Friday, July 10, 2009

The First Law of Heaven

After Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden of Eden, they prayed for guidance from the Lord, and heard His voice, "And he gave unto them commandments, that they should...offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord" (Moses 5:5). Thus was instituted the practice of animal sacrifice. "And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me" (Moses 5:6). The angel then explained to Adam the reason for the animal sacrifices he had been offering--they were a symbol of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Our first parents received a commandment. They obeyed the commandment. But it wasn't until "many days" had passed that an angel explained the reason for that commandment. And in the meantime, they had to be content with saying, "I know not, save the Lord commanded me."

There is great power in obedience, even when we do not understand the reason. Obedience to any law brings the blessings associated with that law. We know that "There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated" (Doc. & Cov. 1130:20-21). And, it follows, when we do not obey a law, we have no claim on its associated blessing (see Doc. & Cov. 82:10).

Saul learned this lesson the hard way, when he defied the instructions of the prophet Samuel in going to war against the Amalekites. Commanded to destroy every living creature, he and his soldiers instead "spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them" (1 Samuel 15:9). When Samuel chastised him for his disobedience, Saul countered by insisting that he had saved the animals to sacrifice to the Lord. Samuel rejoined, "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry." (1 Samuel 15:22-23). Because of his rebellion, Saul lost his kingdom--a heavy price to pay for a few plundered livestock. Saul had forgotten the sum of all commandments, given through Moses, "what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?" (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).

The Lord has repeated this instruction in our day: "Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days" (Doc. & Cov. 64:34).

Obedience requires submission, and submission is HARD. Well, it is for me, anyway. I'm pretty strong-willed and stubborn. I like to have a reason for things I do. I want my world to make logical sense.

Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes I have questions that have no answers. Sometimes I'm asked to do something that is hard on me--physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. Sometimes I wish there could be another way. Sometimes I wish the Lord would listen to my advice and do it my way.

When Christ prayed in Gethsemane, He admitted that He wished there could be another way. He admitted that He didn't want to do what the Father wanted Him to do. He admitted that His will was different from His Father's will. And this was not a sin, for in the same breath Christ made a choice--He chose to do the Father's will anyway (see Luke 22:42). And in doing so, He opened the way for mortals like me, who will readily admit a difference of will and a deficit of understanding, to submit our wills to God's and find peace thereby.

Though my "bitter cups" differ from the Savior's by orders of magnitude, I have found that when I have the humility required to say, "Though I do not understand why this must be, and though I do not like this, and though it causes me pain, I know that You have commanded it. I love You, therefore, I will do this thing," I find greater peace, strength, and hope than I thought possible. When I obey without knowing the reason, and allow myself to say, "I know not, save the Lord commanded me," I am blessed. Sometimes I come to understand the reason, often after "many days"--or years--of sincere and earnest seeking, and sometimes I realize that it will all make sense only in another world. But in each case, the Lord gives me His peace. Peace through the heartache, peace in the midst of the trial, peace in the storm, peace with the burden still on my back--a total and consuming peace that comforts and strengthens me. As I submit my will to His, I am given a great gift. It is an endowment of power from on high, a portion of the Lord's power to perform the Lord's will. It is a gift of knowledge and strength and understanding and grace and joy. It is a gift that is worth any price.

"And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it" (Mosiah 2:41).

1 comment: