During his mortal ministry, Christ attempted to gather Zion when he delivered the Sermon on the Mount which had been promised since the days of Moses.
In Deut. 10:2 (JST), the Law of the Gospel had been given, but because of Israel’s idolatry, it was rescinded. As a consequence, a number of calamities followed for the fledgling community. Not only were they put under the curse of the law, as it was described by Paul in Gal. 3, their eventual desire to become like unto the gentiles by appointing a king led them to be scourged in captivity by their enemies. In Deut. 18:18-19, the Lord foretold of his mortal ministry in which the Law of the Gospel would again be offered to Israel. Fast forwarding to Christ’s ministry, the Law of the Gospel is again rejected by Israel. In Matt. 23:37, Christ laments,
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent! How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chicks under her wings, and ye would not!”
It is not long after before the Sanhedrin conspires with Pilate to have Christ put to death. For Jerusalem’s refusal to receive and live the Gospel, causative, sometimes called temporal and sometimes called carnal, consequences follow. In 70 A.D., the Romans sack Jerusalem in a siege that the apostles call an abomination of desolation. The further Israel falls from gospel standards the greater her tribulations at the hands of her enemies. In stating this, the upshot is that the causative consequence for failure to abide the law of the Gospel might have been avoided. There are, of course, more serious consequences for failure to live the Gospel as given in the Sermon on the Mount. They are not all pragmatic. I have only recently become less interested in a pragmatic ethic (to avoid wrath) and more so in an ethic of morality (for conscience sake).
The spiritual consequences, referred to in D&C 19 as “eternal consequences,” are attributed to the ordinances which bind relationships beyond the grave and resurrection. Therefore, the Sermon on the Mount is of great significance to mankind for numerous reasons, not solely to protect against wrath, but also to bind our relationships and usher in the Kingdom of Heaven, lest, as stated in 2 Ne. 9:27, the days of our probation be wasted.
In the May 1975 issue of the Ensign, President Thomas S. Monson called Christ’s sermon “the way home.” The Sermon is not a lifestyle a disciple waits to live until an annunciation of the Kingdom of Heaven, or be it, in the day when there are no enemies for which a coat can be given because a cloak is not sued at law, for which a second mile can be walked because conscription does not exist, for which the other cheek can be turned because the former cheek is not smitten. If the Law of the Gospel was not intended to transform Israel into Zion, its use to the disciple after having utterly destroyed the enemies she is in the world to save becomes utterly inadequate. The Sermon, then, is a lifestyle that will bring about the Kingdom of Heaven upon the earth. The Kingdom of Heaven is the causative and spiritual consequence of embracing and living the law of the Gospel.
Christ has more to say on true discipleship when prefacing his Sermon with the Beatitudes. The Sermon is not merely a scheme of performances and rewards through moral bargaining. Jesus does not say, “Be pure in heart: then your reward will be to see God.” One cannot simply, by making up his mind, set out to “mourn” or to “be persecuted for righteousness sake.” Jesus is rather saying, “there are some who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the kingdom of heaven is at hand, for they are sons of God.” The Kingdom of Heaven is already amongst the Israelites. It can be seen in the attitudes of those who were gathered into the Church. As in their day, so it is in ours. Amongst us now are those whose law written upon their hearts is the gospel law and they are building a kingdom which emanates outward from within. Of these who are pure in heart, set apart from the world, called out from Babylon and sanctified, Doctrine and Covenants Section 97 calls “Zion.” Zion is loving in such a way that, when God comes to her, her members find themselves “at home,” as ones who “fit in” and are not “out of place” because they are like the One who saves. The Sermon on the Mount is the guide to that perfection, not only individually, but collectively as a Church.
So we know that the Sermon on the Mount ushers in the law of the Gospel and of perfection. Those who receive and strive to live it will find themselves ushering in a new and everlasting kingdom that D&C 121:46 describes as being achieved “without compulsory means” and which will endure “forever and ever.” Zion is unlike the kingdoms of this world. Because it is achieved by persuasion, it will last an eternity. Hearts and minds are not changed by coercion regardless compliance can be achieved by force. The Lord speaks of a choice in D&C 98:30-31. One choice the Lord describes, when obtained by permission, as “justifiable” and the other is described as “righteousness,” requiring no permission at all. The Saints may attempt to establish Zion as Israel had established her kingdom in times past or they may follow the admonition the Lord has given in D&C 63:24-34. In either case, only one choice has causative consequences that are described as a blessed future for the Saints. In a Conference Report for April 1965, Pres. Ezra Taft Benson contrasts the gospel way as follows:
In a world of vengeance, it might be difficult to see God as a loving Father rather than an imperial Sovereign. This requires the following questions to be asked: Is the rod of the Christ’s mouth, his rebuke and call to repentance, nearly as devastating as the rod and sword of Caesar? When did any last hear of a bishop beating or killing a member for not paying tithes or giving offerings? For me this demonstrates a certain principle: While the Lord has in the past permitted and justified certain sinful ways and means within prescribed limitations, thereby suspending eternal consequences for a time through exception, the causative or temporal consequences for such ways and means remain the same and cannot be escaped. To choose righteousness will require the change of heart that the Beatitudes describe as “blessed.” This “mighty change of heart” is brought about by the Spirit and is achieved on an individual basis of purity, cleanliness, devotion to a new order of things and love. In D&C 97, the Lord foretells of impending tribulation to come for the World because of her rejection of gospel living. Unlike the Israelites, the Jaredites or the Nephites, Zion, or be it the pure in heart, shall endure.
To endure well by being Zion, what can a disciple do to bring about the mighty change of heart that Christ describes as characteristic of the “blessed” in the Beatitudes? The scripture says, “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). The Kingdom of God will be caught up to the Kingdom of Heaven. The disciple knows that half the battle in bringing about a unification of the Kingdom of God on the earth with the Kingdom of Heaven is to work for peace and reconciliation. Elder Dallin H. Oaks describes this “becoming” as that which determines our Final Judgment. In the Oct. 2000 Conference Report, Elder Oaks stated,
“Many Bible and modern scriptures speak of a final judgment at which all persons will be rewarded according to their deeds or works or the desires of their hearts. But other scriptures enlarge upon this by referring to our being judged by the CONDITION we have achieved. The prophet Nephi describes Final Judgment in terms of what we HAVE BECOME.”
Our reward is a consequence of what we do and what we do is, therefore, a consequence of who we are. This gives greater meaning to what the Lord meant when he said, “The kingdom of God is within you.” Christ calls a disciple individually and the church collectively to be the change He would like to see in the world by setting an example in righteousness. So, to reiterate the question, how do we get to where the kingdom of God is within us and where all things are thereafter added upon us? Isaiah wrote (40:3), “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” Of this proclamation Matthew taught us was a reference to the preaching of John the Baptist (3:3). This is the message of the present dispensation of the fullness of times (D&C 1:12). Instead of eagerly awaiting the Second Coming of Christ to make everything right, a disciple with a “be” attitude, not only rights himself, but builds up Zion in preparation for the Lord’s return. Rather than praying, “Come quickly, Lord,” and more like the three Nephites whom Christ blessed, a disciple prays, “Give us time yet, that we may repent and prepare the world for thy coming.”
A disciple with a “be” attitude is a leader blazing the path the rest who wish to see God will eventually follow:
“And he [the disciple] shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isa. 2:4).
This is the causative and eternal consequence of true discipleship. Zion will be filled with those who renounce war and proclaim the gospel of peace. In D&C 45:67, the Lord states that the “wicked will not come unto…Zion.” On the contrary, in verse 68, “every man who will not take his sword against his neighbor” will flee to Zion. John the Apostle wrote, “He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and faith of the saints.” We reap the kingdom we sow. The extent to which the kingdom we build relies on the use of force or coercion as a foundation is indicative of the extent to which Satan has influence and power in that kingdom. Of course, we render, for as long as the Lord permits the wicked to prevail against us, unto Caesar those things which by coercion and force Caesar requires, as the scripture says, “lest we offend.” But this is something a disciple with a “be” attitude “mourns” and, as Paul counseled in 1 Corinthians 7:20-21, where exceptions are provided to escape the demands of Caesar, a disciple does so.
When the tribulation comes for the world, it will be because she is unchaste, unclean, unmerciful, unpure and reigning with blood and horror upon the earth. Unfortunately, because the kingdoms of this world are kingdoms of coercion and because not all the Saints have separated their wills from those of this world, not all Saints shall endure the tribulation which is with us now and which is to come. Regardless, our hopes are greatly improved by choosing to live the celestial law of Christ’s sermon and of rendering unto the Lord all which belongs to the Lord including that which belongs solely to ourselves, ergo our will. “For a disciple cannot serve two masters….”
President Wilford Woodruff wrote, “Trust in God. Do your duty. Remember your prayers. Get faith in the Lord, and take hold and build up Zion. The Lord is going to visit his people, and he is going to cut his work short in righteousness, lest no flesh should be saved. I say to you, watch the signs of the times, and prepare yourselves for that which is to come.” (Woodruff, Wilford and G. Homer Durham, “Discourses of Wilford Woodruff,” Bookcraft, 1946) While the world continues to destroy itself for failure to abide a terrestrial law, the blessed who can abide a celestial law will not only patiently endure this tribulation, but will find happiness when Christ comes because they are those of whom scripture says “will be like him.” It is the blessing of the pure in heart to lift up the Church, as it says in 2 Nephi 15:26, as an Ensign to the nations as how things should be and will be moving beyond the Second Coming.
I believe my hope would be too small if, as one who is covenanted through the waters of baptism and in the temple to live the law of the Gospel, I did not make haste my separation from the ways and means of the world by embracing the Church as my new schoolmaster and the missionary effort as my new political responsibility to enforce the moral law while building a kingdom without compulsory means that will endure forever and ever. I mourn that it should be done any other way for I truly believe any other way cometh not of God, but of men.