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Commandments

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Commandments are the laws and requirements that God gives to mankind, either individually or collectively.

Why Does God Give Us Commandments?

God gives commandments for our benefit. They are loving instructions for happiness and for physical and spiritual well-being. Many people feel that the commandments are burdensome and that they limit freedom and personal growth. But the Savior taught that true freedom comes only from following Him: "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31–32). [1]

The Importance of Obedience

Obedience and sacrifice are basic requirements of the Lord's gospel plan, the very foundation of religion. It is disobedience that we are required to lay upon the altar. We sacrifice our attachment to our sins and to the world in order to follow Him.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that obedience to the commandments leads to blessings from God. He said: "There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated" (Doctrine and Covenants 130:20–21). King Benjamin also taught this principle, as recorded in the Book of Mormon. "I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God," he counseled. "For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it" (Mosiah 2:41).
Obedience to the commandments is an expression of our love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. The Savior said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). He later declared: "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love" (John 15:10). [2]

When we love the Lord, obedience ceases to be a burden. Obedience becomes a delight. When we love the Lord, we seek less for things that benefit us and turn our hearts toward things that will bless and uplift others. [3]

Whenever God’s children act contrary to His law, divine consistency and order are interrupted with disobedience and destruction. The Lord’s system works. Adherence to His laws and commandments will always bring about His promised blessings. [4]

The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments are eternal gospel principles that are necessary for our exaltation. The Lord revealed them to Moses in ancient times (see Exodus 20:1–17), and they are also referenced in whole or in part in other books of scripture (see Matthew 19:18–19; Romans 13:9; Mosiah 12:33–36; 13:13–24; Doctrine and Covenants 42:18–29; 59:5–13; 63:61–62). The Ten Commandments are a vital part of the gospel. Obedience to these commandments paves the way for obedience to other gospel principles. [5]

In these, the Last Days, the Lord dictated a summary of basic commandments to Joseph Smith, later recorded as the 59th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. The Lord commanded:

“Wherefore, I give unto them a commandment, saying thus: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him.
“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Thou shalt not steal; neither commit adultery, nor kill, nor do anything like unto it. [6]


“Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.
“Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
“And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;
“For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High;
“Nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times;
“But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.
“And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:5–13).

The Law of Moses

The Law of Moses, or carnal commandments, were designed to keep a forgetful people ever mindful of God's will. The Law reaches into every aspect of life, even into the kitchen and the bedroom, so that every mundane act entered into by the believer is dedicated to the Lord. The Law details methods by which to live the "Great Commandment" to love the Lord and to love His children. Thus, the Mosaic Law is a law of obedience, sacrifice, discipleship, and ethics.

The "Great Commandment"

On one occasion the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus by asking Him a seemingly impossible question: “Master,” they asked, “which is the great commandment in the law?”

He replied: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
“This is the first and great commandment.
“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37–40).

Since that day, this inspired pronouncement has been repeated through many generations. Now, for us, the measure of our love is the measure of the greatness of our souls. [7]

Love is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the pathway of discipleship. It comforts, counsels, cures, and consoles. It leads us through valleys of darkness and through the veil of death. In the end love leads us to the glory and grandeur of eternal life.

The Higher Law

Some erroneously believe that Jesus Christ tossed aside the Mosaic Law, a law of vengeance, and replace it with a law of love. Latter-day Saints know that Jesus existed before the earth was, and that He was the creator of heaven and earth. He is known in the Old Testament as Jehovah, signified as LORD to keep from uttering His holy name. It was He who gave the law to Moses. That law testified of the Savior to come. When He came, Jesus fulfilled the Law of Moses, as a type of Himself.

The "higher law" is this:

  1. A fulness of the priesthood, the higher priesthood (Melchizedek Priesthood) as well as the ancillary priesthood (Aaronic Priesthood), with the authority to bind on earth and in heaven and the keys to healing ordinances, eternal marriage, and exaltation.
  2. More responsibility for the believer to have the Lord's commandments "written on his heart." Thus, the believer is expected to exercise more volition in doing the Lord's will.
  3. With more volition on the part of the individual believer comes the constant gift of the Holy Ghost and access to personal revelation in order that the person may serve and progress, while following God's will.
  4. Spiritual rebirth—a process of becoming a new person, desiring to do only good continually.

Commandments Given through Latter-day Prophets

The Lord has always attempted to guide His children through direct revelation to His prophets. Sometimes men have disallowed this, not only by refusing to listen, but also by reviling and murdering the messengers of God. God has commandments for His children of every generation, and sometimes they are specific to the cultural environment and peculiar temptations of the day. A good example is found in Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the "Word of Wisdom," which comprises the health law of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Lord himself gives the reasons for the commandment in His introduction, "Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation—" (Doctrine and Covenants 89:4). The ensuing verses were given by way of counsel and later made commandments through modern prophets. At the time, the real dangers of smoking and alcohol consumption were unknown. The Lord commanded against their use, while conspiring men have continued to assert their safety and promote their consumption.

Personal Commandments

Many are the commandments contained in the Bible. Observant Jews follow 613 of them. Mormons often feel they have double that amount. But as the believer learns to obey the promptings of the Holy Ghost, he finds that the Lord will reveal even more commandments meant for him personally. An example from the Book of Mormon is Nephi. He had just escaped with his family into the wilderness from Jerusalem, which was about to fall to the Babylonians, and where men were conspiring to murder his father, Lehi, a prophet. Through Lehi, the Lord commanded Nephi to return to Jerusalem to obtain a scriptural record from a wicked Elder. It was a dangerous quest, but Nephi followed through with it, declaring, "I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them" (1 Nephi 3:7).

The Bible contains many instances of personal, singular and unique commandments to prophets. The command of God to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac is one. The command to Moses to testify to Pharaoh and reclaim the Lord's people is another. Through the Holy Spirit the Lord will give commandments to the obedient, whether they be prophets or simple followers of Christ. This confirms the Lord's point of view that commandments are gifts, and not restrictive requirements inflicted upon men.

References

  1. Gospel Library:Gospel Topics:Obedience [1]
  2. Gospel Topics:Obedience
  3. Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Great Commandment,” Liahona, Nov 2007, 28–31.
  4. L. Tom Perry, “We Believe All That God Has Revealed,” Liahona, Nov 2003, 85–88.
  5. Gospel Library:Gospel Topics:Ten Commandments [2]
  6. For a discussion of the seventh commandment, see Neal A. Maxwell, “The Seventh Commandment: A Shield,” Liahona, Jan 2002, 90–93. [3]
  7. Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Great Commandment,” Liahona, Nov 2007, 28–31. [4]

Go to Commandments 2.