3 Nephi Chapter 14
The Savior now turns his attention back to the multitude indicating that his messages which follow are for all members of the Church.
1 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he turned again to the multitude, and did open his mouth unto them again, saying: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
verse 2 "with what measure ye mete" Mete is a verb which means to measure; to ascertain quantity, dimensions, or capacity by any rule or standard.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother: Let me pull the mote out of thine eye-and behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
verse 4 Even though there is a "beam" (a large timber used for construction of buildings) in my eye which prevents me from seeing much of anything, I think I notice that you have a "mote" (a sliver or speck of wood) in your eye. The prophet Joseph Smith said, "No man is capable of judging a matter, in council, unless his own heart is pure; and we frequently are so filled with prejudice, or have a beam in our own eye, that we are not capable of passing right decisions" (TPJS, 69).
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother's eye.
verses 1-5 Even though verse 1 commands that you judge not at all, verse 2 implies that it is probably necessary, at times, to judge our fellow men in certain circumstances, so long as we do it righteously. Indeed JST-Matthew 7:2 says, "Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgment." Of course it is necessary to take a stand and acknowledge evil actions of others. Church members are required to make many judgments every day. Discernment is a gift of the Spirit and the Lord intends us to use it. Righteous judgment and discerning are attributes of godliness the saints are commanded to seek. Mormon taught, "For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil . . . And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged" (Moroni 7:14-18).
When the Lord warns against judging, he is warning against condemning someone for his sins as well as against attributing motives to a person when the observer cannot really know what is in that person's heart. When Jesus encountered the woman taken in adultery, he did not deny the ugliness of her immoral actions. But he did not condemn her. He counseled her to go her way, repent, and sin no more, no doubt assuring her (implicitly, if not verbally) that forgiveness and peace of soul would follow (see John 8:3-11).
Part of condemning another consists of highlighting or accentuating another's sins-parading or displaying them before the public. We must keep in mind that we ourselves are also guilty of sin-often more egregious sins than we might condemn in others.
Later on, the Savior will say to the Nephite Twelve: "All things are written by the Father; therefore out of the books which shall be written shall the world be judged. And know ye that ye shall be judges of this people, according to the judgment which I shall give unto you, which shall be just. Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be [as judges]? Verily I say unto you, even as I am" (3 Nephi 27:26-27).
6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
verse 6 "that which is holy" Joseph Smith's inspired translation of Matthew 7:6 adds considerably to the meaning of the New Testament verse which corresponds to this Book of Mormon verse: "Go ye into the world, saying unto all, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come nigh unto you. And the mysteries of the kingdom ye shall keep within yourselves; for it is not meet to give that which is holy unto the dogs; neither cast ye your pearls unto swine, lest they trample them under their feet. For the world cannot receive that which ye, yourselves, are not able to bear; wherefore ye shall not give your pearls unto them, lest they turn again and rend you" (JST-Matthew 7:6).
As Jesus sends his disciples out to teach the gospel to the world, he commands them to refrain from presenting more of the truths of the gospel than their hearers are prepared to receive.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:
Missionaries ordinarily confine their teachings to such things as the nature and kind of being that God is, the atonement of our Lord, the apostasy from and restoration of the gospel, and the plan of salvation. After people are converted and have the gift of the Holy Ghost to enlighten their minds it is time enough for them to learn the deeper things pertaining to exaltation in the eternal worlds. The sacred teachings revealed in temple ordinances, for instance, are mysteries reserved for selected and faithful members of the kingdom who have attained sufficient stability and background to understand them (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:248-49).
There has been some speculation that Jesus's Sermon on the Mount and his Sermon at the temple might have been more than simply a great sermon. The suggestion has been made that it might have contained significant "holy things" given to a righteous body of saints in a temple setting. Perhaps both of these great sermons were something akin to the endowment ritual. This might help explain Jesus's warning about making known "holy things" to those not yet ready (see John W. Welch in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, 337-38). See also the commentary for Alma 12:9.
"trample them under their feet" Set them at naught, consider them of little or no worth.
"turn again and rend you" And even attack you, the bearer of the pearls. Enemies of the Church are inclined to hear about sacred spiritual truths, distort their meanings, and then use their distorted version to attack the Church. Examples have included the doctrines of polygamy, eternal progression and becoming more like God, and that of one true Church.
7 Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
8 For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.
9 Or what man is there of you, who, if his son ask bread, will give him a stone?
10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
verse 11 "If ye then, being evil" Here is a reference to the natural self of each man.
verses 7-11 Our practical experience in this mortal life suggests that this promise may not be subject to an entirely literal and unqualified interpretation. When we receive gifts from the Lord, be they knowledge, material possessions, or other blessings, there are conditions that must be met before the blessings are bestowed. For example, if one anticipates asking for knowledge, one should know the conditions by which and circumstances under which knowledge is granted (see the commentary for Alma 12:9-11). Personal preparation is necessary. Joseph Smith explained: "God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what he will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them" (TPJS, 149). Also, we must learn to ask for the appropriate things. "And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you (3 Nephi 18:20). See also James 4:3 and 2 Nephi 4:35.
The "good things" the Father will give us in response to our righteous petitions may be those things of eternal worth which will be granted in the eternities, rather than during this mortal experience.
12 Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets.
verse 12 Here is the golden rule. This verse may be regarded as a rephrasing and an explanation of the command "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22:39).
13 Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, which leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in thereat;
14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
verses 13-14 A gate is a point of access into a place or state, and this term is often used figuratively by the Savior and his prophets to represent the portal of entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. These verses make clear that there is only one gate and one narrow ("strait") way that leads to eternal life. In modern revelation, we find an important commentary on these verses: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye abide my law ye cannot attain to this glory [godhood]. For strait is the gate, and narrow the way that leadeth unto the exaltation and continuation of the lives [eternal posterity], and few there be that find it, because ye receive me not in the world neither do ye know me. But if ye receive me in the world, then shall ye know me, and shall receive your exaltation; that where I am ye shall be also. This is eternal lives-to know the only wise and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent. I am he. Receive ye, therefore, my law. Broad is the gate, and wide the way that leadeth to the deaths [cessation of the family unit in eternity]; and many there are that go in thereat, because they receive me not, neither do they abide in my law" (D&C 132:21-25).
"strait is the gate, and narrow is the way" For a discussion of why the word strait (rather than straight) is appropriate in these two verses, see the supplemental article Strait and Straight in the Book of Mormon.
15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
verse 15 Included in this category of "false prophets" are those in the Church who profess special skills or talents, those who offer insights above and beyond what the apostles and prophets feel should be made known. As though by divine appointment, they seek to re-chart the kingdom of God. They feel some special sense of mission to set the Church straight and spend their days striving to "steady the ark." They tend to run before their file leaders and are impatient with the direction of the restored gospel. They may even propose adjustments in the plan of God. Unless they repent, they, and all who attend to their messages will be cut off from the people of the covenant.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20 Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them.
verses 15-20 We may judge a prophet by what comes of the work he sets in motion.
21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them: I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
verses 21-23 There is something left out of these verses. They suggest that good works alone will not be sufficient to qualify an individual for entrance into the Lord's kingdom. How is it that the Lord has not known them ("I never knew you" in verse 23)? Surely he knows everyone, and it cannot be that he is unaware of these people. There must be some other sense in which he does not know them. John W. Welch has provided a possible explanation: "The Hebrew word 'know' (yada) has a broad range of meanings. One of them is covenantal. [Speaking to Israel the Lord, through the prophet Amos, said] 'You only have I known of all the families on earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities' (Amos 3:3). . . . Yahweh had recognized only Israel as his legitimate servants; only to them had he granted the covenant" (Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple & Sermon on the Mount, [Copublished by FARMS: Provo, Utah and Deseret Book: Salt Lake City, Utah], 95-96). Certainly the Lord is aware of every being upon the earth, but he covenants with or "knows," in the special sense of these two verses, only those who do good works in his name who do so by the Spirit of God. Obviously the people referred to in these two verses fall short of that mark.
24 Therefore, whoso heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock-
verse 24 The "rock" is the rock of revelation (TPJS, 274). Revelation must be modern, it must be current, it must be ongoing. An individual or a people who have access to and respond to this type of revelation are without question safe and secure regardless of the adversities that beset them.
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock.
26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them not shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand-
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it.
verse 27 This verse completes the Savior's sermon at the temple. The Matthew account adds an additional comment-that Jesus's hearers in Palestine were "astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as [one] having authority, and not as the scribes" (Matthew 7:28-29). At first glance it would appear that this statement establishing Jesus's authority is missing from the Nephite account. However, the first ten verses of 3 Nephi 15, have a prominent "authority theme" and clearly establish his identity and authority in a way much more compelling than this two-verse statement in Matthew. In 3 Nephi 15:1-10 Jesus will affirm that the instruction he had just given them contained "the things which I taught [in the Holy Land] before I ascended to my Father." He will then explain: "I am he who gave the law" to Moses, and "the law in me is fulfilled." He will further establish his identity, and thus his authority, by saying that he, Jesus, was the God who covenanted with Israel. He will further attest to his authority by saying, "I am the law, and the light. Look unto me . . . and ye shall live," and he will promise that unto those who obey him to the end, he will "give eternal life." Finally, he will aver, "I have given unto you the commandments; therefore keep my commandments. And this is the law and the prophets, for they truly testified of me."