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July 13, 2008

Obedience

by Dan

During general conference in October 1856, Brigham Young announced that the Willie and Martin handcart companies had been stranded in the mountains of Wyoming and instructed the Saints to drop everything and go to their rescue. The rescuers battled deep snow and freezing temperatures. They put their own lives at risk in a very real way and succeeded in assisting many of the pioneers across the mountains and into Salt Lake Valley.

Speaking of the prophet, the Lord has said, “[T]hou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth…” (D&C 21:4-5).

The Saints who headed into the mountains that winter were obedient to the commandment of the Lord, as given through the prophet.

The first covenant in the gospel is obedience. We promise to keep the commandments of the Lord. At the waters of Mormon, Alma asked his people to be baptized “as a witness before [the Lord] that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments” (Mosiah 18:10). Those of us who have been baptized have made this same covenant.

We renew this covenant each time we take the sacrament. This is reflected in the words of the blessing on the bread. We witness unto God that we are willing to take upon us the name of his Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given us (D&C 20:77).

One famous story in the Old Testament is that of Naaman and Elisha. Naaman was a captain in the Syrian army and a favorite of the king. But he had leprosy. When he heard that the prophet Elisha might be able to heal him, he traveled to Israel and ended up outside of Elisha’s house. He had “his horses and chariot” (2 Kings 5:9) and gifts including “ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment” (2 Kings 5:5).

Elisha didn’t even come to the door. He sent word by a messenger that Naaman should go wash himself in the Jordan river seven times. Naaman was angry and turned to go. However, his servants approached him and said, “If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it?” (2 Kings 5:13). Naaman changed his mind, obeyed the counsel of the prophet, and was healed.

I can only imaging the character of this man who must have traveled weeks to see Elisha and then didn’t even get to see him. He rejected Elisha’s advice as not being grand enough and then had his own servant point out to him how dumb we was being. That was the moment he repented and chose to obey the counsel he’d been given. Through his obedience he was blessed.

In the April general conference earlier this year, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles talked about how prophets are “inspired to provide us with prophetic priorities to protect us from dangers.”

He explained:

President Heber J. Grant, the prophet from 1918 to 1945, was inspired to emphasize adherence to the Word of Wisdom, the principle with a promise revealed by the Lord to the Prophet Joseph. He stressed the importance of not smoking or drinking alcoholic beverages and directed the bishops to review these principles in temple recommend interviews.

At that time smoking was accepted by society as an appropriate, even glamorous, behavior. The medical profession accepted smoking with little concern because the scientific studies linking cigarette smoking with several kinds of cancer were far in the future. President Grant counseled with great vigor, and we became known as a people who abstained from drinking and smoking.

Starting in the late 1960s, illegal drug use reached epidemic proportions throughout the world. While there were some members who rebelled, the vast majority of LDS youth were able to avoid the devastating use of drugs.

Obeying the Word of Wisdom gave our members, especially our youth, a preventive inoculation against drug use and the resulting health problems and moral hazards.

Elder Cook continued:

President David O. McKay was the prophet from 1951 to 1970. One area of significant focus was his emphasis on the family. He taught that no success in life can compensate for failure in the home. He encouraged members to strengthen families by increasing religious observance. His teachings were a protection from the disintegration of the institution of marriage that came after his death. Because of President McKay’s teaching, the Latter-day Saints strengthened their commitment to family and eternal marriage.

More recently, President Gorden B. Hinckley often addressed the subject of being prepared. In the Priesthood session of the October 1998 general conference he read the story of Joseph of Egypt interpreting the dream of Pharaoh. There would be seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. And there would arise after them seven years of famine (Genesis 41:17­-32). It would be so bad that the good years would be all but forgotten. The Lord gave Egypt a warning and enough time to prepare.

President Hinckley also mentioned Pharaoh’s dream during general conference in October 1991, October 2001 (one month after the 9/11 attacks), and October 2005 (two months after hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast). Each time he warned of the need to remember that there will be both good years and bad years.

Last year, the Church introduced two pamphlets entitled All Is Safely Gathered In. One covers family finances, the other family home storage. In them, the First Presidency counsels us:

  1. to pay our tithes and offerings;

  2. to avoid debt, with the exception of buying a modest home or paying for eduction or other vital needs;

  3. to use a budget (to keep a record of how we spend our money, to review our income and expenses, then to plan how to live within our means);

  4. to build a three-month supply of food that is part of our normal, daily diet;

  5. to store a two-week supply of clean drinking water (14 gallons per person);

  6. to build a financial reserve, even a small one, by saving a little money regularly;

  7. to, where possible, accumulate a one-year supply of basic food that will last a long time;

  8. and to teach our families the principles of hard work, frugality, and saving.

These aren’t necessarily in order. We can work on all of them a little at a time. I’ve seen these pamphlets on a table in the back corner of the building near the Relief Society room. They are also available on the Church’s Provident Living website.

We don’t know what will happen in the future, but it is wise to be prepared. We should not, however, “run faster than [we have] strength” (Mosiah 4:27). The First Presidency specifically asks us to “be wise” and to “not go to extremes.” There is nothing new in this counsel. The principle of preparedness has been taught by prophets and apostles for decades. It was in the April 1937 general conference that President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., first counselor in the First Presidency, challenged members of the Church to store a year’s supply of food.

However, President Hinckley reminds us that the economy is fragile. It is important to begin or continue our preparations. There are signs of economic turbulence not seen since the Great Depression, nearly 80 years ago.

On Friday, just two days ago, IndyMac Bank went bankrupt and was taken over by the federal government. It is the second largest bank in history to fail. It is important to note that everyone who had money deposited in the bank will get it back from the FDIC, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which took control of the bank.

The FDIC was created by Congress in 1933 to insure bank deposits and handle bank failures. It recently began bringing experienced agents out of retirement, specifically those who handled the turmoil of the Savings and Loan Crisis of the late ’80s in which 747 savings and loans institutions failed and over 750 more closed their doors.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the national unemployment rate is 5.5%, up from 4.5% a year ago. However, if you include people working part-time who would rather be working full-time and those who have been unemployed for so long that their unemployment benefits have run out, the number is almost 10%.

Last December, the U.S. Department of the Treasury released its official Financial Report of the United States for 2007. Unlike most government budget reports, this one follows the generally accepted accounting principles that all public companies are required to follow when reporting on their own finances. It states:

[T]he U.S. government’s total reported liabilities, net social insurance commitments, and other fiscal exposures continue to grow and now total approximately $53 trillion–up more than $2 trillion during fiscal year 2007.

…This translates into…approximately $455,000 per American household.

…[I]t seems clear that our nation is on an imprudent and unsustainable long-term fiscal path that is getting worse with the passage of time.”

To give you an idea of how much money that is, the government collects about $2.6 trillion each year in taxes. If the government spent all of its income on getting itself out of debt, and canceled every other service it provides, it would take over 20 years. This is the equivalent of someone making $50,000 a year owing $1 million on a credit card, though the interest rate would be relatively low. It is important that we are prepared for an uncertain economic future.

There is one other area of obedience that is mentioned so often that many of us have had it memorized since Primary. We need to pray, read the scriptures and go to church. In fact, scripture study, prayer and church attendance are three of the most important commandments. They are the first three actions our missionaries teach people who are learning about the gospel. They are also the foundation for any relationship we have with God.

Simple obedience to the word of the Lord, as given through His prophet, will strengthen our faith, confirm our testimonies, protect us from dangers, and prepare us for whatever the future holds. Some may view the commandments as restricting personal freedom. Anyone who has been addicted or trapped in debt can testify that commandments ensure our freedom and protect our agency. They teach us who God is and how we can be like him.

We have recently sustained a new President of the Church. Elder Cook described President Monson as having “been prepared by the Lord from his youth to be the prophet.” He was called as an Apostle at the age of 36 and has served for over 44 years.

In his first general conference address as President of the Church, President Monson said “it is our duty to live our lives in such a way that we may be examples of righteousness for others to follow.” He repeated the prophet Brigham Young’s counsel that “We should never permit ourselves to do anything that we are not willing to see our children do. We should set them an example that we wish them to imitate.”

I sustain President Monson and know that if we obey the Lord’s commandments, given through his chosen prophet, we will be blessed and protected in our lives.

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