Central to the worship and devotion of Mormon Church members is the ordinance of the sacrament in which we explicitly renew the covenant implicitly made at baptism. The covenant is implicit, because we do not verbally agree to specifically stated conditions at the time of baptism. The amen that we add to the baptismal prayer should imply an understanding of what we are about to undertake, but it is not until we conscientiously add our amen to the sacrament prayers that we actually verbally agree to the covenant.
The conditions of the covenant associated with the ordinance of baptism are declared in Mosiah 18: 10. After laying out the frame of mind which qualifies a person for baptism, (vs. 8,9) Alma describes the covenant: “…that ye will serve him (The Lord) and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his spirit more abundantly upon you…” The Sacrament prayers, presented in D&C 20: 77, 79 and in Moroni 4: 3 and 5: 2, are a bit more specific, inviting us to participate in the ordinance in remembrance of Christ, as a witness that we will take upon ourselves his name and remember him. In other words, we commit to become his disciples. The next part is what this essay is about, because what is required of us to satisfy the terms of the covenant, is not specifically stated. In order to have His (Christ’s) spirit to be with us, we must “…keep his commandments which he has given…” not just keep the commandments, but keep His commandments. In order to understand what this means, I decided to read all the scriptural accounts written about the life of Jesus, in search of his commandments. The accounts of Christ’s life, which record first-person addresses from him, are the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as well as third Nephi 11-28. The citations I give are from Matthew since it is the most comprehensive and the other three don’t contain any significant new information. Third Nephi also contains much of the same text as Matthew with a few original additions. I didn’t include any from the D&C since they were given after the baptismal covenant was established and are mostly individual and/or situational.
In order to determine what they are and at the risk of being a bit pharisaical, I came up with some criteria for commandments in general:
- A commandment is a declarative statement; “Do this” or “You must”. I did not include if/ then or conditional invitations or general advice.
- It should apply to humanity or the church at large and not just a specific group like Apostles or church leaders.
- It should originate with Christ and not be his quoting of a previous prophet.
So here it is, a group of commandments, fairly concise. It’s not my purpose to create a list with the intent of perfect compliance with each item, but to communicate a sense of what he wants for us. I have commented occasionally for clarity, but, as with every other aspect of the Gospel, personal interpretation is up to you.
Matt. 4:17“…Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand…”
Matt 4:19 “…Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men…”
Matt 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Matt 5:34-37 “…Swear not at all; neither by heaven… Nor by the earth… neither by Jerusalem… Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, … let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay…”
I don’t think this one is necessarily about profanity, but more about how we conduct ourselves with our fellow humans; honor, integrity and all that.
Matt 5:39-42 “…I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
This one is actually culturally specific, dealing with the sorts of things that the roman soldiers were legally allowed to request, but the modern applications are obvious.
Matt 5:44 “…Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you…”
Probably the most radical doctrine he ever presented.
Matt 5:48 “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”
“Perfect” is translated from the Hebrew word “Tam” or “Tamim” or Greek “Telos”, meaning complete, mature or healthy.
Matt 6:1-3 do not your alms before men, to be seen of them…when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee…when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth…”
Matt 6:6,7 “…when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret…when ye pray, use not vain repetitions…”
Matt 6:9-13 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Matt 6:16-17 when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance…But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face…”
Verses 1- 17 are about motives for obedience and other righteous behavior.
Matt 6:19, 20 “…Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal…”
Matt 6:25, 31-33 “…Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on…take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed…for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Matt 7:1 “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”
Matt 7:6 “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine…”
Reverence and respect.
Matt 7:12 “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”
Matt 7:13 “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat…”
It ain’t easy.
Matt 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”
Matt 11:15 “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
Matt 11:28, 29 “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
Matt 18:10 “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones…”
Matt 19:14 “…suffer the little children and forbid them not, to come unto me…”
Okay, that one is situational.
This next bit is a story and it is very personal (in a sort of anonymous way) but I think it illustrates a good point about commandments in general:
Matt 19:16-21 “…one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him… if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, (remember what perfect means?) go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”
Matt 20: 27 “…whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant…”
Matt 22:37-40 “…Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
3Ne 12:16 “…let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
3Ne 12:20 “…come unto me and be ye saved.”
3Ne 15:9,10 “Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life. Behold, I have given unto you the commandments; therefore keep my commandments. And this is the law and the prophets, for they truly testified of me.”
3Ne 17:3 “…go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand.”
3Ne 18:6, 7 And this shall ye always observe to do, even as I have done, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you. And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.
3 Ne 18:18 “…ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation.”
3 Ne18:21 “Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.”
3Ne 18:22-25 “…ye shall meet together oft; and ye shall not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together, but suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not; But ye shall pray for them, and shall not cast them out; and if it so be that they come unto you oft ye shall pray for them unto the Father, in my name. Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up–that which ye have seen me do… ye see that I have commanded that none of you should go away, but rather have commanded that ye should come unto me, that ye might feel and see; even so shall ye do unto the world; and whosoever breaketh this commandment suffereth himself to be led into temptation.”
3 Ne 18:28-32 “And now behold, this is the commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily, when ye shall minister it; For whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul; therefore if ye know that a man is unworthy to eat and drink of my flesh and blood ye shall forbid him. Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out from among you, but ye shall minister unto him and shall pray for him unto the Father, in my name; and if it so be that he repenteth and is baptized in my name, then shall ye receive him, and shall minister unto him of my flesh and blood. But if he repent not he shall not be numbered among my people, that he may not destroy my people, for behold I know my sheep, and they are numbered. Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out of your synagogues, or your places of worship, for unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them.”
This one is a strange one to me. It’s clearly a direct commandment, and I can see some immediate benefits: don’t turn anyone away. But I cant break the code on the taking the sacrament unworthily clause. It doesn’t fit with my current understanding. I welcome further light and knowledge.
3 Ne 23:1 “And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.”
Isaiah was a poet and a hopeless romantic.
3 Ne 27:7 “Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name; therefore ye shall call the church in my name; and ye shall call upon the Father in my name that he will bless the church for my sake.”
3 Ne 27:20 “Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.”
I really want this one to say “…that you can come hang out with me, and laugh with me and work with me when you’re ready.”
What better words to end on?