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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Trying a Little Harder to Be a Little Better

In the Book of Mormon, the pinnacle moments of the Nephite and Lamanite history is Jesus Christ's appearance to the people in the Americas. After His Resurrection, Jesus Christ not only returned to His people in Jerusalem, but He came to His beloved people in the Americas to proclaim His gospel, Atonement, and Plan of Salvation to them as well. This visit begins in 3 Nephi 11 in the Book of Mormon.

(For anyone reading who may not have a copy of the Book of Mormon, it can be found here: http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm?lang=eng  so you can read along!)

Similar to in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives a discourse about the "Beatitudes" to the people in the Americas in 3 Nephi 12. This sermon lays out the manner in which mankind are to repent and return to their Heavenly Father. Each beatitude is analogous to a step on a spiral staircase, bringing us closer and closer to heaven. Before we can enter this pathway to the process of perfection, we must enter the gate. As Jesus says, we must be baptized and confirmed with the gift of the Holy Ghost in order to most effectively progress on this path. The gift of the Holy Ghost is necessary because it allows us to have the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit of God with us to teach, guide, comfort, and inspire, as long as we live worthily of its holy presence. The Spirit helps us to recognize our sins and realize that we have done wrong, or in Christ's words, be "poor in spirit" (3 Nephi 12:3). Then, we must "mourn" and have remorse and true sorrow for the wrong that we have done, and not just that we may have gotten caught. This sorrow leads us to the realization that we do not know everything and will trip up sometimes. But, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can become meek and like Christ, submit ourselves to the will of our Father in Heaven, having an attitude of "Not my will, but thine be done". As we learn through the impressions of the Holy Spirit and pray for its help, we can better know what God wants us to do and we begin to "hunger and thirst after righteousness" (verse 6). This is more than just a strong desire, but it requires action. Think about it, when you are very hungry or thirsty, this strongly motivates you to action to obtain food or drink. You would not just recognize your state of hunger or thirst and accept it, not doing anything to change it. The same is true when we know what righteousness is and desire to seek it actively. The next step leads on to become "pure in heart", with honest and good intentions and motives (v. 8). Next, these good intentions help us to spread our happiness and joy to others by serving them and loving them. We can become "peacemakers" in the world, literally bringing peace to people's lives through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Finally, those who live by this pathway to perfection inevitably will face persecution, be reviled, and have people "say all manner of evil against [them] falsely for [Christ's] sake" (v. 10-11). But, it is not important what the world thinks of us. The only opinions that truly matter in our lives are those of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. They know us and love us the best and have perfect intentions and plans for our lives. Although these beatitudes do create a sense of a staircase, one may simultaneously be working towards each step, and may inevitably struggle and go through temporary setbacks. This is normal. We are only human, but through the help of God and His Spirit, we can become better and more like Jesus Christ.

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