I adore the 2019 Mutual theme, and I’ve enjoyed studying, pondering, cross-referencing, and speaking about it to youth groups. It’s inspired, potent, and I believe it sits on the slab of the gospel foundation.
“If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
Each of those seven words has more distinct flavor than a bag of summertime Skittles. But my favorite is that first word. That gorgeous, two-letter creation. That titan in a tiny scriptural body.
To appreciate this wonderful word in context, we must remember who said it. The author might be John, but the speaker is Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God and the One we worship.
Imagine this verse without this opening word. Still powerful. Still life-changing. But without those two letters, it presupposes a choice that cannot be forced upon us.
According to Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness, you and I are here because we made a choice. There was another option we dismissed because it would not provide the agency we would soon crave. We wanted the freedom for which the Lord paid the ultimate price.
“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27).
Everything we do is by invitation and under this gift of agency.
We choose to be baptized. We choose to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. We choose to make and, hopefully, to keep other sacred covenants with the Lord. We choose to attend church on Sundays. We choose to share the gospel at every opportunity. We choose to magnify our callings, even when it’s hard and we think we’re overwhelmed, unprepared, unqualified.
This little word, one that would be easy to dismiss or ignore on a crowded page, is a critical reminder that agency is real. It surely pains Him, but Christ knew that all would not love Him. Not all would choose to follow Him.
The “if” teaches that He knew that even those who were once excited about His plan would eventually forget His face and the sound of His voice.
So the perfect Son of God, in a beautiful and simple way, reminds us through a seemingly insignificant word that we must choose.
Are we forced to love Him? No! We’re invited to — and if we do — then we should keep His commandments. That’s how we demonstrate that our love for Him is awake, active, alive.
It’s a delicious verse from beginning to end. But that first word? It’s a lovely lesson in the reality of agency and the need to make a choice and to make a stand.
Will you love God? Will you keep His commandments?
It’s all about the “if.”