The people who built the Tower of Babel were trying to get into Heaven without following God’s plan for getting there. They wanted to build a name for themselves and to avoid being scattered. Some have suggested they also wanted to avoid having to make covenants with God and to avoid keeping the commandments.
Many have suggested they held onto a lifelong fear of another great flood. God promised there would never be another flood to equal that of the one that caused Noah to build an ark, but it is likely this generation, led by Noah’s great-grandson Nimrod, did not trust that promise. The tower was waterproof, thanks to new inventions, and would let them climb above a flood.
So, instead of simply keeping the commandments, making covenants (a two-way promise between God and man) and acting out of love, they acted out of fear and rebellion and built a tower. Tradition has it that men, women, and even children built this tower, working for forty-three years. A project of this size would be a monumental task and most likely required every moment of their day. The children would not have been educated in anything not related to the tower and would not have been allowed to play.
So if they were trying to avoid the hard work of keeping commandments, does it make sense that they would do what seems to be even harder work with greater sacrifice? To me, building that tower is a lot less rewarding or fun than keeping commandments. It certainly seems like a lot more work and would require no less dedication.
Today, though, we see many people doing the same thing. They’re building some other kind of tower that serves as a convenient excuse for not keeping the commandments. They act out of fear, shortsightedness, or anger and in return, they get nothing of eternal value. Nimrod’s followers didn’t even get to finish the tower. Once the languages were confounded, they started arguing and making mistakes and again, instead of doing the correct thing—learning to work together despite a common language or learning a common language—they wandered off in small groups and abandoned the whole thing.
When we’re working for secular purposes, particularly when they’re built on a platform of anger and hatrid, we are frequently unable to sustain the purpose during hardships. As long as the work was mindless and all you had to do was to follow orders, it was fine, but once the builders had to think and it was no longer as easy, they disintegrated. If they felt they were engaged in a war against God, they soon realized, with the language changes, they had lost.
And of course, they had. You can’t win a war against God.
God’s commandments are not give to us because God wants to control us. Each commandment is lovingly offered because it is what is best for us. Generally, immoral choices lead to most of the problems the world has today. Many diseases are caused by ignoring laws of chastity. Children grow up in single parent homes for the same reason or because too many do not respect the sanctity of marriage or the hard work required of marriage, often causing innocent spouses to find themselves alone. Pornography tears marriages apart.
When we live according to the commandments, we don’t avoid every problem, because every life comes with trials, but we do avoid many of them. Sheri L. Dew, who served as a counselor to the General Relief Society president (a Mormon auxiliary for women) spoke at a conference for families on this subject:
“Several years ago, I participated in an international policy forum where the discussion moved from prostitution to pornography to abortion and so on. When the moderator invited me to comment, I noted that it seemed impossible not to notice a common theme—that every thorny issue had immoral underpinnings. I then told about my parents, who are devout members of our faith, what they had taught me about marriage and chastity, and how those teachings had governed my life. Afterwards, one woman after another pulled me aside and said the same thing: “You are so lucky. I didn’t think chastity was even possible. I wish someone had told me this years ago—it would have changed my life.”
I personally know tens of thousands of youth and young adults who are living morally clean lives. They are happy, productive, and anxiously engaged in becoming engaged. Moral purity is not outdated. Admittedly, it is also not easy. But I submit that it is easier than the alternative. Virtuous men and women never worry about a surprise pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease. Never agonize over confessing unfaithfulness. Have no emptiness after a one-night stand. No pain in losing one’s family to infidelity. No haunting memories of indiscretions. Quoting C. S. Lewis, “Virtue—even attempted virtue—brings light; indulgence brings fog” (Sister Sheri L. Dew at the World Congress of Families V in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on Aug. 10, 2009).
While some will argue that keeping those commandments of virtue is too hard, they will most likely find it easier than caring for a child conceived outside of marriage or coping with the illness or loss of family.
In the long run, morality is always the easier option, even when it seems harder in the short run.
God makes it clear in the Bible he expects us to keep the commandments. They are not suggestions, but commandments created for our own good. ““Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21.) Keeping the commandments help our lives to have fewer risks and sorrows, but it also ensures us a perfect eternal life.
No one is going to be perfect during this life—only Jesus Christ achieved that. However, we must always be striving to improve our ability to keep God’s commandments. Keeping them is both wise and loving. It is a way to show God He matters to us more than our favorite sin. We are willing to give up a little to gain everything worth having.
About 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.