Obedience is the first law of heaven, and willing obedience is critical. Willing obedience is important because it brings order and safety as well as shows God that we love Him. Loving God is the greatest of all commandments.
Jesus Christ was once approached by a lawyer who asked, "Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus answered, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:36-40).
These words of Christ teach the importance of loving the Lord and our neighbors, but they do not explain how we show our love for God? Jesus also answered this question, "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father" (John 14:21). Each and every one of us should ask ourselves why we are obedient to the commandments of God. Do we obey out of habit or for fear of punishment or desire for the rewards or do we obey because we love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and desire to serve Them?
Obedience is so important that even fear of punishment or desire for reward is better than disobedience. Willing obedience because we love God and want to obey Him brings much more happiness into our lives. When we obey His commandments freely, He then can be free with His blessings. He said, "I, the Lord, … delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end" (Doctrine and Covenants 76:5). Willing obedience helps us to grow and to become like Heavenly Father. Those people who must be commanded in all things and then obey unwillingly will lose their reward (see Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-29).
There are many times when we do not understand the reason for a particular commandment even though we know that we prepare for exaltation and eternal life by being obedient. Obedience without knowing why shows our faith and trust in God. Adam and Eve were commanded to offer sacrifices after they left the Garden of Eden. One day an angel appeared to Adam and asked him why he was offering sacrifices. Adam answered that he did not know why but was simply being obedient to God's commandment. (See Moses 5:5-6.) The angel then proceeded to teach Adam the gospel and the mission of the Savior. The Holy Ghost came upon Adam and he then prophesied about his posterity down to the last generation. (See Moses 5:7-10; Doctrine and Covenants 107:56.) Because he was obedient, Adam received further knowledge as well as greater blessings.
There is a story in the Book of Mormon about Nephi and his older brothers receiving a very difficult assignment from the Lord (see 1 Nephi 3:1-6). The brothers complained about it being hard, but Nephi replied, "I will go and do the things which 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 them" (1 Nephi 3:7). Remembering Nephi's words have helped me many times when I received difficult assignments.
All commandments from the Lord are important, even ones that seem inconsequential. The Bible tells of a man named Naaman who had a terrible disease. He learned about the prophet Elisha and decided to ask Elisha to heal him. Naaman was an important and powerful man in Syria and was greatly offended when the prophet in Israel sent his servant with a message for Naaman. He was offended even more by the message: wash seven times in the river Jordan. Naaman was very angry and demanded, "Are not [the] rivers of Damascus better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them and be clean?" His servants were a little wiser than he and asked, "If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?" The servants' questions helped Naaman to understand the importance of obeying the prophet of God, even in a small matter. Naaman went to the Jordan to wash and was healed. (See 2 Kings 5:1-14.)
Sometimes we may consider a commandment to be a "hard thing" like the brothers of Nephi or too simple like Naaman, but we must remember that God will give us no commandments unless He prepares a way for us to be obedient to Him. Abraham was given a hard commandment when he was told to offer his beloved son Isaac as a sacrifice (see Genesis 22:1-13). He didn't understand why God would give him a son in his old age just to take him away, but he chose to obey God. In return for his willing obedience, God provided a ram for the sacrifice and promised great blessings to Abraham, Isaac and their posterity.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, "I made this my rule: When the Lord commands, do it" (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007, 160). I want to be obedient also. I want to be willing to do anything God requires.
The perfect example of obedience to God is Jesus Christ who said, "I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me" (John 6:38). Jesus spent his entire mortal life in obedience to the will of God, even though He was asked to do hard things. He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matthew 26:39). Jesus Christ made salvation available to all mankind because He obeyed His Father in all things.
Every blessing we receive comes from obedience to the law upon which that blessing is based because the kingdom of heaven is governed by law (see Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21; 132:5). We know from other scriptures that we may gain knowledge and intelligence through obedience and diligence (see Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19) as well as grow spiritually (see Jeremiah 7:23-24). Through other scriptures we know that disobedience brings heart break, disappointment, and forfeiture of blessings. In Doctrine and Covenants 58:31-33 we read, "Who am I, saith the Lord, that have promised and have not fulfilled? I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing. Then they say in their hearts: This is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled."
I know personally that God fulfills His promises when we keep His commandments. God gives us life, the air we breathe, and many other blessings - and then gives blessings each time we obey Him. In the words of King Benjamin to his people, "He doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you" (Mosiah 2:24).
The ultimate blessing that comes to the obedient is eternal life. The Lord said, "If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God" (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7). Obedience in righteousness and truth to the end of life brings other blessings. The Lord revealed, "Thus saith the Lord - I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end. Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory. And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom. Yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know, and things to come will I show them, even the things of many generations. And their wisdom shall be great, and their understanding reach to heaven…. For by my Spirit will I enlighten them, and by my power will I make known unto them the secrets of my will - yea, even those things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man" (Doctrine and Covenants 76:5-10).
I know that obedience to God is very important and that blessings come because of obedience. I know that obedience to the end of mortal life is essential to obtain the highest of the blessings of God.