Why Did Heavenly Father Give Us Commandments?

Many Mormons don’t understand how I could believe I don’t have to do anything to be saved. I’m often asked “Why would God give us commandments to follow if we don’t have to keep them in order to be saved?” The reason for the misunderstanding is that Mormon Prophets have changed God’s intended purpose for His commandments. Mormon doctrine claims that God gave His laws as the means to become righteous and gain eternal life.

One can find this LDS teaching in the third Article of Faith: “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” Mormon Prophets testify that God gave His law so a person could become righteous through obedience: “The laws of God given to mankind are embodied in the gospel plan, and the Church of Jesus Christ is made responsible for teaching these laws to the world. They are given by our Heavenly Father for only one purpose, that you who are governed by law might also be preserved by law and perfected and sanctified, or made holy by the same” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church-Harold B. Lee, page 27).

But in truth, God actually gave you His commandments to show you that you could never become righteous by obedience! It is through God’s law that you become conscious of your sinfulness. The Apostle Paul claimed that God’s law is like a mirror. When you read His law and see what He demands from you, you will see how far off from the mark you are. When you look into the mirror of God’s law; you will see an utterly sinful self!

The uncompromising commands of God’s law prove we can’t meet God’s demands. In fact, we don’t even come close! Jesus knew that the commandments were given so we could see our sinfulness. Think about when He commanded us to “be as perfect as our Father in Heaven”. Did He truly believe that anyone besides Himself could fulfill this command? Just read through the entire Sermon on the Mount to see what Jesus commanded us. When Jesus claims that if a man even looks at a woman in lust he has already committed adultery in his heart. Or, if someone is angry with his brother this is the same as committing murder. Think about what it really means to love your enemies, bless those who curse you and to do good to those who hate and persecute you. Jesus knew that God’s law was given so that sin would increase (Romans 5:20). Can you believe that? God actually gave His commandments so that people would sin more!

Why would He do this? Because, it is only when you despair of saving yourself that you will see your complete need for a Savior. Only then will you give up on your impossible efforts to become righteous by obedience. Only then will you turn solely to Jesus for rescue. And when you do, a miracle happens. Through faith in your Savior you are credited with his righteousness, His perfect obedience! At that moment, you are righteous in God’s sight and receive the gift of eternal life! You have been saved by Jesus’ obedience to God’s laws, not your own! Isn’t that amazing?

When I was a Mormon I misunderstood Christians who claimed they didn’t have to keep the commandments in order to be saved. I thought this meant they didn’t want to keep the commandments and I assumed they must be living a life of blatant sinfulness. Now I understand this isn’t true. Christians don’t have to obey God to be saved, because they already have eternal life. But, they are privileged to obey God simply because they love Him. What a blessing this is for me! In thankfulness to Jesus my whole life is devoted to Him!
_______
“Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:21-24, see also Romans 3:19-20, 5:20, 7:7-8).

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14 Comments

  1. February 12, 2009 at 11:12 am

    I personally remember thinking as a Mormon that some Christians take the easy way out by not subjecting themselves to the law. I did not understand what they were trying to say when they spoke of Salvation by grace and not works. I’m glad I get the picture now. I think that if anyone reads the Bible and looks at more then just the book of James, they will see grace and not works taught over and over again. It took me reading without my old “Mormon eyes” to see it.

    Believing that they are saved does not exclude anyone from doing works but the perspective on them is so very different. Here are a few of the verses that have really spoke to me on the topic.

    John 6:28-29
    28Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
    29Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

    Ephesians 2:8-10
    8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

    We can never be worthy of the tremendous gift God gave us so instead of doing works to be worthy, we should focus on what His will for us is in our lives and do the “works which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

    Great Blog!

  2. latterdaysaintwoman said,

    February 12, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Thanks for the comment. I love both of those Bible references. Isn’t it wonderful to know the truth? The words in the Bible literally sing to me. I think of the Bible as God’s love letter, written to me personally.

    The verses from John are astounding to me–the King James reads like this:

    John 6: 28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

    What is awesome is that these words are straight from the mouth of Jesus!

  3. royaltonmd said,

    February 12, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    If we are not to take God and Christ at their words, then maybe we really don’t even need to believe in Christ. If he really didn’t mean for us to love our neighbor, to shun adultery, to not steal, etc., what is to say He really didn’t mean for us to believe in Him. Isn’t that another commandment?

    While I can appreciate the thought you have put into this, this philosophy or interpretation is simply not justified by the Bible. From the beginning, the fundamental message of God’s prophets has been: obey God and He will bless you, disobey Him and you will suffer the consequences. You are essentially arguing against this message.

    And I think you are not seeing the LDS theology on grace correctly. We believe it is grace that saves us- 100%. There is nothing we can do on our own to save ourselves. But we must do what Christ asks of us. We must obey Him, but our obedience does not save us. The work He does for us is not merely a question of quantity of work, but quality. There is a type of work we cannot do- only He can. But we must do all we can to please Him and qualify for His mercy and grace.

    If I say I believe my physician, that implies I follow his counsel and instructions. Similarly, “believing” in Christ does not merely suggest a mental process of believing He is who He is. “The devils also believe and tremble.” It is acting on belief that makes us different than those devils. In this sense, belief is synonomous with trust. And trust suggests action. Without action, there is no faith.

    Thanks,

    royalton

  4. latterdaysaintwoman said,

    February 12, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Royalton,
    You wrote: “the fundamental message of God’s prophets has been… disobey Him and you will suffer the consequences.

    On this one aspect, you are absolutely correct!!!! If you disobey God’s commands, you will suffer the consequences!!! The consequence of not doing every single thing that God demands is being cursed to spend eternity in Outer Darkness with Satan.

    Your LDS Prophets have changed God’s consequences for not meeting His demands to be 100% perfect! Because they have done this, many millions of Mormons believe just exactly as you do. This has to be the thing that angers me the most about false LDS prophets. Because of believing in this teaching almost every single member of my family will suffer eternally with Satan in Outer Darkness.

    Your words change and diminish God’s words. You wrote: “we must do what Christ asks of us… But we must do all we can to please Him and qualify for His mercy and grace.

    You say you believe you must do what Christ asks of you. Christ commanded you to be as perfect as Heavenly Father. Tell me, are you? Show me one place in the Bible where God claims all you have to do is “all you can to please Him and qualify for His mercy and grace?” Doing all you can is not enough. Jesus testified we must be perfect. You are preaching a message that will send people to hell! Because of your words people will trust that they are OK! Because of this, they won’t turn to Jesus to rescue and save them. Instead, they will believe that they can qualify for God’s grace and mercy by their effort–just doing all they can to please God. Anyone who believes this does not please God because doing so shows they place the words of false prophets above His Words!

    And, as you said, if you disobey Him you will suffer the consequences. Guess what God’s Word says the consequences are for not meeting His demands for perfection? Spending eternal life with Satan and his demons!

    You also wrote: “If I say I believe my physician, that implies I follow his counsel and instructions. Similarly, “believing” in Christ does not merely suggest a mental process of believing He is who He is. “The devils also believe and tremble.” It is acting on belief that makes us different than those devils. In this sense, belief is synonomous with trust. And trust suggests action. Without action, there is no faith.

    Do you even read my words? Christians who truly trust that through faith in Jesus they have been made perfect through faith act on that trust. As I stated in my Post, I get to follow God’s commands. Not because I have to qualify for God’s grace and mercy, but because I love my Savior who rescued me from my sinfulness! My motivation for serving God is love for Him, not trying to get something for myself by attempting to qualify for His mercy and grace.

  5. royaltonmd said,

    February 12, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    LDSwoman,

    Thanks for your comment. But your response suggests again that LDS believe they can save themselves through works. I will say it again- we do not believe our work saves us. But that does not mean we don’t have to do our work. Christ saves us 100%. But he requires us to follow Him. This is consistent with all Bible stories, the law of the harvest, the nature of parenting, and everything else in the real world.

    The modern prophets have not changed the word of God. Their teachings are perfectly consistent with it. We must obey God’s commandments to the best of our ability. Why else did Christ say “go and sin no more,” or “sell whatsoever thou has and give to the poor, and come, take up the cross, and follow me,” or “if ye love me, keep my commandments?” Was He just fooling around?

    You can claim that white is black and black is white. But that does not mean it is true. We differ because I say obedience is required for redemption- it doesn’t do the redeemimg, but it is required. You say obedience is a consequence and not a requirement for redemption. I appreciate the idea of obeying out of gratitude, and I agree that if we fully understand what has been done for us, we will humbly obey. But your argument is that obedience is not a requirement for salvation. And I respectfully disagree.

    I truly do not understand a belief that God will send people who humbly and honestly live as closely as possible to their consciences to “spend eternal life with Satan and his demons.” This god is a huge respecter of persons, unlike the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Where does this leave little children who die before accepting Christ, or those who die without ever having the chance to hear of Christ. It is false doctrine if there ever was one.

    Thanks,

    royalton

  6. latterdaysaintwoman said,

    February 12, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    Royalton,

    Once again you misunderstand me. You wrote: “We differ because I say obedience is required for redemption- it doesn’t do the redeemimg, but it is required… But your argument is that obedience is not a requirement for salvation.

    Obedience is a requirement for salvation! And only 100% obedience meets the requirements! A person must be as perfect as Heavenly Father!! This demand from God can be met only if a person trusts that Jesus is their substitute for the obedience required by God! Through faith in Christ’s sacrifice, a person is credited with His obedience. His 100% obedience is now my 100% obedience. All who have faith (trust) in Jesus for salvation have met God’s requirement to be 100% perfect.

    And, Faith is the only way to meet Gods requirement to be perfect. If you reject Christ as your substitute for the perfection required from God, you are still in your sins and will be found unclean on Judgment Day.

    You wrote: “I truly do not understand a belief that God will send people who humbly and honestly live as closely as possible to their consciences to “spend eternal life with Satan and his demons.

    I didn’t say it, Jesus said it: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22-23)

    Jesus shows that on Judgment Day these people will sincerely believe that they did enough to be allowed into God’s presence. They apparently thought they were living as closely as possible to their conscience. And yet, Jesus claimed he never even knew them and said they only worked iniquity!

    A person’s sincerity will not save them! You can be sincere, but sincerely wrong! Jesus said a few passages earlier in Matthew 7: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

    Many people will not gain eternal life. This is why Jesus said to beware of false Prophets.

    The narrow way that leads to life is through the path of trusting in Jesus 100%. Only if someone is found to be 100% pure and perfect on Judgment Day will God save them. The only way to meet God’s requirements is to give up on your own efforts to be perfect with your own obedience and trust that Jesus was perfect for you!!!

  7. jumpingjackagain said,

    February 12, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    hi ldsw,

    where in the bible do i find the part about Jesus being our Substitute? this is kind of confusing to me. i like things straight forward, trying to figure all this out is tuff. i really don’t understand the part that Jesus gave us commandments so that we would fail. hope you have some time to answer.

    thanks,
    meg

  8. latterdaysaintwoman said,

    February 14, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Hi Jumpingjack,

    Great question. I know when I was LDS I had never heard the concept that Jesus was our Substitute. But, He was our substitute by 1) taking the punishment we deserved AND 2) by giving us His righteousness even though we are full of sin:

    1) He takes our punishment: Let’s say when I was a child I did something against my parents wishes. My parents had previously told me not to do this and that if I disobeyed them in this way that I would get a spanking. They found out what I had done and were getting ready to spank me. My brother steps in and says he will take the spanking for me. Now, my brother had never done one single thing wrong in his entire life. My parents knew he was perfect and that I wasn’t. Even though I was the guilty one, he was willing to take the punishment that I deserved.

    2) Jesus exchanged our sins for His righteousness: Jesus took our sins as if they were His own; and in exchange, gave us His perfect works, as if they were our own. The above illustration shows how Jesus took our punishment for us. But, the amazing thing is He also gave us His righteousness. We are full of sin and he is perfect. He exchanged our sins for his righteousness. He lived for thirty three years never once committing a sin. He did all the righteous things that God demands from us, like visiting the sick, loving our enemies and forgiving those who despitefully used him. He did all of these things for us, in our place, as our substitute, because we couldn’t do it for ourselves!

    The prophet Isaiah prophesied about how Jesus, as our substitute, took our place:
    Isaiah 53: 4 Surely he hath borne our grief, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

    The Apostle Paul claims that Jesus became sin for us, so we could be made righteous:
    2 Corinthians 5: 21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

    Paul also told us that the consequence of not following ALL of God’s commands is that we are cursed:
    Galatians 3: 10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

    Just three verses later we learn that as our substitute, Jesus became a curse for us:
    “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:”

    We were cursed, but as our substitute, Jesus let God curse Him for us, in our place! Being cursed means spending eternity with Satan
    (Matthew 25:41 shows that the cursed will spend eternity with Satan). Anyone unclean cannot dwell in God’s presence, they are cursed. Jesus was forsaken by His Father on the cross. All who reject what Jesus did for them as their substitute will be forsaken by Heavenly Father.

    The writer of Hebrews tells us that we have been perfected forever through the sacrifice of Christ’s body (10:10-14) “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”

    We who are sinful and imperfect, are found perfect in God’s sight because Christ, as our substitute, was punished for our sins, AND gave us His righteousness:
    Isaiah 61: 10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.

  9. sdrogers said,

    February 15, 2009 at 2:03 am

    I have always viewed personal effort as being a part of establishing the relationship with Christ. It is the relationship with Christ that saves. Not your righteous works. In the parable of the “Prodigal Son” (misnamed because there were TWO sons in question), the father figure doesn’t care that the lost son has sinned grievously against him. Nor does he care how many hours the elder son put in on the farm.

    What he cares about is whether his sons love him.

    If they will but love him, he will accept them.

    But the crux here is how do we show we love Christ?

    And yeah. Sorry but, your actions most certainly DO matter on that score. You cannot go through life rejecting God and then expect that to make no difference. Not because God is unwilling to take you back, but because you yourself do not desire to live with Him.

    God will force no one to heaven. And it definitely is possible to reject Him. Your actions are a part of that acceptance or rejection.

    Denying that human action matters is not “good news.” It is an enfeebling doctrine that substitutes shallow self-esteem twaddle for any actual call for people to step up and become as God sees us.

    Showing God that you love Him does not, actually, involve perfection. You do not need to be perfect to truly love God. But you can’t be in the midst of open defiance. If that were true, then the father in the parable would have traveled TO the pigsty and retrieved his wayward son from it. But he did not. He waited for his son to RETURN.

    Grace is crucial, it is necessary. But it is not sufficient. If you will reject God and refuse to return, grace will not save you.

  10. jumpingjackagain said,

    February 15, 2009 at 8:16 am

    Thank you! that explained it so well. here is my next question: Do we HAVE to do good works? what if someone is converted to the Lord but chooses not to obey all the commandments. do we have free choice? and if we do not obey are we un-converted? i just know plenty of christians who do not choose to do all the things my mormon friends do (like ot shop on sundays,not watch “R” rated movies, not drink alcohol)
    how do we know if our works show who we are or if we need to do more? that is the one thing that confuses me, because like my parents telling me something…i somehow think we need to be obedient no matter what…but you say “I GET to obey”. so i guess i am really asking….what is the difference and does it matter WHY we obey? and is obedience “works”?
    hope this isn’t too confusing. my mormon girl friends tell me one thing and you tell me another!

  11. latterdaysaintwoman said,

    February 15, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    Sdrogers,

    Where did I ever say that those who “reject God and refuse to return” to Him will be saved? Anyone who does so will spend eternity in Hell with Satan.

    JumpingJack,

    You ask the question “what if someone is converted to the Lord but chooses not to obey all the commandments.

    What do you mean when you say “chooses not to obey?” Are you talking about a person who makes a conscious decision to not obey God’s commands? In other words, they don’t even want to obey God?

    And, what do you mean by all the commandments? Do you really mean all God’s commands? If you don’t mean all, then which specific commands are you referring to?

  12. jumpingjackagain said,

    February 16, 2009 at 11:19 am

    sorry, that was probably too confusing! ok, what i really mean is this:

    you say that you “get to” obey and your fruits show how much you love God.

    well, what if i love God, and consider myself saved, but do not show the same fruits you do. what if i choose to live with my boyfriend (i don’t) without marriage. does that ‘disqualify’ me from being saved? what if i drink alcohol? (i am legal, but a tee-totaler because i was brought up that way ) what if i don’t attend any church meetings or profess a certain religion? what if i go to dances? (my Nazarene friends would be horrified)

    if obedience isn’t required for salvation….then why obey?
    why did the Bible talk so much about obedience if it is optional?
    i do believe, so does believing qualify me?
    this all goes back to my 2 groups of friends….the Mormons who try to obey and are very picky about what movie they will even watch, and my Christian friends who pretty much do whatever they want but profess to love the Lord and believe. both groups of friends would like me to join up…but i am having a hard time deciding.
    here is a question i REALLY need answered:
    Is Joseph Smith a fraud? was he tricked? is he evil? i just don’t see what he had to gain by it all unless it is true.
    help! i need some answers!

  13. royaltonmd said,

    February 18, 2009 at 11:36 am

    jumpingjackagain,

    There is only one way to know Joseph Smith was a prophet. The Book of Mormon claims to be holy scripture from God containing a promise that a person can know for themselves if it is true. It requires sincere study, humility, and faithful prayer, asking God to reveal through the Holy Ghost of its truthfulness.

    You can take the word or opinion from a million different people on the subject, but according to the book itself, personal inspiration is the most convincing way to find out. That inspiration has brought me peace and has opened my mind to so many wonderful and beautiful things- it has completely changed my life.

    Good luck!

    royalton

  14. latterdaysaintwoman said,

    February 19, 2009 at 1:18 am

    JumpingJack,

    Basically, anyone who has a living faith in Jesus Christ will have fruits that show their faith. As James tells us in Chapter two, anyone with faith in the true God will do works. This is because the Holy Ghost has brought them to spiritual life! They are alive and can’t help producing works (fruit). It’s similar to an apple tree. As long as it gets water and nutrients, it will produce apples.

    If you have true faith and chose to live with your boyfriend, as long as you continue to feed your faith, the Holy Spirit living inside of you will convict you of your sin and you will stop that sin. If you blatantly choose to disobey God’s command, you are at risk of loosing your faith.

    This happened to my oldest daughter. She was a true believer but she chose to live a lifestyle that was not God pleasing. Her sins did not disqualify her from being saved. But her choice to blatantly sin against the Savior who had saved her, led her out of God’s protective hand. Because of this, she quit attending church and reading her Bible. She chose to quit feeding her faith. In essence, she starved her faith until it died. This is the danger for any true believer who blatantly chooses to continue in any sin. But, what is typically the case with someone with a living faith; whenever they sin, in repentant gratitude they turn to their Savior who already paid for that sin.

    As far as drinking alcohol, Jesus’ first public miracle was to turn water into wine! God has not restricted alcohol from man. Anyone who believes that it is a sin to drink alcohol is following a man-made rule, not a command from God. God does say it is a sin to get drunk, but not to drink alcohol.

    You asked “if obedience isn’t required for salvation….then why obey?” (This question is usually one that a Mormon asks because their reason for keeping the commands is to gain eternal life.) The reason I obey God is because I love Him to pieces! He is the love of my life, why would I want to do anything that He asks me not to do? It’s like a newlywed couple. You love each other so much you don’t do things for each other out of fear of loosing your marriage. You love that person so much you can’t wait to do things to please.

    You say you have two groups of friends. It appears to me that your Mormon friends are rubbing off on you. Your thinking falls in line with your Mormon friends much more than with any Christians. The question you asked: “if obedience isn’t required for salvation… then why obey?” is exactly what many Mormons have asked me many times. Mormons have to “try to obey” because if they don’t, they won’t receive any of God’s blessings. One LDS scripture claims that all blessings are predicated upon obedience to God’s laws. Mormons have to obey to qualify for Heavenly Father’s blessings. A Christian already has all of God’s blessings, including eternal life. They don’t have to obey God to qualify for anything; so they are free to obey God out of love for their Lord who gave them everything!

    You claim your Christian friends do whatever they want but profess to love the Lord and believe. If this is true, then they aren’t truly believers–they are hypocrites. When someone really knows that God has forgiven all of their sins–they can’t help but love God. Anyone who professes faith, but lives a life in complete disagreement with God’s Word, doing whatever they want, doesn’t truly love Jesus.


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