Strength through Obedience
previous next

“Strength through Obedience,” Ensign, July 1996, 2

First Presidency Message

Strength through Obedience

The poet captured the real significance of the search for truth when he wrote these immortal lines:

Yes, say, what is truth? ’Tis the brightest prize

To which mortals or Gods can aspire.

Go search in the depths where it glittering lies,

Or ascend in pursuit to the loftiest skies:

’Tis an aim for the noblest desire. …

Then say, what is truth? ’Tis the last and the first,

For the limits of time it steps o’er.

Tho the heavens depart and the earth’s fountains burst,

Truth, the sum of existence, will weather the worst,

Eternal, unchanged, evermore.

(Hymns, no. 272)

In a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith at Kirtland, Ohio, in May of 1833, the Lord declared:

“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. … He [Jesus] received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth;

“And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments.

“He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things” (D&C 93:24, 26–28).

There is no need for you or me in this enlightened age, when the fulness of the gospel has been restored, to sail uncharted seas or travel unmarked roads in search of a “fountain of truth.” For a living Heavenly Father has plotted our course and provided an unfailing map—obedience.

His revealed word vividly describes the blessings that obedience brings and the inevitable heartache and despair that accompany the traveler who detours along the forbidden pathways of sin and error.

To a generation steeped in the tradition of animal sacrifice, Samuel boldly declared, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22). Prophets, ancient and modern, have known the strength that comes through obedience. Think of Nephi: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded” (1 Ne. 3:7). Or Alma’s beautiful description of the strength possessed by the sons of Mosiah: “They had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.

“But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God” (Alma 17:2–3).

President David O. McKay, in his opening message to the membership of the Church at a general conference in April 1957, stated very simply and yet so powerfully, “Keep the commandments of God.” His successors have urged the same compliance.

Such was the burden of our Savior’s message when He declared, “For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world” (D&C 132:5).

No one can criticize the Master’s instruction. His very actions gave credence to His words. He demonstrated genuine love of God by living the perfect life, by honoring the sacred mission that was His. Never was He haughty. Never was He puffed up with pride. Never was He disloyal. Ever was He humble. Ever was He sincere. Ever was He true.

Though He was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by that master of deceit, even the devil; though He was physically weakened from fasting 40 days and 40 nights and was “an hungred”; yet when the evil one proffered Jesus the most alluring and tempting proposals, He gave to us a divine example of obedience by refusing to deviate from what He knew was right.

When faced with the agony of Gethsemane, where He endured such pain that His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground, He exemplified the obedient Son by saying, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

To Peter at Galilee Jesus said, “Follow me.” To Philip came the same instruction, “Follow me.” And to the publican Levi, who was sitting at receipt of custom, came the beckoning call, “Follow me.” Even to one who came running after him, one who had great possessions, came the words, “Follow me.” And to you and to me that same voice, this same Jesus, says, “Follow me.” Are we willing to obey?

Obedience is a hallmark of prophets, but it should be realized that this source of strength is available to us today.

One who learned well the lesson of obedience was a kind and sincere man of humble means and circumstances. He joined the Church in Europe and, by diligently saving and sacrificing, immigrated to North America, to a new land, a strange language, different customs, but the same Church under the leadership of the same Lord whom he trusted and obeyed. He became the branch president of a little flock of struggling Saints in a somewhat unfriendly city of tens of thousands. He followed the program of the Church, although numbers were few and tasks were many. He set an example for his branch membership that was truly Christlike, and they responded with a love so rarely seen.

He earned a living with his hands as a tradesman. His means were limited, but he always paid more than a tenth of his total earnings as tithing. He started a missionary fund in his little branch, and for months at a time he was the only contributor. When there were missionaries in his city, he fathered and fed them, and they never left his house without some tangible donation to their work and welfare. Church members from far away who passed through his city and visited his branch always received his hospitality and the warmth of his spirit and went on their way knowing they had met an unusual man, one of the Lord’s obedient servants.

Those who presided over him received his profound respect and his extra-special care. To him they were emissaries of the Lord; their wish was his command. He ministered to their physical comforts and was especially solicitous in his prayers, which were frequent, for their welfare. One Sabbath day, some visiting officials to his branch participated with him in no fewer than a dozen prayers in various meetings and visits to members. They left him at the day’s end with a feeling of exhilaration and spiritual uplift that kept them joyous throughout a four-hour drive in wintry weather, and that now, after many years, warms the spirit and quickens the heart in retrospect.

Men of learning, men of experience sought out this humble, unlettered man of God and counted themselves fortunate if they could spend an hour with him. His appearance was ordinary, his English was halting and somewhat difficult to understand, his home was unpretentious. He didn’t own a car or a television; he wrote no books and preached no polished sermons and did none of the things to which the world usually pays attention. Yet the faithful beat a path to his door. Why? Because they wished to drink at his “fountain of truth.” Not so much what he said as what he did; not the substance of the sermons he preached, but the strength of the life he led.

To know that a poor man consistently and cheerfully gave at least twice a tenth to the Lord gave one a clearer insight into the true meaning of tithing. To see him minister to the hungry and take in the stranger made one know that he did it as he would do so to the Master. To pray with him and partake of his confidence of divine intercession was to experience a new medium of communication.

Well could it be said he kept the first and great commandment, and the second which is like unto it, that his bowels were full of charity toward all men, that virtue garnished his thoughts unceasingly, and that, consequently, his confidence waxed strong in the presence of God (see D&C 121:45). This man had the glow of goodness and the radiance of righteousness. His strength came from obedience.

The strength that we earnestly seek today to meet the challenges of a complex and changing world can be ours when, with fortitude and resolute courage, we stand and declare with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).

Ideas for Home Teachers

Some Points of Emphasis

You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussions:

  1. For those who have the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, there is no need to sail uncharted seas in search of a fountain of gospel truth, because Heavenly Father has already plotted our course and given us the unfailing map of obedience.

  2. His revealed word vividly describes the blessings that obedience brings and the inevitable heartache and despair of sin and error.

  3. Jesus set the example of obedience for us at Gethsemane: “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

  4. This same Jesus says again today, “Follow me.” Are we willing to obey?

Discussion Helps

  1. Relate your feelings about the power of obedience to the Lord to give us joy and blessings from Him.

  2. Are there some scriptures or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?

  3. Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the bishop or quorum leader?

Christ Calling Peter and Andrew, by James Taylor Harwood

Get Thee Hence Satan, by Carl Heinrich Bloch, Det Nationalhistoriske Museum Pa Frederiksborg, Hillerød

Christ in Gethsemane, by Harry Anderson, courtesy of Pacific Press Publishing Inc.