4 Reasons We Can’t Treat the Commandments Like a Buffet


As the morals and ethics of the world move further and further away from those of the Lord, it becomes less and less en vogue to faithfully follow the commandments of God. We can compare it to an all-you-can-eat buffet, such as the one our ward usually stops by on the home from youth temple trips. Parents, kids, youth leaders and members of the bishopric can pick and choose what they want to eat. Sometimes the 12-year-olds will head for the dessert bar before getting dinner. But they will not get the full benefit of the buffet (and they run the risk of getting a stomach ache on the two-hour ride home) if they don’t eat a well-rounded meal. It’s the same way with the commandments. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, 

“Our relationship to living prophets is not one in which their sayings are a smorgasbord from which we may take only that which pleases us. We are to partake of all that is placed before us, including the spinach, and to leave a clean plate! [Things As They Really Are (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1978), p. 74; emphasis in original]”

We must eat the spinach and the salad as well as the meat and potatoes, as it were, if we are to receive the blessings of obedience. Here are 4 of those blessings:

Commandments are a Sign of God’s Love for Us

The commandments are a sign of God’s love for us. Our loving Heavenly Father sent us to earth from His presence to be tested, tried and to prove ourselves worthy to return to Him. Elder Robert D. Hales taught,

“… Commandments are loving instructions provided by God our Father for our physical and spiritual well-being and happiness while in mortality. Commandments allow us to know the mind and will of God regarding our eternal progression. And they test our willingness to be obedient to His will. The commandments are not a burden or a restriction. Every commandment of the Lord is given for our development, progress, and growth.”

As a parent, I have gained a greater appreciation of the rules and boundaries that God sets for us. When my oldest three kids were little and I would take them to the store, I would hold onto my youngest’s hands tightly while we crossed the parking lot and headed inside. She didn’t like it and often tried to squirm away. But I knew that, given the chance, she’d take off and run into the road. I would tell her that we don’t run in the road, but she was too young to fully understand. While she saw freedom, I saw the cars that could hit her. Our Heavenly Father is also a loving parent who sees the dangers that we sometimes can’t. He gives us commandments because He loves us and wants us to reach our full potential. And the only way to do that is to follow Him.

We also show our love for God by our obedience. As the Savior said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

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Obedience Allows the Spirit to Stay with Us

After we are baptized, we are confirmed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Before baptism, we can feel the power of the Holy Ghost witness to us of the Savior, the truthfulness of the gospel and the scriptures. But we can receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is the constant companionship of the Spirit, after we are confirmed. Of this, Elder David A. Bednar taught,

“These four words—’Receive the Holy Ghost—are not a passive pronouncement; rather, they constitute a priesthood injunction—an authoritative admonition to act and not simply to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26). The Holy Ghost does not become operative in our lives merely because hands are placed upon our heads and those four important words are spoken. As we receive this ordinance, each of us accepts a sacred and ongoing responsibility to desire, to seek, to work, and to so live that we indeed ‘receive the Holy Ghost’ and its attendant spiritual gifts.”

If we want the companionship of the Holy Ghost, we must obey the commandments.

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Obedience Strengthens our Faith and Testimony

A young man fills out a tithing slip. Obedience to the commandments of God qualifies us to receive His blessings.The blessings of obedience to God’s commandments are inextricably intertwined. Obedience allows us to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. The constant companionship of the Holy Ghost will help us to strengthen our faith and our testimony as we obey the commandments. And to gain a testimony of the commandments, we must obey them. Take, for example, the law of tithing. When my husband and I were first married, we didn’t always pay our tithing right away. We paid bills first and then tithing afterward. But then we hit some major financial boulders. It was rough. We decided that we were going to have the faith to pay our tithing first, then our bills. And we received the blessings that President Henry B. Eyring described,

“… All of us who have paid a consistent full tithe feel greater confidence in asking God for what we and our families need. He has promised blessings even greater than we can receive when we have been faithful to our covenant to pay our tithes (see Malachi 3:10). So one of the great blessings of tithing is confidence in what the future holds. Whatever our circumstances may be, things will work out for the best. As we keep our promises, He will keep His. A feeling of peace is one of the great blessings of paying a full tithe. Those who have kept the commandment of tithing can testify that the blessing of peace is real and precious.”

As we saw the blessings of paying tithing, it strengthened our faith in the Savior and our testimony of Him and God’s plan for us.

Obedience Protects Us

Obedience to God’s commandments is the overarching layer of protection in the armor of God. We strengthen this armor through daily scripture study and prayer, regular church attendance, ministering to others, and performing the duties of our callings. President Thomas S. Monson taught,

Obedience is a hallmark of prophets; it has provided strength and knowledge to them throughout the ages. It is essential for us to realize that we, as well, are entitled to this source of strength and knowledge. It is readily available to each of us today as we obey God’s commandments.

The rampant moral relativism in the world today can make the smorgasbord approach to commandments seem very appealing. We can just pick the ones we don’t mind and ignore the commandments that we feel are too restrictive on our fun. The problem with that is that we deny ourselves the blessing and protection we need. When we justify “just a little sinning,” we open ourselves up to the deceptions and temptations of the adversary, who is always on the lookout for weaknesses in our armor that he can exploit. Putting on the whole armor of God, and protecting ourselves from the adversary, means total obedience to His commandments. Rather than limiting us, obedience brings unlimited blessings. As President Monson said,

The knowledge which we seek, the answers for which we yearn, and the strength which we desire today to meet the challenges of a complex and changing world can be ours when we willingly obey the Lord’s commandments.

Lisa Montague is a staff writer for the More Good Foundation. She graduated from Brigham Young University. And is currently raising four great kids with her husband in the mountains of Idaho. She loves spending time with her family, writing, skiing, and making quilts.