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Week 9: Matthew 6-7

Paul Gustave Dore - Jesus preaches the Sermon on the Mount, Stasbourg, France.

MATTHEW 6

Verses 1-2: Dr. Wayment suggests that that the Greek for 'alms' or 'good works' fundamentally means "generosity to the poor" (NT:TFLDS, p. 14). This is very consistent with the plainer rendition of this verse we get in 3 Nephi 13:1. In short, this verse is warning us to not trumpet our philanthropy.

Verses 3-4: Jesus continues to discuss how we should go about doing good works. The things we do are seen in secret by the Father and its measuring stick for how he sees it is how much our nature has been changed via the Holy Ghost. He rewards us openly by endowments of His divine nature, His divine knowledge, and His divine gifts.

Verse 5: "A hypocrite is a stage actor in a Greek drama" (NT:TFLDS, p. 14). This is not to say that Christ is only condemning actors here, but more so that Christ is condemning those who put on a show during their worship. McConkie comments:
"Among the Jews, when praying, it was the custom to stand, face Jerusalem, cover one's head, and cast one's eyes downward. Certain hours of the day were set aside for prayers, and those desiring to make an ostentatious show of piety would arrange to be in the streets and public places at these hours. Those desiring to make a show of devoutness would also say their own prayers out loud during the synagogue services. This type of conduct, symbolical of all hypocrisy in prayer, was what Jesus condemned." (DNTC, digital copy, p. 173)
Verses 7-8: These verses have a meaning that is self-evident. Interestingly though, Dr. Wayment translates 'Heathen' as 'Gentiles' and 'vain repetition' as 'empty words' (NT: TFLDS, p. 14). This understanding gets more at the root of what is being expressed here. We are to try and avoid 'empty prayers'. The Gentiles can be interpreted as those who do not know the Lord. This might set the stage for later on in the Sermon when Jesus warns against those who think they know the Lord but really don't.

Verses 9-13: For interest, I provide the way Dr. Wayment translates 'The Lord's Prayer' below:

"Therefore, pray in this manner:
Our Father in heaven,
let your name be holy,
may your kingdom come,
may your will be done on earth even as it is in heaven.
Give us enough bread for today,
and take away our debts, to the extent that we have forgiven our debtors,
and do not lead us towards temptation, but save us from evil." (NT:TFLDS, p. 15)

John W. Welch comments:
"After the instructions about praying in public and alone in private (see 3 Nephi 13:5-6), the English pronouns shift from a singular "thou" to a plural "ye" as does also the Greek. This may indicate that the Lord first taught the people how to pray individually in private (when thou *singular* prayest, enter into thy closet), then offered instruction in group prayer (after this manner pray ye *plural*)." (Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, p. 79)
We also gain additional insight when we compare the prayer as found in Matthew 6:9-13 to 3 Nephi 13:9-13. Speaking of the omissions found in 3 Nephi 13, Hyrum Andrus comments:
"The fact that this prayer omits two phrases which are found in the prayer which Jesus gave to His disciples in Palestine perhaps illustrates the point that in prayer man should not use vain and meaningless phrases. The two omitted phrases are: "Thy kingdom come" and "Give us this day our daily bread." With Christ's ministry among the Nephites, His kingdom was fully established on the Western hemisphere -- spiritually, socially, economically, and politically. There followed an era of prosperity unequaled in Nephite history. It may be suggested that it was not necessary for the Nephites to pray for the coming of God's kingdom, for it was in their midst. Nor presumably did they need to ask the Lord to bless them with nourishment for their bodies when He had given them an economic system through which there would be great prosperity in material things and an equal opportunity for every man to acquire the things of the earth." (Principles of Perfection, pg. 267)
John W. Welch also suggests that the Hebrew 'mahar' and the greek 'epiousion' (daily bread) had reference to the coming Kingdom and its feast. This is consistent with the omission in verse 10 in which the phrase 'thy kingdom come' is absent in the Sermon at the Temple. In other words, in 3 Nephi 13, the daily bread was no longer needed because they were about ready to feast upon the mystery of godliness.

Verses 14-15: Welch also notes that the heavy focus on forgiveness in the Lord's prayer and in these verses might denote the need to remove the worst of feelings when we pray as a group. This is suggested, as seen above, by the plural pronouns used during this part of Jesus' sermon.

Verses 22-23: Dr. Wayment translates 'single' as 'healthy' (NT:TFLDS, p. 16). The eye being healthy suggests that it can allow as much light as possible in. Ever notice that when you have some sort of infection in your eye you shudder from the exposure of light?

On a further note, various scholars have connected these verses with facsimile 2 in the Book of Abraham. If you look at the illustration as a whole, it is an eye that is being filled with light and knowledge. The eye/pupil is completely dilated so as to let in as much light as possible. The illustrations within the eye/pupil might suggest the specifics of what verse 22 is promising.

Verse 24: This verse in the context of the two previous verses makes it plain why you cannot serve two masters. This is because darkness cannot cleave unto light and neither can light cleave unto darkness. One must be in good spiritual health in order to have their spiritual eye dilated enough to filter out the darkness.

Wayment translates 'Mammon' as 'money'. Trying to lay treasures on earth, but at the same time trying to remain true to covenants creates a "devastating double duty":
"One major cause of real fatigue, little appreciated by those so afflicted, is trying to serve two masters. This is devastating double duty. If so divided, one inevitably ends up being ineffective, even disloyal, in respect to one master or another--a most fatiguing circumstance. (Matthew 6:24.)" - Neal A. Maxwell ("If Thou Endure It Well," [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], p. 115)
Verses 25-34: These verses are pretty self-evident, but remind me of this light intensive quote from Brigham Young:
"How few there are who understand how hard it is for a man's eyes to be opened! How few of the Elders of this Church prefer the interests of the kingdom of God to their worldly interests! With far too many it is, “My family!—my farm is going to wreck!—my store is neglected!—my business must be attended to!” and let the kingdom of God take care of itself. Such men will remain in darkness.
To possess and retain the spirit of the Gospel, gather Israel, redeem Zion, and save the world must be attended to first and foremost, and should be the prevailing desire in the hearts of the First Presidency of the Elders of Israel, and of every officer in the Church and kingdom of God.
The Lord commands, controls, and governs. A little more faith in the name of Jesus Christ, and I can say to my enemies, Be thou rebuked and stay thou there. I then can say to the power of the Devil, Be thou rebuked; and to evil spirits, Come not within these walls, and they could not enter. A little more faith, and, by way of comparison, I can say to my wheat and corn, Grow, and command the heavens to shed forth rain.
Suppose that the whole people could see things as they are, they would soon be able to control the elements by the power of their faith. This people, since we believe that they are in the kingdom of God, must so live as to gain power and faith to control all things of a perishable nature, and thus prepare themselves to endure forever and ever; while every other creature will, ere long, return to its native element." (JD 7:174)
Verse 27: Dr. Wayment clears this very often misunderstood scripture for us. He translates it as:
"Who is able to add one measure to his height by worrying?" (NT:TFLDS, p. 17)
His commentary is as follows: "In this context, the directive to not worry about adding to one's overall height can also be interpreted to mean worrying about adding an hour to one's lifespan" (NT:TFLDS, p. 17). In essence, this might refer to a host of things like trying to get really into shape. It could refer to worrying too much about death or worrying too much about one's health (the Lord cares about our health, but there is a tendency in some to overemphasize it to where we miss the point being made in verses 25-34).

Verses 28-30: John W. Welch suggests that the Sermon on the Mount has a climactic temple meaning. He further suggests that the Savior repeated these words again often. He suggests the word raiment or clothe is referring to being endowed at a future point. (Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, p. 33)

Verse 33: We often misinterpret 33 about seeking heaven in some future life. McConkie points out, in the context of the JST, that this is something we need to seek and bring about here and now (see DNTC, digital copy, p. 182). To put the idea plainly, Jonathan Stapely expresses it this way:
"Joseph Smith's revelations of the Nauvoo Temple liturgy in 1842 and 1843 required an expanded cosmology in which kinship, priesthood, government, and heaven all became synonymous. This heaven was not a future reward for the faithful or the elect; it was the material heaven on earth, constructed welding link by welding link on the anvil of the temple altar. Ann Taves has used the Catholic Eucharist analogically to understand Smith's golden plates, but her analogy is far more potent when used in relation to Mormon temple sealings. The sacramentalism of the Mormon liturgy that so irritated the Protestant Atlantic faltered at the threshold of the temple, and, as the priest who holds the host at the altar to materialize the flesh of Christ, the Mormon priest materialized heaven at this altar, sealing wife to husband and child to parent. Where these linkages did not exist, there was simply no heaven; where they did exist, so did heaven. And this heaven persevered." (The Power of Godliness: Mormon Liturgy and Cosmology, p. 17)
MATTHEW 7

Verse 1: This verse can be tempered and expanded by comparing it to Moroni 7:14-18. The JST and the beginning of 3 Nephi 14 suggest the beginning of this part of the Sermon was a transition of sorts. It is my opinion that the admonition to Judge not should be read in light of Moroni 7:14-18. In other words, the whole of Matthew 7 is Jesus "showing us the way to judge".

Verse 2: Our compassion and mercy giving will go a long way in the Lord looking past our imperfections. Charity, in fact, is described in scripture as covering a multitude of sins.

Verses 3-5: Casting out the beam/log in our own eye means to cast out things in our life that deter us from having the spirit of revelation and discernment. This allows us to see other's faults in their proper context. We will be much more likely to extend the helping hand instead of the scolding rebuke when we see "things as they are".

Verse 6: This verse is one of the greatest indicators that the Sermon on the Mount should be read as a temple text.
"It follows that missionaries ordinarily confine their teachings to such things as the nature and kind of being that God is, the atonement of our Lord, the apostasy from and restoration of the gospel, and the plan of salvation. After people are converted and have the gift of the Holy Ghost to enlighten their minds it is time enough for them to learn the deeper things pertaining to exaltation in the eternal. worlds. The sacred teachings revealed in temple ordinances, for instance, are mysteries reserved for selected and faithful members of the kingdom who have attained sufficient stability and background to understand them." - Bruce R. McConkie (DNTC, digital copy, p. 187)

The pearls are those truths that the scriptures also call "mysteries". A comparison of Alma 12:9 makes that clear.

Verses 7-8: The previous verse (keeping our pearls close), therefore, comes off as a warning to those who have been present and who will be present for what is about to be said. John W. Welch comments on verse 7-8:
"Finally, the listeners are ready to approach the Father. They are told that if they will one at a time ask, seek, and knock (in other words, when a threefold petition is made), "it shall be opened unto them" (3 Nephi 14:7). This offer is open to all people (compare Alma 12:9-11). Each one that asks, having been brought to this point of entry, will receive and be received (see 3 Nephi 14:8). In my mind, it makes the best sense of Matthew 7:7 to understand it in a ceremonial context. Actual experience among Christians generally shows that the promise articulated here should not be understood as an absolute one: Many people ask and seek and knock yet, in fact many of them do not find. Moreover, there is reason to believe that Jesus expected his true followers to seek for something out of the ordinary: An early saying from Oxyrhynchus attributed to Jesus reads, "Let him who seeks not cease seeking until he finds, and when he finds, he will be astounded, and having been astounded, he will reign, and having reigned, he will rest." It is crucial that a person come to the Father correctly (see 3 Nephi 14:21), and for all who seek and ask at this point in their progression—after believing and accepting the requirements in the Sermon that precede this invitation—for them it will be opened." (Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount)
Verses 9-11: John W. Welch further comments:
"Who, then, will be there to open "it" unto the petitioner? The Father. Jesus asked: "Or what man is there of you, who, if his son ask for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he ask for a fish, will he give him a serpent? . . . How much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (3 Nephi 14:9-10, 11). Asking for bread is the symbolic equivalent of asking for Jesus, who is the "bread of life" (John 6:48). Asking for a fish, again, is figuratively asking for life through the atonement and salvation of Jesus. The fish was a common pre-Christian symbol of fortune and health that became a familiar symbol of Jesus and baptism very early in Christianity. The promise veiled in such symbolism is that those who properly ask for Jesus will not be stoned (suffer death), nor will they encounter a serpent (Lucifer). Instead, the petitioner will receive good gifts directly from the Father (see 3 Nephi 14:11). The gift is eternal life, "the greatest of all the gifts of God" (D&C 14:7), descending below all things, rising above all heavens, and filling all things (see Ephesians 4:8-10, wheredomata, the Greek word for "gifts" in Matthew 7:11, also appears). The abundant generosity of God providing his people with bread and fish calls to mind the miraculous multiplication of the fish and the loaves (see Matthew 14:15-21), which may foreshadow an actual ritual meal (compare 3 Nephi 18:1-4)." - John W. Welch (Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount)
Verse 12: This is known as the Golden Rule. Interestingly, it is put into a temple context as we see above. Wayment suggests that anciently this was known as the 'law of reciprocity' (NT:TFLDS, p. 17-18). This might, therefore, connect this verse to the idea of giving grace for grace as found in D&C 93 until we receive a fulness of the Father. The good gifts, the pearls/mysteries, and mercy will be given by the Father on condition that we apply the Golden Rule in our life. It takes on increased power as we take upon ourselves the ordinances and covenants of the temple. The phrase "Law and the Prophets" occurs elsewhere in scripture in describing loving God and one's neighbor. It is self-evident how this verse connects to such an idea. For a great article on this phrase, see here.

Verses 13-14: The Greek here, according to John W. Welch, hints at a grand picture: "The image involved here is not that of a door to a house, but the gate of a city or a temple." This verse is an invitation to enter into the Heavenly Jerusalem through the portals/ordinances of exaltation found in the Holy Temple. The wide gate and the broad way reflects the large and spacious building found in Lehi's dream of the Tree of Life. That building had no foundation like the foolish man's house later on in Matthew 7. Also, if the spacious building can be compared to the broad and wide way, then the strait and narrow way obviously points us to the tree of life; a clear symbol of the temple and the blessings that await us therein.

Verse 15: McConkie comments and lists the possibilities plainly:
"One of the surest and most certain signs of the times is the near-omnipresence of false prophets. "There shall also arise . . . false prophets," saith the holy word. (JS-M 1:22.) It is now almost as though every fool or near-fool, and every person filled with self-conceit and a desire to be in the spotlight of adulation, fancies himself a prophet of religion or politics, or what have you. On every hand there are those who suppose they know how to save society, to save nations, to save souls. They preach all sorts of gospels -- a social gospel; a racial gospel; a gospel of freedom or communism, of socialism or free enterprise, of military preparedness or reliance upon the wispy promises of foreign foes; a gospel of salvation by grace alone or of this or that doctrine. Streets and stadiums and temples are overrun, as the ancient prophets foretold, with the false ministers and teachers and politicians of the latter days. And all this shall continue until the greedy, the power hungry, and the self-called preachers go the way of all the earth when He comes to rule whose right it is both to instruct and to govern." - Bruce R. McConkie (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith)

Also, sheep's clothing represents those of the covenant who wear the habiliments of the priesthood:
“The ravening wolves are amongst us, from our own membership, and they, more than any others, are clothed in sheep's clothing, because they wear the habiliments of the priesthood…We should be careful of them.” (J. Reuben Clark, Conference Report, April 1949.)
Verses 16-20: Dr. Wayment suggests that that the Greek word for 'fruits' isn't just plural, but it is a plural word that represents multiple types of fruit (NT:TFLDS, p. 18). The fruits, therefore, could represent different spiritual gifts. Even further, a comparison to the metaphor in Alma 32 shows us that we are to partake of and bring forth the same fruit. We are, ultimately, to have the seed bring forth much fruit as we transform into a metaphorical tree of life. John W. Welch gives very lengthy but edifying commentary:
"First, these are no ordinary trees of which Jesus speaks: they are ultimate moral symbols. They either bear "evil" fruit (the Greek word is ponerous, "sick, wicked, worthless, degenerate, malicious") and are "corrupt" (sapron, meaning "decayed, rotten, evil, unwholesome"), or they are "good" (agathon, "fit, capable, of inner worth, moral, right"). Thus, Jesus speaks of eternal trees, symbolic of the final state of one's eternal character, determining whether one will either live or be "hewn down, and cast into the fire" (Matthew 7:19; 3 Nephi 14:19).
Second, these good trees are trees of life. One only lives forever by partaking of the fruit of the tree of life (see Genesis 3:22). Accordingly, the tree is an important feature in the landscape of all temple literature. It is, therefore, natural and logical that Jesus' thoughts should turn to the imagery of the tree of life immediately after he has described the path "which leadeth unto life" (3 Nephi 14:14). In an eternal perspective, that path leads directly to the tree of life (see 1 Nephi 8:20, "I also beheld a strait and narrow path, which came along by the rod of iron, even to the tree by which I stood").
Third, Jesus equates individual people with the tree, for by partaking of the fruit of the tree of life, or by planting the seed of life in oneself, each disciple grows up into a tree of life, as the prophet Alma describes (see Alma 32:41–42). Each good tree of life has a place in God's paradise, growing up unto eternal life and yielding much fruit—powerful imagery also present in the Old Testament Psalms (see Psalm 1:1–3) and in the earliest Christian hymns: "Blessed, O Lord, are they who are planted in Thy land, and who have a place in Thy Paradise; and who grow in the growth of Thy trees" (Odes of Solomon 11:18–24). These trees are fruitful, bearing seed and posterity. They are of a kind with Jesus, he being the root and righteous followers becoming the branches (see John 15:1–5; Jacob 5).
Fourth, another temple echo may be heard in the possibility that the cross is also, ironically, a symbol of a tree of life (see 1 Peter 2:24). Each person who is raised up in the form of the tree will have eternal life. Ritually, the early Christians prayed in the "cruciform" position, with their hands raised, "stretched out towards the Lord." This "extension," they said, "is the upright cross." Originally this signified the passion of Christ and was a gesture used in confessing Christ at baptism; it imitated the cross, death, and a mystic unification and life with Christ.
Those who do not become such a tree and bring forth good fruit, however, will be chopped down and thrown into the fire, for they shall be known by their fruits (see 3 Nephi 14:19–20). Evil trees that bring forth bad fruit are the "false prophets" who are sure to come. The Lord assures the disciples that they "shall know them" (3 Nephi 14:20), for he has given them keys of knowledge so that they can test whether these purported prophets have come with truth and goodness." (Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple & the Sermon on the Mount, 1999, Chapter 4)
Verses 21-23: John Taylor after quoting this verse says:
"You say, that means the outsiders. No, it does not. Do they do many wonderful works in the name of Jesus? No; if they do anything, it is done in the name of themselves or of the Devil. Sometimes they will do things in the name of God; but it is simply an act of blasphemy. This means you, Latter-day Saints, who heal the sick, cast out devils, and do many wonderful things in the name of Jesus. And yet how many we see among this people of this class, that become careless, and treat lightly the ordinances of God's house and the priesthood of the Son of God; yet they think they are going, by and by, to slide into the kingdom of God. But I tell you unless they are righteous and keep their covenants they will never go there. Hear it, ye Latter-day Saints! Hear it, ye Seventies and High Priests!" (JD 20:120)
This adds these verses in a much more plain context. To know the Lord must be read in the context of John 17:3 and 3 Nephi 11:14. Many of us do things in the name of the Lord but have never taken the time to truly get to know Him. This might be my opinion, but too many of us approach the Lord to simply feel peace and comfort and to have His help in solving our problems. He wants us to do that, but how many approach the Lord actually hungering and thirsting, wanting to know more about Him; to learn what he knows and to simply get to know Him more. I have found that we usually find what we are looking for from Him when we take this approach.

Verses 24-27: The contrast here, between the wise man and foolish man, is that some build their priesthood and conversion on revelation while others build it on counterfeits and shortcuts. The idea of the wise man being wise might connect to temple themes; one who has an understanding heart and has partaken of Wisdom. It is also interesting to note that the wise man has built his house upon a rock. In other words, he has received the keys of the kingdom which was the rock that Peter received/was.

Even more is gained by comparing this to Luke 6:47-48. Luke gives us additional details to the parable. The wise man 'digged deep' to finally find his strong foundation. The foolish man built his foundation upon the surface; there was no digging deep, but simply a lazy and trite solution. This has powerful meaning:
"Please deepen your personal scriptural scholarship, for in it will be truth, relevancy, renewal and reassurance. Remember that at the very center of the deepest doctrines are the pearls of greatest price!" - Neal A. Maxwell (Presented at the annual convention of Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists [AMCAP), September 28, 1978, Salt Lake City. Utah.)
"Some Church members know just enough about the doctrines to converse superficially on them, but their scant knowledge about the deep doctrines is inadequate for deep discipleship (see 1 Corinthians 2:10). Thus, uninformed about the deep doctrines, they make no deep change in their lives. They lack the faith to "give place" (Alma 32:27) consistently for real discipleship. Such members move out a few hundred yards from the entrance to the straight and narrow path and repose on the first little rise, thinking, "Well, this is all there is to it"; and they end up living far below their possibilities. While not as distant as those King Benjamin described "For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?" (Mosiah 5:13) -- these people are not drawing closer either." - Neal A. Maxwell (Men and Women of Christ. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991, pp. 2-3)
"The "deep things of God" give us deep and spanning knowledge which is emancipating and makes us intellectually free. Without the perspectives of the gospel, the universe becomes a prison or an unfathomable maze, causing some to act out through hedonism and others to sink into despair...
The deep problems individuals have can only be solved by learning about "the deep things of God," by confronting the reality of "things as they really are and things as they really will be." Hard though this process may be, painful though it may be, it is the one true course for human happiness here and everlasting joy in the world to come." - Neal A. Maxwell (Speech to the Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists, Sept. 28, 1978)
FURTHER READING

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