Evidence #30 | September 19, 2020

Sermon at the Temple

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Scripture Central


The language of Christ’s Sermon at the Temple seems to have been intentionally echoed throughout the rest of 3 Nephi.

“The memorable and impressive words of the Sermon on the Mount,” wrote John W. Welch, “reverberate throughout corridors and chambers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”1 Welch explained that “quotations were drawn from the sermon, from its beginning to its end, often in sacred or covenantal contexts.”2 Such quotations have been identified in the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, Peter, James, and Paul.3 

Sermon on the Mount, by Carl Bloch. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Interestingly, a similar intertextual phenomenon takes place in the Book of Mormon. After Christ delivered his Sermon at the Temple (which closely aligns with the Sermon on the Mount), language from that sermon shows up throughout the rest of 3 Nephi and in other writings from Mormon and Moroni.4 It appears that these subsequent quotations or allusions to the Sermon at the Temple were not given at random, but instead were carefully crafted as a way to shed light on the Sermon itself.5

For example, in 3 Nephi 16, Christ taught, “Blessed are the Gentiles, because of their belief” but warned, “wo, saith the Father, unto the unbelieving Gentiles” (3 Nephi 16:6, 8). He then stated that “if the Gentiles will repent and return [unto the Father], they shall be numbered among [the people of the house of Israel],” who shall not be allowed to “tread” the Gentiles down (vv. 13–14). However, if the Gentiles reject the covenant, the house of Israel “shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel” (v. 15).6

Christ Asks for the Records, by Robert T. Barrett. Image via ChurchofJesusChrist.org.

This discussion about the Gentiles assumes an awareness of 3 Nephi 12:13. There, Jesus told the Nephites that if they did not live up to their role as the salt of the earth, they would be “trodden under foot by men.” However, in 3 Nephi 16, Jesus applied this condemnation to the Gentiles.7 In this way, Jesus helped explain what it would mean for the “salt to lose its savor.” He stated that when the Gentiles “reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations ... and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations,” that is when they would be “trodden under foot.” (3 Nephi 16:10, 15).

It appears that the repetition of words from 3 Nephi 12–14 is not haphazard or coincidental. Indeed, 3 Nephi systematically repeats material from the Sermon at the Temple, but in reverse order:

A If the salt shall lose its savor (12:13)

     Be the light unto men (12:14–16)

          Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets (12:16–17)

               In me it hath all been fulfilled (12:18).

               D The law is fulfilled (15:4–6, 8)

          C I do not destroy the prophets (15:6–7); keep the law and the prophets (15:9–10)

     B Ye are a light unto this remnant (15:12), as I fulfill my covenant (15:13–16:14)

A Those who will not turn to Christ will be as salt that has lost its savor (16:15).8

According to an ancient literary practice called Seidel’s Law, a practice related to chiasmus, elements in ancient texts were often repeated in reverse order as a way of demonstrating that the author was quoting from something else.9 This is a textbook example of that style, strongly suggesting that these chapters in 3 Nephi consciously use and explain the Sermon at the Temple.

The same is true two chapters later, at the end of 3 Nephi 18:

A No disputations (11:28), blessed are ye (12:1)

     B Let your light so shine (12:16)

          C Ask, and it shall be given (14:7)

               D Built upon a rock (14:24), not upon the sand (14:26)

               D Built upon my rock (18:12), not upon a sandy foundation (18:13)

          C Ask … it shall be given (18:20)

     B Hold up your light that it may shine (18:24)

A Blessed are ye, no disputations (18:34).10


In these and various other ways, Welch has shown that the “pieces of the sermon continue to appear in the subsequent chapters of 3 Nephi” and that “these derivatives are used intelligently and not as random fractals or broken sherds.”11 Welch concluded, “This magisterial sermon was not simply dropped into the book of 3 Nephi, either in whole or in subsequent parts, by a weary, unimaginative writer or translator, as some detractors have suggested.”12 Instead, this sacred sermon seems to have been “understood and utilized from the very outset as an authoritative body of instructions that were intended to be used not merely as ethical or moral encouragement but as guides to religious practices and in the making and keeping of sacred covenants.”13

Book of Mormon Central, “Why is the Sermon at the Temple Echoed throughout the Rest of 3 Nephi? (3 Nephi 16:6),” KnoWhy 208 (October 13, 2016).

John W. Welch, “Echoes from the Sermon on the Mount,” in The Sermon on the Mount in Latter-day Scripture, ed. Gaye Strathearn, Thomas A. Wayment, and Daniel L. Belnap (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2010), 314–315; reprinted as “Reusages of the Words of Christ,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies and Other Restoration Scripture, 22 no. 1 (2013):  63–71.

John W. Welch, Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple & the Sermon on the Mount (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1999).

3 Nephi 12–28

3 Nephi 12–28

Intertextuality (Internal)
Sermon at the Temple
Book of Mormon

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