This article originally ran on LDS Living in March 2018.
In October 2015, President Thomas S. Monson said:
“God’s commandments are not given to frustrate us or to become obstacles to our happiness. Just the opposite is true. He who created us and who loves us perfectly knows just how we need to live our lives in order to obtain the greatest happiness possible. He has provided us with guidelines which, if we follow them, will see us safely through this often treacherous mortal journey.”
Sometimes when we find ourselves frustrated by a problem in our lives, the answer might be remembering and retrying a commandment we have forgotten. Here are a few such inspiring commandments—ones that may slip our memory or get pushed under the rug in the living of life. As you read, just remember the wise counsel of Elder Quentin L. Cook from his October 2016 general conference talk:
“When we elevate any principle in a way that lessens our commitment to other equally important principles or take a position contrary to or which exceeds teachings of Church leaders, we are looking beyond the mark.”
We should always remember that the greatest commandments will always be to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” and to “love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39).
1. Cease to Find Fault
Tucked within the second great commandment of "love thy neighbor as thyself" is an aspect of charity we may forget while living in a critical world. Doctrine & Covenants 88:124 says it plainly: "Cease to find fault one with another."
It's easy to find fault. The world is full of terrible events and misguided and mistake-prone people. We're already aware of these negative aspects of life, so let's stop pointing them out. Instead of finding fault, pointing fingers, and "speak[ing] evil" of one another (D&C 136:23), let's focus on the good.
We all know that when someone praises us for our efforts or good qualities, it inspires us to continue and to do even better. When someone criticizes us, however, we often become defensive, bitter, and rebellious.
Can you imagine what the social media atmosphere would be like if everyone were trying to point out the good things that others are doing to solve social issues instead of hammering over and over what is not being done or what is being done poorly?
"We as members of the Church need to be reminded that the words 'Nay, speak no ill' are more than a phrase in a musical context but a recommended way of life (see Hymns, no. 233). We need to be reminded more than ever before that "'if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things' (A of F 1:13). If we follow that admonition, there is no time for the dastardly hobby of bashing instead of building."
2. Be of Good Cheer
Our late prophet Thomas S. Monson was known for saying, "Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith." But have you ever stopped to ponder that "being of good cheer" is a commandment?
A quick scriptural search of the phrase on churchofjesuschrist.org pulls up many, many results. In fact, I was surprised to see how often the phrase is used throughout the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants. Why do Christ and His prophets use this phrase so often, and why is it so important?
Although much of the time we can and should be cheerful and full of optimism, I don't believe that in saying "be of good cheer" God is commanding us to always exhibit a happy and jubilant countenance. After all, He has also commanded us to "mourn with those that mourn" (Mosiah 18:9).
In the scriptures, the phrase "be of good cheer" is often used in context with admonitions to trust God and not fear, or with reminders of Christ's Atonement and the promise that God is always with us. Since this is the case, I believe that the phrase "be of good cheer" is encouraging us to look beyond our current circumstance with an eternal understanding and perspective. Heavenly Father is, in essence, asking us to remember Him and His plan and to feel joy, gratitude, and reassurance because of it.
When we strive to "be of good cheer," we know that trials and hardships are temporary and that God will make everything right in the end. Speaking of the phrase "be of good cheer," President Monson said:
"This attitude is what will pull us through watever comes our way. It will not remove our troubles from us but rather will enable us to face our challenges, to meet them head on, and to emerge victorious."
Being of good cheer is also important because it is an attitude that is visible and contagious. The Savior said, "I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid" (3 Nephi 12:14). And in Proverbs 17:22 we read, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones." When we strive to "be of good cheer," we are serving others, sharing the gospel, and following in Christ's footsteps.
3. Eat Healthy Foods
The Word of Wisdom is no well-kept secret in the Church. In fact, even those who don't know much about Latter-day Saints at all usually have heard that we don't smoke or drink alcohol or coffee. And although there are times when some of us read between the lines and when culture and commandment get confused (think of the age-old controversy of caffeine, as an example), for the most part, we're all pretty familiar with our commitment to Doctrine & Covenants 89.
► You may also like: Caffeine: What Church leaders have actually said
However, how often do you take the following lines into consideration when ordering your lunch or planning what to cook for dinner?
“And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—
“Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these things to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.
“Yeah, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanskgiving; nevertheless, they are to be used sparingly;
“And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.”
Here God is giving us the key to true health, and it shouldn't come as any surprise—eat your fruits and vegetables and eat meat sparingly. Examples of this health code are also found in the Bible, such as when Daniel refuses to eat the meaty dishes the king offers him and is healthier than the other boys (Daniel 1:5-15), and in the Book of Mormon, such as when Amulek sets bread and meat before Alma, and Alma only eats the bread (Alma 8:21-22).
Now don't get me wrong; let's not look beyond the mark and become offended or obsessive over what we eat and what other people choose to eat. Not allowing anxiety to govern our eating habits is part of healthy eating. But God has asked that we follow the health code outlined in Doctrine & Covenants 89 and that we eat what we eat "with thanksgiving."
Eating healthy comes with promised blessings. Not only will we have "health in [the] navel and marrow to [the] bones" and "shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint," but we'll also "find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures" (Doctrine and Covenants 89:18-20).
4. Early to Bed, Early to Rise
Feeling constantly tired and drained of energy? Sometimes this is just a condition of the stage of life we're currently in (I wouldn't dare cite the following scripture to the parents of a newborn), but God has given us a commandment that will bring vitality and rejuvenation back into our lives. Here it is from Doctrine & Covenants 88:124:
“Cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.”
Guess what's great? God doesn't give us a specific time. He knows that our bodies are each wired a bit differently, that we have different jobs and responsibilities, and that societal activities (even church activities) are usually scheduled for evenings rather than mornings. So, knowing that the word "early" will mean something different to each of us, God has given us the commandment and the blessing: if we go to bed early and get up early, our bodies and our minds will be "invigorated."
Elder Richard G. Scott said, "Exercise, reasonable amounts of sleep, and good eating habits increase our capacity to receive and understand revelation." Our temporal and spiritual selves are intricately connected, and taking good care of our physical bodies will help us as we strive to grow spiritually and be instruments for good.
According to an Ensign article from March 1999, Marion G. Romney was given advice from Elder Harold B. Lee about how to be a successful General Authority. The advice was this:
"If you are to be successful as a General Authority, you will need to be inspired. You will need to receive revelation. I will give you one piece of advice: Go to bed early and get up early. If you do, your body and mind will become rested, and then in the quiet of those early-morning hours, you will receive more flashes of insight and inspiration than at any other time of the day.”
5. Repent Every Day
Sometimes we mistakenly think that obedience to God's commandments means perfection, but that's not what our Heavenly Father expects. If that were the case, he would have never given us the seemingly contradictory commandment of repentance.
Although God doesn't want us to fall, He knows that we will, and He's commanded us to get back up, reorient ourselves toward Him, and keep trying.
I often have to remind myself that repentance is not just for the big things, but for the little things too, and that I should be repenting every day. When I'm acting grumpy and then realize it, that realization is a gift and a call to repent. When a thought pops into my head that I've been persuing an idle activity for too long and need to get up and be productive, following that prompting is a choice to repent.
In a general conference talk in October 2016, Sister Linda S. Reeves of the General Relief Society presidency said:
"Oh, how I want each of my children, grandchildren, and each of you, my brothers and sisters, to feel the joy and closeness to Heavenly Father and to our Savior as we daily repent of our sins and weaknesses. Each accountable child of Heavenly Father needs repentance."
I also loved what BYU Professor Anthony Sweat said at a recent Time Out for Women event. To paraphrase, he said that we need to move from a culture of perfectionism to a culture of loyalty. When we demand perfection of ourselves, we don't allow room for repentance and are cutting this gift from God out of our lives. When we strive to be loyal to God, however, we become "really, really good at repenting thoroughly and quickly," as Elder Jorg Klebingat of the Seventy once said.
Like each of God's commandments, repentance was designed with our happiness in mind. Repentance brings us closer to our Savior and our Heavenly Father, and we should commit to following this commandment daily.
6. Thou Shalt Not Covet
In the First Presidency message published in the 1990 March Ensign, President Gordon B. Hinckley wrote:
"I wish to discuss a trap that can destroy any of us in our search for joy and happiness. It is that devious, sinister, evil influence that says, 'What I have is not enough. I must have more.' . . .
"I have observed that there are many in our present generation who with careful design set out on a course to get rich while still young, to drive fancy automobiles, to wear the best clothing, to have an apartment in the city and a house in the country--all of these, and more. . . . They covet that which others have, and selfishness and even greed are all a part of their process of acquisitiveness."
It can be difficult to distinguish the line between pursuing dreams and coveting that which we don't have. Although it is good to make goals to improve our circumstances, provide for our family, look our best, or develop our talents, we have to be careful not to covet that which we don't have.
This commandment is especially difficult when the thing we desire so greatly is something good and righteous. In Alma's case, he desired greater authority and power to be able to declare the gospel but realized that he "[did] sin in [his] wish" (Alma 29:1-3). In our lives, we may find ourselves wasting away while we wait for the fulfillment of a good desire, such as marriage, children, or health.
At first glance, it may seem cruel that God's command to not covet applies to righteous desires as well, but when we acknowledge that God's commandments are for our happiness and that we aren't happy when we are constantly longing for something more or different, it makes sense. Our Heavenly Father also understands that if we don't learn happiness from within, we may obtain that which we longed for only to realize we still aren't happy.
If we were to turn this "thou shalt not" commandment into a "thou shalt" commandment, I believe it might be "thou shalt be content" or "thou shalt be grateful." Within our own sphere of circumstance, we each have many opportunities to serve God and each other and to secure the blessings of eternal life.
7. Obey the Law
God's law trumps all, but if you hearken back to your conversion or missionary days, you'll recall that one of the commandments missionaries are required to teach is to "obey and honor the law" (Preach My Gospel, Lesson 4). The twelfth article of faith puts it this way:
"We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law."
Now, I'm not here to argue civil disobedience or the validity of some laws versus others. But sometimes, especially when a law holds a minor consequence, I think it's easy to forget that obeying the law is part of our religious faith. Although some laws are annoying and petty, most laws are created to benefit society at large, and obeying the law is important.
So if that means not texting while driving, following watering regulations for your lawn, or paying for copyrighted movies or music, remember that our Heavenly Father has asked us to respect the law and put forth the effort to obey the rules.