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!
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“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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Gospel Doctrine Lesson 38: Be as Perfect as Heavenly Father?

LDS Belief:

Perfection comes by complying with the formula Jesus gave us—keeping all the commandments and triumphing over sin. This command to be as perfect as Heavenly Father is an achievable goal.

LDS Words

Found in lesson 38, page 168:
After teaching the Nephites that they should love their enemies, Jesus said, “Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (3 Nephi 12:48). Why do we need the Atonement of Jesus Christ in order to be perfected? (See… Moroni 10:32–33—“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”

Found in: The Miracle of Forgiveness, President Spencer W. Kimball, pages 208-209: “This progress toward eternal life is a matter of achieving perfection. Living all the commandments guarantees total forgiveness of sins and assures one of exaltation through that perfection which comes by complying with the formula the Lord gave us. In his Sermon on the Mount he made the command to all men: ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ (Matt. 5:48.) Being perfect means to triumph over sin. This is a mandate from the Lord. He is just and wise and kind. He would never require anything from his children which was not for their benefit and which was not attainable. Perfection therefore is an achievable goal.

Link to Lesson:

Gospel Doctrine Lesson 38

The Bold Truth:

Only Jesus kept all of Heavenly Father’s commands perfectly. He acted as our proxy and accomplished what we were unable to do—be as perfect as our Father in Heaven. Perfection comes by trusting that Jesus was perfect for us, in our place. Through the offering of Christ’s body as payment for your sin, you have been perfected forever!

My focus today is on one of the commands given to the Nephites. This command is also found in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:48: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Have you ever noticed that Jesus has set Heavenly Father as our standard for perfection? I often wondered why Jesus didn’t command us to be as perfect as one of God’s Prophets, like Abraham. Did Jesus truly mean we couldn’t commit even one sin? James agrees with Jesus: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (2:10). This shows that even if we were able to keep 99.99% of God’s commands we would still fail. Perfection is an all or nothing thing—you either are or you aren’t!

The sobering truth is that God doesn’t overlook any imperfection. His penalty for even one sin is being cursed! “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10). As James says, the reason is because this law breaker is guilty of breaking the whole law! All who do not continue to keep every single command are cursed. Jesus will say to them, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

I’m often told that what Jesus must have meant is to “become” perfect someday. But notice the command doesn’t say to “become” perfect; it says to “be” perfect! Even Joseph Smith translated: “Ye are therefore commanded to be perfect.” The verb is “be” and not “become”. “Be” describes a present state and “become” describes a progression. For instance if your Bishop tells you to “be” morally clean, certainly he doesn’t mean for you to eventually progress towards becoming morally clean someday. He expects you to be morally clean right now.

Nephi testified “that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” President Kimball agrees: “Being perfect means to triumph over sin. This is a mandate from the Lord. He is just and wise and kind. He would never require anything from his children which was not for their benefit and which was not attainable. Perfection therefore is an achievable goal.”

There is a way to be perfect, but it is not through your own obedience as Mormon Prophets claim. The only way is to believe that God sent a proxy in your place to do what you were unable to do for yourself. His Son did not come to show you how to be perfect, but to be perfect for you. “For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). You are sanctified by the offering of his body (verse 10). Because Jesus kept all of God’s laws perfectly in your place, Heavenly Father accepts you as perfect right now. This wonderful gift from God comes not because of anything you have every done or could ever do, but because of what Jesus already did for you!

Eternal Consequences

If you believe your righteousness is achieved by keeping the commandments and triumphing over sin—you are in big trouble! Since Jesus is the only person who could achieve perfection with His own efforts, anyone else who tries will fail and is under God’s curse. For rejecting Christ’s efforts on your behalf He will send you to live eternally with Satan.

Additional Testimony of the Bold Truth:
No one does good:
– Psalm 14:2-3
– Ecclesiastes 7:20
– Proverbs 7:20
– Romans 3:10-12
– Romans 3:23
– Genesis 8:21
Our own Righteousness is like filthy rags in God’s eyes:
– Isaiah 64:6
Righteousness comes by Faith in Jesus not by works:
– 1 Corinthians 1:30
– Romans 1:17
– Romans 3:22
– Romans 9:30-32
– Romans 10:1-10
– Galatians 2:16, 21
– Philippians 3:9
– 2 Timothy 1:9
Own works will not profit us, trust in God:
– Isaiah 57:12-13
Christ has covered us with His robe of Righteousness:
– Isaiah 61:10
Through Christ’s sacrifice we have been perfected forever:
– Hebrews 10:10-14
Those whose hope is in Jesus are as pure as He is:
– 1 John 3:2-3
We are holy and blameless in his love:
– Ephesians 1:3-5
Links to Additional LDS words:

TofP=Teachings of Presidents of the Church

Christ came to establish the standard of God’s perfection
TofP-Harold B. Lee
TofP-Joseph F. Smith
God will not give us a commandment we can’t obey
Book of Mormon-Prophet Nephi
Gospel Principles-Basic LDS Doctrine

Human perfection comes through individual effort
TofP-David O. McKay
Savior would not mock us by giving us an unobtainable goal to be perfect
TofP-Harold B. Lee
Every member of Church can live all laws of gospel perfectly
TofP-Harold B. Lee
TofP-Heber J. Grant
TofP-Brigham Young
The Lord demands perfection, commanded to be supermen, gods in embryo
TofP-Spencer W. Kimball
TofP-Spencer W. Kimball
TofP-Joseph Smith

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