I’m not even going to apologize this week. It’s obvious that my todo list and schedule need an overhaul.
Instead, I’m going to be grateful for the delay, because I might not write this post if I waited until next week.
Relief Society Lessons
In the past two weeks, I have listened to two wonderful teachers. Both have uplifted me and caused me to see the “same old” doctrinal ideas in a new light.
Last week, the teacher went all out — visual aids, a short “Mormon Messages” movie, children singing, and probably a few other things that I have forgotten. Her main point is that the temple is like a life preserver for ourselves and our families. It was a wonderful, spiritual lesson — I remember it even though my back was killing me!
Today, we had a different teacher. The only “visual” in the front of the room was the flowers that I think were provided by the Relief Society president. She was teaching from President Monson’s conference address, “Obedience Brings Blessings.” She passed out pieces of paper and asked us to write down questions that we would really like answers to. After thinking for a while (I really don’t worry about having questions that much — I’ve been blessed to just know that they will be answered in time), I came up with four. When I found out we were supposed to turn them in, I tore the sheet and passed in one! (That’s irony — being so private while hanging my business out on a blog!)
The lesson really caught my attention though, especially her focus on the quote:
A knowledge of truth and the answers to our greatest questions come to us as we are obedient to the commandments of God. (Thomas S. Monson.)
What is Obedience?
I have heard obedience defined as “trust plus action.” To me, that sums it up pretty well. If I truly trust my Heavenly Father and my Savior, Jesus Christ, I will be willing to do what they ask me to do. I can accept that, even when what is required feels uncomfortable, pushes me to my limits, or goes against my own deepest desires, there is love and purpose behind the request. I will believe that I can do what is asked because I will be given the help I need. Obedience is irrevocably linked to faith.
Because the purpose of this life is to help us grow to be more like our Savior, blessings are usually conditional:
For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world. (Doctrine and Covenants 132:5.)
What are the Commandments?
There are rules and laws to help ensure our physical safety. Likewise, the Lord has provided guidelines and commandments to help ensure our spiritual safety so that we might successfully navigate this often-treacherous mortal existence and return eventually to our Heavenly Father. (Thomas S. Monson.)
In the Old Testament, our Father provided a preparatory law that was designed to prepare His children for all that He had to offer them. As part of that law, He gave what are now known as the 10 Commandments:
1 And God spake all these words, saying,
2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of thefathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in itthou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thystranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lordblessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
12 ¶Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be longupon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
13 Thou shalt not kill.
14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15 Thou shalt not steal.
16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. (Exodus 20:1-17.)
In the New Testament, Christ simplified the commandments to two great principles: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.
In modern days, revelation from the Savior hints that commandments are blessings, and that we should be grateful as we are led to understand and keep more of them:
And they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea,and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time— they that are faithful and diligent before me. (D&C 59:4.)
The scriptures are full of commandments: principles to live by, things to do to improve life for ourselves and others, and boundaries to keep us from danger. As we live by the commandments we know and understand and seek to learn more, we grow closer to our Father in Heaven and become more sensitive to impressions from the Holy Spirit. Those impressions are key to understanding truth and receiving answers.
What is Truth?
I think this passage from the Doctrine and Covenants explains it best:
24 And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;
27 And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments.
28 He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things. (Doctrine and Covenants 93:24, 27–28.)
How Do We Receive and Recognize the Answers?
I have found that receiving answers can be a tricky process. One reason is that we hear stories or read in the scriptures about answers coming in great, miraculous ways, and we wonder when our answers are going to come because we expect them to be like that. Answers are usually quiet whispers in our heart and mind that often sound like our intuition. I have had many experiences where I didn’t realize I received help or answers until long after the experience.
One drawback to receiving answers in a way that sounds so much like our own inner voice is that it can be easy to take our own ideas and call them our own. Comparing our answers with what has been taught by prophets ancient and modern, reading scriptures regularly, praying often and with real purpose, and living so that we can have the Holy Spirit close to us will help minimize the problem.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that divine answers can come through pure intelligence flowing into us, giving us “sudden strokes of ideas” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 151). When we feel this acceleration of thought, President Packer has explained, it is the Spirit conveying to us “what we need to know without either the drudgery of study or the passage of time, for it is revelation” (Ensign, Jan. 1983, p. 53). Often this acceleration of thought comes while we study the scriptures. Nephi counsels us to “feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do” (2 Ne. 32:3).
Besides telling us in our minds, the Lord also tells us in the feelings of the heart (D&C 8:2). President Packer further indicated that “these delicate, refined spiritual communications are not seen with our eyes, nor heard with our ears. And even though it is described as a voice, it is a voice that one feels, more than one hears. …
“The Spirit does not get our attention by shouting or shaking us with a heavy hand. Rather it whispers. It caresses so gently that if we are preoccupied we may not feel it at all” (Ensign, Jan. 1983, pp. 52–53). (Grant E. Barton.)
Will it Really Work?
If we are committed to doing our part and putting in the effort that is required, the answer is yes!
Having virtuous thoughts and keeping the commandments can give us greater confidence, greater trust that “the Holy Ghost shall be [our]constant companion” and that our prayers will be answered (see D&C 121:45–46). How can we have confidence that God will give new guidance to us unless we are being true to the principles he has already revealed? (Grant E. Barton.)
I love the way President Monson closed his talk:
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 quote once again the words of the Lord: “He that keepeth [God’s] commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:28.)