A talk by Pete Codella for high council speaking Sunday in October 2015 (learn more here). Many ideas and segments of this talk come from the resources on lds.org noted below.
When I was a junior in high school, on the night of my junior prom, some vandalism occurred at the home of one of my teachers. Unbeknownst to me, as I was driving my date home, we passed my teacher’s neighborhood shortly after the tires were slashed on one of his cars.
He had just left his home in search of the perpetrator. He followed us fairly aggressively for a short time, then, somehow, was gone. At the time, I didn’t know it was him or what had happened, and both my date and I were a little spooked by the car that seemed to be chasing us.
That night, he reported my car’s license plate number to the police. They traced it to my employer. I worked part-time for a car dealer, and my benevolent boss had loaned me a fancy new convertible to drive on the night of my prom.
When my boss got a call from the cops that weekend, he told them he had loaned me the car for the prom, and said: “You’ve got the wrong guy.” But like good police officers, they took my name and presented it on Monday to our high school principal. The principal responded, “It wasn’t Pete.”
Undeterred, the cops called my home and arranged for me to come to the station for an interview. I learned about all of this after unexpectedly being checked out of school by mom as she drove us to the police station where I was to be interrogated.
The car ride from my high school to the police station took just a few minutes and made me really anxious. I felt like I was in serious trouble, even though I knew I was innocent, and that my date could vouch for me. At least, presented with the prospect of being interviewed by the police, my conscience was clear.
Because I was generally a good student and worker, and stayed out of trouble, a number of people who knew me provided character witnesses and helped convince the police I wasn’t the one who slashed our teacher’s tires. Had I been a rebel rouser, there’s a good chance I could have been in trouble for what happened that night, even if I was innocent.
If we’re obedient, we receive so many blessings. We can be confident knowing we’re on the Lord’s side, and He’s on ours.
Our third article of faith teaches us about the importance of obedience: “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”
Keeping the law of chastity means we’re free from concern about illegitimate children or sexually transmitted diseases. Following the word of wisdom keeps our bodies free of addictive or harmful substances. Paying tithing opens the windows of heaven.
When I was a BYU student, like most students, I was stretched pretty thin with college and living expenses. But it was my practice, when I received my paycheck, to pay my tithing first. I remember one month when I wasn’t sure I’d have enough money to pay the bills. But I paid my tithing. Then, for some unexplained reason, the airline I’d recently flown on refunded me some money. The deposit in my checking account gave me enough to get by that month, and I remember receiving a spiritual witness that the additional, unexpected money was a blessing for paying my tithing.
Remember the Savior’s admonition: “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). We understand that a fundamental way we show our love for and commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ is through obedience to His commandments.
Of course, this presupposes we know and understand the commandments, which underscores the importance of continual gospel study through reading the scriptures and pondering the words of modern day prophets, apostles and church leaders. Without consistent scripture study and prayer, we’re left to our own devices and reasoning.
Elder Perry taught: “Those who rely solely on themselves and follow only their own desires and self-inclinations are so limited when compared to those who follow God and tap into His insight, power, and gifts. It has been said that someone who is all wrapped up in himself or herself makes a very small package. Strong, proactive obedience is anything but weak or passive. It is the means by which we declare our faith in God and qualify ourselves to receive the powers of heaven. Obedience is a choice. It is a choice between our own limited knowledge and power and God’s unlimited wisdom and omnipotence” (April 2014 GC).
In general conference this month we heard from Elder Keetch about some Americans who went to Australia to surf only to feel disappointed that the best, highest waves were outside the bay, beyond a manmade barrier. It took a local surfer to explain to them the reason for the barrier. It was to protect them from the sharks just outside the bay. The barrier was to preserve their life, not ruin it.
Elder Keetch taught, “The barriers established by the Lord create for us a safe harbor from evil and destructive influences.”
So much of personal obedience seems to anchor on perspective. If we look at commandments as restrictive and constraining, we may simply disregard them, or worse, mock them, and we can find ourselves in trouble.
If we look at commandments like the locals did with that barrier in the bay, we can follow the commandments in faith, knowing they’re for our own good. We can follow them even if we can’t see the sharks swimming on the other side.
When I was around 11 years-old, I asked my parents repeatedly for a moped. Several friends in the neighborhood had these small motorcycles and I was convinced that to have one would be incredibly fun. Much to my chagrin, my dad was very opposed to not only getting me a moped, but also to letting me ride one. From what I remember, he told me he never wanted to see me on one.
That summer, I was given an opportunity to ride a friend’s moped. I debated: Do I say no and listen to my dad, or do I go ahead and ride it? After all, I rationalized, my dad’s at work and won’t see me riding it, and he’ll never find out (perhaps until he potentially reads this story on my blog).
I’m sorry to say I didn’t listen to my dad. I got on the moped and began riding around at the end of our street, where my mom wouldn’t see me. Lucky for me, when I wrecked, jumping over a cement curb, taking out a large chunk of a neighbor’s lawn and knocking myself unconscious on the grass for a few seconds, no lasting damage was done. Of course I wasn’t wearing a helmet. I shook it off and tried to patch the grass back together before jumping on the moped to speed off back around the block to deliver it to my friend’s home, never to be ridden by me again.
Perhaps, just maybe, sometimes our parents really do know best. And we can all agree that our loving Heavenly Father certainly knows what’s best, both the experiences we have and their timing in our lives.
Do you remember the miracle recorded in the New Testament when the Savior healed the man who was born blind?
“…he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, and said unto him, go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (John 9:6-7).
It seems like a strange request for the man to go wash in the water – a request that could have easily been ignored. But the man had faith and was obedient to what was asked. True enough, following his obedience, for the first time in his life, he received sight. It was a miracle.
The Savior complimented his disciples and followers who both saw with spiritual eyes and heard with their hearts and were converted to the gospel.
If we understand the reason why we’re given commandments – as protection for our eternal progression and a sort of guidebook from a loving Heavenly Father – perhaps then it’s easier to make choices consistent with gospel living.
How many times do we fall short of obedience for whatever reason? Maybe we’re lazy or tired, distracted or think we’re just too busy, or perhaps we lack faith? Sometimes simple things remain undone mostly because of their simplicity.
If we love the Lord, it’s simple: We should choose to be obedient – obedient to as many commandments as possible, always relying on the enabling power of the atonement to make us better, to empower us and affect change in our lives.
We rely on the Savior’s promise to remember our sins no more as we confess and forsake them because not one of us is perfect. We require the mercy and grace of the Great Mediator to open the way and unlock the gate to exaltation.
Even if we find obedience difficult, the Lord has promised: “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).
Obedience means keeping baptismal covenants and conscientiously renewing them through the sacrament each Sunday. It means honoring our parents. It means choosing the right. It means keeping sacred temple covenants.
Doing these things brings untold blessings into our lives. Doing these things helps us qualify for exaltation.
Obedience means thinking, doing and saying things deemed unpopular in secular society. As President Nelson pointed out this month, quoting President Packer:
“We need women with the gift of discernment who can view the trends in the world and detect those that, however popular, are shallow or dangerous.”
Let’s face it, we’re not Mormon to win a popularity contest. The times we live in are both dangerous and challenging with many seemingly innocuous voices, alongside blatant ones, that can pull us away from the gospel of Jesus Christ. My patriarchal blessing gives me guidance for living a full life, even among a “wicked and perverse generation.” I don’t think Sodom and Gomorrah had anything on the time in which we now live.
But with increased evil also comes increased righteousness. We must be vigilant to combat what’s around us. We must be obedient to draw down the powers of Heaven.
As Elder Perry taught: “Too often we think of obedience as the passive and thoughtless following of the orders or dictates of a higher authority. Actually, at its best, obedience is an emblem of our faith in the wisdom and power of the highest authority, even God. When Abraham demonstrated his unwavering faithfulness and obedience to God, even when commanded to sacrifice his son, God rescued him. Similarly, when we demonstrate our faithfulness through obedience, God will ultimately rescue us.”
Some of us, at varying times in our lives (usually during adolescence), struggle with self-confidence – with our own sense of self-worth. Here’s a strategy for dealing with low self-confidence: Be obedient. Obedience fosters confidence. If we’re obedient, our assurance grows.
Those of us who’ve made baptismal covenants are entitled to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost based on our obedience: “…that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them” (D&C 20:77).
In general conference in April 2013 President Monson taught: “A knowledge of truth and the answers to our greatest questions come to us as we are obedient to the commandments of God….Truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come….The Spirit of truth is of God….And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments. He that keepeth [God’s] commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:28).
Obedience is our guide to life – the path to being glorified in truth and understanding all things. What a great promise.
President Hinckley taught: “The happiness…peace…progress… prosperity…and the eternal salvation and exaltation of this people lie in walking in obedience to the counsels of…God.”
Remember the purpose for this life, as stated in the scriptures: “We will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:25).
Like Nephi may we declare: “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).
That was the scripture on my missionary plaque. Sometimes we do difficult things just because we know a prophet of God asked us to.
Our greatest example of obedience comes from the Savior, the perfectly obedient, sinless Son who said: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).
He then proceeded to complete the atonement, fulfilling the Father’s plan for His children and enabling each of us to be resurrected to immortal glory while providing the opportunity for us to be exalted – to dwell eternally with our loving Father in Heaven and receive all that He has.
This requires both our obedience to the laws, and completion of the ordinances of the gospel, as well as our relying wholly upon the merits of Christ (2 Nephi 31:19) who is the author and finisher of our faith.
May we more earnestly strive for complete obedience. After all, we’re taught to be perfect even as Christ and our Father in Heaven are perfect (3 Nephi 12:48). The word perfect in that scripture means complete. That’s our goal – to be complete like our Eternal Father.
Obedience marks the path. Our agency keeps us on the right path. And the Savior’s atonement makes it possible for us to reach our destination.
Blessed and Happy Are Those Who Keep the Commandments of God, Elder Keetch, October 2015
If Ye Love Me, Keep My Commandments, Elder Hales, April 2014
Obedience through Our Faithfulness, Elder Perry, April 2014
Obedience Brings Blessings, President Monson, April 2013
Face the Future with Faith, Elder Nelson, April 2011
Obedience to the Prophets, Elder Costa, October 2010
When the Lord Commands, Elder Carlson, April 2010
Love and Law, Elder Oaks, October 2009
Faith Obedience, Elder Schultz, April 2002
Obedience – Life’s Great Challenge, Elder Staheli, April 1998
Live in Obedience, Elder Worthlin, April 1994
Agency and Control, Elder Packer, April 1983
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