The covenant people of the Lord are promised great blessings if they live by every word which proceeds forth out of his mouth. The scriptures provide a standard, a rod of iron, a firm foundation, and were once literally contained within the Ark of the Covenant, or the throne from which the God of Abraham ruled over his people (see 1 Kings 8:9). The words of God and the prophets are the only source of spiritual nourishment which the world so desperately needs. It is the desire of the Lord to bless his people with comfort, guidance, revelation, divine protection, and liberty. He has therefore commanded us to continually feast upon his words and ponder their meaning. Liberty from coercive powers is the divine blessing of an individual or group of individuals who have liberated themselves from the natural man, by submitting themselves to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
What does it mean to live by every word of God?
The first time this commandment appears in the scriptural record is in the eighth chapter of Deuteronomy. Before the children of Israel entered the Promised Land, Moses recited their traveling in the wilderness over the previous forty years, and the reasons the Lord made them wander. Moses reminded them that immediately after their exodus from bondage in Egypt on dry ground through the Red Sea, many began to murmur for want of food in the desert. Some even desired bondage and the security of a free meal over their newfound liberty (see Ex. 16:3). The Lord gave them manna from heaven to satisfy their hunger, and that they might learn the following lesson:
“And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.” (Deut. 8:2-3 emphasis added)
Human beings are comprised of two entities- a physical body which houses a spiritual body. Both of these entities need constant nourishment in order to function properly. Before the children of Israel could properly govern themselves, the Lord had to make it clear that this could not be accomplished through exclusively temporal means (i.e. by bread alone). The ability to create a lasting, prosperous, self-sustaining, and free civilization requires spiritual nourishment (i.e. the Bread of Life) in addition to temporal nourishment.
You Are What You Eat
If it is true that you are what you eat, it is also true that, ‘you are spiritually, what you eat spiritually’. A person who consumes unhealthy foods as part of their main diet increases the chance of sickness, infirmity, and potentially life-threatening diseases to their physical body. An individual, who does not consume the words of God, or the Bread of Life as their main spiritual diet, causes their spiritual health to decay in like manner.
The scriptures admonish us to make searching, pondering, and praying over the words of God as our main spiritual nourishment. There have been periods in my life where I have studied the philosophies of men at greater length than the words of God. As I look back at those periods now, I see that my spiritual health was stagnant and not as prosperous as the times where the Bread of Life was my main course. We are admonished to obtain a “knowledge of history, and of countries, and of kingdoms” (D&C 93:53), but that portion must not make us so ‘full’ that we don’t have room for the Word of God. I testify of the truthfulness of the words of the Lord Jesus Christ: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6)
If you feast upon the scriptures, and make the word of God your primary spiritual meal, you will be filled in a way that you did not think possible. The transition may not be easy; it is difficult to switch to a diet of good, wholesome and healthy food, but the benefits are eternally rewarding. Our Lord calls to each member of the covenant to ‘feed [his] sheep’ (see John 21:15-17).
President Gordon B. Hinckley wrote: “There is a great hunger in the land, and genuine thirst – a great hunger for the word of the Lord and an unsatisfied thirst for things of the Spirit…. The world is starved for spiritual food. Ours is the obligation and opportunity to nourish the soul.”
Let us feast upon the word of God, so that we might better persuade at testify to the world of the liberty that is found therein.
Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
The Garden of Eden provides a model applicable to nearly every scenario of transgression, and how not living by every word of God leads to spiritual death. While Adam and Eve were in the garden, the law was simple and clear:
“Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. 2:16-17)
In other words, if they did not eat the forbidden fruit, they would live forever in God’s presence. Living by every word of God in this scenario literally allowed infinite life. The example of Eve being deceived by Satan in this discussion is an example for how all sin is committed and has nothing to do with her gender. This example is a model for how transgression occurs, and the consequences of choosing to live by words that are not God’s.
God warned that “in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Then came Satan stating the following to the contrary, “ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4-5). Satan also persuaded Eve that the fruit had even more desirable benefits; that it was good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and could make one wise (see Gen. 3:6).
Satan was persuading Eve to live by his words, and not by God’s. He deceived her into thinking she could obtain knowledge, good food, or desired ends by doing something contrary to what God had said. Her desire was good, but her means of obtaining it were incorrect. She sought to become as God, or to obtain food, or wisdom by doing something contrary to God, by living according to the word of the Adversary.
She already had power similar to God, an infinite life span, unlimited food, and direct access to God, His teachings, wisdom and learning. By not living according to the word of God, she was cut off from his presence, his wisdom, her infinite life, and her unlimited supply of food. Satan had nothing to offer her after this, as his sole purpose was to make her as miserable as he is. The only way she could regain these lost blessings was through Jesus Christ, and by making covenants with Him. In return, God provided her and Adam with clothing, greater knowledge, ordinances to make covenants, and the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The forbidden fruit represents the boundary between good and evil. It represents God’s will, verses the will of the natural man. When we choose a course of action that we know is not sanctioned by the Lord, we challenge his sovereignty and his word. When we choose to live by words other than God’s, we walk away from his divine mercy, and into justice and judgment.
“Ye call upon my name for revelations, and I give them unto you; and inasmuch as ye keep not my sayings, which I give unto you, ye become transgressors; and justice and judgment are the penalty which is affixed unto my law.” (D&C 82:4)
In order to obey God’s law, we must first know what it is. The scriptures are the standard by which we should judge all actions, and this is part of righteous judgment. Familiarity with the scriptures will allow us to compare the teachings of the world with the teachings of the spirit in order to choose the right. When we are more familiar with the philosophies of men over the realities of God, we place ourselves in great danger of being deceived.
The Bread of Life
When Jesus was near the Sea of Galilee, during the first year of his ministry, he was followed by a large group of people near the base of a mountain. When he saw the multitude that followed him was hungry, he made arrangements to have them fed. Miraculously, he provided more than enough food for five thousand people. Because of this temporal blessing of food which they received, many sought to force Jesus to be their temporal king. But he desired no part in their plans and quietly departed alone into a mountain (see John 6:15).
Jesus later met his disciples by walking upon the water to them while in a boat upon the Sea of Galilee. The next morning, when those who sought to make Jesus a temporal king could not find him, they quickly traveled to the other side of the Sea. Upon finding Jesus, they asked him why he had left to which Jesus responded:
“Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.” (John 6:26)
The crowd then asserted that Moses had given their fathers manna in the desert to eat, and had filled them; implying that their request of temporal bread from Jesus was no different. Our Lord however taught them the true purpose of manna in the wilderness, it being a symbol of his mission and purpose.
“…I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst… Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die… As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.” (John 6:35, 49-50, 57-58)
Before closing on this point, recall the story of Josiah, a king in Israel. Prior to his reign, the scriptures and the law appeared to have been lost for some time. This no doubt was a major cause for the wickedness, evil, and corruption that was found in Israel. Upon finding the scriptures in the temple, Josiah had them read to him- to which he reacted by rending his clothes in profound sorrow. He realized the true extent to which Israel had departed from the Lord (see 2 Kings 22–23).
In his zeal, he used his power as king, to destroy all the idols and shrines dedicated to false gods. He destroyed the unlawful offensive weaponry that was prohibited by the Lord. He even slew the false priests of the high places and burned their bones upon their own false altars. In short, he used his government authority to enforce righteousness among the people. These actions were sanctioned by the Lord, and Josiah is regarded as one of the most righteous of kings in all of Israel.
There are many today that would advocate such a use of government force to restore the nation to righteousness. Despite Josiah’s zeal and attempts to turn people to the Lord, he had only established an outward form of righteousness in Israel, and this was not enough. The following biblical commentary from Kiel and Delitzch is instructive:
“It is true that Josiah had exterminated outward and gross idolatry throughout the land by his sincere conversion to the Lord, and by his zeal for the restoration of the lawful worship of Jehovah, and had persuaded the people to enter into covenant with God once more; but a thorough conversion of the people to the Lord, he had not been able to effect. For, as Clericus has correctly observed, ‘although the king was more religious, and the people obeyed him through fear, yet for all that the mind of the people was not changed…”
Coercive force could not change the hearts and minds of the people of Israel. Within twenty years after the death of Josiah, Israel was carried away captive into Babylon and their temple was destroyed.
The Lord Jesus Christ refused to be made a temporal king of the people, despite his obvious power, authority, and right to do so. The people who wanted to make him king did not seek him for the right reasons. They sought for their political and temporal salvation with no thought of their spiritual salvation. People cannot live in peace, liberty, and justice with one another unless they voluntarily choose to live by every word that proceeds forth out of the mouth of the Living God. Any attempt to build a civilization upon any other foundation is nothing more than a utopian dream that will always fail. May we turn people to the word of God so that they might learn to render to God the things that are His. Then there will be nothing left for Caesar.