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John 13–17 records the celebration of the Passover that Jesus observed with His apostles in the last days of His mortal ministry. The following important topics are discussed in these chapters: (1) Christ’s powerful final discourse, (2) details about the Last Supper and Jesus’ washing the apostles’ feet, (3) Jesus’ great Intercessory Prayer, (4) Jesus’ discussion of how He and the Father are one, and (5) Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Ghost to comfort His disciples after His mortal ministry was concluded. Some of the most memorable teachings of the four New Testament gospels are also contained in these chapters, such as:
- “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34–35).
- “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1–3).
- “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).
- “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
- “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me” (John 15:26).
- “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
- “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:21).
Many teachings from these chapters are especially pertinent to Latter-day Saint faith and practice. Additional Latter-day Saint scripture and doctrine can shed light on three specific teachings from these New Testament chapters to help readers draw closer to Jesus Christ.
1. Temple teachings about entering God’s presence
Besides the institution of the Last Supper, which Latter-day Saints commemorate in weekly sacrament meetings, Jesus’ teachings in these chapters echo themes and doctrines taught in the ancient temple of Israel and modern temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the globe. As Latter-day Saint scholar William Hamblin has written, “John 17 contains a richly symbolic Last Discourse by Jesus, in which the disciples are assured a place in the Father’s celestial house or temple. To fulfill this promise Christ reveals both the Father’s name and his glory to his disciples. Jesus’s discourse concludes with the promise of sanctification of the disciples, and their unification—or deification—with Christ and the Father.” These ideas, Hamblin noted, reflect “the temple theology of the Bible and contemporary first-century Judaism” and resonate with modern Latter-day Saints as they engage in temple worship.1
2. The importance of commandments as taught in the Book of Mormon
The teachings contained in John 13–17 likewise harmonize well with many Book of Mormon passages. For example, one thing that Jesus emphasized in these chapters was the importance of keeping God’s commandments. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). But what does it mean to blessed for keeping God’s commandments? The Book of Mormon powerfully answers this question by framing it in the larger context of the gospel of Christ and the Plan of Salvation.2
3 The relationship between Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father as two separate beings
And what about the important question of Christ’s relationship to His Father and the nature of these two members of the Godhead? “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are,” Jesus prayed (John 17:11). But what does it mean for Christ and the Father to be one, especially in light of Christ’s invitation for His disciples to become one even as He and His Father are one (vv. 21–23)? Again, the Book of Mormon provides insight into this question by recording the teachings of inspired prophets who addressed precisely this question.3
As with other biblical scripture, Latter-day Saints can benefit from reading John 13–17 both on its own and also by paying close attention to Jesus’ language and imagery and in the larger context of Restoration scripture and modern revelation. With these additional interpretive tools, readers can apply John 13–17 in a way that deepens their faith and enriches their worship experience.
1.William J. Hamblin, “‘I Have Revealed Your Name’: The Hidden Temple in John 17,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 1 (2012): 61–89.
2.See Book of Mormon Central, “What Does it Really Mean to be Blessed For Keeping the Commandments? (Mosiah 2:41),” KnoWhy 367 (September 26, 2017).
3.See Book of Mormon Central, “How is Christ Both the Father and the Son? (Mosiah 15:2),” KnoWhy 92 (May 4, 2016); “Why Is 3 Nephi Important for Understanding the Godhead? (3 Nephi 19:23),” KnoWhy 213 (October 20, 2016).