29 And now I say unto you that it was expedient that there should be a law given to the children of Israel, yea, even a very strict law; for they were a stiffnecked people, quick to do iniquity, and slow to remember the Lord their God;
30 Therefore there was a law given them, yea, a law of performances and of ordinances, a law which they were to observe strictly from day to day, to keep them in remembrance of God and their duty towards him.
31 But behold, I say unto you, that all these things were types of things to come.
The Apostle Paul called the law “our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ” (Galatians 3:24). He was talking about the Law of Moses, as was Abinadi in the passage above, but I think there’s a principle here which applies more broadly:
As a parent, as a teacher, and as a manager, I have to provide some level of structure for the people I lead. This structure may take the form of specific instructions for what they should do and how they should do it. It may also include opportunities to check in, account for their progress, and receive feedback. If I’m wise and if they’re attentive, the structure will not only help them get the job done but will teach them how to do similar jobs in the future. In other words, effective instructions not only produce good immediate results but also help the recipient to learn and grow.
Think about the Ten Commandments, which Abinadi quoted earlier in this chapter. Undoubtedly the commandment “thou shalt not kill” serves an important purpose in preserving order in our society, but it also serves to teach us empathy for the people around us. In the Sermon on the Mount, the Savior may not have been so much overriding the Law of Moses as illustrating the full implications of it:
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire (Matthew 5:22-23, 3 Nephi 12:21-22).
When a child learns to ride a bicycle, they usually begin with training wheels. These not only prevent the child from falling excessively, but they also help the child to get a feel for what it’s like to ride a bike. Likewise, as we obey God’s commandments, we invite the Spirit into our lives, and we practice developing divine attributes. In this way, the law leads us to Christ by helping us do the things which will invite the grace of Christ into our lives. We learn what it feels like to be a disciple of the Savior, even though we may still be very far from becoming as He is.
Today, I will be grateful for the way the commandments of God teach me and help me grow. I will seek to obey the commandments thoughtfully, with an awareness of how that obedience is helping me to access the transforming power of God in my life.