Temple on the Mount Sermon
In the clutter of opinions concerning Jesus' masterful Sermon transmitted by both Matthew and Mormon, I offer a view of the Sermon at the Temple as a profound temple-text. I realize that assembling this view has been assisted by looking at circumstantial evidence, contextual inferences, and comparative studies, and by reading the Sermon at the Temple in light of a Latter-day Saint's understanding of the temple. Nowhere does Jesus say to us, "I am presenting a temple experience here." He says only, "Who hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Matthew 13:9).
I also readily acknowledge that one can understand the Sermon in many other ways. There are many good ...view middle of the document...
The experience was strong, as the echoes in the text became clearer voices for me. Finding a significant number of details compatible with this view scattered among the writings of various scholars then reinforced the experience.
I also realize now, better than ever before, how imprecise our tools and instruments are as we attempt to map the contours and main features of this rich spiritual landscape. As Jesus said to us, "I perceive that ye are weak" (3Â Nephi 17:2). Nevertheless, he will bless us in our weakness, and, God willing, our "weak things" may "become strong" (Ether 12:27). I hope that the Spirit will guide all readers who take Jesus' advice to go home and ponder upon the things he said to the Nephites and "prepare [their] minds for the morrow" that he might come again (3Â Nephi 17:3). To do this, more than dissecting analysis is called for. The meaning of the Sermon is reduced when it is subsumed under certain focal points only; the truth about God's mysteries is not likely to be found at the end of a syllogism or textual analysis.
Reading the Sermon in light of the temple can enhance our understanding of the Sermon. Equally, experiencing the Latter-day Saint temple in light of the Sermon enhances our understanding of the temple. President Benson has promised that the Book of Mormon will give intellectual and spiritual unity to our lives. Perhaps this is one more example of how that promise can be fulfilled.
I hasten to add that people should also notice some differences between the Latter-day Saint temple and the Sermon. I do not think that the Nephite temple experience was exactly the same as today'sâ€”which itself changes somewhat from time to time. For example, the sequence in which the laws of obedience, sacrifice, chastity, consecration, and so forth are presented is not exactly the same in both, although they are very close. And the Sermon at the Temple mainly reports only the ordinances, laws, commandments, performances, and covenants; little background drama or creation narrative is given. Nevertheless, the essential elements appear to be thereâ€”certainly more than we had ever before thought present in the Book of Mormon, and, as for the rest, the presence of the Lord was drama enough.
If the Sermon at the Temple is a ritual text, one must next wonder the same about the Sermon on the Mount. I would not expect scholars unfamiliar with the Latter-day Saint temple to seeâ€”or even imagineâ€”what I think is going on in the Sermon. Still, the number of New Testament scholars willing to recognize the importance of esoteric ordinances and cultic teachings among the early Christians is increasing. I think these scholars should be able to discern readily a number of possible ritual elements in the Sermon on the Mount.
There are several examples: the use of macarisms (beatitudes) in ritual initiations as attested elsewhere as well; the requirement that a participant withdraw if he or she has aught against a brother; the...