CLICK HERE to read 3 Nephi 12.
(Compare this chapter to Matthew 5).
The Savior had now called His prophet, as well as His twelve apostles, and given them the power and authority to baptize the people (verse 1). He also taught the people:
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… therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.
Then the Savior spoke again to the apostles (verse 2):
… 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.
Then He teaches them the line-upon-line process to climb Jacob’s ladder, that spiral of repentance, to return to our Father’s presence. This is the endowment for the disciples, just as much as it was for the disciples in Matthew 5. He says:
… blessed are the poor in spirit… for theirs is the kingdom… (verse 3)
… blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted… (verse 4)
… blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth… (verse 5)
… blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost… (verse 6)
… blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy… (verse 7)
… blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God… (verse 8)
… blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God (verse 9)
… blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom… (verse 10).
We are blessed, He says, when others persecute us or are mean to us or say bad things against us (falsely) (verse 11), because we will find joy (in the truth, in Holiness) and be glad (for finding truth and becoming holy)(verse 12).
This is the process of our becoming! First we must be “poor”, offering only a broken heart and contrite spirit. This leads us to seeking His kingdom, rather than our own. We mourn all that is not-of-God, and are comforted by His atonement that brings us (and others) back into His presence. When we are meek, or strong enough to be under-control, this self-mastery prepares us for the conditions of His presence so that we can inherit all that He sent us here to receive. When we understand these things, we hunger for the things of God, crave the things of righteousness, and do the hard work of going after these things, of finding deeper layers of these things, of practicing these laws as we understand them – and then moreso when we understand them more deeply and more specifically. This fills us with the Holy Ghost, so that we are sanctified, and become more holy as He is holy. When we become more like Him, we want to offer mercy to others in the same way it has been offered to us. We want to be at-one with others in the way He has made us at-one with Him. This purifies us, cleansing our motives and improving our interactions and atoning even for our perceptions and understanding of others, until we are as pure as He is pure – only then can we see clearly. When we see clearly, we will make peace after the pattern that He has made peace for us, through the atonement. This is what makes us His children; this is what makes us like Him. When we are truly His children, we will testify of His plan, even of the atonement itself because we have already promised to do so, whether or not others want to receive that testimony (at this time). It is by these things we are made holy, set apart from the rest of the world, like a light on a hill or leaven in bread or the seasoning and flavor only salt can bring (verses 13-14).
When we understand these things, we act in faith – not from fear. We do not hide from our responsibility to testify, and we do not remain silent instead of testifying (verse 15). We testify boldly, “using words when necessary” (St. Francis of Assisi, quoted in April 2011 General Conference).
Therefore, let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven (verse 16).
This is the fulfillment of the law and prophets, not just for things to happen as they said it would, but also to complete and fulfill the purpose of all their teachings (verses 17-18).
And behold, I have given you the law and the commandments of my Father, that ye shall believe in me, and that ye shall repent of your sins, and come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit (verse 19).
So come, He says, come to be saved – by keeping the commandments. The great plan of happiness is by the grace of God, and the atonement is what provides a way for mercy. This is His gift, and done by Him for us freely. But we must reach out to accept the gift, and we must give evidence of our choice: obedience to the commandments is this evidence (verse 20).
This evidence comes not only as physical evidence of the actual deeds, but by the motivations behind the deeds and by our interactions with others besides the checked list we mark off one people-project at a time (verse 21). We must be at-one with God, but cannot be if we are not at-one with others (verse 22).
So we should focus on that, He says, even making peace with others before coming to Him for anything (verse 23).
We must come to Him with “full purpose of heart”, with our full offering of a broken heart and contrite spirit; a partial offering or a not-contrite-heart is not sufficient (verse 24).
“Agree with thin adversary quickly”, regardless of the drama-issues, letting it go and focusing on the Spirit rather than the argument (verse 25). We should let the atonement do its great atoning work made possible by His great atoning sacrifice (verse 26), and the evidence of this will be in our heart (verse 29). We cannot deny the fulfillment of the law by being legalistic (verses 30-32); the law was created to set us free, not be an end in itself. This is our doing, our “acting instead of being acted upon” (verse 34) (see April 2010 General Conference, Elder Bednar).
This is our faith in the Savior, our obedience to our Father’s plan, with the Spirit to instruct and guide and correct us (verse 34). We believe only in this, and do not depend on anything else of earth (verse 35). We are not so foolish as to believe we can accomplish this by our own power (verse 36), and we do not try to justify our foolish choices – we simply make and keep our covenants (verse 37).
This is the reason for laws and commandments (verse 38), that we might learn to keep our covenants, so that we can become like our Father who does always keep His promises. We become like Him by following the example of our Savior, regardless of what others do to us (verses 39-42). We must love as He loves us (verse 43), even when we must (verse 44):
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.
Doing these things is what makes me a child of God (verse 45).
It is the doing of good works, as acts of faith, that makes us children of Abraham, children of the covenant.
This is why the law is there, not to restrict us or oppress us, but to set us free by helping us to become all we can be, by helping us to become perfect as He is perfect, even whole and complete (verse 48).