I am grateful for the opportunity to ponder the importance of obedience in Heavenly Father’s plan for us to become like him. President Joseph F. Smith taught in October conference 1873, “Obedience is the first law of Heaven.” President Gordon B. Hinckley promised, “The happiness of the Latter-day Saints, the peace of the Latter-day Saints, the progress of the Latter-day Saints, the prosperity of the Latter-day Saints, and the eternal salvation and exaltation of this people lie in walking in obedience to the counsels of … God” (Ensign, Dec. 1971, p. 125).
Fortunately for us, we are “instructed sufficiently that [we] know good from evil” (2Ne. 2:5). Unfortunately, we do not always make righteous choices and sometimes we give in to temptation. The bad news is that the Lord “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance” (D&C 1:31). The good news is that He is merciful to us, “Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven” (D&C 1: 32).
Sister Blickenstaff recently taught me the meaning of something that the prophet Isaiah recorded in three different chapters: For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still (see Isaiah 5, 9 and 10). Why would the Lord’s anger not be turned away? Perhaps because there are consequences attached to our disobedience that He has no power to dismiss. As Alma taught, “There is a law given, and a punishment affixed” (Alma 41:22), and “mercy [cannot] rob justice” (see Alma 41:25). Perhaps it is because we distance ourselves from Him when we choose not to obey.
Fortunately for us, the scripture repeatedly echoes, “his hand is stretched out still.” There is “a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth… and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved” (Alma 41:22,24). We are not presently required to be perfect. We are here to learn by our experience, and this implies that mistakes will be made. As long as we recognize our mistakes, learn from them, and become “truly penitent,” the process of making mistakes can give us opportunity to turn our weaknesses into strengths (Ether 12:27).
In the Taiwan Taichung Mission we are learning to be obedient. I hope it can be said of each missionary, “Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness” (Alma 57:21). Obedience has its own rewards, not necessarily connected to key indicators. Missionaries are asked to live a very high standard, a very consecrated life. As we strive to rise to this standard - every day of our missions – we are giving to the Savior the only thing He would never take from us. “The submission of one's will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God's altar. The many other things we 'give' are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us” (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Oct. 1995 Gen. Conf.).
The more obedient we can be in the “small” things, such as getting up on time, following the daily schedule, adhering to the guidelines in the Missionary Handbook and the Rules and Clarifications, etc., the more likely we will go forth to serve with the Holy Ghost as our constant companion. Only through that companionship can we have strength and wisdom to manage the bigger problems with which we are faced, such as helping others come unto Christ. Our confidence to “ask of God...in faith” (James 1:5-6) will wax strong. We can be like the Nephites, of whom it was written, “Yea, in the strength of the Lord did we go forth…. And God did hear our cries and did answer our prayers; and we did go forth in his might…” (Mos. 9:17-18).
Let’s do everything we can, individually and collectively, to obediently go forth in His might each day.
Mentor of Obedient Champions
PS. We currently have 14 baptisms for the month of July. We have 18 week A goals and 19 week B goals. If we can help them progress and be baptized according to their goals, we would have a great harvest of souls this month. Note: our total number of baptismal goals currently stands at 147. This is the lowest it has been in a long time. I am not especially concerned about this as long as we are continuing to be challenging and testifying missionaries who invite others to be baptized early in the teaching process and then do all that we can to help them realize their goals.