Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I am reclaimed

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.

5 comments:

Foxx said...

By making them so impossible to completely obey, God creates the need for the Atonement and for our utter dependence on the Savior.

Commandments, when viewed this way, are a beautiful thing. However, in light of what you said about them being arbitrary ways of controlling a people, I thought of them in a dark, but parallel way.

Devil's Advocate:
By making commandments so impossible to completely obey, those who believe in those commandments are of two sorts: those who deludedly believe they are keeping all the commandments and thereby saved, and those who are continuously reminded that they fall short of the mark, and find themselves feeling unworthy. The commandments therefore can induce an eternal cycle of guilt, which, when prolonged, can produce seriously impact an individual's sense of self-worth.

If you believe that a church has been the author of such impossible requirements, you might say they create the need for a resolution of that guilt, the Atonement. Becuase those who teach the commandments also teach that their church is the only right way, subscribers to that philosophy are left utterly dependent on the organization that provides access to Christ.

[/devil's advocate]

I don't believe this is the case in the LDS Church, but I do believe there are religions out there who use the Atonement as a lever to chain their members to the organization.

There are a lot of ways to look at anything. :D

I guess an important question would be: would God intend for his Commandments to be impossible to live? If so, how does it benefit his children? Was Christ's Atonement intended to be used to bind people to His Church? If not, what was it intended for? Is it worth the effort of trying to keep the commandments if they truly are impossible?

Vanson said...

nice perspective, Peter.

I am a firm believer in charity and forgiveness. Those are the two concepts I hope I never lose grasp of, because I feel closest to Christ when I follow those things.

Sometimes, when looking at other commandments, such as not partaking of hot drinks, tobacco, etc., I consider those to be more like advice. I do believe those things can lead us astray and out of the focus of Christ.

October Rising said...

"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."

BYU's honor code is a good example of this. We've made things that are not evil (such as growing a beard) sinful by way of obedience. If you do not obey, you are sinning, even though the very act itself is not a sin.
Unfortunately, too many of us Latter-day Saints look at "the outward appearence". But I'm not to worried, cause I know "the Lord looketh on the heart." And it's only his judgements that really matter.

Christopher said...

I agree with you one hundred percent. Well said.

Crow's View said...

You made a comment on my blog that I think I wanted to comment about that fits this.

You said you had an issue with the analogy about "the rock" http://viewsfromthecrowsnest.blogspot.com/

I think you and I probably agree with each other but just don't understand the others point of view for whatever reason.

In the analogy the man feels like a failure because he didn't actually move the rock. The Lord only asked him to try. He took his failure to not move the rock to mean he had failed in the Lords commands.

That isn't the case at all. The real failure would have been to give up. That he kept trying is all the Lord asked of him to do. I don't think this is being stoic, I think this is just being faithful.

I don't think that the Lord makes commandments do hard that we have to finally just give up and accept the atonement. I think they can be viewed that way when we see them as limitations to our happiness, we can also see everything he asks us to do as a sacrifice also if we choose to.

But I'll be honest. I love playing the Devils advocate sometimes to. We'd probably enjoy sitting next to each other in priesthood just for the shire entertainment factor.

Thanks you for your comment and for allowing me a chance to elaborate on my blog. I admire your blogs and and am glad you are expressing yourself.