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 Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) were again taught by the Savior when he visited Lehi’s descendants.
The passages below show the words from verses fourteen through sixteen of the King James version of Matthew and the comparable verses from 3 Nephi in the Book of Mormon.
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Behold, do men light a candle and put it under a bushel? Nay, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house; Therefore, let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (3 Nephi 12:14-16)
-Is there a light in some peoples’ countenances which testifies they have received the Holy Ghost (and Jesus Christ of whom the Holy Ghost testifies)?
-Are these the same people whose good works glorify the Father?
-Why does Christ refer to glorifying His Father rather than himself?
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?
“…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?
Aaron, a Nephite missionary, teaches the Lamanite king about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
“…Since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance…and…[Christ] breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory…” (Alma 22:14)
-What can be merited through the Atonement of Jesus Christ?
-Can anything be merited without it?
-Is Christ’s Atonement an invitation to good works, since nothing can be merited without the Atonement, but much can be merited (your good works can be magnified by God) with it?
-Are you willing to accept the victory of the grave? Or, do you choose to believe in the testimony of Aaron that death isn’t the end, but has been conquered by Jesus Christ?
Alma provides a grave warning about the consequences of hardening one’s heart towards God’s word and Spirit.
“…If our hearts have been hardened, yea, if we have hardened our hearts against the word, insomuch that it has not been found in us, then will our state be awful, for we shall be condemned. For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence. But this cannot be; we must come forth and stand before him in his glory, and in his power, and in his might, majesty, and dominion, and acknowledge to our everlasting shame that all his judgments are just; that he is just in all his works, and that he is merciful unto the children of men, and that he has all power to save every man that believeth on his name and bringeth forth fruit meet for repentance.” (Alma 12:13-15)
“And now behold, I say unto you then cometh a death, even a second death, which is a spiritual death; then is a time that whosoever dieth in his sins, as to a temporal death, shall also die as to things pertaining unto righteousness. This is the time when their torments shall be as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever; and then is the time that they shall be chained down to an everlasting destruction, according to the power and captivity of Satan, he having subjected them according to his will. Then, I say unto you, they shall be as though there had been no redemption made; for they cannot be redeemed according to God’s justice; and they cannot die, seeing there is no more corruption.” (Alma 12:16-18)
-Do you believe life is a proving ground and what we sow we will reap in perfect clarity before God at the Last Judgment?
-How does God’s word help one to sow in righteousness?
Amulek teaches about the meaning and reality of the Resurrection made possible through Jesus Christ.
Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death. The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt. Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil….[T]his mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption. (Alma 11:42-45)
-Do you believe that, because of Christ’s Resurrection, He has cleared the way for all of us to be resurrected as described in these verses?
-Will those who have repented and sought shelter in Christ’s power have any sense of guilt at the time of the Judgment?
Alma teaches the principle that we reap what we sow with our actions.
“…All men shall reap a reward of their works, according to that which they have been—if they have been righteous they shall reap the salvation of their souls, according to the power and deliverance of Jesus Christ; and if they have been evil they shall reap the damnation of their souls, according to the power and captivation of the devil.” (Alma 9:28)
-If works can increase grace and grace can increase works. Does it make sense to denigrate the role of one or the other? Does it make more sense to emphasize their mutually reinforcing and “symbiotic” relationship?
-Since Christ has made works meaningful through His Atonement (opening up the way for the Father to treasure up all the good a person does and magnify it through all eternity), how vital is it to show appreciation for this unrivaled opportunity and move forward with good works?
Alma teaches those who have entered the baptismal covenant that they should be submissive to God and kind to their fellow mortals. He also instructs them to ask for God’s help when in need and that the key to abounding in good works is faith, hope, and charity.
“…Be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive. And see that ye have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works.” (Alma 7:23-24)
-Is it possible to be humble, submissive, gentle, easy to be entreated, temperate, and full of patience and long-suffering if the sin of pride has not been eradicated from one’s soul?
-Why will someone who has faith (in Christ), hope (in Christ) and charity (like Christ) abound in good works?
Alma teaches that there are two primary voices calling out to the human soul.
“…I say unto you that whatsoever is good cometh of God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil. Therefore, if a man bringeth forth good works he hearkeneth unto the voice of the good shepherd, and he doth follow him; but whosoever bringeth forth evil works, the same becometh a child of the devil, for he hearkenth unto his voice, and doth follow him. And whosoever doeth this must receive his wages of him; therefore, for his wages he receiveth death, as to things pertaining to righteousness, being dead unto all good works.” (Alma 5:40-42)
-Does someone have to be “saved” in order to do good works? Does Christ only reach out to those who call themselves Christian with His voice? Or, does He call out to all men and women?
-Can a person follow the light and spirit of Christ without even knowing His name?
-How many Christians, who consider themselves saved or claim to be saved, are actually earning the wages of death as described in the verses above?
-How many non-Christians are making the most of the light they have and are truly bringing forth good works?
The prophet Alma calls those who are not in good standing with God to change course.
“…Wo unto all ye workers of iniquity; repent, repent, for the Lord God hath spoken it! Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you. Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely; Yea, come unto me and bring forth works of righteousness, and ye shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire—for behold, the time is at hand that whosoever bringeth forth not good fruit, or whosoever doeth not the works of righteousness, the same have cause to wail and mourn.” (Alma 5:32-36)
-Based on the passage above, how willing is God to receive those who are willing to repent?
-Has a person truly repented if they don’t bring about good works in the world?
-What are works of righteousness? Can good things be done for less than the best reasons?
-How important is it to come to Christ before seeking to do good? Does He have the power to greatly multiply the efficacy of our works in a manner similar to how He multiplied the disciple’s loaves and fish for the multitude as recorded in the New Testament? (Mark 6:35-44)