Tuesday, May 1

Blessings and the Beatitudes

Matthew 5:3: *Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

*The Latin beatus is the basis of the English “beatitude,” meaning “to be fortunate,” “to be happy,” or “to be blessed.”

Definitions (according to the Institute Manual under "The Sermon on the Mount teaches us what we must do in order to draw upon the power of Christ in our quest for perfection"):
1. Blessedness: Being higher than happiness; an inward fountain of joy in the soul itself, which no outward circumstances can seriously affect.

Matthew 5:4: Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Matthew 5:5: Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Matthew 5:6: Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Matthew 5:7: Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Matthew 5:8: Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Matthew 5:9: Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Matthew 5:10: Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:11: Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 
Matthew 5:12: Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Harold B. Lee: “Christ came not only into the world to make an atonement for the sins of mankind but to set an example before the world of the standard of perfection of God’s law and of obedience to the Father. In his Sermon on the Mount the Master has given us somewhat of a revelation of his own character, which was perfect, or what might be said to be ‘an autobiography, every syllable of which he had written down in deeds,’ and in so doing has given us a blueprint for our own lives.” (Decisions for Successful Living, pp. 55–56.)

President Lee Teaches Us About the Beatitudes
Can you see from this that the Beatitudes form the stairway to Christ by which you can receive power from him to become like him? But remember, it takes effort to climb this stairway. Some say it is impossible, but that is a false idea.  
It was late one night when I was abruptly awakened out of my sleep by a telephone call. On the other end of the line was a voice of a distraught ward member. He indicated that there had been some problems in the home and wondered if I could come over. 
When I walked into Richard and Jennifer’s home, the atmosphere was charged with tension. Richard spoke first. He was nearly in tears. Jennifer wanted to leave him and the children. He spoke vaguely of some problems she had had earlier during the day, obviously wanting to protect her. Jennifer then interrupted, “Why don’t you quit beating around the bush, Richard. Say it. Tell him that I struck one of the children. Tell him what I’ve said to you and the children! Or are you afraid what the bishop might think of our ‘model’ home!” Richard only looked at me. 
“Suppose, Jennifer, you tell me what’s wrong,” I said. 
“I’ve had it—that what’s wrong, Bishop. I’m fed up with my husband—my kids—and this house. I’m tired of the pretense of being an ideal Latter-day Saint family when we’re anything else but. I want out of this situation, the sooner the better.” 
And so I listened—from 1:00 A.M. until 3:00 A.M. in the morning—to a woman who had previously enjoyed the Spirit of the Lord but who was now filled with vindictive, accusing feelings. It is not necessary to attempt to recreate the sordid scene, nor the events of that day or days previous which brought about this nightmare. It is sufficient to say that the Spirit which had once attended this sister was now gone. All feelings of refinement, sensitivity, kindness, congeniality, and charity had disappeared. In their place were accusation, coarseness, abusiveness, and hatred. I prayed inwardly for the wisdom beyond my natural ability to help. 
When she had finished her tirade, she said defiantly: “Now I suppose, Bishop, that you’re going to try to dissuade me from leaving Richard.” 
“No, Jennifer, it appears to me that you have already made up your mind about what you‘re going to do. Neither I nor anyone else could dissuade you. So perhaps the thing for you to do is to leave.” I paused and then added, “But, Jennifer, I want you know before I leave here tonight that there is a way out of your misery if you’re willing to try.” Though she didn’t say anything, her eyes pled for help. 
“Do you remember what the Savior taught those who sought to be his disciples? You have probably read or heard some of these teachings many times. You remember as a girl in Sunday School how you were asked to memorize the teachings of Jesus called the Beatitudes. Tonight as you were talking I couldn’t help but think that they must apply here. 
“‘Blessed are the poor in spirit.’ The first step, Jennifer, is to realize that you have need for the Lord’s help. The Book of Mormon states: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me. ’ This is the way you can solve this problem—by coming to the Lord for help. But how can you come unto him? 
“‘Blessed are they that mourn.’ We come unto the Savior by manifesting a broken heart and a contrite spirit. In other words, we mourn about the condition which prevents us from becoming his friend and having his Spirit with us always. I’m not talking about self-pity, Jennifer. I’m talking about the kind of sorrow that purges ugly feelings and desires from the heart. The Savior then tells us how we may overcome this depression and despair that is such a burden for you right now. 
“‘Blessed are the meek.’ To be meek is to humble ourselves before the Lord and ask and plead for his help to overcome our weakness. The Savior has also said, ‘My grace is sufficient for the meek.’ What does that mean? ‘If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they be humble . . . for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.’ [Ether 12:26-27]
“‘Now, Jennifer, you have discovered a weakness in your character that is preventing you from having the Spirit of the Lord. Don’t you desire the blessings that will enable you to overcome your weaknesses? Don’t you desire that joy and happiness that has been absent from your life during these past months? 
“‘Blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.’ That’s the blessing you need so desperately, Jennifer! Now let’s consider the rest of the Savior’s beatitudes. 
“Do you want to be more kind? ‘Blessed are the merciful.’ 
“Do you really desire to overcome hypocrisy? ‘Blessed are the pure in heart.’ 
“Do you want peace in your own home? ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’ 
“And then there is the teaching about being able to bear persecution. But what about bearing up against stress and persecutions of the adversary in your own home? 
“The point is, Jennifer, if you really want these attributes, they are available to you as you ‘hunger and thirst’ after them. This is the righteousness the Savior is referring to—these are the blessings that come as one is filled with the Holy Ghost. By recognizing your need to depend daily, even hourly, upon the Lord, by fasting and prayer you can overcome this problem that is now leading you to such misery. Here is the Savior’s promise to you: 
“. . . remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.’ [Helaman 5:12]
I then bore testimony to her of the truthfulness of these principles. Her tears, the first indication of the spirit of repentance, told me she also knew them to be true. There was a way out. There was a hope. Perhaps for the first time in her life, she began to sense how the gospel becomes a power to solve our problems, to refine our natures, and to help us become more Christlike in our disposition. 
Before leaving that night we knelt in prayer together. As we arose from our knees, I knew that Jennifer would not be leaving her husband or her home. 
It has been seven years since the incident of that evening. Jennifer and Richard have added three more children to their family. Overcoming her problems has not been easy; in fact, it has been an intense struggle. Gradually, however, by applying the principles of the Savior on a daily basis, she has found a strength she did not previously know. 
(Based on a true experience.) 
As with Jennifer, you may find your weaknesses and problems difficult to overcome. But could you feel justified before God if you failed to make the effort to climb the stairway to perfection? Can you see that it is possible for you to progress a step at a time toward your ultimate goal of perfection?
Now you might wish to review the remainder of the Sermon on the Mount, asking yourself this question: How can I apply the qualities suggested by Jesus that will help me to grow toward perfection? 

Blessed are the pure in heart.
To me, this is one of the most important Beatitudes, and one that I am continuously working on developing. I want to be pure in heart and mind, and with this, always morally clean. I want to always have the Spirit welcome into my home and wherever I am. I also want to strive for innocence. In high school, everyone thought it was sweet that I was so innocent because I am a Latter-day Saint. Well to tell the truth, largely thanks to the poor influences of classmates, I was not as innocent as they believed. I do not want this to be taken the wrong way; I was very obedient to my parents and to the principles of the gospel and I always avoided evil influences to the best of my ability. But the fact is, I live in the world. That sounds silly, but it's true. I live in the world, but not of the world. I know about evil and unfortunately have been exposed to it. But I avoid it in all forms. I keep it out of my thoughts, my words, my deeds. And my insistence of turning away from evil turned into the belief that I was completely innocent. It is simply not possible to live in this world and not be exposed to evil. But we all have choice and accountability. We can choose not to accept evil and to turn away from it at all costs. I hope my efforts to do this will truly make me pure in heart.
Blessed are the merciful.
I think this is an important one. What first comes to mind is the parable of the debtor and the ensuing discussion of justice and mercy. The Savior is the Mediator. He provides mercy to us, but in order for us to be extended this blessing, we must be merciful to others. This does not mean letting others walk all over us. But it does mean that we ought to demonstrate compassion for our fellow men. I try to be merciful, and particularly, I've noticed, at school. This may sound strange, but I try to be merciful on my teachers. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt and be a participant. I feel sympathy for my teachers, especially when I can tell they are enthusiastic about a subject or lesson that perhaps they have spent extra time preparing. I extend mercy by being a good student. I listen, ask questions, and give answers. I will not lie, I have even laughed at a few jokes that did not really strike me as funny, but because I know how disappointing it is when additional effort is put in with less than the desired result. I suppose, re-reading this, I sound like a suck-up. But truthfully, my motives are purer than that. I genuinely care about others. I want them to feel loved and appreciated. This means I also make an effort to love those (or sometimes put up with) who are a little bit stranger than most of us. To me, this is a small way that I, and we as people, can extend mercy to our fellow men. 
Blessed are the peacemakers.
This Beatitude is definitely one that I need to work much harder on. My patriarchal blessing actually makes reference to this--more specifically, making my home a place of peace where the Saints will want to be. Because of this, I feel that I have a responsibility to develop habits of establishing peace in stressful situations. I need to be the one who keeps the peace. This means (for me personally) not becoming easily offended. Sometimes I get down on myself and allow myself to wallow in misery and feel worthless. Nothing good comes of this. In fact, the result is the opposite of what this Beatitude would have me do. I become irritable and prone to getting offended over little things that should and could be overlooked. The result is a contentious atmosphere and that is quite contrary to what I want. So what I need to do is: a) not get offended so easily, b) choose to think the best, c) be positive and bring the Spirit into our home, and d) keep the peace. 

I know that Heavenly Father wants the best for us. He loves us all and can help us despite our many flaws and imperfections. He wants us to return to Him, and more importantly, to bring others with us. I know that families are forever and am so grateful that I am sealed to mine and my WONDERFUL husband, Dalin. He makes me more happy than I can express. I am thankful to my Savior, Jesus Christ and for His infinite atonement, which I constantly need. I am trying to be like Him. 

I say that in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. 

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