3 Nephi 12:2-10 — LeGrand Baker — Beatitudes and King Benjamin
This was written as a discussion of Mosiah 3:19
19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
It is my habit, whenever I see a reference in the Book of Mormon to Adam or the fall, to ask myself, “Is this about the fall, or is this about the story in the temple drama of the Feast of Tabernacles which depicts Adam and Eve and the fall?” Often, as in this case, the answer is the latter rather than the former. Thus the answer to the question gives the key to understanding the scripture. Another good example is Alma 12:28-35. There Alma recalls the drama to his listeners by beginning in the Council then moving to the story of Adam and Eve. He tells how angels taught men to pray and God himself said he would teach people to “enter into my rest.” Whereas Alma went through most of the essentials of the drama in just eight verses, King Benjamin did an even more thorough job in only one verse. An interesting difference is that Alma concludes with “whosoever will harden his heart [which he has just defined (v. 9-11) as refusing to know the mysteries of Godliness] and will do iniquity, behold I swear in my wrath that he shall not enter into my rest.” King Benjamin, on the other hand, begins with that idea: “the natural man is an enemy to God…”
The remarkable thoroughness of King Benjamin’s short verse is so concise that it almost reads as though it were written in code. But it probably was not intended to be that, as we may assume his audience understood everything he was saying. For us the easiest way to expand his words so we may understand them, is to compare them with a similar, but more explicit, statement of the Saviour. I believe the Beatitudes contain everything there is to know about the entire plan of salvation. It does not contain it in a great deal of detail, but in macrocosm, everything there is to say is said there. King Benjamin follows precisely those same ideas in precisely the same sequence. So, to understand what King Benjamin has to say, the simplest way seems to be to look at what the Saviour said in the Beatitudes.
I have discussed the Beatitudes before. Some of you, like my dear friend Dan Belnap, will wonder why I am doing it again here. The answer is that it is necessary until we have a convenient way to refer back to comments one has already made in this Project. Beck is working on that. In the meantime, continuity sometimes requires repetition.
In the remainder of this comment I will:
Part 1- review how the Beatitudes relate to the temple drama of the ancient Israelite Feast of Tabernacles.
Part 2- relate those ideas in that sequence to this verse in King Benjamin’s address
Part 3- make some comments about the unique information one learns from King Benjamin about the meaning of the Beatitudes.
For a more complete discussion of the Beatitudes see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord.
PART 1 – HOW THE BEATITUDES RELATE TO THE TEMPLE DRAMA OF THE ANCIENT ISRAELITE NEW YEAR’S FESTIVAL.
This discussion of the Beatitudes is very brief. For a fuller explanation see the chapters that deal with the Beatitudes in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord.
FOLLOW THE BRETHREN
1 Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am (3 Nephi 12:1).
FIRST PRINCIPLES AND ORDINANCES
2 And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am. Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins.
ENDOWMENT FOR THE LIVING
3 Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
VICARIOUS WORK FOR THE DEAD
4 “And again, blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted (3 Nephi 12: 3).
Here the Saviour is paraphrasing Isaiah 61. Isaiah 61 is a prophecy of the Lord’s visit to the world of the spirits of the dead during the period between his own death and his resurrection. President Joseph F. Smith saw in vision the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy. In recording his own vision (which is D&C 138) President Smith used much of Isaiah’s language, and paraphrased the entire first verse when he wrote that Isaiah had “declared by prophecy that the Redeemer was anointed to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that were bound.” (D&C 138:42) In describing how the dead will be “comforted,” Isaiah wrote that “to comfort all that mourn; [means] “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion [to make them a part of Zion], to give unto them beauty [Hebrew: the beauty of a hat or crown] for ashes [there must be a ceremonial washing to remove the ashes], the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called [new king-name] trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. [implication of the meaning of the new name: a combination of tree of life and eternal increase] (Isaiah 61:2-3)
KEEPING THE ETERNAL COVENANTS ONE MADE AT THE COUNCIL IN HEAVEN
5 And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (3 Nephi 12:5).
Here the Saviour is referring to two Psalms. Psalm 37:7-11 says the meek “shall inherit the earth,” and 25:9-14. In the latter, the meek are defined within the terms of eternal covenant. Verse 11 reads “The secret [Hebrew: sode means the decisions of the Heavenly Council (see footnote 1) ] of the Lord is with them [the meek ] that fear [ respect, honor ] him; and he [the Lord] will show them [the meek ] his covenant [the covenant they made in the Council.].
I believe to show means to show as in Isaiah 6, or to show as in to instruct by the Spirit so one will know how one is to fulfil the assignments made and accepted at the Council – and also remind him of the covenant provisions which would guarantee that one would be able to fulfil those assignments. Thus, in the Psalms which the Saviour quotes and paraphrases, the “meek” are those who keep their eternal covenants.
One gets a broader picture of what all of the Beatitudes are about, when one examines the Greek word which is translated “blessed”in the New Testament Sermon on the Mount. In their Anchor Bible translation of Matthew 5, Albright and Mann have chosen to substitute it with the word “fortunate.” They explain that “blessed” has been given an ecclesiastical kind of connotation which the original Greek did not have. So they avoided that by using the word “fortunate.” Then in a footnote they explain that “fortunate” is not really correct, but the actual Greek word could not possibly be translated into what it really says, because that would make no sense to them — it will make perfect sense to you, however! They write that the classical Greek meaning of the word which Matthew uses, and which they translate “fortunate,” actually means “in the state of the gods.” (Anchor Bible, Matthew, p. 45, fn 3.)
Thus, what we hear the Saviour saying in this Beatitude is this: “In the state of the gods are those who keep their eternal covenants, for it is they and their children who shall inherit the celestial earth.”
PARTAKING OF THE FRUIT OF THE TREE OF LIFE
6 And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost (3 Nephi 12:6).
Hunger and thirst brings to mind the promises in Nephi’s vision of the tree of life and the waters of life. “Righteousness” is zadek – which we have defined elsewhere as meaning “temple things.” To be “filled with the Holy Ghost” is different from being “visited” in verse 2.
LEARNING TO BE A RIGHTEOUS KING
7 And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy (3 Nephi 12:7).
Kingship imputes two major functions and responsibilities: 1) to be commander-in-chief, and 2) to be judge. The need to be military leader is temporary, and passes when the enemy is defeated. But the function of judge is eternal. To judge sometimes implies to condemn, but more importantly, it means to justify, but not only to justify, but also to sustain the just by the strength and integrity of one’s power to judge. Thus, to be a righteous judge is the epitome of the powers of kingship. If one is to continue on this path which the Saviour is outlining in the Beatitudes and eventually become a sacral king or queen, then one’s learning to be a merciful king is the next – and the next necessary – step along that way.
BEING ABLE TO STAND AT THE VEIL
8 And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God (3 Nephi 12:8).
THE CORONATION – BECOMING A CHILD OF GOD – THE CRITERION IS LOVE
9 And blessed [in the state of the gods] are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God (3 Nephi 12:9).
We learn the definition of “peacemaker” in Moroni 7, where Mormon speaks to “the peaceable followers of Christ,” whom he can identify “because of your peaceable walk with the children of men.” Of these people, we are told that they “have obtained [past tense] a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.” That seems to me to say that these people have already passed the step which is “blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” and Mormon is now teaching these people how to go the next step and become “children of God.”
Mormon explains to them that after they have come this far, in order to inherit all that the Father has, one must have faith (“pistis” – the token of the covenant), hope (to live as though the blessings of the covenant were already fulfilled), and charity (love – love is the first and the last criterion of being like the Father, and therefore is the final necessary prerequisite to inheriting all that the Father has. – v. 48 )
While charity may be more understandable if it is experienced than if it is defined, the concept of being a “child” of God is very definable. It is a highly legalistic concept which deals with the right to inherit – “And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true. They are they who are the church of the Firstborn. They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things-They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;” (D&C 76:53-56)
The Beatitude, “And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God,” is about that, for these “peacemakers” are given a new name — a royal king-name, which is “the children of God.”
If the Saviour is referring to one of the Psalms of the temple rites, it is Psalm 2. The Second Psalm was one of the first to be identified as a Royal Psalm. “The usual interpretation of the psalm…suggests that it is an oracle on the day of the king’s ascension to his throne.” (Aage Bentzen, King and Messiah (London, Lutterworth Press, 1955), 16.) The lines most often quoted from that psalm are, “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.”
That is very important, for if the king were not a “son,” his sitting to the throne would be an act of usurpation. Only if he is a legitimately adopted son of God may the king legitimately sit upon his Father’s throne in the temple’s Holy of Holies. Sigmund Mowinckel says that the anointing of the king at the time of his coronation was a dual ordinance. The anointing was an ordinance of adoption and an ordinance of coronation. He writes, that “the act adoption is identical with the anointing and installation.” The context of his statement is as follows:
“It is clear that the king is regarded as Yahweh’s son by adoption. When, in Ps. ii, 7, Yahweh says to the king on the day of his anointing and installation, ‘You are My son; I have begotten you today’, He is using the ordinary formula of adoption, indicating that the sonship rests on Yahweh’s adoption of the king. The act of adoption is identical with the anointing and installation.” (Sigmund Mowinckel, He that Cometh (New York: Abingdon Press, 1954), 78. )
Thus in the words, “And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God,” we have an implicit anointing which represents both an adoption with the covenant name “child of God,” and a final coronation. This dual
ordnance is the full culmination of all that precedes it. In verse 3 one was acknowledged as one who would become king, but here in verse 9 one is anointed king in fact. That kingship is acknowledged in the interesting context of the “persecution” which is in the next three verses.
PERSECUTION – THE CONSEQUENCE OF SACRAL KINGSHIP
10 And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 And blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake;
12 For ye shall have great joy and be exceedingly glad, for great shall be your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you (3 Nephi 12:10-12).
A RESPONSIBILITY OF A SACRAL KING OR QUEEN IS MISSIONARY WORK
13 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the salt of the earth; but if the salt shall lose its savor wherewith shall the earth be salted? The salt shall be thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men (3 Nephi 12:13).
In my article “What does it mean to be the ‘salt of the earth’?” (Ensign, April 1999, p. 53-34) I showed that to be the “salt of the earth” means to be the catalyst of the Lord’s sacrifice. That is, it is our responsibility to do missionary work to the people of the earth.
THE SECOND RESPONSIBILITY OF A SACRAL KING OR QUEEN – PERFECT THE SAINTS.
14 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.
15 Behold, do men light a candle and put it under a bushel? Nay, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house;
16 Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven (3 Nephi 12:14-16).
Being a light has to do with one’s relationship with “this people” rather than with “the earth,” so it is the responsibility one has to help “perfect the Saints.”
PART 2 – HOW KING BENJAMIN’S ADDRESS RELATES TO THE BEATITUDES
Now, lets return to King Benjamin and look at what he said. “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”
In both the Beatitudes and King Benjamin’s address, the pinnacle of the whole concept is to become a legal heir — a child of God — a sacral king or queen.
It is consistent with the scriptures that King Benjamin’s definition of what it means to be a “child” is relevant in every stage of one’s spiritual development: the 8-year-old who is about to be baptized; the maturing teenager who is struggling to know himself; the new convert to the church (whether that “convert” is already a baptized member of the church, but is now comprehending its significance and power, or whether one is a mature person born outside the church, who is learning about the gospel for the first time, the same idea applies here); finally, the person who is trying to live temple covenants. For each of these, King Benjamin’s description of what it means to be a child is meaningful and relevant.
The Saviour used the word “child” in those same multiple ways.
37 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child [King Benjamin’s definition works here.], and be baptized in my name baptism by water], or ye can in nowise receive these things. [The “these things” are the testimonies of the Holy Ghost which he has just been talking about.]
38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent [this repentance is what follows baptism by water], and be baptized in my name [He has, and will again, talk about another baptism, this one by fire and the Holy Ghost], and become as a little child [King Benjamin’s definition still works, only now we are talking about kingship, inheritance, and receiving the king-name “child of God.”], or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God [It all comes back to the same thing: One can not be a legitimate “king or queen” unless one is a legitimate “child”.]. (3 Nephi 11:37-38)
In the last instance, it appears that King Benjamin’s “becometh a child…even as a child doth submit to his father” maps directly to the Saviour’s Beatitude, “And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
It is relatively easy to map the rest of King Benjamin’s sequence of concepts to the sequence of concepts in the Saviour’s Beatitudes
“Yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit” = 3 Ne. 12:1-2 – follow the brethren and believe, repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost.
“Putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord,” = the temple ordinances and covenants represented in 3 Ne. 12: 3-4.
In Isaiah 61 (as everywhere else, for that matter) one of the fundamental parts of the kingship coronation rites is to be clothed in priesthood/kingly garments. For example, before Job approached the veil where he saw God (Job 42:5), the Lord instructed him, “Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty.” (Job 40:10). In Isaiah 61 we have two references to the royal garment. One is in the coronation scene: “the garment of praise…” ; and the other is in the wedding hymn at the end of the chapter: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10)
The pre-condition of being royally clothed is always the same (as in Isaiah 61 again): to be prepared by a ceremonial washing and anointing. That requires one’s taking off his “street clothes” and becoming naked so that one can later be clothed in “robes of righteousness.”
In this Mosiah 3 context, I presume that to “put off the natural man” means to strip onself naked of the things of this world, so that God may clothe one with his own glory, just as one had to be similarly prepared to receive
the kingly-priestly garments of the ancient temple coronation rites. If that is correct, then “putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord,” has the same fundamental meaning as v. 3 and 4 in the Beatitudes.
— “submissive, meek” = Blessed are the meek – keeping the covenants one
make at the Council. Two of the best examples I can find of that are Abinadi standing before King Noah, and Joseph Smith leaving Nauvoo for Carthage jail. Neither Abinadi nor Joseph bowed to or shrank from the earthly powers which were about to destroy them, but both submitted themselves to the Lord by keeping their eternal covenants in order to fulfil their earthly missions.
“Humble” = Blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness.
“Patient” = Blessed are the merciful
“Full of love” = pure in heart – peacemakers – to see God and become children of God
“Willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him” = Blessed are all they who are persecuted…
“Even as a child doth submit to his father” = For they shall be called the children of God.
PART 3 — THE UNIQUE INFORMATION ABOUT THE BEATITUDES ONE LEARNS FROM KING BENJAMIN’S SYNOPSIS.
If, as it appears, King Benjamin’s statement is a synopsis of the Saviour’s Beatitudes, which are, in turn, a synopsis of everything that is fundamental in the plan of salvation and the temple drama of the ancient Israelite New Year festival, then, from that fact, we learn several important things:
1) Since King Benjamin’s address was given about 124 years before the Saviour’s, Benjamin cannot be said to have copied something he read the Saviour had said. Instead King Benjamin was giving his own summary of long established principles and ordinances which his congregation understood very well. Similarly, the Saviour’s Beatitudes were not new ideas, but a magnificent expression of gospel principles which had been understood ever since the origin of the ancient Israelite temple rites. That origin, according to Abraham, Alma, Paul, and others, dates at least as far back as the Heavenly Council.
2) To me, one of the most interesting new insights I gained from writing this was in the mapping of “humble” to ” blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness.” One watches that hungering and thirsting in the story of Nephi’s desire to experience the tree of life and the waters of life, and in Alma 32 where Alma talks about wishing to taste the light of the fruit of the tree of life. But reducing all of that to the simple concept of “humble” is both instructive and meaningful to me.
3) It helps me to understand the phrase, “For the natural man is an enemy to God…” One of the central themes of the drama of the ancient New Year festival was the defeat of chaos by the powers of creation. It appears first in the war in heaven, where the chaotic forces of evil are driven from the heavens; again in the story of the creation of the world when the sacred hill where the Garden was planted rises from the chaotic waters; again when the forces of evil on this earth are defeated by the power of Jehovah; and finally when Jehovah himself descends into the underworld to defeat both death and hell, and restore the king back to Zion where he crowned king and priest forever.
In each of these instances the “enemy” is one who is, or who supports and sustains the disorganizing energies of chaos, while the object of God is to create order and harmony — the cosmos which is Zion. Thus, “the natural man” who will not “put off the natural man”- and become a saint through the ordinances and covenants which give him access to the full royal blessings of the atonement, must stay outside of Zion. And therefore remains by his own volition, and by definition, an “enemy to God.” His being an enemy is not a status assigned to him by God, but by himself. And he will cease to be an enemy when he accepts the invitation becomes a “child.”
Brown shows how the Hebrew word sode and the greek word mysterion (mystery) often mean the same thing. He wrote:
One cannot begin this investigation simply by studying mysterion in the LXX and the corresponding Hebrew words it translates. Actually, mysterion appears only in the LXX translation of the post-exilic books….Rather, we must trace the idea of “mystery” in its historical development and through a variety of terms. We may begin with the Hebrew word “sod” a word which is never translated in the LXX by mysterion….the word has a wide semantic area: confidential talk, a circle of people in council, secrets….When we approach the early biblical uses of “sod” with the idea of “council” or “assembly” in mind, we find that this meaning particularly fits the passages dealing with the heavenly “sod” occur in biblical references to the heavenly council of God and his angels…. Amos (3:7) announces almost as a proverb that God will surely not do anything `until he has revealed his “sod” to his servants the prophets.’…In the Hebrew represented by Proverbs, Sirach, and Qumran, “sod” is used simply for secrets or mysteries.(Brown, Raymond E., The Semitic Background of the Term “Mystery” in the New Testament, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1968, p. 2-6).