February: Matthew 5; Luke 6
The Sermon on the Mount opens with the Beatitudes. The term “beatitudes” is taken from the Latin Vulgate for “blessed are” or beati sunt.[i] In Hebrew, the word blessed is ashrei (oshray) or ‘esher which means “O, the happiness of.”[ii] So Christ teaches that as we develop attributes of mercy, meekness and purity we will become happier. Yet his teachings hold a much deeper meaning.
The early Christian/Jewish scholar, Alfred Edersheim, stated the relationship between the initial state and the promise is not merely a reward for the other. “The connecting link…is in each case Christ Himself.”[iii] How like the Book of Mormon account of Christ giving the beatitudes to the people in the new world where the first beatitude adds “Blessed is the poor who come unto me” [iv] It is clear by learning this attribute through following the words of Christ as guided by the Holy Ghost that we are bestowed with the promised blessing.
Another point made by Edersheim was the beatitudes were presented “successively, progressively and extensively.”[v] They reflect a process to heal, repent, and draw closer to Christ.
Many have compared the beatitudes to the “12 Step” program of Alcoholics Anonymous and the foundation for the church’s Addiction Recovery Program. In the 1930’s, a man named Bill Wilson developed the twelve steps through experience and inspiration in turning to God. Although he did not use the beatitudes per se, comparing these steps to Matthew 5:3-12 shows how remarkably similar they are.
The Beatitudes and the 12 Steps
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs in the kingdom of heaven.
Note: The first beatitude may be about each of us recognizing our own deficits or those places our spirits are poor or lacking. What do we need to improve or change? What do we need to repent of? When we realize or own weaknesses and turn to Christ, only then are we actually using the gifts of insight and strength he has given us through his gospel. This attitude is reflected in the first three of the twelve steps.
- We admit we were powerless over our addiction.
- Come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Decide to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Note: Much like mourning the death of a loved one, we must mourn over our own sin and the death of our natural man. Unlike earthly sorrow at being “caught’, we must begin with godly sorrow as Paul taught, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”[vi] One of the hardest of the twelve steps is looking clearly at who we are and what we need to let go of.
- Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Note: Elder Bednar said that being meek includes learning both from the Holy Ghost and from people who may seem less capable, experienced, or educated. He also says that meekness is “the principal protection from the prideful blindness that often arises from prominence, position and power.” [vii] How like this apostle’s explanation of meekness is the next step on the path to recovery.
- Admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost[viii]
Note: As we receive the Holy Ghost, we become sanctified of our sins.[ix] It is only through this great gift of the Spirit, through the grace of Christ that this is made possible. As with the evil spirit that the disciples could not cleanse, but had to be removed by the Savior himself, some of our own weaknesses “goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”[x] This humble reaching for additional help and healing is reflected in the next two steps.
- Be entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Note: Having mercy is all about forgiving both ourselves and others. Elder Uchtdorf said, “Of all the people in the world, the one who is the hardest to forgive… is the person looking back at us in the mirror.”[xi] As we work to make amends and be worthy of forgiveness, we can more easily feel able to forgive ourselves. This seems the reasoning behind the next step.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed and become willing to make amends to them all.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Note: Pres. Nelson has said, “Peace can prevail only when the natural inclination to fight is superseded by self-determination to live on a loftier level.” [xii] Living on this loftier level, takes thought and planning like the next step.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when doing so would injure them or others.
Blessed are the pure of heart,
for they will see God.
Note: We know that “… this is Zion—the pure in heart.”[xiii] Those that follow this path of Christ’s and this similar addiction recovery plan become purer. But as we know after a shower, the cleaning only lasts so long. In the gospel, we weekly renew our baptismal covenants as a type of weekly “spiritual” bath or shower. In the same way, taking consistent personal inventories allows individuals not to slip back into old habits.
- Continue to take personal inventory and when we are wrong promptly admit it.
- Seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Note: Finally, having found the truth and becoming free of the addictions that hold us back, we have a responsibility to share that truth with others struggling. Inevitably when we do this, those not ready to listen will grow angry at our efforts. Persecution can be a result, and it is easy to turn the tables and reflect that anger to others. Elder Renlund recently said, “Persecution comes in many forms: ridicule, harassment, bullying, exclusion and isolation, or hatred toward another…We must not be guilty of persecuting anyone inside or outside the Church.”[xiv]
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in our affairs.
Utilizing the beatitudes not only for their individual truths, but as a process can help us to move forward in our efforts to become nearer to Jesus. Elder Meredith of the seventy recently said, “There is no discipleship without discipline.”[xv] The beatitudes could be called the path to discipleship and having written this, I know I need to walk that path more often.
Thanks to http://www.grainofwheat.ca/the-beatitudes-and-the-12-step/
[i] From Britannica Dictionary. See https://www.britannica.com/topic/Beatitude-biblical-literature
[ii] From hethathasanear.com/Beatitudes.html
[iii] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, p. 548
[iv] 3 Nephi 12:3
[v] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, p. 526 https://www.ccel.org/ccel/e/edersheim/lifetimes/cache/lifetimes.pdf
[vi] 2 Cor. 7:10
[vii] Elder David A Bednar, “Meek and Lowly of Heart,” April 2018
[viii] 3 Nephi 12:6
[ix] See 2 Thes. 2:13 and 3 Nephi 27:20
[x] Matthew 17:21
[xi] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Merciful Obtain Mercy,” April 2012
[xii] Pres. Nelson “Blessed are the Peacemakers” Oct 2002
[xiii] D&C 97:21
[xiv] Elder Dale G. Renlund “Our Good Shepherd”, April 2017
[xv] Elder Alvin F. Meredith, “Look Down the Road”, Oct 2021