What Does It Mean to “Fulfill” God’s Commandments?

Fulfill (or fulfil) – put into effect, meet the requirements of, measure up to, bring to an end, develop the full potentialities of, convert to reality (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

I wrote last week about the concept of “keeping” God’s commandments. A friend of mine pointed out that in Spanish, the word “keep” is sometimes translated “guardar” (to preserve, to keep safe), but that it is sometimes translated “cumplir” (to accomplish, to carry out, to complete). I decided to look at a related English word today—fulfill—to see how Book of Mormon authors use this word.

The word literally means to fill something fully or to finish a task completely. (See “Fulfill,” Online Etymology Dictionary.) There is a sense of finality in the word, and a sense of comprehensiveness. The job is done. It meets every requirement. Nothing is incomplete.

In the Book of Mormon, some form of the word “fulfill” appears 134 times.

  • In 84 of those appearances, God is fulfilling something, including His word (26), His covenants (20), His law (20), and His promises (9). “For behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words” (1 Nephi 9:6).
  • An additional 30 appearances are about the words of the prophets being fulfilled. “I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets” (3 Nephi 1:13).
  • There are three references to Jesus Christ fulfilling the commandments of the Father. “I give unto you another commandment, and then I must go unto my Father that I may fulfil other commandments which he hath given me” (3 Nephi 18:27).
  • The remaining 17 occurrences are about people fulfilling commandments from God (13), commandments from other people (2), or promises they had made (2). “And thus my father had fulfilled all the commandments of the Lord which had been given unto him” (1 Nephi 16:8).

A major message of the Book of Mormon is that God keeps His promises. We can have confidence in His words. What He says will happen will happen—absolutely and completely.

As His children who want to emulate Him, we ought to strive for the same level of integrity and conscientiousness in keeping our word which we know we will receive from Him. When we choose to “fulfill” a commandment of God or a promise we have made, we might remind ourselves that God fulfills all of His words—that every promise He has made to us will be converted to reality, and that He will keep the covenants He has made with us in full.

Today, I will strive to fulfill God’s commandments: to obey them thoroughly, completely, and conclusively. Just as I know that God will keep His promises to me, I will strive to be faithful in keeping my promises to Him.

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