In New Testament today we talked about the commandments in a way the Mormons rarely talk about. My professor helped us to understand that the commandments are there to show us that we are sinners. In other words, the commandments are impossible to keep intentionally. By making them so impossible to completely obey, God creates the need for the Atonement and for our utter dependence on the Savior.
This concept resonated with me in a way that I haven’t previously understood. It helped me to appreciate having commandments. Right now I am convinced that having a committed same gender relationship is not wrong. I don’t feel that it results in the negative consequences that sins result in, namely guilt, withdrawal of the Spirit, and separation from God. Because of this shift, I had begun to question every commandment and the very concept of commandments. I was starting to feel like they were arbitrary ways of controlling a people.
Now I feel like commandments are a natural way for men to express their inherent imperfections. Commandments create a feeling of humility—a falling short—that we need to feel. In that sense the specific commandments are not nearly as important as the concept behind them. This is what Christ taught when He came to dwell with men. He ate on the Sabbath and failed to wash His hands and rebuked the clergy, all contrary to law—to the commandments. In so doing, He was showing us that it is not the letter of the law but the concept of the law that was important.
One of the things that have been bothering me about the Church is how much we cling to the letter of the law. It is so ingrained in us to abstain from coffee, but is that really important to making us better people? What about something harder to measure, but far more important to our quest to improve ourselves—something like the way we treat others. Compassion. Selflessness. Saying uplifting things. I think we have become as rigid and dogmatic as the Pharisees, and in so doing we have missed the whole reason for having commandments.
I have really enjoyed studying the acts of the Apostles this semester. I am convinced that the message Christians brought to the world at the meridian of time was one of freedom. After years of being bogged down by the law of Moses and missing the mark, Christ revealed in person and to His first disciples the freedom that gospel is supposed to bring. But it wasn’t long before they started getting bogged down again by law—the law of Catholicism. In the reformation, Christians tried to get back to the freedom of the gospel—an understanding that the law is not what saves us, but they didn’t get it quite right. Then Joseph Smith restored many plain and precious things with, among other things, the Book of Mormon. Once again these truths provided freedom and increased understanding of the Atonement, but over time we have missed the mark again.
In my own life, as I seek out my own spiritual path, I hope to keep in mind the purpose of commandments as a way for us to need the Savior and as symbols of His ultimate sacrifice.