On these two commandments

In Matthew we can find the account of a Lawyer (those darn lawyers) tempting Jesus, asking Him which is the #1, most important commandment.
Jesus gives the response that we are to Love God, and Love our neighbors as ourselves. Now, we spend a lot of time talking about that particular part of the answer, but I’m interested right now in the last part of Jesus’ answer from verse 40:

“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

So, in theory everything we are asked to do by the church, the scriptures, general conference speakers, etc. has, at its chewy caramel center, one or both of those two commandments.
If that is true then I have a few questions. It seems that the “love thy neighbor” ones are fairly obvious, those are the ones that have you doing things with and for other people. However, when it comes to the “love of God” commandments, a lot of those are, at root, things that we do because we believe God asked us to, and doing what God asks is a way to show love to God.
I’m wondering if there is a way to show love for God that isn’t just doing what has been asked of us. And conversely, if doing anything God asks of us is a way to show love for God, then couldn’t one turn any action into a show of love for God just by believing that God has asked it of that person? In short does the commandment to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” really just amount to ‘do what you’re told’? Or is there a difference?


Starfoxy is a fulltime caretaker for her two children.

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11 Responses

  1. I think there is a huge difference between “loving” God and simply following the commandments. Faith and trust is part of the “loving”, it is living his commandments (as compared to obeying) and knowing that the commandments are gifts for us to have more complete, fulfilling happy lives rather than a measurement for God (or man) to judge us.

    It is forgiving, not because God is making us and it is hard to do, but doing so because we know that we play an active part in Christ’s atonement.

    It is serving, not because we have to in order to get into heaven or meet some Relief Society statistical report, but because we find joy in answering heartfelt prayers through our labors and love.

  2. jks says:

    It isn’t about obedience to a list of commandments, it is about giving your whole heart and your will to God. (Read Esther Rasband’s book “The Myth of Self Esteem: 12 steps to finding peace).
    Since I’m on the Exponent here, your questions seems loaded with irritation with commandments and people following them if you disagree with them. You call it “Do what you’re told.” Having never had that viewpoint I perhaps can’t speak to that.
    But I can speak to my change from “Wow, this list of commandments is really long and really hard I can’t get it all done” to where I have committed everything I am to God and each day I do my best to do what he would have me do. I’m 40. My life choices aren’t really between stealing or being honest, or adultery vs. fidelity, or temple worship vs. going to a rave. My choices are really between good and good–serving in my calling by taking an older lady to the doctor or driving my daughter to work, helping a child with a problem or making dinner, paying bills or interacting with my toddler, etc.
    I truly believe that I have been blessed by being obedient and showing my love for God through obedience. As the years have gone on, my relationship with God has made it easier for me to live by the spirit and by checking with Heavenly Father I can be sure that I am on the right track and readjust when necessary.
    The church teaches us wonderful commandments from God. They have all blessed my life, even the ones that honestly are farther down on my to do list at the moment. I have a strong belief in the commandments and the prophet of God and other church leaders directing us to obedience.
    Thank you for the post and the question. It was nice for me to think about my answer and my testimony.

  3. Rachel says:

    In Oct 2010 GC Elder Bednar gave an address entitled “Receive the Holy Ghost”.
    Here’s the paragraph that I think applies:
    Praying, studying, gathering, worshipping, serving, and obeying are not isolated and independent items on a lengthy gospel checklist of things to do. Rather, each of these righteous practices is an important element in an overarching spiritual quest to fulfill the mandate to receive the Holy Ghost. The commandments from God we obey and the inspired counsel from Church leaders we follow principally focus upon obtaining the companionship of the Spirit. Fundamentally, all gospel teachings and activities are centered on coming unto Christ by receiving the Holy Ghost in our lives.
    It’s easy for me to get caught up in the checklists, but if I keep my eye on having a relationship with the Holy Ghost, which is my vehicle for a relationship with the Savior, then other things seem to fall in line. For me, that talk helped me clarify what is the center, what I’m going for.

    I guess I’ve always interpreted your quoted verse the wrong way? I’ve thought of it more as if you don’t have charity, you have nothing (Moroni 7: 44-46)

    • childless says:

      Rachel — Just wanted to say thanks for bringing up this talk. I had forgotten about it and this made me go back and read it. It’s a gem and I needed it today. Bednar is one of my favorite speakers.

  4. TopHat says:

    Matt 25:40 “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my (sistern and) brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

    Love God by loving others. 🙂 It’s all love thy neighbor.

  5. Mike H. says:

    The 2 big problems that come up when discussing this are:

    1. Opinion get passed off as doctrine. Then, one gets attacked for not being obedient, aka not “doing as you’re told”.

    2. Some commandments get hung up in the observance of other commandments. For example, helping the poor & needy gets skipped over by some members of the Church, since “Idlers are not to wear the garment of the laborer”, as stated in the D&C. Because of the slightest possibility of helping an “idler”, some refuse to help others at all, even though they are able to do so. Or, doing other things out of proportion, like being with their family is so important that they refuse to HT/VT, work at Welfare assignments, etc.

    I’m wondering if there is a way to show love for God that isn’t just doing what has been asked of us.

    I’ve also seen a variety of people from various religions say how much they love God, but refuse to do anything to show that love, that the love in their heart is enough. Then there’s LDS members who refuse to do common sense things, waiting to be told to do it.

  6. DefyGravity says:

    For me, the question here is where do commandments come from. My recent understanding is that commandments for my life come directly from my relationship with God, not from other people telling me what God wants from my life. So, in a sense it is about following the rules, but if the rules come from God to you, maybe they will make more sense and apply to your life. Also, I love the idea of any action showing love for God. That sounds like a good way to form and express a relationship with God, and figure out what God wants for your life.

  7. Andrea says:

    This conference talk by Elder Uchtdorf’s was right on point. This is one of my all-time favorite talks. The gist of it: DON’T BE A PHARISEE!


    How Do We Become True Disciples of Jesus Christ?
    The Savior Himself provided the answer with this profound declaration: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” 1 This is the essence of what it means to be a true disciple: those who receive Christ Jesus walk with Him. 2

    But this may present a problem for some because there are so many “shoulds” and “should nots” that merely keeping track of them can be a challenge. Sometimes, well-meaning amplifications of divine principles—many coming from uninspired sources—complicate matters further, diluting the purity of divine truth with man-made addenda. One person’s good idea—something that may work for him or her—takes root and becomes an expectation. And gradually, eternal principles can get lost within the labyrinth of “good ideas.”

    This was one of the Savior’s criticisms of the religious “experts” of His day, whom He chastised for attending to the hundreds of minor details of the law while neglecting the weightier matters. 3

  8. Jim H. says:

    Obedience is the beginner level approach to loving God. But if we have to be commanded in all things, we are slothful and unwise servants. This tells me God expects us to move past the commandments, find the spirit behind those commandments, and begin to think for ourselves.

    The law of Moses was a strict structure ancient Israel was supposed to obey, but its main point was to teach them and lead them to the Savior. The same is true of our commandments today.

    The gratitude, love, and praise we give to the Lord isn’t the result of a commandment. It is the result of understanding how much He loves us and reciprocating that love.

  9. Rich Alger says:

    We all engage in self-deception of one kind or another. Where we live outside of those things we know to be true.

    It may be the prompting to get out of bed to care for the child you heard stirring in the middle of the night. So that your spouse might not have to be disturbed. Or any number of inspirations to follow our best selves.

    If we can agree that God is the ideal of the greatest Good, then to me loving God with all our heart, might mind and strength is to place in the center of our beings the desire to follow the good we sense.

    To put off the lazy, the fearful, the prejudice, the dishonesty, the rat race, the incorrect from our social learning and anything else that would debase, depress, discourage or in any other way bring evil.

    Instead to put on strength, love, compassion, service, peace, mediation, study and anything else that would lead us to what the Spirit teaches us God is.

    To me this is the first commandment, to embrace good and discard anything else.

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