That is the 3rd Article of Faith. Do we really believe that? Do we really believe that obedience is so critical?
Recently, my curious four year old daughter saw an image of a person drinking from a bottle. She wanted to know what the person was drinking. I answered “alcohol.” She responded: What’s alcohol? Can I have a drink of alcohol?
I pondered her question, not because I didn't know the answer, but because I didn't know how to answer her, a four year old. How can I answer so that she not only has an understanding of what alcohol is, but why she shouldn't drink it? How do I answer her to give her a testimony of the Word of Wisdom?
Should I tell her the definition of alcohol? Should explain the chemistry of alcoholic drinks? Should I tell her what happens to a person psychologically when they drink? Do I quote the symptoms of intoxication and alcohol poisoning? Should I warn her of the health ramifications of drinking? Do I try to frighten her with drunk driving statistics?
Maybe I should stick to the scriptures. But how do I explain Doctrine and Covenants 89 to a four year old? I would have a hard time explaining “evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days,” in language she can understand.
After reflecting on all of this for a moment, I decided to ignore her first question and simply answer her last question. “No. You may not drink alcohol.”
There is nothing I can say that would give a four year old a complete understanding of alcohol. No amount of explaining will convince her that she should never, ever drink. I simply cannot give her a testimony of the Word of Wisdom in the short time I can keep her attention. .
Right now she needs to trust me. She needs to trust that I know more than her about this topic, and that I am doing what is best for her. As time goes on, as she gains more understanding about the word around her, I can talk with her about the facts, the numbers, and the effects. Once she has a little more life experience, I can explain more about the dangers. Maybe when her frontal lobe is fully developed we can discuss conspiring men in the last days. But none of that will change my final answer. The fact she is not ready for all the data does not change the data. The fact that she doesn't comprehend WHY she shouldn’t drink alcohol does not change the fact that she shouldn’t drink alcohol. She simply needs to trust me. She needs to trust me enough to obey me, and over time, as she learns and grows, she will gain her own understanding and her own testimony.
I know Heavenly Father is thinking the same thing about me. I know he wants to tell me all the answers to my many questions, but there is no way my young and undeveloped mind would be able to comprehend all his knowledge and experience. I can ask, and he will tell me the answer I can understand, which, more often than not, is to trust him. To trust him enough to obey him, and as I grow, as I learn more, as I gain more experience, he will give me more: more details, more understanding, more testimony, but none of that will change his original answer.
Marjorie Hinckley, wife of Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, said, “First I obey, then I understand.’”
“Obey” is a difficult word for me. When I hear it, I cringe. I rebel because when I hear the word “obey” I think of “control.” When I hear the word “obey” I think of being controlled for the benefit of the person I am obeying. When I obey men, I give up or restrict my agency.
But With God, that is not the case. With God, obey is not synonymous with control, obey is synonymous with trust. When I think of “trust” I think of following in faith for the benefit of me. I know that trusting God is a choice. God gave us agency so we can chose to trust him. When we choose to obey (or trust) God, we are choosing to keep our agency.
Do we trust God? God is the father of our spirits. He built our bodies. He created the world around us: everything from the oceans, to the food, to the stars. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our potential and how we can reach it.. He knows when someone means us harm, or when someone needs help.
Moses 1:39 tells us why and what God does: For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
His intentions are pure. He wants what is best for us. He has the knowledge and experience to KNOW what is best for us. So do we trust him?
If we trust him, we will do what he asks of us. He is telling us what to do not for his benefit, but for ours. He is not trying to control us, he is trying to bring to pass our eternal life.
Elder Robert D Hales gave a talk in this last conference entitled: “If Ye Love Me, Keep My Commandments” In is he says quote: We must not practice “natural man’s obedience,” in which we disobediently reject God’s law in favor of our wisdom or our desires or even popularity. end quote
This is not trusting in God. If we fully trust him, how can we ever chose to follow our own desires above his? How can we ever chose to obey a man over God the Father?
Elder Hales continues quote: 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. End quote
This is not trust. Trust is turning our lives over to Heavenly Father. Trust is asking him to make us an instrument in his hands. Trust is following all his laws and all his commandments. Trust is seeking for personal revelation and following his promptings.
Back to Elder Hales: To rationalize disobedience does not change spiritual law or its consequences but leads to confusion, instability, wandering in strange paths, being lost, and grief. As disciples of Christ, we have a sacred obligation to uphold His laws and commandments and the covenants which we take upon ourselves
Using our agency to obey means choosing to “do what is right [and letting] the consequence follow.” It requires self-mastery and brings confidence, eternal happiness, and a sense of fulfillment to us and, by example, to those around us; and it always includes a deep personal commitment to sustain priesthood leaders and follow their teachings and counsel.
To summarize the consequences of obeying (or trusting) God are: confidence, eternal happiness, and a sense of fulfillment to us and those around us.
Disobedience leads to confusion, instability, wandering in strange paths, being lost, and grief.
I assume that is why God counsels us in the first place. He gives us laws and commandments to protect us from unnecessary confusion, instability, wandering in strange paths, being lost, and grief. and to ensure we find confidence, happiness, and a sense of fulfillment in this life. As Elder Hales points out, God’s commandments...were given for our good
The very act of obeying is a learning experience. The more me obey, the more we understand.
In the Book of Mormon, Sariah is an amazing example of trusting God.
Sariah is married to Lehi, a prophet. Lehi has a vision and tells his family they all need to leave Jerusalem. Sariah did not have this vision. She does not have all the knowledge of the history and reasons why Jerusalem will be destroyed. She does not know where she and her family will go after they leave their house and all their material possessions, but she obeys, She trusts God is telling them to do this for their own good. She loves God, so she chooses to obey Him. She leaves everything behind and sets out into the desert.
While in the desert, away from all the comforts of home, Lehi announces that her four sons need to return to Jerusalem to get the Brass Plates from a very dangerous and wicked man. Sariah does not understand all the reasons why they need those scriptures. All she knows is that she trusts God knows what is best for her sons, so she chooses to obey.
In 1st Nephi chapter 5 we read Sariah truly mourned because of us (meaning her sons). 2 For she had supposed that we had perished in the wilderness; and she also had complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying: Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.
What an example of faith! After choosing to give up her home, her possessions, her comforts and now her sons, Sariah still trusts God. Her doubts are in Lehi - She has no doubt God, In October 2013 Elder Uchtdorf gave a talk in General Conference in which he says quote: I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes. This is the way it has always been and will be until the perfect day when Christ Himself reigns personally upon the earth. End quote. Sariah knows this. Her trust in God is strong enough that when her doubts surface she directs it the imperfect people in God’s church.
In response to her doubts, Lehi comforts her and bears his testimony to her. In 1st Nephi we read:
"And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted. And she spake, saying: Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak."
It isn't until her sons return alive, safe, and with the scriptures, that Sariah gains a witness for herself that God gave her husband the revelation. Until this point, she's been acting completely in faith! She didn’t have all the knowledge, she didn’t have a personal witness, but she trusted God and obeyed. Because she obeyed she was blessed with a testimony. She continues to obey God: She has two more sons in the wilderness, she gets on a boat built by her sons, and she sails across the sea to an unknown land where she helps build a new nation. I’m sure after many, many years, she finally understood the importance of having the Brass Plates. Her knowledge and her testimony came after her obedience.
Elder Uchtdorf continues: It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Going back to Elder Hales talk, he says:
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!
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.
Do we? Do we love Satan more than God? Do we trust Satan more than God? We need to make sure our actions align with our answers. We need to understand that with every choice we make we are obeying, it is just a question of obeying God or Satan. When we say we don’t want to follow a God’s counsel, we are choosing instead to obey Satan. We are saying we trust Satan, who is trying to control and manipulate us for his own purposes, over God, who is trying to counsel us to bring to pass our eternal happiness. We are saying we love Satan more than God.
Elder Hales continues:
Spiritually mature obedience is “the Savior’s obedience.” It is motivated by true love for Heavenly Father and His Son. Our love of the Savior is the key to Savior-like obedience.
Our Savior, Jesus Christ, trusted our Heavenly Father. In the Premortal life he said: “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever. This was his commitment to obey God. Throughout His ministry, “he suffered temptations but gave [them] no heed.” Indeed, “he [learned] obedience by the things which he suffered.”
He was baptized, even though reason suggested that he had no need to be baptized because he had no sins. However, he trusted God more than he trusted reason. He loved God, and so, he obeyed the commandment to be baptized.
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.” Again, he trusted God more than himself. He trusted that obeying God in this way would be for his benefit, as well as ours. He trusted God was asking him to go through this pain for both his and our eternal happiness. He trusted God. He loved God, and so, he obeyed God.
Elder Hales says quote:
Because our Savior was obedient, He atoned for our sins, making possible our resurrection and preparing the way for us to return to our Heavenly Father. When we obey, we accept His sacrifice, for we believe that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws, ordinances, and commandments given in the gospel.
Brothers and sisters, I bear my testimony that God loves us. Everything he asks us to do is for our good. Trusting in him brings happiness into our lives and into our families. It’s okay that we don’t have to have all the answers right now, we don’t need the answers, we only need trust. The answers will come in time. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.