By Eric Johnson
According to Mormonism, obedience is doing God’s will by keeping all the commandments given by God as revealed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to unique LDS scripture, it is possible to keep these commandments. First Nephi 3:7 in the Book of Mormon says, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”
D&C 25:15-16 adds that only by keeping commandments could a person ever get the very best this religion has to offer. Quoting Jesus, it says, “Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive. And except thou do this, where I am you cannot come. And verily, verily I say unto you, that this is my voice unto all. Amen.” Ask a Latter-day Saint how many commandments must be kept and the answer is typically. “All of them.” How often? “All the time.”
The leaders have continually taught this. Cited in a 21st century church manual, eighth President George Albert Smith stated,
Being a member of the Church and holding the Priesthood will not get us anywhere unless we are worthy. The Lord has said that every blessing that we desire is predicated upon obedience to His commandments. We may deceive our neighbors, and we may deceive ourselves with the idea that we are going through all right, but unless we keep the commandments of our Heavenly Father, unless we bear worthily this holy Priesthood that is so precious, we will not find our place in the celestial kingdom (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith, 2011, p. 53).
Consider these citations from some of the latest church presidents:
10th President Joseph Fielding Smith: “Through obedience to those commandments which are set forth in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and by continuance therein, we shall receive immortality, glory, eternal life, and dwell in the presence of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, where we shall truly know them” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, 2013, p. 237).
11th President Harold B. Lee: “The greatest message that one in this position could give to the membership of the Church is to keep the commandments of God, for therein lies the safety of the Church and the safety of the individual. Keep the commandments. There could be nothing that I could say that would be a more powerful or important message today” (The Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 2000, p. 35).
12th President Spencer W. Kimball: “The Savior came ‘to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man’ (Moses 1:39). His birth, death, and resurrection brought about the first. But we must join our efforts with his to bring about the second, to attain eternal life” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 2006, p. 29).
16th President Thomas S. Monson: “Don’t put your eternal life at risk. Keep the commandments of God” (Preparation Brings Blessings,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2010, p. 66).
17th President Russell M. Nelson: “Obedience to the sacred covenants made in temples qualifies us for eternal life—the greatest gift of God to man” (“Prepare for the Blessings of the Temple,” Ensign Special Issue Temples, October 2010, p. 42).
Consequences for not having complete obedience in this life
Many Latter-day Saints rationalize that they will be able to do works after they die. However, LDS scripture certainly bans such an idea. Alma 34:32-35 says,
32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.
33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.
35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.
In other words, a person who waits to finish the work after death will be “subjected to the spirit of the devil” and that “is the final state.” Referencing this passage in Alma, a church manual states, “The time to fulfill the requirements for exaltation is now” (Gospel Principles, 2009, p. 277). Apostle Bruce R. McConkie wrote, “Even the merciful doctrine of salvation for the dead contains no provision that men will have a second chance to gain salvation by repenting in the spirit world (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 617-619). He also taught,
Those who have opportunity to accept the gospel in this life must do so or forfeit the hope of salvation. (Alma 34:31-36.) Even if such persons do repent in the spirit world, the highest reward they can ever attain is the terrestrial kingdom. (D. & C. 76:71-74.) There is no escaping the awful consequences attendant upon the rejection of the Lord or of his legal administrators who carry his message to the world (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 1:435).
What Does Christianity Teach
While obedience is important (Eph. 2:10; James 2:20), this is not what is required for eternal life. Forgiveness of sins is based solely on God’s gift that comes by grace through faith and not by one’s works (Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).
Other Articles to Consider
Test Your Understanding
- How is 1 Nephi 3:7 used in the context of Mormonism?
A) God doesn’t give commandments that can’t be kept
B) Some commandments are admittedly impossible
C) As long as a person tries to keep commandments, this is all God expects.
D) Some people are better at keeping commandments than others
2. According to D&C 25:15-16, what happens when a person successfully keeps the commandments?
A) He gets his calling and election made sure
B) He gets to keep his temple recommend
C) A crown of righteousness will be given
D) Heaven will be earned
3. Based on the quotes by LDS leaders above, what is most important for a person to get eternal life and gain the celestial kingdom?
A) Grace B) Faith C) Complete obedience D) Trying one’s hardest
4. T F According to LDS scriptures, it’s possible to finish obedience in the next life if this doesn’t happen in mortality.
5. Which of the following best summarizes the view biblical Christianity takes on obedience?
A) It’s optional for the Christian since we’re saved by grace and not by works
B) It’s part of sanctification and should take place after faith
C) Faith plus obedience = Eternal Life
D) Obedience (and good works) has no role in Christianity
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