Jesus Christ taught the Nephites how to receive the blessings of His gospel and instructed them to influence others for good. He declared that He had fulfilled the law of Moses, and He gave the people a higher law to prepare them to become like Him and our Father in Heaven.
Suggestions for Teaching
Jesus Christ teaches the multitude about the blessings we receive as we live His gospel
Before class, write the following questions on the board:
Does Heavenly Father expect us to be perfect?
Do we need to become perfect in this life to enter the celestial kingdom?
Can we ever be perfect?
At the beginning of the lesson, invite students to ponder these questions. Ask them to consider the questions throughout the lesson.
Invite a student to read 3 Nephi 12:48 aloud. Point out that this is a scripture mastery passage. You might want to suggest that students mark this passage in a distinctive way so they will be able to locate it easily.
Invite a student to read the following statement by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles about the commandment to be perfect:
“We need not be dismayed if our earnest efforts toward perfection now seem so arduous [difficult] and endless. Perfection is pending. It can come in full only after the Resurrection and only through the Lord. It awaits all who love him and keep his commandments” (“Perfection Pending,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 88).
Why do you think perfection can come “only through the Lord”?
Review the three questions at the beginning of the lesson. Ask students if they might change their answers to those questions after reading 3 Nephi 12:48 and hearing Elder Nelson’s explanation. Help students understand that Heavenly Father does not expect us to become perfect during our mortal lives but that as we diligently strive to keep the commandments and as we rely upon the Atonement, we can ultimately be perfected.
Write the word blessed on the board. Invite students to read 3 Nephi 12:1–12 silently, looking for attributes the Savior urges us to develop and blessings He promises as a result.
What blessings have come into your life as a result of living the teachings of Jesus Christ in 3 Nephi 12:1–12?
Point out how often the word blessed appears in these verses. Share your testimony of how you have been blessed as you have lived according to the Savior’s teachings.
Ask students to write in notebooks or scripture study journals about a blessing they desire that is described in 3 Nephi 12:1–12. Have them write down the attribute they must develop to receive that blessing. Then invite them to write what they would like to do to develop that attribute. Invite a few students to share what they have written and why.
The Savior exhorts the multitude to be righteous examples to the world
Display a container of salt. Ask the class to identify the benefits of salt. As students answer, be sure it is clear that salt seasons food and that it is a preservative used to prevent meat from spoiling. You may also want to explain that under the law of Moses, priests were commanded to offer salt with their sacrificial offerings (see Leviticus 2:13). Thus, salt was a symbol of the covenant between the Lord and His people.
Invite students to read 3 Nephi 12:13 silently and identify whom the Savior compared to salt. As students respond, explain that the Savior was referring not only to the multitude at the temple that day but to all those who are baptized into His Church and live His gospel.
In what ways can we, as followers of Jesus Christ, be like salt? (We are to help preserve or save people and to improve the world by influencing others for good.)
What do you think it means for salt to lose its savor?
As students discuss this question, you may want to read the following statement by Elder Carlos E. Asay of the Seventy:
“Salt will not lose its savor with age. Savor is lost through mixture and contamination. … Flavor and quality flee a man when he contaminates his mind with unclean thoughts, desecrates his mouth by speaking less than the truth, and misapplies his strength in performing evil acts” (“Salt of the Earth: Savor of Men and Saviors of Men,” Ensign, May 1980, 42).
Why must we be pure in order to influence others for good?
Explain that the Savior used another symbol to teach how covenant members of His Church should influence others for good. Invite a student to read 3 Nephi 12:14–16 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Savior used light to teach about the role of His covenant people in the world. Before the student reads, you may want to explain that a bushel is a basket.
How might Church members be a light to others? What do you think it means to let our light shine? (As students answer this question, help them see how their examples of righteous living can help other people.)
In what ways might some Church members cover their light?
According to 3 Nephi 12:16, why does the Savior want us to let our light shine? (As we set a righteous example, we can help others glorify Heavenly Father. You may want to suggest that students write this principle in their own words in their scriptures.)
Whose righteous example has helped you to draw nearer to Heavenly Father and strengthened your desire to live the gospel?
Invite students to ponder the example they set for those around them. Encourage them to think of how they can better help others deepen their love for Heavenly Father and their desire to follow Him.
Jesus Christ teaches the multitude the higher law that will help them become like Him and Heavenly Father
Explain that the Savior continued to teach the Nephites how to come unto Him and enter into the kingdom of heaven. Invite a student to read 3 Nephi 12:19–20 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a word that appears multiple times in these verses.
What important word does the Savior use three times as part of this invitation to come to Him? (Commandments.)
Explain that 3 Nephi 12:21–47 contains some specific commandments the Savior gave that will help us come to Him and become more like Him. When He taught these commandments to the Nephites, He referred to precepts that were part of the law of Moses and then taught a higher law. He referred to the traditional understanding of the law of Moses when He used phrases such as “it hath been said by them of old time” and “it is written.” When He said “but I say unto you,” He introduced the way He desires us to keep that commandment today.
To help students study these verses, copy the following chart on the board. Divide the class into four groups. Assign each group one row in the chart, and invite them to read the accompanying verses and answer the questions.
What was the traditional understanding in the law of Moses?
How did the Savior counsel us to live?
What might a young man or woman do to apply the Savior’s teaching?
For the benefit of students reading 3 Nephi 12:22, you may want to explain that Raca is a derogatory or mocking term that expresses contempt or derision (see Matthew 5:22, footnote d). You may also want to explain that Elder David E. Sorensen of the Seventy taught that the phrase “agree with thine adversary quickly” (3 Nephi 12:25) means to “resolve our differences early on, lest the passions of the moment escalate into physical or emotional cruelty, and we fall captive to our anger” (“Forgiveness Will Change Bitterness to Love,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2003, 11).
When students have finished studying their assigned verses, invite each group to report their answers. You may want to have them write their answers in the chart on the board.
What seemed to change between the law of Moses and the higher law taught by Jesus Christ?
You may want to point out that the higher law focuses more on our desires, thoughts, and motivations than on our outward actions.
As we strive to be perfected, why is it so important to focus on our desires, thoughts, and motivations?
Invite students to choose one of the Savior’s teachings in 3 Nephi 12 and write a paragraph about how they will make progress in that area.
Invite a student to read 3 Nephi 12:19–20 aloud. Help students understand that by repenting and diligently trying to keep the commandments the Savior taught, we can become perfected through the Atonement and “enter into the kingdom of heaven” (3 Nephi 12:20).
After students have completed these activities, invite them to share what was most meaningful to them. Summarize this chapter by writing the following principle on the board: As we come unto Christ and keep His commandments, we can become more like Him and our Father in Heaven, who are perfect. Remind students that in order to obtain any degree of perfection, we must rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Invite students to write about one or two ways they would like to apply the teachings of the Savior that they learned today. Conclude by sharing your testimony of the principle you wrote on the board.
Scripture Mastery—3 Nephi 12:48
Invite students to open their scriptures to 3 Nephi 12:48. Ask them to read the verse aloud in unison. Give students time to study the verse, and then ask them to close their scriptures and recite the verse again as perfectly as they can. Have them repeat the process of looking at the verse, closing their scriptures, and then reciting the verse from memory.
How did you improve with effort?
How does this activity help you understand your journey toward perfection?
Point out that our efforts in life are crucial. Remind students, however, that the Lord does not expect us to become perfect in all things during our mortal lives. Through the Atonement and our diligent efforts to follow the Savior, we can ultimately be perfected. Invite students to think of one way they can strive to follow the Savior.
Note: Because of the length of this lesson, you may want to use this activity on another day, when you have more time.
Commentary and Background Information
3 Nephi 12:28–30. The sin of lust
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained:
“Why is lust such a deadly sin? Well, in addition to the completely Spirit-destroying impact it has upon our souls, I think it is a sin because it defiles the highest and holiest relationship God gives us in mortality—the love that a man and a woman have for each other and the desire that couple has to bring children into a family intended to be forever. … Love makes us instinctively reach out to God and other people. Lust, on the other hand, is anything but godly and celebrates self-indulgence. Love comes with open hands and open heart; lust comes with only an open appetite” (“Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 44–45).
3 Nephi 12:43–44. “Love thy neighbor” and “love your enemies”
The Savior’s teaching to the Nephites that they should love each other and love their enemies was timely and relevant. After centuries of wars between the Nephites and the Lamanites, as well as years of internal conflict, there would have been a tradition of hatred between rival groups. For example, Mosiah 10:17 states that the Lamanites “taught their children that they should hate them [the Nephites], and that they should murder them, and that they should rob and plunder them, and do all they could to destroy them.” Had the people continued to live the Savior’s teachings in 3 Nephi 12:43–44, they might have preserved peace and permanently ended the false tradition of teaching children to hate their enemies. However, the years of peace that followed the Savior’s visit were destroyed because some of the people chose to “wilfully rebel against the gospel of Christ; and they did teach their children that they should not believe.” They elected to adopt “the wickedness and abomination of their fathers, even as it was in the beginning. And they were taught to hate the children of God, even as the Lamanites were taught to hate the children of Nephi from the beginning” (4 Nephi 1:38–39).
Supplemental Teaching Ideas
3 Nephi 12:1–12. “Blessed are ye”
Write the word blessed on the board. Explain that the Lord has promised to bless us for our efforts to become perfected. Invite a student to read 3 Nephi 12:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior counseled the people to do.
What did Jesus Christ counsel the people to do? (To give heed to the words of the twelve disciples He had chosen from among them, to believe in Him, and to be baptized.)
What blessings have you received as you have followed the teachings of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles?
According to 3 Nephi 12:2, what blessings do people receive when they believe in Jesus Christ and are baptized? (They receive the Holy Ghost, and their sins are forgiven.) When have you been blessed by the influence of the Holy Ghost?
Explain that after we have entered into the baptismal covenant, there is still more for us to learn and become. Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from 3 Nephi 12:3–12. Ask the class to follow along, looking for attributes the Savior urges us to develop and the blessings He promises as a result. You might want to suggest that students mark words and phrases that are particularly meaningful to them.
3 Nephi 12–14. The sermon to the Nephites and the Sermon on the Mount
Matthew 5–7 records the Savior’s Sermon on the Mount, which is very similar to the Savior’s sermon recorded in 3 Nephi 12–14. Many explanations about the Sermon on the Mount are available in the footnotes of the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible but not in the footnotes of the Book of Mormon. Helpful explanations are also found in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, which is found in the LDS edition of the King James Bible, and in the Guide to the Scriptures.