I watched the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with a question in my mind. I wanted to understand the role of commandments better. And what, specifically, our commandments are. Let’s start with the “what”, because that seems a bit easier.
We all have most likely heard of the ten commandments? I’m putting here a link to the text of the Bible (Exodus 20, on scriptures.lds.org). If you haven’t read the whole chapter for some time (or ever) you might want to read it. One question is, why not include the rest of the commandments into the ones we should obey? The answer, of course, is that Christian teachers have omitted the ones they deemed too “Jewish” to be included in Christian commandments.
What I’m getting at is that the traditional Ten Commandments are not God’s commandments. I am not saying we should not observe those. Although I’m sure the Lord still would affirm the ten we are used to, the fact is that He gave many more than that. And the decision to whittle it down to the ten we have was not with God. There was no mention of prophesy or anything of the like, when the Ten Commandments were introduced, so they are a product of human reasoning.
Well, we have a better source than Exodus 20. We also have Jesus’ answer to the question asked by a scribe:
“Which is the first commandment of all?”
The answer was simple enough to suit even a short attention span:
“The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord; And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)
After this, the scribe said,
“Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:32-33)
After which, the 34th verse of Mark’s 12th chapter says:
And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.
You can read the whole thing in here.
That exchange has influenced Christian teaching more than its length would suggest (the same exchange is also recorded in Matthew’s 22nd chapter). It gives us a high standard for our lives. Truly, to not help a brother or a sister in need is to not be a Christian.
That part probably is just as it should be. But what was the first commandment that Jesus gave? It was the same as what John was saying: Repent! Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.
I got to thinking why the first public thing that John and Jesus said was the commandment to repent. Repentance requires some qualities that are not naturally found in most men. Namely, humility, humility and humility.
We will not be able to repent if we are not humble. Humility is often hard to acquire, especially for people who have been spoiled by having things go their way too much. It seems that those of us, who have to endure different hardships and afflictions, are more often humble.
Can we love God if we’re not humble?
I doubt it very much. It is quite impossible, in fact. Jesus said, “if ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15 and 21). We have come full circle here; loving God and keeping commandments seems to be the very same thing, and the requirement for both is that we humble ourselves.
One situation where we need to be humble is if we are being corrected or something else like that. Also, we need to concentrate on humility when everybody seems to like us and things go our way. When we are on top of things, we are most vulnerable in that respect.
So let’s not complain when we are reminded of our mortality. It is for our own good.
Keeping commandments should not, however, be reluctant compliance with rules we don’t understand or feel the importance of. It is a willing submission to the will of the Lord because of our deep love for Him. And we have a prophet on the Earth to shed light on His will.
We return to the old theme that I am grateful that the keys of prophesy have been restored, together with the Priesthood keys. We have a clear message to the World. If you watch/listen/read the conference, you’ll see what I am talking about.