3 And he said unto them: Marvel not that I said unto you that old things had passed away, and that all things had become new.
4 Behold, I say unto you that the law is fulfilled that was given unto Moses.
5 Behold, I am he that gave the law, and I am he who covenanted with my people Israel; therefore, the law in me is fulfilled, for I have come to fulfil the law; therefore it hath an end….
9 Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life.
(3 Nephi 15:3-5, 9)
I think I can understand why it was so hard for the Nephites and the Lamanites to hear the Savior say that the law of Moses was fulfilled. Of course they had been taught for many years that the law of Moses served the purpose of pointing their minds to Christ, and that when He came it’s purpose would be finished. (See, for example, 2 Nephi 25:24, 30, 2 Nephi 32:6, Mosiah 13:27-28, Alma 25:15-16.)
Still, change is hard. Their scriptures contained instructions for religious practices intermingled with commandments and prophecies. In this chapter, the Savior was telling them that the commandments and prophecies were still in force but that the practices would be replaced (3 Nephi 15:6-7, 3 Nephi 15:10). But think about the difficultly of adopting this counsel. Their families had participated in these practices, including animal sacrifice, for generations. Also, much of their spiritual heritage was associated with these practices. (See, for example, 1 Nephi 7:22, Mosiah 2:3-4.) Mormon tells us that the law of Moses had served to “strengthen their faith in Christ.” It must have been difficult to set aside religious practices which had previously brought them closer to God.
To help them with this transition, the Savior declared, “I am the law.” Even though the law of Moses had been observed for many generations, it was worth remembering that the Savior had given that law in the first place. He was, therefore, fully capable of providing a new set of religious practices to replace it.
Part of discipleship is being willing to follow the exercises given by the instructor. Some of those exercises might only be needed temporarily. Like musical etudes or mathematical drills, they are intended to help develop skills which will then be applied to real life problems. The exercise is not the end game; it is a means to the end. The real goal is to become like the instructor. As the student matures, he or she may need different kinds of exercises to help him or her continue their development and ultimately achieve that goal.
Today, I will remember that the religious practices I participate in serve the ultimate purpose of bringing me closer to Him and helping me to become more like Him. I will remember that, even though practices can change over time, the ultimate goal remains the same. He is the law, and my purpose in following His gospel is to ultimately become “even as [He is]” (3 Nephi 27:27).