The Two Great Commandments

After delivering the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt, the Lord gave them many commandments through the prophet Moses. Here are two of them:

  1. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5).
  2. “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18).

A couple of observations about these two commandments:

  1. The Hebrew word me’odekha (מְאֹדֶֽךָ׃), which is translated “might” in the first commandment is an unusual word. It is basically the noun form of the adverb “very.” Strong’s Concordance defines it using words like “muchness” and “abundance.” The implication is that we should love God with everything we have and with everything we are, holding nothing back. (See this explanation of the word by Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofski: “Tefillah Tuesday: כל מאדך.”)
  2. Shortly after giving the second commandment, the Lord emphasized the inclusiveness of the word “neighbor” by repeating the commandment, but replacing the word “neighbor” with “stranger:” “But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34).

Many centuries later, a lawyer approached the Savior with a question: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” The Savior replied by quoting these two passages:

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.

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Matthew 22:36-40

On another occasion, Jesus defined the word “neighbor” by giving the parable of the Good Samaritan. Everyone is your neighbor, including and perhaps especially people who seem different, people with whom you disagree, people who don’t seem to belong. (See Luke 10:25-37.)

Book of Mormon prophets also taught these two overarching commandments. For example:

  • Nephi: “Ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men” (2 Nephi 31:20, italics added). (See also Mosiah 2:4.)
  • Moroni: “If ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you” (Moroni 10:32, italics added).
  • Alma: “Thus did Alma teach his people, that every man should love his neighbor as himself, that there should be no contention among them” (Mosiah 23:15).

In 1831, the Lord repeated these same two commandments in a revelation to church members who had recently arrived in Independence, Missouri:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him.

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

Doctrine and Covenants 59:5-6

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf said: “The Savior always teaches timeless truths. They apply to people of every age and in any circumstance” (“God among Us,” General Conference, April 2021).

These two commandments—to love God and to love all people—applied to ancient Israel, to Jewish people at the time of Christ, to ancient inhabitants of the Americas, and to settlers in Missouri in 1831. They apply to us as well.

Today, I will strive to keep the two great commandments. I will remember that the heart of the gospel is to love God and to love all people.

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