William Monahan
God's Commandments

Like a mediocre pay-per-view movie, picking and choosing which of God's laws and commandments to follow is convenient but uninspiring. It may suit our whims, but we have fashioned a whimsical god indeed.

For example, if we don’t like God’s law of chastity, we shelve the seventh commandment to misuse our procreative power. If we don’t like what God says about honoring our husbands and wives, we discard them in the court of selfishness long before divorce court. Selectively obeying God’s laws, we are free to redefine his institutions, including marriage itself.

Liberated from the burden of God’s first commandment, we idol worship ourselves in the attention-cry of self-promotion.

God makes no demands?

Selective commandment keeping is a centuries-old malady. It leads to replacing the God of heaven with a more convenient god: pop-culture, pop-philosophy, pop-gratification.

For non-believers, God doesn’t exist in this free-form, randomized world of crashing atoms. For others, God exists, but loves us so much that to make any demands upon us would not be loving. Thus, God’s "love" begins to resemble the natural man’s affections.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quourum of the Twelve said, "Sadly, much of modern Christianity does not acknowledge that God makes any real demands on those who believe in him, seeing him rather as a butler ‘who meets their needs when summoned’..." (Elder D. Todd Christofferson, "As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten," Ensign, May, 2011, quoting in part, Kenda Creasy Dean, "Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church," 2010, 17).


A convenient God is not a loving God. Because God does loves us, he created a plan for our happiness, including laws or commandments to govern our return to him. Were it not so, there would be no purpose to creation and no path to God.

In his poem, "Evolutionary Hymn," C.S. Lewis wrote:

"Wrong or justice in the present,

Joy or sorrow, what are they

While there’s always jam to-morrow,

While we tread the onward way?

Never knowing where we’re going,

We can never go astray"

(C.S. Lewis, "Evolutionary Hymn," Poems, Edited By Walter Hooper, Harcourt Brace & Co., 1964, 55).

Random creation may be a popular theory, but like random obedience, it lets us off the hook of accountability. Without accountability to God, we are only accountable to man’s ever-shifting moral compass.

The face of the modern church

While some will debate the pros and cons of organized religion, there are blessings in structure. Thus, Jesus organized his church on a foundation of apostles and prophets, he "being the chief cornerstone" (Ephesians 2:20).

For some Christians, a "god-on-demand" is seeping into the face of the modern church. Many choose their faith by popularity of pastor, social comfort or agreement with lifestyle. Demands are few and God’s commandments are often de-emphasized in favor of feel-better sermons.

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Kudos to people of faith who earnestly seek truth based on a sincere desire to know God and keep his commandments, no matter the social price. They are anchored by a moral center which governs their conduct and lifts others because they recognize that God without demands is a hollow behaviorist.

While there will always be those who twist God to suit their personal agendas, it doesn’t change the immutable fact that God is in heaven, that we are his children, and we are accountable to him for our actions.

Like shoddy construction, a life which rejects the architect’s plan is easily torn apart in the storm. Somewhere in the rubble is that undemanding god who was snoozing when death’s building inspector inevitably came calling.

William Monahan is a 1980 graduate of BYU Law School. He practices law and teaches law and ethics. A former Phoenix stake president and current high councilor for QC Chandler Heights Stake, he is active in Interfaith, and a U.S. Air Force veteran.