Luminous against the night sky, temples of the Lord typically are visible from far away. Majestic in design, with spires pointing heavenward, the sacred structures call to mind the solemnity of covenants made therein that, when honored, lead one back to the presence of God.
Even to unbelievers, temples symbolize the Latter-day Saint commitment to righteousness and purity. A beautifully illuminated temple at night is a reminder of the Lord's words to His disciples during the Sermon on the Mount:"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
"Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 5:14-16; see also 3 Ne. 12:14-16.)
The metaphor of a city - or for that matter, a lighted temple - on a hill clearly illustrates the influence the Master intends His followers to have among the people of the world. To shed forth that degree of influence, one must be a pure disciple whose light is undimmed by sin or selfishness.
Disciple is a term that denotes pupil or learner, an adherent to the principles and doctrine espoused by a teacher. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ, as He taught, is no trivial matter.
Christ unequivocally declared the cost of discipleship when He said, "Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:33.)
In other words, to be His disciple requires absolute, unrestrained devotion to His teachings and a sacrifice of all that is necessary to maintain such commitment.
Many have regarded the cost as too great, even some who walked and talked with the Master during His mortal ministry. (See John 6:66.) But ultimately, those who qualify as disciples comprehend His words, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt. 11:30). They obtain "rest unto
theirT souls" (verse 29) which, when contrasted with the turmoil, confusion and guilt attending a worldly existence, is easy and light indeed.
Addressing the multitude during His sermon on the Mount of Olives - and later the descendants of Lehi in the Western Hemisphere - the Savior gave what students of the scriptures revere as the Beatitudes, several declarations of blessedness pertaining to fundamental qualities of spirituality.
Augmented by and correlated with other scriptural passages, the Beatitudes could constitute a primer for a basic course in the study and practice of pure discipleship. The Savior's discourse, recorded in Matt. 5 and presented more accurately and lucidly in 3 Ne. 12, teaches the following principles:
- A disciple is poor in spirit (see verse 3). He is like the Nephites who, after hearing King Benjamin's address, "had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth" (Mosiah 4:2) and having an absolute reliance upon the saving grace and power of the Redeemer. Having put away worldly pride, the disciple has come unto Christ, presenting as a sacrifice "a broken heart and a contrite spirit." (Psalm 51:17; 3 Ne. 9:20.) He is determined to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling (see Phil. 2:12), at the same time "relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save." (2 Ne. 31:19.) Whether embracing the gospel for the first time or returning to the fold after a season of prodigality, the disciple does all in his power to repent and do the will of the Lord, knowing that in the end, the Savior's atonement will make up any deficiency.
- A disciple is patient and faithful in the midst of tribulation (see verse 4), taking comfort from the Lord's assurance to the Prophet Joseph Smith unjustly imprisoned in Liberty Jail: "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes." (D&C 121:7-8.)
The disciple understands the Lord's teaching: "My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them." (D&C 136:31.) He follows the example of Job who, though burdened with intense adversity, refused to sin or charge God foolishly (see Job 1:22), but rather, testified: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. He also shall be my salvation. . . . For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." (Job 13:15-16; 19:25-26.)
- A disciple is meek (see verse 5), subjecting his own desires and appetites to the will of the Father and recognizing that God's plan is designed to bring about his and others' eternal joy.
A disciple subordinates worldly inclinations, pleasures and pursuits to serving God. Like Paul, he counts "all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus." (Phil. 3:8.)
He is committed to doing everything the Lord's way, knowing that "to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry." (1 Sam. 15:22-23.)
- A disciple hungers and thirsts after righteousness (see verse 6). He seeks and attains that condition of spiritual rebirth exemplified by King Benjamin's subjects. After they received the king's words, they - because the Spirit of the Lord wrought such a mighty change on them - had "no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually." (Mosiah 5:2.)
Such a disciple is endowed with spiritual gifts that are expedient to enable him to accomplish all things the Lord commands him to do. (See Mosiah 5:3; 1 Ne. 3:7; Mormon 9:24; 1 Cor. 12:4-11; Moro. 10:8-18.)
- A disciple is merciful (see verse 7), constantly seeking opportunity to serve others, ever aware of the Lord's instruction, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matt. 25:40.) His behavior is consistent with King Benjamin's counsel, "When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." (Mosiah 2:17.)
A disciple does not judge others "according to the appearance," but rather, judges "righteous judgment." (John 7:24; see also Joseph Smith Translation, Matt. 7:1-2.) The disciple strives to use the Lord's standard of measurement. "For the Lord seeth not as a man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." (1 Sam. 16:7.)
In mercy, the disciple is apt to render godly service to those whom others may regard as undeserving of it. (See Mosiah 4:17-22.)
And a disciple freely forgives everyone, knowing that he himself stands in need of forgiveness and mercy. (See D&C 64:10; Matt. 6:14-15.)
- A disciple is pure in heart (see verse 8), purging from his soul all ungodliness and evil influence. Yielding to the "enticings of the Holy Spirit," the disciple "putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint." (Mosiah 3:19.) To preserve purity of heart, he enters into sacred covenants through baptism and temple ordinances and strives to honor them. He renews his covenants weekly by partaking worthily of the sacrament.
Living in the world, he escapes the taint and peril of wickedness by standing in holy places, where the Lord promised that His disciples would find refuge from the scourges and desperation of the last days. (See D&C 45:32.) A disciple keeps himself unspotted from the world by going to the house of prayer and offering up his sacraments on the Lord's day. (See D&C 59:9.) In all things he seeks to glorify God, an endeavor that supplants any inclination toward personal aggrandizement or vanity.
When found worthy, he goes to the House of the Lord to receive eternal blessings and returns often to receive ordinances of salvation on behalf of the dead. (See D&C 124:29-30, 39-41.)
- A disciple is a peacemaker (see verse 9), assisting in the great work to bring the gospel of peace to every nation, kindred, tongue and people. (See Matt. 24:14; Rom. 10:15; D&C 133:37.) In so doing, he functions under priesthood authority and under the direction of prophets and apostles, of whom the Lord said, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" (Isa. 52:7.)
A disciple brings peace to the lives of others by helping them understand and apply the principles of the gospel. (See D&C 59:23.)
Proclaiming the gospel of peace to the earth's inhabitants, and bearing testimony of it, a disciple seeks to "turn the hearts of the children to their fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to the children" (D&C 98:16), fostering solid family relationships and instilling a desire in the faithful to identify and redeem their kindred dead through temple ordinances and covenants.
- A disciple is a courageous defender of truth and righteousness, even in the midst of persecution. (See verses 10-12.) Like Paul, he is "not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." (Rom. 1:16.)
Using boldness but not overbearance, and bridling his passions that he may be filled with love (see Alma 38:12), a disciple by precept and example teaches principles of righteousness and proclaims the everlasting gospel. If he must endure persecution, he counts it a privilege, remembering that prophets in all ages - and the Savior Himself - have suffered for the sake of the truth. (See D&C 122:5-9.)
Daunting though it may seem, the course of discipleship is attainable to any who seek first the Kingdom of God, relying on the Holy Ghost for strength and guidance. On the threshold of the new year, when many people are inclined toward resolution and spiritual refinement, the Church News asked guest writers to provide character sketches of people they have known in ordinary circumstances who exhibit the qualities of discipleship as implied in the beatitudes. These exemplary disciples are profiled on pages 6, 7, 10 and 11.