From this perspective we see that all law is relative. A law does not live in a vacuum: it resides in relation to other laws.
Perhaps this is why at the last day, judgment itself will be relative: not based on what we've done, but based on what we've done in relation to the laws we had.
They that knew no law shall have part in the first resurrection; and it shall be tolerable for them.
When we debate "the letter" of the law vs. "the spirit" of the law, we're usually pitting two laws against each other as if they're in conflict, when they're really just out of chronology (think of the two conflicting commandments the Lord gave Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden).
The problem of thinking of laws as linear, though, is that Jesus takes all truths, or laws, and circumscribes them into one whole.
So there is really just one law: the Law of Christ.
The Law of Love
The question we need to ask is, "What is the law of Christ? Which law is greatest of all?"
And is the law of Christ the same thing as the Doctrine of Christ?
1. We could start by quoting Jesus's answer to the lawyer, who asked him:
Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Well, this seems promising. Is the law of Christ, then, to love?
2. We read during the Last Supper, Jesus said:
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
3. Jesus's brother, James, wrote that there's a "royal law" (that is, the King of Commandments, or Praeceptum Rex):
Fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Hmmm. I think we're seeing a pattern here. Didn't Paul say that charity is the "greatest of all?"
So, is the Law of Christ . . . love?
No. No it is not.
The Perfect Law of Liberty
Hold it. I thought love was(!) the highest law. I thought love is(!) the greatest of all.
What else is there? What's better than love?
Well, James taught there is a "perfectlaw of liberty" (James 1:25).
What law is he talking about? Isn't love the perfect law of liberty?
This must be important because James says we "shall be judged by the law liberty" (James 2:12).
Love vs. Liberty
Is there some relationship between love and liberty? Are there times when the two are in conflict?
Let's consider what these verses mean:
1.Paul: "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Corinthians 3:17).
[Here we see that the expression, or fruit, of the Spirit is liberty.]
2.Paul: "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Galatians 5:1).
[Paul is saying that when we stand with Christ, we will not be entangled with any other masters, which is spiritual bondage.]
3. Lehi: "And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil" (2 Nephi 2:27).
[This is interesting: Lehi is equating liberty with eternal life. The essence of eternal life is to be free; in other words, Christ came to rescue us from captivity to any other systems or persons, which results in death.]
4. Benjamin: "And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free" (Mosiah 5:8).
[Ah, this is really important. The only genuine freedom comes from Christ: all other masters can only offer temporary, or illusory, freedom, and will invariably shackle us.]
5. Pahoran: "[A]ccording to the Spirit of God, which is also the spirit of freedom which is in them" (Alma 61:15).
[The Spirit of God is in us, and it is enticing us towards liberty, which is only found in following Christ alone.]
6. Jesus: "Wherefore, hear my voice and follow me, and you shall be a free people, and ye shall have no laws but my laws when I come, for I am your lawgiver" (D&C 38:22).
[That's an interesting definition: To be free means to have no laws but Christ's laws. That means freedom is only achieved when we divorce ourselves from every law that does not come from Christ.]
What Does This Mean?
The most loving thing Jesus could do is to set us free. To deliver us from bondage. To rescue us from death and hell. To "fulfill the law" so we would no longer be its captives.
So . . . why do we pressure people to live any law other than Christ's?
Maybe we can measure the Spirit in a practice, or in a person, by these words:
[Whenever we try] to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
I think sometimes we read the words "in any degree of unrighteousness" to mean there's a loophole. That, in fact, there is a "righteous degree" of control and compulsion we can exercise.
But is that consistent with what Joseph Smith wrote next, when he said the only power or influence that we can have by virtue of the priesthood is by:
a. Persuasion b. Long-suffering c. Gentleness d. Meekness e. Love unfeigned f. Kindness g. Pure knowledge?
See? None of those things on the list is "control" or "compulsion."
Not even to the least degree.
How Did I Do?
Okay, now we're at the end of this post. How did I do?