Friday, June 11, 2010

Why do we obey? Another view...

I used to drive over the speed limit almost everywhere I went. An occasional speeding ticket was the price I paid for being able to drive as fast as I wanted. A few years ago, though, I got a couple of speeding tickets on local roads in my community within a week. The fines were not small, and points were tallying up against my license. I decided I needed to slow down. I obeyed the speed limits out of fear.

Now that I'm older (and perhaps even wiser) I also obey the speed limits in my town out of concern for my neighbors. I don't want someone racing down my residential street so fast that a child is hurt, and I certainly don't want to be the speeder who hurts someone.

What about the laws of God? Are we obedient to commandments because we fear punishment, or because we seek blessings? Or because we love God?

The Savior taught that there are really two Big Commandments:
1. Love God.
2. Love your fellowman.

All the other commandments ("the law and the prophets") hang on these two. Even the Ten Commandments can be easily fit into these two broad heading as can other things we're asked to do by the Lord.

Outsiders observe that Mormons have a lot of rules to keep. We often don't talk about it that way inside the church, instead suggesting that the commandments that seem restrictive free us to take advantage of spiritual (and sometimes physical) blessings as a result.

But do we keep those commandments so we can enjoy the blessings? Is that the right motivation? Do we keep them because we fear being without the blessings? Or are we trying to fit in to our Mormon culture?

My own experience is that my obedience is along a continuum. I may start obeying because I want to test a principle, or because I trust the person who teaches me (like my parents). As I obey, I see the blessings for doing so, and I want those blessings to continue. And over time, my love for God increases as I obey Him. And as my love increases, I want to obey Him more.

Conversely, when I'm tempted to do something I shouldn't I may reflect first on the possible lost blessings that would result from disobedience. But my example should be the Savior who resisted temptation out of devotion to His father (see Matthew 4).

In the end, the New Testament reminds us we are not saved by the law. At least as important as strict adherence is our attitude when we obey.

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