As I reflected upon Mothers Day and my relationship with my mother, I saw a potential opportunity to clarify a common misunderstanding about the LDS perspectives on grace and obedience. Some people have heard that Mormons try to earn their way into heaven and seek to keep God’s commandments to score points for blessings, unlike them, the “real Christians,” who obey God as an expression of love and gratitude for grace already given.
Over the years, my mother has given me a lot of commandments. Some were very basic, like “brush your teeth,” “do your homework,” and “don’t throw lemons at your brother when he’s standing in front of my china cabinet!” (Sorry, Mom! Had no idea he would duck. I am amazed at how quickly you forgave me after that fiasco.)
Other commandments were more difficult or annoying. “No R-rated movies? But ‘Rollerball Murder’ just has a little violence, and a lot of my LDS friends are going!” (I’m grateful that I obeyed on that count, though. Thanks, mom.) One of the most important commandments or recommendations, though, was very easy: “You really should marry Kendra.” Wisest commandment ever.
Sometimes my obedience was driven by fear of punishment or desire for reward. That was in my early years. But as I grew in maturity and in respect and love for my mother, my loyalty and obedience was no longer driven by considerations of risk or gain, but of love and respect. I listen to her and respect what she says and make sacrifices for her not because I want something for me, but because I love her. She’s my mother. She’s given me life and so many blessings that have made my life wonderful. I can’t repay her, but I can listen, talk, obey, and look forward to being with her in the eternities.
God gives us commandments. He teaches us with warnings and rewards. But as we learn to love and follow Him, our repentance and our service becomes natural, motivated by aligning our interests and desires with His will, driven by a desire to be a good son or daughter of God, whom we love and choose to serve. We are grateful for His commandments. Some challenge us, some are easy, but we strive to grow closer to Him by serving, loving, and obeying. Not because we are in some kind of master/slave relationship, but a relationship of a child to a loving parent who has given us everything, whom we can never repay, but whom we can increasingly love and serve.
Mother’s Day can teach us a little about grace.