Let me start out by telling you a few things about myself...
1. I absolutely hate bugs.
2. I hate heat and humidity.
3. I studied French in high school.
Now let me tell you a few things about where I’ll be serving in Peru...
1. They have spiders the size of my face.
2. The temperature is "rarely below 67 degrees Fahrenheit" and the average humidity is 63% - 99%.
3. The native language is Spanish.
So I bet you can guess what my first thought was when I opened my call... "Are you sure??"
But, of course, when I submitted my papers, I had known I would have to accept my call to anywhere in the world, because that is where God needs me to be. No matter how little I don’t understand it, I know that’s what I need to be doing, so I’m obeying.
Which leads directly into my talk. Obedience.
So why Obedience? Why is it so important? Why ARE we obedient?
I asked my brothers what their first thought was when I said the word obedience. The first answer was “TYLER!” and I bet you can guess which brother said that. Hint: His name rhymes with Myler. The other three brothers said “listening, rules, and Jesus.” And I kind of think that sums it up pretty well! Obedience is listening to the rules given to us from Jesus.
According to lds.org, however, there’s a little more to it than that. It says commandments are “loving instructions [given to us] for our happiness and for our physical and spiritual well-being”. That’s three awesome blessings we get from keeping the commandments.
I want to focus my talk on happiness. Many times, in the moment, it doesn’t feel like following God’s commandments will bring us happiness. For some commandments it’s easy, but for others, not so much. Like how does wearing longer shorts bring me happiness? How does not drinking coffee or tea bring me happiness? How does keeping my language clean bring me happiness? The answer is, I don’t know! And you know what, I think in this life, we’re not supposed to know. That’s the whole point! I believe that all commandments will protect us from evil, but I also believe that most commandments are put in place to test our obedience.
Just think of the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his only son! The son He had wanted for many, many years. God didn’t give him any reasons why His son had to be sacrificed, he just told him to do it. And Abraham obeyed. He put his son on the altar and almost killed him. Luckily, an angel stepped in before He could follow through! But his just shows that sometimes God commands us just to see if we will.
This summer, I’ve spent a lot of my time with kids. I’ve noticed that younger kids like to ask “why?” a lot. I’m not going to lie, after several hours of “why”’s, it gets a little annoying. A typical conversation went like this, “Come get in the car!” “Why?” “We’re going to the swimming pool!” “Why?” “Because wouldn’t that be fun?” “Why?” “Because pools are fun!” “Why?” “Because of the water!” “Why?” “Because water keeps you cool, now come on, buckle your seatbelt!” “Why?” “To keep you safe” “Why?” And it just keeps going. I think this is how the infamous “Because I said so!” phrase came about. Over time, I either became too tired of answering or I didn’t have an answer. I think in a way, I believe Heavenly Father can feel like this, except He always has the answer.
It must get pretty annoying when He gives us a commandment and the first thing we do is ask “Why” instead of doing. Thomas Kampis said, “Instant obedience is the only kind of obedience there is: delayed obedience is disobedience.” For example, just think of Laman and Lemuel. Everytime their father asked them to do something, they whined, complained and asked why. But they still did it! They still left their friends in Jerusalem. They still went and lived in the wilderness. They still returned to get the gold plates. But they did all this AFTER murmuring. We always give Laman and Lemuel a hard time for all their complaining, but do we ever give ourselves a hard time for our complaining? Or do we just think our obedience will cancel out the complaining and questioning we did? I know I’m guilty of this.
But back to why we need to obey quickly. In John 14:15, Jesus says, “If ye love me, keep my commandments”. I think that is the Bible equivalent of “Because I said so.” Elisabeth Elliot said, “When obedience to God contradicts what I think will give me pleasure, let me ask myself if I love Him.” What other reason do we need than to show our love for our Savior? The one who literally died for us. The one who literally bled from every pore in His body so that we can be clean. The one who gave up everything for us. And all He asks in return is our willingness to do as He says. Even if it doesn’t make sense, do it to show your gratitude and love for your Savior and Redeemer.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 tells us to, “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man”. Our purpose on Earth is to be obedient. The scripture doesn’t say our duty is to keep commandments only if we know why we should; it simply says keep the commandments. It would certainly be easier to show our obedience if we had all the answers, but that would defeat the point of life on Earth and our agency. If you were to take a math test, for example, and you had all the answers, that test would be pretty easy! But, it wouldn’t be an accurate depiction of your understanding of the subject. If Heavenly Father gave us all the reasons for following each commandment, life would certainly be easier, but our experience would not accurately depict how strong our faith is. If we truly love God and want to prove our devotion to Him in this life, we must be obedient despite our limited understanding.
L Tom Perry put it nicely, “Obedience is a choice between our own limited knowledge and power and God’s unlimited wisdom and omnipotence.” Just because we don’t understand, doesn’t mean God doesn’t know what He’s doing. Trust in His almighty knowledge, and everything will work out for your good.
However, even though we don’t have explanations for every commandment, that doesn’t mean we don’t have God’s assurance that following his commandments will bring happiness. Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21 states, “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.” So, obedience to God’s commandments brings blessings, and what else brings happiness better than blessings? Russell M Nelson said, “Obedience brings blessings. Obedience in exactness brings miracles.” What else could you want besides blessings and miracles? If you ever don’t want to obey, just think of the miracles you might be missing out on! Those miracles will bring so much happiness, you won’t know what to do with it! Preach My Gospel continues with the promises, when it says “Obedience to the commandments brings us peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come.” So, not only will we see blessings from obedience now, but also after we die! Any happiness we might receive in this life due to breaking the commandments will not even compare to the happiness we will receive in the next. It is better to go through pain now, and happiness forever than happiness now and pain forever.
One of my favorite quotes is from Harold B. Lee, and it states, “The only safety we have as members of this church is to … learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through His prophet. … There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes. … It may contradict your political views … your social views … interfere with … your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord Himself, … ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you … and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you …’”. The scripture he quotes goes on to add, “and [He will] cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.” All the discomfort, disappointments, sadness, and pain that might come from obedience to the Lord’s commandments will be more than compensated for. The Lord truly loves His children, and he will shower down blessings on those who obey, ESPECIALLY the commandments the world gives us every reason not to follow.
However, we are not set on the path of obedience blind. Little by little, as we keep the commandments, we begin to have more and more of an understanding of why. A pinterest said, “God requires our obedience before our understanding.” Once we show that we are willing to obey Him without explanations, He trusts us enough to give us those explanations.
I didn’t understand why I would be sent to the literal Amazon Rainforest, but after I chose to obey the call, I suddenly began to like a few things about the rainforest. I began to be more and more excited. And I’m sure when I actually get there, I’ll begin to see why I was chosen to serve in Peru. I don’t have all the answers right now, but little by little I will.
Let me close with a few more things about myself...
1. My favorite color is green.
2. I love the sound of rain
3. One of the most fascinating places in Europe to me is Venice, because of its waterways.
And now a few more things about Peru...
1. It’s the amazon rainforest, so for my entire mission, I’ll be surrounded by my favorite color.
2. I looked up the forecast for my mission, and it’s scheduled to rain. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
3. The town my mission is named after, Iquitos, is actually called the Venice of South America because you can’t get to it by car!
So I bet you can guess what my second thought was… “Can i leave now??”
I still don’t fully understand why I am being sent to Peru, but Heavenly Father has a plan and He has helped me begin to see it. Through our obedience, Heavenly Father can bless us far more than we could ever imagine. I hope all of you can continue on your path of obedience throughout these latter days. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.