The Beatitudes – Shoal Creek Valley Ward – Liberty Missouri Stake

Beatitudes

I hope today to share with you some of my feelings regarding the discourse our Savior gave known as the Sermon on the Mount in the Old World, and the Sermon at the Temple in the New World. We’ve already been blessed to examine these principles and I hope to add my thoughts with you as well. It is my prayer that the Spirit of the Lord may guide my words, and if not my words then your hearts so that we may all be edified together today.

The Sermon on the Mount, including the Beatitudes is some of the more beautiful prose in the New Testament and possesses allusion of the Psalmists of the Old Testament and the prophet Isaiah. It has been called the Constitution of Christianity and as such encompasses an easily identified set of standards or rules governing a community, in this case the Church and Kingdom of God. The Savior taught this sermon at a time when the vast majority of people were illiterate and would be unable to ‘read their scriptures’ every day or night. He taught in a manner that conveyed correct principles that were easily understood and transmitted from person to person. As the human family progressed these principles of the Gospel continued to be transmitted so this Constitution that encompassed Christianity would be continually before the us whether through word or works of art. How many of you know that for the vast majority of Christianity’s existence we learned from the pictures displayed in Churches, the very stain glassed windows depicted stories the Master told so that even the masses could internalize the lessons of the scriptures not widely available to them. And that gets to the heart of what I’d like to address today.

The Beatitudes have, although at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, been thought of as an introduction to what follows, However, they are much more, they are the heart of the Sermon, the heart of the Gospel, the heart of the Living Disciple of Christ. I want to go back a little so we have the proper context of what I mean when I say the Beatitudes are the Heart of the Gospel.

As we examine the Plan of Happiness our Heavenly Father sent us here to experience I see several phases to our progression. The first I will call a state of Innocence:

When a child is born, how else can you describe (at those precious moments with children) these little ones, Innocent, not yet feeling the weight of our responsibilities in this mortal probation. An allusion to Adam and Eve in the Garden.

The second I will call living the preparatory gospel:

As we grow, and in particular our Teen Age years (but can last well into our adult lives) we follow the gospel in varying ways, but many times we don’t know why, it’s just what we do in our family, or while you live under our roof, you will follow our rules, etc. Again an allusion to Adam and Eve, and I quote from Moses 5:6.

6 And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.

This is perfectly acceptable to the Lord and is still living a life worthy of the Celestial Law because the Celestial Law encompasses progression from a state of innocence to living the preparatory gospel, to the third phase I’ll refer to as living the Higher Law of the Gospel. I’d like to share a couple of Quotes pertaining to our Journey from the preparatory gospel to the Higher Law. The first from President Heber J. Grant, and the second from one of President David O. McKay’s counselors in the 1st Presidency, Stephen L. Richards. Then Elder Grant shared in Conference 1909:

…Truth is the living, pulsing breathing of the virtues of life. Mere refraining from wrong-doing is but keeping the weeds out of the garden of one’s life. But this must be followed by positive planting of the seeds of right to secure the flowers of true living. To the negatives of the Ten Commandments must be added the positives of the Beatitudes. The one condemns, the other commends; the one forbids, the other inspires; the one emphasizes the act, the other the spirit behind the act. The whole truth rests not in either, but in both.

(Heber J. Grant., Conference Report, April 1909, Third Day—Morning Session. 116.)

President Richards relayed in Conference 1957:

The Beatitudes come to us as persuasion and incentive. They are not negative, but positive, in character. All who believe in the standards of righteousness and morality set up by the Ten Commandments know and understand that the gracious persuasion of the Beatitudes and other of the Savior’s teachings furnish the highest incentive to yield obedience to the commandments and attain the blessings which are held out as a reward for compliance. It is essential that this be made clear to youth, that they may understand that moral standards and principles are not just prohibitive and negative in character, but that they are the essential foundation to happiness and the attainment of joy. If they could once be persuaded that there is no enduring happiness in sin, but only in goodness, the battle would be won.

(Stephen L Richards, Conference Report, April 1957, Third Day—Morning Meeting 98.)

So we see that the Beatitudes, as the heart of the Gospel, bridge the divide between the Ten Commandments and the Gospel as taught by the Savior providing a context to our discipleship and showing us that Internalizing the principles of the gospel will lead us back to our Father In Heaven. If I may take some poetic license, Blessed are the Pure in Heart, having been true and faithful, for they shall enter into the Heavenly Court as joint-heirs with Christ and see God.

Elder Oaks gave one of the most masterful sermons on this topic in October Conference 2000, it is worth reading in whole and I encourage you to go home and review it again, let me just share a few of his thoughts:

The Apostle Paul taught that the Lord’s teachings and teachers were given that we may all attain “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). This process requires far more than acquiring knowledge. It is not even enough for us to be convinced of the gospel; we must act and think so that we are converted by it. In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something.

…we conclude that the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.

Let me give you a couple of illustrations of why I think this a valuable principle to know and understand, especially one to teach our Youth just coming of age.

A few years back I complete my bachelor’s degree at Mid America Nazarene University in Olathe. The course work included courses in religious topics. A local Nazarene Minister was our instructor for these courses . The class had about 15-20 members all very active faithful Christians, it even included another Mormon besides myself. One assignment we were given by this minister was to write an essay and be prepared to read it to the class completing this sentence:

Life Is………..

Well, I came back after the next week and spoke of this Life as a probationary state, a time to prepare ourselves to live with the Father again, the importance of families and covenants, etc…. I spoke about the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes, and mentioned Elder Oaks quotes mentioned earlier. I was the first to read that day, as I finished I could tell many in the class were a little disturbed. Other presented their essays, most mentioning their religious commitments only briefly but described many fun activities etc… When the other member in our class got up he started out… Life is a probationary state, a time to prepare….. At the end there was much discussion about why the two mormon essays were so similar, one comment from another member of the class, and I believe he spoke for most of them when he said, I didn’t know we were supposed to base it on our Church lives.

Let me mention another interesting observation and then sum up these thoughts. On the very next block there is a church with a marquee which reads, Tired of Religion? Tired of Rules? Tired of Failing? An interesting sign to say the least, and I think not a few of us may think that very thing from time-to-time. However, it gets right to the heart of the matter. The restored Gospel of Jesus Christ has reintroduced back to the earth the proper understanding of faith, grace, and obedience, it is not one or the other, but a careful combination of both. We are participators in this personal development, we have the power to affect change in ourselves and by relying on the Spirit to guide us we’ll absorb the changes that will enable us to return home.

In Conclusion, brothers and sisters, let me add my testimony to the others we’ve heard today. I know that my Heavenly Father lives, he sent us here to earth to gain the experiences which will lead us to Eternal Life with Him. Those experiences shape our Character and as we internalize the principles of the Gospel that Character grows into or Becomes what our Heavenly Father desires us to become. I testify of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, that he died on the Cross and was Resurrected for our sakes. Joseph Smith was and is a true Prophet who restored again to the earth the Gospel and the priesthood, and the true understanding of the progression from our state of Innocence, living a preparatory gospel, to living the Higher Law. President Hinckley leads and guides our Church today as a successor to Joseph Smith. And I thank the Lord each night for Bishops and local leaders who are our battlefield commanders.

John M. Shaw, Shoal Creek Valley Ward, June 25, 2006

Appendix

Matt 5:1-5

1 AND seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

3 Nephi 12:1-12

1 AND it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve) and behold, he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying: 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.

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.

3 Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

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

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

6 And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.

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

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

9 And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

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.

Advertisements

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: