Is Christ’s Gospel about Rules or Relationships?
November 2023

Is Christ’s Gospel about Rules or Relationships?

When I was struggling with perfectionism, a message from general conference helped me understand what it means to live the gospel.

pencils lined up in a row

When I moved out for the first time to go to college, I was so excited! Little did I know how challenging it would become. Moving out for the first time, starting school, and discovering how much I struggle with perfectionism was very challenging.

I discovered what the term “perfectionism” meant in therapy. But even many months later, I sometimes still find myself struggling with perfectionistic tendencies, especially when it comes to living the gospel.

Have you ever done your best to live the gospel but still felt something is missing?

Have you struggled with perfectionism or wondered how can you overcome seeing the gospel as an abstract list of rules or achievements?

I wanted to know what would help me the most moving forward. So I decided to try and find answers during general conference.

Rules or a Relationship?

During conference, Elder Robert M. Daines of the Seventy began his talk by sharing two stories. The first was about a man who experienced face blindness, a condition where an individual is unable to recognize faces and often has to create rules for identifying people by other physical characteristics. In his second story, Elder Daines explained how, as a young boy, he saw his mother only as a rule-maker, not as a real person who loved him. He “saw her rules but didn’t see her love.” Elder Daines shared these stories “to make one point: I suspect you know someone (perhaps you are someone) who suffers from a kind of spiritual face blindness.1

Elder Daines explained how, at one time, he struggled with spiritual face blindness and sometimes viewed the gospel as a long list of abstract rules to follow. I related to that because at times I find myself attempting to see how I can maximize my ability to follow all the commandments as perfectly as possible. But this completely misses the whole point of why these “rules” were given to us in the first place.

He said, “We’re not finished until we see Jesus as the face of our Father’s love and follow Him, not just His rules.”2 Following rules perfectly is not our goal. Our goal is to follow Him because we love Him.

He added, “When prophets and apostles talk of covenants, … they want us to see our covenants are fundamentally about relationships and can be a cure for spiritual face blindness.” 3

This gives us a different take on rules. By following his counsel, I know I will be able to see how my covenants are not about rules—they are about a relationship. Specifically a covenant relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ where we can discover Their all-encompassing love for each of us personally.

Relying on Him

The most important lesson I’ve learned from working through my perfectionism has to do with my relationship with Jesus Christ. I’ve learned what it really means to rely on Him rather than relying on my own abilities.

Relying on yourself to overcome difficult challenges that you face isn’t realistic. We are imperfect and sometimes experience trials that are too difficult to bear alone. That is why we need to discover that what will help us the most is to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

As we develop this relationship, we will begin to understand that rules and “covenants are not merely transactional; they are transformational,”4 as Elder Joaquin E. Costa of the Seventy taught.

I discovered that what will help me the most moving forward is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I learned from Elder Costa this conference that “we don’t come to Jesus because we are perfect. We come to Him because we are flawed and in Him we can ‘be perfected’ [Moroni 10:32].”5

That is the perspective I was missing! Now I know that I can rely on the Savior to help me see the gospel not as a list of rules but as a way to deepen my love and appreciation for Him (see John 14:15). And so can you.