This scripture block contains a sermon that the resurrected Christ delivered to the people in the land of Bountiful. This sermon, which is very similar to the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 5–7, contains principles that form a model for following the Savior and attaining perfection in the life to come. President Harold B. Lee (1899–1975), the 11th President of the Church, taught that in this sermon “the Master has given us somewhat of a revelation of his own character, which was perfect, … and in so doing has given us a blueprint for our own lives” (Decisions for Successful Living , 56).
As with most chapters in this manual, this chapter contains more material than can be covered in one class period. Select the teaching ideas that best suit your students’ needs.
Explain that the teachings in 3 Nephi 12:3–12 (and Matthew 5:3–12) are often called the Beatitudes. Ask students to turn to page 303 in the student manual and read the first paragraph of the commentary for 3 Nephi 12:3–12. Invite them to look for the meaning of the word Beatitude. Ask them why they think the word blessed is used to begin each of the Beatitudes.
Give students time to analyze 3 Nephi 12:3–12 individually. Suggest that they refer to the student manual for insights on the verses. Ask them to list the qualities or conditions in the verses that can bring happiness. Then divide students into small groups and have them share their insights with each other, discussing how the qualities and conditions in the verses can guide our lives. Have one student from each group summarize the group’s insights for the rest of the class. List students’ ideas on the board. You may want to share President Harold B. Lee’s observation that four of the Beatitudes deal with our personal life and relationship with God, and four deal with our relationship with others (see Decisions for Successful Living, 54–62).
How does each beatitude build on the one that precedes it?
Ask a student to read 3 Nephi 12:13. Display a container of salt. Ask students to compare the use of salt to the influence Latter-day Saints can have on the lives of others.
Ask a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 101:39. Direct students’ attention to the connection between making covenants and being the “salt of the earth.” Point out that in addition to adding flavor to food, salt can preserve food from spoiling.
When we keep our covenants with the Lord, how are we able to help preserve others from spiritual “spoilage”?
Read the statement by Elder Carlos E. Asay on page 305 in the student manual (also available on the companion DVD A). Ask students to think about what they need to do to keep their “savor.”
Invite a student to read 3 Nephi 12:14. Display a flashlight or lamp. Ask students how the lives of Latter-day Saints can be like light for others.
After students respond, set a flashlight or an unlit candle upright on a desk or table (remember that flames are not permitted in Church buildings). Ask a student to read 3 Nephi 12:15. Place something, such as a box, over the flashlight or the unlit candle.
What eventually happens to the flame on a candle if the candle is covered?
How might we intentionally or unintentionally hide our light?
Read 3 Nephi 12:16.
How can we “let [our] light so shine” without being prideful? (See also 3 Nephi 18:24.)
Before class, prepare five different slips of paper. On each slip of paper, write one of the following scripture references and questions:
3 Nephi 12:21–26. How is anger connected to hurtful actions?
3 Nephi 12:27–30. How are our thoughts connected to our actions?
3 Nephi 12:33–37. In these verses the Savior teaches that we should always be true to our word. How can a dishonest person eliminate dishonesty from his or her life?
3 Nephi 12:38–42. What are some possible results when a person retaliates in response to someone else’s hurtful words or actions?
3 Nephi 12:43–46. How are we affected if we feel ill will toward other people?
Ask a student to read 3 Nephi 12:19.
Who gave the law of Moses?
Write Jesus Christ Is the Lawgiver on the board.
Explain that in 3 Nephi 12:21–47, the Savior mentions elements of the traditional understanding of the law of Moses and then teaches a higher law. Help students see that in these verses, when He uses a phrase such as “Ye have heard that it hath been said” or “It hath been written,” He is introducing an old understanding of the law of Moses. When He says something like “But I say unto you,” He is introducing a higher law.
Divide the class into five groups. Give each group one of the slips of paper you prepared before class (see the beginning of this teaching idea). Ask them to read the scripture passage together and discuss the related question. Some of them will find additional help on pages 306–7 in the student manual. Invite each group to prepare a presentation for the class in which they:
Read the scripture passage aloud.
Summarize the understanding of the law of Moses as presented in the passage.
Answer the question on the slip of paper.
Suggest what we need to do in our lives to follow the higher law.
(In connection with verse 43, note that the Old Testament does not contain any record of the law of Moses authorizing people to love their neighbors and hate their enemies. This apparently was a notion that crept in among the house of Israel after Moses’s day and became accepted as a philosophy associated with the law of Moses.)
Have a student read 3 Nephi 12:48.
How is it possible for us to keep this commandment? (Refer students to the statement by President James E. Faust on page 308 in the student manual for further insight.)
Ask a student to come to the front of the classroom. Explain that in the following demonstration, the front of the classroom represents where the student is now in his or her effort to reach perfection and that the back of the classroom represents perfection. Ask the student to take one step toward the back of the classroom.
Has he (or she) reached perfection yet?
Is the step wasted because it did not get him (or her) all the way to perfection?
How will he (or she) ever reach perfection?
Help students understand that we must continue one step at a time if we are ever going to reach our final goal of perfection. To summarize this point, read the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith:
“When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them” (in History of the Church, 6:306–7).
If you feel that students need additional encouragement about the Savior’s command to be perfect, consider inviting them to read the statement by President Spencer W. Kimball on page 308 in the student manual.
Before this discussion concludes, help students understand that in order to reach perfection, we must exercise faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement and come unto Him. Even after all we can do, our efforts will not be enough without the power of the Atonement. As you share this truth, you may want to have students read Moroni 10:32–33 and Doctrine and Covenants 76:50–53, 69–70. Ask students to describe the relationship between the grace of God and obtaining our goal of perfection.
Write the following scripture references on the board:
Ask students to read each scripture passage silently and prepare to talk about its meaning (you may want to explain that the word alms refers to donations, such as money or food, to help the poor). For each set of verses, ask the following questions:
What warning did the Savior give about the way we give alms (or the way we pray or the way we fast)?
What are some examples of the right ways to help the poor (or the right ways to pray or fast)?
If you feel that students need additional discussion about keeping the commandments for the right reasons, you may want to invite them to read Moroni 7:6–9 and the statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks on pages 388–89 in the student manual.
To review the Savior’s counsel on prayer, invite students to take turns reading from 3 Nephi 13:7–13, one verse each. After each verse is read, ask students to state the principle or principles from that verse in their own words. Then ask if anyone would like to share additional insights or personal experiences that relate to the verse.
On the board, write the following statement by President Marion G. Romney (1897–1988) of the First Presidency (quoted from “The Price of Peace,” Ensign, Oct. 1983, 6):
What do you think this statement means?
In what ways is the statement similar to 3 Nephi 13:24?
Share the following counsel from President James E. Faust (1920–2007):
“Today many of us are trying to serve two masters—the Lord and our own selfish interests—without offending the devil. The influence of God, our Eternal Father, urges us, pleads with us, and inspires us to follow him. In contrast the power of Satan urges us to disbelieve and disregard God’s commandments.
“Elder [Marion G.] Romney [taught]: ‘The consequences of [mortal man’s] choices are of the all-or-nothing sort. There is no way for him to escape the influence of these opposing powers. Inevitably he is led by one or the other. His God-given free agency gives him the power and option to choose. But choose he must. Nor can he serve both of them at the same time’” (“Serving the Lord and Resisting the Devil,” Ensign, Sept. 1995, 2, 4; see also Conference Report, Oct. 1962, 94).
Explain that the Savior directed His instructions in 3 Nephi 13:25–34 to His twelve Nephite disciples, who were to dedicate their full time to Church service. However, all Church members can apply 3 Nephi 13:33 in their lives.
Have a student read 3 Nephi 13:33.
What does this mean to you? (Encourage more than one response.)
Hold a rock in one hand and sand in the other. Allow the sand to run between your fingers.
Which of these two materials would you rather build a house on? Why?
After brief discussion, invite a student to read 3 Nephi 14:24–27.
According to the Savior, what two actions will we take if we are wise?
Why are both of these actions necessary for us to inherit eternal life?
Write the following on the board:
Instruct students to silently read each of the eight scripture passages you have written on the board. Tell them that each passage contains counsel from the Savior about a certain righteous behavior. After they have had time to study the passages, ask them to identify the righteous behaviors Jesus requires from those who follow Him. (Verses 1–2: judging righteously; verses 3–5: focusing on our own faults instead of others’ faults; verse 6: showing respect for that which is sacred; verses 7–11: seeking personal revelation to answer our questions; verse 12: treating others as we would like to be treated; verses 13–14: choosing the gospel path, which leads to eternal life; verses 15–20: following true prophets; verses 21–23: doing God’s will.)
Divide the class into eight groups. Assign each group to prepare a short presentation on one of the righteous behaviors listed above. The presentations should last no more than two or three minutes. Each presentation might include the following:
Identifying the righteous behavior.
Sharing a scripture from any of the standard works that helps us understand more about the righteous behavior.
Sharing an example from the present day about the importance of the righteous behavior and its relevance in our lives today.
Sharing a personal testimony about the righteous behavior and the blessings that come from making it a part of our lives.
As the groups give their presentations, list the righteous behaviors on the board. If it is not practical to write them on the board, prepare a poster before class and display it at this point in the lesson.
Invite each student to silently identify one righteous behavior to focus on. You may want to give students time to record their thoughts and goals for improvement in a notebook or on a piece of paper.
To review the previous teaching idea or to conclude the entire lesson, you may want to read or reread the Savior’s conclusion to His sermon, which is found in 3 Nephi 14:24–27. Share your feelings about what it means to build on a sure foundation. Encourage students to follow the Savior’s counsel to hear His sayings and do them (see verse 24). You may also want to invite students to sing “I Am a Child of God” (Hymns, no. 301) as a reminder of why we want to follow the principles in this sermon.
Ask students what they think the symbolism in 3 Nephi 14:6 means. Suggest that they cross-reference 3 Nephi 14:6 with Doctrine and Covenants 63:64. Explain that “that which is holy” (3 Nephi 14:6) is anything of a special spiritual nature, such as an answer to prayer, a priesthood blessing, personal revelation, a sacred experience, and so forth.
What danger is there in talking about sacred experiences with individuals who cannot or will not understand them?
How might the counsel in Doctrine and Covenants 63:64 relate to the sharing of sacred experiences?
Read 3 Nephi 14:12, which is known as the Golden Rule.
In what ways does the Golden Rule reflect other principles in the Savior’s sermon?
Invite students to tell about times when they have benefited from this principle.