Jesus Christ taught the descendants of Lehi in the Americas (who were of the house of Israel) many of the same gospel principles He taught to His Jewish disciples in the Old World. The teachings as recorded in the book of Matthew, found in the New Testament, known as the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) were again taught by the Savior when he visited Lehi’s descendants.
Below is the fifth of the Beatitudes, as recorded in the King James version of Matthew, and the comparable teaching as found in 3 Nephi of the Book of Mormon.
“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
“And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (3 Nephi 12:7)
-Is it possible for a person to be both merciful and just in their actions? Or, does insisting on justice always downplay mercy and vice versa?
Moroni, a Nephite captain, teaches that the Lord allows the righteous to be killed by the wicked in certain circumstances, but that these faithful souls immediately enter the Lord’s rest in the spirit world.
“For the Lord suffereth the righteous to be slain that his justice and judgment may come upon the wicked; therefore ye need not suppose that the righteous are lost because they are slain; but behold, they do enter into the rest of the Lord their God.” (Alma 60:13)
-Is a potential source of comfort lost when one realizes that the righteous, in some circumstances, are allowed by God to be killed?
-Can this loss of comfort, at least to some degree, be softened by the thought that a righteous person will never be called home to God before his or her time? And, that a righteous person will immediately enter into God’s rest?
Alma teaches that one should view his or her sins as God sees them—with no degree of excuse or allowance. Only then is one brought to the level of deep humility that makes sincere repentance possible.
“…Let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance…Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his longsuffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility.” (Alma 42:29-30)
-In how many ways do people avoid looking their sins directly in the face?
-How does doing so cripple one spiritually and block the saving grace of Christ’s Atonement (the power of which He predicated upon repentance)?
Alma teaches his son that true repentance prevents one’s evil deeds from coming full circle to condemn him or her at the Last Judgment. Through His Atonement, Christ took upon Himself our punishments on condition of repentance, but without sincere repentance such mercy has no claim and the punishments will be fully applied.
“…Justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved. What, do you suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God. And thus God bringeth about his great and eternal purposes, which were prepared from the foundation of the world. And thus cometh about the salvation and the redemption of men, and also their destruction and misery. Therefore, O my son, whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds. If he has desired to do evil, and has not repented in his days, behold, evil shall be done unto him, according to the restoration of God.” (Alma 42:24-28)
-How many chances does God give a person to repent?
-Will those who did not have a knowledge of Jesus Christ in mortality have an opportunity to repent once that knowledge is given to them in the spirit world?
Alma teaches that transgressing God’s law, in the absence of repentance, demands punishment. But sincere repentance allows such sins to be forgiven through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
“…Repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul. Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment? Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man. Now, if there was no law given—if a man murdered he should die—would he be afraid he would die if he should murder? And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin. And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature?” (Alma 42:16-21)
“But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God. But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored to his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.” (Alma 42:22-23)
-Is person inevitably in the grasp of justice when he or she knows God’s law but does not humble himself or herself before God in sincere repentance on a regular basis?
Alma teaches that Christ’s Atonement occurred because God desired to extend mercy to us while still upholding justice.
“…Thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence. And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.” (Alma 42:14-15)
Questions: -How many realize they are in the grasp of justice without Christ’s intervention (which He made for those who repent)?
Alma teaches his son that God never deviates from upholding justice. The greatest example of this is the unimaginable suffering of Jesus Christ in working out the Atonement in our behalf. In so doing He satisfied the demands of justice—He did not circumvent those demands. Alma also teaches that sincere repentance is required, based on the demands of justice, for Christ’s Atonement to have saving power in our lives.
“…As the soul could never die, and the fall had brought upon all mankind a spiritual death as well as a temporal, that is, they were cut off from the presence of the Lord, it was expedient that mankind should be reclaimed from this spiritual death. Therefore, as they had become carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature, this probationary state became a state for them to prepare; it became a preparatory state. And now remember, my son, if it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) as soon as they were dead their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord. And now, there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state, which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience; Therefore, according to justice the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.” (Alma 42:9-13)
-Why is the unwavering upholding of justice a characteristic of Godhood?
Alma teaches his son that no good action will go unrewarded by God.
“…See that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again. For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored…” (Alma 41:14-15)
-What are the implications of the above principle for those who intentionally and maliciously hurt others?
-How much joy does it bring our Savior when we act in a way that accepts His example and His Atonement, which magnifies the good we do into the eternities?
“…It is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good. And if their works are evil they shall be restored unto them for evil. Therefore, all things shall be restored to their proper order, every thing to its natural frame—mortality raised to immortality, corruption to incorruption—raised to endless happiness to inherit the kingdom of God, or to endless misery to inherit the kingdom of the devil, the one on one hand, the other on the other—The one raised to happiness according to his desires for happiness, or good according to his desires of good, and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh. And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness. These are they that are redeemed of the Lord; yea, these are they that are taken out, that are delivered from that endless night of darkness; and thus they stand or fall; for behold they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil.” (Alma 41:3-7)
-Will the influence of Christ’s glory and pure intelligence at the Last Judgment, without Him having to speak a word, allow one to judge himself or herself?
Alma teaches his son that the restoration of the body to the spirit (Resurrection) is required as part of God’s perfect execution of justice in line with Christ’s Atonement.
“…The plan of restoration is requisite with the justice of God; for it is requisite that all things should be restored to their proper order. Behold, it is requisite and just, according to the power and resurrection of Christ, that the soul of man should be restored to its body, and that every part of the body should be restored to itself.” (Alma 41:2)
-How does the Resurrection stem from God’s justice?
Gratitude: I am grateful to know our Heavenly Father will always uphold what is just and right. Everything, sooner or later, will come full circle in the light of truth and justice because of His wisdom and power (including the restoration of the body).