“Obedience brings blessings, exact obedience brings miracles.”
This quote was constantly being stated over and over again throughout my mission during district meetings, zone conferences, zone interviews and any other missionary meeting that we had. Though there were times, particularly at the beginning, where I thought some rules were pretty ridiculous, I eventually came to have a very strong testimony of how true this statement was. But honestly, it wasn’t for a while before I actually started to be converted to (in other words – to act on) the truth of it.
Before I jump into some examples from the scriptures and examples in my own life, I’m sure some of you might be wondering “What’s so important about following commandments and rules? Aren’t some of them pretty much just like guidelines and things you only do if you want to? If I have agency, why can’t I just do whatever I want?” So, here’s the thing about obedience: “I’m not obedient because I’m blind. I’m obedient because I can see”. I don’t know where that quote comes from, but I like it. Perhaps occasionally my obedience comes because I don’t know what else to do, but most of the time I’m obedient because I know that it brings clarity, assurance, happiness, peace, and so on. Sometimes when we choose to be obedient (and yes, it’s a choice! No one is forcing you to do what you’ve been asked), the path we’re supposed to take becomes so much more clear after even just the first step or two. I know that great blessings come from being obedient to the laws and commandments God has given us. In Preach My Gospel (a tool for missionaries) Chapter 6 under the Christ-like attribute of Obedience it says:
“…you are expected to keep the commandments willingly, to obey…rules, and to follow the counsel of your leaders. Obedience is the first law of heaven. It is an act of faith. You may sometimes be required to do things you do not completely understand. As you obey, you increase in faith, knowledge, wisdom, testimony, protection, and freedom. Strive to be obedient to the Lord, [and] the living prophet…”
You know, being obedient really is a lot easier than doing whatever the heck you feel like doing at whatever point you’re at in life. That promise of increasing in faith, knowledge, wisdom, testimony, protection, and freedom is true! Do we really have to test both sides in order to know and understand which one is right? Not necessarily. Some things are rather obvious which is right and which is wrong – the commandments telling us not to steal or kill, for example. Other things, though, aren’t so obvious. Let me use a simple example and then we’ll apply it to rules and commandments. I used a bike example a couple weeks ago. Let’s go back to that. You know that while riding a bike, the best way to not crash and burn is by having both feet on the pedals and both hands on the handles, right? Why? Because someone told you that if you don’t ride a bike correctly, you can fall and hurt yourself, whether it be skinned knees or elbows, broken bones, or even death. Which is why you’re told to not only keep your feet and hands where they’re supposed to be, but to also wear protective gear (generally a helmet will suffice, but you may also wear knee and elbow pads). If you are obedient to those rules while riding your bike, you are less likely to get hurt, even if you do end up accidentally falling or crashing. The same goes for life. We are given rules and commandments because that is how we are kept safest and happiest. There are some rules that are required (helmet) while others seem like you really don’t need them (knee and elbow pads). Unfortunately though, sometimes people telling us the results of being disobedient isn’t always enough to keep us from putting our toes across the line just once. At some point or another, whether it be with something serious like drunk driving or not so serious like only going five over the speed limit, we do disobey the rules and commandments laid out for us. Sometimes it’s because we just want to see what it’s like. Other times they’re completely by accident. Still others are disobeyed because we simply just want to do what we want to do, just once, and then we’ll go back to doing what’s right. Whether it’s accidental or purposeful, there are consequences and the reason why we should or shouldn’t do certain things becomes much clearer than it was when we were simply told why we should or shouldn’t do those things. Actions solidify testimonies, good or bad.
A couple months ago, I came to the realization that Heavenly Father expects us to try our best to be exactly obedient (wear ALL the safety gear, not just the helmet. Even if you look like a doofus, at least you’ll be the safest you can be, right?), not just mostly obedient and not just in spiritual matters but in EVERY part of life. There are a lot of examples in the scriptures when a servant of God is told to do something and promised a blessing if he or she accomplishes it (I will share some examples here in a minute). Some of those things aren’t necessarily commandments that everyone needs to follow, but they are still what I like to call personal commandments – commandments that you specifically have been asked to follow. Let me explain that a bit more. I believe in revelation – personal communication with Heavenly Father where I can talk to Him and He can talk to me. Without that, I would seriously have no idea what to do with myself. At all. Anyway, whenever you pray, you can receive an answer to a question, guidance for a decision you need to make, or just peace and comfort when you’re having a bad day. Anytime you receive an answer that tells you you need to do something, that is a personal commandment. It is something that God is asking you specifically to do. Make sense? Good. Any and every commandment, be it personal or for everyone, is a requirement in order to be the safest you can possibly be.
There’s a story in the Old Testament about a captain in the Syrian army named Naaman. He had leprosy, which is a pretty awful disease and one that caused people to have to leave their families and most likely never see them again since it was so contagious and there wasn’t a cure for it. The prophet Elisha requested that he come to his house so that he would “know there was a prophet in Israel”.
“So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, 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? Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” (2 Kings 5:9-14)
Sometimes we’re a lot like Naaman. We’re commanded to do something so simple that we second guess it or doubt it. But anything we’re asked to do is designed to test our faith. I know I’ve often thought that it would be easy to do hard things the Lord might ask me to do because it makes sense that something hard for me would test my faith. But then I wonder about the simple tasks. Would I do those without hesitation or would I be like Naaman and doubt that something so simple could heal me? Let me tell you, I’m still working on that. But here’s what I’ve learned about it so far.
“For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have. Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost” (2 Nephi 28:30, see also Isaiah 28:13). The Gospel is a lot like math – you can’t learn algebra before you’ve learned addition and subtraction. Heavenly Father is not going to give us more if we haven’t learned the things He’s already given us. So back to that promise from Preach My Gospel about how you increase in faith, knowledge, wisdom, testimony, protection, and freedom? The more we are obedient, the more of those things we will gain.
Here. Let me share with you some of the proof about why I personally have continued to choose to be obedient. Recently, I’ve been working on switching my sleep schedule to be more like it was before – early to bed, early to rise. I prefer mornings rather than staying up late. I’ve just always felt like sleeping in was a waste of a perfectly good day. Well, apparently Heavenly Father seems to think so, too, because as I’ve worked up to getting to bed by 10 and waking up around 6:30, I have felt more energized and awake throughout the day than I am when I get the same amount of sleep while going to bed at 11 or 12 and getting up at 8 or 9. So then what do I do with those extra couple of hours in the morning? More obedience! I study my scriptures and also study for school. It’s seriously the best thing I have ever done. My days go so much better, I’m a lot happier, I’m doing better in school, I feel the guidance of the Spirit with me more often and I get a lot more done. I even have a little bit of extra time to do what I want at the end of the day most days, as long as I stick to my schedule! Now, you might be wondering where some of those things fit in to the commandments. Well, here’s a bit of revelation given to the early saints in 1832:
“Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:124).
Not only is that scripture, but the idea of changing my schedule around and getting more study time in didn’t actually come from this. It came as I prayed to know what more I could do to improve myself, be happier, and find ways to serve the Lord more often. And because I am working to be exactly obedient to the counsel I’ve received, the blessings are pouring down and miracles are starting to happen.
I testify that obedience does bring blessings and exact obedience does bring miracles. I testify that as we strive to follow the counsel of the God, whether He has given it to us in scripture, through prophets or through our personal studies, we will become stronger in faith, love, testimony, knowledge, wisdom, and freedom. I know these things because I’ve tested it. I have learned the principle and then acted on what I learned. Knowledge and understanding cannot come if we’re not willing to do anything about what knowledge we’ve already gained.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)