BMGD #38: 3 Nephi 12-15

September 24, 2012 | 3 comments
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CHAPTER 12

1 And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve) and behold, 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; 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.

Note that the idea that twelve were called is presented as something of an aside.  Why might that be?

Note that the idea of twelve being called is presented as if the number twelve were significant (“now the number . . .”).  We know that in the Bible, the number twelve is often used as s symbol for leadership, but it is not clear to me that it would have had that connotation 600 years removed.  (I can’t think of much number symbolism in the BoM.)

Note that the set-up is that Jesus began by speaking just to the leaders and then transitions to speaking to everyone.  Why might he have done this?

Is “being called” and “receiving power and authority to baptize” the same thing or two different things?

Is the stretching forth of the hand ritually significant?

Note the way Jesus couches his first words to the multitude:  it isn’t “obey or else!” it is “blessed are ye if . . .”  I think we could learn a lot from this model of how to go about inspiring people to obedience in a way that respects their agency.

Interesting that most of what Jesus has done with the twelve is to teach them how to baptize, but then what he tells the multitude is to listen to what the twelve teach–not a focus on the rituals that the twelve present.

What work is “from among you” doing in this verse?

I love “to minister” and “to be your servants” in the same breath.  (In the NT, the same Greek word is translated as “minister” and “serve.”)  Christian leadership is radically different from worldy ideas of leadership.

It is kind of crazy, given the normal sense of the word, for leaders to be called to be servants and for people to be told to listen to what their servants will teach them.  Also, the servants are given power that the “masters” don’t have. There is a complete re-ordering of the universe here, and I don’ t think that that is an accident.

Serious question:  Why do you need to be given power to baptize?  (You don’t need someone to give you power in order for you to pray.)

What precisely did Jesus mean about baptizing them with fire?  Is that the same as or different from being baptized with the Holy Ghost?

What do you make of the “water” and “fire” thing?  Does that mean that these two baptisms are opposites in some sense?

In this context, where they are looking right at his resurrected person, what would it mean for the Nephites to “believe in me”?  Is it significant that he didn’t say “believe me” or something else?  (Does “after that . . .”) explain what it means to “believe in me”?

There’s this big thing in the NT where Jesus says “I am” and he is using special language that doesn’t mean just “I am” but means “I am saying that I am the very same God who told Moses that his name is I AM.” (More on this idea here.)  (This often doesn’t survive translation into English.)  While I have my doubts that the language of the Nephites would have had the same meaning, I do have to wonder whether the “I am” at the end of this verse is doing more than it first appears to be doing–it would perfectly fit the special NT meaning if, in this verse, Jesus were saying, in effect, “know that I am [the God of the OT].”

This should have been divided into two verses; it is too long.

 2 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.

If the “and again” weren’t there, (how) would you read this verse differently?

Why would people be more blessed for believing them than they are?  (If your answer is “because they are going on faith alone and not experience,” doesn’t that imply that actually seeing Jesus is a bad thing in some sense?)

Note how Jesus sneaks in this idea that they need to testify about him to other people . . .

Note that even though Jesus isn’t conferring power and authority on his audience in a formal sense, he is conferring on them the ability to bless others.

Jesus didn’t talk about humility in the context of the multitudes’ baptisms, so why does it do it in the context of the baptisms of the multitudes’ converts?

How might you approach missionary work differently if you focused on the idea that it requires humility to be baptized?

Note that this is Jesus’ first reference to the idea of remission of sins in this speech.  Why does it debut here and not before this point?

 3 Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

In Matthew’s Gospel, this section (which we call the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount; see Matthew 5) comes at the very beginning of Jesus’ recorded words.  So:  Why did Jesus present v1-2 to the Nephite audience before beginning the beatitudes here?  (Or do you assume that Jesus delivered the equivalent of v1-2 in the Sermon on the Mount but it wasn’t included in the record for some reason?)

What does it mean to be “poor in spirit”?  (Not spiritual?  What?)  (What would it mean to be “rich in spirit”?)

What does it mean to come to Jesus?  Does it suggest something about a journey or trek?

Why would the poor in spirit have unique claim on the kingdom of heaven?

I see something of an inversion here:  the poverty of spirit is contrasted with the wealth of inheriting the kingdom.  There is an element of inversion to all of the blessings, something that continues when we do things in secret but are rewarded openly, and also when the old law said X but Jesus now says Y.  In fact, I think if you wanted one theme for the Sermon on the Mount, you might settle on “It’s opposite day!”

4 And again, blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Why does this verse begin with “and again”?  Does that imply that it is a re-statement of the previous verse?  Is there a relationship between being poor in spirit and mourning?

Does this imply that people who don’t mourn aren’t blessed?  (Maybe the implication is that anyone would mourn for the wickedness around them.)

5 And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Think about v3:  is inheriting the earth the same thing as inheriting the kingdom of God?    Is being meek the same thing as being poor in spirit?

Is there a relationship between being meek and being worthy to inherit the earth?

A lot of modern readers like “powerless” instead of “meek,” since it emphasizes the idea of people who have no power by circumstances and not are choosing not to use power by choice.

What does the idea of inheriting the earth do to your idea of heaven?

Does this verse refer to this life or the next life?

What does the word “inherit” suggest to you about the earth?

6 And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.

Why did Jesus suggest that righteousness is like food?  That it is something that you would have an appetite for?

Is the Holy Ghost like food?  (Hence the filling.)

If righteousness is what you are after, why do you end up with the Holy Ghost instead?

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

This verse seems to have the most natural consequence of all of the beatitudes.  So thinking about v6, why didn’t those who sought righteousness end up being righteous?  Etc.

Note that the last verse was about people who were seeking something, but this verse is about people who are already something.  Is that significant?

This is our first beatitude that isn’t an inversion, but rather seems like a logical consequence (at least if you believe in karma!).

8 And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

What does it mean to be pure in heart?  (Does heart here mean mind, the way it often does in the OT?)

Why is seeing God the appropriate blessing for being pure in heart, as opposed to inheriting the kingdom of God or inheriting the earth?

General question:  are the blessings of the beatitudes things that will happen in the afterlife, or now?  How do you know?

NB that the BoM adds “all” to the NT version of this beatitude; I like that.

9 And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

Aren’t we all children of God?

How does the idea of “peacemakers” fit into a BoM narrative where we have just seen a whole bunch of wars?

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

What work is “name’s” doing in this verse?  (Would the verse mean something different without it?)

How do you explain the similarity to v3?

11 And blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake;

Why do you think the concept of persecution is mentioned a second time here?

Are reviling and persecuting two different things or two ways of saying the same thing?

General:  do you read the beatitudes as statements of praise or as commandments or as both?

Is there a structure to the beatitudes, or are they pretty much independent?  Can you read them in a sort of “choose your own adventure” way?  Brant Gardner on this idea:

The presentation of the block of unrelated blessing statements simply portrays the picture of the various ways in which the people may be blessed. It recognizes that there are differences in people, and that there are ways in which the Lord recognizes, accepts, and blesses those differences. Citation

12 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.

Are joy and gladness the same thing?

I think v11-12 are an expansion of the final beatitude.  If that is the case, why was this the only beatitude that needed expansion?  How do v11-12 change your reading of v10?

Note that when we suffer for the sake of the gospel, we get to group ourselves in with the prophets.

What rewards do we get in heaven?

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.

In the NT, “verily, verily, I say unto you” is a way of saying “what I am about to say is really important.”  Why might Jesus have said this here?

What is “of the earth” doing here?  (Note that salt normally destroys the ability of soil to grow things in it.)

Darrell Bock notes two ways that salt could lose its savor:

(1) Salt was put in the bottom of ovens to improve the fire. It would eventually become ineffective and be thrown out.
(2) Anciently, most salt was mixed with impurities. When the salt became wet and then evaporated, the impurities were left behind.

More possible meanings of salt:

(1) an addition to sacrifices (see Leviticus 2:13)
(2) a symbol of the covenant (see Numbers 18:19)
(3) a purifier (see 2 Kings 2:19–23)
(4) a condiment (see Job 6:6)
(5) a preservative
(6) a necessity
(7) a sign of loyalty

(8) a sign of friendship (see Mark 9:50)

(9) in Jewish tradition, it was associated with wisdom
(10) in Greek tradition, it was thought to be loved by the gods

(How) is this verse related to the verse before it?

14 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.

Is there any inherent relationship between the salt and the light?  (Note that with both, a teeny amount can make a huge difference to the food/room that it is in.)

In what ways should we be the light to the people?   (How) does this relate to Jesus being the light of the world?

How does the commandment to be a light relate to the idea of not being able to hide a city?

15 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;

Note that putting a light (=open flame) under a bushel not only negates its purpose but is dangerous.  Is that idea intended in this verse?  If so, in what ways would you be dangerous if you hid your light?

16 Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Does this verse offer any guidance on how to be a shiny light without being prideful?

How would people know to glorify God and not you if they are seeing your good works?

Are the good works the light?

17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets. I am not come to destroy but to fulfil;

Is this verse related to the one before it?  If so, how?

The cynic asks:  doesn’t fulfilling destroy?

In what sense is it correct to say that Jesus, for example, “fulfilled” the rules about not mixing wool and linen or not seething a kid in its mother’s milk or whatever other obscure bit (see:  jot and tittle in the next verse) of the Law of Moses you want to consider?

18 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.

Jot and tittles are itty bitty marks in the Hebrew text.

How should this verse shape how you interpret the OT?

Do you read the “all” as hyperbole?

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.

Had Jesus already done this in the flesh?  Do we have a record of it?  Or is he referring to something else here?

Are law and commandments two different things in this verse?

Notice “that ye shall believe in me” : is Jesus saying here that following the commandments helps us believe in him?  Or does the causality go the other way (that believing in him helps us follow the commandments)?

In the last sentence, what is the relationship between having the commandments and the law being fulfilled?

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.

Note the “therefore.”  How does this verse relate to the one before it?

Does this verse define what “being saved” means?

What commandments has he given them “at this time”?  Do we have a record of all of them?

Note that the parallel material in Mt 5:20 has been omitted:  For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”  I presume this is because there were no groups comparable to the scribes and Pharisees in the Nephite world, and so there would have been no possible way to translate the concept.  (Is that the best possible explanation for the omission?)  What does that tell us about Nephite society?

21 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;

How does this verse relate to the verse before it?

What work is “and it is also written before you” doing in this verse?

22 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.

Jesus seems to be extending the law, so that not only the worst possible manifestation of anger (=killing) is forbidden, but also the most mild manifestation (=calling your brother a fool).  What should we learn from this?  (I do see some dangers for the [over]eager beavers here.)

Note that the “buy I say” puts Jesus into the position of the new lawgiver.

What do you conclude from v21-22 about murders that are not the result of anger?

Given that “raca” basically means “fool,” why is the consequence (council vs. hellfire) so different?

So do we assume that the Nephites had a similar “council” system so that this verse would have made sense to them?  And some word that meant “fool” like raca did?  Or what?

Notice the parallelism of Raca/council and fool/hell fire.  What do you learn from this repetition (or comparison)?

Interesting article here.

Thinking more about anger . . . is it ever justified?  (What about Jesus kicking the money changers out of the temple with a whip?  What about all the references to the wrath of God?)

23 Therefore, if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me, and rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee—

Note the “therefore.”  How does this verse relate to the one before it?  (That’s actually a less-than-obvious question.  The previous verse was about you being mad at your brother but this verse is about your brother being mad at you.)

24 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.

What does this verse teach you about the meaning of “full purpose of heart”?

Jim F.:  “Verses 23-24: What is Jesus saying about reconciliation? Is it more or less important than worship? Notice that we begin with the prohibition of murder in verse 21, move to the prohibition of anger in verse 22, and in verse 23 we find a prohibition of hard feelings. We would usually begin with the least serious problem and work our way up to the most. Why do you think the Savior reverses the normal order?”

25 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.

Does this mean that you should placate people even when they are right?

Is the prison literal or metaphorical here?

26 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.

27 Behold, it is written by them of old time, that thou shalt not commit adultery;

28 But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart.

Once again, the law is extended to include minor or theoretical things in addition to the biggies.

What does this verse teach about our thoughts?  (Are there thoughts we have that we are not accountable for?)  See also v29 on this question.

What do v26-28 have to say about adultery that does not result from lust?  (Or does all adultery result from lust?)

If you can commit adultery in your heart, what does “adultery” mean?

29 Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart;

Why wasn’t there a commandment with the anger antithesis above?  (Or was the bit about going to your brother who has something against you a commandment disguised as a case study?)

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.

What does taking up a cross mean in this verse?  (Especially since, in this Nephite context, they are probably unfamiliar with the whole idea.)

Why isn’t repentance talked about here?

31 It hath been written, that whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement.

32 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whoso shall marry her who is divorced committeth adultery.

This antithesis is a bit different from the previous ones:  they were extensions of a theme but this is a reversal.  What do you make of that?  How does it fit with Jesus fulfilling every joy and tittle of the law?  Why would this law have been given in the OT if Jesus has something better?

Why don’t we follow this rule in the church today?

Doesn’t “cause her to commit adultery” assume that she then ends up married to another man?  What if she has no further relationships in her life?  Wouldn’t there be no problem then?  And doesn’t that phrase imply that the woman had no responsibility/choice for her own sin?

Why is this verse all about the woman and not the man?

33 And again it is written, thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths;

34 But verily, verily, I say unto you, swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne;

Once again, like with the adultery, we have a situation where Jesus isn’t expanding on a law but overturning it.

Why was the swearing oaths issue worth mentioning?

Is it OK to take oaths in court, etc.?  Why?

Why is a throne a good symbol for heaven?

Why does the fact that heaven is God’s throne mean that you shouldn’t swear by heaven?

35 Nor by the earth, for it is his footstool;

Why is a footstool a good symbol for the earth?

36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair black or white;

37 But let your communication be Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever cometh of more than these is evil.

38 And behold, it is written, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth;

39 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;

Marcus Borg:

 The specification of the right cheek and the awareness that people in that world used their right hand to strike somebody provide the key for understanding the saying. How can a person be hit on the right cheek by a right-handed person? Only by a backhanded slap (act it out and see for yourself). In that world, a slap with the back of a hand was the way a superior struck a subordinate. The saying thus presupposes a situation of domination: a peasant being backhanded by a steward or official, a prisoner being backhanded by a jailer, and so forth. When that happens, turn the other cheek. What would be the effect of that? The beating could continue only if the superior used an overhand blow—which is the way an equal struck another equal. Of course, he might do so. But he would be momentarily discombobulated, and the subordinate would be asserting his equality even if the beating did continue.  Citation

40 And if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also;

Marcus Borg:

“If anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well,” imagines a setting in which a person is being sued for his outer garment because of nonpayment of debt (and only a very poor person would have only a coat to offer as collateral). In that world, peasants commonly wore only two garments, a long tunic and an outer garment that also served as a blanket. The effect of giving up the inner garment as well the outer would, of course, be nakedness. The act would not only startle the creditor, but would also shame him, for nakedness shamed the person who beheld the nakedness. Moreover, it would be a symbolic statement: look what this system is doing to us, stripping us naked. Citation

41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

Marcus Borg:

The fourth statement, about going the “second mile,” refers to a known practice of imperial soldiers. Soldiers were allowed to compel peasants to carry their considerable gear for one mile, but no more. The reason for the restriction was that soldiers had been abusing the option by forcing peasants to carry their gear all day (or even longer). The result was not only popular resentment, but peasants ending up a day’s journey (or more) from home. And so the restriction was introduced, and soldiers faced penalties for violating it, some of them severe. Citation

42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away.

 

Are there limits to this?

43 And behold it is written also, that thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy;

“Hate thine enemy” is not found in the Old Testament. Is Jesus quoting lost scripture, making a summary statement, or referring to something else entirely?

44 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;

Is this an “extending” or “overturning” antithesis?

How does this verse apply to a person who is being abused?

45 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.

Note that this verse includes the idea of becoming God’s children.  How does that mesh with the idea that we are all (already) God’s children?

I think the logic from v45 to v44 is that, because God treats the evil and good the same, we should do.  But how does this mesh with the idea that someday God will be treating the evil very differently from the good?

46 Therefore those things which were of old time, which were under the law, in me are all fulfilled.

47 Old things are done away, and all things have become new.

Is “all things” hyperbole?

Are all “old things” done away?

48 Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.

Note the “therefore.”  How does this verse follow from the previous verse?

What does “perfect” mean in this verse?  Is it possible for humans to be perfect in this life?

Article on the command to be perfect here.

CHAPTER 13

1 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.

2 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.

More on hypocrites here.

How would you respond to someone who criticizes the church’s announcements about its humanitarian efforts based on the principles in this verse?

How do you reconcile not sounding a trumpet with letting your light shine?  Aren’t these contradictory?

Is it significant that Jesus says “in the synagogues and in the streets”?

What do you learn about motives from this verse?  Does it apply to other arenas of life besides giving alms?

3 But when thou doest alms let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth;

Thinking about the left/right hand metaphor:  Is this just saying “don’t let other people know”?  Because it seems that a better phrasing than hand references for that would be “don’t let your neighbor know.”  Doesn’t the hands image imply that you are keeping something from yourself?  (Is that possible?)  Was that Jesus’ intent here?  Or maybe you should take the image in the other direction, where your own body is the symbol for various people.  (That is, my left hand is other people and my right hand is me.)  Does that make better sense?  If that’s the right reading, what do you take, in the broader sense, from the idea that your own body is a symbol for the community?

4 That thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father who seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly.

Notice the inversion here:  are there other things besides alms that we should do secretly?

Why would you get an open reward for something you did in secret?  Shouldn’t you get a secret reward so you can stay as far away as possible from the “doing this for show” problem?

5 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.

V2 said synagogues and streets; this verse says synagogues and corners of streets.  Is that a significant change?

How would you respond to someone who said that this verse prohibits public prayer?

There is an obvious parallelism between the alms issue and the prayer issue.  Does the “do it in private” counsel apply to other areas as well?  What else do praying and giving alms have in common?

6 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.

Thinking about the entire passage, what is the message about rewards?  Does it apply to other areas of life?  To situations where humans give each other rewards?

What does the phrase “when thou hast shut the door” add to the verse?

True fact:  I pray in my closet.  Not to be a fundamentalist about this verse, but I started doing it when my kids were little (I was basically hiding from them) and it became a habit.  :)

Again, why are you getting an open reward for a private act?

What kinds of rewards–open or otherwise–do we get from praying?

7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen, for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

Most modern translations use “empty phrases” instead of “vain repetitions.”  What are “empty phrases”?

Is this verse a warning against praying too much?

8 Be not ye therefore like unto them, for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him.

Why are you praying in the first place if God already knows what you need?

9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

In some Christian traditions, this prayer is used verbatim.  LDS would, obviously, frown on that.  So:  What did Jesus intend by “after this manner”?  In what ways should we model this prayer?

What work is “who art in heaven” doing in this verse?

“Hallowed” means to make holy.  Who or what is making God’s name holy in this verse?  What exactly does that mean?

10 Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Skousen reads “in earth” in stead of “on earth.”

This strikes me as an odd thing to say in a prayer:  is there ever any doubt that God’s will will be done?  What does it mean to pray for it?  How might we pray after this manner today?  (I’m thinking most of us might ask for something like ‘please let me do your will,’ but that isn’t quite what this verse is saying, is it?)

What does this verse teach you about the difference between heaven and earth?

Note that the NT version has “thy kingdom come.”  Many LDS readers have assumed that, through the atonement and resurrection, the kingdom had come, and that’s why Jesus doesn’t mention it here.  That strikes me as a somewhat problematic reading, since it means Jesus was giving his NT peeps a model prayer that wouldn’t have been quite accurate as soon as he was resurrected.  But I admit that I am stumped in terms of finding a better explanation for the omission of the phrase.  What is the best way to understand this?

11 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

What kinds of debts are envisioned here?

Why would the forgiveness of our debts be conditioned on our forgiving other people?  In what other situations might the same principle operate?

12 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Does this verse imply that God might lead us into temptation?  (If so, would praying about it change that?)

What does it mean to be delivered from evil?

13 For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Note the “for.”  How does this verse relate to the verse before it.

Are kingdom, power, and glory three different things or three ways of saying the same thing.

You can find lots of Mormon prayer templates.  They usually begin by addressing God, then expressing gratitude, then asking for things, then closing in the name of Christ.  How closely does this prayer follow that pattern?  What do you make of the divergences?

In what ways can you model your own prayers on this prayer?

Note on this verse and v12 here.

14 For, if ye forgive men their trespasses your heavenly Father will also forgive you;

Note that apparently Jesus thought that this part (but not other parts) of the prayer required a little explanation.  Why might that have been?  Or was his purpose more to highlight this principle than to explain it?

Why is our forgiveness conditional on us forgiving other people?

15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Why is forgiveness (as opposed to, say, belief or repentance or relying on the atonement) the key idea in this passage?  Does it have a special link to the idea of prayer?

16 Moreover, when ye fast be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance, for they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.

Is there a link between fasting and prayer, or is this just the next item on the list?

So now we’ve had hypocrisy warnings on alms, prayer, and fasting.  How are these three things related?

17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face;

Is this just about fasting, or are their other situations where you might want to hide your devotion/suffering from other people?

18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father, who is in secret; and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

It seems to me that the big theme of this section is “private religiosity is better because then your motives will not be questionable.”  Is that a fair conclusion to draw from this passage?  What are the implications of this idea?  Are there areas where you are too showy in your religious devotion?

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal;

Are 401Ks wrong?

Is the point of this verse that hoarding treasure is bad because earthly forces can destroy it?  (It seems that there is a much better case to be made–see v21.)  Or is this more metaphorical?  (I’m thinking the thieves are more like Satan, stealing our focus from eternal things, not like thieves stealing your actual gold.)

20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.

What exactly does it mean to lay up a treasure in heaven?  What would that look like?  If you are reading this symbolically, then should you have been reading the treasure in the earth symbolically?

21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

I think this verse suggests that if we hide and bury wealth, we have hidden and buried our hearts/minds.

22 The light of the body is the eye; if, therefore, thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

(How) is this verse related to the verse before it?

This verse seems to rely on ancient understanding of the eye as a source of light that made vision possible.  So whatever you look at it is as if you are aiming a flashlight at it, focusing on it.  But then someone this fills your whole body with light.  (Not clear on that part.)  (There are also some interesting issues related to the idea of Jesus using scientific ideas [that he presumably knew were incorrect!] to teach a principle here.)

23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If, therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.

(How) does this verse relate to the verse before it?

Is it fair to say that if you are employed, you have a second master?

Some modern translations use “money” instead of “Mammon.”

What does it mean to serve your money?  How is that different from saving for the future and living providently?

25 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: Remember the words which I have spoken. For behold, ye are they whom I have chosen to minister unto this people. Therefore I say unto you, 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. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Why does he call on the twelve (and not the entire audience) to remember these words?

Do you assume that starting with “therefore I say . . .” that these are directions for the twelve only, and not the multitude?

Does the “therefore I say unto you” sentence apply to you?  In what ways?

What does “nor yet for your body” mean, given that Jesus has already mentioned life, food, and drink and will soon mention clothing?

Why do you think Jesus asks a (presumably) rhetorical question here?

26 Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

Does this mean that you shouldn’t plan for the future?  Where’s the line?

27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin;

Note that spinning is “women’s work” and toiling is “men’s work.”

29 And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these.

30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, even so will he clothe you, if ye are not of little faith.

How seriously/literally do you take this verse?  In what ways  might we be paying too much attention to our future needs?

31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

32 For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.

Is this verse literally true? (If it is, shouldn’t you quit your job?)

34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof.

Usually, the gospel asks us to be more focused on the long-term consequences of our actions that we might otherwise be, but here it seems to be asking us to live in the moment.  What is going on here?  (How) is this counsel related to the counsel on alms, prayer, and fasting?

CHAPTER 14

1 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he turned again to the multitude, and did open his mouth unto them again, saying: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Judge not, that ye be not judged.

Interesting that we get signalling when Jesus is speaking to just leadership versus speaking to the multitude.  Why do you think he broke off from speaking to the multitude for a mini leadership meeting?  (Isn’t that an unusual way to do things?)

Interesting to think about the JST to Matthew 7:1:  “Now these are the words which Jesus taught his disciples that they should say unto the people. Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged:but judge righteous judgment.”  Note the two main differences from this verse:  (1) In Mt, the JST has Jesus saying these words to the disciples to teach to the people; in the BoM, Jesus is speaking directly to the people.  What might account for this difference?  (2) The JST prohibits unrighteous judging; the BoM prohibits all judging.  How do you account for the difference?   And what does the fact of the difference suggest to you about the role/meaning of the JST and the process of the translation of the BoM?

Is it possible for us to avoid being judged?  (Would that be a good thing?)

Does not judging others mean that God won’t judge us?

Is it always wrong to judge others?

Is it possible and/or desirable to avoid judging others?

2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

So, should we always be completely merciful to other people?  (I’m kind of thinking that if I were a bishop or SP, I would never ever throw the book at someone if I were thinking about this verse.)

3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

It wasn’t until explaining this to my 7yo that I really thought about what a (deliberately) ridiculous image this is.  This image is so comically exaggerated . . . what does that suggest to us about Jesus’ character?

4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother: Let me pull the mote out of thine eye—and behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

What does v4 do that v3 didn’t do?

5 Thou hypocrite, first cast the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Does this hypocrite reference tie this passage to the alms, prayers, fasting discussion in the previous chapter?

So does this verse support mote removal, as long as you are righteous enough?  If so, how does that mesh with the “no judging” business?

Does this mote/beam business relate to the “eye single/light” business in the last chapter?  If so, how?

6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

(How) does this verse relate to the one before it?

What are some practical applications of this verse?

How would you respond to someone who said that this verse discouraged missionary work and other forms of sharing?

Is it fair to accuse Jesus of calling some people “dogs” and “swine” in this verse?

Note that not only is the holy thing destroyed in this verse, but the person who gave the holy thing to the dog/swine is attacked.  What might this symbolize?

7 Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

(How) does this verse relate to the verse before it?

How literally do you take this verse?  Is it universally true?

Notice the parallelism:  ask, seek, knock.  Is this three different things or three ways of saying the same thing?

8 For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.

Again, literally and universally true, or something else?

9 Or what man is there of you, who, if his son ask bread, will give him a stone?

10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

I can totally see someone reading v7-11 and concluding that they will be given precisely what they ask for in their prayers.  How might you respond to that person?

What does “being evil” mean in this verse?

“How much more” is a rhetorical device (qal wahomer):  if something happens in an unlikely situation, then how much more likely is it to happen in a likely situation.

12 Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets.

Note the “therefore”:  how does this verse relate to the one before it?

Can you think of some situations where the golden rule should not be applied?

How should this verse shape how you interpret the law and the prophets?

13 Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, which leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in thereat;

How does this verse relate to the one before it?

Why is entering a gate a good image here?

14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

So you are facing two gates:  one broad and wide, the other narrow and strait.  Why would a loving God make the “right” gate harder to get into?

What does “few that be” mean:  that few want it, or that few are offered it, or that few (despite their best efforts) can get through it (no fat people!) or what?

15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

(How) does this verse relate to the verse before it?

Why is the image of a wolf covered in sheep skin a good one for a false prophet?

Does this verse suggest anything about the best way to identify false prophets?

16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

So . . . does that mean that someone doing good works is teaching good doctrine?

How do you mesh this verse with everything in the previous chapter about hiding good works?

17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

20 Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them.

Thinking about v16-20 . . . can you really always evaluate so-called prophetic teachings based on their fruits?  What are their fruits?  And isn’t it true that they might initially appear to have good fruits, but the rottenness wouldn’t be visible until later?  (Or does v19 suggest a time frame that extends past judgement?  But if that is the case, then how can you judge by their fruits if the fruits are not visible until after the judgement?)

We frequently hear admonitions not to judge the church by the behavior of (some of) its members–it doesn’t prove the church false just because the bishop got arrested for financial fraud or whatever.  How does that idea mesh with what is taught in this passage?

21 Not every one 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.

Is this verse supporting orthopraxy at the expense of orthodoxy?  Does this verse imply that belief doesn’t matter?

22 Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works?

Doesn’t this mean that this group did, in fact, do the will of the Father as described in v21?

23 And then will I profess unto them: I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

In what ways did they work iniquity?  What was wrong with v22?

Doesn’t this verse contradict the “by their fruits . . .” argument?  Weren’t their fruits good?

24 Therefore, whoso heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock—

25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock.

26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them not shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand—

27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it.

Thinking about v24-27, why is this a good image?  How does it relate to the fruit/tree image?  What is the storms?  What is the sand?

CHAPTER 15

1 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.

Is the casting around of his eyes significant?  If so, what does it mean?  What is he doing?

Does “the things which I taught” refer to the teachings of the last few chapters, or the things the voice said before the appearance?  How do you know?

Certainly the things he has taught are familiar, but they are also an interesting slice of the Christian message:  teachings about alms, prayer, fasting, and judging.  That’s it.  What do you make of the topics chosen and those left unmentioned?  Is it fair to describe these as the core of Christianity?  (Note that there is nothing about belief–just about doing.)

I’m curious about how the previous chapters of Jesus’ visit appear to be “pre-planned” speech (esp. given the overlap with what he taught in the Old World), but this chapter contains a response to the specific concerns of this particular audience.  What might we learn from that?

2 And it came to pass that when Jesus had said these words he perceived that there were some among them who marveled, and wondered what he would concerning the law of Moses; for they understood not the saying that old things had passed away, and that all things had become new.

Note that we are told about Jesus’ inner thoughts here–and those inner thoughts are an awareness of the inner thoughts of others.  That’s pretty recursive or meta or something.

Wouldn’t it have been obvious on the outside that they were marveling?

Are you surprised to find out that the role of the law of Moses was their main concern at this point?

I read the “for they understood . . . new” as being editorial explanation for the reader.  Why was that used here?

3 And he said unto them: Marvel not that I said unto you that old things had passed away, and that all things had become new.

(When did he say this?)

How does “old things had passed away” mesh with the “not one jot or tittle” business?

In the context of thinking about the law of Moses, what would it mean to say that all things had become new?  In what ways did the law of Moses become new?

4 Behold, I say unto you that the law is fulfilled that was given unto Moses.

What does it mean to say that a law “is fulfilled”?  I think we’d normally think of prophecies, not laws, as being fulfillable.  What does this verse suggest to you about how you should understand the purpose and content of the law of Moses?

5 Behold, I am he that gave the law, and I am he who covenanted with my people Israel; therefore, the law in me is fulfilled, for I have come to fulfil the law; therefore it hath an end.

Note the first “therefore” in this verse.  What does the fact that Jesus gave the law have to do with his ability to fulfill the law?

In what ways did Jesus fulfill the law?  When he says he came to fulfill the law, does that refer to his mortal life or to his visit to the Nephites?

Do we live under “gospel” laws that will have an end?

Article on the idea of covenant in Jesus’ visit.

6 Behold, I do not destroy the prophets, for as many as have not been fulfilled in me, verily I say unto you, shall all be fulfilled.

How do you mesh this verse with v4?  Is it fair to say that the law of Moses has been fulfilled at this moment in history, but some prophecies remain to be fulfilled?  Or is there a better way to understand this?

7 And because I said unto you that old things have passed away, I do not destroy that which hath been spoken concerning things which are to come.

Note the repetition:  why is the distinction between “fulfill” and “destroy” so important?

8 For behold, the covenant which I have made with my people is not all fulfilled; but the law which was given unto Moses hath an end in me.

Note the distinction between the covenant and the law of Moses:  what are the implications of this?

So, are any parts of the law of Moses still binding?

9 Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life.

Thinking through the implications of the law being a person instead of a stone tablet . . .

What do you make of the linking of law and light?

10 Behold, I have given unto you the commandments; therefore keep my commandments. And this is the law and the prophets, for they truly testified of me.

How do the commandments relate to the law?

How do the commandments, the law, the prophets, and the concept of testimony relate in this verse?

11 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words, he said unto those twelve whom he had chosen:

Note that once again Jesus is shifting from speaking to the multitude to speaking just to the twelve.  Why does he keep switching back and forth?  What effect would this have had on the audience?  What effect does it have on you?  (Note that it privileges the reader, since we get to hear what the twelve heard.)  How does the content related only to the twelve relate to the content shared with the multitude?

12 Ye are my disciples; and ye are a light unto this people, who are a remnant of the house of Joseph.

Are the multitude not considered disciplies?

How can they be a light if Jesus is the light?

Why did Jesus mention the link to Joseph here?  Why was that relevant to what he was teaching?

13 And behold, this is the land of your inheritance; and the Father hath given it unto you.

Why is the land important here?

14 And not at any time hath the Father given me commandment that I should tell it unto your brethren at Jerusalem.

What is the “it” in this verse?

Does this verse imply that Jesus only did those things that he was specifically commanded to do?  What are the implications of that idea?

15 Neither at any time hath the Father given me commandment that I should tell unto them concerning the other tribes of the house of Israel, whom the Father hath led away out of the land.

The ten tribes were “lost” when, after the Assyrian conquest, they intermarried and lost their distinctive identity.  How does that relate to the idea in this verse that the Father led them away?

16 This much did the Father command me, that I should tell unto them:

17 That other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

This is so interesting, because this is such a vague, metaphorical reference that I seriously doubt any normal person on hearing about “other sheep” would assume that there was a whole ‘nother society of Christians on the other side of the ocean.  Why do you think Jesus was commanded to share this enigmatic idea with them, but not share something more specific?

What does the fold symbolize here?  (Is it just geographic, or something else?)

18 And now, because of stiffneckedness and unbelief they understood not my word; therefore I was commanded to say no more of the Father concerning this thing unto them.

To be fair, isn’t this a pretty enigmatic statement?  (I’m thinking even a fairly faithful person would have had a hard time figuring it out.  Unless pondering it brought about personal revelation. . . )

If they had understood more, would they have been taught more?  (Isn’t that circular?)

19 But, verily, I say unto you that the Father hath commanded me, and I tell it unto you, that ye were separated from among them because of their iniquity; therefore it is because of their iniquity that they know not of you.

Why is Jesus telling them all of this?  Why did they need to know this?

Does this imply that they are more righteous than the people in Jrsm?  (And, if so, isn’t it interesting that they got basically the same teachings as the Sermon on the Mount?)

20 And verily, I say unto you again that the other tribes hath the Father separated from them; and it is because of their iniquity that they know not of them.

Is there a broader message here about iniquity causing separation?  (I guess the fact that we have Facebook proves that we are super-righteous, then.)

21 And verily I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

This passage is one of the longest explanations of any scriptural passage by any other scriptural passage.  What should we be learning from it about how to interpret the scriptures?

22 And they understood me not, for they supposed it had been the Gentiles; for they understood not that the Gentiles should be converted through their preaching.

It’s super-interesting to me to think about Jesus knowing people didn’t understand him, but he didn’t correct them . . .

23 And they understood me not that I said they shall hear my voice; and they understood me not that the Gentiles should not at any time hear my voice—that I should not manifest myself unto them save it were by the Holy Ghost.

We know that some Gentiles heard Jesus preach, so there is an element of hyperbole or generalization here . . .

24 But behold, ye have both heard my voice, and seen me; and ye are my sheep, and ye are numbered among those whom the Father hath given me.

Does this verse suggest a relationship between hearing/seeing and being sheep/being numbered?


General thoughts:

(1) So an obvious question is:  How does this material relate to what Jesus said in the NT gospels?  Is it “more correct”?  Is it correct for this particular audience while the NT stuff was right for that audience?  What might it suggest to us about the relationship(s) between the four gospels?  And what does it say about the BoM translation?  Did Joseph Smith “cut and paste” from the NT here?  Or do these chapters reflect verbatim what is on the plates?  What’s the point of having two almost identical accounts in the scripture?  And, if there was going to be duplication, why is it of the Sermon on the Mount and not, say, of detailed stories of Jesus’ healing miracles (he does heal in the BoM, but we don’t really get detailed stories about it) or parables or whatever?  In Matthew, Jesus goes up on a mountain, presumably as the new Moses, to deliver this sermon.  In the BoM, he is at the temple.  How is that change in setting significant?  Does thinking about the lengthy Isaiah quotations in the BoM help answer any of these questions?

(2) Continuing the theme from (1), this article explores the relationship between Matthew 5-7 and our lesson.  It has great charts.  Another article here.  And Brant Gardner takes it up here.

(3) Article on timing of Jesus’ visit here.

(4) Article on old/new, Moses/Jesus issue here.

(5) Here’s an entire book on these chapters.  And more.

(6) General question:  Is Jesus just advocating a few specific changes related to the law of Moses (related to anger, divorce, etc.), or are these meant to serve as a few examples that imply a re-understanding of every provision of the law of Moses?

(7) The only really long Bible quotations in the BoM are from Isaiah and from Matthew.  Is that significant?  Is this a “core” of the gospel message?

(8) I think one of the least-explored aspects of these chapters–and one of the most interesting–is the way that Jesus shifts from speaking to the multitude to speaking to the twelve.  Why does he do this so often?  How does the materials spoken to each group differ?  What does the structure of the passage have to do with its message? What are we, as readers who are not “the twelve” but “the multitude” supposed to do with the counsel to the twelve?

(9) Housekeeping:  life got the best of me this week and so I wasn’t able to go through the GCSCI or most of Brant Gardner’s book.  So my notes are pretty thin.  Also, I won’t be posting for the next two weeks because of General Conference and then our stake conference.  But I hope to be back in full force after that.

3 Responses to BMGD #38: 3 Nephi 12-15

  1. Cameron N on October 15, 2012 at 12:34 am

    I’ve been missing these Julie. If this was the last one, I greatly thank you for your service and willingness to share. If not, I look forward to even more edification in the future.

  2. Julie M. Smith on October 15, 2012 at 8:26 am

    No, I just took a break because of general and then our stake conference. I plan on finishing out the year!

  3. Alison Moore Smith on October 30, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    We are studying #38-#39 next Sunday. Just need to tell you again how helpful your commentary and questions are. I love these posts.

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.