Chapter 17: Obedience, a Law of Heaven

“Chapter 17: Obedience, a Law of Heaven,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual (2000), 46–48

“17: Obedience,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, 46–48

Chapter 17

Obedience, a Law of Heaven


Cecil B. DeMille, director of the epic biblical film The Ten Commandments, told the student body at Brigham Young University:

“We are too inclined to think of law as something merely restrictive—something hemming us in. We sometimes think of law as the opposite of liberty. But that is a false conception. That is not the way that God’s inspired prophets and lawgivers looked upon the law. Law has a twofold purpose. It is meant to govern. It is also meant to educate. …

“… And so it is with all the Commandments.

“We must look beneath the literal, the surface meaning of the words. We must take the trouble to understand them; for how can we obey commands that we do not understand? But the Commandments too have an educative function—which you can see in the life of anyone who keeps them. They produce good character. The Ten Commandments are not rules to obey as a personal favor to God. They are the fundamental principles without which mankind cannot live together. They make of those who keep them faithfully, strong, wholesome, confident, dedicated men and women. This is so because the Commandments come from the same Divine Hand that fashioned our human nature.

“God does not contradict Himself. He did not create man and then, as an afterthought, impose upon him a set of arbitrary, irritating, restrictive rules. He made man free—and then gave him the Commandments to keep him free” (“Commencement Address,” in Commencement Exercises, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [31 May 1957], 4–5).

Doctrinal Outline

  1. Obedience is the first law of heaven.

    1. It was decreed in heaven that all blessings are predicated upon obedience (see D&C 130:20–21; Deuteronomy 11:8, 26–27).

    2. We came to earth to prove our willingness to obey (see Abraham 3:24–25; D&C 98:14).

    3. Obedience must be voluntary (see Abraham 3:25–26; Helaman 14:30–31).

    4. Commandments are given to us because God loves us and wants us to become like Him (see Deuteronomy 6:24–25; D&C 25:15; 3 Nephi 12:48).

    5. Our obedience to God’s commandments is an expression of our love for Him (see John 14:15, 21, 23; 1 John 5:3; D&C 42:29).

    6. It is important to obey God even when we may not fully understand the commandment (see Moses 5:5–6; 1 Nephi 3:7).

    7. The Lord chastens the Saints because He loves them (see Hebrews 12:6; D&C 95:1; Helaman 15:3; Revelation 3:19).

    8. We should obey God rather than man (see Acts 5:29).

  2. The Lord promises great blessings to those who obey His commandments.

    1. The Lord promises both temporal and spiritual blessings to those who obey His commandments (see Mosiah 2:41; Leviticus 26:3–12; Deuteronomy 4:40; D&C 58:2; 64:34; 130:21).

    2. Obedience in this life will give us an advantage in the world to come (see D&C 130:19).

    3. The Lord will provide a way for us to obey all His commandments (see 1 Nephi 3:7; 17:3).

    4. Obedience to divine law makes us free (see John 8:31–32).

  3. Disobedience is a serious offense in the eyes of the Lord.

    1. We offend God by disobeying His commandments (see D&C 59:21; Ephesians 5:6).

    2. Disobedience to the commandments will bring serious temporal and spiritual consequences (see Leviticus 26:14–32; Jeremiah 11:3; D&C 1:14; 56:3; 2 Nephi 9:27).

  4. Jesus Christ set the pattern for obedience.

    See 2 Nephi 31:7–10; Luke 22:42; John 8:28–29; 3 Nephi 27:21.

  5. Through the Atonement and by obedience to God’s commandments, we can receive eternal life.

    1. We are expected to obey God to the end of our lives (see Mosiah 5:8; 2 Nephi 31:16; D&C 14:7).

    2. Eternal life comes to us through the Atonement and by our obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel (see Articles of Faith 1:3; D&C 138:4; 1 Nephi 22:31; D&C 14:7; Matthew 7:21).

    3. Those who obey the Lord faithfully will be privileged to see Him (see D&C 93:1; 88:68).

Moses with the tablets

Supporting Statements

  1. Obedience is the first law of heaven.

    • Obedience is the first law of heaven, the cornerstone upon which all righteousness and progression rest. It consists in compliance with divine law, in conformity to the mind and will of Deity, in complete subjection to God and his commands” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 539).

    • “Obedience must be voluntary; it must not be forced; there must be no coercion. Men must not be constrained against their will to obey the will of God; they must obey it because they know it to be right, because they desire to do it, and because it is their pleasure to do it. God delights in the willing heart” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 65).

    • “If we love [the Lord], we will keep his commandments.

      “Should there be any who offend or fail to keep the commandments of the Lord, then it is evidence that they do not love him. We must obey them. We show by our works that we love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ we serve him and love our neighbor as ourself. This is the word of the Lord as it has been revealed in these modern times for the guidance of Israel” (Joseph Fielding Smith, “Keep the Commandments,” Improvement Era, Aug. 1970, 2).

    • “In the political field where so much pressure is exerted on men to compromise ideals and principles for expediency, party workers early learned to admire Marion G. Romney’s intense loyalty to his own conscience as well as to the advice of his Church leaders whose pronouncements on vital issues affecting the welfare of the nation he accepted as divinely inspired even though it frequently brought him into sharp conflict with leaders of his own political party. On one such occasion when church leaders in a tersely-worded editorial had denounced the trends of the political administration then in power, he confided in me something which it might be well if all loyal Church members in public life could emulate: ‘When I read that editorial,’ he told me, ‘I knew what I should do—but that wasn’t enough. I knew that I must feel right about following the counsel of the Church leaders and know that they were right. That took a whole night on my knees to accomplish.’ I submit in that statement the difference between ‘intelligent’ and ‘blind’ obedience. Marion G. Romney, while never disloyal to authority over him, could never be rightfully accused of being ‘blindly obedient.’” (Harold B. Lee, “Marion G. Romney,” Improvement Era, Oct. 1962, 742).

  2. The Lord promises great blessings to those who obey His commandments.

    • “Obedience to God can be the very highest expression of independence. Just think of giving to him the one thing, the one gift, that he would never take. Think of giving him that one thing that he would never wrest from you. …

      “Obedience—that which God will never take by force—he will accept when freely given. And he will then return to you freedom that you can hardly dream of—the freedom to feel and to know, the freedom to do, and the freedom to be, at least a thousandfold more than we offer him. Strangely enough, the key to freedom is obedience. …

      “… When I was president of the New England Mission, the Tabernacle Choir was to sing at the world’s fair in Montreal. The choir had one day unscheduled and suggested a concert in New England. One of the industrial leaders there asked for the privilege of sponsoring the concert.

      “Brother Condie and Brother Stewart came to Boston to discuss this matter. We met at the Boston airport and then drove to Attleboro, Massachusetts. Along the way Mr. Yeager asked about the concert. He said, ‘I would like to have a reception for the choir members. I could have it either at my home or at my club.’ He wanted to invite his friends who were, of course, the prominent people of New England—indeed, of the nation. He talked of this, and then he asked about serving alcoholic beverages.

      “In answering, Brother Stewart said, ‘Well, Mr. Yeager, since it is your home and you are the host, I suppose you could do just as you want to do.’ ‘That isn’t what I had in mind,’ this wonderful man said. ‘I don’t want to do what I want to do. I want to do what you want me to do.’

      “Somewhere in that spirit is the key to freedom. We should put ourselves in a position before our Father in heaven and say, individually, ‘I do not want to do what I want to do. I want to do what thou wouldst have me do.’ Suddenly, like any father, the Lord could say, ‘Well, there is one more of my children almost free from the need of constant supervision.’” (Boyd K. Packer, Obedience, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [7 Dec. 1971], 3–4).

    • “Half obedience will be rejected as readily as full violation, and maybe quicker, for half rejection and half acceptance is but a sham, an admission of lack of character, a lack of love for Him. It is actually an effort to live on both sides of the line” (Mark E. Petersen, in Conference Report, Apr. 1982, 21; or Ensign, May 1982, 16).

    • “There is not a man of us but what is willing to acknowledge at once that God demands strict obedience to his requirements. But 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, and we shall become slaves of our own passions, and of the wicked one, and servants to the Devil, if we take any other course” (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, 225).

    Christ teaching by Sea of Galilee
  3. Disobedience is a serious offense in the eyes of the Lord.

    • “There is no power given to man, nor means lawful, to be used to compel men to obey the will of God, against their wish, except persuasion and good advice, but there is a penalty attached to disobedience, which all must suffer who will not obey the obvious truths or laws of heaven” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 105–6).

  4. Jesus Christ set the pattern for obedience.

    • “Christ, himself, set the perfect example of obedience for all his brethren. As the great Exemplar he was baptized to witness ‘unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.’ (2 Ne. 31:7.) In all things his obedience was perfect. As Paul wrote: ‘Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.’ (Heb. 5:8–9.)” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 540).

  5. Through the Atonement and by obedience to God’s commandments, we can receive eternal life.

    • “To get salvation we must not only do some things, but everything which God has commanded. Men may preach and practice everything except those things which God commands us to do, and will be damned at last. We may tithe mint and rue, and all manner of herbs, and still not obey the commandments of God. 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” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 332).

    • “If we keep the commandments of the Lord, we shall enjoy the presence of both the Father and the Son, and we shall receive the Father’s kingdom and shall be heirs of God—joint heirs with our elder Brother. O how wonderful, how great the blessings of the Lord to the Latter-day Saints and to all who are willing to go through the waters of baptism and abide by the law and keep the commandments of the Lord!” (Smith, “Keep the Commandments,” 3).