I think about obedience a lot. What does it mean to be obedient? Who am I obedient to? How can I become more obedient? I was recently reading David A. Bednar’s book “Power to Become” and his description of obedience and the different levels of it is brilliant.
By the way, Elder Bednar is completely a favorite of mine. I just love his thinking and teaching style, the way he encourages us to be agents who act and to learn how to learn. I admire his knowledge and willingness to share so much. His series of three books, Increase in Learning, Act in Doctrine, and Power to Become are three of the most thought provoking and change inspiring books I’ve ever read. They aren’t the cheapest books, but they are worth every penny. Keep a highlighter handy when you read!!
As I was saying, his “series of comparisons illustrates how obedience operates at different levels”:
It is one thing to obey in order to qualify for and receive blessings; it is quite another thing to obey as a preparation to give and serve more effectively.
It is one thing to merely and perhaps mechanically comply with God’s commandments; it is quite another thing to obey and thereby fully submit and subject oneself to the will and timetable of the Lord.
It is a good thing to obey out of a sense of duty; but it is an even greater thing, a more spiritually demanding thing, to obey through love.
It is one thing to reluctantly or grudgingly conform to commandments; it is a different thing to joyfully “obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness” (Alma 57:21) and to cheerfully “observe strictly to keep the commandments of God” (Helaman 13:1).
It is one thing to perform the outward actions of obedience; it is quite a different thing to become inwardly what the commandments are intended to help us become.
It is one thing to obey the institutional, public and shared commandments associated with the Lord’s kingdom on earth – commandments such as the law of chastity, the law of tithing, and the Word of Wisdom; it is an even greater thing to receive and respond to individual, private and personally revealed commandments that result from continual and faithful obedience.
Ultimately, we obey willingly because we love the Lord and are striving to obtain the blessings and power to become more like Him.
(Power to Become, David A. Bednar, p. 86-87)
As I look at that list of levels of obedience I recognize some I’m doing pretty well in, other ways that I still require more work to be exact in my obedience.
So, what is it that keeps me from being more exact in my obedience? Another talk I read this morning, Beware of Pride (Ezra Taft Benson, Conference, April 1989), answers that question. As I study that talk, the true meaning of pride, I recognize that the enemy of obedience is pride.
I don’t like admitting that I am a proud person. I certainly don’t typically think of myself as such. As President Benson says “Pride is a sin that can readily be seen in others, but is rarely admitted in ourselves.” It is no fun to admit that there are parts of you that are prideful. But again, as President Benson says “Pride affects all of us at various times and in various degrees.”
To become more exact in obedience I have to be working at it from both ends. I have to be identifying and correcting the ways pride personally manifests itself in me and correct those errors and to recognize the ways that I can be more obedient.
As pride dissipates and obedience increases the combination results in humility and meekness. Again, in the words of President Benson “God will have a humble people. Either we can choose to be humble or we can be compelled to be humble. Alma said: ‘Blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble.'”
When we are truly humble and obedient to the commandments, both those that are established and those that are personally revealed, we will be guided to accomplish His work in mighty ways and receive blessings greater than we can imagine. We can join the ranks of people such as Helaman, Ammon, Mosiah, Alma and of course Moroni who was described like this:
Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men (and women) had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.
We do not have to wait until the millennium to banish Satan. We can banish him from our individual lives at any time by tapping into the power that comes from becoming more exact in obedience to the covenants and commandments we are given.