This scriptural account (Matthew 14:23-27) reminds us that the first step in coming to Christ – or his coming to us – may fill us with something very much like sheer terror. It shouldn’t, but it sometimes does. One of the grand ironies of the gospel is that the very source of help and safety being offered us is the thing from which we may, in our mortal shortsightedness, flee. For whatever the reason, I have seen investigators run from baptism, I have seen elders run from a mission call, I have seen sweethearts run from marriage, and I have seen young couples run from the fear of families and the future. Too often too many of us run from the very things that will bless us and save us and soothe us. Too often we see gospel commitments and commandments as something to be feared and forsaken. — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Come unto Me,” fireside address, March 2, 1997
Most “thou shalt not” commandments are meant to keep us from hurting others, but I am convinced the commandment not to covet is meant to keep us from hurting ourselves. — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Other Prodigal,” Ensign, May 2002, p. 64
Working toward perfection is not a one-time decision but a process to be pursued throughout one’s lifetime.
Through Moses the word of the Lord came down from the mountain. The commandments which the Lord gave to the children of Israel set minimum standards of conduct. These commandments, said Paul, are “our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24).
But living by the letter of the Ten Commandments is only the beginning of perfection. Jesus taught the sanctity of the Ten Commandments, but emphasized repeatedly that there was more.
It is not enough to acknowledge the Lord as supreme and refrain from worshiping idols; we should love the Lord with all our heart, might, mind, and strength, realizing the great joy he has in the righteousness of his children.
It is not enough to refrain from profanity or blasphemy. We need to make important in our lives the name of the Lord. While we do not use the Lord’s name lightly, we should not leave our friends or our neighbors or our children in any doubt as to where we stand. Let there be no doubt about our being followers of Jesus Christ.
It is not enough to refrain from moviegoing, hunting, fishing, sports, and unnecessary labor on the Sabbath. Constructive use of the Sabbath day includes studying the scriptures, attending church meetings to learn and to worship, writing letters to absent loved ones, comforting the sorrowing, visiting the sick, and, in general, doing what the Lord would have us do on this, his holy day.
If we truly honor our parents as we are commanded to do, we will seek to emulate their best characteristics and to fulfill their highest aspirations for us. Nothing we could give them materially would be more prized than our righteous living.
It is not enough to refrain from killing. We are rather under solemn obligation to respect life and to foster it. Far from taking a life, we must be generous in helping others to enjoy the necessities of life. And when this has been accomplished, we seek to improve the mind and the spirit.
We refrain from taking harmful substances into our body. Through wisdom and moderation in all things, we seek good health and a sense of physical well-being.
It is not enough to refrain from adultery. We need to make the marriage relationship sacred, to sacrifice and work to maintain the warmth and respect which we enjoyed during courtship. God intended marriage to be eternal, sealed by the power of the priesthood, to last beyond the grave. Daily acts of courtesy and kindness, conscientiously and lovingly carried out, are part of what the Lord expects.
It is for us to keep our hearts and minds pure, as well as our actions.
“Thou shalt not steal,” the Lord said on Sinai (Ex. 20:15). Thus it is for us to be honest in every way. We must be generous, the very opposite of selfishness. When money is needed, we give money. But often what is needed more is love and time and caring, which money cannot buy. When that is true, even being generous with our money is not enough.
Bearing false witness and coveting the belongings of others are further evidences of selfishness. “Love thy neighbour as thyself,” Jesus taught. On this and on the love of God “hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:39–40).
Kindness, helpfulness, love, concern, generosity – we could go on for the list of virtues is endless. The development of these traits is what the Lord asks of us.
“If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things” (A of F 1:13).
The gospel of Jesus Christ is true. Any earnest seeker can know for himself that it is true by studying and living its principles and seeking the companionship and help of the Holy Ghost. But how much easier it is to understand and accept if the seeker after the truth can also see the principles of the gospel at work in the lives of others. No greater service can be given to the missionary calling of the Church than to exemplify positive Christian virtues in our lives.
The Lord holds forth a glorious promise to those who love him and demonstrate this love by faithful, devoted service and the living of his eternal principles. When the winds of change blow fiercely and the waves sweep over us, we have a tree or rod of principle to which we can cling for safety. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ which has been restored to the earth in its fulness. — President Spencer W. Kimball, “Hold Fast to the Iron Rod,” Ensign, November 1978
Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled: Consider, for example, the Savior’s benediction upon his disciples even as he moved toward the pain and agony of Gethsemane and Calvary. On the very night of the greatest suffering the world will ever know, he said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: . . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
That may be one of the Savior’s commandments that is, even in the hearts of otherwise faithful Latter-day Saints, almost universally disobeyed; and yet I wonder whether our resistance to this invitation could be any more grievous to the Lord’s merciful heart.
I can tell you this as a parent. As concerned as I would be if one of my children were seriously troubled or unhappy or disobedient, nevertheless I would be infinitely more devastated if I felt that at such a time that child could not trust me to help, or should feel his or her interest were unimportant to me or unsafe in my care.
In that same spirit I am convinced that none of us can appreciate how deeply it wounds the loving heart of the Savior when he finds his people do not feel confident in his care or secure in his hands or trust in his commandments. — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Come and See,” New Era, December 1997
I believe it was George Macdonald who reminded us that the only door out of the dungeon of self is the love of one’s neighbor. How proud we ought to be, in a quiet way, that we are members of the church of the most selfless being who ever lived. How proud we ought to be to belong to a church that makes specific demands of us and gives us specific things to do and marks the strait and narrow way, lest we fall off one side of the precipice or the other. I am so grateful that God loves us enough to teach us specifically. Had secularists written the Ten Commandments, they might have said, “Thou shalt not be a bad person.” Note what the Ten Commandments say: “Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not covet, thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, thou shalt not commit adultery,” and so on. The gospel of Jesus Christ is specific because God cares specifically for each of us and, caring for us, will mark the way carefully lest we fall out of happiness.
A vague creed is fitted only for a vague God. We have a Father who loves us specifically and gives us things to do and, because he loves us, will cause us, at times, to have our souls stretched and to be fitted for a better world by coping with life in this world. — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “But For a Small Moment,” BYU Fireside, September 1, 1974
In and of ourselves we cannot possibly comply with all the commandments that God has given unto us. Jesus himself could not without divine aid from His Father accomplish His work. He said on one occasion:
I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. (John 5:30)
And we, if it was necessary for Him, our Lord, to have divine assistance, will find it all the more important to receive His assistance. And in every circumstance and condition surrounding the Latter-day Saints, while in the performance of their duties, they are entitled to supernatural aid from the Holy Spirit, to help in the various conditions surrounding them, and in the duties that they are required to perform. — Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, p. 150