Elder Vaughan's Farewell
As young children we all learn about obedience and the importance of following the rules set before us. This may be as simple as a parent telling you to pray before you go to bed, or no sneaking treats before dinner. It may take some of us a while to learn the importance of these rules and guidelines set out by our parents, but in due time we learn why we should be obedient at all times. Since I’m the youngest of three boys I was fortunate enough to learn from my older brother’s successes and failures. I saw that when they were disobedient, they were punished, and when they were obedient, they were rewarded.
Just like our parents, God has set forth commandments for each and every one of us to follow. When we follow these commandments, we are rewarded, and when we are disobedient, we are punished. President Thomas S. Monson said in May of 2013:
“He that keepeth [God’s] commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.”
This is an incredible promise, to “receive truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.” Through this promise all of us can find the truth we are searching for as long as we follow the commandments and remain obedient in all our dealings. As we are obedient to the commandments of God, a knowledge of truth and the answers to our greatest questions come to us. These commandments are put in place so that we may follow them, and be able to successfully navigate through this difficult mortal life, and eventually return to our Heavenly Fathers presence.
As I’ve been preparing to go serve the people of El Salvador I have come to learn the importance of obedience not only now as I prepare but as well as in the mission field. The months before deciding to go on a mission I spent so much time contemplating when or if I should go. This was an incredibly difficult decision for me, but as I became more obedient and really tried to follow the commandments closer, the answer was revealed to me. By staying obedient at all times, I was able to really prayerfully consider this important decision that was ahead of me. Then began the process of submitting my mission papers, and receiving the call. Obedience didn’t stop once I decided to serve a mission, it still continues on today. For me to be a worthy missionary I must obey these commandments so that I can prayerfully study the scriptures and learn the doctrines that I will be teaching others. It would be difficult for me to teach with the Spirit and have the spirit with me at all times if I did not obey the commandments myself. It also helps prepare me for the lifestyle I will be living where I will be given my own set of mission rules and “commandments” of a sort and if I do not follow them to a point, not only will our success as a mission diminish, but I could also be put into spiritual and physical harm.
President Monson continued with:
“All prophets, ancient and modern, have known that obedience is essential to our salvation. Nephi declared, ‘I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded.’ Though others faltered in their faith and their obedience, never once did Nephi fail to do that which the Lord asked of him. Untold generations have been blessed as a result.”
I have always loved this example of Nephi where it was as simple as hearing the commandments and saying, “Yeah, I’ll do that”. I’ve recently been able to relate to Nephi in this aspect through my experience with Utah State Universities Army ROTC. There is one experience that comes to mind where we were walking through the vast mountains and fields of Utah practicing platoon movements, and my squad leader stopped me and told me to lay where we stood and provide security for our unit. To my dismay I looked down and saw a pile of deer ’droppings’, but I looked back at my squad leader and said “Yes Sir.” And laid down right where I was told to. How was I blessed in this experience? Well at the time I thought all I did was sacrifice five dollars that it would take to do laundry all for nothing. But the more I thought about it the more I realized the blessings that came through this experience was the trust I built with my squad members. They saw that I was dependable and they knew that they could count on me in all future missions. This is how Gods commandments work with us from time to time. We can be following very closely with what he has set forth for us and at times it may seem difficult to follow or we might not understand the purpose behind it, but eventually we will see what the blessings are. This is becoming increasingly hard in a world surrounded by so much wickedness, and the commandments we are supposed to follow go against the social norms. At times it may feel like we are sacrificing friendships or other great experiences, but if you stick to Gods commandments, you will receive marvelous blessings.
A great example of obedience in the scriptures is with Abraham and his son Isaac. In this passage of scripture Abraham is commanded by God to take his beloved son Isaac into the land of Moriah to offer him as a sacrifice. The pain and anguish Abraham must have felt would have been unbearable, but he continued on to bind Isaac, lay him on the altar, and take the knife to sacrifice him. Right before Abraham performed the sacrifice the Lord said; “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him…” Abraham had been tried and tested, and for his faithfulness and obedience the Lord gave him this glorious promise: “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” Hopefully none of us will be commanded to sacrifice our first born at the altar, or any of our children for that matter, but we are commanded to do hard things in this life time, and I know that we will receive great and endless blessings if we choose to follow them to the best of our abilities.
The principle of obedience has been strongly professed by all prophets throughout history. There is one quote that I really like from President Gordon B. Hinckley. He said;
“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.”
I always hear people say “I don’t know what it is, but you Mormons are always so happy!” Personally I never really had a response, I would just shake it off and say, “Eh beats me”. Once I read this quote I realized where our happiness, peace, progression, and prosperity comes from. It comes from all of us members being strong diligent obedient members, doing what the Lord has commanded, and in the end, we are rewarded with great blessings. It is his promised blessings that make all of us happy members of the church. One key part at the end of President Hinckley’s quote is where it mentions our eternal salvation and exaltation. These are only possible through obedience in Gods Commandments. If we are not obedient to the Lord and his commandments we will not be able to receive exaltation and eternal salvation.
One way I have tried to improve my obedience is through daily habits. It all started with doing the small things like listening to my parents when I was a young boy. I remember every morning when I would make my way out the door to the bus stop my dad would tell me, “Don’t run with scissors, don’t eat the glue, and be nice to the girls!” I took these words to heart as I went running out to the bus stop, and I was blessed greatly for listening to my father. By not running with scissors… well as you can see, I still have my eyes and have not been seriously harmed in any other way. By not eating the glue I not only remained healthy, but I also remained embarrassment free. I managed to embarrass myself in other ways... And being nice to the girls has yet to reveal any blessings. That one I’m still waiting for those blessings and I’m holding on in faith that it will pay off in the long run. In all seriousness, following daily habits of obedience have continually helped me through life. The small daily habits that I just listed have grown to a larger picture in my life where it has helped prepare me to go on my mission. If it wasn’t for daily practice of obedience I would not be where I am today. I was never perfect at it, and I still am not, but I know that as long as I continue to strive for strict obedience, I will be blessed continually throughout my life.
Being obedient doesn’t only affect yourself, it can very easily affect those that surround you. This could be family, or friends, or those that you work with at church and work. Now if you know me, you’ll know that I love soccer, and soccer came to my mind when thinking about this. In a soccer match you have eleven players on each team. And each player receives their own instructions from the coach on what their duties are for the game. Defenders stay back and defend, midfielders help out with both defensive and offensive responsibilities, and forwards score the goals. Well that’s basically how it works. Within each of those different positions, players receive various instructions in order to orchestrate the success of the team. All it takes is one player to lead to the failure of the team. One player to be disobedient to the instructions given to them from the coach and the team could fail from their actions. At the same time, when players execute their instructions to perfection, they will score goals and win the game. I like to think of this when I think of obedience, because I see it all throughout my life. I see groups and organizations that work to perfection when they are obedient, and I see others crumble under their disobedience. This will definitely apply to me on my mission. I know that as me and my companions are obedient, we will be blessed to have the spirit with us, to be safe, and to have success wherever we travel. And if we are disobedient, we will not be able to teach with the spirit, we will not have success, and we could even be placed in dangerous situations. I know that being obedient in all times and in all places is incredibly important, not only for yourself, but for all that you are around so that everyone can be lead to success.
Among all of these examples, there is no greater example of obedience than that of our Savior. The Savior was tempted by the devil, He was physically weakened from fasting for 40 days and 40 nights, 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. Through all the things the Savior had to go through, he was steadfast and obedient, never deviating. This great example continues when faced with the agony of Gethsemane, where he endured pain such that, “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” He then exemplified the obedient Son by saying, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” What a great example to us. Even though the Savior was facing the harshest of conditions, he still pushed on because he knew it was Gods will. President Monson said: “The knowledge which we seek, the answers for which we yearn, and the strength which we desire today to meet the challenges of a complex and changing world can be ours when we willingly obey the Lord’s commandments.”
I love this promise from our prophet, because the world we live in as he says is, “…Complex and changing…”, and to know that knowledge, answers, and strength we desire can be ours when we willingly obey the Lord’s commandments, is extremely profound and comforting to know.