They finally got me =) I spoke in our ward this Sunday. I had the same topic EO had a couple of weeks ago: The Life, Ministry and Teachings of Jesus Christ. Here is my take on things with some variations from what I actually presented:
To begin my talk I would like to recite a story that I used to share on my mission to teach different principles of the gospel. I feel that this illustration works well as I speak to you about Obedience.
Brothers and Sisters, if you consider yourself to be an adult, try you’re hardest to pretend you are the parent in this story. I imagine it might not be too difficult for some of you =). If you consider yourself youthful pretend you are the little boy (or little girl). I always imagine the little boy with red hair and brown eyes and about yea high, if that helps you to visualize the story better.
The parent is baking cookies in the kitchen. A little boy walks into the kitchen. The little boy is very curious as most children are when there is the smell of fresh cookies in the air. However the child is not aware the danger presented by the very hot cookie tray. The little boy sees the cookies sitting cooling on a tray at the back of the stove. The parent gives a warning. “Be careful that is still hot, wait a little while and then you can have one.” The parent then turns around to continue working. The little boy has the opportunity to obey or not. Does he believe his parent’s counsel? He might want the cookies now and is too impatient to wait. So he reaches and burns his hand. The little boy is in pain and did not get what he wanted.
Like this parent could see the danger present and give a warning to this little boy so to our Heavenly Father sees the danger present in our lives and gives us commandments and warnings through our living prophets.
As we all have been given agency to choose whether or not to obey God’s laws, the principle of Obedience can be difficult for some to follow or understand. We might think we know better. We may not believe that following this commandment or that commandment will in fact bring us happiness. Or maybe we feel constrained by perceived rules. We all struggle at times to always be obedient. But I have seen blessings that come from obedience and I have a testimony that being obedient to the commandments of God brings happiness.
In a talk given at BYU Elder Boyd K. Packer said: “Obedience to God can be the very highest expression of independence. Just think of giving to him the one thing, the one gift that he would never take. …“Obedience—that which God will never take by force—he will accept when freely given. And he will then return to you freedom that you can hardly dream of—the freedom to feel and to know, the freedom to do, and the freedom to be, at least a thousandfold more than we offer him. Strangely enough, the key to freedom is obedience”
By being obedient to God’s commandments we are showing our love for him and our trust in him. Within the scriptures there are many examples where the blessings of being obedient are evident in contrast to that of being disobedient.
In First Nephi 2 it says that Lehi “was obedient unto the word of the Lord, wherefore he did as the Lord commanded him.” His son Nephi also was obedient to the commandments of God when he said “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded.” They were greatly blessed for their obedience to the Lords commandments as they were able to safely travel to the Promised Land and all their needs were meet as they went along their journey. Laman and Lemuel are examples of disobedience. They had the same opportunities that Nephi but they choose to complain rather than to trust in the Lord and be obedient to His commandments.
My favorite example of obedience is found in the book of Alma. In Alma 57 we read about the 2,000 young men. These stripling warriors, led by Helaman, who fought valiantly in many wars, administering death to all who opposed them and the Church. Yet not one lost his life because they knew “that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.” (Alma 56:47.)
In Alma 57:21 we read: “Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness.” They were totally obedient. Hence, they had unbelievable protection and success.
When searching the scriptures through the lens of obedience, the story of Jonah in the Old Testament comes to mind. We read, “Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”
So Jonah was at first disobedient to the commandment he received from the Lord. So I ask, why was Jonah disobedient? He was afraid. Nineveh was one of the most wicked cities on earth at that time. Nineveh had rejected others before him and Jonah must have thought they would reject him and possibly even kill him if he were to preach to them and tell them of their wickedness and need for repentance. The Lord knew better.
When Jonah tried to run away on a boat the Lord sent a storm and when he recognized his disobedience he had himself cast into the sea where he was swallowed by a great fish. Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the fish. After praying for forgiveness he was released on dry land. The Lord then commanded Jonah to again go preach and prophesy to the people of Nineveh. This second time Jonah obeyed the commandment which he received and the people repented of their wickedness.
In the New Testament the ultimate example of obedience is that of our Savior Jesus Christ. In living a prefect life Christ was obedient to all of his Father’s commandments. Despite great temptations from Lucifer he did not yield. At the end of his mortal ministry when Christ was in agony suffering in the garden of gethsemane and the pain was more than he could bear he was obedient to Heavenly Father’s will and “drank the bitter cup.” He bleed from every pour as he suffered for the sins of the world and yet was obedient.
I am grateful for the example of the Savior and others found in the scriptures. I know that they give me strength to be obedient to God’s commandments.
A general authority was once asked what he thought was the most important attribute of a successful individual or missionary. After a short pause, pondering the implication of such a question, he spoke one word: “obedience.”
Elder James E. Talmage said that “Obedience is the means of progress, advancement, growth, development.” I have found that in my life as I am obedient to the commandments I have been protected, strengthen and blessed. I saw on my mission the greater obedience that my companion and I had to the direction of our Mission President the more successful we were. One example from the end my mission occurred on a preparation day that coincided with a holiday. At five o’clock we were to begin tracking but my companion wanted to go with an investigator that invited us to the festival. We had permission to go but were strongly encouraged to make sure we were working. I had a feeling we shouldn’t go. So we went to the area of downtown Nagoya where we had planned. Less than five minutes after we arrived we met the most prepared person I found on my entire mission. I know that by being obedient we were directed to the place the Lord wanted us to be.
President Packer has taught that obedience is the precondition attached to protecting power. He said, “By following the rules, you will never make a serious mistake … either while you are on your mission or thereafter without being warned. You will never take the wrong road, you will never go around the wrong bend, or make the wrong decision without your having been warned. That pattern is the pattern of the Latter-day Saint. You were confirmed a member of the Church, and you had conferred upon you the gift of the Holy Ghost to be a guide and a companion to you.”
In my pocket I have a name-tag that I brought to use in a primary lesson later today. When I look at it I always feel a increased sense of courage. I think that is because the two years that I wore it was the time in my life when I was the most obedient and because of that the Lord protected me.
I am grateful for the gospel in my life and that I have been able to gain an understanding of the principle of obedience. I know that as we live the commandments and heed the counsel of the living prophets we will be protected from the danger the adversary uses to ensnare us. I hope that we can all live our lives in obedience to God’s commandments and avoid the pain of being burned like the little boy in my story. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.