(This article was adapted from the Pillars of Zion series. Click here to receive the free PDFs).
When Jesus appeared to the Nephites, he taught them the principles of blessedness, called the Beatitudes, meaning “to be blessed” or “to be happy.” Jesus had taught these same principles to his Judean disciples at the Sermon on the Mount. To the Nephites he added several additional principles of blessedness.
President Harold B. Lee called this sermon “the constitution for a perfect life.”[i] He wrote, “In order to gain entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, we must not only be good but we are required to do good and be good for something.”[ii] That is, we must strive to achieve the celestial state of blessedness, which characterizes a Zion person. President Lee suggested that these principles of blessedness “represent a recipe for righteousness with incremental steps.”[iii]
Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you.[iv]
A Zion person sustains his rank and file leaders, and covenants to live by their counsel. A Zion person recognizes the Lord’s voice in the voice of his servants: “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”[v]
Interestingly, when we sustain our leaders, we do so in the right hand, which is the sign of covenant making. Our keeping this sustaining covenant promotes the oneness demanded by Zion, and it allows the Spirit to flow through our leaders to usan avenue of revelation that is vital to our spiritual survival and progression. Clearly, through the servants of God, Zion people are blessed.
Believing Christ by receiving Baptism and the Holy Ghost
Blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptizedbehold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost.[vi]
This principle of blessedness hearkens to the first principles and ordinances of the gospel: faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost.[vii] Only faith in Jesus Christbelieving who he is and what he has done–can motivate a person to seek a change of heart,[viii] symbolized and formalized by baptism, the covenant of salvation.”[ix]
- Baptism is the gate that one passes through to leave and be saved from Babylon [hell] and to enter the path leading to Zion [Celestial Kingdom]. Baptism by water and baptism by the Spirit are equally essential. Joseph Smith said, “Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half–that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.”[x] Elder McConkie listed the four purposes for baptism[xi]: 1) Baptism is for the remission of sins.
- Baptism gives the repentant person membership in the Church and admits him into the Kingdom of God on earth.
- Baptism is the gate to the celestial kingdom of heaven, that is, baptism starts a person out on the straight and narrow path which leads to eternal life.
- Baptism is the means whereby the door to personal sanctification is opened. “Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.”[xii]
blessed are they who shall believe in your words.”[xiv]
Someone hearing the testimony of a Zion person is blessed because he has heard and believed the word of God on faith alone.[xv] The Zion person, who has borne testimony, is blessed by having his testimony recorded in heaven and by receiving anew a remission of sins: “Nevertheless, ye are blessed, for the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you, and your sins are forgiven you.”[xvi]
The blessedness that is inherent in a Zion person draws others to him by means of his spoken or unspoken testimony. Bearing testimony makes a Zion person the “salt of the earth,” and salt, of course, is a “healing, flavoring, and preserving agent.”[xvii] By means of his testimony and service, a Zion person “succors the weak, lifts up the hands which hang down, and strengthens the feeble knees.”[xviii]
Additionally, bearing testimony characterizes Zion’s blessedness by making a Zion person a light to the world: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this peopleTherefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”[xix]
Becoming Poor in Spirit
A common interpretation of this phrase is “blessed are the poor in pride, or the poor of this world.” That is, a person who is poor in spirit lacks pride; he is humble because, perhaps, he has been denied the things of this world; or perhaps he has disciplined himself to not set his heart on the things of this world; or maybe he is in need of additional spiritual insight or strength. When such people recognize their need or weakness and come to Christ, the Lord will “make weak things become strong unto them.”[xxi]
This enabling principle is called grace,[xxii] and it demonstrates the strength of oneness inherent in the Covenant. In partnership with the Lord, the weak [poor in spirit] person yokes himself to Christ[xxiii] and thereby becomes as strong as his companion. Therefore, it is with great eagerness that a Zion person is willing to declare his nothingness and vulnerability, and seeks the Lord with full dependency,[xxiv] rather than relying on the arm of flesh or his own genius and strength.[xxv]
The associated blessings are remarkable: “And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.”[xxvi]
In this sense, being poor in spirit is a redeeming quality. But considered in another light, being poor in spirit is a deficit of character that needs correcting. Therefore, the poor in spirit, who admit their sins, “[view] themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth,” and repent crying “O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God,”[xxvii] those who yearn for forgiveness, strip themselves of pride, and come to the Lord in humility seeking the return of the Spirit, will be filled with the Holy Ghost.
They will be “filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ.”[xxviii]
blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.[xxix]
Notice the word all. When a person, who is poor is spirit [pride], comes to the Lord and when the Lord shows the person his weakness, that person mourns, which, on a celestial level, is an act of worship.[xxx] His reaction is one of a broken heart and a contrite spirit;[xxxi] he recognizes his nothingness and carnal nature and longs for support and deliverance.
When the people of King Benjamin made this discovery, they immediately shed themselves of pride, came to Christ, and mourned, desiring desperately to be delivered from Babylon and brought into Zion: “And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.”[xxxii]
Righteous mourning is characteristic of a Zion person, whose compassion demands that he “mourns with those who mourn.”[xxxiii] Such empathetic mourning stems from and leads to feelings of compassion, kindness and mercy. A Zion person feels genuine sorrow for those who suffer, and he is moved to exhibit tenderness and loving assistance toward them; he strives “to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be lightand comfort those that stand in need of comfort.”[xxxiv]
Jesus set the example: “And he said unto them: Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you. Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.”[xxxv]
A person who mourns for his own sins, the death of a loved one, or whose mourning moves him to compassion,[xxxvi] so that he is willing to “bear with or suffer with”[xxxvii] someone in need, is promised comfort from the Comforter. Eventually, his sorrow shall be turned into joy.[xxxviii]
And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.[xxxix]
To be meek is to be gentle, humble, patient and submissive.[xl] But meekness is not weakness; nevertheless Babylon perceives meekness as such and often persecutes it.[xli] President Lee said, “A meek manis not easily provoked or irritated and forbearing under injury or annoyance.”[xlii] President Hinckley said, “The meek and the humble are those who are teachable. They are willing to learn. They are willing to listen to the whisperings of the still, small voice for guidance in their lives. They place the wisdom of the Lord above their own wisdom.”[xliii]
Meekness is a childlike quality[xliv] that the Savior attributes to himself.[xlv] A person who is meek is often described as being lowly in heart; that is, by his true penitence, he is ready “to hear the word of the Lord.”[xlvi] Thus, a person who exercises faith in Christ, humbles himself, repents, and accepts baptism, receives a remission of his sins, which “bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love.”[xlvii]
Moreover, the meek and lowly of heart “find rest to their souls,”[xlviii] which rest is the glory of the Lord.[xlix] They receive the knowledge and the love of God and know that they are right before him.[l] One must become meek and lowly of heart before he can obtain the spiritual gifts of faith, hope and charity; to live otherwise is in vain “for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart.”[li] It is the attribute of meekness that gives us access to the Lord’s grace,[lii] that “divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.”[liii]
A Zion person strives to become meek and lowly of heart, “humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”[liv] The Lord’s promise to such a person is that he will gain an eternal inheritance on the earth,[lv] which will become Zion and a celestial kingdom to those who live on it.[lvi]
Hungering and Thirsting after [for] Righteousness
And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost. [lvii]
Again, notice the word all. The Lord taught us that everything has spiritual underpinnings,[lviii] therefore all hungers, including physical hungers, can be traced to a corresponding spiritual need. To be physically or spiritually hungry and thirsty is designed to lead us to Christ, the Bread of Life and the Living Water.[lix]
Whereas physical hunger motivates the need for food, spiritual hunger motivates the need for redemption. If we will allow physical hungers their purpose, they will usher us to Christ. Only Jesus can provide spiritual nourishment for a starved, parched spirit that is trapped in a telestial body. His solution is an infusion of the Spirit: “Blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.”[lx] When we experience the food and drink that the Holy Ghost gives, our appetite increases and we long for more. Then, as we continue to hunger and thirst for righteousness, we receive the eventual promise: fulfillmentwe are filled.
“The Greek word [filled]originally meant to feed and fatten an animal. It carries the notion of eating till one is completely and totally satisfied. Such is the Lord’s promise to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. He will feed us more than we can possibly imagine.”[lxi] This promise hearkens to the quality of abundance found in Zion–no lack of any good thing. Jesus demonstrated the spiritual principle of completely satisfying hunger and thirst when he fed the Israelites with manna for forty years,[lxii] when he fed Elijah by means of ravens,[lxiii] when he fed the five thousand and later the four thousand,[lxiv] and when he fed the Nephites at his appearance.
Living the law of the fast offers specific instructions for hungering and thirsting for righteousness: “to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke.”[lxvi] A true fast includes Zionlike selfless service: “to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy housewhen thou seest the naked, that thou cover him.”[lxvii] And it includes improving or reestablishing family relationships: “and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh.”[lxviii]
The blessings of the fast are amazing and singular–light, health, righteousness, protection, revelation:
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward. Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.[lxix]
A true fast includes mercy (“tak[ing] away the yoke”), repentance, and remarkably selfless service: “draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul.” Incredible blessings follow. The Lord will multiply your light, dispel the darkness that holds you captive, guide you continually, fill you spiritually and physically, bless your family forever with the gospel and priesthood, and bless you to become a savior and peacemaker to your family and to others, a “repairer of the breach.” [lxx]
Likewise, we experience spiritual fulfillment when we go to the house of worship hungering and thirsting for righteousness and partake of the sacrament.[lxxi] The sacrament is key to always being filled with the Spirit. Whereas we are given the gift of the Holy Ghost at our confirmation, we are guaranteed the Holy Ghost’s ongoing companionship in the sacramental covenant. Having the Spirit perpetually with us points us toward eternal life.[lxxii] If the Spirit is with us, we are deemed free from sin,[lxxiii] because the Spirit cannot dwell in an unclean tabernacle.[lxxiv] Therefore, by the continual presence of the Holy Ghost, we are “made perfect,”[lxxv] by the Atonement and merits of Jesus Christ.[lxxvi] That is the condition of a Zion person.
Next week, we will discuss the remaining qualities of blessedness: Becoming merciful, becoming the pure in heart, becoming a maker of peace, and being willing to suffer persecution for the cause of Christ.
[lxx] Isaiah 58:9-12 “Then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.”