The Sermon on the Mount is found in Matthew, Chapters 5-7 in the New Testament, and is filled with invaluable counsel from our Savior on how to live righteous lives, and to be more like Him.
I wish to focus on the beatitudes, which are blessings we can receive if we come unto Christ. President Lee said that the beatitudes embody the “constitution for a perfect life.”
The beatitudes are interrelated and progressive in their arrangement, each one building on the others. We can receive the blessings of each as we choose to come unto Christ.
1. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
When thinking of the poor in spirit, I first think of people who are sad, depressed, lonely, and without hope.
President Lee explained that the poor in spirit, “means those who are spiritually needy, who feel so impoverished spiritually that they reach out with great yearning for help.”
The Lord gave this invitation, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught: “This reliance upon the merciful nature of God is at the very center of the gospel Christ taught. I testify that the Savior’s Atonement lifts from us not only the burden of our sins but also the burden of our disappointments and sorrows, our heartaches and our despair… Considering the incomprehensible cost of the Crucifixion and Atonement, I promise you He is not going to turn His back on us now. When He says to the poor in spirit, “Come unto me,” He means He knows the way out and He knows the way up. He knows it because He has walked it. He knows the way because He is the way…If you are lonely, please know you can find comfort. If you are discouraged, please know you can find hope. If you are poor in spirit, please know you can be strengthened. If you feel you are broken, please know you can be mended.”
2. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
It may at first glance seem strange that one who is feeling such a deep loss is considered blessed. However, through such loss, our hope of the resurrection is strengthened, we come to a greater understanding of the eternal perspective, and we become more aware that, as Elder Russell M. Nelson has said, “Life does not begin with birth, nor does it end with death.”
Robert E. Wells of the first quorum of the 70, taught,”When we can see the Lord’s purposes fulfilled in that which gives us sorrow, the Holy Ghost can give us full consolation, and the atonement and resurrection truly become to us the cornerstone of our faith. In the midst of mourning one discovers deeper dimensions of love, friendship, and brotherhood…It is in the midst of mourning that one discovers the personal closeness of his Heavenly Father and his Savior Jesus Christ and the comfort of the Holy Ghost… We will be blessed in mourning and be comforted as we reflect on eternal marriage, eternal families, eternal values.”
This is one way that we mourn in this life. Elder Spencer J. Condie of the 70 also reminds us that we should mourn, especially for our sins, as “godly sorrow worketh repentance tosalvation.” This is an important step in our journey to perfection.
3. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
When I hear the word meek, I always think about Christ, for that is how he was described. He was gentle, submissive, kind, selfless and humble.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell said that “one cannot develop those other crucial virtues—faith, hope, and charity—without meekness…Meekness…is more than self-restraint; it is the presentation of self in a posture of kindness and gentleness, reflecting certitude, strength, serenity, and a healthy self-esteem and self-control. Without meekness, the conversational points we insist on making often take the form of “I”—that spearlike, vertical pronoun.”
If we do most often only think about ourselves, like Elder Maxwell warned, we are not humble. President Spencer W. Kimball said that to be meek one must be humble. He asked, “How does one get humble? To me, one must constantly be reminded of his dependence. On whom dependent? On the Lord. How remind one’s self? By real, constant, worshipful, grateful prayer.”
4. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
If I hunger or thirst for something, that means I desire it, and I need it for my health. Those who desire righteousness, consistently look for opportunities to do good so they can stay spiritually healthy. They work hard to find ways to be more like Christ, who is the bread of life and the living water.
Sheri L Dew explained: “Hungering and thirsting translate to sheer spiritual labor. Worshiping in the temple, repenting to become increasingly pure, forgiving and seeking forgiveness, and earnest fasting and prayer all increase our receptivity to the Spirit. Spiritual work works and is the key to learning to hear the voice of the Lord.”
The Lord promises us that if we do these things we will be filled with the Holy Ghost. I know I have felt an abundance of the Spirit when I do these things, and I would also add studying my scriptures, serving others, and sharing the gospel with others.
With this gift, comes great responsibility. Elder Robert D Hales counseled that “We who have the gift of the Holy Ghost must be true to its promptings so we can be a light to others. “‘Let your light so shine before men,’ said the Lord, ‘that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.'”
5. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
When I think of being merciful, I think of being kind to someone who isn’t kind back. I think of, instead of judging someone or disliking someone, trying to see into their hearts, and realize we don’t know all that people go through. I think of turning the other cheek, rather than seeking revenge, when you have been wronged.
From the scriptures, I think of Captain Moroni, who commanded the Nephite army to stop slaying the Lamanites, and rather call a truce, when he saw their terror at being surrounded on all sides. I think of the good Samaritan, seeing only a person in need, and not taking thought to his race, culture, or background. I think, most of all, of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, who have provided a way for we imperfect people to be clean and return to live with God again.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf reminds us that …”that we are all imperfect—that we are beggars before God. …How can we deny to others any measure of the grace we so desperately desire for ourselves? My beloved brothers and sisters, should we not forgive as we wish to be forgiven? Remember, heaven is filled with those who have this in common: They are forgiven. And they forgive.”
I know that as I have chosen to let go of grudges and judgment, that I have been able to really see God’s love for others, and also for imperfect me. I have seen His tender mercies in my life the more compassionate I am to others, whether it be giving to the poor and needy, helping someone who doesn’t show me appreciation, or just choosing not to be offended, but rather to forgive.
6. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
When I think of being pure in heart, I think of having “no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” I think of “[shaking] at the appearance of sin.” I think of having a strong conviction that there is no other option but to do what is right.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin defines being pure in heart this way: “To be without guile is to be pure in heart, an essential virtue of those who would be counted among true followers of Christ. … “If we are without guile, we are honest, true, and righteous. Those who are honest are fair and truthful in their speech, straightforward in their dealings, free of deceit…Honesty is of God; dishonesty of the devil, who was a liar from the beginning. Righteousness means living a life that is in harmony with the laws, principles, and ordinances of the gospel.”
L. Whitney Clayton of the 70 added that “The condition of our heart determines how much evidence of divinity we see in the world now and qualifies us for the eventual realization of the promise that the pure “shall see God.” Ours is a quest for purity.”
President Joseph Smith said that if we strive for this purity, we “will be able to more perfectly understand the difference between right and wrong—between the things of God and the things of men; and [our] path[s] will be like that of the just, which shineth brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.”
7. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Within His sermon, Jesus warns us against anger, which is of the Devil. He instead councils us to love our neighbors, and even love our enemies – to pray for them and do good for them. This makes sense, for we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. That is the golden rule.
In a recent news conference on religious freedom and nondiscrimination, Elder Holland wisely said: “Every citizen’s rights are best guarded when each person and group guards for others those rights they wish guarded for themselves.”
A large part of being peacemakers is being merciful to our fellow citizens, neighbors, friends, and family.
There is more being a peacemaker, though. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said that “only those who believe and spread the fulness of the gospel are peacemakers within the perfect meaning of this Beatitude. The gospel is the message of peace to all mankind.”
When I first read this quote as I taught Institute, my testimony of missionary work grew exponentially. Elder Dallin H Oaks said that “…peace can only come through the gospel of Jesus Christ.” President Joseph F.Smith added to this truth, saying that to bring peace, the gospel must be “understood, obeyed, and practiced by rulers and people alike.”
What an essential mission we followers of Christ have. He trusts us to help bring peace to our homes, communities, and even the world. I can only hope I can always be worthy of that sacred trust.
8. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
If we are being true peacemakers and sharing the light of the gospel, we will be persecuted, for as Elder Lawrence Corbridge said, “The truth will always be opposed.”
We know this is true. Jesus brought the Truth to the world – He was the Truth – and he was rejected, betrayed, scourged, abandoned, crucified.
Christ was persecuted more than we will ever be, but he still loved and forgave those who hurt him. He endured the persecution without retaliation, but rather turned the other cheek.
Elder Hales said that when our beliefs are criticized, we need to follow the Savior’s example. He said, “Some people mistakenly think responses such as silence, meekness, forgiveness, and bearing humble testimony are passive or weak… But to “love [our] enemies…takes faith, strength, and, most of all, Christian courage.”
Elder Holland counseled, “Defend your beliefs with courtesy and with compassion, but defend them. In courageously pursuing such a course, you will forge unshakable faith, you will find safety against ill winds that blow, even shafts in the whirlwind, and you will feel the rock-like strength of our Redeemer, upon whom if you build your unflagging discipleship, you cannot fall.”
This promise brings me so much peace. I will continue to defend my faith throughout my life, with as much courtesy and compassion as I can. I am grateful that if I do this, the Lord will not let me fail.
Just as President Lee said that the beatitudes embody the constitution for a perfect life, Christ, in His sermon asked us to “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
President James E. Faust explained that “Perfection is an eternal goal. While we cannot be perfect in mortality, striving for it is a commandment which ultimately, through the Atonement, we can keep.”
I thank my Savior for giving us the course we need for perfection. I know that as we strive to follow the principles in the beatitudes, and utilize the Lord’s atonement for forgiveness and spiritual strength throughout our lives, that we will receive the blessings God has promised us, most importantly, a place in His kingdom for all eternity.