3 Nephi 12:2 — LeGrand Baker — The Beatitudes and the Temple

3 Nephi 12:2 — LeGrand Baker — The Beatitudes and the Temple

The Beatitudes—as written in 3 Nephi—are among the most complete and succinct statements of the ideas—not the events, but the ideas—of the Feast of Tabernacles temple drama that one can find anywhere in the scriptures. Most of the Beatitudes are very short quotes or paraphrases from the Psalms or from Isaiah. It is apparent that the Savior quoted these passages in order to evoke his listeners’ memories of the entire passage to which he was referring. His speaking the Beatitudes would have only taken about three minutes. For his audience it must have been an overwhelming experience to hear the Savior run through that sequence of ideas so quickly—while their minds were filled to overflowing with the full intent of those passages of scripture. As the Spirit conveyed the message to his listeners, their minds would have been flooded with a quick succession of infinitely powerful ideas.

In Who Shall Ascend into the hill of the Lord, Stephen and I discussed each of the
Beatitudes. I shall use that as we go through them in the next several weeks, but I also want to add things that are not written there. Here is a brief overview of what they say. I will make no attempt to justify the conclusions here, but will simply say that on page 431 of the Book of Mormon one finds everything one needs to know in this lifetime to gain eternal life. One can say the same thing about the temple endowment. However in both cases, one has to know and do a lot of living and learning in order to know what is there. (I’m still working on it! ) The overview is as follows:

Follow the Brethren:

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.

First principles and ordinances:

2 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.

Endowment for the dead:

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

Keep eternal covenants:

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

Priesthood and temple correctness:

6 And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness,

“Filled” with the Holy Ghost:

for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.

How to be a sacral king and a priest:

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

Zion will see God:

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

Peacemakers:

9 And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called [new name-title] the children of God.

Persecution and second coronation:

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.

Responsibility: 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.

Responsibility: Menorah in the temple:

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 12:1-16).

Each of those assertions will require a good deal of explaining, but I think that as I deal with them one at a time, you will conclude, as I have, that the Beatitudes really do encapsulate all that we must do in this life and the next of obtain eternal life.

One cannot readily find those idea in Matthew 5. One of the reasons is that each of the verses in Matthew begin with a new idea introduced by the word “blessed.” Consequently many scholars believe that they are simply an editor’s gathering of some of Jesus’s sayings. However, in the Book of Mormon, they begin with the conjunction “and,” creating one long sentence that can easily be seen as a sequence. The word “blessed” is itself an assertion of the importance of the sequence and the power of its conclusion.

One of the most interesting examples of Joseph Smith’s statement, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God so far as it is translated correctly,” is found in the Anchor Bible’s very scholarly where a whole volume or more is devoted to each biblical book. The book of Matthew, which contains many quotes from the Old Testament, has two author/translators, W. F. Albright, a distinguished Old Testament scholar, and C. S. Mann, an equally distinguished New Testament scholar. This is the way they translated the Beatitudes:

3 Fortunate are the humble in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. 4 Fortunate are those who mourn, for they shall be consoled. 5 Fortunate are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Fortunate are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall he satisfied. 7 Fortunate are the merciful, [and so on].

In a footnote, they explain why they chose the word fortunate:

3.Fortunate. The word in Greek was used in classical times [to mean] of the state of the gods in contrast to men. The usual English “blessed” has more and more come to have liturgical or ecclesiastical overtones, and we have chosen “fortunate” as being the best translation available to us. {W. F. Albright and C. S. Mann, The Anchor Bible, Matthew (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1971), 45.}

Third Nephi uses the same language as the King James Version: “Blessed are all the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” It does not jar its first-time readers with language that stretches their understanding too far. It is important that Joseph used the same word in the Book of Mormon that is in the King James Matthew, because it lets us compare the Bible and the Book of Mormon with confidence and know that the Book of Mormon carries the same understanding as the Bible. It is also important that these two scholars have clarified what the Bible actually says—and therefore what the Savior said to the people at Bountiful. The thing that is so interesting about the clarification in their footnote is that these world-class scholars knew what the Greek word means—“in the state of the gods”—but they did not believe Jesus could have meant that, so they came up with a watered-down word—“fortunate” —because that made more sense to them. Then, consistent with their training as scholars, they put the real meaning in a footnote, leaving LDS readers of the Book of Mormon free to pursue the limits of the meaning if they wish to, but without imposing it on them:
The Beatitudes—as written in 3 Nephi—are among the most complete and succinct statements of the ideas—not the events, but the ideas—of the Feast of Tabernacles temple drama that one can find anywhere in the scriptures. Most of the Beatitudes are very short quotes or paraphrases from the Psalms or from Isaiah. It is apparent that the Savior quoted these passages in order to evoke his listeners’ memories of the entire passage to which he was referring. His speaking the Beatitudes would have only taken about three minutes. For his audience it must have been an overwhelming experience to hear the Savior run through that sequence of ideas so quickly—while their minds were filled to overflowing with the full intent of those passages of scripture. As the Spirit conveyed the message to his listeners, their minds would have been flooded with a quick succession of infinitely powerful ideas.

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