President Ezra Taft Benson said, “When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power.”
For some, obedience is a natural part of them. I always say those people were born with an obedient spirit. For the rest of us we must teach our spirit and body to become learn obedience. Obedient to parents, rules, laws of the land and most importantly the Laws of God.
Life’s Greatest Challenge
Elder Staheli, in his talk Obedience-Life’s Greatest Challenge (April 1998) had some great thoughts about obedience and especially the saga of obedience in The Book of Mormon.
“The Book of Mormon is a continual saga of the various people whose obedience ebbed and flowed with the times. The result of their disobedience is clear. The wake-up calls they received are just as applicable to each of us today.
King Benjamin’s great promise to those that keep God’s commandments: “For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness.”
To the Savior’s call “Come, follow me” or to His admonition “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” our response should be clear and unequivocal.”
When the Savior calls, ‘Come, follow me’; when the promises are great as we are obedient to God’s commands, why then is it so difficult to obey and obey with exactness?
Why, as President Benson states, is obedience so often an irritation instead of a quest? Obedience for some will be a lifelong quest. We are human. It is a challenge for most but as we see in the scriptures and in history, once well (not completely)-mastered, this quest will take us far in life.
Elder Conrad Shultz gave in talk in April 2002, Faith Obedience, that you may remember about a “sneaker wave.” In his talk he discussed the importance of obedience so that when the “sneaker waves” come, we are prepared.
“One of the sneaky ploys of the adversary is to have us believe that unquestioning obedience to the principles and commandments of God is blind obedience. His goal is to have us believe that we should be following our own worldly ways and selfish ambitions. This he does by persuading us that “blindly” following the prophets and obeying the commandments is not thinking for ourselves. He teaches that it is not intelligent to do something just because we are told to do so by a living prophet or by prophets who speak to us from the scriptures.”
I have heard people say before, “You just follow blindly. You believe without finding out for yourself. You were raised in the church and so you just stay because it is comfortable.” Well, whoever believes being a member of this church is comfortable, probably has not been one,! I feel like the harder I try, the harder it gets. That probably is true. God needs us to experience hardship and trial to help us learn and be better able to serve and help others. My response to those who say this is that one of my FAVORITE things about being a missionary for this church is that never once did I have to ask anyone to take my word for it-with anything I taught. I always asked, YOU pray, YOU ponder, YOU read, YOU GET THE ANSWER for yourself. Obedience requires faith and knowledge on our own to figure out why we are doing what we are doing.
From Elder Shultz again: “Our unquestioning obedience to the Lord’s commandments is not blind obedience. President Boyd K. Packer in the April conference of 1983 taught us about this: “Latter-day Saints are not obedient because they are compelled to be obedient. They are obedient because they know certain spiritual truths and have decided, as an expression of their own individual agency, to obey the commandments of God. … We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see” (“Agency and Control,” Ensign, May 1983, 66).
We might call this “faith obedience.” With faith, Abraham was obedient in preparing Isaac for sacrifice; with faith, Nephi was obedient in obtaining the brass plates; with faith, a little child obediently jumps from a height into the strong arms of his father. “Faith obedience” is a matter of trust. The question is simple: Do we trust our Heavenly Father? Do we trust our prophets?
President Harold B. Lee in the October conference of 1970 spoke of the Lord, the adversary, and the solution to the adversary’s power of deception:
“We have some tight places to go before the Lord is through with this church and the world in this dispensation. … The power of Satan will increase; we see it on every hand. … We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet. … There will be some things that take patience and faith” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 152).
It takes faith to be obedient. The Prophet Joseph Smith, in teaching obedience, said that whatever God requires is right, though we may not know the reason until much later.” (see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 256).
If ye love me, keep my commandments
Elder Hales talk in April 2014, If Ye Love Me, Keep My Commandments, he brings up this great point:
“In the premortal Council in Heaven, Lucifer rebelled against Heavenly Father’s plan. Those who followed Lucifer ended their eternal progression—be careful who you follow!”
Who are you following? Who are you surrounding yourself with most often?
Elder Hales again: “Then Jesus expressed His commitment to obey, saying, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.”1 Throughout His ministry, “he suffered temptations but gave [them] no heed.”2 Indeed, “he [learned] obedience by the things which he suffered.”3
Jesus taught us to obey in simple language that is easy to understand: “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” and “Come, follow me.”
I remember when my Dad served as a Stake President. He would often remind us,”This church is not about selective obedience-we don’t pick and choose the commandments we want to keep.” The Lord said in D&C 88:10- “I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” We must pay a price to receive the blessings.
Elder Hales again: “At times members may participate in “selective obedience,” claiming to love God and honor God while picking and choosing which of His commandments and teachings—and the teachings and counsel of His prophets—they will fully follow.
Some obey selectively because they cannot perceive all the reasons for a commandment, just as children do not always understand the reasons for their parents’ counsel and rules. But we always know the reason we follow the prophets, for this is the Church of Jesus Christ, and it is the Savior who directs His prophets in all dispensations.
As our understanding of obedience deepens, we recognize the essential role of agency. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed three times to His Father in Heaven, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” God would not override the Savior’s agency, yet He mercifully sent an angel to strengthen His Beloved Son.
Did Lucifer and his followers understand the consequences of choosing to reject Heavenly Father’s plan? If so, why did they make such a terrible choice? We might ask ourselves a similar question: why do any of us choose to be disobedient when we know the eternal consequences of sin? The scriptures provide an answer: the reason Cain and some of the children of Adam and Eve chose to disobey is because “they loved Satan more than God.” “
A key to obedience
“Our love of the Savior is the key to Savior-like obedience. As we strive to be obedient in today’s world, we declare our love and respect for all of Heavenly Father’s children. Yet it is impossible for this love for others to modify God’s commandments, which were given for our good! For example, the commandment “thou shalt not … kill, nor do anything like unto it”13 is founded upon spiritual law that protects all of God’s children, even the unborn. Long experience suggests that when we ignore this law, immeasurable sorrow results. Yet many believe it is acceptable to terminate the life of an unborn child for reasons of preference or convenience.
The scriptures are full of examples of prophets who have learned the lessons of obedience by their own experience.
Joseph Smith was taught the consequences for yielding to the pressures of his benefactor, friend, and scribe Martin Harris. In response to Martin’s pleas, Joseph asked the Lord for permission to loan the first 116 manuscript pages of the Book of Mormon so that Martin could show them to his family, but the Lord told Joseph to say no. Martin pleaded with Joseph to ask the Lord again. After Joseph’s third request the Lord gave permission for five specific people to review the manuscript. “In a most solemn covenant Martin bound himself to this agreement. When he arrived home, and pressure was brought to bear upon him, he forgot his solemn oath and permitted others to view the manuscript, with the result that by stratagem it passed out of his hands,”and it was lost. As a consequence, Joseph was rebuked by the Lord and was denied permission to continue to translate the Book of Mormon. Joseph suffered and repented of his transgression of yielding to the pressures of others. After a season, Joseph was allowed to resume his translation work. Joseph learned a valuable lesson of obedience that served him the rest of his life!
Obedience brings blessings, “and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”
My beloved brothers and sisters, the words of Alma express the feelings of my heart:
“And now my beloved brethren, I have said these things unto you that I might awaken you to a sense of your duty to God, that ye may walk blameless before him. …
“And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; … being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times.” -Elder Hales
Examples of obedience in the scriptures
The Fiery Furnace
The first one that came to my mind was the example of Shadrach, Meschach and Abed-nego. (Daniel 3) They refused to worship the Golden Image King Nebuchanezzar commanded them to worship. They knew that the punishment was death by fire. They said to the king,
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
18. BUT IF NOT, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
They had complete faith that God would deliver them from the fire (which he did) but they also had faith that if He didn’t that all would be okay-even death, because they had been obedient to God’s commandments. Obedience brings a great reassurance to faith.
I will go and do
1 Nephi 3:7- “I will go and do the things that the Lord hath commanded , for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth him.” Nephi was not blindly obedient. He clearly explains this in 1 Nephi 3:16-24. Nephi had a desire to know the mysteries of God and to know for himself that what his father had said was true and was from God. Once he knew that, he could fully support his father and show obedience to the Lord and his parents.
Their mothers taught them
The Stripling Warriors were an amazing example of exact obedience and the desire to be obedient even before the act of showing obedience.
“Yeah and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them: and I did remember the words which they said unto me that their mothers had taught them.” Alma 57:21
The first time I really remember striving for exact obedience was on my mission. Since then I have realized that it is pretty tough to be exactly obedient in everything but I can be exactly obedient in some things. Once I master those, I can move on to other things! Exact obedience in listening for and acting on promptings is something I am really working on right now. I guess-obedience to the Spirit!
As we learn to be more obedient to God and His laws, he will be bound to us and our lives will be blessed.