Sunday, May 11, 2008

Constructive Thoughts: Obedience

My mind has been dwelling today on the idea of obedience. A Chinese proverb states: Even better than respect is obedience.

Many of the Lord’s modern-day apostles have taught that obedience is the first law of Heaven.

But what does that mean?

Does that mean obedience at all costs?

What about obedience without question?

Let’s start with what obedience means. The 1828 edition of Webster’s says that obedience is: “Compliance with a command, prohibition or known law and rule of duty prescribed; the performance of what is required or enjoined by authority, or the abstaining from what is prohibited, in compliance with the command or prohibition.” In other words, “performing what is required, or abstaining from what is forbid.”



It’s a small word, somewhat strange-sounding if you extend the first syllable: Obey. Oh-bey. Ohhhh-Bey. Strange-sounding? Especially if you repeat it several times.

Obey. It’s a small word, but a powerful word--a powerful concept. After all, obedience was exemplified by the Savior, the only perfectly-obedient individual to ever live upon this earth. If it was good enough for Him, is it not good enough for each of us?

But, you say, what good is obedience? First,

“By obedience to the laws of the gospel, you can lift yourselves above the quagmire of sin that surrounds us in this world. In addition to helping you to become better servants of the Lord, obedience to these laws will help you to be better in everything you undertake in life, whether it be your activity in the Church, your family, education, business, profession, science, athletics, or any other worthwhile endeavor. You will be a better son [or daughter], a better brother [or sister], and a better friend. You will enjoy your life more; you will be happier and at peace with yourself....
[Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Live in Obedience,” Ensign, May 1994 at 39.]
Second, “our obedience to the commandments of God becomes the very armor that protects us from evil.” [William D. Oswald, “The First Law of Heaven,” Ensign, Jan 2008 at 10.]

Third, “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” Article of Faith #3 proclaims “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”

“By obedience.” Period. Not by “partial obedience” or “obedience to those laws that you feel like following.”



But does that mean unquestioning obedience? Or so-called blind obedience?

Webster’s also notes that “Obedience may be voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary obedience alone can be acceptable to God.” [Emphasis in original.]

“Unquestioning” does not mean “blind.”

There is a difference.

This idea that "unquestioning=blind"--this is an idea that Satan puts in our hearts. He makes us us think that obeying the prophets, obeying the commandments, obeying the Lord--that by doing this we are not thinking for ourselves, that we are foolish and stupid. One of the Lord’s ordained apostles explained this better than I can:
“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.... Those who talk of blind obedience may appear to know many things, but they do not understand the doctrines of the gospel. There is an obedience that comes from a knowledge of the truth that transcends any external form of control. We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see.” [Boyd K. Packer, “Agency and Control,” Ensign, May 1983 at 66.]
A willingness to be obedient is not a matter of worldly intellect or blindness.

It is a matter of attitude. Attitude makes the difference in all the choices we make; it will make the difference between obtaining life eternal or something less. Attitude is a pathway to self-control and self-discipline; a positive attitude is intimately connected not only with obedience, but also faith, charity, love, and service. But that’s a subject for another day.

It is also a matter of wisdom. Contrary to the teachings of the world, God does know a thing or two--He knows just a little bit more than any of us. Even more than Stephen Hawking.

Sorry, Steve, it’s true. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

You need another way to look at it?

Think of it as cooking. God is the Master Chef. By definition, there can be none better. But He is a merciful, caring chef. He wants to share His recipes, to give us happiness. When we follow a recipe, we must follow it exactly. To. The. Letter. If we vary from the recipe, we get something different from what the Master Chef intended. It may taste OK. It may even taste good. It will not, however, taste like the Master Chef’s recipe, because the recipe was not followed and none of us have the experience in cooking that the Master Chef has.

And if we rely upon our own wisdom, refusing to acknowledge the existence of the Master Chef or His recipes, the resultant concoction is likely inedible, noisome, if not downright poisonous.

If we follow the recipe exactly, however, the resulting dish is magnificent, regal, and heavenly.

Literally Heavenly.

Following a Master Chef’s recipe is not “blind obedience”--it is wisdom, even if we do not fully understand why the particular herbs and spices are to be used in a certain combination. It is wisdom. If we are really confused about the recipe in question, we can always ask the Master Chef Himself for verification, for confirmation, that what we see in the recipe is correct.

Father Abraham had no idea what dish was being prepared when he received instructions to take his only son, Issac, into the mountains to be a sacrifice. He did not--could not--understand the subtle melding of flavor: he could foresee the sour, but thought the end result would be distasteful. He could not see the sweetness that the Master Chef had planned, had engineered into the final dish.

Father Abraham followed His recipe to the letter, even though he had no idea what the final dish would taste like, because he knew the Master Chef. He knew the Master Chef had a plan, a grand design. He had tasted the Master Chef’s recipes in the past and knew they were wonderful meals.

He followed the recipe to the letter.

And the final dish? A magnificent promise that changed the world and affected all time and all eternity.

And all because of his obedience to God.

What do you think you can get from following the recipe? What meal is in store for us?

I asked before: what good is obedience? What can possibly come from it?

Well, there is one good way to find out.

Wait, what was that funny-sounding word again?

Oh yeah.



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