Monday, May 18, 2015

Things I want my kids to know: Commandments

Commandments, as a concept, are pretty unpopular right now.

So of course I have to write about them.

First, though, I have to make it clear that this post might look like I'm saying that commandments are just nice suggestions to make us happy, and I'm not saying that at all. So if I don't make myself clear with the rest of this, know that commandments are not suggestions. They are essential.

Here's the thing about commandments:  When left to our own devices, with perfectly good intentions, we screw things up pretty badly. Add into that the reality that many people do not have perfectly good intentions, and those people seem to have a knack for getting into power...well, let's just say that we can't trust us to run the world and get it right.

We lack the knowledge. We lack the vision.  We lack even the angle needed to get the vision, and the capacity to have the knowledge. We're like 2 year olds trying to design a road system and then use it. Driving, I mean.

But here we are, trying to make a world function. Trying to learn and grow and let other people learn and grow. Trying to be happy.

And just in case our own inadequacy wasn't enough to screw things up royally, we have a little help from Satan.  So of course that makes things even messier.

So God, being a smart and loving father, gave us commandments.

Really, they must be for us. They can't be for Him--He doesn't need them.

So we assume they are for us. And knowing that He has perfect knowledge and that He loves us, we have to assume that the point of commandments is to make us happy, or at least get us on the right path for that.

And He had to make them stronger than suggestions because we aren't so good at following suggestions. What's more, if you look carefully at the commandments, you'll see that they don't just help you, personally, avoid trouble and be happy. They also are the bare minimum requirements necessary to keep us from destabilizing society and making the whole grand experiment implode in just one generation. We are perfectly capable of screwing things up so profoundly that within one generation nobody would have a chance of learning enough to make good choices and get back to Heavenly Father.

Like all children, we are adept at confident chaos and completely inept at humble order.

Even when we try order, we tend to focus it in completely inconsequential places, like toilets and floors, instead of where it matters, like family structure and relieving suffering.

So commandments.

We need them.  Desperately.

We must have commandments in order to not ruin our chances and everyone else's chances of succeeding at what God sent us here to do--learn and grow and come back to Him pure and clean and with the experience we need to have all that God has and use it rightly.

So the commandments are a roadmap to happiness, and they are so important (not just nice suggestions) that God binds us to them with covenants. He is serious when He asks us to promise to follow Jesus, to build righteous families, and to live the gospel. He wants us to be serious about it, too.

But Satan is tricky. So, unable to convince most generations to abandon commandments all together, he has managed to convince many many people that keeping the commandments makes them better than other people. It's like this exclusive club of people who keep the commandments and are therefore "righteous" (which is more like a crown than like a characteristic and a result of continuous humble effort). I used to think that never having had to repent of anything "serious" meant I was better than other people. So stupid.

Really, keeping the commandments doesn't make us better than anyone. And it doesn't make us more important than anyone.

That's not to say don't bother. There are millions of benefits of keeping the commandments:

It spares us pain we might otherwise have.

It guides us to places and experiences that make life fulfilling and enjoyable.

It helps us not destroy society.

It gets us to a place where we can qualify for blessings like eternal marriage and having access to revelation and a constant companionship from a member of the Godhead (seriously--why wouldn't we want that?! If this were a game, it would be the best powerup ever).

It puts us in a position to help other people.

It protects us from dangers and from painful stupidities of so many kinds.

It takes a little off the edge of confusion and darkness life is built to be.

It helps us not hurt other people and destroy their lives. That's important.

It helps us know how to go forward, and helps us know how to counsel other people who want to go forward.

It helps us know what things are good and what things are actually Satan's lies. Remember that Satan is not passively mucking about--he's actively trying to destroy the world and us individually, and he's really smart, and the commandments are like armor, weapons, and road maps to help us  not be destroyed.

Really, the commandments are this wonderful blessing God gave us. We throw them out at our own peril, and society throws them out at society's peril. It is NOT going to lead to happiness, even if it seems like should, for us to ignore or reject God's commandments. That's why he made them commandments and not suggestions. They're really quite vital.

And the reason we want to share the gospel with people? Not to get them into our exclusive "chosen people" club.  We want to share the gospel because we want everyone to have the blessing and guidance and joys that we get from following the commandments. We want them to have the protections. We want them to avoid the pains and sorrows that come from sin. Not that they are horrible, worthless people for sinning, but that Jesus can help them feel better.

Why wouldn't we want to share that? Why would we fight against the commandments? This makes no sense, just like it makes no sense to not repent (as often as you need--I don't know who said you can only repent of something once and then after that if you mess up again ALL your sins come back to you. If that were true, it would be a great way to discourage people from repenting. It's not true anyway. As long as you are sincerely repenting, you can do it over and over, and God forgives over and over. Otherwise if you get an addiction, you're toast, and we know that's not the case. Jesus is big enough for mistakes and sins that are hard to stop doing, too, not just for the easy stuff.)

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