Our Own Reality- Moses 1:9-10, John 4:9

Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth.
And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.

COMMENTARY

How is it that thou askest drink of me? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans
The woman at the well had an understood reality: that Jews hated the Samaritans, and would have nothing to do with them. Thus her confusion when that reality was disrupted by Christ’s willingness to converse with her.
However this was just the beginning of the new realities that she was about to become acquainted with. For as we see in the next verse, Jesus then began to open her mind to the notion of living water. This is a reality that she struggles with initially, confusing it with a literal water, and not a spiritual nourishment. Bit-by-bit Jesus has to guide her through the first steps into this strange new world.

Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed
After his encounter with the Lord, Moses found his reality disrupted as well. Each of us is by default well acquainted with the reality of earth life, in which man is the highest form of existence. And while the reality of earth life is real, it is not the only reality that is real. There is also a heaven, a God, and in that broader reality man is a very small thing indeed.
Like the woman at the well, stepping into the greater reality might be awkward at first. Like Moses, we might find that doing so requires accepting uncomfortable facts, such as our own nothingness. But the greater reality is real and it is greater. It is only to our own benefit that we make the transition.

For Our Own Good- Ruth 1:16; John 13:15, 14:15

And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.

For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
If ye love me, keep my commandments.

COMMENTARY

And Ruth said, whither thou goest, I will go; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God
Ruth was not a Jew by birth, but she so loved her mother-in-law that she wished to remain with her always, and to even transform herself to be like her. Though the law of Moses had not applied to her previously in life, now she was electing to live under it.
And this is natural. Whenever we find a mentor or model that we want to be like, it is an obvious step to start mirroring their behaviors. If they became the way that they are by following certain practices, then it stands to reason that adopting those practices might cultivate some of their personality traits in us as well.

For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you
If ye love me, keep my commandments

Jesus, in fact, encouraged this sort of emulation, indeed his whole gospel is hinged around it. When he set his example, he did it deliberately. He behaved the way that he did for the express purpose that others could learn from it and follow suit. This is an incredible thing. Most of us set our example thoughtlessly, and may or may not actually advocate for each practice that we demonstrate. “Do as I say, not as I do.”
For that reason, we should take great caution in whose light we choose to follow. But when we do find a worthy source, when we do have a clear outline of what practices have made them what they are, when we are certain that these principles will also make us into the sort of person we want to be…then we have truly found a pearl of great price, and it is worth giving up all our old practices to receive it.

For Our Own Good- Mark 9:23-24, Ether 12:27

Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

COMMENTARY

Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
The father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
Yesterday we discussed how each of us is weak in our understanding of some commandments, but strong in our understanding of others. One commandment is that we should have faith, which apparently was an area where the father in this passage was weak. His reaction to this failing, however, is a wonderful example for how each of us can face our own realizations of weakness. He acknowledges what strength he does have, what strength he does not have, and then ask for help between the two.

I give unto men weakness that they may be humble, and if they humble themselves, and have faith, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
In a non-shaming way, we need to acknowledge that our inability to see the meaning in certain commandments is a weakness. But having these weaknesses is no mistake, in fact our weaknesses are given to us intentionally. Strange as it may sound, we are designed to be somewhat broken.
As we learn from this verse, though, the reason for this design is because when we heal from our brokenness we heal back stronger than if we had always been whole. If all of us had a perfect understanding and commitment to the commandments right from the get-go, we probably would live more obedient lives, but we would not develop our reliance on God and His grace, which is of even greater value.

The Need for Law- Summary

When one wishes to have the gospel in their lives, but not its laws, it is often due to an image of an exacting and punishing taskmaster God versus that of a loving and forgiving father. There is no question that the law of Moses given in the Old Testament was strict and severe, and yet we say that it was given by the same God who stated “as I have loved you, so you must love one another.” One tries to resolve these two images, and finds themselves asking so does God hate the sinner? Or does He love His wayward child?
In the process of this study I have come to the conclusion that this is a false dilemma. Strict commandments do not preclude the caring compassion of a father, and the giving of commandments is a greater act of love than sweeping misdeeds under the rug. There is probably more to be explored on the matter, but for the topic of this study it is enough to know that the laws of God are given as an act of kindness.
Having a proper understanding of these laws puts to rest so many of the fears related to them. Our concerns stem more from misinterpretation than disagreement. Let’s take a look at some of the fundamental principles of law, and how they truly are designed for our benefit.

Law is Inevitable

Societies have experimented with anarchy from time to time, and always to disastrous effect. Notably, anarchy does not survive. There never has been a successful and lasting nation that was not structured on some sort of government or law. Even on the most basic level, it is in our nature to band together under clans and tribes, to submit to a set of rules, and to function as a society.
Even more than this, though, we belong to a world of order and rigidity. Physical laws govern every material interaction of our lives, and provide us a sense of dependability. Were it not for the presence of natural law, all would be chaos, and life would be impossible. Our very existence depends on there being a set of universal rules.
And there is still more. For we are not only material bodies, but also composed of an immortal spirit. These spirits are the creation of God, and therefore inherently bound to the laws of heaven. That is their natural place to dwell, and so must adhere to its commandments or else divorce themselves from it.
Thus it is necessary for us, first and foremost, to recognize the parts that we are made of, and from the recognition of our nature, then accept the laws that inevitably apply to us. To live without law would be to stop being what we fundamentally are.
John 3:5-6- Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Mark 12:14, 17- And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, or not?
And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.

Laws Inherently Divide

Inherent in law is the division between those that adhere to its commandments, and those that defy them. To be a law, there must be two states of recompense defined and exacted: reward for those that obey the law, and penalty for those that do not. If these qualities are absent, then there are not any laws, only a list of suggestions.
Thus the laws of our government have punishments defined for those that break them, and securities promised to those that follow. Those that respect the laws of physics will enjoy a life far freer from pain than those that pay them no mind. And so, too, our spirits suffer or thrive dependent on our adherence to divine law.
Our problem, of course, is that we are all doomed to fall on the wrong side of natural and divine law. If we possessed a never-ending source of power we could stave off entropy, and maintain our body’s vitality forever. But we do not. And if we had perfect self control we could resist every temptation, and maintain our spirit’s purity forever. But we do not. Instead we are all bound for the grave and bound for hell. The temporary benefits of predictability and structure that these laws give us in mortal life, come at the cost of eternal woe afterwards.
2 Nephi 2:5- And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.
2 Nephi 2:13- And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.

The Law of Christ Spares Us

However, if the terms of these first laws have been satisfied, then a new law can be erected in their place. Thus, to our fallen state came Jesus Christ, sent to atone for our sins, sent to die the death of our mortality, who then turned and offered us resurrection and forgiveness instead. He did so, under the domain of a new law, his law.
But as we have already noted, for this to be a law it must have terms and commandments, which provide reward for their fulfillment, and punishment for their transgression. The rewards for Christ’s law are resurrection and forgiveness, the punishment is simply to default back to the hell required by our inability to perfectly follow divine law.
But this new law could only be beneficial to us if we are aware of it, and knew how to make use of it. And thus the gospel was written out and given to us in the form of scripture. Thus our conscience was instilled in our hearts. Thus teachers and guides were inspired to direct and educate us. All of these were provided for the express purpose of teaching us us the terms and conditions of this new law. In these sources we find every stipulation laid out in exhaustive detail. We learn over and over again that the law of Christ requires us to have faith in him, to repent of our sins, to enter into a covenant by baptism, and ever recommit to following him when we fall short of his example.
If we do these few things, then the saving of our souls is sure.
Luke 4:18- The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.
Isaiah 51:4-5- Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.
My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust.

Romans 8:2- For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

The Need for Law- Alma 11:37, Helaman 5:10-11

And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.

And remember also the words which Amulek spake unto Zeezrom, in the city of Ammonihah; for he said unto him that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.
And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance; therefore he hath sent his angels to declare the tidings of the conditions of repentance, which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls.

COMMENTARY

And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins.
The Lord should come to redeem his people, but not to redeem them in their sins.
It is important to note that the gift of Christ’s law, which rescues us from the condemnation of divine law, does not give us free license to sin and carouse about without a care for the welfare of our soul.
We often make the mistake of thinking of law as simply being a set of punishable rules, but really it is a guide for living a purposeful life. We obey the laws of our nation not only to avoid being thrown into prison, but also that we may establish a community that is nurturing and safe. Imagine if we could break the laws and steal and cheat and kill without punishment. Yes, we would avoid imprisonment, but also our societies would disintegrate into utter chaos.

Not to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is not merely cosmetic. It does not take sinners, who remain sinners, who indulge in sinful thoughts and actions as a way of life, and then stamp them with a “fit for heaven” label that doesn’t belong. Rather it takes sinners, and it teaches them how to live purely.
Obviously there is a delicate line here. Because even those who are sincerely trying to follow the gospel are going to make wrong choices along the way. And I don’t just mean ignorant mistakes, I mean that they will willfully and intentionally do something that they know is wrong. And for these sincere-hearted, but imperfect souls, there does need to be grace. There does need to be some degree of understanding and pardoning of guilt.
To what degree? Well, that isn’t for me to judge. That falls under the purview of Christ himself, and he alone can tell us how aligned we are in his eyes.
What I do know, though, is that he intends for us to repent when we have these shortcomings. Even knowing that we are sure to slip again, he does expect us to keep moving. And when we do commit to try again, he gives us a purer heart that wants all the less to sin. He is saving us from our sins, slowly moving them apart from us until we have no more desire for them.

The Need for Law- Galatians 3:19, 24

Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

COMMENTARY

Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made.
The law of Moses was an intermediary law, one given after the ancient Israelites rejected Moses’s guidance time and time again. On one occasion Moses literally broke the tablets of stone, upon which the law God had intended for them was written. Then, later, they were denied access to the promised land, instead consigned to wander the wilderness for forty years. Thus, there were elements of Christ’s law that they might have had, but the people were deemed not ready to receive them.

Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ.
And it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
But the withholding of Christ’s law, and the giving of Moses’s law instead, was not some sort of punitive punishment. Moses’s law was a very strict law, but it was actually given for a loving purpose. It was what God knew the people of Israel needed, to train them up, until they were ready to receive the law of Christ. And though it is called the law of Moses, it was not Moses’s invention. Instead we learn that it was ordained “in the hand of a mediator,” meaning it was given by Christ. Thus it was divinely appointed as a sort of “spiritual training wheels.” It was a law of Christ, given to prepare them for the law of Christ.
And so, too, Christ may do for us. To each of us he gives customized requirements and training, helping us to come to that common destination of his full law. We receive those customized instructions through the yearning of our hearts. And so, on top of the ten commandments, and the one to love our neighbor, and all those others, it becomes a personal commandment to start eating healthily, or to call up our son and apologize, or to go back to school and finish that degree. We still have the core law of Christ, but we also have our own law as well. One that is personalized, given to be just what we need. Not given to replace Christ’s law, or to excuse us from any of its principles, but to extend upon them, and bring us into better harmony with them.

The Need for Law- Alma 7:12-14, 2 Nephi 9:41

And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.

COMMENTARY

And he will take upon him their infirmities, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities
The Son of God suffereth that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance
Once again, we see how the atonement of Jesus Christ is given so that he may blot away our sins and make us clean. But further we see that it permits him to understand our sufferings on a very personal level. He knows firsthand how it feels to be on the wrong side of the law, and he knows it in the very personal, individual way that I have been so, and the very personal, individual way that you have been so.
Thus he knows what unique ways each of us need to be trained into following the law. Different children require different methods, and he has the freedom to teach us according to our requirement. The commandments are still the commandments, and each of us is still expected to live all of them, but the intermediary steps we take towards being able to meet them is personalized.

The keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there
Thus we all know what the final destination for all of us is, but the next step toward it will be different for you and for me. I have not been elected to judge over you, and tell you what next actions you must do to improve yourself.
Yes we have teachers and priests, we have those that we confess to, we have those that counsel and bless us according to the words that God gives them. But they are not meant to be our new masters, only guideposts to point to the one master. As this verse attests, there is no servant employed, no barrier between us and Christ. If we want to know what personalized law he intends for us to adhere to today, we only have to ask.

The Need for Law- Romans 7:6, 22-24; 8:1-2, 5, 14, 16

But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

COMMENTARY

But now we are delivered from the law
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death
Verses such as these have been used to suggest that all Christians are free of condemnation, regardless of their behavior, after confessing Christ as their Savior. And, in a sense, this is true. For where we were once condemned to hell for our sins, the adherence to the gospel of Christ frees us of the demands of justice, and lets us live as if there had never been any condemnation over us. Thus we have sinned, yet are liberated from the consequences of having done so. But…we do still need to adhere to the gospel of Christ.

O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
Yes, Paul is speaking of being made free from law. He is speaking of being free from carnal, mortal law, and he is speaking of being free from divine law and its requirements for perfection. But he is not suggesting that we should surrender Christ’s law, too. The freedom that Christ offers is the freedom of subjecting ourselves to his law. We still must repent, we still must resolve to try again after every slip.

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God
.
Which is the other freedom that Christ offers to us. His Spirit makes trying again appeal to our hearts. It no longer becomes a burden to us, but rather a joy. His Spirit convinces us that we are the children of God, and when one is instilled with the knowledge of that in their hearts, it becomes natural and freeing to live in virtue.

The Need for Law- Jeremiah 31:33, 3 Nephi 11:31-33

But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.
And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.

COMMENTARY

But this shall be the covenant that I will make, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people
As we mentioned yesterday, Jesus became the mediator between us and divine law, having purchased the right to save all of us according to his own terms. And even before being born in the flesh and performing his saving atonement, he spoke through the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah of this coming covenant.
In that pronouncement he made clear what his mission statement for this new covenant would be: to put the law into our hearts, to be our God, and to cultivate us into being his people. The purpose of Jesus’s gospel, therefore, is to bring us in harmony with heaven. Through his tutelage we are meant to learn to love the law, to desire to follow its precepts, and to willingly choose God for our God.

And this is my doctrine, and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.

To repent, to put away the old, and to be born again as a new creature. These are the stipulations of the new law given by Jesus. Unlike divine law, perfection is not required, but that does not mean that effort is not required. He forgives us for not completely following every commandment of divine law…but he forgives us so that we may then try again. And when we fail again we are must to try once more. Over and over.
Thus the mandate of divine law is perfection, but the mandate of Christ’s law is not perfection. It is to try and try again. So long as we sincerely are trying, so long as we are truly repenting and recommitting, then that is it, we have already satisfied our part of Christ’s law. Thus the mandate of divine law is to already be heavenly, but the mandate of Christ’s law is to work on becoming heavenly. So long as we are sincerely becoming better, then that is it, we have already satisfied our part of Christ’s law.

The Need for Law- 1 Timothy 2:5, Ephesians 2:13-15

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

COMMENTARY

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus
We have considered how Jesus Christ came between humanity and the damning consequences of our laws to offer a mediation. Having fulfilled all of the requirements of mortal and divine law, one can only assume that Jesus was free to make the terms of his new law be whatever he wished.
If it had been his intention to still surrender us to the torment of damnation, who could deny that he had the right? Or if it had been his intention to liberally grant salvation to everyone regardless of their behavior, again who could deny that he had the right? Or if his intention had been anywhere in between, who could question it?
Obviously not all of these possibilities can be true, but the point is that Jesus was free to set his own terms, and whatever terms he chose, they would become our new immutable law if we chose it. Whatever he thinks it is that we need to do to achieve salvation, that is what we need to do.

He hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us
For to make in himself of twain one new man

So what is it that Jesus wants to do? Does he want to save us all? Well yes, of course, but that is not all. As we see in these verses from Ephesians, Jesus wants to bridge the gap between us and God. He wants to break the wall between frailty and perfection, and teach us flawed souls the way to be pure. He wants to make new men and women out of us, so that we do not only live in heaven, but belong in heaven.
And as we review the terms that Christ did ultimately choose for his law, we will see that they were selected specifically for their effect of changing sinful people into something holy.