Law & Love: The Cutting Room Floor

Last month, I had the opportunity to speak in our Stake Conference. From the moment I was asked, I knew that my choice of subject matter was important and delicate, and that I needed to get it right. The next day I published the talk, here on my blog, and the response was lovely. I appreciate the kind thoughts and sentiments shared. There is always some pushback and some trolls, but I was surprised how few there were. I was/am grateful, because it was all a very spiritual and personal experience for me. If you haven’t read it, check it out before you read further. (LINK HERE)

Have you heard the expression, “It was left on the cutting room floor”? It comes from the days when movies were shot and edited on celluloid instead of digitally. When things were edited out of the movie, they were literally chopped out. Hence, discarded parts of the film were “left on the cutting room floor.” Now that I feel really old, I’ll continue…

As I was writing my talk, I knew that my ideas were far too broad and I had way too much stuff for the assigned time. There were some things I wanted to talk about, but there was no way I could, without cheating the main topic that I felt that I was supposed to speak on.

I decided that since I have my very own little venue, I could still mention them here, in addition to some thoughts and resources that have come about since. The jumping off point is a discussion about the 1st and Second Great Commandments: 1) Love the Lord (through obedience) and 2) Love our neighbors. Here are the ideas that I left on the cutting room floor:

1- There is risk in hyper-focusing on the 2nd Great Commandment at the expense of the 1st. I already explored this in a previous post, (LINK HERE) so no need to repeat it.

    2- Prioritizing the 1st and 2nd Great Commandments – in the order that Christ did – helps us be better at keeping the 2nd.

    Diving into the New Testament, I like two scriptures that revolve around this issue, and they both were from Jesus, directed at Peter. In Luke 22:32, Christ tells Peter, “And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” The second instance was after the resurrected Christ visited the Apostles, of who Peter was now the leader. Christ grills Peter by asking him three times, “Lovest thou me?

    Each time, Peter responded that he did with increasing angst. Christ responded each time by saying, “Feed my lambs,” and “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

    Both exchanges send the same message: You have to focus upward, love God and be converted, before you direct your gaze outward. 1st before 2nd.

    Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin talked about this: “When we love the Lord, obedience (1st) ceases to be a burden. Obedience becomes a delight. When we love the Lord, we seek less for things that benefit us and turn our hearts toward things that will bless and uplift others.” (link)

    In the Book of Mormon, Enos struggled for forgiveness. God said to him, “wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole.” (Enos 1:8) His thoughts immediately turned outward: “Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites;” (Enos 1:9)

    The pattern of turning to God, followed by turning towards fellow man is repeated often in the Book of Mormon. 1st before 2nd.

    The second point, that keeping the 1st Commandment helps us be better at the 2nd is introduced nicely in Mosiah 2:4. King Benjamin is lauded by his people for teaching them a very specific thing: They are grateful to the Lord for giving them a king “who had taught them to keep the commandments of God, that they might rejoice and be filled with love towards God and all men.”

    Did you catch that? One of the fruits of keeping the commandments was that they were filled with love towards…all men. The 1st helped them keep the 2nd. Law helped them Love.

    Elder Christofferson digs in deeper:

    Putting the first commandment first does not diminish or limit our ability to keep the second commandment. To the contrary, it amplifies and strengthens it. It means that we enhance our love by anchoring it in divine purpose and power. It means that we have the Holy Ghost to inspire us in ways to reach out that we would never have seen on our own. Our love of God elevates our ability to love others more fully and perfectly because we in essence partner with God in the care of His children.” (link)

    The key point that jumps out at me is that if we keep the commandments, we are entitled to the companionship of the Holy Ghost as we try to determine how to best love our fellow man – ways we might not ever think of, if left to our mortal devices. We are entitled to know how God sees them and what He would have us do to serve and love them.

    Let me state that in a contrasting manner: If we do not keep the commandments, we are trying to impact the lives of others without God’s perspective, inspiration or approval. (Gods unto ourselves?)

    Our “neighbors,” our friends and family members, whom we love, deserve the best kind of love we can give them. That best kind of love only can come from a divine source.

    President Ezra Taft Benson taught, “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. We should put God ahead of everyone else in our lives.” (link)

    President Benson goes on to illustrate this concept at its extreme: “The Lord said, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37). One of the most difficult tests of all is when you have to choose between pleasing God or pleasing someone you love or respect—particularly a family member.” (link)

    Difficult, heart-wrenching choices and trials. Why would we ever attempt to navigate them without God’s help?

    The more I dig into the teachings and concepts of Law and Love, the more I am assured that putting God first is always the right choice. Loving the Lord with all my heart, soul, might and strength – by being obedient – helps me love bigger, better, wiser, and more God-like than I could by myself.

    Okay. Now I’m done. 😉

    Have a blessed Sabbath!


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    1. This is excellent. Thanks for sharing the outtakes. I’m feeling like I got the special edition dvd!

    2. I’m not sure I’ve ever posted a comment but I wanted to express my gratitude for your candidness and openness and optimism regarding this topic. I just started down a very similar path with one of my own children and have been very unsure about how to handle it. I’m grateful for the eternal perspective you present. It’s not about him… it’s about me and my relationship with God. And once I am right with Him, life has the potential to be so much more fulfilling in so many ways. I now have a lot of homework to do but I’m looking forward to it. Thank you for the many times you’ve been the source of laughter and tears over the years. I appreciate your efforts in our behalf. You have some pretty amazing talents and gifts to share with the world. Keep up the good work! Please…

      1. Thank you for the kind words. Godspeed on this new adventure. Who would have thought that our biggest challenges would come later in life?

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