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, June 23, 2012

Obedience Is The First Law of Heaven

                    God gives us commandments because He loves us.  We show our love for Heavenly Father by obeying His commandments.  Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to be like Him and return to His presence.  He gives us commandments in order to help us meet those goals.  We are able to receive all of the blessings of the plan of salvation by keeping God's commandments. 

                    Obedience is the first law of heaven.  "The windows of heaven are open wide to the faithful and righteous; nothing closes them faster than disobedience….
                    "… Diligent, enduring obedience to God's laws is the key that opens the windows of heaven.  Obedience enables us to be receptive to the mind and will of the Lord.  `The Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient' are those who receive these blessings of revelation through the open windows of heaven" (Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in Ensign, Nov. 1995, 75-76; see also Doctrine and Covenants 64:34).

                    We learn much from the following two scriptures from the Doctrine and Covenants.  Elder Wirthlin quoted part of Doctrine and Covenants 64:34; the complete verse is as follows:  "Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days."

                    A second important scripture about obedience is found in Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21:  "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."

Every blessing we receive is based on our obedience.  The word irrevocable means unable to be taken back; predicate means to establish.

Two of the following three stories show the consequences of disobedience and the third shows the blessings of obedience.  The first story is about Saul, the first king of Israel.  His story is found in 1 Samuel.  The Prophet Samuel was getting old, and his sons were unworthy to follow in his footsteps.  The Israelites asked for Samuel to anoint a king for them, and Samuel warned them of the problems caused by wicked kings.  The people insisted that he give them a king:  "… Nay; but we will have a king over us;
"That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles
(1 Samuel 8:19-20).

                    Samuel did not want to anoint anyone to be king, but the people insisted; therefore, Samuel began looking for a king and found a young man named Saul who was taller than all the people:  "And when Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said unto him, Behold the man whom I spake to thee of!  This same shall reign over my people" (1 Samuel 9:17).

                    Samuel anointed Saul to be captain over the Lord's inheritance:  "And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the lord hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people?  And all the people shouted, and said, God save the king"
(1 Samuel 10:24).

                    Saul was a righteous man before he became king, but he became wicked.  "And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly:  thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee:  for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.
                    "But now thy kingdom shall not continue:  the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee" (1 Samuel 13:13-14).

                    Samuel told Saul, "And Samuel said unto him, The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou" (1 Samuel 15:28)

                    In a very short period of time, Saul went from being chosen by the Lord as king to being rejected by the Lord as king.  Saul brought the consequence of losing his kingdom upon himself when he chose to disobey the Lord and His prophet.  Saul's disobedience made the difference between being a king and not being a king.

                    President Wilford Woodruff, fourth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shared the following experience:  "I will now give an example from my own experience of the result of not obeying the voice of the Spirit.
                    "Some years since I had part of my family living in Randolph, Rich County [Utah].  I was there on a visit, with my team [of horses], in the month of December.
                    "One Monday morning my monitor, the Spirit watching over me, said:  `Take your team and go home to Salt Lake City.'
                    "When I named it to my family who were at Randolph they urged me strongly to stop longer.
                    "Through their persuasion I stayed until Saturday morning, with the Spirit continually prompting me to go home.  I then began to feel ashamed to think that I had not obeyed the whisperings of the Spirit to me before.
                    "I took my team and started early on Saturday morning.  When I arrived at Woodruff, the Bishop urged me to stop until Monday and he would go with me.
                    "I told him, `No, I [have] tarried too long already.'
                    "I drove on sprightly, and when within fifteen miles of Wasatch, a furious snow storm overtook me, the wind blowing heavily in my face.
                    "In fifteen minutes I could not see any road whatever, and knew not how or where to guide my horses.
                    "I left my lines loosely on my animals, went inside my wagon, tied down the cover, and committed my life and guidance into the hands of the Lord, trusting my horses to find the way, as they had twice before passed over the road.
                    "I prayed to the Lord to forgive my sin in not obeying the voice of the Spirit to me, and implored Him to preserve my life.
                    "My horses brought me into the Wasatch [train] station at 9 o'clock in the evening, with the hubs of my wagon dragging in the snow.
                    "I got my horses under cover, and had to remain there until the next Monday night, with the snow six feet deep on the level, and still snowing.
                    "It was with great difficulty at last that I saved the lives of my horses by getting them into a [railroad] box car and taking them to Ogden; while if I had obeyed the revelation of the Spirit of God to me, I should have traveled to Salt Lake City over a good road without any storm.
                    "As I have received the good and the evil, the fruits of obedience and disobedience, I think I am justified in exhorting all my young friends to always obey the whisperings of the Spirit of God, and they will always be safe" (Leaves from My Journal [1881], 90-91).

                    President Woodruff's disobedience nearly caused him to lose his horses and/or his own life.

Part of obeying God is being obedient to the counsel of those He has called to lead us.  The following story was told by President Gordon B. Hinckley, fifteenth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

                    "Years ago I was on a mission in England.  I had been called to labor in the European Mission office in London under President Joseph F. Merrill of the Council of the Twelve, then president of the European Mission.  One day three or four of the London papers carried reviews of a reprint of an old book, snide and ugly in tone, indicating that the book was a history of the Mormons.  President Merrill said to me, `I want you to go down to the publisher and protest this.'  I looked at him and was about to say, `Surely not me.'  But I meekly said, `Yes, sir.'
                    "I do not hesitate to say that I was frightened.  I went to my room and felt something as I think Moses must have felt when the Lord asked him to go and see Pharaoh.  I offered a prayer.  My stomach was churning as I walked over to the Goodge Street station to get the underground train to Fleet Street.  I found the office of the president [of the publishing company] and presented my card to the receptionist.  She took it and went into the inner office and soon returned to say that the president was too busy to see me.  I replied that I had come five thousand miles and that I would wait.  During the next hour she made two or three trips to his office; then finally he invited me in.  I shall never forget the picture when I entered.  He was smoking a long cigar with a look that seemed to say, `Don't bother me.'
                    "I held in my hand the reviews. I do not recall what I said after that.  Another power seemed to be speaking through me.  At first he was defensive and even belligerent.  Then he began to soften.  He concluded by promising to do something.  Within an hour word went out to every book dealer in England to return the books to the publisher.  At great expense he printed and [placed] in the front of each volume a statement to the effect that the book was not to be considered a history, but only as fiction, and that no offense was intended against the respected Mormon people.  Years later he granted another favor of substantial worth to the Church, and each year until the time of his death, I received a Christmas card from him.
                    "I came to know that when we try in faith to walk in obedience to the requests of the priesthood, the Lord opens the way, even when there appears to be no way" ("If Ye Be Willing and Obedient," Ensign, July 1995, 4-5).

                    The mission president gave Elder Hinckley a very difficult assignment, but Elder Hinckley was obedient and was blessed for being obedient.  The heart of the publisher was soften by the Lord in answer to Elder Hinckley's faith and obedience.

                    God told Moses, "For behold, this is my work and my glory - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:39). 

                    God's work is to help His children to achieve immortality and eternal life.  Immortality is a state of living forever, never to die again.  Eternal life is living forever in the presence of God.  It is the gift given to those who are exalted in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom.

                    Every person who has come to earth and received a body will one day be resurrected and receive immortality.  Those people who obey the commandments of Heavenly Father will receive eternal life.  Heavenly Father gives us commandments because He loves us and wants us to become like Him and to dwell in His presence forever.

                    Another reason Heavenly Father gives us commandments is to help us to be happy.  When King Benjamin was speaking to his people, he told them:  "And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God.  For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness.  O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Mosiah 2:41).

                    Obedience to the commandments does not guarantee that we will never experience difficulties or challenges.  However, even when we are disappointed or sad about circumstances in our lives, we can be happy about our lives in general because of our faith in God and our assurance that he is pleased with our efforts to be obedient.

                    Heavenly Father showed his great love for us when he sent his Son to atone for our sins.  By doing what Heavenly Father wanted him to do, Jesus Christ set a perfect example for complete obedience.  In John 6:38 Jesus Christ said, "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me."
                    We read in Luke 22:41-44:  "And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
                    "Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
                    "And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
                    "And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly:  and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground."

                    Jesus Christ showed complete obedience before He suffered for our sins and afflictions in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He asked to be spared the pain but said He was willing to do the will of His Father. 

                    There are numerous reasons why people obey the commandments of God, but some of the reasons are better than others.  Some people are obedient because they are afraid of being punished for disobedience.  Some people want the rewards that come from obedience.  Some people want other people to see them and think that they are righteous.  Some people feel peace and joy when they are obedient, and some people are obedient because they love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

                    Jesus Christ commanded in John 14:15:  "If ye love me, keep my commandments."

                    God requires our hearts and our willing minds.  When we are obedient, we are better prepared to serve God and the people around us.  Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles related the following story:

                    "Two missionaries … had spent an active day establishing a branch of the Church in a remote village.  At 5:30 that morning, they had taught a family before the husband left for the fields.  Later they struggled to plaster their adobe walls to keep out blood-sucking insects.  During the week they had laid a small cement floor and had hung a five-gallon can with a shower head to keep clean.  They had begun a sanitation facility and put new gravel and sand in their water filter.  For part of the day they had worked beside men in the fields, to later teach them.  They were exhausted and ready for welcome rest.
                    "There came an anxious knock at the crude wooden door.  A small girl was crying.  She had been running and was gasping for air.  They struggled to piece together her message, delivered amid sobs in a torrent of words.  Her father had suffered a severe head injury while riding his donkey in the darkness.  She knew he would die unless the elders saved his life.  Men of the village were at that moment carrying him to the missionaries.  She pled for her father's life, then ran to help him.
                    "The seriousness of their desperate situation began to engulf them.  They were in a village with no doctors or medical facilities.  There were no telephones.  The only means of communication was a rough road up a riverbed, and they had no vehicle.
                    "The people of the valley trusted them.  The missionaries were not trained in medicine.  They did not know how to care for a serious head wound, but they knew someone who did.  They knelt in prayer and explained their problem to an understanding Father in Heaven.  They pled for guidance, realizing that they could not save a life without His help.
                    "They felt impressed that the wound should be cleansed, closed, and the man given a blessing.  One companion asked, `How will he stand the pain?  How can we cleanse the wound and bless him while he is in such suffering?'
                    "They knelt again and explained to their Father, `We have no medicine.  We have no anesthetic.  Please help us to know what to do.  Please bless him, Father.'
                    "As they arose, friends arrived with the injured man.  Even in the subdued candlelight, they could see he had been severely hurt.  He was suffering greatly.  As they began to cleanse the wound, a very unusual thing occurred.  He fell asleep.  Carefully, anxiously, they finished the cleansing, closed the wound, and provided a makeshift bandage.  As they laid their hands on his head to bless him, he awoke peacefully.  Their prayer had been answered, and his life saved.  The trust of the people increased, and a branch of the Church flourished.
                    "The missionaries were able to save a life because they trusted the Lord.  They knew how to pray with faith for help with a problem they could not resolve themselves.  Because they were obedient to the Lord, the Lord trusted them and answered their prayer.  They had learned how to recognize the answer when it came as a quiet prompting of the Spirit.  You have that same help available to you if you live for it" (in Ensign, May 1989, 35-36).

Although our Heavenly Father always hears our prayers, we are more prepared to receive his answers when we are obedient.

                    I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love each of us.  I am so grateful for this knowledge and for the many times that I have felt God's love.  I am grateful for the commandments of God for I know that Heavenly Father has given us commandments to help us receive eternal life and happiness.  I encourage all of us to show our love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ by keeping the commandments.

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