Menu
In the News

Ensure God’s 1st great commandment always comes 1st, Elder D. Todd Christofferson challenges BYU students


When a lawyer sought to entrap the Savior with this question — “Which is the great commandment?” — he received an answer that is both wonderful and profound.

As recorded in Matthew 22:37-39:

“Jesus said unto him, 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.”

In his devotional message Tuesday at Brigham Young University, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles asked his audience to consider the majesty of those two great commandments — and also why the first commandment is first.

The second commandment, explained Elder Christofferson, is a brilliant guide for human interaction.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles sits with his wife, Sister Kathy Christofferson, and BYU President Kevin J Worthen. Elder Christofferson spoke at a BYU devotional in the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles sits with his wife, Sister Kathy Christofferson, and BYU President Kevin J Worthen. Elder Christofferson spoke at a BYU devotional in the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

Credit: BYU Photo

“Consider what the world would be like if the second commandment were universally accepted and followed. Think of what would not happen. Among other things, there would be no violent crime, no abuse, no fraud, no persecution or bullying, no gossip, no discrimination, and certainly no war.”

The Lord’s disciples, he added, should be deliberate in living the second great commandment “by reaching out in love and empathy to those the Lord defines as our neighbors, that is, everyone.”

To be sure, the first and second commandment must work in tandem.

But there are reasons why the first commandment — “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” — remains the overarching priority.

First is the foundational nature of the first commandment. It offers clarity on the purpose, direction and meaning of one’s life.

“Putting the first commandment first does not diminish or limit our ability to keep the second commandment,” Elder Christofferson said. “To the contrary, it amplifies and strengthens it. It means that we enhance our love by anchoring it in divine purpose and power. It means that we have the Holy Ghost to inspire us in ways to reach out that we would never have seen on our own. Love of God elevates our ability to love others because we, in essence, partner with God in the care of His children.”

Second, ignoring or reversing the order of the first commandment risks a loss of balance in life and deviates from the path of happiness and truth.

“Love of God and submission to Him provides a check against our tendency to corrupt virtues by pushing them to the extreme. 

“Compassion for our neighbor’s distress, for example, even when the suffering is brought about by his or her own transgression, is noble and good. But an unbridled compassion could lead us, like Alma’s son Corianton, to question God’s justice and misunderstand His mercy.”

As Alma explained to Corianton in Alma 42, one needs both justice and mercy — and only through the Savior can both be satisfied.

And third, the first commandment must be first because attempts at love not grounded in God’s truth risk harming the very person one is trying to help.

As President Russell M. Nelson taught: “Because the Father and the Son love us with infinite, perfect love and because They know we cannot see everything They see, They have given us laws that will guide and protect us. There is a strong connection between God’s love and His laws.”

In his March 22, 2022, devotional address at Brigham Young University, Elder D. Todd Christofferson teaches about prioritizing the “First Great Commandment.”

In his March 22, 2022, devotional address at Brigham Young University, Elder D. Todd Christofferson teaches about prioritizing the “First Great Commandment.”

Credit: BYU Photo

God’s love for His children

Across all aspects of Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness — including the creation, mortality and the blessings of the Atonement — His purposes have been centered on providing His children the path to eternal life. His motives are defined by His love.

“Is it too much to ask that in return we center our lives in God and love Him as He has loved us, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength?” said Elder Christofferson. “How can we resist His love for us and withhold our own love from Him knowing that our love of God is the key to our own happiness?”

Love for God: The Savior’s example

Christ is the supreme example of how one can show love for the Father. The Son’s highest priority was and is to glorify the Father. That loyalty enabled the Savior to see His Atonement through to its completion. His love for His Father superseded His incomprehensible suffering.

“As Christ hung upon the cross, our fate, our immortality and eternal life, hung in the balance, and the thing that tipped the scale in our favor, in determining whether our very existence would have meaning, was that Jesus Christ loved the Father with all His heart, soul, mind and strength,” said Elder Christofferson.

Jesus Christ provides the pattern to loving God: Loyalty to God above all else and above everyone else; a consciousness of one’s accountability to Him, at all times and in all things; and a yearning desire to know and do His will.

“When we love God first, we see the world and our lives through His eyes rather than through the eyes of any other person — even a social media influencer.”

Elder Christofferson then offered a few examples of what loving God entails.

Begin, he said, by keeping Heavenly Father’s commandments. “Jesus was fixed upon keeping each and all of His Father’s commandments and showed us what obedience to God means in real life.”

Another key aspect of keeping God’s first commandment is love for others.

Serving God and His cause is closely allied to submission to God’s commandments. As the Shepherd implored: “Feed my sheep.”

“I am confident that our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son are pleased with your individual kindnesses, however limited or insignificant they may seem in a vast world of need. Every act and every offering matters.”

The things that the Church is doing collectively to care for others is also pleasing to God.

Students gather inside Brigham Young University’s Marriott Center on March 22, 2022, to listen to a devotional message from Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Students gather inside Brigham Young University’s Marriott Center on March 22, 2022, to listen to a devotional message from Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Credit: BYU Photo

“As but one example, the aid to alleviate suffering arising from the current war targeting Ukraine is truly Christlike,” he said. “We consistently try to focus on the need at hand and not let the right hand know what the left hand is doing, but I hope that as a Church we can provide more comprehensive accounts going forward so that you will know more about what you are doing as part of the body of Christ to feed His sheep.”

Promoting the Lord’s cause on earth is also essential to keeping the Lord’s first commandment, including the work of the full-time missionaries, taught Elder Christofferson.

“We in the Twelve covet every opportunity we have to be with missionaries because of the uplifting, renewing spirit we feel among those who are so urgently involved in feeding God’s sheep and lambs.”

Calling upon God in prayer and feasting upon His words for understanding and direction is another way of putting the first commandment first. “We want to know and do what He wants. We want to know what He knows. We want to learn all that He will teach us as His disciples. We want personal revelation.”

And finally, observe the first commandment in its proper order by living with a sense of accountability to God.

“That means resisting and overcoming temptation, repenting and forgiving, combating selfishness, taking upon us the name of Christ and developing the character of Christ. It means watching even our thoughts and words as well as our actions.”

Elder Christofferson added that becoming accountable to God allows one to feel God’s “good pleasure in us.”

“We come to understand that He rejoices with even the smallest efforts we make to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength,” he said. “What greater reassurance and peace could you have than the witness of the Holy Spirit to your spirit that your Heavenly Father and your Redeemer are pleased with you and your course in life?”

Newsletters
Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed