Saturday, August 4, 2018

Hidden in Plain Sight: The Original Faith of Jesus Christ

Hidden in Plain Sight
The Original Faith of Jesus Christ

Abstract: The Sermon on the Mount constitutes the original faith of Jesus Christ.  The primary significance of the Book of Mormon is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and that every human being must come to Him by really doing what He says to do in the Sermon.  The purpose of the Sermon is to resolve all interpersonal conflict.

The Original Faith

The things in the New Testament which Jesus taught by His own mouth may be roughly divided into the following categories:
  1. declarations of His identity and authority,
  2. exhortations to believe on Him,
  3. the Sermon on the Mount,
  4. parables,
  5. and responses to various statements, questions, or challenges.
This way of dividing up the things Jesus taught by His own mouth in the New Testament does not include everything Jesus said, but it covers enough to give an answer to the following question: "What was Jesus telling people to do?"  What was the faith His followers were to practice?  When the question is put that way, one of these things is not like the others.  The Sermon on the Mount is the doctrine He taught.1 This is the original faith which Jesus Christ commanded His apostles to teach to all nations.2

The Significance of the Book of Mormon

Re-establishing the original faith of Jesus Christ is the purpose of the Book of Mormon.  From its title page, we read that the Book of Mormon is written "to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations[.]"  And in 1 Nephi 13, where we read about the Gentiles and things having been taken out of the record of the twelve apostles of the Lamb before it went out to all nations, we find this.

And the angel spake unto me, saying: 
  1. These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, 
  2. and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; 
  3. and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; 
  4. and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.  
  5. And they must come according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of the Lamb; 
  6. and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy seed, as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; 
  7. wherefore they both shall be established in one; for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth.3

The words established by the mouth of the Lamb, and made known in the records of Nephi's seed, as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, is the Sermon.4  The primary significance of the Book of Mormon therefore is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and that every human being must come unto Him by really doing what He says to do in the Sermon.  This brings us to the purpose of the Sermon.

The Purpose of the Sermon

The ways humanity tries to bring about justice, peace, and unity do not and cannot work. History and current events are proof that competing against, controlling, or manipulating others always results in disunity, conflict, injustice, and inequality. Yet competition, force, and manipulation are how humanity has chosen to govern itself.  Jesus offers us the sole alternative to humanity’s self-destructive ways: love.

The law of God is this: every last thing you wish others would do to you, do those exact same things to them. This law defines the behavior of perfect love, which is called “charity.” God’s law is the true moral and ethical standard of all humankind, being written into every conscience, and it is the definition of “good.” Behavior that falls short of this law is not good and produces both guilt and conflict with others. 

The purpose of the law of God is to end conflict between people. Those who willingly keep His law may joyfully and peacefully live together as equals, both here and now, and forever in the eternal world. The commandments that Jesus gave us in the Sermon on the Mount are how we are to obey the law of God through our works and end our conflicts with others.

Love, the feeling which makes us want to do what the law of God commands, is given to us by God. Charity is Jesus’s nature, meaning He feels perfect love towards everyone. Charity is the nature of all those who inherit God’s kingdom with Jesus. Jesus’s commandments in the Sermon on the Mount are the actions which those who have charity do by nature.

“Sin” is intent or action which falls short of the law of God, such as giving in to lust and doing to others what we do not wish others would do to us. “Repent” means to change one’s mind, to reconsider, or to relent, all of which implies a willing change in one’s behavior.

Any who will believe Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount as literally as small children believe their parents’ words, and repent of all their sins, and be baptized by one of His sent servants, shall be visited by God with fire and with the Holy Ghost and shall receive a remission of their sins.

The visitation of the Holy Ghost changes our feelings so that we understand Jesus’s love and want to only do good. Then we are to do what Jesus commands until the end of our lives.  We trust in Jesus to guide and comfort us in our trials and afflictions as we learn who and what He is by the things we suffer in obedience to His teachings. Just as one does not learn a new skill without practice, nobody can understand nor master the discipline of perfect love without doing its works. Doing the works Jesus commanded until we fully understand Him and freely agree to become what He is and to receive His nature from Him permanently as a gift by His grace so that we love everyone perfectly just like He does is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

If you keep the commandments of Jesus Christ, you are His church,5 you are His disciple,6 you are His friend,7 and you are His family.8

The Lukan Sermon

Luke 6:20-49, KJV
20 ¶ And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.
23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
24 But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
25 Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.
26 Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.
27 ¶ But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.
30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
39 And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?
40 The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.
41 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
42 Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.
43 For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
44 For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.
45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
46 ¶ And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
47 Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:
48 He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.
49 But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.

1 Matthew 7:28, John 7:16
2 Matthew 28:19-20
3 1 Nephi 13:40-41
4 Matthew chapters 5 through 7; Luke 6:20-49; 3 Nephi chapters 12 through 14
5 Matthew 7:24-25, 16:18; Luke 6:47-48
6 John 8:31-32 (see also, in this order: John 14:6, 17:3, 14:21, 23)
7 John 15:14
8 Luke 8:19-21