Jesus tells the people to give heed to the words of the twelve He has chosen and to be baptized by water of them, and then He will baptize them “with fire and with the Holy Ghost.” (1) This fire from the Holy Ghost gives us a remission of our sins. (2)
Remission means: the cancellation of a debt, charge, or penalty. The natural consequences of our sins is erased. Our debt is paid though Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. It’s a cancellation of guilt, setting aside the natural man, it’s a pardoning, absolution, exoneration, so we can live with God again.
Christ tells them they are blessed because they have seen Him and now know that He lives. But more blessed are they who shall believe on their words they preach about Him. Those that humble themselves without this empirical evidence are greatly blessed.
The reason we don’t have to see Him with our eyes to know with surety that He lives is explained in these Book of Mormon scriptures.
…he manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost…”2 Nephi 26:13
Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe.”Alma 32:16
Christ gives a Sermon on the mount type talk to the Nephite/Lamanite survivors. He goes over the basic principles from the one He gave the Jews by the Sea of Galilee, but there are some slight changes.
Blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”3 Nephi 12:3
Being poor in spirit doesn’t do us any good UNLESS we come unto Christ. Then His promises and His kingdom is ours. He is the ONLY one who can save us.
And again, blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”3 Nephi 12:4
I think this can be natural mourning for loss or pain, but also mourning for sins and weaknesses that overwhelm us. Whatever type of mourning we are in the midst of, Christ can truly comfort us through the Holy Ghost. I have felt this powerful comforting, and am so thankful for His mercy.
And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”3 Nephi 12:5
What’s the difference between poor in spirit and meekness?
Poor in spirit, to me in this context, means our desire actually turns us to God. We want His will to be done. It’s the first step toward exercising faith in Jesus Christ.
Then godly sorrow, or mourning, leads us to the next step—repentance—which brings us even more in alignment with God.
Meekness comes next. It might contain awe for the forgiveness and grace we have been given and didn’t deserve. It is the redemptive power of Jesus Christ we feel from repenting. I think meekness would lead to baptism, and if we’re already baptized, it leads us to sacredly renew those covenants that we made at baptism, each week through the sacrament.
And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.” (6)3 Nephi 12:6
After baptism by water comes the baptism by fire, and we can have the Holy Ghost as our constant companion, if we are seeking, or hungering and thirsting after righteousness.
Fruits of baptism & the Holy Ghost
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”3 Nephi 12:7
If we have repented and been mercifully forgiven of our sins, we will be more merciful to others. The Atonement enables this mercy to become active in our personalities. We become more like Christ.
And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”3 Nephi 12:8
As we become more like Christ, we will recognize Him, because we shall have His image in our countenance and see Him as He is.
And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”3 Nephi 12:9
We will seek peace when we follow Christ, not contention.
And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”3 Nephi 12:10
We take Christ’s name upon us at baptism, and if we stand true and stand up for His gospel and are mocked, all will be well with us. We do not have to fear what man can do.
Christ tells the people “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?” (13)
He wants us to stand up, stand out, and be true to Him, so that others’ lives may be enhanced and improved, just like salt enhances the flavor of food and preserves it.
He tells them to be a light to the people.
Therefore, let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”3 Nephi 12:16
We should never do good things for the praise of man, but for the glory of God, to share and invite others to partake of His salvation.
Repeatedly, the same message is given.
Repent of your sins, and come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
Come unto me and be ye saved.
If ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me…[repent] and then come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you.”3 Nephi 12:19,20,23-24
Living a higher law
Christ gives them a higher law to live. He raises the bar.
The law of Moses said not to kill. He tells them not to even be angry, but to be reconciled to our brothers and sisters. (21-25) He wants us to be committed to Him with our WHOLE HEARTS. Nothing less. That’s why we must work to not be angry, because anger keeps a piece of our hearts back from our Savior.
He talks about the old law saying no adultery, “but I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart.” (27-28)
Wow. He doesn’t hold back. These new commandments can seem overwhelming. Impossible. Giving Him all our hearts is not an easy thing He is asking of us.
He wants us to deny all wickedness (even in our hearts and minds) and “take up your cross” (30) and follow Him.
The old law said to hate your enemy and love your neighbor:
But behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you.
That ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven…”3 Nephi 12:44-45
This is hard doctrine, but then He makes it even harder.
Old things are done away, and all things have become new.
Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.”3 Nephi 12:47-48
Perfect! How hard is that to be? Impossible, right? Yet, He commanded us to be perfect, as He is.
A talk by Jeffrey R. Holland, entitled Be Ye Therefore Perfect—Eventually, given in 2017, discusses this command and how we can fulfill it. He first gave an observation by one sister, Darla Isackson, that “Satan has somehow managed to make covenants and commandments seem like curses and condemnations. For some he has turned the ideals and inspiration of the gospel into self-loathing and misery-making.”
Elder Holland doesn’t see it that way.
So I believe that Jesus did not intend His sermon on this subject [perfection] to be a verbal hammer for battering us about our shortcomings. No, I believe He intended it to be at tribute to who and what God the Eternal Father is and what we can achieve with Him in eternity. In any case, I am grateful to know that in spite of MY imperfections, at least God is perfect—that at least He is, for example, able to love His enemies, because too often, due to the “natural man” and woman in us, you and I are sometimes that enemy. How grateful I am that at least God can bless those who despitefully use Him because, without wanting or intending to do so, we ALL despitefully use Him sometimes. I am grateful that God is merciful and a peacemaker because I need mercy and the world needs peace.”Jeffrey R. Holland, Be Ye Therefore Perfect–Eventually, Ensign Nov 2017
He goes on to say:
Our only hope for true perfection is in receiving it as a gift from heaven—we can’t “earn” it. Thus, the grace of Christ offers us not only salvation from sorrow and sin and death but also salvation from our persistent self-criticism.”ibid, Holland
He talked about the parable of the king who forgives 10,000 talents to a man, but then that forgiven debtor doesn’t forgive another man of 100 pence he owes him. Elder Holland likened this difference in monetary terms to $100 versus over a billion dollars, and applied it to how the Atonement of Jesus Christ works in our lives.
Jesus uses an unfathomable measurement here because His Atonement is an unfathomable gift given at an incomprehensible cost. That, it seems to me, is at least part of the meaning behind Jesus’s charge to be perfect. We may not be able to demonstrate yet the 10,000-talent perfection the Father and the Son have achieved, but it is NOT too much for Them to ask us to be a little more godlike in little things, that we speak and act, love and forgive, repent and improve at least at the 100-pence level of perfection, which it is clearly within our ability to do.”ibid, Holland
So, let’s try our best to live this commandment to be perfect. We know we won’t achieve Christ’s level of perfection here on earth, but let us give it at least 100-pence level of effort or more. Let us work to be a little kinder each day. Let us work to be a little more humble, by repenting daily and asking God to help us see the sin within ourselves, and to gracefully ignore the sin in others, so we don’t judge them. Whatever our weaknesses are that keep us falling short of the glory of God, let us work to improve in that area, line upon line, precept upon precept.
If nothing else, let us be perfect in trusting God and loving Him above all others in this life. If we do those two things perfectly, the other commandments will fall into place.