Lesson Two: The Commandments—Gifts from a Loving Father

Family Home Evening Resource Book, (1997), 7


He that keepeth the law, happy is he.
[Proverbs 29:18]

PURPOSE

Help family members appreciate that the commandments are blessings given by a loving father to bring us joy.

FOR THE PARENT

One of the saddest experiences of life is when we must watch someone we love break the commandments and follow ways that lead to unhappiness. As parents, we can help to protect our children from following such a course by teaching them early that the commandments are one of the greatest gifts our Father in Heaven provided for us during our stay in mortality. They are guidelines to happy living. They protect us from all the serious pitfalls of life. They are the pathway to peace and joy.

We must not only teach our children these truths but we must live so that our children can see the joys that we derive from keeping the commandments. The commandments were not meant to be a burden to us, but a wonderful blessing. They are gifts from our Heavenly Father, who loves us and wants us to share in his joys. Keeping them will increase our love and appreciation for him (see Deuteronomy 6:1–25, John 15:14).

PREPARATION

  1. 1.

    Prepare a chart with the phrase “Commandments I Am Thankful For” written across the top. You will add to it during the lesson.

  2. 2.

    Have a marker ready to write on the chart.

SUGGESTED HYMN AND SONG

“How Gentle God’s Commands” (Hymns, no. 25).

“I Need My Heavenly Father” (Children’s Songbook, p. 18)

SUGGESTED LESSON

Loving Parents Give Rules for Their Children

Share with your children how you felt while you were awaiting each of their births. Talk about your hopes and fears for them. Tell them how you loved them when you first held them in your arms and how, more than anything else in the world, you wanted them to be safe and happy. Relate how at first you could personally care for them and protect them, but as they grew older they began to do things for themselves.

Have your children help you list some rules you might have made to protect your baby as he began to grow and explore his world.

Explain that the first rules parents give children are for their physical safety, such as “Don’t go in the street” or “Don’t touch the hot stove.” But as children get older, parents also want to protect them from ways of behaving that will bring them unhappiness. They then make rules to teach them good behavior. List a few of these rules, such as “Be kind to everyone, “Share with others,” and “Be willing to help others.”

Our Heavenly Father is also our parent. He loves us even more than our earthly parents. He is also much wiser than any earthly parent. He knows what will bring happiness and unhappiness, and he guides us to happiness. He planned it that way because he loves us.

“Wickedness Never Was Happiness”

Explain that sometimes people feel that the commandments are hard to keep and restrict us from doing what we want to do. It sometimes looks as though the ones who break the commandments find pleasure or worldly success. Keeping the commandments may seem difficult at first.

Read Alma 41:10 together. Then display the “Wickedness Never Was Happiness” chart included in the lesson. Look at Satan’s plan. Discuss how Satan makes it look like more fun to break the commandments. That is how he tempts us. When a person follows his plan, at first it seems to give him more freedom. But as he continues to make wrong choices, the consequences begin to bind him, and soon he finds that he is a prisoner to Satan. He may have “fun” at first; but, unless he repents, the price he pays is everlasting unhappiness.

Wickedness Never Was Happiness

Everlasting Unhappiness

Eternal Happiness

Jail

Slave to Satan and sin

Temple blessings

Perfect freedom and godhood

Broken relationships

No friends

Good health

Good friends

No one trusts you

No temple blessings

Good jobs

You are trusted

Lack of confidence

Bad health

Self-love

Confidence

Be lazy

Be unclean

Stay pure and clean

Work hard

Be unkind

Smoke and drink

Don’t steal

Don’t lie

Lie

Steal

Don’t cheat

Obey the Word of Wisdom

Be selfish

Cheat

Share

Control your temper

Satan’s Plan

Heavenly Father’s Plan

See if your family can match up some of the specific broken commandments on the chart with their consequences, such as “Smoke and drink” brings “Bad health,” and “Lie” results in “No one trusts you.”

Now look at Heavenly Father’s plan. Explain that a person who chooses to keep the commandments may at first feel restricted. Sometimes it seems that there are many things he can’t do. But as he trusts in Heavenly Father’s love and continues to make right choices, his life begins to open up to greater freedoms, and he receives joys and blessings he never dreamed of. He will then rejoice that he gave up the little pleasures that would have robbed him of real and lasting joy. He will know of Heavenly Father’s love because he will get good and happy results from what he does in his life. (See 1 Nephi 3:7, 22:31.)

Choose a few of the commandments, and discuss why they might be hard to keep at first. Then match them to their blessings on the chart. Try to think of other examples of commandments that bring blessings to your lives, and let your children write them on the chart if they would like to. Happiness in our everyday life comes from keeping the commandments of our loving Heavenly Father. Each commandment shows his love for us and his wisdom in guiding us.

Give a personal example of a time when keeping a commandment brought you a special blessing or happiness. Share your feelings about keeping that commandment. If you cannot think of one, tell the story of Nephi as he returned to Jerusalem to get the plates of Laban (see 1 Nephi 3–5).

  • What was Nephi commanded to do?

  • Why did Nephi find it hard to keep the commandment to obtain the plates?

  • What would have happened if he had given up?

  • How many people found happiness because of Nephi’s decision to keep the commandment given him?

Relate the following about the Nephites after they were visited by the Savior:

A Happier People

When Jesus visited America after he was resurrected, the people who saw him accepted him with all their hearts. They not only repented, but they told all the people who hadn’t seen Jesus personally about his visit and the things he taught and the great works he performed. In just a few years all the people in the land were converted.

They were so careful in keeping all of the commandments that the Book of Mormon tells us “there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another” (4 Nephi 1:2; see also 4 Nephi 1:17). As they followed the Lord’s plan for living, many of their problems began to go away.

“Surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God” (4 Nephi 1:16).

  • Why were these people so happy?

  • Why would keeping the Lord’s commandments make them happy?

  • How can obeying the commandments help make our family happy?

Let’s Be Thankful

Challenge family members to think of commandments that have brought them happiness because they have kept them.

Show your family the chart you are going to develop entitled “Commandments I Am Thankful For.” Tell them that you would like to list commandments that you have found by personal experience to be blessings. Write down one or two that you have good feelings about, and tell your children why you have come to appreciate them. Invite them to share their experiences with you and add their favorite commandments to the list. Be sure to bring out that keeping the commandments gives us the healing and comforting influence of the Spirit.

Display the chart all week, and add to it as any family member thinks of more commandments. This would be a good topic of conversation as you eat your meals together. Also remember in your family prayers to thank Heavenly Father for the blessing of his commandments.

ADAPTING FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN

Start with the following story:

Mother Bear Protects Her Cubs

In the spring when Mother Bear came out of her cave, she brought her two new baby cubs with her. She began from the very first day to teach them how to be safe. She taught them to climb up high in a tree whenever there was danger. It was a rule that they had to obey. They couldn’t come down until Mother Bear let them know it was safe. If they did, she would chase them back up again. They learned the rule very well.

One day, while they were wandering through the forest, they came upon a hungry cougar that thought a baby bear would be good to eat. Mother Bear gave a warning, and both cubs scrambled up the nearest tree. Then Mother Bear fought the cougar and chased him away. The baby cubs were glad their mother had made rules to keep them safe.

Explain that most animal mothers want to protect their babies. Human parents love their children and want to protect them even more. Your young children will love to hear about how you felt about them when they were born. Share with them the rules you made to keep them safe.

Tell them that our Father in Heaven is our parent, too. He loves us the most of all. He also gave us rules. His rules keep us safe and happy. We call his rules “commandments.” He promises us that if we will obey his commandments we will be able to live happy lives and return to live with him.

A Treasure Hunt

Next let your young children go on a treasure hunt. Make pictures for the clues or rules of where they are to look. Give them the first clue, perhaps a picture of their bed, and let them go there where you have the next clue hidden. That clue will have a picture of the next place to look. Continue until they find the treasure at the last place. The treasure should be some small treat.

Before they start, explain that you are going to let them practice following a rule to find a treasure. The rule is to follow the pictures.

After they have found the treasure, tell them that Heavenly Father’s treasure for us is happiness. His commandments are the clues or rules we must follow to gain his treasure of happiness.

Let each child make a picture for the “Commandments I Am Thankful For” chart. Give suggestions such as—

  1. 1.

    Tithing (they can draw pennies or themselves giving tithing to the bishop).

  2. 2.

    Sharing (they can draw toys they share with brothers and sisters).

  3. 3.

    Going to church (they can draw the meetinghouse with your family in front of it).

Help them to remember to say thank you to Heavenly Father for the commandments in their prayers.

ADAPTING FOR TEENAGERS AND ADULTS

Start with the story and a discussion of the ideas under “A Happier People.”

Explain that you make rules as an earthly parent for them because you love them and want to help them become their best selves. You want to save them from unhappiness and heartache. Admit that you may make mistakes but that they have a wise and loving parent who loves them even more than you do and who knows exactly what will bring them happiness and unhappiness. Heavenly Father has given us guidelines in the form of commandments to show us the way to live so that we may share in his happiness.

Discuss the “Wickedness Never Was Happiness” chart presented in the lesson. Then relate personal experiences you have had that have helped you know that the commandments were given for our happiness. Invite your family to share their experiences of when they have found happiness through keeping one of Heavenly Father’s commandments.

Conclude by explaining that as we gain testimonies of some of the commandments, we also gain a trust in our Heavenly Father that helps us keep the others while we are learning about them.

Bear your testimony that Heavenly Father does love us and that the commandments are the only way to lasting happiness. Express your gratitude for the commandments, and encourage your family to express their gratitude for them in prayer during the coming week.

SUGGESTIONS FOR FUTURE HOME EVENINGS

The Commandments Protect Us and Free Us

Have family members discuss what it means to be free. Then ask the family to imagine a busy intersection and what it might be like if there were no traffic laws and signals.

  • What might happen to an individual driver or pedestrian? (At best, he would lose time in traffic tie-ups. At worst, he might be hurt or killed in a traffic accident.)

  • Why do these traffic laws exist: to hinder us and hold us back or to help the traffic flow more smoothly and more freely?

Compare the need for such laws with our earthly lives.

Read John 8:31–32. Ask how the truth makes us free and what it frees us from. Explain that every action has a consequence—we choose the consequences by choosing the actions. Have family members each select a commandment and describe the consequences first of breaking the commandment then of keeping it. Ask them to decide in which case we are really free. Then read John 8:33–36.

Younger family members may enjoy drawing a house with a picture of themselves inside. Each part of the house can be labeled with a different commandment, such as the foundation, loving God; one wall, keeping chaste; another wall, being honest; the roof, honoring parents; and the door, not coveting. Explain that all together, the commandments protect and shelter us from the world.

Obedience Brings Great Blessings

Have a family member tell the story of Adam’s sacrifice (Moses 5:4–9) or Naaman the leper (2 Kings 5:1–14). Point out that the blessings came after obedience to the commandment.

Then read Doctrine and Covenants 130:20–21. Have family members suggest some laws and the blessings that follow from obeying them. Younger family members may wish to write the commandment and draw a picture showing the blessings that come from obeying it.

Older family members may wish to discuss the importance of obedience and what obedience means to a celestial being. Such a discussion might help them understand how the practice of obedience can lead to the habit of doing things simply because they are the right things to do without having to choose and push oneself to be obedient.

Delight in the Law of the Lord

Read Psalm 1. Ask family members what it means to delight in something. Have them list a few things they find especially enjoyable.

Then ask them what they would be willing to do or to give up in order to continue to enjoy those things. Suggest that it is their delight or enjoyment that prompts them to make the sacrifice or to put forth the effort. Ask why the man in the psalm who delights in the law of the Lord is blessed. You may wish to refer to Matthew 6:19–21 during this discussion. Have family members suggest ways in which they can learn to delight in the law of the Lord, such as obeying the commandments, experiencing the blessings, praying for the witness of the Spirit, studying the scriptures, applying gospel principles in their lives, serving the Lord by serving others, and learning about eternal life and the promises that go with the covenants.

The Purpose of the Commandments

God gives commandments to men to bring about their full happiness. Have someone read Moses 1:39.

Discuss how keeping the commandments prepares us for eternal life.

  • What is meant by the term “eternal life”? (To become like our Heavenly Father and to live as he lives.)

Read Revelation 21:7 and Doctrine and Covenants 84:38. Ask family members to imagine how they would feel if God were subject to some of the imperfections of men.

Have family members explore the idea that the greatest blessings also carry the greatest responsibilities. Emphasize that by obedience to the commandments man can overcome his faults and become like God.

Encourage each family member to pick out one commandment and practice living it until he has become perfect at it.

You may also wish to refer to Doctrine and Covenants 88:21–24, 35, and D&C 130:20–21 when giving this lesson.

Know the Lord’s Laws

You may wish to build a family home evening around the study of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3–17) showing how our laws are based on the Lord’s code of behavior. You may find it necessary or useful to devote separate home evenings to discuss different commandments. In the manual, you will find lesson suggestions under specific topics in the section “Lesson Ideas” or in the index.