As usual, tremendous resources for this lesson are found in most of the reliable Teachings of the Presidents of the Church:... (the old Priesthood/Relief Society manuals). In Joseph Smith, chapter 13, for Brigham Young, chapter 11, John Taylor, chapter 4, for Joseph F. Smith, chapter 32, for Heber J. Grant, chapter 3, and for Spencer W. Kimball, chapter 13. These can all be found by going to the new “lds.org” then click on “Go to Classic LDS.org” (lower left corner), then click on “Gospel Library” then “Lessons” then “Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society.” The manuals are all found at the bottom of this page.
The new website “lds.org” is wonderful. On the first page, there is a link in the upper right-hand corner, “Search all LDS.org” which, if you type in “obedience” yields terrific quotes and talks.
A great introductory statement for this chapter comes from President David O. McKay:
Let us never lose sight of the principles of obedience. Obedience is heaven’s first law (Pearl of Great Price Institute Manual, 16).
This manual (as well as all of the best in the Church) can be found at “institute.lds.org.”
1 - - We Should Obey God Willingly
The first quote in this section is Matthew 22:36-40. After quoting this, President Heber J. Grant said:
The longer I live, the more I study the gospel, the more I come in contact with men, the more forcibly am I impressed with the truth of the sayings of our Savior in the words that I have just read to you. If we did in every deed love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, there would be no need of urging from time to time upon the people the necessity of keeping the commandments of the Lord. It would be a pleasure to them to serve God and keep His commandments. We are told that where a man’s treasure is, there will his heart be also [see Matthew 6:21], and if we loved the Lord with all our heart and mind and soul, serving Him would be the great object of our lives, and the treasure we would work to gain would be His love. If we followed that second commandment, to love our neighbor as ourself, … our difficulties would all be settled amicably. … It would be almost [unnecessary] to appeal to the people for donations, to urge them to be liberal, to be generous, to strive for the benefit and welfare of their fellows (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 25).
Concerning this love, President Joseph F. Smith stated:
It is only by obedience to the laws of God, that men can rise above the petty weaknesses of mortality and exercise that breadth of affection, that charity and love, that should actuate the hearts and the motives of the children of men (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 290).
President Kimball added:
We render intelligent, constructive obedience when we voluntarily, humbly, and happily obey the commands of our Lord (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 139).
Concerning loving “with all thy heart” (p. 201) Brigham Young taught:
All that the Lord requires of us is strict obedience to the laws of life. All the sacrifice that the Lord asks of his people is strict obedience to our own covenants that we have made with our God, and that is to serve him with an undivided heart (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 73).
This section also discusses obedience thru “fear.” In the scriptures there are two kinds of fear. The Bible Dictionary (see “fear”) helps us better understand this concept. President Smith explained:
We do not preach the gospel of fear. We do not seek to terrorize the souls of men. We do not ask a man to be righteous because of the terrors of the damned. We do not want you to be good because you fear the punishment of the wicked. We do not want you to do right because of the penalty that attaches to the doing of wrong. We want you to choose the right because it is right, and because your heart loves the right, and because it is choice above everything else. …We should be good because we love to be good, and not because we fear the consequences of evil.
The Lord does not accept obedience from men except that which they render cheerfully and gladly in their hearts, and that is all that is desired by his servants. That is the obedience we ought to render, and if we do not we are under condemnation (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 291).
President John Taylor added to this idea:
…we have learned that it is the height of human happiness to fear God and observe his laws and keep his commandments; we have learned that it is a duty devolving upon us to try and make all men happy and intelligent, which happiness and intelligence can only be obtained through obedience to the laws of God (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 35).
Brigham Young yearned for our acceptance of the principles taught in this section:
How I long to see the brethren, when they hear the words of truth poured upon them, ready to receive those words because they are perfectly congenial to their feelings, and every soul exclaim, “Those words savor of the Spirit that is in me; they are my delight, my meat, and my drink; they are the streams of eternal life. How congenial they are, instead of their being contrary to my feelings (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 74).
He also added:
Do you think that people will obey the truth because it is true, unless they love it? No, they will not. Truth is obeyed when it is loved. Strict obedience to the truth will alone enable people to dwell in the presence of the Almighty (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 75).
Brigham Young also added to the doctrine in D&C 58:28-29 by commenting:
Blessed are they who obey when the Lord gives a direct commandment, but more blessed are they who obey without a direct commandment (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 73).
One of my all-time favorite quotes on obedience is from President Ezra Taft Benson by way of a talk (the whole talk is good) in conference by Elder Donald L. Staheli, of the Seventy:
When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power (Ensign, May 1998, 81).
2 - - We Can Obey without Understanding Why
In this section it states:
Sometimes we do not know the reason for a particular commandment. However, we show our faith and trust in God when we obey Him without knowing why (p. 202).
President Harold B. Lee drew a terrific parallel between this idea and the mission of Apollo 13:
Some months ago, millions of watchers and listeners over the world waited breathlessly and anxiously the precarious flight of Apollo 13. The whole world, it seemed, prayed for one significant result: the safe return to earth of three brave men.
When one of them with restrained anxiety announced the startling information, “We have had an explosion!” the mission control in Houston immediately mobilized all the technically trained scientists who had, over the years, planned every conceivable detail pertaining to that flight.
The safety of those three now depended on two vital qualifications: on the reliability of the skills and the knowledge of those technicians in the mission control center at Houston, and upon the implicit obedience of the men in the Aquarius to every instruction from the technicians, who, because of their understanding of the problems of the astronauts, were better qualified to find the essential solutions. The decisions of the technicians had to be perfect or the Aquarius could have missed the earth by thousands of miles.
This dramatic event is somewhat analogous to these [troubled] times in which we live. … Many are frightened when they see and hear of unbelievable happenings the world over—political intrigues, wars and contention everywhere, frustrations of parents endeavoring to cope with social problems that threaten to break down the sanctity of the home, the frustrations of children and youth as they face challenges to their faith and their morals.
Only if you are willing to listen and obey, as did the astronauts on the Aquarius, can you and all your households be guided to ultimate safety and security in the Lord’s own way
If the children of the Lord, which includes all who are upon this earth, regardless of nationality, color, or creed, will heed the call of the true messenger of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as did the three astronauts on the Aquarius to the trained technicians at Mission Control in the hour of their peril, each may in time see the Lord and know that he is, as the Lord has promised…
So would have been the fate of the three astronauts on the Aquarius if they had refused to give heed to the minutest instruction from Houston Control. Their very lives depended upon obedience to the basic laws which govern and control the forces of the universe
(Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 2, 6).
The astronauts aboard certainly did not have the combined knowledge and technological controls at Houston Control, but their lives depended upon their obedience Houston’s instructions.
President Lee also described the opposite result of a story apparently in the news at the time of his conference address quoted from above:
Or will we be like those foolhardy ones on the river above the Niagara Falls who were approaching the dangerous rapids? Despite warnings of the river guards to go toward safety before it was too late, and in complete disregard of the warnings, they laughed, they danced, they drank, they mocked, and they perished (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 6).
President Kimball also illustrated this idea of obedience without understanding wonderfully:
The exercising of faith is a willingness to accept without total regular proof and to move forward and perform works… A real faith pushes one forward to constructive and beneficial acts as though he knew in absoluteness.
One may enjoy the benefits of the miracles in the physical world without a complete knowledge of the underlying principles involved. He may turn darkness into light by pushing a button and read in the darkest night. He need not be able to develop the electricity, nor to have the knowledge to wire the home. But he must have the faith sufficient to secure lamps and faith to turn the switch. He then may receive the light. … He may turn a dial and enjoy sweet music from afar without being able to fashion a radio or understand fully its workings, but the blessing will never be his unless he connects his set with the power, and turns the dial correctly. In like manner, one may receive spiritual blessings and manifestations, by establishing contact turning the dial. Faith manifested by prayer and works is that key (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 137-8).
Today the above quote could be used replacing radio with television and internet.
A wonderful illustration of obedience without knowledge is found in the story related by Elder Russell M. Nelson at the funeral for President Spencer W. Kimball (Ensign, Dec 1985, 39) concerning the heart surgery Elder Kimball considered not having and the Prophet, President Lee’ intervention.
In the second paragraph of this section the sacrifice of Adam and Eve was discussed.
Following the principles President Kimball explained in the above quote, he also discussed this sacrifice:
Blind obedience? Assuredly not. They had known Jehovah, heard his voice, walked with him in the Garden of Eden, and knew of his goodness, justice, and understanding. And so for “many days” they killed the blemishless lambs and offered them without knowing why, but in total confidence that there was righteous purpose in the law and that the reason would unfold later after compliance (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 140).
From the “philosophies of the world” some have argued in derision that “obeying God without understanding why” is “blind” obedience. President Kimball discusses this doctrine of the devil:
To obey! To hearken! What a difficult requirement! Often we hear: “Nobody can tell me what clothes to wear, what I shall eat or drink. No one can outline my Sabbaths, appropriate my earnings, nor in any way limit my personal freedoms! I do as I please! I give no blind obedience!”
Blind obedience! How little they understand! …
When men obey commands of a creator, it is not blind obedience. How different is the cowering of a subject to his totalitarian monarch and the dignified, willing obedience one gives to his God. The dictator is ambitious, selfish, and has ulterior motives. God’s every command is righteous, every directive purposeful, and all for the good of the governed. The first may be blind obedience, but the latter is certainly faith obedience. …
Is it blind obedience when one regards the sign “High Voltage—Keep Away” or is it the obedience of faith in the judgment of experts who know the hazard?
Is it blind obedience when the air traveler fastens his seat belt as that sign flashes or is it confidence in the experience and wisdom of those who know more of hazards and dangers?
Is it blind obedience when the little child gleefully jumps from the table into the strong arms of its smiling father, or is this implicit trust in a loving parent who feels sure of his catch and who loves the child better than life itself? …
Is it then blind obedience when we, with our limited vision, elementary knowledge, selfish desires, ulterior motives, and carnal urges, accept and follow the guidance and obey the commands of our loving Father who … created a world for us, loves us, and has planned a constructive program for us, wholly without ulterior motive, whose greatest joy and glory is to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life” of all his children? [See Moses 1:39.]
It is not blind obedience, even without total understanding, to follow a Father who has proved himself (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 139-40).
Brigham Young also comments on this false idea:
In rendering that strict obedience, are we made slaves? No, it is the only way on the face of the earth for you and me to become free (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 73).
A wonderful principle found in John 7:17 is definitely a great addition to this lesson. President John Taylor explained:
As Latter-day Saints we believe this Gospel has been restored, and further, we know that we are in possession of it. I do for one, and so do you; and through obedience to its principles and the reception of the Holy Ghost you Latter-day Saints do know that this is the work of God, and if you don’t know it, it is because you are not living your religion and keeping the commandments of God; “if any man will do his will,” says Christ, “he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” [John 7:17.] (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 35).
Brigham Young gave the following encouraging counsel:
The Saints who live their religion will be exalted, for they never will deny any revelation which the Lord has given or may give, though, when there is a doctrine coming to them which they cannot comprehend fully, they may be found saying, “The Lord sendeth this unto me, and I pray that he will save and preserve me from denying anything which proceedeth from him, and give me patience to wait until I can understand it for myself” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 75).
3 - - God Will Prepare the Way
Understandably, obedience is a huge doctrine crucial to the scope of the Plan of Happiness, so all aspects of this doctrine could not be included in this lesson. However, an important concept missing that still may need to be dealt with is the fact that God prepares the way for obedience through covenants. President Grant elucidated:
I earnestly desire that I may be able, in connection with the rest of the Latter-day Saints, to so order my life that my mind may never become darkened, that I may never depart from the truth, or break any of the covenants which I have made with the Lord (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 26).
Joseph Smith taught this about God’s commandments:
God will not command any thing, but what is peculiarly adapted in itself, to ameliorate [improve] the condition of every man under whatever circumstances it may find him, it matters not what kingdom or country he may be in (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 163).
One way our Loving Father “prepares a way” is by giving us only commandments that are only for our good. Concerning this, President Grant said:
The object of our being placed upon this earth is that we may work out an exaltation, that we may prepare ourselves to go back and dwell with our Heavenly Father; and our Father, knowing the faults and failings of men, has given us certain commandments to obey, and if we will examine those requirements…we will find that they are all for our individual benefit and advancement. The school of life in which we are placed and the lessons that are given to us by our Father will make of us exactly what He desires, so that we may be prepared to dwell with Him (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 30).
To this, President Grant added:
The Lord, knowing what is best for you and for me and for every individual, has given to us laws, which, if we obey, will make us more Godlike, will fit and qualify and prepare us to go back and dwell in the presence of our Heavenly Father and to receive that plaudit: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” [Matthew 25:21] (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 29).
4 - - No Commandment Is Too Small or Too Great to Obey
Concerning the sacrifice Abraham made as discussed in this section, President Kimball commented:
Exceeding faith was shown by Abraham when the superhuman test was applied to him. His young “child of promise,” destined to be the father of empires, must now be offered upon the sacrificial altar. It was God’s command, but it seemed so contradictory! How could his son, Isaac, be the father of an uncountable posterity if in his youth his mortal life was to be terminated? Why should he, Abraham, be called upon to do this revolting deed? It was irreconcilable, impossible! And yet he believed God. His undaunted faith carried him with breaking heart toward the land of Moriah with this young son. …
“He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
“And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.” (Rom. 4:20-21.)
Father Abraham and Mother Sarah knew—knew the promise would be fulfilled. How—they did not know and did not demand to know. Isaac positively would live to be the father of a numerous posterity. They knew he would, even though he might need to die. They knew he could still be raised from the dead to fulfil the promise, and faith here preceded the miracle (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 141).
President Grant had this to say about sacrifice:
There are no people that make the sacrifices that we do, but for us it is not a sacrifice but a privilege—the privilege of obedience, the privilege of entering into a working partnership with our Father in Heaven and earning the choice blessings promised to those who love Him and keep His commandments (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 27).
Joseph Smith added:
If Enoch, Abraham, Moses, and the children of Israel, and all God’s people were saved by keeping the commandments of God, we, if saved at all, shall be saved upon the same principle.
These promises, when obtained, if ever by us, will not be because Peter, John, and the other Apostles … walked in the fear of God and had power and faith to prevail and obtain them; but it will be because we, ourselves, have faith and approach God in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, even as they did… (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 161, 6-7).
A very small statement in this section, “Yet he [Abraham] chose to obey God” (p. 203) may need more attention than it receives. Brigham Young taught:
God has placed within us a will, and we should be satisfied to have it controlled by the will of the Almighty (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 65).
President Young also added:
He [God] has given them the privilege of choosing for themselves, whether it be good or evil; but the result of our choice is still in his hand.
…the intelligence in us is as independent as the Gods (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 72).
There is a terrific quote from Elder Boyd K. Packer found in New Era, Jan 1981, 58 (also in chapter 4 of this blog) about giving our agency to God in obedience that supplements this idea nicely.
Concerning these teachings, President Grant stated:
The devil is ready to blind our eyes with the things of this world, and he would gladly rob us of eternal life, the greatest of all gifts. But it is not given to the devil, and no power will ever be given to him to overthrow any Latter-day Saint that is keeping the commandments of God.
There is no power given to the adversary of men’s souls to destroy us if we are doing our duty. If we are not absolutely honest with God, then we let the bars down, then we have destroyed part of the fortifications by which we are protected, and the devil may come in. But no man has ever lost the testimony of the Gospel, no man has ever turned to the right or to the left, who had the knowledge of the truth, who was attending to his duties… (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 27).
Concerning this “will” Brigham Young added:
This people have got to become of one heart and one mind. They have to know the will of God and do it, for to know the will of God is one thing, and to bring our wills, our dispositions, into subjection to that which we do understand to be the will of God is another (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 74).
These ideas are summed up in wonderful way by President Lee:
The plan [of salvation] embodied three distinctive principles:
First, the privilege to be given to every soul to choose for himself “liberty and eternal life” through obedience to the laws of God, or “captivity and death” as to spiritual things because of disobedience. (See 2 Nephi 2:27.) (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 4).
The other two principles discussed by President Lee were the Atonement and the first principles as found in Articles of Faith # 4.
5 - - Jesus Christ Obeyed His Father
Be sure to not overlook the question at the end of this section, “How can remembering the Savior’s example help us be obedient?” (p. 204). President Joseph F. Smith helps us apply this idea:
He that is most pliant and submissive to the will of God shows the greatest wisdom among all men. He that sets up his opinion in opposition to the wishes and purposes of the Lord is of all men the farthest from God in that regard. Though he may be fashioned and formed in the image and likeness of the Father, yet he is most unlike the Son unless he can say in his heart, “Father, not my will, but thine, be done.” [Luke 22:42.] It is the will of the Lord that we should possess this spirit, and understand this truth. It is true that there is to us but one God, the Father, and that all men will have to be subject unto Him and are required to obey His commandments, in order that they may be free and the disciples of Christ indeed (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 292).
Joseph Smith taught concerning the principles found in this section:
If we keep the commandments of God, we should bring forth fruit and be the friends of God, and know what our Lord did (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 163).
Brigham Young added:
If you wish to receive and enjoy the favor of our Heavenly Father, do his will. …
All who receive eternal life and salvation will receive it on no other conditions than believing in the Son of God and obeying the principles that he has laid down. Can we devise any other means and plan of salvation? We cannot (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 74).
6 - - Results of Obedience and Disobedience
Perhaps the first result is best described by Joseph Smith:
…in obedience there is joy and peace unspotted, unalloyed; and as God has designed our happiness, … He never has—He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 256).
At the very heart of this whole lesson is D&C 130:20-21. President Joseph F. Smith taught:
There are … certain blessings which God bestows upon the children of men only upon the condition of the rightful exercise of this agency. For instance, no man can obtain a remission of his sins but by repentance, and baptism by one having authority. If we would be free from sin, from its effects, from its power, we must obey this law which God has revealed, or we never can obtain a remission of sins. Therefore, while God has bestowed upon all men, irrespective of condition, this agency to choose good or evil, he has not and will not bestow upon the children of men a remission of sins but by their obedience to law.
God has not and will not suffer the gift of the Holy Ghost to be bestowed upon any man or woman, except through compliance with the laws of God. Therefore, no man can obtain a remission of sins; no man can obtain the gift of the Holy Ghost; no man can obtain the revelations of God; no man can obtain the Priesthood, and the rights, powers and privileges thereof; no man can become an heir of God and a joint heir with Jesus Christ, except through compliance with the requirements of heaven. …these privileges and blessings when obtained may be forfeited, and perhaps lost for all eternity, unless we continue steadfast in the course that is marked out for us to pursue (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 289).
As to “blessings” mentioned in D&C 130, Brigham Young promised:
The Latter-day Saints who hearken to the words of the Lord, given to them touching their political, social, and financial concerns, I say, and say it boldly, that they will have wisdom which is altogether superior to the wisdom of the children of darkness, or the children of this world. I know this by the revelations of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the results of my own actions. They who have hearkened to the counsels given to them in temporal matters, have invariably bettered their condition temporally and spiritually (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 74).
President Taylor also promised:
It is obedience to the oracles of God that are in our midst; and so long as we keep the commandments of God, we need not fear any evil; for the Lord will be with us in time and in eternity.
When men are humble, pure and virtuous, and seek unto the Lord for His guidance, for the light of His Holy Spirit to lead them unto the paths of life, that they may comprehend His law, His word and His will—and then obey it as it is made manifest to them—such persons, those brethren and sisters who follow this plan, are a thousand times more likely to comprehend the things of God… (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 34-6).
In addition, President Taylor also explained:
Our safety and happiness and our wealth depend upon our obedience to God and His laws, and our exaltation in time and eternity depends upon the same thing. If we have means placed in our hands we will ask our Father to enable us to do what is right with it, and, as I have said, we will ask Him for our daily bread, and thank Him for it; just the same as the children of Israel did. They had manna brought to them from time to time by the angels. I do not know what kind of mills they had or who were their bakers; but they brought the manna. …God does take care of us, and I feel all the day long like blessing the name of the God of Israel; and if we fear God and work righteousness, … we, the people of Zion, will be the richest of all people (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 36).
Many times courage is necessary to be obedient. A great example of the courage in obedience, as well as the results of disobedience is told by President McKay:
A young boy … decided to be an apprentice in one of the carpenters’ societies. He was a bright young boy in his teens, and the men were very glad to admit him. They said, ‘Come on, let’s drink to the entrance of this young man to our group!’ They poured out the beer [and] handed him the glass.
He said, “No, thank you, I do not drink.”
“Well,” said a gruff old member, “we’re not going to have any teetotalers [or nondrinkers] in our group.”
“Well,” said the young boy, “you’ll have one if you have me.”
Another seized him by the collar and said, “Young man, you’ll have this beer either inside or outside!”
“Very well, I came here with a clean jacket and a clear conscience. You may soil my jacket if you wish, but you shall not soil my character” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 171).
In light of deaths due to college students drinking right here in Utah, this story is still current.
I love the following example from Joseph Smith concerning courage:
The object with me is to obey and teach others to obey God in just what He tells us to do. It mattereth not whether the principle is popular or unpopular, I will always maintain a true principle, even if I stand alone in it (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 161).
A good discussion of John 8:31-32 may help us understand the foundation principles of freedom. President Joseph F. Smith expounded on this:
[Jesus Christ] not only had intelligence, but He applied that intelligence in the doing of good and in the making of men free from the errors of the world and the evil traditions of the fathers. He declared in words of truth and soberness, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” [John 8:31-32.] No man is like God unless he is free. God is free. Why? Because He possesses all righteousness, all power, and all wisdom. He also possesses His agency, and His agency is exercised in doing that which is good, and not that which is evil. So no man can be like unto Him until he can subject himself unto that which is righteous, pure, and good, and until he can forsake error and sin and overcome himself (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 291-2).
President Taylor also explained:
Some of the Latter-day Saints…say…“I am a free man; I will be damned if I don’t do as I please, etc.” Well, I will tell you another part of that story. You will be damned if you do act as you please, unless you please to do and to keep the laws of God. We cannot violate his laws with impunity nor trample under foot these eternal principles which exist in all nature. If all nature is compelled to be governed by law or suffer loss, why not man?
We cannot run our own way and have the blessing of God. Every one who attempts it will find he is mistaken. God will withdraw his Spirit from such, and they will be left to themselves to wander in the dark, and go down to perdition (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 33).
He went on to warn:
We are not here to do our own will, but the will of our heavenly Father. Some men who think they are doing pretty well, and doing, according to their own expression, “as they darned please,” will wake up to find they have not been doing the will of God. They may have thought that they had wives and children, but they will wake up to find that they have not got them, and that they are deprived of many of those great blessings they anticipated enjoying (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 34).
It is most fitting that the title to the chapter in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith is “Liberty through Obedience.” He affirmed:
We believe that God’s will is to exalt men; that the liberty that comes through obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest measure of liberty that can come to man.
Brethren and sisters, let us be free. I contend—and I think I have a right to do so—that I am a free man, in accordance with my observance of the commandments of God. If I do wrong, I am in bondage to that wrong. If I commit sin, I am in bondage to that sin (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 290).
A terrific caution about distinguishing between obedience and disobedience is from President Grant:
When you are in the line of your duty it is like standing in front of a line of posts, and every post is in line. But step one step aside, and every post looks as though it were not quite in line. The farther you get away from that straight line, the more crooked the posts will appear. It is the straight and narrow path of duty that will lead you and me back to the presence of God (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 29).
President Heber J. Grant explained a great difference between obedience and disobedience:
The Lord also tells us that those who hear His sayings and doeth them shall be likened unto the wise man who built his house upon the rock, and when the rains descended and the floods came and the winds blew and beat upon that house, it fell not, because it was founded upon a rock. On the other hand, those who heard His sayings and did them not, the Savior likened unto a foolish man, who built his house on the sand, and when the rains descended and the floods came and the winds blew and beat upon that house, it fell, and great was the fall thereof. [See Matthew 7:24-27.] There are many Latter-day Saints who are building their houses upon the sand. They are failing to carry out the commandments of our Heavenly Father that come to us from time to time through His inspired servants (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 25-6).
The last quote in this section is from King Benjamin, “He [God] doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you” (p. 205).
This little word “do” may require much more discussion that found in this whole lesson. Joseph said:
Any man may believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and be happy in that belief, and yet not obey his commandments, and at last be cut down for disobedience to the Lord’s righteous requirements (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 162).
I love the following quote from Elder L. Tom Perry that seems to summarize the ideas in this section:
The gospel is so very simple when we understand it properly. It is always right, it is always good, it is always uplifting. Obedience to gospel principles brings forth joy and happiness. Disobedience has a day of reckoning and will only bring forth heartache, misery, strife, and unhappiness (New Era, July 2010, 3).
We love the following concept that can help us to measure our progression in obedience:
Our lives are made up of thousands of everyday choices. Over the years these little choices will be bundled together and show clearly what we value (Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, Nov. 1980, 21).
7 - - The Obedient Gain Eternal Life
D&C 14:7 is quoted first thing in this section. Eternal life is a gift that can only come from God. Concerning this gift, President Grant explained:
We are in a school, fitting, qualifying, and preparing ourselves that we may be worthy and capable of going back and dwelling in the presence of our Heavenly Father, and the man who claims that he knows the gospel is true and then does not live it, does not keep the commandments of God. Such a man will never attain to that strength, to that power, to that eminence, and to that capacity in the Church and Kingdom of God that he would attain if he obeyed the laws of God.
Let us all do the will of our Father in heaven to-day, and we will then be prepared for the duty of to-morrow, also for the eternities which are to come. Never forget that it is the pearl of great price—life eternal—that we are working for (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 29-30).
Joseph Smith stated:
To get salvation we must not only do some things, but everything which God has commanded (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 161).
President Grant explained how obedience leads to the gift of eternal life:
…I say to each and every Latter-day Saint, who desires to grow and enlarge in the Gospel, he must keep the commandments of God. As we keep the commandments of God and live god-like lives, we become full of charity, long-suffering and love for our fellows, and we grow and increase in all those things that go to make us noble and god-like (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 26).
He also added:
No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 27).
In the quote in this section from D&C 76: 7 are the ideas “mysteries” and “hidden mysteries.” President Taylor expanded thusly:
It is for us to live our religion, to fully appreciate the gospel we possess, and fully obey its requirements, submit to its laws, and yield to its dictations, following the direction of the holy priesthood, which holds the keys of the mysteries of the revelations of God, magnifying our callings, and honoring our God, that we may be prepared to fulfil our destiny upon the earth, and be enabled to be a blessing to those around us, and to pour blessings upon our posterity, and spread forth the great principles of eternity, which are calculated to bless, enlighten, ennoble, and exalt all who will yield obedience to their dictates (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 32).
When the goal of eternal life seems just too hard to reach, President Grant’s counsel may help:
It has been said … that we are not doing all we can. I do not believe that any man lives up to his ideals, but if we are striving, if we are working, if we are trying, to the best of our ability, to improve day by day, then we are in the line of our duty. If we are seeking to remedy our own defects, if we are so living that we can ask God for light, for knowledge, for intelligence, and above all for His Spirit, that we may overcome our weaknesses, then, I can tell you, we are in the straight and narrow path that leads to life eternal; then we need have no fear (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 31).
Some of the most important ideas found this lesson could be better understood by a discussion about what President McKay calls “The Dual Nature of Man” (Chapter 2 of Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay). An outline of this whole idea, with quotes from Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and others is found in this blog, 2010, February, Chapter 7 (The Holy Ghost) under the section “Mission of the Holy Ghost.”