“Obedience—Life’s Great Challenge,” Ensign, May 1998, 81
My brothers and sisters, I am humbled and grateful for the calling which brings me before you today. I am blessed with a wonderful wife and family. I am buoyed up by the strength of the Brethren with whom it is now my blessing to serve. But most importantly, I cherish my testimony and my relationship with my Savior. I bear personal witness that He lives and He leads His Church through our beloved prophet and president, Gordon B. Hinckley.
As I have made my transition this past year from the corporate world of business to that of trying to be a faithful full-time servant of our Father in Heaven and an especial witness of Jesus Christ, it has been a very tender experience for me. It has made me more sensitive to the responsibility, the blessings, and the opportunities that the gospel affords each of us if we will be obedient to its principles.
President Boyd K. Packer has stated on a number of occasions that “we all have the right to inspiration and direction by the Spirit of the Holy Ghost.” And then he adds, “We all live far below our privileges.” As I have pondered the implications of his statement, it becomes clear that many of us are missing some spiritual opportunities and blessings by letting “the things that should matter most in life be at the mercy of the things that matter least.”
If any one of us were asked what is most important in life, most of us would quickly respond, “Our families and the opportunities the gospel affords us to be celestial families—together forever.” Yet the pressures of everyday living frequently and subtly move us away from that pursuit which we so proudly proclaim. And in the process the priorities that should really matter most to us become captive to those things that, while seemingly important at the moment, have little or no relevance to our long-term goal. And in many cases, the temptations and pressures to pursue the less-important matters lead us down the wrong paths of life.
President Spencer W. Kimball warned us, “The cares of the world are so many and so entangling, even very good people are diverted from following the truth because they care too much for the things of the world.”1
While I have had my share of lessons on obedience during my life, one of the most memorable was taught to me as a young boy by my dog and my mother. When I was about eight years of age, my father brought home a puppy which I promptly named Spot. We became the greatest of pals as I tried to teach him a few tricks and obedience to my commands. He learned well, except he could not conquer an overwhelming desire to chase and bark at cars as they came down the dusty street by our home in our small southern Utah town. As hard as I tried, I could not break Spot of his bad habit. One day a neighbor came speeding by in his large truck. He knew Spot and he knew Spot’s bad habit. This time, just as Spot approached the truck in his usual aggressive manner, this man swerved toward Spot, running over him with the rear wheel of his truck.
With tears streaming down my face, I cradled Spot in my arms and ran to the house, calling to my mother and brother for help. As we washed the blood from his head, it soon became apparent that Spot’s disobedient act had dealt him a fatal blow. As the burial of Spot was completed and the tears dried, my mother then taught me one of the great lessons of life as she explained the principle of obedience and its application in my life. She made clear that seemingly small acts of disobedience can result in longer-term consequences of unhappiness, regrets, and even fatal results.
As we grow in the gospel, we learn the value of obedience to principles which will consistently align us with the teachings of our Savior and prophets. As we are obedient to their teachings, we then begin to understand what the Savior meant when He said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”2
Since we each have periodic challenges of obedience, we can take heart in President Hinckley’s encouragement “that the Lord will not give us commandments beyond our power to observe. He will not ask us to do things for which we lack … capacity.”3
All of us, but especially you young people, would do well to remember the prophet’s counsel as you are tempted by the peer pressures of your everyday world. As we mature into young adults and beyond, setting priorities and managing pressures between work, Church, and family is a balancing act that requires continual reevaluation.
Periodically one might well ask, “If I continue to travel the road I am currently following, where will it lead me and what will happen to my family?” Are we establishing the foundation for an eternal family, or are we focusing more on the pride of personal accomplishments and a collection of temporal trophies that are taking precedence over the things that should really matter most?
Regardless of our age and stage in life, daily obedience to gospel principles is the only sure way to eternal happiness. President Ezra Taft Benson put it most poignantly when he said, “When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power.”
The Book of Mormon is a continual saga of the various people whose obedience ebbed and flowed with the times. The result of their disobedience is clear. The wake-up calls they received are just as applicable to each of us today.
The scriptures make it clear the Lord recognizes that many of us tend to stray from His counsel when all is going well with us, yet when trouble comes we seek after Him and His blessings. He has also warned us about the consequences of our straying: “And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer.”4
Whether we are being chastened or challenged as we are being tossed to and fro on the seas of life, obedience to the teachings of our Savior and prophets will qualify us for King Benjamin’s great promise to those that keep God’s commandments: “For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness.”5
To the Savior’s call “Come, follow me”6 or to His admonition “If ye love me, keep my commandments,”7 our response should be clear and unequivocal. As we are obedient to His call, it is my testimony that we will enjoy His love and His peace in our lives. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.