Our Greatest Happiness

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In last Fall’s General Conference of the LDS Church, President Thomas S. Monson gave a talk entitled “Keep the Commandments”. In it he makes the following comment: “May we realize that our greatest happiness in this life will come as we follow God’s commandments and obey His laws!”

Stop and think of the message this sends. It says that people have the capability of keeping God’s commandments. This thought appears in Mormon writings with regularity. For example, in another talk in this same General Conference, Elder Richard J. Maynes, said: “Living a Christ-centered life means we learn about Jesus Christ and His gospel and then we follow His example and keep his commandments with exactness” (my emphasis).

Last week I talked with a man who had grown up in the LDS Church. He was telling me how, when he was baptized at the age of eight, he thought that now he had to perfectly keep the commandments. He gave it his all until he was about 16 years old when he threw up his hands in despair and gave up. He became, in his own words, a vile person until he heard the true gospel in his mid-20’s.

He is not the only person to react in this way. Many inactive Mormons have gone down this same path.

But this isn’t the only way Mormons react. Others become blind to their sins and think they are truly keeping the commandments. By regularly hearing that they can keep the commandments they become convinced that they are.

Both reactions are tragic. Giving up and having no hope isn’t good. These people need to hear that Jesus has kept the commandments perfectly for them. Deluding oneself into thinking that you are toeing God’s line isn’t good either. These people need to be confronted with the unvarnished truth of human sinfulness.

But there is another reason why President Monson’s statement caught my eye, namely, his equating his greatest happiness with keeping the commandments. That surely is not the source of my greatest happiness. What gives me incredible joy is God’s love for me. How he loved me when I was unlovable. How he loved me sacrificially – dying in my place. How he loved me so abundantly – not only saving me but adopting me as his child. How he has lavished blessings on me – blessings that are not predicated on my first obeying his commandments.

In short, my greatest happiness is rooted in what God has done for me, not in what I have done.  The first gives glory to God. The second gives glory to man. The Bible teaches the former. Mormonism teaches the latter.