3 Nephi 12:8 — LeGrand Baker — the pure in heart shall see God

8 And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God (3 Nephi 12:8).

The Lord defined the phrase, “pure in heart” in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Therefore, verily, thus saith the Lord, let Zion rejoice, for this is Zion—THE PURE IN HEART (D&C 97:21).” (That’s the only place in the Doctrine and Covenants where the words are written out in full capitol letters.) Zion is a community of Saints who live the law of consecration. In Missouri it did not work because the people were not “pure in heart,” but there are successful examples in history: Enoch, Melchizedek, 4 Nephi. The world we live in is the very antithesis of that. Nevertheless, there are now among us people who truly do live the law of consecration. These faithful Latter-day Saints, collectively and individually, are modern-day Zion.

There is another use of the phrase “pure in heart” in the scriptures. It is similar, but not precisely the same as the definition in the Doctrine and Covenants. It was used by Jacob during a meeting attended by men, women and children. He lamented the assignment and said:

10 But, notwithstanding the greatness of the task, I must do according to the strict commands of God, and tell you concerning your wickedness and abominations, in the presence of the pure in heart, and the broken heart, and under the glance of the piercing eye of the Almighty God (Jacob 2:10).

Here and in the following chapter (Jacob 3:1-4), it is clear that by “pure in heart” Jacob is referring to abused women and children whose husbands are not keeping their covenants. In that usage, “pure in heart” seems to mean those who are innocent of — and therefore offended by — the sins committed by other people. In a Zion society like the City of Enoch, Jacob’s use of the phrase would not apply, because the only persons present would be those who are keeping all of God’s commandments and are living the law of consecration.

The object of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to educate and perfect its members, and to give them an opportunity to live the law of consecration, and thereby to establish Zion. Ultimately the center of that anticipated community will be the New Jerusalem where the Savior will reign as King. A characteristic of the inhabitants of Zion — whether the Zion of Enoch’s time or the Zion of the Millennial Reign — is that its inhabitants will be comfortable in the presence of God. Unfortunately, it will be a long time before the inhabitants of our present world will be qualified to feel that.

Fortunately, even though that is a great inconvenience, in reality of the condition of the world (unless it forcibly imposes itself upon us) it is of only marginal importance. This world/worldly condition need not be a deterrent to faithful Latter-day Saints because in our present society, living the law of consecration is an individual choice: a single person, a family, or many individuals scattered about in our non-Zion community may still constitute Zion. Being pure in heart, keeping all of one’s covenants, living the law of consecration, being a person of charity — all of that is entirely up to the individual. The society of Zion is made up of those individuals. In our world, each such individual constitutes a part of Zion and therefore each is the very personification of Zion.

With only a few exceptions, such people in our time are essentially invisible in their non-Zion environment. Isaiah described these latter-day individuals who are Zion in a prophecy about the restoration of Israel. He describes true Latter-day Saints this way:

2 And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me (1 Nephi 21:2).

Let me help you decode it:

And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword
[The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17)];
in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me
[The hand above the head depicts an ordination to the priesthood],
and made me a polished shaft
[The shaft is an arrow kept in a quiver. In ancient times arrows were polished and then sealed against warping by anointing them with oil. This person who has the priesthood is described as having the power, speed and accuracy of an arrow.];
in his quiver hath he hid me
[The person is hidden in plain sight. That is, he is overlooked by the world that does not recognize his goodness or his priesthood power].”

Because such a person does not advertize his generosity, or flaunt his calling in the Church or his priesthood authority, the world does not recognize him for who he is. Yet, he is pure in heart. He lives the law of consecration because he is a person of charity. He is, even though only an individual, the very embodiment of “Zion.”

Why the Saints are hidden is explained in the Gospel of Philip where the Savior is quoted as saying,

The perfect man not only cannot be restrained, but also cannot be seen. For if he is seen he will be put under restraint.{1}

Hugh Nibley devoted his classic work, Approaching Zion, to the understanding what Zion is. He wrote:

I have presently covenanted and promised to observe most strictly certain instructions set forth with great clarity and simplicity in the Doctrine and Covenants. These are designated as the law of consecration, which are absolutely essential for the building up of the kingdom on earth and the ultimate establishment of Zion. {2}

Nibley later added:

This law, the consummation of the laws of obedience and sacrifice, is the threshold of the celestial kingdom, the last and hardest requirement made of men in this life.{3}

As Nibley observes, the pure in heart, living the law of consecration, being charity, being Zion, is “the threshold of the celestial kingdom.” Therefore, the second part of the Beatitude, “for they shall see God,” is the necessary conclusion to its beginning: “blessed are the pure in heart.”

Before the Savior’s death, he promised his Twelve Apostles:

15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.
20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him (John 14:15-21).

The Prophet Joseph explained that passage this way:

Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions—Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the First Born.{4}

The pure in heart who will see the Savior will not just see him from a distance. The relationships that are established between him and those who love him are described by him as being that of an eternal family. When he spoke to the brother of Jared he said:

14 Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters (Ether 3:14).


{1} Gospel of Philip in Wilhelm Schneemelcher, ed., New Testament Apocrypha, Vol. 1, Gospels and Related Writings (Louisville, Kentucky, Westminster, 1991). p. 201, #106.

{2} Hugh Nibley, Approaching Zion, edited by Don E. Norton (Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1989), 164.

{3} Hugh Nibley, Approaching Zion, 168.

{4} Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976),150-51.


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