of written laws given through Moses to the house of Israel, as a replacement of the higher law that they had failed to obey” (Bible Dictionary; “Law of Moses”). The purposes of animal sacrifices and mosaic ordinances were brought to fruition through Christ’s great atoning sacrifice.
Jesus clearly explained that He gave “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. Therefore come unto me and be saved” (3 Nephi 12:19-20; italics added). He next explains how His higher law relates to issues of killing, anger, adultery, lust, divorce, swearing oaths, revenge, retribution, serving others, and loving both friends and enemies. He concludes with a final commandment, “Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (3 Nephi 12:48; italics added). This higher law is given to inspire us to strive continually to follow Christ’s perfect example.
Changes to the Lord’s Prayer
The Book of Mormon account of Jesus teaching the Nephites the manner of prayer includes several important changes:
The Father is identified as “who art in heaven” (3 Nephi 13:9).
The request “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11) is omitted.
“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” (3 Nephi 13:13; italics added).
Jesus teaches us to pray to a personal Heavenly Father and seek to know His will. We are to be self-reliant and strive to live Christ’s higher law on earth, for God’s glory is eternal.
Special Directions for Christ’s Twelve Disciples
Another important addition occurs when Jesus stops speaking to the multitude and looks “upon the twelve whom he had chosen, and said unto them … ye are they whom I have chosen to minister unto this people” (3 Nephi 13:25; italics added). The counsel contained in 3 Nephi 13:25-34 is for Christ’s specially chosen disciples. What would happen if everyone took “no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink”? (3 Nephi 13:25). God’s anointed servants have special directives for how they are to seek “the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (3 Nephi 13:33).
In 3 Nephi 14:1 (italics added), Jesus “turned again to the multitude, and did open his mouth unto them.” He counsels how we can “bringeth forth good fruit” (3 Nephi 14:17) and build faith “upon a rock” (3 Nephi 14:24). This chapter includes eight vocabulary changes of who, which, and whoso. These revisions, along with approximately 204 punctuation and capitalization alterations in 3 Nephi 12-14, add a fine-tuned clarity.
Jesus concludes with these inspiring words: “And now it came to pass that when Jesus had ended these sayings he cast his eyes round about on the multitude, and said unto them: Behold, ye have heard the things which I taught before I ascended to my Father; therefore, whoso remembereth these sayings of mine and doeth them, him will I raise up at the last day” (3 Nephi 15:1; italics added). Both the New Testament and Book of Mormon accounts of this Messianic sermon define how we should live Christlike lives.