The First and Great Commandment
In a previous post (Truths and Spheres) I shared a few thoughts about reality and how truth is relative and independent of other spheres. That post has generated a few questions that share a common thread. Is there absolute truth?
In that previous post I shared this image on the right. The image was/is intended to illustrate our individual paths back to God, Heaven, Eternal Life, The Kingdom of God, Source or some other variation depending upon the language of your path and sphere. Each sphere contains laws and those laws are intended to serve as a schoolmaster, assisting in development and progression back to the source.
All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. (Doctrine and Covenants 93:30)
As we progress, old things pass away and all things become new. Marvel not that I said unto you that old things had passed away, and that all things had become new. (3 Nephi 15:3)
Remember when Moses sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God? (Doctrine and Covenants 84:23) The people hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence. This resulted in Moses being taken out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also. What they were left with was a lesser priesthood and a preparatory gospel. (Doctrine and Covenants 84:25-26)
This preparatory gospel, the law of carnal commandments and outward ordinances, the law of Moses (Mosiah 3:14), was given to serve in strengthen[ing] their faith in Christ (Alma 25:16). The outward performances were meant to be kept until the time that he (Christ) should be revealed unto them (Alma 25:15).
Notice in Alma 25:15 the word “until”. This law can be fulfilled (3 Nephi 15:4). This law has an end. Truths and laws are relative and they are given as schoolmasters (Galatians 3:24). They are intended to bring us back.
There are a few accounts in the scriptures where Christ has a dialog in which a question about inheriting eternal life is asked or Christ answers a question in a way that addresses eternal life or inheriting the Kingdom of God. There are three in particular that I find interesting. They are contained in Matthew 22, Mark 12 and Luke 10. I am not certain if they are all the same account. The one in Luke is pretty unique when compared to the others but I think the similarities allow us to look at them together.
In each account there is a question asked.
- What shall I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 10:25)
- Master, which is the great commandment in the law? (Matthew 22:36)
- Which is the first commandment of all? (Mark 12:28)
The answers to these questions are significant because they reveal aspects of God and Christ which can/will fulfill the desires of this prayer when Christ said:
Father, I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me out of the world, because of their faith, that they may be purified in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one, that I may be glorified in them. (3 Nephi 19:29)
There is a desire to be ONE with God. This, as Christ mentions, would consist of Christ being “in them as thou, Father, art in me”. This would require knowing God. This is eternal life.
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)
So what is revealed about God and Christ in the answers to those questions?
In the Luke account Christ, after being asked “what shall I do to inherit eternal life”, (Luke 10:25) answers by asking “what do you think”. Okay, so not exactly that. Christ asks what the law says and how this particular individual reads or interprets what is written. The individual responds by saying “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself“. (Luke 10:27)
Christ responds with “thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live”. (Luke 10:28)
There is plenty that could be said about “all thy heart”, “all thy soul”, “all thy strength” and “all thy mind” but those are secondary attributes to loving God and your neighbor as yourself. Here is what I would like to highlight:
- Q. What shall I do to inherit eternal life?
- A. Love the Lord thy God and thy neighbor as thyself.
How does this reveal aspects of God and Christ which can/will fulfill the desires of Christ’s prayer? Remember what eternal life is? It is to know God and Christ. If that definition is correct then we should be able to do a phrase replacement in the question asked. Replace “eternal life” with “knowing God and Christ”.
- Q. What shall I do to inherit
eternal lifeknowing God and Christ?
- A. Love the Lord thy God and thy neighbor as thyself.
Doing this creates a bit of a dilemma. The quandary is that we want to inherit knowing God but it requires us to love God first and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. How do we love something we don’t know and how can we love our neighbor if we do not love ourselves?
Another question and one which was asked during this recorded exchange is “who is our neighbor”. Christ gives an answer in Luke 10:30-37. Here are a few other scriptures that might not answer a question that is being asked, but they help in defining something very important.
Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:40)
Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. (Matthew 25:45)
And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. (Mosiah 2:17)
For inasmuch as ye do it unto the least of these, ye do it unto me. (Doctrine and Covenants 42:38)
This gets really interesting. When reading the account of the good Samaritan in Luke we find a Jew in distress. Those who should have helped him, passed him by. It was a Samaritan who helped, an individual of the nation that the Jews would have no dealings with. This reminds me of:
And behold it is written also, that thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy; But behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you; (3 Nephi 12:43-44)
It also reminds me of:
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? (Matthew 5:46)
These scriptures should be illustrating to us who our “neighbor” is. We are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Christ says that we are to love our enemy as well. We are to good to them. We are to pray for them. We are to bless them. Why? Because to properly love Christ, which we need to do in order to receive eternal life, we must love our neighbor, we must love the “least of these” because inasmuch as [we] do it unto [them], we do it unto [him].
It is also important to recognize that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This requires loving ourselves. We should probably come back to that at some point.
In the Matthew account Christ, after being asked “master, which is the great commandment in the law, (Matthew 22:36) answers with “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 neighbor as thyself”. (Matthew 22:37-39)
The answer here has the same secondary attributes as the answer in Luke. It also has the same primary answer:
- Q. Which is the great commandment in the law?
- A. Love the Lord thy God and love thy neighbor as thyself.
This example comes with the added key that “on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”. (Matthew 22:40)
When we participate in rituals, ordinances, in obedience to laws, sacrifice, etc. we should try to recognize how that participation leads to fulfilling the first and great commandment. Love God. Love thy neighbor as thy self. Anytime our obedience and sacrifice puffs us up and causes pride in our hearts and minds, we are missing the desired outcome. All these laws are meant to bring us together, not separate us. When we feel like we are better than someone, when we feel like we are more chosen or more special or more righteous… I think we are doing the opposite of what Christ desired. Christ desired unity.
In the Mark account Christ, after being asked “which is the first commandment of all”, (Mark 12:28) answers with “the first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these”. (Mark 12:29-31)
The answer here has the same secondary attributes as the answer in Luke and Matthew. It also has the same primary answer:
- Q. Which is the first commandment of all?
- A. Love the Lord thy God and love thy neighbor as thyself.
The answer also offers more. Specifically “the Lord our God is ONE Lord”. Keep in mind Christ’s prayer for being ONE. Keep in mind that when we do something to another, we are doing it to Christ. Keep in mind that when someone does something to someone else, they are doing it to Christ. Keep going with this. It sounds repetitive but there is a point… when someone does something to YOU… they are doing it to who?
In this account in Mark, the individual replies to Christ and says “Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices”. (Mark 12:32-33)
Is that statement true? Is loving God and our neighbor as ourselves, more than all the other offerings and sacrifices?
And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question. (Mark 12:34)
This understanding alone brings us “not far from the kingdom of God”. That means that this understanding brings us closer to knowing God but it is not equal with knowing God. Knowledge comes after faith. Faith comes from acting correctly on a correct belief. In this case, the individual has not yet obtained the knowledge desired because of a lack of faith. That could either be because of a lack in proper action or a lack of proper belief. See the posts on Belief and Faith (part 01, 02, 03) for more about that process.
This post was the result of the question “Is there absolute truth”. I believe the answer is yes. There is ONE. Finding that ONE absolute truth requires loving God, loving our neighbor and loving ourselves. We are not able to love God (who is one with Christ) properly without loving our neighbor. Our “neighbor” includes both our enemies and our friends. As we do unto them, we do unto Christ (who is one with God). To love our neighbor properly, we have to love ourselves properly. As we do unto ourselves, we do unto Christ (who is one with God).
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)
Here are a few scriptures that apply to “eternal life” and God (who is one with Christ) dwelling in us. We should ask ourselves if this is simply referring to the physical ordinance of the sacrament. We should ask ourselves what the ordinance of the sacrament is intended to do. Whose spirit are we to always have with us? Christ’s? The Holy Ghost?
Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:54)
I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. (John 6:51-58)
And finally, hearken unto his great commandments which are to love God and love thy neighbor as thyself (Matthew 22:37-39); and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit. (2 Nephi 2:28)