Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Blessings Come from Obeying God's Commandments

                Do you know how to identify the blessings Heavenly Father promises to the obedient?  The commandments described in the scriptures as well as the words of living prophets are often accompanied by promised blessings or warnings.  When we are able to identify those blessings, we can gain inspiration for our own obedience and inspire other people to keep the commandments.  This post will identify several promised blessings.

                The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gave a special message for the youth in the booklet entitled For the Strength of Youth.  “Our dear young men and young women, we have great confidence in you.  You are beloved sons and daughters of God and He is mindful of you.  You have come to earth at a time of great opportunities and also of great challenges.  The standards in this booklet will help you with the important choices you are making now and will yet make in the future.  We promise that as you keep the covenants you have made and these standards, you will be blessed with the companionship of the Holy Ghost, your faith and testimony will grow stronger, and you will enjoy increasing happiness.

                “In all that you do, stay focused on the temple.  In the temple you will receive the greatest of all the Lord’s blessings, including marriage for time and all eternity.  Keeping the standards in this booklet will help you be worthy to attend the temple, where you can perform sacred ordinances for your ancestors now and make essential covenants for yourself in the future.

                “Our Father in Heaven has placed great trust in you.  He has a work for you to do.  Seek His guidance in prayer, and counsel with your parents and leaders.  The decisions you make now will set the course for much of what will follow during your mortal life and throughout eternity.

                “We testify that God lives.  It is our fervent prayer that you will remain steadfast and valiant throughout your lives and that you will trust in the Savior and His promises.  As you do this, you will be an influence for good in helping to build the kingdom of God and prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Savior” (emphasis added).
                I counted seven promises in the above statement.  Why are these promises important to the youth?  Promised blessings encourage obedience to the commandments.  Promised blessings provide courage to be obedient even when obedience is difficult.  I believe that a comparison between a blessing and a paycheck can be helpful.  We get out of bed when we might not feel like it in order to go to work to earn that paycheck.  We sacrifice time with our friends and family in order to earn that paycheck.  We are obedient to God’s commandments because He promises to bless us if we are obedient.

                Every blessing we receive comes to us because we obeyed the required commandment as explained by this counsel given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in April 1843:  “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” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21). 

                Let’s look at several commandments and the blessings promised for obedience to them. Emphasis is added. The first law is the commandment to fast:  “Is not this the fast that I have chosen?  To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
                “Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house?  When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? 
                “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily:  and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward.
                “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.  If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
                “And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:
                “And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones:  and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not” (Isaiah 58:6-11).

                The law of tithing promises great blessings:  “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
                “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. 
                “And all nations shall call you blessed:  for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 3:10-12).

                A latter-day scripture adds still another blessing for obedience to the law of tithing:  “Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:23).

                Let’s look at the blessings that come from keeping the Sabbath Day holy:  “And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;
                “For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High;
                “Nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times;
                “But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.
                “And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that they fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.
                “Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer.
                “And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, not with much laughter, for this is sin, but with a glad heart and a cheerful countenance—
                “Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
                “Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment [clothing], or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;
                “Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
                “Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.
                “And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:9-20).

                Our final example concerns the blessings that come from obeying the Word of Wisdom:  “And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to the bones;
                “And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
                “And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
                “And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.  Amen.”

                Here are two of my favorite scriptures about being obedient to God’s commandments:  “And, 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).
                “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:10).

                The Lord must give us the promised blessings if/when we keep the applicable commandment.  The ultimate blessing available to us is eternal life or living with Heavenly Father and being like Him.

                Missionaries and other teachers in the Church are counseled to tell people about the promised blessings.  “People need a reason to change their thoughts and actions.  Promised blessings often provide powerful motivation to obey God.  When the Lord gives a commandment, He often promises blessings for keeping that commandment (See Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21).  As you prepare people to obey a specific commandment, teach them that:  [1] Living the commandments shows love for God and His Son.  [2] They demonstrate their trust in God as they obey His commandments.  [3] In return, they will receive blessings that He has promised.
                “As you testify of a commandment, talk about the blessings you have received from living that commandment.  Promise those whom you teach that they can enjoy similar blessings” (“Promise People Blessings,” Preach My Gospel (2004), 197-198).

                I know that God will give us blessings when we obey His commandments.  By keeping the Sabbath Day holy, I have brought blessings of peace and rest upon myself and my family as well as having enough money to provide shelter, food, clothing, etc. for the family. 

By keeping the Word of Wisdom, I have the health and strength to do those things that I need and want to do.  I also receive inspiration – knowledge and wisdom – in performing my duties.  I received several promptings today that made my yard work easier and more effective.  I went to Lowes where I purchased several bags of top soil and a bag of grass seed to fill some holes and low places in my lawns.  I was thinking about carrying the bags from the truck to the spots on the lawns where I needed to put the soil and pondering the distance from the driveway where I would park the truck to the other side of the yard.  The thought came to me to stop the truck and unload the soil before I drove into the driveway.  By following this prompting, I saved myself a lot of work because I had to carry the soil only ten or twenty feet rather than thirty or forty feet.  Another prompting came as I was raking the soil in place – a prompting to add compost and lime to the soil before scattering the grass seeds.  I had not previously thought about doing either of those things and consider the promptings to be “tender mercies” given to me by a loving Heavenly Father.

Almost every commandment we receive from Heavenly Father is accompanied by a promised blessing.  Obedience to the commandments brings many temporal and spiritual blessings, including freedom, personal growth, protection from danger, good health, stronger families, and many other blessings.  Eternal life is the ultimate blessing promised for obedience to the commandments.  When we can identify the promised blessings, we can inspire ourselves and others to keep the commandments of God.

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