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.
Point out that 3 Nephi 12–14 contains many of the same teachings the Savior gave to His followers in the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 5–7. To help students prepare to study the Savior’s teachings in 3 Nephi 12, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency:
“Once there was a man who dreamed that he was in a great hall where all the religions of the world were gathered. He realized that each religion had much that seemed desirable and worthy.
“He met a nice couple who represented The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and asked, ‘What do you require of your members?’
“‘We do not require anything,’ they replied. ‘But the Lord asks that we consecrate all.’
“The couple went on to explain about Church callings, home and visiting teaching, full-time missions, weekly family home evenings, temple work, welfare and humanitarian service, and assignments to teach. …
“‘What about your weekly church services? How long are they?’
“‘Three hours, every Sunday!’
“‘Oh, my,’ the man said. ‘Do members of your church actually do what you have said?’
“‘That and more. We haven’t even mentioned family history, youth camps, devotionals, scripture study, leadership training, youth activities, early-morning seminary, maintaining Church buildings, and of course there is the Lord’s law of health, the monthly fast to help the poor, and tithing.’
“The man said, ‘Now I’m confused. Why would anyone want to join such a church?’
Instead of reading the preceding quote, consider showing part of President Uchtdorf’s general conference address “Come, Join with Us” (time code 0:00–2:18). This video is available on LDS.org.
How would you answer the man’s question about why people would want to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
Write the word blessed on the board. Explain that as recorded in 3 Nephi 12:1–12, the Savior taught the Nephites about the blessings promised to those who covenant to follow Him.
Divide students into pairs. Invite each pair to take turns reading aloud from 3 Nephi 12:1–12 together, looking for ways in which we can receive the Lord’s blessings. Invite students to consider marking the word blessed each time they see it.
Write the following incomplete statement on the board: We are blessed as we …
How would you complete this statement to form a principle summarizing what we learn from 3 Nephi 12:1–12? (After students respond, complete the statement on the board so that it conveys the following principle: We are blessed as we come unto Jesus Christ and follow His teachings.)
Invite students to report some of the specific blessings mentioned in verses 1–12 and what we must do to receive those blessings. As students report, consider asking:
When have you seen this blessing come into your life or the life of someone you know?
Share your testimony of how you have been blessed as you have lived according to the Savior’s teachings.
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 a student to read 3 Nephi 12:13 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for whom the Savior compared to salt.
Whom did the Savior compare to salt?
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.)
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.
What do you think it means to let our light shine? (To set a righteous example for others.)
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? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: As we set a righteous example, we can help others glorify Heavenly Father. Invite students to consider writing this principle in their scriptures.)
How might a person’s righteous example help another person glorify Heavenly Father and draw nearer to Him?
Whose righteous example has helped you to draw nearer to Heavenly Father and strengthened your desire to live the gospel?
To prepare students to study 3 Nephi 12:17–48, write the following question on the board:
Ask one or more students to explain how they would answer this question.
Invite a student to read 3 Nephi 12:48 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a commandment the Savior gave the Nephites. Invite students to report what they find. Then write the word Yes on the board next to the question. You may want to point out that the word perfect, as used in verse 48, means to become complete or fully developed as a child of God (see Matthew 5:48, footnote b).
Write the following incomplete statement on the board:
Explain that the Savior taught the Nephites how to progress toward perfection and become more like Him and Heavenly Father. Invite a student to read 3 Nephi 12:19–20 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for important words and phrases that appear multiple times in these verses.
What important words or phrases did the Savior repeat in these verses? (Help students see that the invitation to “come unto me” and the word commandments are repeated.)
How could we use these verses to complete the principle on the board? (After students respond, complete the statement on the board so that it conveys the following principle: As we come unto the Savior and keep His commandments, we can become perfect like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.)
Invite a student to read the following statement by President 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” (Russell M. Nelson, “Perfection Pending,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 88).
Why do you think perfection can come “only through the Lord”?
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 teachings and Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can ultimately be perfected.
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 the Nephites to live?
What might a young man or woman do to follow the Savior’s teaching today?
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 (1933–2014) 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” (David E. Sorensen, “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?
After students have completed these activities, invite students to share something they learned, felt, or thought about as they studied 3 Nephi 12 today. Share your testimony that as we come unto the Savior and keep His commandments, we can become perfect like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
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.