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Ancient Testaments: Law of Moses is the perfect schoolmaster

For more than a millennium of time, the Law of Moses outlived Moses himself. Its shining pieces — 613 divine commands — were intended to fit together in one. Of course, that could happen only if they were obeyed together in one. In this way, it could be a wonderful, life-long school, a way of life. In fact, life itself.

Elements of the Mosaic Law ranged from moral standards to personal hygiene, from civil jurisprudence to environmental protection, from ritual in worship to management in the home. The result was a peaceful and healthy setting, the opportunity for a dignified and purposeful life.

But for every willing mind, there was more. All those diverse elements constantly focused on one single meaning: the great friend of the faithful, the giver and upholder and center of life, the Messiah.

And the students for whom this special schooling was designed? Israel.

Israel was one people, but located in several places. There was more than one class in this special school during its term of 11 or 12 hundred years.

The biblical testimony profiles one branch of Israel, the Jews. The Book of Mormon testimony shows us another, the branch that we call Lamanites and Nephites.

By and large, the class we find in the Bible was an easily distracted people. They had a condition that could be called S.A.D., for Spiritual Attention Deficit. Yet, as wayward as Jewish Israel was for generations at a time, it was entirely able to turn around. And the effort was entirely worth it. Otherwise, why would God, who does not approve of wasting time, persist in urging them, sending teachers and helpers to them and waiting for them through those long centuries? He is a pattern for every parent with a distracted or pouting or straying child.

In the Book of Mormon, we find groups that caught on to the curriculum. For them, the Law of Moses became more than an attention-getter.

One example is the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi. The record tells us that "they did keep the law of Moses," which can only mean all the elements, the whole way of life, temporal and spiritual, public and private. But instead of a self-imposed, constantly S.A.D. condition, "they did look forward to the coming of Christ, considering that the law of Moses was a type of his coming … until the time that he should be revealed."

They weren't just waiting it out. The Mosaic Law wasn't merely a tedious duty to tolerate until the time limit was up. Instead, it "did strengthen their faith in Christ." It actually boosted their "hope through faith, unto eternal life." It turned up the volume, as it were, on "the spirit of prophecy, which spake of things to come."

This perfect system could adapt to any cooperative student. It could foster growth, whatever the maturity or readiness.

A Jewish spokesman, the apostle Paul, once described the Law of Moses as a "schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ."

Of course, school keeping in the world has occasionally given rise to grossly imperfect schoolmasters — visionless or thoughtless, uncommitted or unkind, disinterested in real learning or disconnected from real learners.

But a schoolmaster sent from heaven would not be imperfect.

The Law of Moses was a wonderful mosaic. Its shining pieces revealed a sum greater than its parts.

It unveiled him who was, and still is, the truth. His promised coming was sure, and it is sure once again. He was worth waiting for, and still is. To discover him, remember him and become one with him was, and still is, the whole law.

(References: Alma 25:15-16; Galatians 3:24)

Wayne E. Brickey, who lives in Gallatin, Mo., is a retired Church Educational System teacher and curriculum writer and has been a tour guide to Holy Land and Mormon history sites.