Sitting on a mountainside in Galilee, Jesus gave His disciples a set of teachings that would eventually be called the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5:1–2). The Lord delivered this discourse to His disciples who were about to be sent forth on missions. The sermon took place, chronologically, soon after the calling of the Twelve.
In the first part of the sermon, Jesus promised special blessings to people who live in certain ways. These became known as the Beatitudes, such as:
- “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
- “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”
- “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.”
Salt of the earth and light of the world
In the next part of the sermon, the Saviors described His disciples as “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” He then admonished them to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (see Matt 5:16)
A higher law
Next, Jesus explains that He has not come to destroy the law of Moses, but rather, to fulfill it. Then the Savior goes on to explain that there is a higher law than the law of Moses.
- “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou ashalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” (see Matt 5:21-22)
- And “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (see Matt 5:27-28)
- And “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy bneighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (see Matt 5:43-44)
Be ye therefore perfect
Jesus concludes the fifth chapter of Matthew with this injunction: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” This commandment can seem daunting because, as they say, nobody is perfect. Not yet anyway. Russell M. Nelson explained it this way:
“Our understanding of perfection might be aided if we classify it into two categories. The first could pertain uniquely to this life—mortal perfection. The second category could pertain uniquely to the next life—immortal or eternal perfection…Mortal perfection can be achieved as we try to perform every duty, keep every law, and strive to be as perfect in our sphere as our Heavenly Father is in his. If we do the best we can, the Lord will bless us according to our deeds and the desires of our hearts.”
“But Jesus asked for more than mortal perfection. The moment he uttered the words “even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” he raised our sights beyond the bounds of mortality…Just prior to his crucifixion, he said that on “the third day I shall be perfected.” Think of that! The sinless, errorless Lord—already perfect by our mortal standards—proclaimed his own state of perfection yet to be in the future. His eternal perfection would follow his resurrection.”
“…We need not be dismayed if our earnest efforts toward perfection now seem so arduous and endless. Perfection is pending. It can come in full only after the Resurrection and only through the Lord. It awaits all who love him and keep his commandments.”
The next part of the Sermon on the Mount deals largely with prayer. Jesus implores us to not pray to be seen of men, but to retire to the privacy of your home and pray in secret. And, He promises, “thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” (see Matt 6:6) Jesus also teaches the disciples “when ye pray, use not vain repetitions…After this manner therefore pray ye.” Then Christ goes on to give the Lord’s Prayer, as an example of how to pray.
Telling His disciples how to obtain blessings from heaven, Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find” (Matthew 7:7).
Treasures in Heaven and Trust in God
Next, the Savior talks about treasures, meaning the things we value. He says, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth…But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” In other words, we should treasure, or value, most the things of God which are eternal, and not the earthly treasures that you can’t take with you to Heaven. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (see Matt 6:21)
Instead, the Lords encourages us to trust in God, and that He will provide for our temporal and physical needs. And if we do that, and use our energies to further God’s work, then we will also have a place in the Kingdom of God with all the blessings that come with it. “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink…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.” (see Matt 6:21)
Then comes the Savior’s injunction to not judge others. “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.” (see Matt 7:1-2)
The Golden Rule
The comes the famous golden rule. The Savior says: “all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” (see Matt 7: 12)
The Straight and Narrow
The Lord next compares the way to gain eternal life in Heaven is to follow a strait and narrow path of obedience to His commandments. Savior encourages us to enter the straight gate for “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life” (meaning eternal life).
Jesus also warns of false prophets who will lie and deceive and try to lure you away from the strait and narrow path. But he gives a clue as to how to distinguish false prophets from true ones. He says “by their fruits ye shall know them.” (see Matt 7: 20)
Doing: The wise man built his house upon a rock
Finally, Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount with an injunction to do all these things, because professing your belief verbally, without action, is not sufficient to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. “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.” (see Matt 7: 21)
Jesus then compares those who obey Him to a wise man who built his house on a rock. When the rains, floods, and winds came, the house did not fall, because it was built on a solid foundation. (See Matthew 7:24–25.) He then compares those who do not obey Him to a foolish man who built his house upon sand. When the rains, floods, and winds came, the house fell. (See Matthew 7:26–27.) Building your house upon a rock is a metaphor for building your life on the teaching of Jesus Christ.
After Jesus ended teaching His Sermon on the Mount, the people were astonished because He taught them with the authority and power of God (see Matthew 7:28–29).
- Perfection Pending by Russell M. Nelson
- An article on The Sermon on the Mount by Professor David H. Yarn, Jr. of Brigham Young University
- Prophetic Enlightenment on the Sermon on the Mount by W. Jeffrey Marsh