A multitude followed Jesus up into a mountain where he began to teach them what we call the ‘‘Sermon on the Mount’’ or the Beatitudes. In Latin, beatus is the basis of the English ‘beatitude,’ meaning ‘to be fortunate,’ ‘to be happy,’ or ‘to be blessed.’ So it was here on the mountain that Jesus taught the multitude (and each of us) how to be fortunate, how to be happy and how to be blessed. (See Matthew 5) Isn’t that what everyone seeks – happiness? And Jesus gave the answer as plain as day.
‘‘Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’’ What does it mean to be poor in spirit? Does it mean to be downcast, discouraged and depressed? Not really. Poor in spirit could be interpreted as poor in pride or humble in spirit. Those who are humble and without pride who come unto Christ are teachable and thus will be blessed, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven — because they’re willing to learn what it takes to get there.
‘‘Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.’’ Those who mourn the loss of a loved one or who are sorrowful yet turn to Jesus will find comfort. He is the resurrection and the life. His message is one of hope that we will one day live again and be with our loved ones beyond this mortal existence. This knowledge gives us hope and comfort even when we experience the sadness and feelings of separation from our loved ones when they die. We find comfort in knowing we can be with them again because of Jesus.
”Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” To be meek means to be gentle, forgiving or benevolent. Psalms 37:11 gives insights into this, ”But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” Peace is a corresponding blessing of a gentle, forgiving and benevolent nature. Psalm 37:9 tells us that ‘‘those that wait upon the Lord… shall inherit the earth.’’ Meekness involves knowing that God’s timing is best. Neil A. Maxwell said,
“Indeed, when we are unduly impatient with an omniscient God’s timing, we really are suggesting that we know what is best. Strange, isn’t it–we who wear wristwatches seek to counsel Him who oversees cosmic clocks and calendars.” (“Hope through the Atonement of Jesus Christ” October 1998.)
‘‘Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.’’ What is the difference between eating because it’s time to eat and eating because you’re really hungry? Have you ever read your scriptures just because you’re supposed to – just out of duty?
How does this contrast with a time when you had a problem or a question and you went to the scriptures for answers? Don’t you get a lot more out of your reading when you are really searching for answers and comfort? Aren’t you more likely to be filled with the Holy Ghost and find your answers when you’re diligently searching – hungering and thirsting for the truth? The trick is hungering and thirsting that way all the time – not just when we have a crisis.
‘‘Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy.’’ If we want the Lord to be lenient and forgive us, we must be lenient and forgive others. The compassion we show others in large part determines the compassion that God will show us. This makes me think of the parable Jesus told of the king who took an account of his servants and one was brought to him that owed him ten thousand talents. But he didn’t have the money to pay and the king commanded that he, his wife and children and all he had be sold to pay the debt. But the servant fell down and worshipped the king and said, ‘‘Lord have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’’
The lord of that servant was moved with compassion, freed him and forgave the debt. But the same servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him an hundred pence; and he laid hands on him, took him by the throat, saying, ‘‘Pay me what you owe me.’’ And his fellow servant fell down at his feet and pled, ‘‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’’ But he would not and had him put into prison until he would pay the debt.
So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry and came and told their lord all that had happened. The lord called the original servant in and said, ‘‘I forgave you all that debt, because you desired me to. Shouldn’t you have also had compassion on your fellow servant, even as I had pity on you?’’ And his lord was wroth and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. Jesus said, ‘‘So likewise shall my Heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.’’ (See Matthew 18:23-35)
‘‘Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God’’. Those who keep themselves chaste, clean and pure in heart will have the privilege of seeing and being in the presence of God.
‘‘Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God.’’ Those who bring peace into their homes, into the world and into their circles of influence shall be called the children of God.
‘‘Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.’’ In other words if you’re not rocking the boat, you’re not making enough waves. As M. Russell Ballard said,
‘‘All of us need to remember that when we enter into the work of the Lord and choose to pursue a cause that can bring about great good, we may expect… to encounter some opposition, difficulties or trials. This is not only because the adversary is very real, but also because such experiences help to prepare us to become courageous and wise leaders.’’ (BYU Devotional, January 18, 2000)
As we increase in humility, meekness, and mercy toward others and purify our hearts and work toward building peace in our homes, communities and country, we may expect the blessings of God in our lives. But also, we may expect some persecution and challenges from the adversary.
We are in a war; a very real battle between good and evil. Some would say there is no good and evil – that everything is relative – that whatever we do as long as it feels right is perfectly fine. But there is a right and wrong. God is real. He lives and so does Satan. For everything good, glorious and righteous that our God stands for, Satan works in direct opposition. We cannot expect to take an active role in our Heavenly Father’s plan and not expect some opposition.
Yet, we are never left alone. God will not leave us nor forsake us when we put our trust in Him. Let us all be as Joshua and clearly decide which side of the line we are on: ‘‘Choose you this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’’ (Joshua 24:15) It is only in making this clear decision of which side we are on, that we can pull down the blessings of heaven upon our families and our homes. Let us not be as those who are ‘‘lukewarm and neither cold nor hot’’ who God will ‘‘spew out of his mouth.’’ (Revelations 3:16)
As Jesus said on the mount, ‘‘Ye are the salt of the earth but if the salt have lost his savor; wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a 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 5:13-16)
Let’s stand up and be counted – let our lights shine as that city set on a hill. Let’s determine once and for all which side we are on. Straddling the fence is too precarious a position to maintain for long. Will you be hot or cold? Or will you try to remain lukewarm and eventually be spewed out of His mouth?
I pray that we may all be as Joshua and say, ‘’Choose you this day whom ye shall serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’’ For then, and only then can we reclaim our homes, our families, our children and our country and find peace and happiness in this life and the next.