The Lord starts this block of teaching with a warning: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” Gratefully the Lord gives us a way to discern or judge: by their fruits.
So the question here is: what manner of fruits are we looking for?
Doctrine and Covenants 52:18,34 – A pattern for discerning fruits. Re-reading verse 34 has brought great comfort: “He that is faithful, the same shall be kept and blessed with much fruit.” There is a long term promise here, of posterity and other spiritual blessings that may be received as fruit, if we are patient.
Full Conversion Brings Happiness by Elder Richard G. Scott. This is a relevant talk in so far as it equates conversion with fruit. Conversion is the fruit that results from the practice of faith, repentance, and consistent obedience.
(A new day, and I have asked in prayer to see what I am not seeing.) Fruit has seeds that contain potential for future growth. They are delicious for immediate consumption, but also can be used for future purposes.
I am still asking myself what am I not seeing in these verses. And the very first thing that is expressed in this group of verses is to “beware of false prophets”. Then Christ is giving us a way to discern a false prophet. How do we tell if someone is telling us the truth? Especially of things yet to come?
A footnote on “false prophets” leads us to consider priestcraft, the art of setting oneself up as light unto the world, with the end of obtaining money and fame. Most notable is that they have no interest in the welfare of Zion. For this reason, the Savior warns us to be on our guard, that we do not entertain such.
Another interesting side note from Ezekiel 22, the false prophets of ancient Israel were accused of violating the Sabbath day and mixing the sacred with the profane, treating both as part of the same. This reminder of the value of the Sabbath is important to me this morning.
In these verses, the strait gate is not defined. But Nephi clearly defines it in 2 Nephi 31:17-18, “For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life;”
Two chapters later, Nephi ends his record with these final remarks: “I also have charity for the Gentiles. But behold, for none of these can I hope except they shall be reconciled unto Christ, and enter into the narrow gate, and walk in the strait path which leads to life, and continue in the path until the end of the day of probation.”
The strait gate that Christ speaks of is then this two-part package:
Reconciliation to God (Repentance)
Entrance into the path of covenants (Starts with baptism, church membership)
The Broad Way to Destruction
A similar verse in Doctrine and Covenants equates destruction with “the deaths”, and also adds: “because they receive me not, neither do they abide in my law.” This much wider gate stands in strange contrast to the strait gate.
The Way Which Leadeth unto Life
Life, eternal life, the life that God has, a life shared with God in His order of existence.
The gate and the way are in Christ, and elsewhere Christ even says that He is “the way, the truth, and the life.”
I am trying to reconcile this with the patterns of nature that I find all around me here where I live, because I see great evidence of a kind and generous Creator’s hand. I am trying to understand how to replicate that life in what I see in the world around me.
The footnotes in Matthew are more abundant than in 3 Nephi. This single verse is known as “the golden rule” and is an injunction to kindness. But the wording is such, that the Lord doesn’t just say “be kind,” but rather “all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them,” Use your faculties to judge righteously, and bless others as you would receive a blessing.
One of the first footnotes that I am exploring on this verse is that of Good Works. It strikes me as motivating, both as a entrepreneur and as a good citizen, that the types of work that I employ my time in are the very things that I would want or desire that others would engage in. I love good works, companies that build successful businesses based on ethical principles. That’s so important to me. The golden rule, not the bottom line, should be the predominate variable in all business-making decisions.
Why do we try to separate the very substance of our day-to-day work activities from the principles of truth? We are talking about work, we are talking about how we interact with others, we are talking about how we benefit others with our work. The power is within us to do good work.
Continuing Courtship in Marriage
Another footnote from the Matthew verse directs me to consider this council in the marriage relationship.
Paul counseled: “Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband,” (1 Corinitians 7:3). Benevolence isn’t a word we use much any more, but it can be equated with kindness, a reminder that this marriage relationship is the most important one in which to render kindness and good intent to one another.
Then there is the classic injunction in Ephesians where Paul tells the wives to subject themselves to their husbands as we do to Christ within the Church. And then the husbands are told to be as Christ to their wives. I don’t know which is harder counsel to swallow personally, but both place an almost impossible standard for marriage relationships. This is how it must be though: men out to love as Christ loved. Women ought to submit to their husbands as if to Christ. The council is two sides of the same coin, submission or love. Are we not both being asked to conform to a higher law?
The imprint of nature is upon me this morning, realizing that in the creations that so abundantly surround us here in this fertile place, there is also life, and if life then there must be love and giving.
Another footnote has taken me to Proverbs 24. It feels as if my life had been aligned to consider the counsels found herein this morning. I asked myself if I could receive instruction from the creations that are around me? The Spirit of the Lord confirms such a notion. But then I read in Proverbs:
30 I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;
31 And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.
32 Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction.
These are the verses that immediately followed the footnote reference. There is instruction in the world around us! But the entirety of the chapter is practically shouting at me this morning. So much truth! Don’t envy the evil. Their end is misery. “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.”
If kindness is the whole purpose and end of the law and the prophets, then I have greatly missed the mark, especially with my family, many a time. Kindness is different than calmness, and denotes calmness towards others. No matter what evil is extended to the individual, returning goodness every where we go.
Do not refrain from teaching the Gospel of Christ to your children. The end goal is conversion, not knowledge. Conversion to what? A gospel of kindness.
There is a brief addendum that I would add this study, found in Matthew 22:40. Here is another instance of where the phrase “the law and the prophets” is used to give emphasis to the importance of the principle being taught. In that context, it was teaching of the two greatest commandments: love God and my fellow man. Kindness is the essence of the same.
Go ye into the world, saying unto all, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come nigh unto you.
And the mysteries of the kingdom ye shall keep within yourselves; for it is not meet to give that which is holy unto the dogs; neither cast ye your pearls unto swine, lest they trample them under their feet.
For the world cannot receive that which ye, yourselves, are not able to bear; wherefore ye shall not give your pearls unto them, lest they turn again and rend you.
Say unto them, Ask of God; ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
This is found in the Joseph Smith Translation only on verse 12. It is for God to reveal some of the deeper mysteries of the kingdom to individuals. This is such an important point to be understood in our personal quest for knowledge and discipleship.
Knowledge garners perspective. I am hated because of my perspective. But the Savior says that they hate you, because they know not me. Therefore, they hate me first, not you. (See John 17:9-26)
The Spirit of the Lord reassures me this morning that the promise found in verse 11 is true. It seems to me that God the Father is eager to answer our prayers. “…How much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” I am reminded of recent minor course corrections that have generated much benefit to my personal welfare. Simple actions and minimal investment of time have rendered and will yet render much fruit.
This clarification is particularly important, because instead of the Savior admonishing us to avoid judgments at all cost, He is warning to me to be careful in my judgments, that I don’t judge unrighteous judgments, or unmerciful judgments. (See Alma 41:14) I need to say this again: Harsh justice is not righteous judgment. Merciful judgments are righteous judgments.
Here is another perspective on righteous judgments:
And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.
In any discussion on judgment, the council and direction offered by the prophet Mormon must be considered: Moroni 7:15-19.
There are a couple of areas that I’m exploring this morning that relate to judgment. One is personal obedience and how my experiences from the mission, church, and family service have influenced my perspective and direction.
New morning, and I am coming in after a morning walk through my gardens (backyard) after a day of rain. I can’t help to be enraptured by all the new growth, and life which is just so eagerly growing around me. It only requires water. I see a strong gospel type in these things.
Now in my morning studies, I read from proverbs: “The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.” (Proverbs 11:25, emphasis added) I see in this a promise. The watering is the teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So the teacher is strengthened in the strengthening of the students.
I am called to preach the Gospel in every setting. At home, at church, among friends and family. Water is needed everywhere for life to grow. It is also interesting that I am caused to considering this in a discussion of judgment, with a mandate to judge righteous judgments. What does this mean? Do I withhold water from one that would not be watered, because I judge them as not needing or wanting water? I am sitting with these questions, recognizing the need to water the ground for it to grow.
Righteous Judgment Demands Humility
Reviewing the above notes, it strikes me as significant the connection between humility and righteous judgments. Or rather, to walk proudly is the very essence of unrighteous judgment, for the proud lack discernment and perspective.
I am reading straight out of the book of Psalms, King David (a great judge) being its author, and it strikes me that he reveals a key of this approach to judgment.
False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things that I knew not.
They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul.
But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.
I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother.
David did not exalt himself against his enemy, but rather he abased himself, and attempted to make himself as one with them. He mourned for them in their sufferings. He made himself as a brother or a friend. He did this without gaining the advantage of converting his enemies into friends. Yet, this gives the judge a perspective of mercy and compassion.
There is nothing to gain in this approach to judgment, except the truth. There is no ulterior motive, no financial compensation, no strategic advantage; this allows a true judge in Christ to see things that the wicked cannot see. It allows the true judge to consider things that others would not consider. But it really resonates with me this morning that nothing else will result from being a righteous judge except the truth, which is right, which is mercy, which is abundance, which is good.
This group of verses is broken into two sections. The first was addressed to the multitude; the second was specific instructions to the Savior’s twelve chosen disciples. The instruction that had been given to the twelve is some of the doctrines that I’ve taken to me most personally. There is obviously a reason why these particular instructions were given just to the twelve.
Treasures in Heaven
In five verses (19-24), the Savior sums up all of our relationship to the goods of this world and contrasts them with true treasures of eternity, without offering a lot of specifics or details.
New day of study, I have mapped out on our wall this morning something of a personal overview of our mortal experience:
This depiction is representative of some thoughts I had today after listening to a talk last evening from President Nelson entitled “Now Is the Time to Prepare”.
The final timeline is labeled “Earthly Treasures/Pleasures”. I had first labeled it as “Money $$” referencing President Nelson’s talk, but then as I thought more about what the Savior is teaching in these verses, he doesn’t call it “money” but rather “treasures upon earth”. These earthly treasures are contrasted with “treasures in heaven”.
Corruptible things, can be destroyed by moths, rust, or decay.
Things capable of being stolen by thieves.
Things which are incorruptible.
Riches which cannot be stolen, because they are stored in heaven.
This definition actually leaves a lot to the imagination. Here’s a quick brain dump of some general ideas.
Examples of Earthly Treasures
Riches, mammon, temporal possessions
Excessive houses, fine clothing, expensive cars
Examples of Heavenly Treasures
Family and family relationships
Friends and neighbors
Knowledge and skills
The Savior then states a defining and clarifying point: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” So the Savior is then giving it to us to define for ourselves where our treasures are, or where our priorities are at.
There is more here, as the Savior goes on to explain that where you direct your sight, can determine whether you are allowing light or darkness into your life. In verse 22, in the Matthew version of this scripture, there is a Joseph Smith Translation which adds: “if therefore thine eye be single to the glory of God, thy whole body shall be full of light.”
Jesus Christ is the Light of the world. Our eyes are the light of our bodies. “Blessed are your eyes, for they see.” See what? They see the Light of the world. So if we can see the glory of God, Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, and our eye be single to Him and Him only, then are we full of that light. And if we are filled with light, then do we comprehend all things. (See Doctrine and Covenants 88:67)
(This last point was an addendum of the Father that the Spirit of the Lord constrained me to consider before finishing for the day. What am I to learn?)
No Man Can Serve Two Masters
Our loyalty is to God or to the devil, but it can never be to both. Loyalty is synonymous with trustworthiness, obedience, and faithfulness. My loyalty, as explained in Jacob 1:7-8, I feel is not as it could be. What can I do to improve this? I follow Jesus Christ, or in this I am trying. I really, really struggle when it comes to blessing others though by following Jesus Christ.
In my studies from yesterday, I followed the footnotes on the Topical Guide entry for Service found in Matthew 6:24, which in turn took me to Jeremiah 22. This caused me to consider other matters of family dynamics and father to son relationships, and the wrath of God upon those of the covenant who did not hear His word.
In these particular verses, the Lord also decrees that the lineage of that king (Jehoiakim) will never prosper or rule again in Judah. I don’t know why that strikes me as important this morning. This goes back to the original verse, “No man can serve to masters.”
The very existence of any Israelite kingdom in antiquity was that God might have had a covenant, righteous people. When the people departed from their righteousness, then the very purposes for their organization as a people was nullified. They were to remain in their scattered state until such a time as was given them to be gathered in again, not because of their identity or association as a people, but because of their righteousness.
This morning I am in a preparation for General Conference this weekend. I’ve had a small but jolting reminder in my own behavior that has caused me to remember that God can do His own work. One planted, another harvested, but God gave the increase.
Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence.
He that is slothful shall not be counted worthy to stand, and he that learns not his duty and shows himself not approved shall not be counted worthy to stand. Even so. Amen.
This is where I am failing in terms of fatherly responsibility. I do not know my duties. I do not attend to my duties as a father.
The pruning is hard and deep this morning, but needed. I have read “An Eye Single to the Glory of God” by Elder Marlin K. Jensen. These thoughts bring me full circle in this particular study. The principles of gardening are all very real in my mind this morning as well. I’ve learned a few things as of late that I am finding to be applicable as well in my current circumstances as a husband and father. I’ve also read an article from then President Utchdorf entitled “God’s Harvest”.
I am back in verse 24. After the Savior says that “no man can serve two masters,” he goes on to explain why. “…for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other.” Now, here pronouns are used.
First he says “he will hate the one, and love the other.” Let’s assume that the hate assigned here is towards Mammon and the love is towards God. But then, he flips the tables and says “or else he will hold to the one (no love here), and despise (a word that means a feeling stronger than hate) the other.” Then we assume here that this is Mammon that we hold to and God whom we despise.
Despise is defined as feelings of contempt or deep repugnance, and it is also said to be a feeling stronger than hate. Why would we despise God if we do not love him?
Jacob, from the Book of Mormon, warns:
Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways. And no man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed unto him; wherefore, brethren, despise not the revelations of God.
Mammon – See Idolatry, Idols in the Topical Guide. The theme of idolatry is prevalent throughout the Old Testament. It was the common sin of the House of Israel from the beginning. They could not understand the covenants of God and so they frequently defaulted back to idolatry, to worship the workmanship of their own hands.
Study of Idolatry (continued)
But this is not just an Old Testament issue. It is detailed in the Book of Mormon and is even mentioned in the introduction of the Doctrine and Covenants. So what does idolatry look like in our days? In the Book of Mormon, idolatry is associated with idleness, the two activities made to be equal. Idolatry = Idleness. If idleness is laziness, then it means to do nothing, or it seems to stand in opposition to work. And yet it sometimes requires so much work to accomplish wickedness. Vain, laborious exertions are made in pursuit of activities that bear no fruits.
Idolatry is also grouped in a host of other wicked activities as a catalyst for war.
One more day on this particular thought, following the Topical Guide entry for worldliness. (This is a particularly strong spirit about my study this morning: 14 Apr 2020) The Psalms are resonating deeply with me this morning, for the wicked may prosper for a season, but the Lord will not maintain them as He does the righteous. (Psalms 37, Psalms 73)
Psalms 73:12-17 stands out to me in particularly, that perceived dynamic of the righteous, who see the wicked prospering in their own ways, without any credence to the way of God, His commandments, or His covenants. Oh those covenant obligations that keeps the man of God from prospering after the ways of the world! I love how it is in the temple, in the attendance to covenant duty, that the Lord then reveals to the Psalmist the truth end of the wicked, who appear to prosper. And the most important part of this entire conversation is that in the end the man of God is he that prospers. Behold, how he prospers, in both temporal matters and in the riches of eternities, all of His children who follow Him.
Verses 25-34 are a commission directed exclusively to the twelve disciples that Christ had previously called. This is different than how this same set of instruction appears in the New Testament.
There are several invitation given to the disciples in this group of instructions:
Behold the fouls of the air
Consider the lilies of the field
Take no thought for food, drink, or clothing
Seek ye first the kingdom of God
There are so many lessons to be learned in the mere observation of life that surrounds us. I find it fascinating that Christ points to birds and flowers to instruct his disciples. What I’m really struggling with right now is the connection between God, the natural world, and man. Why do these observation of nature feel more like a time-wasting hobby than an opportunity to be instructed and to hear the voice of God in his creations? Why won’t the Spirit of God guide me to further consideration of the lilies? (I will stop here for the day, but expect to learn more in the days ahead.)
First the Savior gives instructions to the disciples that they should not concern themselves with temporal affairs of food, drink, and clothing. Then ends with a rhetorical question: “Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” In this question, it is more of a declaration: the life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. There is more to it then just our temporal needs. The questions then are what is the “more”? There is more to life than just what we eat. Or there is more that is required for life to be sustained than just food. There is a greater purpose to our bodies than just for the purpose of clothing it.
Behold the Fouls of the Air
To illustrate this point, he first points to the birds of flight as proof that without thought for it, God can and does feed these creatures, which exist in abundance. The entire life span of billions upon billions of birds that cover the earth all get a “free lunch” if you will. “Work we must, but the lunch is free,” as scholar Hugh Nibley was fond of saying. The birds contribute essentially to the natural systems of the earth into the spheres in which they are placed. They give of their songs, and are clothed in beauty, not of their own thought or choosing. They are obedient within the realm in which they are placed and God takes care of them.
In our “Come Follow Me” instruction, we were recently in Mosiah 1-3. So King Benjamin’s remarks are fresh in my memory. I am feeling that there is a parallel there between his remarks on keeping the commandments of God in chapter 2 and this particular point on beholding the fouls of the air. The birds are blessed for their participation in the Plan. So are we.
…I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual…
In Matthew, there is a footnote on “consider” that leads to the TG entry for “Mediation”. Herein is a key to spiritual strength. “Lord, consider my meditation,” Psalms 5:1. I wasn’t expecting such a strong impression of the value of meditation this morning. I’m particularly considering it as a part of discipleship. The following two verses from Doctrine and Covenants give this practice particular credence:
Hearken ye to these words. Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Treasure these things up in your hearts, and let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds.
Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man.
The fouls of the air were proof that God can feed all of his creations. Now he points to the lilies of the field as proof that he can beautifully cloth all his creations. God can do His own work in His own time.
A new day, I watched a video last evening where a gardener suggested that one of the best things that you can do for your garden is take time to observe it. Meditate in the garden. His reason for doing so was to observe ways in which the natural process were working.
I am not outside at the moment, but as I draw my mind to some of the wild field flowers that overcrowd my yard in the spring time, I am brought to consider that they are their in dormancy year round. They will flower once in the spring time. I say they lie in dormancy for most of the year, but maybe they are working and only fruit once a year. Their visible activities are only apparent when conditions are right.
Christ is not saying that food, drink, and clothing, these necessities of life are not of importance. He knows of their importance, just as he knows of our needs.
To Build Up… and to Establish
In the 3 Nephi version of verse 33, there is a footnote on commitment. The idea rubs me a little raw, because of misplaced priorities in understanding what commitment to the Kingdom of God really looked like. In Matthew 6:33 however, Joseph Smith translates this verse slightly differently:
Wherefore, seek not the things of this world but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.
I am going in two directions with these statements: one is looking back, the other is looking forward. As I look back, I have the testimony of a providential Hand that has placed me in my current state of abundance. Home, clothing, food, and modest yet reliable transportation are all temporal blessings that I currently enjoy. Could I ask for more than this temporally? Is it needed?
So looking forward, if I have been established in every needful thing temporally, how much more should I put first the building up of the Kingdom of God and to establish His righteousness! The questions in my mind are how, and in what ways am I being lead. Clearly there are matters of temporal importance that continue to merit my attention, but what have I ever lost in devoting time to the Kingdom of God? Nothing.
My devotions have been slightly off-centered though, not giving enough diligence and heed to my own home. But at times, as I allow space for children to grow, I have been prompted to attend to service in the Church, instead of at home.
To build up, to establish the kingdom of God, there is another phrase that goes inline with this thought: How beautiful is he that publisheth peace, that saith unto Zion, thy God reigneth. (See Isaiah 52:7) The act of publishing peace, or establishing righteousness connotes work, and an effort yet to be made. It is a call to arms.
Another day, I have spent another half hour reflecting on the same group of verses, cross referencing footnotes, which are abundant. The reality is that within this group of verses are the keys of abundance in this life and instruction on how to prepare for eternal life.
He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour.
Abundance and prosperity are the promises of the scriptures for those that follow God. Not as the world would illustrate prosperity, but as in the riches of eternity which the earth is designed to release to those who are obedient.
I end on this point, “Take no thought for the morrow.” The Lord is not telling us to not plan or prepare. Rather, this morning, I am almost paralyzed with fear of the future for my family. I think this is what the Lord is counseling me to avoid. The translation from the Spanish back into English simply states: Don’t worry about tomorrow.
The title phrase that I have chosen for this entry is a promise that the Savior repeats verbatim three times in this passage of scripture, emphasizing the spiritual importance of how some personal elements of discipleship ought to be kept to ourselves. For if we do these things to be seen of men, then in the praise of the world (which is actually no praise at all), we have our reward.
May this truth [service] guide our lives. May we look upward as we press forward in the service of our God and our fellowmen. And may we incline an ear toward Galilee, that we might hear perhaps an echo of the Savior’s teachings: ‘Do not your alms before men, to be seen of them’ (Matthew 6:1). ‘Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth’ (Matthew 6:3). And of our good deeds: ‘See thou tell no man’ (Matthew 8:4). Our hearts will then be lighter, our lives brighter, and our souls richer. Loving service anonymously given may be unknown to man—but the gift and the giver are known to God.
Contrary to the account of the Sermon on the Mount found in the book of Matthew, this section starts with a commandment: “Verily, verily, I say that I would that ye should do alms unto the poor;” (vs. 1) This then becomes the premise for how to do alms, or give of our money and goods to the poor.
There is an obligation on our end to give, but I feel that the Savior is then teaching us to not dwell on it; don’t think about it. Don’t do it for the glory of the world; don’t even do it for your own glory. This is like taking pride in our own “righteousness”. The Savior says don’t even let your right hand and left hand know what each other is doing in giving to the poor.
When Thou Prayest
The Savior admonishes us to not be as the hypocrites, praying in public to be seen. What does it mean to be a hypocrite? Hypocrisy is a term that is found repeatedly throughout the scriptures (appearing perhaps the fewest times in the Book of Mormon).
I have spent the morning studying the origins of the word: hypocrisy. This, of course, should lead to personal reflection on the subject and on ways in which I tend to behave hypocritically. I’m not done with this topic.
The Manner of Prayer
Jesus first teaches to avoid vain or meaningless repetition, stating that the Father already knows what we need before we ask. How do the two correlate? What is the purpose of prayer? Why do I pray?
Everyday, at least twice a day, I am on my knees praying to the Father. I know it has started as an obligation. (It has been since as long as I can remember.) This sense of obligation or duty though has a tendency to obscure what this really is.
I’ve read Elder Brook P. Hales’ recent conference talk: Answers to Prayer. This was brought to my attention in a search for the phrase “your father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him.” My life up to this point is actually a testament of the truths spoken his talk, especially this concluding thought:
I know that as an all-knowing, loving Father, He answers our prayers perfectly, according to His infinite wisdom, and in ways that will be to our ultimate benefit and blessing.
So if the Father knows what we need before we ask Him, how does that change the way that we approach prayer? It changes everything. Because the Father knows already what we need, prayer is a matter of our wills being aligned to his, and seeking for the cleansing, purifying power of the Atonement so that we can come to know what the Father already knows. The Father has the answers to our deepest heart-felt desires. It is worth every effort then to adjust ourselves to Him and His holy will, so that we can know the same.
I am reviewing this today and realize that I have not taught correct principles concerning prayer. When the Savior taught how to pray, he first emphasized that this isn’t a matter of rote repetition. Here is what the Savior chose to emphasize when teaching how to pray:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
These are the principles. How do I teach this to my children? (I want to categorize these things, and place labels on them. But that dumbs down the doctrine, which strips it of its full power.)
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
This suggests reverence for Heavenly Father. It also has been explained to me that this is an acknowledgement of the Father’s supremacy. “Hallowed be thy name.” Hallowed means to be made holy or consecrated. In Spanish, the word for hallowed is “santificado” or sanctified. This suggests to me then both an immediate acknowledgement of his preeminent and holy state of being and also a looking forward to that time in which all will hold holy His sacred name. It is a reminder to me of the sacred realm into which I ascend when I call on Him, the Father of my immortal soul.
This introductory point of prayer cannot be over emphasized enough. To grasp and attempt to comprehend the nature of this Divine Being to whom we all must approach in prayer is worthy of great effort, of our very best efforts.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Sincere Submission. I’ve already addressed this and study this point. But here is a quote from Henry B. Eyring that emphasize it:
The servant with a testimony that this is the true Church of Jesus Christ feels joy in its progress and a desire to give his or her all to build it up.
The Savior Himself exemplified the standard set by these next words of the prayer: “Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth” (Luke 11:2). That was His prayer in the extremity of offering the Atonement for all mankind and all the world (see Matt. 26:42). The faithful servant prays that even the apparently smallest task will be done as God would have it done. It makes all the difference to work and to pray for His success more than for our own.
And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will.
And my prayer to God is concerning my brethren, that they may once again come to the knowledge of God, yea, the redemption of Christ;
This particular set of verses connects the workings of the Spirit to knowledge of the will of God, and echoes back to the Savior’s instruction in John 3. There is a footnote that takes me over to Ecclesiastes 11: we don’t know the nature of the seed when we go to plant it. We plant in the morning and collect in the evening. There is much to be learned in this routine or process.
If the Spirit of the Lord be with you, and it will not act in defiance of the Father’s holy will, then are we privy to the will of the Father for us.
He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh.
Joseph of Egypt looked at the grave injustice extended to him at the hand of his brothers and saw the greater good that God had accomplished through him. See Genesis 50:15-21. A secondary thought that occurs to me is that forgiveness is a required tool in the forward progression of God’s work. Forgiveness enables love.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
The first part of this phrase has been translated elsewhere to say “Suffer us not to be lead into temptation” or “Do not let us enter into temptation.”
The word “deliver” has its origins in the word “liberate,” and can mean “to set free” or “rescue.” This particular supplication then is critical in our efforts to follow God by avoiding the snares of the adversary. We are absolutely dependent upon God for protection from the adversary. His protection is in the commandments. And should we choose not to follow God’s commandments, then are we delivered or given into the hands of the evil one for him to do with us as he will.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
There are no footnotes in the 3 Nephi account, but over in Matthew, there is an obscure reference to a verse in 1 Chronicles from when David was about to die. It’s almost as if the Savior is giving reference to this verse:
Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all.
The reality is that the kingdoms and the governments of this world are temporary. The kingdom of God, which was and is and will be from all eternity to all eternity, is the objective and overall goal. The verse from 1 Chronicles has several other references. This one in the Doctrine and Covenants, resonates with me:
If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation.
Forgiveness is such a central tenant of the gospel of Christ that this additional emphasis is well merited. Not only is God willing to forgive us, but in order for us to participate more fully in the communal experience of the Atonement and its resultant salvation, our participation in the acts of forgiveness are also requisite. Bitterness, rancor, vengeance, brooding, and anything else that accompanies us in our unwillingness to forgive must be put away in order for us to fully enjoy the blessings of the Gospel in everyday living.
When Ye Fast
God’s secret weapon to mortals; it is in fasting that we cut straight to the Source for divine assistance. Perhaps that is not as readily evident here, because the promise is the same for giving to the poor, and praying in general, but Isaiah reminds us of how potent fasting is slicing through layers of wickedness and heaping upon ourselves the riches of eternity. In fasting, we also combine the activities of giving to the poor and prayer. This triad of alms, prayers, and fasting, properly performed all lead to the same outcome: blessings from the Father.
There is more from Isaiah on this subject. In fact, a great many blessings are spelled out here. There is one that catches my attention this morning: ” thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations;” In my mind and to my reasoning, this is the blessing of family and posterity and being able to lay a foundation for them to build on in the future.
Thy Father Who Is in Secret
Why can’t we see God? Perhaps it is the great trial of our faith. But the Savior here is also reminding us of things that are not seen, of Him whom we cannot see. Isaiah and Brother Joseph add some very interesting insights on this point:
Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.
We sit in darkness, it is us that cannot see. God who dwells and is light, can see us. What are the proofs of this around us? There are many.
I am coming at this conclusion for this section of scriptures the day after having just completed a fast. So my knowledge is not exclusively based on what I am reading or reasoning out of the scriptures, but rather, I know from personal experience the veracity of this teachings. What the scriptures do for me here is give definition through the written word to the feelings that are in my heart this morning. They are expanding my understanding of experiences that I have personally had.
I’ve already kind of highlighted the point above, but the last time that the Savior teaches this promise about the Father rewarding us openly for things that we do in secret (see vs. 18). It is worded just slightly different, emphasizing that the Father is in secret. Fasting should be done in complete ignorance to everyone around us. It should be a secret issue of the heart between you or I and the Father. Isaiah 58:8-12 articulates the blessings of a successful fasting effort, which is extremely important to understand. There is one blessing in particular that I had never before seen. Namely, that our posterity will be the ones to do the work of restoration and building a foundation for many generations to follow.
And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations;
In the title, I am deliberately leaving out the word “perfect” as it is a source of much stress for many. Though I have come to look at it in the terms of “completion” not perfectionism. The Savior takes pains to spell out his definition of perfection, which is not after the appearance of things.
Yet, what Savior is really saying here is that He wants us to be as He is. He goes on to include His Father in that statement. These are our standards of measurement, the one unchanging, universal rule of truth. This is how we are to be!
On a new morning, it strikes me even more amazing that Christ is not only inviting us to become as He and the Father are, but that he has the power to articulate on what principles and in such exhaustive, yet universally applicable, detail.
I am like hardened earth against some of the council in these verses. I cannot receive it. It doesn’t resonate with me. And it is as nothing to me. I do not know how to remedy this. For this is the council that the Savior gives just right before he makes his final declaration in this chapter to “be perfect”.
Elements of the New Law
Anger – “whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. “
Name Calling – “And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca… Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”
Provocation – “if ye… shall desire to come unto me, and rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee— first be reconciled to thy brother…”
Conflict – “Agree with thine adversary quickly while thou art in the way with him”
Lust – “whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart.”
Unclean Thoughts – “suffer none of these things to enter into your heart. 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. “
Divorce – “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.”
Swearing/Communication – “swear not at all… let your communication be Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever cometh of more than these is evil.”
“thou shall not resist evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also;”
“if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also;”
“whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”
“Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away.”
Enmity/Love – “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;”
The above categorical approach is incorrect or incomplete.
I have spent a lot of time on verses 27 to 30, wrestling with some very personal feelings. I end with the footnote on “cross” in verse 30.
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
This phrase “deny yourself” seem to be the clarifying point. I’m looking for something more of explanation here, something that offers more insight and instruction, and presently I cannot find anything. Thus I am wrestling.
I’ve dug deeper on the words “adultery”, “lust”, and their Spanish counterparts. The thing that is really throwing me for a loop is that the old law was to not commit adultery, which is to participate in extramarital sexual relationship. But the new law is different, it is to not lust after a woman. There is no qualifier of any marital status or relationship. Lust is an interesting word. “Codiciar” is it Spanish counterpart and one definition of the word means to take more than one’s fair portion.
It is suggested also that the term “lust” used in these scriptural verse has its origin in more general covetousness, rather than to be exclusively focused on sexual desire.
But the final thing that has given me pause for consideration is this: the Savior says “suffer none of these things to enter into your heart.” It is plural. Why?
So why the plural “these things”? What are these things? The footnote on “none” points to a verse in Doctrine and Covenants that literally repeats almost verbatim the same commandment to not look on a woman to lust after her. So how else could this have been said?
Suffer not this thing…
Suffer none of this thing…
Suffer not these things…
But the commandment is suffer none of these things? What are these things? The lustful thoughts. And how many are we allowed to let pass through? Answer: NONE. Not even one. The mind is no playground for perverse thoughts. The plural seems to suggest that there will be multiple attempts from the adversary to tempt us with the same repeated thoughts.
How bold of the Savior to venture into the internal realms of the soul, and give strict instructions on how to keep our houses clean, perfectly spotless!
Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
The following verse repeats the plural statement “these things” and connects the denial of “these things” to the act of taking up our crosses. One footnoted verse in Luke reminds me that this is a daily activity: “let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
Reviewing prophetic quotes on divorce puts these statements more inline with the previous declarations from the Savior. The cause for most troubles in marriage is selfishness. The remedy for most problems in marriage is repentance, not divorce.
Swear Not At All
At the heart of this counsel to not swear is the principle of honestly. We covenants with the Lord. We faithfully fulfill those covenants. Then in our honesty, there is no need to swear, for we are truthful in all our communications. (See verses 33-37)
Ye Shall Not Resist Evil
(27 Feb 2020) – The date here is significant as it is now two mornings after a harrowing personal assault that took place on our family. Rachel and I were victims of a vicious extortion scheme that took a large sum of money from us while pretending to put our family member’s life in great danger.
I had read the verses 38 – 45 prior to this event, but this morning the Spirit is so much stronger in emphasizing the reality of these statements:
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… And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain… …behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good.
Anyone else except for Christ could have said this with less authority. But these are the words of Christ, who suffered the great, most horrific cruelty and injustice imaginable. This resonates with me so deeply this morning. I’ve yet to pray for my enemies. The children need to hear me do this too.
New day, I am spending a little more time in verses 44 & 45 studying the footnotes. “Do good to them that hate you.” Footnote to the topical guide entry for Benevolence. I think few things describe the true nature of God better than this idea: that God is love, not just love, but unconditional love or love without limits. When I think about my relationship to the Father, or rather His relationship to me, benevolence is the attribute that perhaps best captures my feelings about His generosity towards me. It is familiar to me, because I have been the recipient of this benevolence repeatedly and often.
In the final verses of this chapter, the Savior goes on to explain that all things are fulfilled in Him. The old law of Moses has been done away. All things are become new, again. In reading that, it strikes me as a critical transition then. Christ has spelled out in this chapter how things used to be, and then how we ought now to comport ourselves in the new law of Christ (which was actually the original law from the beginning of time).
In this context, there is an imperative requirement for us to become as Christ has come, because the reality is that Christ did come. The higher standard has been set. Now it is left to us to comply or be left out. Therefore, let us complete the race that is placed before us. Christ suffered all that we might be and become like Him and the Father.
I began today’s study by looking at the footnotes on this phrase. I quickly learned about a “covenant of salt” that existed in ancient Israel. It is referenced twice in the Old Testament: once with Aaron and the Levites, the other with king David. Then I found this through a search:
This answered so many questions on this one-page fact sheet, but also gave context to why Christ was using salt as a comparison.
Those who are baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ make covenants. In modern revelation the Lord declared, “When men are called unto mine everlasting gospel, and covenant with an everlasting covenant, they are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men” (D&C 101:39). To perform our covenant duty as the salt of the earth, we must be different from those around us. This requires us to make some changes from our family culture, our ethnic culture, or our national culture. We must change all elements of our behavior that are in conflict with gospel commandments, covenants, and culture.
The quote from then Elder Oaks illustrates the connection with being different from the world, why that is important, and then how we can become different. This is why Christ says, Ye are the salt of the earth. We can become the salt of the earth. When we truly convert to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are becoming that savory salt that Christ desires that we become.
A Light unto This People
In the New Testament version of the Sermon on the Mount, Christ says “Ye are the light of the world. It it is curious to note that elsewhere the Savior also says that He is the light of the world. So out of His own mouth, He is making us equal with Him, at least in this regard. The Nephite account is yet more verbose, ” Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be a light…” Indeed, emphatically is saying in essence: as I am the light, you are also the light. We together are the light.
This unifying invitation from Christ to be a light with Him is instructive and reassuring. When we stand out as a light, we stand beside Christ; we are not alone.
Is there anything of a connection between verses 16 and 17? In verse 16, the Savior is counseling us to let our light shine so that the Father may be glorified. In verse 17, He then goes on to say that He is not replacing the law or the prophets, but fulfilling their words. Is there a connection between the two statements, as I have always read and associated them as separate, unrelated thoughts.
Is there anything in this council to let our light shine that is a direct fulfillment of the law, and the prophets?
A new day, and yes, I see a connection between salt & light and laws & commandments. What gives the salt its savor? What gives the light its power? Obedience to law. And here is what we are to do with these commandments; this is the reason we have been conditioned, trained, and prepared to be obedient and faithful. It is so that we can be salt with savor and so that we can be light that shines brightly in darkness.
There is another thought that accompanies this: These commandments and our faithful adherence to the law of the Lord is what enables us to do our work among the children of men, whatever that work looks like on the surface. There are thousands upon thousands of professions and vocations, but our ability to shine in any occupation or external duty, any responsibility that is given to us, rests squarely upon the condition of our internal selves. It is the cleansed purity of our hearts and minds that gives us clear ability to see things for what they really are.
Wo unto you poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with your own hands!
But blessed are the poor who are pure in heart, whose hearts are broken, and whose spirits are contrite, for they shall see the kingdom of God coming in power and great glory unto their deliverance; for the fatness of the earth shall be theirs.
That’s quite a promise! They shall see the kingdom of God coming in power and great glory unto their deliverance; for the fatness of the earth shall be theirs.
The study of the Beatitudes is an opportunity to grapple with realities that I know to be true.
Blessed Are All They that Mourn
I haven’t given this much thought, but I include it in the list now (near the end of my study) because it is brought to my attention that this list of eight beatitudes is sequential. That is also comforting, because it represents steps in a process of becoming. We are not being told here that you must perpetually mourn. Rather, the Savior is telling me that I will experience suffering and have cause for mourning, but that comfort will also come.
Blessed Are the Meek
I’ve spent the bulk of my study reviewing past studies and scriptures on the term “Meekness”. I am much strengthened by the reminders and promises made to the meek. My desire is to be among them, to qualify or to be found among the meek things of the earth.
Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst After Righteousness
The promise is that they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.
How do I hunger and thirst after righteousness? Do I have an appetite for the things of righteousness? The promise is that those that do shall be filled with the Holy Ghost. What a strengthening reassurance! God will not leave us comfortless.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
Which is the better motivator? Love or fear? Mercy or judgment? Is mercy synonymous with love? Fear with judgment. Love of mercy. We don’t fear mercy, and who loves judgment, especial when executed against one’s self. The promise is a simple one. Be merciful, receive mercy. No other attribute is more reciprocal.
Blessed Are the Pure in Heart
This topic of purity, or being pure in heart, seems to be an end goal of discipleship. But there is no timetable attached to it. The promise is causal: seeing God is the result of a pure heart. Nephi and Lehi’s accounts are perhaps the best demonstration of this that clearly illustrate how one can obtain this promise. Seeing God in both cases was the inciting incident for what subsequently transpired.
I am being beckoned here.
A new day of study, and this has been on my mind for the last 24 hours, especially as it relates to Nephi and Lehi and it being starting point, not the end, for both of them.
Blessed Are the Peacemakers
Preaching the Gospel is what brings peace. Preachers (teachers) of the Gospel are also peacemakers.
Blessed Are All They Who Are Persecuted for My Name’s Sake
And this is the evidence of progress. It is brought to my attention that the beatitudes are a progression, with this statement being the final proof. If you are on the right path, there will be opposition.
Blessed Are Ye When Men Shall Revile You…
So there is actually nine beatitudes or statements where the Savior begins with “Blessed…” This last one seems to be akin to the second-to-last one, only with a stronger sentiment. It is as if the Savior is reminding me that things can get worse when I follow Him. However, when it gets to this point in discipleship, we are told to rejoice exceedingly, I think for two reasons: 1) the promise is that great shall be our reward in Heaven, and 2) we are now in company with the prophets who also endured such persecution.
… And when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.