In chapter 12 of 3rd Nephi, Jesus teaches the Nephites the Gospel Law, in its re-newed fulness. Prior to this, they’d lived under the Mosaic Law, with its strict rules, designed to lead a people unprepared for communion with God to a more perfect understanding and faith. The Nephites had lived that law in an enlightened way, because Nephi understood its purpose and taught it to them, and he saw the coming of Christ in fulfilment of it – the One to which it pointed. Now, with a relatively righteous group who were ready to start anew, Christ established among them the higher and more complete ‘law of life’.
First, Jesus told them to be examples to the world – lights reflecting His light; a force for good, to bring better conditions – a good contagion. He reminded them of their calling, as Israelites, to save the world – to bring the blessings of His Gospel to as many as would accept them. In this way, they were to overcome evil and bring better conditions to all.
He teaches the Nephites how to live the Gospel Law, demonstrating its differences from the Mosaic Law. You can also see how it fulfils the old laws – not to ‘destroy it’, but take its precepts and enlarge them into their full, original form – when you read the expanded accounts of the Law in the Old Testament. For each more-complete precept of the ‘new’ law, Jesus gives examples of its application – but not exhaustively, as He had for the Mosaic Law. The greater principle being taught, His followers needed to apply it for themselves – not be ‘commanded in all things’. They were graduating from school and becoming adults who could make more of their own choices, based on what they’d learnt.
It’s interesting to see how research supports the principles Jesus taught here – not because that’s what the research is trying to do, though. Books like Adam Grant’s Give & Take demonstrate how ‘givers’ make the world go ’round, and ‘takers’ stop it; givers also tend to earn more rewards over time. Returning a ‘soft answer’ to someone’s wrath or unkindness ensures that it doesn’t infect you, and research, again, shows that it’s the best way to lead to a good result. From a book I’m reading about communication:
What happens when people don’t cooperate, and how does the brain respond when somebody treats us unfairly or takes advantage of our generosity? We react with … “altruistic punishment”…. The human brain is designed to initiate punishment whenever someone violates a social contract or behaves in a way we consider to be socially irresponsable.
But there is a problem: violators don’t appreciate being punished, and they are often unaware that they have violated the other person’s trust. If you reprimand them, they’ll feel resentful, the possibility of cooperation will deteriorate, and you’ll run the risk of retaliation. But if you don’t say anything, the unfair behaviour continues. In fact, if your voice shows even the slightest amount of disdain or sarcasm, it will be interpreted by the other person as an act of hostility….
In personal relationships, punishment – whether in the form of anger, criticism, or judgement – rarely works. But… if we don’t get what we want… the brain’s anger centre gets stimulated. If we’re in a rush and someone in front of us is driving slowly, we get irritated because our selfish desires are thwarted.
The best solution to the cycle that we know of is to interrupt the negativity by generating a thought that expresses compassion for yourself, the situation, and the other people involved. The research is robust: if we deliberately send a kind thought to the person we perceive as having violated our personal space, we psychologically increase our sense of social connectedness and strengthen the neurological circuits of empathy and cooperation.Words Can Change Your Brain, Newberg & Waldman, 2012, p. 85
And on a slightly different point:
Research at Cornell University’s Department of Neurobiology and Behaviour found that there is something else you can do to improve your chances of forming stronger cooperative relationships with others… : be more generous. Generosity sends a specific message to other people’s braings, telling them that you intend no harm. If a disagreement is being aired, it de-escalates the potential of an angry rebuttal and opens the door to reengage in a cooperative conversation.
In other words, being kind to those who are unkind to you will soften their hearts and soothe their angry brains. So the next time someone zooms up behind you, give them the right of way. By pulling over and letting them speed by, you have shown a little bit of respect. And perhaps one day they will return the favour to someone else.
The same thing applies to conflicts at work. If you show your unkind boss a little extra compassion, your financial security will remain intact. Kindness builds cooperation, and cooperation builds a better brain.as above, p. 86
How excellent is that?! I love learning these kinds of things, which bear out what I’ve learnt through the Gospel all my life. These examples show how the principles taught here by the Saviour are eternally true, however counter-intuitive they might appear to be on the surface.
Having given this introduction to the Gospel Law, Jesus says:
Old things are done away, and all things have become new.
Therefore I would that ye should be perfect, even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.3 Nephi 12:47-8
There’s been lots said about this; here’s a little addition from me. Consider the phrase Jesus uses: Therefore I would that ye should… We could interpret this to mean that He commands it. I read it today as meaning that the Saviour desires that we become perfect. Not so different, you say? Maybe not. But it made me think of what follows a little differently.