Most of us, religious or not, have heard of the Ten Commandments found in the Bible. Some may view them as restrictions, while others see them as a code for life's decisions. Others see that they are the beginnings of a map to spiritual and physical safety.
Think of parents and how they work to teach their children how to stay safe. Don't talk to strangers. Don't touch the hot stove. Stay out of the street. Don't play with matches. We also teach our children what to do in case of an emergency, such as a fire, medical problems or if they get lost.
Do parents do this to restrict their children from having "fun"? No — they do it to protect their children from dangers, both known and unknown to their children.
Similarly, God does not give His children commandments because He wants to restrict our activities. He gives us commandments to protect us both spiritually and physically.
"As you and I walk the paths of life and pursue our dreams, God's commands and standards can sometimes be difficult to understand. They may appear rigid and unyielding, blocking a path that looks fun and exciting and that is being followed by so many others. As the Apostle Paul described, 'We see through a glass, darkly,' with such a limited perspective that we often cannot comprehend the great dangers hidden just below the surface," said Von Keetch, religious leader and lawyer.
Seek to understand the "why" behind the commandments
If you don't understand a certain commandment and why we are or are not supposed to do something, work toward understanding it more fully. A useful way to help you understand is to look for examples, either scriptural or in your own life, of those who have broken a commandment versus those who have not. What have been their consequences? How has it changed their lives?
You can also ask God to help you understand and recognize His wisdom in the commandment. Just like a child who asks "why," God wants us to ask Him sincere questions so He can teach us.
Also, put it into practice. If you already do it, how has it benefitted you? If it is a commandment you're currently breaking, how has it affected you? Try to obey and see what changes you notice in your life because of it. God will give you the strength to overcome challenges.
What potential consequences can come from disobeying the commandments?
Depending on the choices we make, consequences can be either good or bad. Good choices lead to positive consequences; bad decisions lead to negative ones. For instance, the commandment to not commit adultery - sex with someone other than your spouse - can seem restrictive to some. But where does adultery lead? It brings sorrow, divorce, broken families, sexually transmitted diseases, unplanned pregnancy and breaking the bonds of trust within a marriage.
By not committing adultery, you are kept safe from physical consequences, as well as heartache and losing much more than you might think you can gain by seeking it.
There is safety in keeping the commandments
When we learn to drive, we are taught various rules of the road — laws we must follow in order to keep ourselves, and others, safe. There are stop signs, warning signs, speed limits and barriers telling us a road is closed or to help us avoid potential danger. Following the laws helps keep us safe from accidents. Unfortunately, we all know what happens when someone decides to break some of these laws.
Similarly, commandments are like guard rails to keep us on the road, a safe pathway, to our destination. If our destination is ultimately to live with God again, to make it to heaven, then we must heed the warning signs, the stop signs, speed limits and safety barriers in our lives. Failure to do so can impact our spiritual safety and often our physical safety, which can take us off the path back to God.
There is hope
God knew we would make mistakes, take a wrong turn or overlook life's safety barriers. Luckily, because of the atonement, we can correct our wrong turns and get back on the right side of the barrier. We can repent. We can right our wrongs and get back on the path to true joy and happiness. The atonement is for everyone; no one is exempt. And not only can the atonement put you on the right path again, but it can erase your wrong turns.
Commandments are not restrictions keeping us from all the "fun" in life; they are safety barriers to protect us from spiritual and physical harm and danger. God gave them to us to help us find true happiness in this life and to return to Him. It is never too late to start keeping the commandments. The atonement can help you make those corrections in your life and heal your past.