The commandments that the Lord has given us are the greatest keys we have doctrinally and experientially to knowing truth and being happy. L Tom Perry in an address in April of 2013 regarding the Ten Commandments ("Obedience to the Law is Liberty") said,
Surely there could not be any doctrine more strongly expressed in the scriptures than the Lord’s unchanging commandments and their connection to our happiness and well-being as individuals, as families, and as a society.
Satan and the world that follows after him continually fight against knowledge of truth and against happiness in large part by undermining commandments. Doctrine and Covenants 93:39 reads:
And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.
A commandment that is always quickly attacked by Satan in the process of societal decline and often little understood in terms of meaning, importance, and attached blessings even by followers of God is the fifth of the Ten Commandments:
Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. Exodus 20:12
Often when this commandment is cited, it is the first six words that are included, and the remainder is left out. To understand the place, importance, and full potential power of this commandment, however, it is vital to seek to understand it in its entirety. In discussing a few points pertaining to this commandment I will begin at the end of this verse and move to the beginning:
First, what is the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee?
This is the Promised Land, both in this world and eternally.
Moses received the Ten Commandments during the journey of exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt through the wilderness culminating, after Moses’ departure, in their possession of the lands of their inheritance, or the Promised Land. This is the great spiritual journey type—exodus out of the world, from sin and death, through the wilderness, and into the presence of God, or the eternal Promised Land, all through God’s grace. This is the pattern of the Tabernacle of Moses and of the Temple.
Second, what does it mean that thy days may be long?
This length of days refers both to an individual’s life and to that individual’s posterity, again, in this life and in the next, and length involves not merely time but multiplying righteousness in time and eternity.
Together these two components of the verse and commandment parallel the Abrahamic Covenant:
And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee above measure, and make thy name great among all nations, and thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations;
And I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father;
And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal. Abraham 2:9-11
This blessing that Abraham received is available to all who will receive it, and to one degree or another the influence and blessings contained in these verses apply to those who live true principles. Abraham sought for the blessings of the fathers (Abraham 1:2), and gained greater and greater degrees of knowledge, which as he acted upon them increased his happiness and influence.
Anciently, among the righteous, everything was done through the family, which held all political, economic, religious, social, and educational roles and power. In the first verse of the Book of Mormon we learn that Nephi was taught somewhat in all the learning of his father. As a society strays from God’s organization of the family and as the world in its wisdom replaces the family one piece at a time, the truth contained in God’s commandments and the blessings obtainable from following them slip away until the point of destruction.
Returning to the Ten Commandments, it is instructive that the commandment to honor father and mother is the first commandment in the group of the last six of the Ten Commandments that pertains to our dealings with our neighbor, following the first four commandments that pertain to our relationship with God. Ideally this first commandment of the second group together with the last commandment of the first four, regarding the Sabbath, form a bridge or link between man and God. Then, in an important parallel, just as the first of the Ten Commandments teaches Thou shalt have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3), ideally a child should have no mortal influence that replaces or supersedes parental influence until the point of marriage at which time the relationship with spouse becomes primary. At times and in cases that are less than ideal the family is still God’s chosen organization, as when Nephi honored his father by seeking his guidance even after Lehi murmured against the Lord, and as anciently the family organization extended to all living in its vicinity, including widows, orphans, and strangers in the land.
The commandment to honor father and mother holds power and blessings seldom recognized and realized in this world, but God will bless His children who humbly and faithfully honor their earthly father and mother with blessings in this life and/or the next such as happiness in marriage, posterity, and eternal life.