Return to About Mormons home
by Thomas W. Mackay
The Beatitudes, or promises of blessings in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3-12), hold a particular significance for Latter-day Saints because the resurrected Lord gave essentially that same sermon to the Nephites and the Lamanites in the Western Hemisphere, as recorded in 3 Nephi 12-14. The words in the Beatitudes echo Isaiah 61:1-2 and Psalm 107:4-7, 9. Church members cite the setting of the Book of Mormon sermon as well as a few notable verbal differences (such as "Blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me," and the phrase "for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost") as examples of how the Book of Mormon complements the Bible, attesting to its message while clarifying and expanding it (cf. 1 Ne. 13 [esp. verses 39-42]; 2 Ne. 27, 29).
In the Book of Mormon, most of the sermon is addressed to baptized members of the Church (cf. 3 Ne. 11 and 12:1-2). Thus, the expectations in the sermon concern those living the law of the gospel as taught by Christ. Other parts of the sermon are directed specifically to leaders.
Some significant differences appear in the wording of the biblical and Book of Mormon versions of the Beatitudes. In the Book of Mormon, two new "beatitudes" precede those in Matthew: baptized members are blessed if they give heed to their leaders and have faith in Christ (3 Ne. 12:1), and "more blessed" are those who receive the testimony of emissaries whom Christ has called (3 Ne. 12:2). These two additional beatitudes are incorporated into the biblical sermon in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST). Matthew 5:3 is elaborated as noted above (cf. D&C 84:49-53). Matthew 5:4 is virtually unchanged at 3 Nephi 12:4 but is somewhat developed at 3 Nephi 12:19 (cf. Morm. 2:11-13). The words "shall be filled with the Holy Ghost" (3 Ne. 12:6) express on a spiritual level (cf. Ps. 17:15, Septuagint) the implicit meaning of cattle feeding upon grass (Matt. 5:6; Greek, chortasthêsontai; cf. the grass [chortos] where the disciples are miraculously fed at Matt. 14:19 and the verb "filled" at Matt. 15:33, 37). Matthew 5:5 is unchanged, as are Matthew 5:7-9; but Matthew 5:10 reads "which are persecuted for righteousness' sake," while 3 Nephi 12:10 has "who are persecuted for my name's sake," reflecting the Christ-centered theme throughout the Nephite version of the sermon. For the first two verbs of Matthew 5:12, which the KJV takes as imperatives, 3 Nephi 12:12 has "For ye shall have great joy and be exceeding glad."
Church leaders often refer to the Beatitudes as the Lord's promises of blessings and happiness to those who follow him and as the result of obedience or the "fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5:22-23). Those who would be obedient have the individual responsibilities of turning to the Lord and of implementing the principles inherent in the qualities described in the Beatitudes (cf. D&C 88:63-65 and 97:16, which adapt the sixth beatitude to temple worship).
(See Basic Beliefs home page; Scriptural Writings home page; The Holy Bible home page)
Thomas, Catherine. "The Sermon on the Mount: The Sacrifice of the Human Heart (Matthew 5- 7; Luke 6:17-49)." In Studies in Scripture, ed. R. Millet, Vol. 5, pp. 236-50. Salt Lake City, 1986.
Welch, John W. The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount. Salt Lake City, 1990.
Wilcox, S. Michael. "The BeatitudesPathway to the Savior." Ensign 21 (Jan. 1991):19-23.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, The Beatitudes
Copyright © 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company
All About Mormons