Learning to Love God

In his October 2014 General Conference address, Elder Jorg Klebingat boldly and directly stated, “You cannot love God without also loving His commandments”.

Yikes. This has caused me much internal reflection and quite a bit of anxiety. I guess I don’t always love God…but how can that be?

What makes love of God and love of the commandments so inseparable?

The commandments are generally highly misunderstood. We tend to paint them as restrictions placed on us by a Being whose main goal is – apparently – to subject us to Him. But what does God get out of our compliance? He is already God – all-knowing, all-powerful, omnipresent and omniscient. The worship and obedience of a few fallen mortals cannot possibly give Him more than He already has. If we could but look at things from God’s perspective – while fully acknowledging that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and His ways higher than our ways – we would see an alternate and true view of these enacted commands.

“God is God because He is perfectly obedient.” In Doctrine & Covenants 82:10, we read that God is “bound” when we do as He says. That word bound suggests that there are eternal laws, real and in force, that God could not break while remaining a God. Indeed, mankind has made significant discoveries of some simple eternal laws through science. God is God because He has knowledge of each and every eternal law and He adheres to them perfectly.

In Moses 1:39 we learn that God’s “work and glory” is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”. That is His end goal – to see His children return to Him with “exaltation and glory”, to “inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths…” (See Doctrine & Covenants 132:19). To suggest that God merely wants to subject us to Him is counteractive to His declared purpose, and could only be truly conceived if we are to call Him a liar.

So if our eternal lives are God’s one and only aim, we have to accept that all He does is working towards this goal. It makes sense then that His supreme desire alone could warrant the willing sacrifice of Jesus Christ – “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son…” (See John 3:16). In the same breath, I hold that God gives us commandments for this same purpose – our own eternal life and exaltation.

President Lorenzo Snow taught that “As man now is, God once was/As God now is, man may be”. How did God obtain the status He now holds? Through obedience to the laws and ordinances instituted. How do we obtain godhood? By obedience to the same laws and ordinances that God adhered to – the same laws and ordinances that God has instituted for us here on earth; in short, by following the commandments – the same commandments God Himself had to learn to follow. And so we see that rather than being inconsistent rules placed to subject us to God, the commandments are actually the conduit by which we can become like God.

Why does this perspective matter? For one, it matters because humans are always trying to see things from God’s perspective. We can’t, naturally because He is all-knowing, perfect, and exalted. But in this small way we can come closer to perceiving the commandments how He sees them; He has given us enough information in the scriptures and through the prophets to do so. But seeing it this way cultivates intense motivation to not only keep the commandments, but to consequently love God more.

Why is it that we can’t separate love of God from love of the commandments? Because God is the commandments. Who He is and how He came to be there is all because of the commandments. Failure to love the commandments is failure to love the end result of what strict obedience to them creates – even God Himself.

I am imperfect in my love for the commandments and I am imperfect in my love of God. But recognizing this is one step closer to solving the problem. Indeed, I am finding  John 7:17 to be true – “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” As I follow the commandments, I learn how they truly are enacted for my eternal well-being, not only to bring me closer to God, but to make me like Him.

President Jeffery R. Holland remarked, “The first great commandment of all eternity is to love God with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength—that’s the first great commandment. But the first great truth of all eternity is that God loves us with all of His heart, might, mind, and strength.” In the end, God just wants us to love Him as much as He loves us. As we learn to love and live the commandments, we find ourselves closer to fulfilling His grandest desires – our love and our salvation.

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