Comer: The motivation behind keeping God’s commandments
My 7-year-old son had an appointment with an ophthalmologist last week. Unfortunately, he inherited my poor eyesight.
Going to the eye doctor has been a challenge because it’s hard for him to focus and do the things the doctor needs him to do. Heading into last week’s visit, I talked to my son and emphasized as much as I could the importance of focusing and doing exactly what he was told, no matter how hard it was. Additionally, I tried to introduce some motivation related to his video gaming privileges.
When the time came for the ophthalmologist to inspect his eyes, my son dutifully did exactly what he was told. The ophthalmologist was able to gather all the information he needed and was stunned by the change in my son’s demeanor. I’m sure he must have wondered if this was truly the same child. The person who was assisting him, who has been there for previous appointments and has seen how they have gone, watched with a look of amazement.
Such an experience taught me an interesting lesson. It’s fascinating to see what’s possible when proper motivation is introduced. Things that seem hard, even perhaps impossible, suddenly become extremely possible.
As I reflect on this experience, I find myself thinking about obedience to God’s commandments. There are a lot of commandments that are talked about in relation to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In Lesson 4 of “Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service,” the commandments discussed are “Pray Often,” “Study the Scriptures,” “Keep the Sabbath Day Holy,” “Baptism and Confirmation,” “Follow the Prophet,” “Keep the Ten Commandments,” “Live the Law of Chastity,” “Obey the Word of Wisdom,” “Keep the Law of Tithing,” “Observe the Law of the Fast” and “Obey and Honor the Law.” Some of these commandments seem to be harder than others, but they all can be a challenge to some degree. How strongly one is motivated to keep these commandments is a huge determining factor in whether they will be successful.
What motivates me personally as a Latter-day Saint to keep these commandments?
First, I think it’s important to explain the purpose of commandments. Why does God bother to give them to us, much less so many of them, and some which can be quite difficult? Because he knows they are good for us. The ancient Book of Mormon prophet Lehi said it well when speaking to his son Jacob. “But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.” (2 Nephi 2:24) Because of his infinite wisdom, God has determined that following commandments will help us have happiness and peace. And not just temporarily, or for even perhaps a lengthy period of time, but always, regardless of what situation we face in our lives. Sometimes, we may not be able to understand how following the commandments will provide that kind of happiness and peace, but the fact is, they do. I have seen this evidenced in my own life.
Thinking back to my experience with my son, there was a clear reason he needed to do exactly as the ophthalmologist instructed that my son didn’t entirely understand during the checkup. After the ophthalmologist was finished, the assistant took my son out of the room to go get a sucker and the ophthalmologist told me that a major reason it is so crucial for my son to do exactly what he is told is because it is likely he will need surgery to correct what is wrong. Measurements must be as precise as possible so that when the time for the surgery comes, the ophthalmologist can perform it exactly how it needs to be done. My 7 year old didn’t know this. All he knew was he was being asked to do things that he was uncomfortable with and that were hard for him. But not knowing exactly why he needed to do what he was told didn’t mean that it wasn’t ultimately for his good.
Like the ophthalmologist, God knows exactly why following his commandments is important for us and will bless us. If we trust him and follow those commandments, even when we don’t completely understand the purpose of those commandments, we will receive blessings for that obedience.
Another reason for commandments that comes to my mind is that they are a test of our love for God. How much do we really love him, and how much are we willing to show that we love him? In John 14:15, Jesus said simply, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
Sometimes, when I am busy working, I realize that I need or want something that requires me getting up. But, because of how focused I am on my work, I don’t exactly want to get up. So, I’ll ask one of my sons to get whatever it is that I want and bring it to me. I must be blessed with two very good sons because they never complain, and many times they do so with a cheerful countenance. I consider them doing these things for me, and doing so cheerfully, an expression of their love for me. In like manner, our willingness to follow God’s commandments is an expression of our love for him.
Knowing that God knows everything and that his love for us is perfect motivates me to keep his commandments. I simply trust that his commandments will bring me lasting happiness and peace, and so I follow them. I also want to show my love for him and for everything he has done for me, which further motivates me to keep his commandments.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are sometimes criticized for trying to “earn their way into heaven.” Bradley R. Wilcox, first counselor in the Young Men General Presidency of the church, addressed this thought during a BYU devotional on July 12, 2011, titled “His Grace is Sufficient.” Speaking of those who give this criticism to him, he provided a powerful motivation for obeying the commandments. He said:
“I say, ‘No, we are not earning heaven. We are learning heaven. We are preparing for it. We are practicing for it.'”
President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency of the church, shared a similar sentiment on the concept of progression during the October 2000 general conference of the church when he said: “In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something,” which he later described as a “spotless and perfected state.”
In all of this, I have been given all the motivation I need.
Contact Ryan Comer at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @rbcomer8388 and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/