3 Nephi 12

 

Covenant Obedience Brings Peace -

 3 Nephi 11 -- Mormon 7      Disobedience Brings Destruction


 

3 Nephi 12,13,14 (The Sermon on the Mount / The Sermon at the Temple):

 

     According to Victor Ludlow, chapters 12, 13, and 14 of 3 Nephi introduce some of the great teachings of the Savior, many of which He had given as part of his mortal ministry as recorded in the New Testament. In fact chapters 12, 13, and 14 are what we often call the Sermon on the Mount. Although here in the Book of Mormon setting, we call it the Sermon at the Temple. It's basically the same sermon as we find recorded in Matthew 5-7, with some important differences that allow us to interpret the sermon very differently than Bible scholars have done.

     One of the most important differences is the context. Many New Testament scholars aren't really sure to whom the Savior is speaking. . . . However in the Book of Mormon, we find that the Savior is talking to those who heed the message and are willing to be baptized (3 Nephi 12:1). . . . So it wasn't just a few select apostles and disciples and it wasn't just any and everybody, but those who had entered into a covenant relationship.

     The Sermon on the Mount is, as one scholar puts it, the Christian constitution. It really is a constitution of Christianity. Any and all who claim to be Christians need to read very carefully this Sermon and say, "Am I doing this? Am I fulfilling this?" Because these are the blessings and expectations the Savior Himself asks of those who have entered into the waters of baptism and taken His name upon themselves. This is a very important covenant context of the Sermon on the Mount that, frankly, is not clear and precise in the New Testament and that sets the stage for our whole perspective of this important Sermon. And the fact that it was given here in the Book of Mormon as in the New Testament indicates that it is very, very important, that He would repeat it among both groups of Israelites. [Victor L. Ludlow, "The Covenant Teachings of the Book of Mormon," F.A.R.M.S., pp. 4-5]

 

3 Nephi 12-14 (The King James Bible Sermon on the Mount?):

 

     According to Jeff Lindsay, the idea of a simple-minded copying by Joseph Smith of Bible passages into the Book of Mormon has to be rejected, though it is clear that the King James Bible was used in many cases to facilitate translation. In actuality, scholars have found that Book of Mormon passages apparently from the King James Version of the Bible contain variants corroborated in other biblical texts. The issue of Isaiah variants in the Book of Mormon is actually a complex and interesting topic now for scholars.

     Anti-Mormon writer Stan Larson has alleged that the Sermon on the Mount in 3 Nephi 12-14 does not match the earliest Greek texts. John Gee has responded to the charges (see John Gee, Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 6, No. 1, 1994, pp. 67-68). What is important for the Book of Mormon reader to understand is that it is extremely difficult to reconstruct an original text from multiple conflicting variants. Sometimes several manuscripts may agree, yet they all depart from what may have been the original. Relying on the dates of multiple surviving manuscripts as an indicator of accuracy is also inadequate, for sometimes a later manuscript preserves newly discovered and correct original reading that was lacking in earlier manuscripts. It is speculative at best to argue that the Book of Mormon is not valid because some verses closely follow the King James text while departing from some manuscripts that are earlier than the ones used by the KJV Translators. Indeed, Gee later notes the improper methodology of such attacks:

           Larson, as many before him, assumes that variants in the Book of Mormon should be reflected in Old World manuscripts. As far as textual criticism goes, it is methodologically incorrect to expect the Book of Mormon to agree or disagree with any given manuscript or set of manuscripts on any given textual variant. We no more expect the Book of Mormon to agree with Sinaiticus on any given variant than we expect the Peshitta or Codex Scheide to agree with Sinaiticus on the same variant. The purpose of textual criticism is not to establish the validity of the manuscript witnesses - such validity is always a given - but to use the manuscript witnesses to establish the text. Thus, from the standpoint of textual criticism, Larson cannot use a hammer whose purpose is nailing down the text to saw the Book of Mormon off from his list of manuscript witnesses. While his study demonstrates the independence of the Book of Mormon, this is precisely what we would expect if it is what it claims to be. (John Gee, Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 6, No. 1, 1994, pp. 70-71)

 

[Jeff Lindsay, "Did Joseph Smith Plagiarize from the King James Bible?," Book of Mormon Commentary, www.jefflindsay.com] [See Appendix C]

 

3 Nephi 12:1 Now the Number of Them . . . Was Twelve:

 

     According to John Tvedtnes, the Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon help persuade us that it is authentic . . . A difference between Hebrew and English in the use of conjunctions is that in biblical Hebrew, a language with no punctuation, the conjunction also serves as a marker of parenthesis. The words we would put inside parenthesis in English are preceded by the conjunction in Hebrew, and, at the conclusion, the next phrase is introduced by the conjunction. One example among many found in the Book of Mormon is in 3 Nephi 12:1 (the parentheses have been added for illustration), "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 . . . [John A. Tvedtnes, "The Hebrew Background of the Book of Mormon," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 84-85]

 

3 Nephi 12:1 Now the number of them who had been called . . . was twelve (Illustration): Christ Ordaining the Twelve. Jesus Christ called and ordained twelve Apostles in America, just as He had done in Israel. Artist: Gary Kapp. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 529]

 

 3 Nephi 12:1 Blessed Are Ye If Ye Shall Give Heed unto the Words of These Twelve:

 

     John Welch notes that at Bountiful, Jesus ordained and called priesthood leaders. 3 Nephi 12 begins with two ecclesiastical beatitudes not found in the Sermon on the Mount. "Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen; . . . 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" (3 Nephi 12:1-2). [John W. Welch, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, F.A.R.M.S., p. 105]

 

3 Nephi 12:1 These Twelve Whom I Have Chosen from among You:

 

     Jesus selected twelve special disciples and testified to the multitude of their divine calling: "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" (3 Nephi 12:1). According to Robert Matthews, these twelve were, in fact, apostles, although the record does not specifically so designate them. (See Moroni 2:1-3; see also the chapter heading to Moroni 2, and Joseph Smith, the "Wentworth Letter," History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2nd ed. rev., edited by B. H. Roberts (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-51), 4:538. [Robert J. Matthews, "Christ's Authority, His Other Sheep, and the Redemption of Israel," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 2, pp. 161, 171]

 

3 Nephi 12:3 Who Come unto Me:

 

     According to John Welch, in the Sermon at the Temple, the injunctions and instructions were given by Jesus as "commandments" (3 Nephi 12:20), and the people received them by entering into a covenant with God that they would always remember and keep those commandments that Jesus gave to them that day (see 3 Nephi 18:7, 10). . . . No such designation appears in the Sermon on the Mount, and thus biblical scholars inconclusively debate whether Jesus' teachings in the Sermon on the Mount were intended as celestial ideals, as ethical or religious principles, or as social commentary. Second, those who will be received into the kingdom of heaven are those who come unto Christ (see 3 Nephi 12:3, 20). The phrase "who come unto me" appears five times in the Sermon at the Temple (3 Nephi 12:3,19,20, and 23 twice), but it never occurs in the Sermon on the Mount. Coming unto Christ . . . is in essence a covenantal concept. . . Stephen D. Ricks suggests that the phrase "come unto me" in the Sermon at the Temple may be conceptually equivalent to the Old Testament expression "stand in the presence of the Lord," which is thought to be temple terminology. [John W. Welch, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 99-100]

 

3 Nephi 12:6 Filled with the Holy Ghost:

 

     In several passages in the Sermon at the Temple, subtle changes bring the divine influence more explicitly to the surface. When one is "filled with the Holy Ghost" (3 Nephi 12:6) in the Sermon at the Temple, the beatitude is not left unspecified, as in the Sermon on the Mount which just says "filled." [John W. Welch, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, F.A.R.M.S., p. 102]

 

3 Nephi 12:6 For They Shall Be Filled with the Holy Ghost:

 

     John Welch makes the following comment:

           I, for one, began my work on the Book of Mormon at a time when hardly anything positive had been written--from a scholarly point of view--about its antiquity. I believed the balance needed to be tipped back by looking for, finding, and saying things in favor of the book.

           Still today, I feel no need to get too excited when I see things that might be used as evidence against the book's antiquity. Instead, I take note and begin researching the subject. Usually, as I learn more, I come to see other options and find that what I originally thought was a problem is not. Indeed, sometimes what I thought was a problematic detail turns out to be a strength. For example, Krister Stendahl once claimed that the Book of Mormon is wrong to say "they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost" (3 Nephi 12:6). Stendahl made this claim because he said, the Greek word behind this beatitude in Matthew 5, namely chortazo, cannot mean to be filled "with the Holy Ghost" but means to "fill the stomach."5 Hutchinson (p. 14, where the Greek is misspelled) and others have used this as a prime exhibit of an alleged Book of Mormon mistake. For over ten years, I figured that the best that one could say on behalf of the Book of Mormon in this instance was that it was simply expressing the image of the Holy Ghost more literally than the Protestant Stendahl would allow. That explanation was sufficient for me, but I remained aware of Stendahl's linguistic criticism. Then, I found in the Septuagint an ancient text that used chortazo to mean being filled with the spirit, being satiated with the likeness of God (Psalm 17:15). This is a text that Stendahl had apparently missed. I published this finding in 1990,6 . . . Now, as a result of this excursion, I see the Book of Mormon translation in 3 Nephi 12:6 as stronger than ever, for it is consistent with an ancient usage of chortazo that even one of the learned men of the world had overlooked. Moreover, it is consonant with a unique point of Mormon doctrine that spirit is matter, meaning that one can indeed be physically filled with the spirit's substance. [John W. Welch, "Approaching New Approaches," in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 6/1 1994, pp. 150-151]

 

3 Nephi 12:6 Blessed Are All They Who Do Hunger and Thirst after Righteousness, for They Shall Be Filled With the Holy Ghost:

 

     John Tvedtnes notes that in explaining the emblems of the sacrament to the Nephites, Jesus said, "He that eateth this bread eateth of my body to his soul; and he that drinketh of this wine drinketh of my blood to his soul; and his soul shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled" (3 Nephi 20:8) But "when the multitude had all eaten and drunk, behold, they were filled with the Spirit," not with bread and wine (3 Nephi 20:9). This seems appropriate, since the promise to those who worthily partake of the sacrament is that they will "have his Spirit to be with them" (Moroni 4:3; 5:2).

     On the first occasion when Jesus had blessed bread for the Nephites in the land of Bountiful, we read that "when the multitude had eaten and were filled, he said unto the disciples: Behold there shall one be ordained among you, and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it and give it unto the people of my church, unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name" (3 Nephi 18:5).j He then specified that those who partook "shall have my Spirit" (3 Nephi 18:7). He blessed the wine "and [the disciples] did drink of it and were filled; and they gave unto the multitude, and they did drink, and they were filled" (3 Nephi 18:9). Jesus again stressed that the emblem of his blood was reserved for "those who repent and are baptized in my name," who, by partaking, shall have my Spirit" (3 Nephi 18:11).

     From this, we can see not only that the people were "filled" when partaking of the sacrament, but that Christ promised them his Spirit. The fact that he specified that the sacrament was to be administered to those who had been baptized stresses the fact that the ordinance is a renewal of the baptismal covenant by which we also have access to the Spirit (3 Nephi 19:13; 26:17). Alma the elder explained this in terms very reminiscent of the sacramental prayers when he asked his people,

     Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you? (Mosiah 18:10)

 

     Jesus told his Nephite disciples "that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled" (3 Nephi 27:16). He later specified what he meant by the word "filled": "come unto me, be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost" (3 Nephi 30:2).

     From this we can see that there is a high degree of consistency in the Book of Mormon accounts of baptism and partaking of the sacrament. Hungering after righteousness, one must repent and participate in the covenantal rite, whereupon one can be "filled with the Holy Ghost." [John A. Tvedtnes, "Hungering and Thirsting after Righteousness," in The Most Correct Book, pp. 283-284]

 

3 Nephi 12:8 Blessed Are the Pure in Heart, for They Shall See God:

 

     "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (3 Nephi 12:8). According to John Welch, both of those phrases--pure in heart and seeing God--are loaded with temple symbolism and meaning. The pure in heart phrase comes out of the twenty-fourth psalm--a psalm that is very well described as an ancient temple recommend. "Who shall ascend unto the hill of the Lord?" ["He that hath clean hands and a pure heart." (Psalms 24:3-4). The hill, of course, is the temple. Who is worthy to enter the temple? Those who have clean hands and a pure heart. And what will they see when they enter the temple? The Doctrine and Covenants tells us those who enter the temple in Kirtland (D&C 97:16) will see God. These phrases are referring to temple-type experiences. Such is not completely lost, even on our Gentile scholars. You can find, for example, Hans D. Betz speculating about what on earth these Beatitudes should be understood to mean. His conclusion: The Beatitudes are the entrance requirements for the kingdom of heaven--his way of saying "temple recommend questions" perhaps. . . .

     The list of virtues that you see presented in the Beatitudes is very similar to the list that you encounter in scriptures that talk about the process of sanctification. Look at 2 Peter 1; look at 1 Corinthians 13. Look at the list of virtues that King Benjamin in Mosiah 3:18-19 says a person must put on in order for the atoning blood to purify that person. That's the sanctifying power. Those are the virtues that you encounter in the Beatitudes--preparing the way for holiness and sanctification. [John W. Welch, "The Beatitudes--Christ's Teachings," in Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, pp. 136-137]

 

3 Nephi 12:9 Blessed Are the Peacemakers:

 

     According to John Welch, Deuteronomy 27 talks about how the old becomes new and what Jesus is doing. What did the Israelites do at the temple in Deuteronomy 27? One of the things was that the Levites had to stand up and pronounce curses upon the wicked. Cursed be the person who moves his neighbor's marker stone out in the field. Cursed be the person who leads the blind astray, and things like that. Each time there are twelve curses that they all pronounce. Each time one of the curses was uttered, all of the congregation there at the temple had to say, "Amen." This is a ritual sort of thing they went through every year [at the temple].

     Well, look what Jesus does. Instead of the list of curses, he has the list of blessings. As he says things like, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God" (3 Nephi 12:9), I like to imagine the congregation saying "Amen"--just as they were used to saying "Amen" to the curses. The combination of the cursing and the blessing, to link that one more step closer, is found in the 2 Enoch literature. I refer you to 2 Enoch, sections 42, 51, and 52. In 2 Enoch 42, you have, for example, a list of beatitudes again, and they describe the person who is worthy to enter into the third heaven. You remember in the Enoch literature you have an ascension vision, where the prophet moves from one heaven on up until he finally reaches the ultimate heaven. At each state it is described who is present at these different points. 2 Enoch 42 talks about those who enter into the "paradise room" or that stage. "Happy is the person who reverences the name of the Lord. Happy is the one who carries out righteous judgment. Happy is the one who speaks truth to his neighbor. Happy is the one who has compassion on his lips. Happy is he who understands the work of the Lord." There you have a group of beatitudes oriented around lips, understanding, heart, etc. This is from 2 Enoch, (James H. Charleworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 1). [John W. Welch, "The Beatitudes--Christ's Teachings," in Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, p. 137]

 

3 Nephi 12:10 Blessed Are All They Who Are Persecuted for My Name's Sake:

 

     According to John Welch, there's an interesting thing you should know a little about. . . . In Matthew it says for whosever shall suffer persecution and so on for righteousness's sake shall be blessed. Now as people have tried to translate the Sermon on the Mount in Greek back into the Aramaic that Jesus might have spoken, that [phrase in Matthew] is a very difficult expression to put back into Aramaic. A very strong and cogent argument has been made that Jesus didn't say that we should suffer for righteousness's sake, but that in Aramaic that most likely would have been "whosoever will suffer for the Righteous One's sake." In other words you're suffering for whom? For God. He is the Righteous One. The Book of Mormon is consistent with that where it says that you will suffer for "my name's sake" (3 Nephi 12:10). It is the Lord that is behind that. [John W. Welch, "Sacrament Prayers, Implications of the Sermon at the Nephite Temple," in Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, pp. 150-151]

3 Nephi 12:10 For Jesus' Name's Sake:

 

     John Welch notes that in several passages in the Sermon at the Temple, subtle changes bring the divine influence more explicitly to the surface. One suffers, not just "for righteousness sake," but "for Jesus' name's sake" (3 Nephi 12:10). [John W. Welch, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, F.A.R.M.S., p. 102 ]

 

3 Nephi 12:13 I Give unto You to Be the Salt of the Earth:

 

     According to LeGrand Baker, the scriptural phrase "salt of the earth" has come to mean many things. In likening the scriptures unto ourselves (see 1 Nephi 19:23), we may sometimes overlook the author's primary intent and the key points of comparison in his use of metaphor. A full understanding and appreciation of a given passage of scripture may thus elude us.

     That sometimes appears to be the case with the metaphor of salt. Perhaps we have observed that just as salt enhances the taste of certain foods, so we must be as salt, living our lives to bless and enhance the lives of others and make the gospel palatable to them. We may have also noted that salt is a preservative not unlike the preserving influence of righteous Saints who uphold gospel ideals in a world of shifting values.

     While such applications are relevant and meaningful to Latter-day Saints worldwide, to the ancients the central figurative meaning of salt had to do not with taste but with smell.

     When sacrifices were offered upon the altars of ancient Israel, the Israelites did not give the Lord the flesh of the animal, the fruit of the ground, or the ashes or smoke of such sacrifices. The acceptable part of the offering presented to the Lord was the smell, "a sweet savour unto the Lord" (Leviticus 1:17). In the Bible, the word savour most often refers to the pleasant smell of burning sacrifice in the temple. To ensure that the smell would be sweet, the Mosaic law required that the offering be liberally sprinkled with salt.

     The scent of an unsalted burnt offering would be the stench of scorched flesh. But if the meat were generously salted, the odor would be quite different, due to the reaction of the salt upon the cells that compose animal flesh. Under high-salt conditions, cellular fluid rapidly escapes the cells to dilute the salts outside cell membranes. When accentuated by heat, these fluids cause a sweet savor to emanate.

     The Lord's requirements concerning the offerings of ancient Israel was clear. Referring to "the salt of the covenant," the Lord instructed the children of Israel, "With all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt" (Leviticus 2:13). Flavius Josephus, the ancient Jewish historian, explained how that was done. He wrote that the priests "cleanse the bodies [of the sacrificial animals], and divide them into parts, and salt them with salt, and lay them upon the altar, while the pieces of wood are piled one upon another, and the fire is burning. . . . This is the way of offering a burnt-offering" (Antiquities of the Jews, trans. William Whiston [1875], 3:9:1).

     The purpose of the law of performances and ordinances given to the children of Israel through Moses was to point their souls to Christ and to bear witness of His gospel. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled the law of Moses and ended blood sacrifice. The resurrected Lord explained the new law of sacrifice to His followers on the American continent: "Ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifice and your burnt offerings shall be done away. . . .

And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost" (33 Nephi 9:19-20).

     In this context the charge to be the "salt of the earth" takes on marvelous significance. The Lord said, "I give unto you to be the salt of the earth; but if the salt shall lose its savour wherewith shall the earth be salted?" (3 Nephi 12:13). The Savior's audience no doubt understood the law of Moses and the close connection between salt and acceptable sacrifice.

     It is clear that under the new covenant the followers of Christ, as "salt," are responsible for extending gospel blessings to the whole earth. "When men are called unto mine everlasting gospel, and covenant with an everlasting covenant," the Lord explains, "they are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men" (D&C 101:39). It is our privilege and blessing to lovingly lead our brothers and sisters to Christ, helping them receive their covenant blessings. As we do so, we become the figurative salt that makes it possible for them to offer the acceptable sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. In addition, our own covenant sacrifice of time, talents, and means is pleasing to the Lord.

     So how do we become the salt of the earth? The Apostle Paul points out that charity is a key to this process: "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour" (Ephesians 5:1-2). [LeGrand L. Baker, "I Have a Question: What does it mean to be the 'salt of the earth'?," The Ensign, April 1999, pp. 53-54]

 

3 Nephi 12:13 Salt Shall Lose Its Savor:

 

     In 3 Nephi 12:13 Jesus declares:

           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.

 

     Elder Carlos E. Asay explained that "salt will not lose its savor with age. Savor is lost through mixture and contamination. . . . Flavor and quality flee a man when he contaminates his mind with unclean thoughts, desecrates his mouth by speaking less than the truth, and misapplies his strength in performing evil acts." (Conference Reports, April 1980, p. 60) [Joseph F. McConkie, Robert L. Millet, Brent L. Top, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. IV, p. 70]

 

3 Nephi 12:13-14 I Give unto You to Be the Salt of the Earth . . . I Give unto You to Be the Light of This People:

 

     Brent Farley notes that those who follow the path marked by the beatitudes are accounted as "salt" and "light"! (3 Nephi 12:13-16) Salt has a distinctive property (or savor) that enhances the flavor of foods. Its addition tends to bring out the best of that to which it is added. So would the saints become the enhancers of those who accept the gospel. The commission to do this had a warning, however. If the savor was lost, then "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" (3 Nephi 12:13) Salt does not lose its savor by age, but rather by mixture and contamination. Correspondingly, the gospel does not lose its savor by age, but rather when it is mixed with the philosophies of men and devils. Salt is also a preservative. The gospel was intended to be preserved in purity. Its effects were to preserve the saints in righteousness that they might attain their celestial destiny. How appropriate was the Lord's analogy!

     The Saints, the "salt of the earth," were also to be lights to which people in a darkened world could seek. . . . The symbolism of light and salt were appropriately placed together in the sacred text. Old Testament sacrificial rituals used salt as a token of gospel covenants. (See Leviticus 2:13 and Numbers 18:19) The Lord explained to Joseph Smith: "I have sent mine everlasting covenant into the world, to be a light to the world, and to be a standard for my people, and for the gentiles to seek to it, and to be a messenger before my face to prepare the way before me." (D&C 45:9; emphasis added) Thus salt represents the gospel covenant, which is a light to the world. [S. Brent Farley, "The Appearance of Christ to the People of Nephi," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 2, pp. 154-155]

 

3 Nephi 12:17 Think Not That I Am Come to Destroy the Law:

 

     In the midst of his Sermon at the Temple, and just preceeding some comments on ancient matters of law, Jesus says the following:

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

           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.

 

     According to John Welch, the Ten Commandments have recently been analyzed by Moshe Weinfeld at Hebrew University in Jerusalem as also temple related materials--presenting the requirements that a person must satisfy before approaching the temple in Jerusalem. I don't know if you know this, but as you went up toward the temple in Jerusalem there were ancient warnings saying, "Caution, you are approaching sacred territory. Do not come any closer if you are not pure." They would list the Ten Commandments or things like that so that people would know that these are the requirements. If you are not complying with them, you had better not come into this sacred place. There are also some Greek temples that have similar kinds of inscriptions on the foundation stones that require a person coming into the temple to be pure--not just through some kind of ritual, but also pure in conduct and in their heart. [John W. Welch, "The Beatitudes--Christ's Teachings," in Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, p. 137]

 

3 Nephi 12:17-19 [The Passage That Condemns Anyone Who Teaches People to Ignore Even the Least of the Commandments in the Law of Moses (Matthew 5:19)]

 

     According to John Welch, it has been suggested that certain portions of the Sermon on the Mount are Anti-Pauline and were purposely added during the time of Paul. The most likely deprecation of Paul in the Sermon on the Mount is the passage that condemns anyone who teaches people to ignore even the least of the commandments in the law of Moses -- he will be called "the least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:19) Paul is the obvious figure in early Christianity who taught and promoted the idea that Christians need not observe the law of Moses, and his ideas met considerable hostility among both Jews and certain Christians. Since Paul was known as "the least" of the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:9), it seems quite plausible that early Christians would have seen in Matthew 5:19 a direct criticism of Paul's position, if not of Paul himself. Thus, the absence from the Sermon at the Temple of the chief bits of evidence of an anti-Pauline hand in the Sermon on the Mount supports the Book of Mormon. [John W. Welch, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 108-110]

 

3 Nephi 12:18 In Me It Hath All Been Fulfilled:

 

     John Welch notes that in several passages in the Sermon at the Temple, subtle changes bring the divine influence more explicitly to the surface. When Jesus spoke in Palestine, he had said, "one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all is fulfilled" (Matthew 5:18), but in Bountiful he affirmed that one jot or tittle "hath not passed away from the law, but . . . it hath all been fulfilled (3 Nephi 12:18) (see also 3 Nephi 12:46-47) [John W. Welch, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, F.A.R.M.S., p. 95]

 

3 Nephi 12:19 Ye Have the Commandments before You, and the Law Is Fulfilled:

 

     John Tvedtnes notes that the law of Moses was comprised of three divisions, the commandments (sometimes called "law" or "testimonies"), the statutes (sometimes called "ordinances"), and the judgments. (see Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 13-14; 5:28; 6:20; 26:17; 28:45; 2 Kings 17:34, 37; 2 Chronicles 19:10; 29:19; 33:8; 34:31; Nehemiah 9:13-14; 10:30; Jeremiah 32:11. There are many more passages in which just two of the three divisions are mentioned together)

     Avraham Gileadi first noted that these same three divisions of the law are listed in the Book of Mormon, where the word "performances" sometimes replaces "judgments." (see 1 Nephi 17;22; 2 Nephi 5:10; 25:25, 30; Mosiah 6:6; Alma 8:17; 25:14-15; 31:9-10; 58:40; Helaman 3:20; 15:5; 4 Nephi 1:12)

     From some of the Book of Mormon passages (Alma 30:3; 2 Nephi 25:24-25, 30; 4 Nephi 1:12), we learn that it was the statutes and judgments (or ordinances and performances) that would be done away in Christ, while the commandments would remain as part of the higher law that Christ revealed during his ministry. Thus, Christ seems to have suggested that only the lesser portion of the law was fulfilled when he said, "Behold, ye have the commandments before you, and the law is fulfilled" (3 Nephi 12:19).

     Thus, that portion of the law of Moses that was also part of the higher law rejected by the Israelites (including the ten commandments) was not abolished in Christ, while lesser elements of the law, such as animal sacrifice, were done away (3 Nephi 9:19). Christ explained to the Nephites, "Therefore those things which were of old time, which were under the law, in me are all fulfilled. Old things are done away, and all things have become new" (3 Nephi 12:46). [John A. Tvedtnes, "Performances and Ordinances of the Law," in The Most Correct Book, p. 276]

 

3 Nephi 12:20 [Except Your Righteousness Shall Exceed the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees]:

 

     Anti-Pharisaism can be seen as one of the main tendencies of Matthew, and hence its manifestations in the Sermon on the Mount have been advanced as evidence of the Matthean composition of the Sermon on the Mount. Interestingly, the places in which scholars see these anti-Pharisaical evidences in the Sermon on the Mount are not found in the Sermon at the Temple. Thus, the saying "except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees" [Matthew 5:20] is not present in 3 Nephi. A very different and important statement in 3 Nephi 12:19-20 about obedience and sacrifice appears instead. Likewise, the unflattering comparison between good men the world over and the publicans, both of whom love their friends (see Matthew 5:46-47), is wholly absent in 3 Nephi 12. [John W. Welch, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, F.A.R.M.S., p. 105 ]

 

3 Nephi 12:21 And It Is Also Written before You:

 

     According to John Welch, the Nephites relied more heavily on the written law than the Jews in Jerusalem. The Nephites saw the law primarily as a written body (see 1 Nephi 4:15-16) and viewed any change in the written law with deep suspicion (see Mosiah 29:22-23). The Jews in Jerusalem in Jesus' day, on the other hand, had an extensive body of oral law to accompany the written Torah, and the oral law was very important in the pre-Talmudic period of Jewish legal history.

     Accordingly, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says repeatedly to the Jews, "Ye have heard that it was said . . ." (Matthew 5:21,27,33,38,43; italics added). To the Nephites, however, such a statement would not have carried as much weight as would a reference to the written law. Thus, in the Sermon at the Temple Jesus consistently cites the written law, saying, "Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, and it is also written before you" (3 Nephi 12:21), "it is written by them of old time" (3 Nephi 12:27), "again it is written" (3 Nephi 12:33), "behold, it is written" (3 Nephi 12:38), "and behold it is written also" (3 Nephi 12:43). [John W. Welch, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, F.A.R.M.S., p. 99]

 

3 Nephi 12:22 Whosever Is Angry with His Brother [Without Cause]:

 

     According to John Welch, there's an interesting thing you should know a little about. Well, let me give you this example . . . In Matthew 5:21-22 there's the saying, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill . . . But I say unto you , That whosoever is angry with his brother . . . shall be in danger." Now in your King James version you read, for "whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause," Okay? In other words, if you've got a good cause, then you're okay. But if you are angry with your brother without a good reason, then you are in danger of the council and the judgment. Now that phrase, without a cause, is this little Greek word eike . . . Now, [you notice an] interesting thing when you go to the earliest manuscripts, several of them--[such as] P64 and P67. This New Testament manuscript dates to around A.D. 200, among the earliest New Testament manuscripts we have. Also [there is] the original hand of the Codex Sinaiticus, one of the better of the New Testament codices, and several other minuscules and other early Christian Fathers. When they present this material, they drop this word [eike--without a cause]. I mean they don't drop it--it's just not there. So it just says whoever is angry is in trouble.

     Now look at 3 Nephi 12:22, and you'll see that the phrase "without a cause" is not there. New Testament scholars have concluded that this is probably the original, the better reading, to drop this, because Jesus rarely gave people excuses or escape hatches. He doesn't say, whosever looks upon a woman to lust after with good cause is okay. No. The harder sayings of Jesus are the ones that are usually consistent with the rest of his preaching. So here we have one place in the Book of Mormon where the New Testament manuscripts make a difference in the meaning of how we understand what Jesus is saying, and the Book of Mormon conforms with what appears to me, and I thing most would agree, to be the stronger reading. [John W. Welch, "Sacrament Prayers, Implications of the Sermon at the Nephite Temple," in Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, pp. 150-151]

 

3 Nephi 12:22 Raca:

 

     Some scholars have suggested that the word "Raca" (3 Nephi 12:22) is Greek. Raca is, however, to be derived from Aramaic and Hebrew. The Hebrew reqim is used in the Old Testament for good-for-nothings. In Judges 11:3 the "worthless fellows" who associated themselves with Jephthah are called reqim; in 2 Samuel 6:20 Michal despised David because he uncovered himself as one of the reqim (RSV "vulgar fellows"). [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 3, p. 1315]

 

3 Nephi 12:21-22 Of the Judgment of God:

 

     John Welch notes that in several passages in the Sermon at the Temple, subtle changes bring the divine influence more explicitly to the surface. The murderer is in danger, not just of "the judgment," but of the judgment "of God" (3 Nephi 12:21). [John W. Welch, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, F.A.R.M.S., p. 102]

 

3 Nephi 12:24 First Be Reconciled to Thy Brother, and Then Come unto Me:

 

     In 3 Nephi 12:21-24, Jesus speaks about the process of reconciliation between two people in order to avoid condemnation for speaking or doing evil against another. He says:

           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;

           But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. . . .

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

 

     According to John Welch, you have councils referred to in the early Christian literature where people were brought before the council because they had spoken evil of one another. This was grounds for excommunication. This is worse than death itself. Why? Because it reviles and defies God and his presence in the community that is being formed. How? By the covenant relationship that these people are entering into. Gentile and Jewish scholars have noticed this kind of thing. In the Dead Sea Scrolls the Manual of Discipline places a very high premium on the need for harmony within the community. I'll read from a commentary on the Manual of Discipline 7:8: "Anger against a fellow member of the society could not be tolerated under any circumstances. Punishment applied in any case of a member harboring angry feelings." [John W. Welch, "The Beatitudes--Christ's Teachings," in Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, p. 139]

 

3 Nephi 12:24 I Will Receive You:

 

     John Welch notes that in several passages in the Sermon at the Temple, subtle changes bring the divine influence more explicitly to the surface. After teaching that when one comes to Christ after first being reconciled to his brother, Christ says "I will receive you" (3 Nephi 12:24). [John W. Welch, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, F.A.R.M.S., p. 102 ]

 

3 Nephi 12:26 A Senine:

 

     According to John Welch, instead of a "farthing" (Matthew 5:26), Jesus mentions a "senine" (3 Nephi 12:26), a Nephite unit of exchange. Although this change might appear a superficial change or an artifice, there is subtle substance to it. Jesus undoubtedly had several meaningful reasons for mentioning the senine when he spoke to the Nephites.

     First, it was not just one of many Nephite measures but was their basic measure of gold (see Alma 11:5-19). Through it one converted values of precious metals into the measurement "of every kind of grain" (Alma 11:7). Moreover, it was the smallest Nephite measure of gold (see Alma 11:8-10). Thus, when Jesus told the Nephites that they might be held in prison unable to pay "even one senine" (3 Nephi 12:26), he was referring to a relatively small amount, equal to one measure of grain. Furthermore, it was not just the smallness that Jesus had in mind, for otherwise he could better have spoken of a "leah" (Alma 11:17), their smallest measure of silver. The senine, however, was especially important because it was the amount paid to each Nephite judge for a day's service at law (see Alma 11:3). Evidently, the losing party in a law suit was liable to pay the judges one senine each, a burden that would give potential litigants all the more reason to "agree with thine adversary quickly while thou art in the way with him" (3 Nephi 12:25). One should note that the Greek phrase meaning "in the way," in Matthew 5:25, originally referred to the commencement of a law suit. [John W. Welch, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 96-97]

 

3 Nephi 12:29 [He Shall Be Called the Least in the Kingdom of Heaven]:

 

     In two places, penalties mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount are conspicuously absent in the Sermon at the Temple. First, the Sermon on the Mount teaches that anyone who "shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:19), but the Sermon at the Temple mentions no such punishment or criticism. Second, where the Sermon on the Mount says, "If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, . . . and if the right hand offend thee, cut it off" (Matthew 5:29-30), the Sermon at the Temple simply gives the commandment "that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart" (3 Nephi 12:29).

     Interestingly, the Sermon on the Mount has been subjected to considerable criticism by commentators on account of these two passages. On the one hand, some have argued that the drastic punishment of one who breaks even the least commandment seems grossly disproportionate to the crime and, uncharacteristically, too legalistic for Jesus to have said. On the other hand, the suggestion of bodily mutilation seems wholly inconsistent with the extraordinary Jewish respect for the human body, and seems at odds with the other statement in the Sermon on the Mount that one should cast the beam from one's eye (but not cast away the eye). None of these problems arises, however, in the Sermon at the Temple. Indeed, the absence of these problematic passages here can even be used to support the idea that these two passages were not originally parts of the Sermon on the Mount, as some commentators have suspected. [John W. Welch, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, F.A.R.M.S., p 103]

 

3 Nephi 12:30 Deny Yourselves . . . Take Up Your Cross:

 

     According to John Welch, unlike the Sermon on the Mount, the Sermon at the Temple mentions no penalty concerning the unchaste eye that should be cast out if it offends (see Matthew 5:29). This has been a troublesome point for many biblical commentators, for Jewish attitudes around the time of Jesus were strongly set against any punishment that took the form of bodily mutilation. . . All references to plucking out the eye or to cutting off the hand that offends are absent in the Book of Mormon text, suggesting that this problematic verse in the Sermon on the Mount, on its face, does not fully reflect Jesus' original intent. Instead, the Sermon at the Temple speaks at this point of a total commitment -- of the disciple taking up a symbolic cross (3 Nephi 12:30), a symbol of capital punishment. . . . The image this may bring to mind is that of a covenanter taking this obligation very seriously, for hanging or exposing a body on a tree or on a cross was part of the standard punishment under the law of Moses for any person who committed a sin worthy of death. [John W. Welch, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, F.A.R.M.S., p. 52]

 

3 Nephi 12:30 Take up your cross (Illustration): Ancient American Crosses. (Above) This carving from lintel 2 at Yaxchilan shows that crosses had ceremonial significance to the ancient Americans. Many archaeologists call the crosses (left & right) the Tree of Life. From what we know of the Book of Mormon that makes little difference. The hand-held crosses (above) are obviously not trees. (Below) The top of this tomb in Oaxaca has been removed demonstrating another of the many uses of the cross in ancient America. [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 210]

 

3 Nephi 12:34 Swear Not at All:

 

     In his Sermon at the Temple, Jesus declares, "swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; Nor by the earth, for it is his footstool . . ." (3 Nephi 12:34-35). According to McConkie, Millet, and Top, from the beginning of time the oath was the most sacred, solemn attestation a person could make to affirm a statement or his word on a matter. Before much time had passed, however, the oath was misused or used for nefarious purposes, as when Cain and his followers swore an oath to Satan in order to gain power (see Moses 5). . . . Though we in modern times are prone to refer to the use of profanity or vulgarity as swearing, and though such things are and should be reprehensible and inappropriate for one who seeks to follow Jesus, in reality these verses have nothing to do with condemning this latter vice. [Joseph F. McConkie, Robert L. Millet, Brent L. Top, "Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. IV, p. 75]

 

3 Nephi 12:34 Swear Not at All [by Jerusalem . . . the City of the Great King]:

 

     In his Sermon at on the Mount, Jesus declares, "swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; Nor by the earth, for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. . . ." (Matthew 5:34-35). According to John Welch, in the Book of Mormon Sermon at the Temple, there is no mention of Jerusalem. Of course, no Nephite would be inclined to swear "by Jerusalem, . . . the city of the great king" (Matthew 5:35), since the Nephite view of Jerusalem was rather grim. But more than that, omitting this phrase may be closer to what Jesus originally said in Palestine as well. [John W. Welch, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, F.A.R.M.S., p. 97]

 

3 Nephi 12:43 It is Written Also, That Thou Shalt Love Thy Neighbor and Hate Thine Enemy:

 

     According to John Welch, the New Testament phrase "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 5:43-44; compare 3 Nephi 12:43) was not a phrase invented by Jesus in response to questioning Pharisees. He is quoting there from the book of Leviticus (Leviticus 19:18). . . .

     D&C 104:18 defines the law of the gospel as follows (this is the only place I know of in scripture where this term is defined): "Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment." What we have then, in this part of the sermon can, I think, aptly be described as the law of love, the law of the gospel. "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 . . . " (3 Nephi 12:44-45). [John W. Welch, "The Beatitudes--Christ's Teachings," in Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, pp. 140-141]

 

3 Nephi 12:45 [Rain]:

 

     According to John Welch, there is no mention of rain in 3 Nephi 12:45, whereas Matthew 5:45 says that the Lord makes the sun rise and also the rain fall on the just and the unjust. It is unknown why the Sermon at the Temple does not mention rain in this verse. Perhaps this difference reflects less concern in Nephite lands over regular rain or different religious or cultural attitudes in Mesoamerica toward rainfall. [John W. Welch, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, F.A.R.M.S., p. 98]

 

 3 Nephi 12:48 Be Perfect, Even As I:

 

     John Welch writes that in several passages in the Sermon at the Temple, subtle changes bring the divine influence more explicitly to the surface. In light of the glorified state of the resurrected Jesus at the time of the Sermon at the Temple, he could accurately say, "I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect" (3 Nephi 12:48). [John W. Welch, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, F.A.R.M.S., p. 95]

 

3 Nephi 12:48 I Would That Ye Should Be Perfect:

 

     According to John Welch, the Greek word translated into English as "perfect" in Matthew 5:48 (compare 3 Nephi 12:48) is teleios. This important word is used in Greek religious literature to describe the person who has become fully initiated in the rituals of the religion. Teleios is "a technical term of the mystery religions, which refers to one initiated into the mystic rites, the initiate. The word is used in Hebrews 5:14-6:1 to distinguish between the initial teachings and the full instruction; and in Hebrews 9:11 it refers to the heavenly temple. Generally in the Epistle to the Hebrews, its usage follows a "special use" from Hellenistic Judaism, where the word teleioo means "to put someone in the position in which he can come, or stand, before God." Thus, in ritual connotations, this word refers to preparing a person to be presented to come before God "in priestly action" or "to qualify for the cultus." Early Christians continued to use this word in this way in connection with their sacraments and ordinances.

     Most intriguing in this regard is the letter of Clement of Alexandria describing the existence (c. 200 A.D.) of a second Gospel of Mark, reporting the Lord's doing as recounted by Peter and going beyond the public Gospel of Mark now found in the New Testament. This so-called Secret Gospel of Mark according to Clement, contained things "for the use of those who were being perfected (teleioumenon). Nevertheless, he [Mark] did not divulge the things not to be uttered, nor did he write down the hierphantic [priesthood] teaching of the Lord . . . The copy was read "only to those who are being initiated into the great mysteries." [John W. Welch, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 58-59]

     Thus, the temple setting in the Book of Mormon more fully amplifies this sacred covenant concept than the Bible does.