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Week 8: Matthew 5 & Luke 6

Sermon on the Mount, by Harry Anderson


Verse 1: The phrase, "he went up into a mountain" is significant and sets the stage for the infamous Sermon on the Mount. 
"Matthew begins chapter 5 in his gospel with these words: “And Jesus went up into the mountain (anebēeis to oros)” (my translation). It does not say, “And Jesus went out on a gentle hillside.” Significantly, these words in Matthew are precisely the same as the words in the Septuagint text of Exodus 19:3 and 24:12, when Moses and the elders went up into Mount Sinai (anebē eis to oros). In the mountain, the seventy elders “saw God” and received the law. In the sermon, Jesus similarly promised his disciples that if they are pure in heart, “they too shall see God,” and he likewise gave them a new dispensation of the law. As some recent biblical scholars have said, these points of parallelism “clearly cannot be ignored.” Moreover, when Psalm 24 asks, “Who shall ascend into the hill or mountain of the Lord” (anabēsetai eis to oros—the same words again)\, the psalm is asking, who is worthy to enter the temple? The precise verbal similarity between the Greek texts of these passages in Exodus, Matthew 5, and Psalm 24 comes as further confirmation of the temple setting for the Sermon on the Mount." - John W. Welch (1)
Verse 2: The JST of this verse mirrors pretty closely what the Savior says during the Sermon at the Temple in 3 Nephi 12:2.

Verses 3-11: These beatitudes are known by most Christians, but understanding what the Greek implies with 'blessed' can unlock these scriptures. LeGrand Baker and Stephen Ricks translate the term more fully to "enjoying the state of the gods. This, again, puts this sermon on more light intensive ground than what we usually give it.

Verse 3: Poor in spirit must denote a condition that exists separate from Christ, hence the clarification of those who come unto him found in 3 Nephi 12:3. The poor in spirit must be those who lack the regenerating power of the Spirit but who live upright and worthy lives. This would then connect and contrast with being rich in spirit, or delighting in fatness, or those who have the substance of light and truth in abundance.
"The phrase 'come unto me' appears five times in the Sermon at the Temple (3 Nephi 12:3, 19, 20, and 23 twice), but it never occurs in the Sermon on the Mount... The use of the phrase 'come unto Christ is consistent with the covenantal context of the Sermon at the Temple, and this connection is strengthened by the likelihood that the Hebrew phrase translated "come before the Lord" probably has cultic meanings of standing before Jesus' presence in the temple at Jerusalem. Stephen D. Ricks suggests that the phrase 'come unto me' in the Sermon at the Temple may be conceptually equivalent to the Old Testament expression translated "stand in the presence of the Lord," which is taught to be temple terminology." - John W. Welch (Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, p. 133-134)
The word "theirs" is significant because it means they are not mere citizens of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is theirs. Therefore, they are kings and priests.

In the Anchor Bible 'poor in spirit' is translated as Humble in spirit. These non-LDS scholars expand even more on its meaning and suggest it more fully means, "Those living in uprightness or perfection".
D&C 59:8 puts the poor in spirit (contrite spirit) in the context of the temple. Therefore, this verse could be rendered as:
"Enjoying the state of the gods are the upright and make the sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit, who come to where I am, for they are the sacral kings of the Kingdom of heaven." (Whom Shall Ascend the Hill of the Lord, p. 654-655)
Verse 4: Those who are comforted are those who are empowered or bestowed with authority and power:
"... comfort [means] the bestowal of authority or power — an empowerment — and it also adds substantial depth to the meaning of the 23rd Psalm and other scriptures where “comfort” might be read as “to give consolation,” they might also be read as “to give power and authority, thus enabling one to transcend sorrow." (Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord? The Psalms in Israel’s Temple Worship in the Old Testament and in the Book of Mormon, p. 468)
Those who mourn refer to those in Isaiah 61 and Moses 7:45. A very specific interpretation is the dead who are waiting to be empowered/comforted through the ordinances of the House of the Lord. Moses 7:45 uses the word 'sanctified' instead of 'comfort', perhaps equating the two terms.

Verse 5: This verse refers to the earth as the ultimate destination of those who will inherit the Celestial Kingdom. In other words, this planet (in its sanctified state) should be understood as the Celestial Kingdom. The meek are inextricably connected with Faith, Hope, and Charity in the last 10 verse of Moroni chapter 7. I write about similar themes here.

Verse 6: The JST and 3 Nephi 12 rendition of this verse add "shall be filled with the Holy Ghost" at the end. This verse mirrors Psalm 17:15. The idea of being filled with the Holy Ghost means one has been transformed and made ready to stand in the presence of God (see D&C 109:15). 'Righteousness', in Hebrew, means uprightness in the ways of the temple.

Verse 7: The merciful obtaining mercy might reflect what Jesus is trying to convey in Matthew 7:1-2.

Verse 8: The JST of Psalm 42:1-2 combines this beatitude with verse 6. It reads:
"As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for to see God, for to see the Living God. When shall I come and appear before thee, O God?"
The pure in heart should easily be seen as connecting with 'the pure love of Christ'. More can be read about that here.

Verse 9: Peacemakers translates from εἰρηνοποιός which means to speak peace. Does this correlate with John 1:12? We are given the power to become the sons of God, which is to become a peacemaker, the same way the Savior commanded the sea to be at peace and be still. Peacemakers, therefore, might directly connect with priesthood power. This is very consistent with the ideas expressed in D&C 121.

Verse 10: A contrasting of this verse with 3 Nephi 12:10 might yield the insight that 'righteousness' and Christ's name could be equated. John W. Welch also notes that the different phraseology here is a witness that the Sermon at the Temple comes close to the original Aramaic intent of the Sermon on the Mount. Scholars think "righteousness sake" in Matthew 5:10 was confused for the "righteous one". 3 Nephi 12:10 comes much closer to what biblical scholars think this verse should say. (Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, p. 193-194)

Ricks and Baker suggest that the phrase "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" might suggest a second anointing since verse three uses the phrase in reference to the poor in spirit (p. 684-685). We get baptism in verse two (see the JST and 3 Nephi 12), the first anointing in verse 3 (accepting the scholarly view that the phrase 'kingdom of heaven' implies an anointing), and a second anointing in verse 10.

Verses 11-12: In context with the commentary of verse 10, these verses can be seen as a climax in the ordinances and beatitudes. Taken with the JST of verse 2, there are 10 Beatitudes. The number '10' in the ancient world has profound meaning. In short, it symbolized a full ascent into the divine presence. More can be read about it here. This might open up the meaning of verse 12 in which those who get to this point should be exceedingly glad. They are put on the same pedestal as ancient prophets. This rings of being washed and cleansed from the sins of the current generation.

Verse 13: Baker in an Ensign article points out that the purpose of the salt was to create a sweet-smelling odor in the animal sacrifices. It is therefore symbolic for us to be salt to transmit the covenants and ordinances to others as they make the sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit. We are the salt because we can transform someone from figuratively smelling like burning flesh to becoming pleasant.

On a further interesting note, Ricks and Baker note that this command, "I give unto you", refers to new members of the kingdom and their responsibility to the whole earth. Whereas the same wording of commandment is found in verse 14 in 3 Nephi 12 to be a light, but it only refers to 'this people', namely those already in the covenant fold. This distinction is missing in Matthew 5.

Verse 14: The implication of the added wording in 3 Nephi 12:14 might be that we are to take the gospel to the whole earth (see verse 13), but we are also to build Zion among those of the covenant (see verse 14, 'be the light of this people'). A city set upon a hill should be understood as an entire group of people who have made the temple the center of their lives, hence why it is set on top of a hill.

Verse 15: Wayment puts this verse in more conventional terms. A 'bushel' is a basket. Wayment suggests that it is a basket used to extinguish an oil lamp. A 'candlestick' is a lampstand (see NT:TFLDS, p. 12). The candlestick/lampstand here is symbolic of the menorah which sits in the Holy Place in Solomon's temple. This lamp or candlestick was shaped like a tree to represent the tree of life whose three branches reached up to heaven (reflective of uttering prayer three times). The cups at the end of the branches were filled with olive oil, which is the same oil used to anoint priests and kings. This light lit the interior of the temple. It is also the light that one approached before approaching the veil that separated the Holy of Holies. Giving light to all that are in 'the house', again, reflects the difference of the intended recipients in verses 13 and 14. 'The house' are those who enter the holy temple and partake of the fulness of its ordinances and power.

Verse 16: This verse unites the injunctions and different audiences discussed in the previous verses. John W. Welch gives fantastic commentary on it:
"Instead of the old imperative, "Let there be light" (Genesis 1:3 italics added), Jesus now issues the new injunction, "Let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works" (3 Nephi 12:16). Just as the Creator looked at the creation and pronounced his works to be good, Jesus now invites each disciple to become a creator of "good works," that when they are seen, men may glorify God. With this, Jesus is forming a new heaven and new earth, a new creative act and new creation of a new community of righteous people." (Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, p. 63)
 Verses 17-18: The difference in wording between 3 Nephi 12:18 and here shows that the law was fulfilled by Christ by the time we get to 3 Nephi 12. Christ shows great respect for the law of Moses in Matthew 5, but he is able to move past it when it does pass away in 3 Nephi 12. This should show us that we should not be so committed to programs, applications, etc that we become unable to distinguish it from those things that are actually eternal.

Verses 19-20: In 3 Nephi 12, these verses are completely different. The reason for the difference might lie in understanding that Christ taught to his audiences. The audience in Matthew 5 are those familiar with the customs and practices of the Pharisees. It is my belief that both audiences are a group of righteous people, but this is an example of adapted teachings to match circumstances and culture.

Verse 21: In Matthew 5 it speaks oral tradition while it 3 Nephi 12 the wording is changed to match a written tradition. This phrase is inserted because the Nephites relied upon written law instead of oral law tradition among the Jews. This is why this phrase is inserted many times in the Sermon at the Temple among the Nephites (see 12:27, 33, 38, & 43). The Nephites were distinctly different from their Jewish ancestors in this way because they had been cut off and only had the brass plates.

Verse 22: This verse has a double meaning. Or, at least, the audiences from 3 Nephi 12 to Matthew 5 would have understood them differently. The council in Matthew 5 would have been understood as the Sanhedrin and the council in 3 Nephi 12 could be understood as what scholars call the 'Divine Council'. The interpretation of the Divine Council may cause us to see parallels to warnings against contention and bad feelings for those whom we associate with, especially in temples. This becomes especially clear when we speak of reconciling such relationships before we come to an altar in the next few verses.

Verses 23-24: See the commentary above. The parallels it has to our current temple worship is wonderful to contemplate and remains consistent with the temple theology found in the rest of the Sermon on the Mount.

Verses 27-30: These verses give a higher law to keep compared to the simple injunction to avoid adultery. This should clear up two often confusing and misinterpreted ideas. Namely, the letter of the law and the spirit of the law.
"One of the ironies which is fostered, at times innocently, in the Church, is the feeling we have that the spirit of the law is superior to the letter of the law because for some reason it seems more permissive or less apt to offend others. The reverse is true. The spirit of the law is superior because it demands more of us than the letter of the law. The spirit of the law insists that we do more than merely comply superficially. It means, too, that we must give attention to the things that matter most and still not leave the others undone" (Neal A. Maxwell, For the Power Is in Them, pp. 46-47).
The JST of verse 30 gives us added perspective as to what the body analogy means.

Verses 31-32: These verses can be better understood in the context of the sealing power, but more importantly it shows how the Lord and ancient Israel had strict laws about marriage. McConkie gives interesting commentary:
"If our societies were on a higher plane, then, marriage covenants would be held in great, sacred trust; essentially, divorce would not exist or be considered except for truly serious reasons such as adultery. I would also suggest that in a higher system, with individuals living in harmony with all the Lord's teachings, there would be no such serious problems and thus no divorce.
"Unfortunately, our societies are less than ideal. Some persons do live in unbearably difficult marital circumstances, suffering as victims of spouse abuse, substance abuse, promiscuity, and other evils that are sometimes addressed through divorce as a last resort. In such cases, the Lord in his mercy 'permits his agents to exercise the power to loose [to authorize divorce] as well as the power to bind.' (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 204)
Verses 33-37: John W. Welch suggests that our oaths are made by simply saying yes or no. We do not swear by anything but simply submit in a non-verbose way. The way we see this in our temple worship is self-evident.

Verses 38-42: Here we have elevated expectations from the conventional simple injunctions of an eye for an eye. The spirit of the law is invoked to show that we are to consecrate our lives to the caring, nurturing, and blessing of others. The following quote from George Q. Cannon is instructive:
"To conquer by kindness is the greatest victory to be had. We should right all wrongs by kindness, and show those with whom we are associated that our love is broad enough to forgive them and that we have charity for their weaknesses. We ought to attain to this. We cannot go to God till we do." (Collected Discourses 1886-1898, ed. by Brian Stuy, vol. 2, George Q. Cannon, Feb. 1, 1891)
In all our associations, we should seek kindness instead of antagonistic resistance.

Verse 45: The phrase "that ye may be the children of your Father" is confusing because we already believe we are children of God. To become His children here, as is the case in almost all its references in scripture, refer to being adopted as His child because you have been transformed by the power of Godliness. This power comes through the ordinances and covenants of the temple as we are true and faithful to them.

Verse 48: Wayment translates this verse plainly:
"Therefore, you will be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect." (NT:TFLDS, p.  14)
This is consistent with the wording found in 3 Nephi 12. It isn't so much a commandment here as much as it is a reference to the end result of the process discussed in this chapter. The injunction of 'you will be perfect' denotes ritual heavily. It comes from living as true and faithful as we can to the covenants of the temple. John W. Welch offers this commentary on the ancient Greek origins of the word 'perfect':
"... the Greek word translated into English as "perfect" in Matthew 5:48 is teleios. This important word is used in Greek religious literature to describe several things, including the person who has become fully initiated in the rituals of the religion. Teleios is "a technical term of the mystery religions, which refers to one initiated into the mystic rites, the initiate." Other forms of this word are used in Hebrews 5:14–6:1 to distinguish between the initial teachings and the full instruction ("full age," "perfection"); and in Hebrews 9:11 it refers to the heavenly temple. Generally, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, its usage follows a "special use" from Hellenistic Judaism, where the word teleioo means "to put someone in the position in which he can come, or stand, before God." Thus, in its ritual connotations, this word refers to preparing a person to be presented to come before God "in priestly action"." (Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, p. 75)
In other words, we miss the point when we think of perfection as 'flawless living'. It more fully means one who has been fully initiated and, therefore, has the blessings of the Atonement of Christ flowing through their life.


Verses 1-5: McConkie gives some plain commentary on the law of the Sabbath:
"To violate the law of the Sabbath is not naturally and inherently wrong; it is not an offense that is malum in se. Rather, Sabbath desecration is a sin because it breaks the divine decree made with reference to that particular day; it is an act that is malum prohibitum. Hence, even proper regulations with reference to it may be set aside when some overriding principle of temporal or spiritual well-being is involved. David's use of the shewbread illustrates this principle." (DNTC, digital copy, p. 143)
The bread of the presence spoken of in regards to David is the bread that sat on the table in the Holy Place. It usually was placed next to the menorah and was close to the veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.

 **NOTE: From here I will not discuss all the details of the rest of Luke 6 because much of it crosses over into the following week of Come, Follow Me. In addition, much of the teachings have already been covered above. I will focus, briefly, on some of the differences here though.

Here in Luke 6, we get what is called 'The Sermon on the Plain'. It is unknown whether this is simply another telling of the Sermon on the Mount or if this was a sermon given at a different time and place by Jesus. What we do get from Luke is that the Sermon on the Plain took place almost immediately after the selection and ordination of the Twelve Apostles. Bruce R. McConkie suggests, citing evidence from the JST and the Book of Mormon, that both sermons "are one and the same" (DNTC, digital copy, p. 154).

Verse 17: Interestingly, McConkie suggests that the plain might have been "a plateau well up in the mountains" (DNTC, digital copy, p. 154). This would preserve the continuity of this being a temple text.

Verse 21: Here we get an additional beatitude of "blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh". Laughter here is seen as something divine. I write about such ideas more extensively here.

Verses 24-26: These verses are not found in Matthew 5. Their meaning is self-evident.

Verse 36: Here we have a change of wording from Matthew 5:48. It seems to transition the discussion of being kind and charitable to sinners and your enemies to the teaching of 'Judge Not'.

The rest of Luke 6 crosses into the territory of Matthew 6-7 which is the Come, Follow Me focus of next week. I will end here.



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