“How are we to look at the Beatitudes and make them useful in our lives?” Ensign, Dec. 1974, 28–29
Dr. Monte S. Nyman, associate professor of ancient scripture, Brigham Young University: The Beatitudes should be looked upon as the higher law given to those who have come unto Christ through the waters of baptism. This is made known through the Book of Mormon restoration of the plain and precious parts lost from the biblical account in Matthew. The Book of Mormon account begins with two blessed conditions that have not been retained in the account in Matthew: (1) blessed are those who were present and accepted baptism at the hands of the Twelve, and (2) blessed are those who were not present but later believed and accepted baptism at their hands. Both groups were promised a baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. While these two blessed conditions have been listed by some Latter-day Saint writers as two additional Beatitudes, they are really the foundation upon which all the following Beatitudes are built.
The third verse in the Book of Mormon rendition (3 Ne. 12:3) agrees with the Matthew account: “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” but adds “who come unto me” (Christ) before promising a blessing. The phrase “who come unto me” restates the doctrine of the first two blessed conditions of believing and being baptized. This is further substantiated by the addition of the beginning word “yea” in 3 Nephi 12:3 [3 Ne. 12:3], which is to say “indeed” or “truly,” reaffirming the principle that the believing will enter the waters of baptism. (See also 3 Ne. 21:6; 3 Ne. 27:20; and D&C 84:49–51.)
Both of these fuller teachings in the Nephite account are in the Prophet Joseph Smith’s Inspired Version rendition of chapter 5 of Matthew. The reward of the kingdom of heaven is of course for the baptized, since only those who have been baptized can be in the kingdom of heaven (compare Mark 16:15–16; D&C 84:74). The rewards for each of the subsequent Beatitudes are likewise applicable only to those who have been baptized.
As a unit the Beatitudes may be looked upon as a complete set of laws to bring about perfection. As the Savior declared on another occasion, all the law and the Prophets hang on the two commandments to love God and to love our neighbor. (Matt. 22:36–40.) The Beatitudes can likewise be summarized into these two commandments. The first four—being poor in spirit or lacking in spirit, mourning over one’s sins, being meek or teachable, and hungering and thirsting after righteousness—are all rewarded by turning to or loving God. The last five—being merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and enduring persecution both from without and within—are all related to one’s relationship with his neighbors and are really a test of true neighborliness as they deal with those who would normally be considered one’s enemies.
The Beatitudes are useful as we strive to meet the conditions specified. The beginning point, of course, is to realize our lack of the Spirit in our lives and to come unto Christ through the waters of baptism that we might receive the blessing of the Spirit. Further, as we recognize and mourn over our sins, we are comforted by the Holy Ghost’s bringing us remission of those sins. If we are meek and teachable, the Holy Ghost leads us eventually to inherit the earth. As we hunger and thirst after righteousness, we are filled with the Holy Ghost or become sanctified, which is prerequisite for entering the celestial kingdom. As we are merciful to our fellow human beings, we receive the mercy of the atonement of Christ in our lives. By purifying our thoughts and actions, we prepare ourselves to live with God, for no unclean thing can dwell in his presence. Peace comes through living the gospel, and as we teach this to others we become peacemakers and are recognized as God’s children. Finally, as we endure persecution for the right reasons, we receive eternal joy, gladness, rewards, and added strength to endure, knowing the prophets have endured persecution in ages past. The meaning of the Beatitudes for us today depends on the degree to which we live them.
The challenge of the Beatitudes is a celestial challenge, and applying them in our lives leads to eternal life.