Almost every time I leave my neighborhood I travel through a certain intersection. As I travel down the road leading to the intersection, I have the choice to go straight across the bridge over the freeway or to take a sharp turn to the right. One lane of the road to the right leads to the freeway, and the other lane leads to the frontage road. I make that sharp right turn regularly and several times each week. I travel down the frontage road each Sunday to reach the meetinghouse. I also travel that road during the week to attend the temple, which sits on the same piece of land as the meetinghouse. I enter the freeway whenever I go shopping, out to eat, or to a movie.
Just before I make that sharp right turn, I clearly see a guard railing on the opposite side of the road from me. The railing is there to keep vehicles from going off a steep embankment and dropping onto the freeway. When the roads are icy, I drive around the corner very slowly in order to avoid sliding across the intersection and hitting the railing. I have successfully driven through the intersection without hitting the railing for nearly 30 years.
I know that not every driver is so careful or fortunate because the railing is replaced at least once each year. Obviously, there are too many people driving too fast to make the corner safely because the railing almost always has more than one dent in it and several colors of paint on it. A new railing rarely lasts a week before being dented, but the barrier has fulfilled its purpose by stopping many vehicles from going off the embankment.
Guard railings are in place to keep people and property safe. The same is true of family rules, city laws, and God’s commandments. The purpose of rules, laws, and commandments is to provide safety and to bring lasting happiness to all of us. Family rules are in place to help all family members remember the actions that strengthen families. Traffic laws are in place to avoid accidents. God gives commandments to help His children become more like Him and to prepare to live with Him for eternity.
In a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in April 1843, the Lord gave a list of instructions to Joseph and the Church. One of those instructions pertained to the subject of this discussion: “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).
If I obey the traffic law that says to stop at a STOP sign, I most likely will not be hit by any car driving through the intersection. If I understand the law of nature that cold and moisture turns roads icy, I will drive slowly enough through the icy intersection to miss the guard railing. If I obey the commandment of God to be honest in my dealings with my fellowmen, I do not need to worry about being caught in a lie. If I am obedient to the law, I will reap the blessings that come with obedience to those laws.
Whether rules, laws, and commandments bring happiness or heartache depends on how we view them. If we view them as barriers to our happiness, we will do all that we can to get past them. If we view them as railings to protect us spiritually and physically, we will appreciate them and do our best to stay within them. I know that obedience to rules, laws, and commandments brings greater freedom and happiness just as the guard railing keeps me safe from a terrible accident.