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Law of Moses

The name assigned to the whole collection of written laws given through Moses to the house of Israel, as a replacement of the higher law that they had failed to obey. The law of Moses consisted of many ceremonies, rituals, and symbols, to remind the people frequently of their duties and responsibilities. It included a law of carnal commandments and performances, added to the basic laws of the gospel. Faith, repentance, baptism in water, and remission of sins were part of the law, as were also the Ten Commandments. Although inferior to the fulness of the gospel, there were many provisions in the law of Moses of high ethical and moral value that were equal to the divine laws of any dispensation. The law of carnal commandments and much of the ceremonial law were fulfilled at the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The law functioned under the Aaronic Priesthood and was a preparatory gospel to bring its adherents to Christ. See JST Ex. 34:1–2 (Appendix); Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:19, 24; Eph. 2:14–16; Heb. 7:11, 18–19; 9:7–14; 2 Ne. 25:24–30; Mosiah 12:27–13:32; 3 Ne. 9:17; 15:1–8; D&C 84:23–27.

One of the major questions the early Church in Palestine had to decide was about the obligation of Christians to the ceremonial law of Moses. The matter was partially solved by the conference held in Jerusalem, as recorded in Acts 15 and Gal. 2. The Jewish Christians in particular had difficulty giving up the ritual of the law of Moses. The Nephites, on the other hand, seemed to have had much less of a problem doing so (see 3 Ne. 15:1–5).

The law as given through Moses was a good law, although adapted to a lower spiritual capacity than is required for obedience to the gospel in its fulness. However, the Jewish leaders had added many unauthorized provisions, ceremonies, and prohibitions to the original law, until it became extremely burdensome. These innovations were known as the “traditions of the elders.” By New Testament times among the Jews the law had become so altered it had lost much of its spiritual meaning. It is this form of the law that is so harshly spoken against by Jesus and by Paul (see Matt. 15:1–9; Mark 7:1–13; Gal. 2:16–21). There is no evidence that the law of Moses had become as altered among the Nephites as among the Jews, and this may partially explain why the Nephites had less trouble in giving it up when the Savior came. See also Aaronic Priesthood; Commandments, the Ten; John the Baptist.