I recently read an article by someone who left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are sometimes called Mormons. She said there were too many commandments and they were a tremendous burden. I wondered if she understood that leaving the church and transferring to one that was laid-back about commandments didn’t take away her responsibility for them. Jesus gave us many commandments to follow, and regardless of whether or not our church feels commandments matter, or even whether or not we belong to a church, those commandments are still in force and we’ll still be held accountable for our level of obedience.
The commandments are not a burden when we have enough faith and love. Ezra Taft Benson, a past Mormon prophet, taught, “‘When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power.” I love this quote because it reminds us why God made commandments and what our attitude toward them should be. He didn’t give us commandments to burden us. They are, in fact, an act of love. Each commandment has a purpose and when we obey the commandments with a full understanding of the purpose behind them, they become so much easier to obey. When we keep them out of love and not because we want a reward or hope to avoid punishment, obedience becomes easier.
Let’s look at one commandment some people find to be a burden. A woman once said she didn’t understand why Mormons—or anyone else—would want to live that law. Why did God make rules about chastity? As we look at many of the problems the world faces today, we see that many of them are the result of breaking that law. Unwanted pregnancies, including teen pregnancies, are often the result of violating this law. Many diseases are spread because the law is not obeyed. Single parents have a much higher rate of poverty than do married women. When breaking the law of chastity involves marital infidelity, it leads to the breakup of families. God saw all these potential problems and so He created strict laws governing the sacred powers of procreation. Those who make the sacrifices and obey the law don’t worry about becoming single parents or getting sexually transmitted diseases. They understand God made the law to keep us safe.
Make a list of some of the commandments you find hard to keep. Study the scriptures to look for clues as to why God gave them to us. Then think it through intelligently. What problems could arise from disobeying this commandment? What blessings could come from obeying it? Try living the commandment for a while and see what happens in your life as a result.
There are some commandments that may seem difficult to understand. God does not require us to always know the reason for the commandment. He expects us to trust Him. We are always allowed to pray and to ask God if He really wants us to keep a certain commandment, and we should do this when we are unsure. However, even if we don’t understand, we need to obey. The Bible often tells of times when people didn’t understand what Jesus wanted them to do—wash in a certain river to be healed, for instance—and Jesus didn’t offer an explanation. He expected them to have faith and obey. This is not blind obedience if we have learned from long experience that God can be trusted. We are simply accepting the greater wisdom of God over our own limited understanding. It is based on our knowledge of God, not on blind obedience. We follow this pattern when we decide to eat a healthier diet because doctors said it is a good idea. We don’t go into the labs to do our own experience; we trust the judgment of the experts. God is the expert on all things.
To make obedience to the commandments easier, we need to increase our love for God. The better we know Him, and the more time we spend with Him, the greater our love will be. Prayer, scripture study, and contemplation are all ways to get to know God.
Obedience is another way to make the commandments easier to obey. When we obey a commandment, we need to pay attention to how it affects our lives. As we come to realize the blessings that are arising from our obedience, it becomes easier to obey.
We won’t be perfect in this life. We can only work towards perfection. We can set a reasonable number of goals and begin to improve our ability to live as God taught us to. Gradually, over time, a commandment will seem natural to us and then we can set a new goal. When we make a mistake, we can repent and start again. God is patient as long as we continually work toward perfection.
Obedience to the commandments is a blessing, not a burden, when approached in the right spirit.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.