While reading Hugh Nibley’s Teachings of the Book of Mormon Part 1, I came across this insightful quote (of course, almost everything he wrote was insightful):
Our word law comes from lag, the old Scandinavian, Norse word…. Well, the law is the guidance, and you have to have it to get there. It’s not the goal – it’s the way that gets you there. It’s like the iron rod; you cling to the iron rod. We love iron rods, and think is we have an iron rod we already have it made. We just keep the iron rod, and that’s our goal. The iron rod is just to get you to the temple. That is not supposed to be the temple. It’s not supposed to be the object. You don’t stick to the law all the time.
We have the Ten Commandments, the laws of Moses. Ah, yes, there is the law as far as this goes. But it is written for barbarians, as Paul tells us…. In chapter 2 [of Hebrews] here, it says the law is going to get your there. Now what are the Ten Commandments? Do you have to be told every day that you shouldn’t kill? That you shouldn’t lie? That you shouldn’t commit adultery? That you shouldn’t bear false witness? Do you have to be reminded of that? No, the time comes, the Lord says, when ‘the law is written in their hearts.’ Only a savage or a barbarian would have to be told over and over, ‘Now, you mustn’t kill anybody today.’ But we still have to be reminded. We think if we’ve kept the law, then we are saved – that’s all there is to it. But that’s not it at all. That’s where it begins. This is the least requirement. It starts out with the Word of Wisdom, for example. Do we have to tell people every day, ‘Well, don’t go out and get drunk’? We don’t have to be told that. Even with smoking now, people are warned; we don’t have to go to the Word of Wisdom for that. Most of you [BYU students] would never think of doing those things. It wouldn’t occur to you because, as it says when it is given to us in Doctrine and Covenants 89, this is adapted to the weakest of all Saints; this is the lowest requirement. This is the mere beginning – the least thing that can be expected of you. We start with the Word of Wisdom. It’s the same thing with tithing.” (Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon Part 1, Covenant Communications, 2004, p.208).
What Hugh Nibley said reminds me of one of my favorite scriptures: “For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified” (Moses 6:60). When we are baptized we keep the commandment. When we follow the commandments, when we keep the law, we are simply doing just that – keeping the commandments and the law. The laws are not saving – they are not the goal, they merely help us get to our goal, which is “the temple” as Hugh Nibley said; I would like add that it is really the temple in heaven that is our goal (see Isaiah 6:1 – “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.”).
Even the Holy Ghost is not enough; yes, we are justified by His presence, we are absolved from guilt, but that is not enough. If keeping the commandments and feeling the Spirit are not enough for salvation, what is? The blood of the sacrificial Lamb; the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. It is only through Him that we are saved. The law does not save us, it simply provides a path; Jesus is the Way. He is the only way to salvation and exaltation. The point Hugh Nibley made is that laws do not save us, Jesus does.