In 3 Nephi 13, Jesus outlines five disciplines that characterize His disciples. The “disciple” is “one who follows another for the purpose of learning from him,” and the “discipline” is “the instruction imparted to disciples“, and is thus antithetical to “doctrine”, which pertains to the doctor. The latter being more concerned with abstract theory, while the former with practice or exercise.
He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be…
“Where I am, there shall also my servant be…” — well where was Jesus to be found? He was found doing alms, praying, forgiving, fasting, and denying Himself to seek after the kingdom of God.
Verily, verily, I say that I would that ye should do alms unto the poor; but take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father who is in heaven.
Therefore, when ye shall do your alms do not sound a trumpet before you, as will hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.
But when thou doest alms let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth; That thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father who seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly.
In Matthew 6, the Greek for the word “alms” is eleēmosynē, which signifies mercy or pity. Thus, to “do alms unto the poor” means to do acts of mercy or acts that show mercy towards the poor. It is often equated with giving money, though it is more than that. King Benjamin defined “substance” as:
for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind
and thus, doing alms is something more than the giving of money:
I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.
Doing alms is about getting in there, getting your hands dirty, going through the dirt with someone – to feed, clothe, visit, and administer to them. Legal tender doesn’t do these things. Only people can. This is doing alms.
Doing these acts openly is itself the reward, and nothing else will follow. When alms are done anonymously, secretly, or without regard for being seen by others to be doing them – then heavenly Father will render reward for them.
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me…
…Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
The quickest way for an LDS to practice this discipline would be to stop filling out a donation form when they turn in their tithes/offerings in the envelope to the bishopric. Those alms are not done in secret because a record is kept and is filed with the State. It can also be done by connecting with other Christian ministry groups who do alms in the community [food shelters, prison ministry, protesting abortion clinics, etc.], as well as moving on some personal issue that moves your heart.
And when thou prayest thou shalt not do as the hypocrites, for they love to pray, standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret; and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen, for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them, for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him.
After this manner therefore pray ye:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
There is a common element between doing alms and praying – that of secrecy. In both cases, that which is done openly to be seen of others carries with it its own reward, while that which is done in secret and seen by no one will be rewarded by our Father in heaven.
A hypokritēs is a stage-actor. In the ancient Greek dramas, the hypocrite wore his mask [a "person"] and acted out his role, saying the right lines to portray the part. Hypocrites are playing the part of a pray-er, aren’t saying a prayer at all.
A vain repetition is something that is said so often that it loses any meaning. However, not all repetition is vain:
And [Jesus] spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying,
There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.
And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
A repetition is vain when the right-brain-heart is not broken/softened and the asker is unrighteous. The prayer is vain because it will profit the pray-er nothing:
For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.
Unless one’s heart has been broken by the guilt of their own guilt before God, all prayer is a vain repetition. Meaning, if this event has not taken place, the only prayer that is not vain is a prayer for a broken heart and a contrite spirit. This is because a person with a hard heart:
doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.
For, if ye forgive men their trespasses your heavenly Father will also forgive you; But if ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
The principle by which the atonement forgives sin is:
Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
Meaning that sin is not forgiven/punishment withheld because God effectively beat it out of Jesus on the cross or in Gethsemane. Justice is not satisfied by punishing innocents.
will our law, which is just, take the life of his brother? I say unto you, Nay.
The gospel [good news] is that Jesus can satisfy just accusers [those judging and condemning sin] and put an end to their demands. He removes all accusers:
where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
The visual imagery of Jesus being:
filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice;
is that for an accuser to obtain [or “get to”] justice, they’ll first have to get through Jesus – who is standing there to present His suffering as evidence on a sinner’s behalf so justice will stop making its demands long enough for an appeal for compassion to be made by Christ. His suffering was so great — not because that’s how much it takes for God to be happy with the sinners — but because the evidence had to be sufficiently moving to the entire created universe so accusers would stop making their just demands and drop all charges. And where there is no condemnation [no demands of justice], there is no punishment.
Hell will be full of judgers, condemners, and withholders of forgiveness. The kingdom of God will be full of those willing to forgo judgment, to withhold condemnation, and to forgive others.
Moreover, when ye fast be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance, for they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.
But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face;That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father, who is in secret; and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
Jesus said, “when ye fast,” not “if ye fast,” or “ye should fast.” It was assumed that His audience was a people who fast. Again, as was the case with doing alms and praying, fasting is a discipline to be done in secret. When done openly, fasting carries with it its own reward, but when done so that only the Father in heaven knows it is happening, He will be the one to reward.
Fasting is a part of the teaching of Jesus that:
Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Denying the “self” or the “ego” includes going without the food and water the body needs. It’s saying to the self, “I know there is food within reach, but we’re not doing that right now. We’re focusing on something more important. You’ll get your food soon enough.”
Though fasting, in this context, refers to not consuming food or drink for some extended period of time [as a part of the denial of self] it can include Lenten fasts of a certain vice or favorite activity, Ramadan-esque fasts that are only during sunlight hours, or a myriad of others ways the “self” can be denied.
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal; But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
The light of the body is the eye; if, therefore, thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If, therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.
And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he looked upon the twelve whom he had chosen, and said unto them: Remember the words which I have spoken. For behold, ye are they whom I have chosen to minister unto this people. Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these.
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, even so will he clothe you, if ye are not of little faith.
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.
Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof.
Jesus lists three things we ought to “take no thought for”:
- Your life [what ye shall eat and what ye shall drink]
- You body [what ye shall put on]
- The morrow
As an example of what He means, Jesus teaches that:
- Fowls of the air do not sow, reap, or gather into barns – yet are feed by Father in heaven.
- Lilies of the field do not toil or spin – yet are clothed beautifully as they are.
- Today has enough to devote ourselves to without being anxious for the next day.
The time and energy that taking no thought for food, clothing, and the morrow frees up should then be devoted to the building up of the kingdom of God. Many reverse the order of “seek ye first…and all these things shall be added…” – thinking that they will work to amass a nice nest-egg/surplus and then really be able to get to work serving in the kingdom of God. Thinking that they shall obtain riches if they seek them with the intent to do good, but still forgetting that seeking the kingdom of God always comes before there are any riches:
Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.
But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good — to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.
Anyone can rationalize all they want about how they pay tithing and a generous fast offering and are thus giving enough – so they will save the rest for themselves in the future, but the principle given in the scriptures is one of surplus [meaning anything that is above and beyond what you need to survive]. If you pay a full tithing and a generous fast offering, but still retain one penny of surplus, then you are coveting the drop and will be damned.
Under gospel law, riches [surplus] are never intended to be used by the wealthy [those with the surplus]. It is the intention that riches [surplus] be used by the needy [those who are less than poor, lacking sufficient for their needs] – so that both parties [the rich and the needy] become poor [have sufficient for their needs]. Any attempt to utilize surplus for the benefit of the rich or poor is wickedness.
When Jesus said:
ye have the poor always with you
this was to be the case in Zion, where all are continuously giving of their surplus [thus are scripturally "poor"] and it is only this type of poor [the givers of surplus and those who desire to give of surplus] that are the meek who will inherit the earth.
If the Lord does “prosper the righteous” [by placing wealth into their possession by some miraculous means], it is only because He entrusts that person to distribute the wealth as He would see fit [meaning he/she gives it to the needy, thereby becoming poor again]. If an entire community practices this [and thus there are no needy among them], then a different law for handling a surplus would be required.
There is a reason why Jesus sent out traveling priesthood missionaries without purse [money] or scrip [food], instead relying on the mercies of the world to provide for their needs. It’s because only the poor are intended to teach and preach the gospel, in order to prove [test or try] the world. Instead, we have turned things upside-down by calling wealthy men to the positions of leadership. The priesthood becoming an honor of men, as can only be expected.
Thus there are five disciplines that characterize disciples of Christ:
- Doing alms in such a way as to not be seen/recognized as doing them
- Praying in secret, real prayer — not babbling to the sky
- Judging not, condemning not, and forgiving
- Fasting in such a way as to not be seen/recognized as denying the self
- Living simplistically — taking no thought for storing up a surplus, or for getting food, drink, or clothing, or being anxious about the morrow
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