This months Relief Society Lesson teaches that “Staying on the Lord’s side of the line requires strict obedience to the commandments.” (p 192) President Smith claims the reason this is so important is because that’s the only way you can “earn the celestial kingdom“:
“How careful we as Latter-day Saints ought to be to live every day of our lives that we may be influenced by the power of the Lord, and that we may be able to turn aside from those things that have a tendency to break down our power to earn the celestial kingdom.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith, Chapter 18: Stay on the Lord’s Side of the Line (p 198)
LDS Prophets testify that God gave us His law as the means to become righteous and gain eternal life:
“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 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 aware of your sins. 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 then 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 person!
From this months lesson we read of only a few of God’s commands:
“If you attend to your secret prayers and your family prayers… If you are grateful for food and express that gratitude to God… If you love your neighbor as yourself… If you are honest in your dealing with your fellow men… If you observe the Word of Wisdom… And so I might go on through the Ten Commandments and the other commandments that God has given… Finding fault with the things that God has given to us for our guidance…
[The Lord has said]: “I cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;” not with the least degree of allowance [D&C 1:31]…. The Lord himself has said that we must keep his commandments: “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated.” (p 192)
The uncompromising commands in 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” (Matthew 5:48). Did He truly believe that anyone besides Himself could fulfill this command?
Jesus knew that God’s law was given to unbelievers 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 know that Jesus couldn’t just “help you” return to your Heavenly Father–He had to do it for you!
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 have already been given eternal life. But, they are privileged to obey God simply because they love Him. What a blessing it is to stay on the Lord’s side of the line–through faith! In thankfulness to Jesus my whole life is devoted to Him!
While LDS leaders teach that you can “earn the celestial kingdom” by keeping God’s laws, God’s Prophets and Christ’s Apostles testify that no one can earn eternal life through their own obedience:
“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)
Truly the Lord has already delivered us! “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:21)
“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
“Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”
“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.” (Romans 3:19-20, 5:20, 7:7-8).