As you’ve learned more about Jesus Christ, you have also learned to love Him in a way that may be more new and personal than ever before. As your love grows, you want to show Him how you feel. Dallin H. Oaks, a General Authority, said, “We are challenged to move through a process of conversion toward that status and condition called eternal life. This is achieved not just by doing what is right, but by doing it for the right reason—for the pure love of Christ.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov 2000, 32–34)
Doing the right thing—living the gospel and joining the church—is an important way to show the Savior you love Him, but you must do it for the right reasons. Doing it just to get the reward, or to please a friend might be a starting place, but it isn’t where you want to end up. You want to find yourself living the gospel for no reason other than your love for the Savior and for your Heavenly Father.
The stronger your love grows, the easier obedience will become. When you find you are good even when you have no material reason to be and no one on earth will know, you’ll realize your love is growing strong. With a powerful love in your heart it will be no hardship to make the right choices.
When we think of how we parent our own children, or our parents raised us, we can see the wisdom in this idea. Last week I watched a toddler for the day. It’s been a long time since I spent a day with a toddler and I was quickly reminded that they must be watched every moment. There are rules about what toddlers can and can’t do, but they don’t understand them, or, in general, care much about them. As they get a little older, they begin to memorize the rules, but they only know that if they follow them, they won’t get into trouble and they might get praised. The fear of punishment and the reward are the primary motivations.
But then one day, they are faced with a rule at a time when no one is watching and they obey it anyway, not because they are afraid of consequences, but because they’ve internalized the rule. They love their parents and want to be the person their parents want them to be. They believe in the rules themselves. And so, they are “good” for the right reason, and independent of any external consequence.
This is the highest level of obedience. Doing good for the pure love of Christ is a major step in the path back to our Father in Heaven.
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.