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Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson Lesson 1: The Great Commandment—Love the Lord

Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson: The Great Commandment—Love the Lord

Get the full lesson, "The Great Commandment—Love the Lord," from The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson at LDS.org.

The first and great commandment is to love the Lord with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. The second is like it, and that is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. The scriptures tell us that keeping the commandments is how we demonstrate our love for God. That seems simple enough, but what commandments are you willing to keep in order to demonstrate your love of God?

President Benson gives an example of how his father demonstrated true charity (Christ-like love) by obeying a call from the prophet to leave his family of seven children, and expectant wife, to go on a two-year mission. This paragraph in the lesson caused me some confusion, and it took me a while to figure out why it did not make sense.

My definition of charity has always been Christ-like love – meaning toward other people. It had never occurred to me that Christ’s love includes his love and loyalty to our Father in Heaven. The hallmark of Christ’s life was that he put his Father’s commandments above any personal need or desire. Christ obeyed the commandments given him by God in every particular, and was loving and grateful for the opportunity to do his Father’s will.

President Benson’s father was making the equivalent of an Abrahamic sacrifice when he was called upon to leave his growing family for two years and trust that the Lord would care for them and protect them in his absence. This tested his mettle. This missionary call proved that he would sacrifice anything if called upon to do so.

When we are commanded to place no other gods before our Heavenly Father, this includes being willing to obey him in all things, even to death. When we have developed this kind of devotion to the Lord our relationship with God really does affect every decision we make in life, from whom we marry to what jobs we are willing to pursue and how we behave in public and private. It literally affects every decision of our lives. This very trait is what President Benson’s family was known for. Their love of God colored everything that went on in their home.

Learning to Let Go

This section has difficult doctrine for those who have married outside the temple. Please be mindful of tender feelings and possible offense with what President Benson is saying here. The difficulty of the doctrine does not nullify its truthfulness, but we are also dealing with people whose lives have been greatly impacted by the decision to marry outside the temple, whether for good or for ill.

President Benson said,

When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities.

This is simple, but strong doctrine. Think about what this means. If we put God first and foremost in our lives, anything, absolutely anything that does not conform to his commandments and his will, we will be willing to forsake and abandon, if need be, in order to please God. This means that if we have fallen in love with someone who is not temple worthy, we have a decision to make. He says,

If someone wants to marry you outside the temple, whom will you strive to please—God or a mortal? If you insist on a temple marriage, you will be pleasing the Lord and blessing the other party. Why? Because that person will either become worthy to go to the temple—which would be a blessing—or will leave—which could also be a blessing—because neither of you should want to be unequally yoked (see 2 Corinthians 6:14).

You should qualify for the temple. Then you will know that there is no one good enough for you to marry outside the temple. If such individuals are that good, they will get themselves in a condition so that they too can be married in the temple.

When we have fallen in love with someone and are made to choose between the Lord’s commandments and the one we love, we often claim that we are commanded to love this person, so which does the Lord want? According to President Benson, what is best for our salvation is to stick to our standards and follow the counsel of the Lord. He points out that many who obey the commandments at the “seeming” expense of their families and loved ones often turn out to be a great blessing to those very people specifically because they were obedient and they received the Lord’s blessings because of their obedience.

When we are young we tend to cling to the things of mortality. Everything seems to be important. It is only age and maturity that teaches us that the only things of lasting value are the things we can take with us into the next world. As we grow older we begin to discover that the things of mortality don’t really have any value beyond the sentimental attachment we develop for things. We begin to divest ourselves of our toys and focus more on the things of real value that we can take with us into eternity. Those things include the blessings that come from keeping the commandments.

Putting God First

Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life.

Do we believe this? Have you tried it? Think about the sacrifices Abraham was willing to make to be obedient to the Lord and the blessings he was given because of his obedience. Think about the sufferings of Job and his tremendous blessings that came because of his willingness to obey. The examples of those who have chosen to sacrifice for the Lord and in return have received great blessings are all throughout the scriptures. Those stories are not anomalies, they are not oddities. They are patterns of what the Lord can do for each of us when we put him first in our lives by keeping his commandments.

Read President Ezra Taft Benson's teachings at lds.org.

Kelly likes to keep the gospel simple. For more of his articles and lesson helps go to his website, http://mormonbasics.com.