Have you ever considered why God gives commandments to His children? He sees all and knows all. Why can’t He simply tell us what we need to know? Well, He actually does tell us through personal revelation and the words written by prophets in our scriptures, both ancient and modern. He gives us commandments to help us learn to be more like Him!
Imagine for a moment that you are traveling along a mountain road. This road was built into the side of the mountain with a steep cliff on the side of the road. There is a guardrail along the side of the road between the road and the cliff. Consider for a moment that the guardrail represents God’s commandments along the road of life. Just as a guardrail keeps cars from going off the side of the mountain, commandments are there to keep us on the road back to Heavenly Father’s presence. The road could also be a symbol for the commandments in that obedience to the commandments helps us move closer to Heavenly Father and makes us happy.
Someone once that that when we want to talk with Heavenly Father, we pray. When we want to hear from Heavenly Father, we read the scriptures. I think of the scriptures as letters from a loving Father to His children who are away at school. He sends loving instructions in each of His letters to help us become more like Him. Through His commandments, He teaches us what He would like us to do and become. He also shows us how to treat each other and overcome our natural man. When we obey His commandments, we are making preparations to return to God’s presence; by our obedience we can become like Him and live with Him for all eternity. We should consider the commandments as blessings rather than burdens.
Studying the scriptures can help us understand better why God gives us commandments. The following scriptures teach some of the instructions that Heavenly Father wants us to learn.
The scriptures help us understand God’s will for us. “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” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13; emphasis added).
The scriptures teach us the commandment to love one another. “But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.
“Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
“Jesus said unto him, 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 neighbor as thyself.
“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:34-40).
The scriptures teach us that we obey the commandments because we love God. “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
The scriptures teach us that we will eventually receive of God’s fulness if we obey His commandments. “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” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:20).
Another scripture explains why God gives commandments to us. Doctrine and Covenants 82:8-10 reads, ““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.” (Emphasis added.)
We can be assured that God has purposes behind His commandments. In October 2011, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke at the Relief Society broadcast about what the sisters should not forget. The fourth “forget-me-not” was: “Forget not the `why’ of the gospel.”
“Sometimes, in the routine of our lives, we unintentionally overlook a vital aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ, much as one might overlook a beautiful, delicate forget-me-not. In our diligent efforts to fulfill all of the duties and obligations we take on as members of the Church, we sometimes see the gospel as a long list of tasks that we must add to our already impossibly long to-do list, as a block of time that we must somehow fit into our busy schedules. We focus on what the Lord wants us to do and how we might do it, but we sometimes forget why. My dear sisters, the gospel of Jesus Christ is not an obligation; it is a pathway, marked by our loving Father in Heaven, leading to happiness and peace in this life and glory and inexpressible fulfillment in the life to come. The gospel is a light that penetrates mortality and illuminates the way before us.
“While understanding the “what” and the “how” of the gospel is necessary, the eternal fire and majesty of the gospel springs from the “why.” When we understand why our Heavenly Father has given us this pattern for living, when we remember why we committed to making it a foundational part of our lives, the gospel ceases to become a burden and, instead, becomes a joy and a delight. It becomes precious and sweet.
“Let us not walk the path of discipleship with our eyes on the ground, thinking only of the tasks and obligations before us. Let us not walk unaware of the beauty of the glorious earthly and spiritual landscapes that surround us.
“My dear sisters, seek out the majesty, the beauty, and the exhilarating joy of the `why’ of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“The `what’ and `how’ of obedience mark the way and keep us on the right path. The `why’ of obedience sanctifies our actions, transforming the mundane into the majestic. It magnifies our small acts of obedience into holy acts of consecration.” (See “Forget Me Not,” Ensign, November 2011, pp. 120-123.)
Elder D. Todd Christofferson spoke at General Conference in May 2011 about keeping the commandments: “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’ (3 Nephi 12:48). He proposes to make us holy so that we may `abide a celestial glory’ (D&C 88:22) and `dwell in his presence’ (Moses 6:57). 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.
“In all of this, God’s purpose is that we, His children, may be able to experience ultimate joy, to be with Him eternally, and to become even as He is. Some years ago Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained: `The Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts – what we have done. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.’” (See “`As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten,’” Ensign, May 2011, pp. 97-100.)
While speaking to priesthood holders in April 1996, Elder Robert D. Hales spoke about why the Lord gives commandments to us: “Some may ask, `Why did the Lord give us commandments?’ In premortal councils, He determined that we, His spirit children, would be given commandments by which to live during our mortal lives. Jehovah, the firstborn spirit child of our Heavenly Father, said: `We will go … and we will make an earth whereon these [God’s other spirit children] may dwell,
“`And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
“`And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon’ (Abraham 3:24-26; emphasis added).
“These commandments are loving instructions provided by God our Father for our physical and spiritual well-being and happiness while in mortality. Commandments allow us to know the mind and will of God regarding our eternal progression. And they test our willingness to be obedient to His will.
“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’ (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 256).
“How I love the commandments of the Lord! They guide and protect us and allow us to return back into the presence of our Heavenly Father. If we faithfully obey the commandments, we are promised the blessings of eternal life. Eternal life, `the greatest of all the gifts of God’ (D&C 14:7), is to be exalted and to live with Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ in all the eternities to come. He dearly wants us to return to Him.
“We don’t need to wait, however, until the next life to receive many of the promised blessings. In this life, the obedient may enjoy peace of mind, happiness, and `joy in the Holy Ghost’ (Romans 14:17).
“Living the commandments brings us into harmony with Deity; we become one in purpose with the Father and the Son. When we are one with God, we walk with spiritual light. Our diligence in keeping the commandments allows the Holy Ghost to dwell within us. We are given the gift of personal revelation. This is a spiritual light that protects us and serves as a beacon, guiding us in righteous ways. It dispels the darkness of the adversary….
“Brethren, choosing to live the commandments frees us from the shackles of sin and allows us to experience true happiness….
“To know and keep the commandments, we must know and follow the Savior and the prophets of God….
“Each of us is free to accept or reject the commandments, but none of us is free to modify them to suit our personal preferences. Priesthood leaders do not have the right to change revealed principles and commandments just for the sake of being popular with the world. Nor do prophets have the authority to alter God’s commandments in order to make them more palatable to those who are weak in their resolve to live worthily….” (See “If Thou Wilt Enter into Life, Keep theCommandments,” Ensign, May 1996.)
I know that Heavenly Father loves you and me and wants us to be happy. I know that He gives us commandments for our own good. I know He knows we can be most happy when we obey His commandments and follow the teachings of His Son Jesus Christ. I know that we can become more like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ by keeping the commandments.