August Relief Society Lesson – Commandments
Standards for salvation are called commandments, which are given by our Father in Heaven. These standards apply to all parts of our lives and at all times. They are not selectively applied at a certain time or in a certain situation. The commandments define the tolerances required to qualify for exaltation.
Tolerance in the worldly term is to accept someones choices or behavior no matter what the consequences. Tolerance in the engineering term is a defined standard to within say, a thousandth of an inch or 99.9% pure.
The Lord has given us tolerances or standards or commandments to help us qualify for exaltation.
The plan for us on this earth is to obtain a body, have experience, receive ordinances, and endure to the end. Standards have been established and tolerances set. God has promised that we can be exalted, but He has also said I, the Lord am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.
Why do we have commandments?
They provide for our spiritual and physical well being while in our mortal state.
They allow us to know the mind and will of God.
They test our willingness to obey God's will for us.
The commandments help us understand God's will for us
So lets read about that
And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
To keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?
And again, I say unto you, I give unto you a new commandment, that you may understand my will concerning you;
Or, in other words, I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for your salvation.
I the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise
The commandments are not a burden or a restriction. Every commandment of the Lord is given for our development, progress, and growth.
The prophet Joseph Smith taught: God has designed our happiness, He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed.
Living the commandments keeps us in harmony with God. We become one in purpose with the Father and the Son.
Therefore we keep the commandments because we love our Father.
If ye love me, keep my commandments.
Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him
by this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments
for this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
President Hugh B Brown, a former member of the twelve tells of an experience he had that helped him to know and love to obey the commandments.
He purchased a rundown farm in Canada many years ago. As he went about cleaning up and repairing his property, he came across a currant bush that had grown over six feet high and was yielding no berries, so he pruned it back drastically, leaving only small stumps. Then he saw a drop like a tear on the top of each of these little stumps, as if the currant bush were crying, and thought he heard it say:
How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth, and now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me, how could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.
President Brown replied, look little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn't intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and someday, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, thank you Mr Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down.
Years later President Brown was a field officer in the Canadian Army serving in England. When a superior officer became a battle casualty, President Brown was in line to be promoted to general, and he was summoned to London. But even though he was fully qualified for the promotion, it was denied him because he was a Mormon. The commanding general said in essence, you deserve the appointment, but I cannot give it to you. What President Brown had spent 10 years hoping, praying, and preparing for slipped through his fingers in that moment because of blatant discrimination.
He said, I got on the train and started back with a broken heart, with bitterness in my soul. When I got to my tent I threw my cap on the cot. I clenched my fists and I shook them at heaven. I said, how could you do this to me God? I have done everything I could to measure up. There is nothing I could have done, that I should have done, that I haven't done. How could you do this to me?
And then he heard a voice and he recognized the tone of this voice. It was his own voice coming back to him and it said, I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to do.
The bitterness went out of my soul, and I fell on my knees by the cot to ask forgiveness for my ungratefulness.
Almost 50 years later, he looked up to God and continued to say thank you Mr Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.
God knew what President Brown was to become and what was needed for that to happen, he redirected his course to prepare him for that calling.
What do you suppose might have happened if President Brown had remained bitter? Or had not accepted the course correction?
We all require a course correction from time to time. Sometimes we can catch ourselves, sometimes it comes through the priesthood authority. How many times have you sat listening to conference and thought, well, I guess I need to work on that???
Parents correct children, bishops correct wards, and so on. But it's not because we enjoy pointing out things that are wrong. It's because we know that blessings come through obedience.
In the book, True to the Faith it says this about Obedience
In the premortal existence, Heavenly Father presided over a great Council in Heaven. There we learned of His plan for our salvation, which included a time of testing on the earth.
One reason you are here on the earth is to show your willingness to obey Heavenly Father's commandments.
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. God gives commandments for your benefit. They are loving instructions for your happiness and your physical and spiritual well being.
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.
King Benjamin also taught this principle. 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.
Our 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. 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.
Elder Russell M Nelson teaches us
Obedience allows Gods blessings to flow without constraint. He will bless His obedient children with freedom from bondage and misery. And he will bless them with more light.
Choosing to live the commandments frees us from the shackles of sin and allows us to experience true happiness. There is no joy in sin. Alma tells us that wickedness never was happiness.
Elder D Todd Christofferson teaches
Our Heavenly Father is a God of high expectations. His expectations for us are expressed by His Son, Jesus Christ, in these words: I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect. He proposes to make us holy so that we may abide a celestial glory and dwell in his presence. He knows what is required, and so to make our transformation possible, he provides his commandments and covenants, the gift of the Holy ghost, and most important, the Atonement and Resurrection of His beloved son.
He goes on to say, that in much of the world today, even among those who believe in God, they see him as a kind of butler who meets their needs when summoned or as a therapist whose role is to help people feel good about themselves. But God doesn't just ask us for our commitment but for our very lives.
We should be willing and even eager to seek correction in our behavior and our lives so that we may become perfect.
Correction does 3 things.
persuades us to repent
refines and sanctifies us
redirects our course in life to what God knows to be a better path
All of these things put us on the path to live the celestial law
lets learn a bit about what that is by reading more scriptures
For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory
for if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace
We learn the law and how to live it line upon line. As we learn more, we receive more knowledge.
For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.
I really can't afford to have any knowledge taken from me, it's leaking out my ears as we speak!
If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.
D&C 50: 24
That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.
But we aren't perfect, we make mistakes, so we invoke repentance.
The scriptures tell us, as many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore, and repent. And then again it says, and my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer.
In the early days of the church four senior church leaders were chastened for not adequately teaching their children according to the commandments and not being more diligent and concerned at home. The brother of Jared was chastened for not remembering to call upon the name of the Lord.
How guilty are we of these things? What else might we be guilty of?
Receiving chastening and repenting or responding positively makes us ready to receive even greater blessings.
my people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to received the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom.
Each of us is free to accept or reject the commandments. But we are not free to choose our consequences.
There was an occasion when a grieving parent went to a church leader and told him he was being unchristian in denying her child the full benefits of membership. She thought his consequences too severe and wanted them softened, fearing that her son might stray even further. The church leader told her, if I were to attempt to change the commandments, at that very moment I would no longer be following Christ's teachings.
We all have a repentance process to go through, whether it's a smaller thing between us and the Lord or a larger thing that involves church leaders. The pattern is set and follows Gods plan. It's not meant to be easy, just thorough so that we can take full advantage of the Atonement and be completely free from the sin and it's affects.
When Christ was presented with an adulterous woman, he did not change the commandment to not commit adultery, but he counseled her to go and sin no more. She was forgiven, now the rest was up to her to change her life and make it right.
Lets read some scriptures about consequences
But this thing commanded I them, saying, obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you
but they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil hearts and went backward, and not forward.
and the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people
for they have strayed from mine ordinances and have broken mine everlasting covenant
but he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and recieveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.
Who am I that made man, saith the Lord, that will hold him guiltless that obeys not my commandments?
Who am I, saith the Lord, that have promised and have not fulfilled?
I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing
then they say in their hearts; this is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled. But wo unto such, for their reward lurketh beneath, and not from above
Abinadi was obedient unto to death. Joseph Smith was obedient unto death. It may not be required of us to give our lives, but it is required of us to be obedient to the commandments and remain faithful to our covenants. Not just today, not just his once, but always.
The Savior has promised we will not be tempted beyond what we are able to bear.
In D&C 58:28 it says
for the power is in you, wherein you are agents unto yourselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
Now lets end with some great promises if we are obedient
and, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God
D&C 130: 20-21
there is a law, irrevocable 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.
Lets remember this:
I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.
Again I leave you with my testimony that I know we have the power to choose, we decide how our story is written. We can choose to be obedient no matter the circumstance, and with obedience come amazing blessings.