1 And now it came to pass that Zeniff conferred the kingdom upon Noah, one of his sons; therefore Noah began to reign in his stead; and he did not walk in the ways of his father.
2 For behold, he did not keep the commandments of God, but he did walk after the desires of his own heart. And he had many wives and concubines. And he did cause his people to commit sin, and do that which was abominable in the sight of the Lord. Yea, and they did commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness. (Mosiah 11:1-2)
King Noah started lots of bad stuff, but I want to highlight one part of v2 that shows the relatively simple beginning of it, a beginning that looks so benign.
..he did not keep the commandments of God, but he did walk after the desires of his own heart..
King Noah’s wickedness started with following the desires of his own heart. That’s kind of startling, especially since our culture makes “doing what you want” into a big virtue and a goal and a privilege. It should cause us to realize that it isn’t good for us to go after everything we want all the time. And it makes us consider whether what we want is good or not.
As Noah went after what he wanted, he undoubtedly came into conflict with the commandments of God, and he chose to break those commandments rather than sacrifice what he wanted. And we learn from reading the rest of his story that doing that ultimately led to his destruction.
So what we can learn is that the commandments of God are meant to be an obstacle to doing whatever we want. (That’s the whole point of the “thou shalt nots”) God put them there for that purpose to help us learn to regulate our desires, appetites, and passions so they wouldn’t destroy us. When the commandments get in the way of our doing what we want, it is because they are protecting us from ourselves when doing what we want would be self-destructive. They are even more helpful when effects of breaking them seem invisible or when the consequences are a very long time in coming and affect whole societies.
I’m grateful that the Atonement of Christ and being born again makes it possible to have my desires educated and changed and sanctified over time.